A Trio of Guest Posts: Taff Tanner

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will be more than familiar with the cat-loving, mile-devouring* legend that is Taff Tanner. In this guest post he has a bit of a word with himself in a self-interview about ultra running. Imagine it as Frost:Nixon, but with two identical Welshmen in tight garish wicking fabrics. Anyway, I’ll hand you over to the Leg End himself…,

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So, Taff Tanner, aka @Thunder_runna, aka HeWhoTrains, aka Thunder Runner – after spending the last four months of 2012 on the proverbial shelf with a mutilated foot, and after a careful but co-ordinated return to running, in 2014 you appear to have committed yourself to some pretty big events – Thames Path Trot 50, Thunder Run (as a soloist again!) and the GUCR145 – care to answer some questions?

1. Are you insane? Not one, not two, but three pretty serious ultras already entered?

Ha Ha not insane! 2012 was a pretty good year up until the foot imploded, and this year was all about getting back into the groove. Target race was always GUCR145, which has a lottery style draw, and as I was not confirmed in, and adidas Thunder Run was open, needed a Plan B. Thames Path Trot 50 was my first proper ultra, and is a benchmark for the other two, and will give a pointer towards my fitness level.

2. So your first event of the year is a 50 miler – how will you train for that?

In the same way in marathon training that you do 22 as a final LSR before a marathon, I will look to do between 35 and 38. It follows the same train of thought as last year, multiple 20 milers over the December break to build up endurance, then ramp up to a 30 and a 35 or 38 in January (38 preferred as I think I am good for the extra 5k!)

3. Last time you averaged 9 minute miles over the 50, are you hoping to PB this time out?

Probably not, the scenery is pretty spectacular, so I will most likely take some pix and just enjoy the event as a training exercise, iron out the kinks in feeding and drinking, and decide if my current race pack is up to scratch for GUCR.

4. GUCR? What’s that?

GUCR145 is the Grand Union Canal Race, and stretches from Birmingham to London along 145 miles of the Grand Union Canal, setting off at 6am on 24th May and finishing well into Sunday 25th – the race in 2014 will be pretty special as it is the Twentieth time the event has taken place, and my first! So amongst all the amazing runners who have done this on more than one occasion I will be a virgin!

5. AHUNDREDANDFORTYFIVEMILES – please go back to question one! What were you THINKING?

Oh I guess I must have seen Forest Gump a few too many times! Having run 106 miles at adidas Thunder Run in 24 hours, 9 hours of which I did on virtually one leg after tripping over a root in the night, I figured on two feet I could probably coax another marathon and a half out of my aging body! It’s only running, right?

6. Running right? – care to elaborate?

Ha Ha, give away my little white mints this early on? Oh, those are tic tacs! You mean tactics? Let’s just say that there are more than one way to prepare for a race – I chose not to use the normal phrase that involves a cat, as my best buddy is a cat! We are all individual machines, and we eat drink sleep different, and we therefore run race perform different. What might work for me might not work for you?

7. So have you started training yet? And how is it going?

Training never really stops with me. My foot is A-OK and this has allowed me to start to make some changes to my current routine – I was doing hill reps this year, 3 reps of a ¼ mile hill for a month, then 4, then 5, and back down to 3 again, the idea being I would never need to do more than 5 reps? Last week after the realisation had set in that I was doing GUCR145, I went out on a whim and did 10 reps! And at the end, instead of being on my slender @ss, I actually felt ok….

8. What do you think was the cause? Did you just wake up that day full of kryptonite?

Nope – I have been doing extra training for a couple of months, as I joined a beginners triathlon group and have been doing swimming and spinning, alongside strength and conditioning and balance work. The hill reps are typically a two mile jog there and a two mile jog back, and run the reps with a bit of stubborn and dogged determination. 5 reps always left me breathless at the end, so maybe it’s the swimming and the spinning that has contributed – or the extra spinach I have been eating!

9. Spinach as in Popeye?

Yep, been following a vegetarian diet since August 2012 and when I get into the winter season my diet consists mainly of vegetable soup, of which spinach is a vital ingredient! Iron food for my iron legs!

10. Vegetarianism? Where do you get your protein from?

ROFLMAO! I get that question a lot, usually from people who weigh twice as much as me! I like mozzarella cheese, and I am a big fan of Chobani yoghurts – loads of protein! Zero cooking!

11. How are the legs holding up to the pavement pounding so far?

So far so good, I use my Rumble Roller every other day, and recently got some Rumble Roller Beastie Balls which Jay recommended! They are stunningly ouchie, in the nicest possible way! I also have a full size infra red massager and a digital acupuncture device that I borrowed off a colleague – it makes me twitch like a bitch! I do squats, both legs, and single legs, and lots of tip toe stuff to strengthen my feet!

12. So back to the GUCR145 – seriously? That’s like from London to um, Birmingham?

No, its Birmingham to London, and although it sounds a hell of a long way, marvellous Mimi ran both ways this year, London to Birmingham, then Birmingham to London! Now THAT’s what I call Running!

13. So Thunder Run will seem like a cakewalk after the GUCR then?

Ha I wish! Thunder Run is special, as it’s a tough technical 10k course, and GUCR is relatively flat! (When was the last time you saw a barge do a hill start?) Thunder Run will be treated as equally as GUCR and as equally as TPT50. Each race deserves Ultra respect……..

14. The two longer races mean running through the night – how do you plan to stay awake/alert?

Thunder Run is so amazingly well supported, there are always runners on the course and loads of support crews giving encouragement, so that and a combination of chocolate covered coffee beans and marmite crisps will keep me going. GUCR is easy – I lose concentration I wake up in the canal!

15. Are you going to wear the 4iiii.com Sportiiiis gadget during GUCR? And will it last 30 odd hours?

Not sure at the moment, I love my technology and gadgets, and the Sportiiiis is great as it keeps me within a certain pace or heart rate zone, at the moment the plan is to have two sets of shades and two sportiiiis attached, one for day, one for night, with the day one being recharged. I also have to decide what to do about gps watches as I don’t really want to have to change watches so need one that will last me the whole race so will talk to DC Rainmaker as Ray is the most tech savvy athlete ever……..

16. Are you going to change your socks as they’ll be well minging after such a long event?

Yep plan to change socks every 5 hours or so – GUCR you can stop for up to 40 minutes in any one stop after which you are deemed to have finished, so that should give me plenty of time to change gear!

17. Any new wardrobe plans for these races?

Yes, just done a deal with one of my work colleagues – she runs the Embroidery dept and I just delivered a fabulous new machine and software, and got her some new screens, and in return she is going to help with personalising my running kit after Xmas, so I just need to buy me a load of new stuff and allow her creativity to immortalise 2014’s ultras……….

18. So what next after these planned ultras? Badwater? Run across New Zealand dressed as a Hobbit?

Ha Ha! “YOU SHALL NOT PASS! RUN YOU FOOL! RUN!” As much as running something as wow as Badwater goes, I have no plans to take on something like that. In fact any of the iconic races that require qualifying points can actually kiss my perky little butt! The closest I have ever come to running across another country though is when I ran across the Isle of Man – that counts, right?

19. You seem to have stopped blogging? Any chance of a return to the written updates of life on the road?

It’s in hand – sometimes I don’t have anything to say, and sometimes it’s just dull, unless you are a big fan of running up and down a hill ten times – maybe when I recce parts of the Grand Union Canal I will have more to say? I am also in the process of revamping my website as it’s a bit poo……

20. What advice can you offer to anyone else doing an ultra in 2014, or doing Thunder Run as a solo runner?

Love him or loathe him – I respect him! – Dean Karnazes of Ultramarathonman fame told me at his book signing event the other year, “if you think it’s all going well – SLOW DOWN!” Cramp is no respecter of training, footwear and mental attitude. You can be ten miles into a race or ten yards from the finish, recognise the signs early, and take evasive action! Keep hydrated, keep smiling, keep going!

* don’t get those two mixed up unless you want an angry visit from the RSPCA.

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