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Interview with Avon

DuncanG asks: Well done on not only the MOTM, mate, but also everything you have achieved over the last couple of years. A question, then ... do you ever wish that you had got into running earlier instead of pretending to be a footballer?

Avon says: Honestly, no. I have a few friendships, a lot of memories and the odd trophy from my football days. Any accusation that my first foray into running was purely to pad out my trophy cabinet with 10k medals is... probably not far from the truth.

With running, having recently seen reports of the legend Yiannis Kouros covering 551 miles in a 6 day race at the age of 57, just shows that running can be continued for many years to come. It's just another chapter in my life.
signum10 asks: congrats what was your 1st run over 1mile and how long did it take you

Avon says: I was invited out for a lunchtime run along with a few of the runners in our office years ago.

We ran for about 4 miles in about 40 minutes and to be honest it was tough to keep going without stopping. I thought I was reasonably fit as a regular footballer however my legs and I had that clammy shirt effect going on for a good hour or two after the run despite having a shower and trying to cool down.
Goofee asks: Congratulations mate, nice guys do win stuff!! What piece of advice would you give someone ahead of their first 100 miler?

Avon says: Hello mate, first 100 miler this year then? In terms of tips, bank lots and lots of miles in your build up, take it really easy during the race, eat as much as you can during the run (there will be times when you don't fancy food) and try and be positive and enjoy the experience.
emdee asks: Proud of you my good chap, congratulations. Now.. Many of us know you're an avid hat wearer, what with your lucky cap and all. Even though it makes it rain. What may be less well known is that you appear to have a folically-challenged future. Will we see more hats (perhaps a nice trilby?), a dodgy comb over or a Stouty-style crop?

Avon says: There is only one lucky cap but I could be tempted to go down the route of over compensating and grow a beard, they're all the rage in ultra running circles these days.
GRIFFO asks: From One Welshman to another,well done on a brilliant year mate,have you done any of these,Moonlight Challenge,Born to run Llanelli,Ladybower 50 ,Dukeries Ultra and the Equinox 24 these are on my list this year cheers and well done again mate

Avon says: Sorry to say I've not done any of those but you can read about some of these event reports in the brilliant and free Ultra running magazine called Ultra Tales... (www.ultratales.com)
flip asks: Well done mate , you've had an amazing year and its fully deserved.First of all the question i ask all Ultra peeps who win, when you coming to do Hardmoors.Yes i know i'm biased and love the races but you really should pop up sometime :-). Second question, i love ultra tales. I guess its a lot of hard work though, where do you see this going?

Avon says: Hardmoors is on the bucket list! The fact that there's a 160 mile version makes it even more interesting. Unfortunately, it does clash with one of my favourite races (the GUCR) each year so it may have to wait until I'm not so lucky in the GUCR ballot.

With regard to Ultra Tales, thanks for your Hardmoors reports! Putting the e-zine together is a massive amount of work but I do have a few helpers. Going forward, lots of ideas but so little time. I would love to have more original articles or reports which people haven't read on someone's blog already, a race report each for every UK ultra and introduce it to a wider audience. We have around 2.5 - 3k downloads per issue but what % of the UK ultra running community this represents I don't know.
ogee asks: Bloody well done mate, 2013 was an amazing year for you & obvious question follows, how the heck are you going to top that in 2014?

Avon says: Thanks Ogee and fantastic effort on your recent Spine race, I was following that all week. Well I have the Centurion Slam (4 x 100 milers... as you know from being one of the first Slammers), GUCR and T184 planned for 2014 already so thats an average of 121.5 miles per race. Is that enough?
buttscratcher asks: If you were to be eaten alive by an animal of your choice, which one would it be?

Avon says: Hmmn, a bit of a left field question. I think I would have to choose being swallowed by a multi tentacled beast whose immense gaping maw is lined with several rows of sharp teeth and who inhabits the Great Pit of Carkoon.
mr d asks: Congratulations Avon. When preparing for a Ultra is there an advisable longest run, should you clock long miles back to back, or does it depend on the individual and the distance?

Avon says: My training advice would be to bank as many miles as you can in the build up and I definitely recommend back to back runs (either same day or Saturday and Sunday) as this gets you practiced at running on tired legs.

Most peoples training plan will vary according to their goals, lifestyle, work, family commitments. Personally, I do lots of short runs during the week as this is all I can fit in during a lunchtime or a run home and then a medium to long run on Saturday and Sunday each week.

I don't generally do a training run longer than 20-25 miles (and that's not every week) although I will enter marathons/shorter ultra's (up to 40-50 miles) in preparation for say a 100 miler.
Hills of Death (HOD) asks: congrats Avon superb achievements as a wannabee Ultra runner what thought keeps you going through the loooong ones

Avon says: Simply put fear of failure! The office hero status being shattered and having to give an honest account of my first DNF blog without having anything to blame but myself.
DazTheSlug asks: Avon... so is that as in Blake's Seven?

Avon says: You got it. You must be soooo old.
milemonster asks: What is your nutritional preference when, 1) training, 2) racing and 3) resting ? Do you have an optimal racing weight ?

Avon says: I'm not a great example for diet and nutrition I'm afraid!

On normal training weeks, I eat the usual brekkie, lunch and dinner and try and avoid too many cakes and sweets (usually unsuccessfully).

When I'm racing long distances I will eat anything and everything I like although my taste changes from flapjack/chocolate to savoury foods to fruit during a long Ultra. I have largely stopped using gels on long races and eat real food. Welsh cakes got me through Sparta and I once organised for a pizza to be delivered during a 100 mile race!

During times of rest, I usually end up gorging on all the food I bought for the race and didn't eat.

I got down to 10st 10lbs pre Sparta and after a couple of months of low activity and a Xmas diet of marzipan chocolate and mince pies I'm back up to 11st 12lbs. So basically, ignore any of my advice as I'm a bad example.
mushroom asks: Congratulations on MOTM. What was more scary - your first ultra or your first 10k?

Avon says: I guess it was the 10k as I spent 3 months plucking up the garage to get beyond my first 4 mile lunchtime run. My first ultra (Thames Path 50) was something I trained for for a few months and was planned to be a grand adventure with my buddy Stouty.
HappyG(rrr) asks: Many congratulations. I know you best through ultra tales, so I thought I'd ask about that: why does blogging seem to go hand in hand with ultra running, and in your case morph into a full magazine? And a secondary question - what do you think of the massive increase in popularity of ultras - great as more people get into it and more events are spawned or end of the private, niche, minority support that was what was originally so special? Ultra question, sorry! :-)G

Avon says: I think blogging has become more popular as there's a thirst for knowledge and the easiest way to research some of these races is from the comfort of your own home. When I first started running Ultra's (and specifically the GUCR) I read all the blogs I could find to help me in my race preparation and found these interesting and often gave valuable insights into peoples training and mentality. I originally started my blog so I could pass on my own experiences to others.

The best complement I have ever received was from a chap who approached me before an event and said "Thanks for your blog. You've inspired me to do an Ultra."

I think the increase in people getting into Ultra's is great and I'm keen to encourage people to get involved and break down any barriers or views that its for elite runners or tough to get into. If you can run a marathon, you can complete an ultra. This increase in demand will hopefully lead to more varied and interesting events of the Centurion type standard which is a positive. The downside will be the odd poorly managed event or events becoming so popular that end up being over-subscribed or ballots taking place. It does surprise me how many events get sold out quickly but there ends up being quite a few DNS's on the day.

There, an ultra length answer for an ultra length question.
Craig_ asks: Congratulations on the well deserved MOTM Avon and a big thank you for sharing your adventures with us all - I think like a lot of people I find them inspirational and undertaken with good spirit (this always makes me laugh :) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=sFSfbfFHi2s#t=424) - so a question, given you have a bit of time for contemplation whilst your clocking up the miles, any thoughts on the meaning of life..?

Avon says: Thanks Craig, glad you like the YouTube videos. I will try and do some more race videos as it does give a great insight into races and your rambling thoughts at the time.

The Meaning of Life? That's a little deep for me, my first thought when I read your question was "Just one wafer thin mint sir?". On a slightly more serious note, I have often found that I can spent hours during a race just enjoying my own thoughts or thinking through jobs or tasks or planning future events. Part of this is a distraction tactic to take your mind of the run. I spent about 60 hours (out of 83 hours) of the Thames Ring by myself and listened to my iPod for only 2-3 hours when I needed a bit of a pick me up/distraction.
Stouty asks: Is the rumor true that you and Stouty are back together now he's finished wearing wet suits and riding bikes ! and will you ever replace that running hat ? and is it true you once scored a goal playing football and made a hard tackle ?

Avon says: Stouty? Never heard of him.. isn't he some sort of 80's throwback, triathlon lover? I won't replace the lucky hat until you buy me a new one (edit: he's just bought me a new one) and I'm sure you've seen the full repertoire of goals (off my ar*e, lucky deflection etc). Interestingly, I once played 200+ consecutive games for the legendary Earley Gunners... any coincidence that I like run streaks?
MvM asks: Awesome sausage!! Considering you have no nutritional plans, ignore most injuries and advice you're given and your wife and daughter are losing patience with you; how much longer do you think it's possible to keep pushing yourself and what achievement will be the one to make you say that's it, I've done enough.

Avon says: Stop stealing my catchphrases! Tough question, I would like to keep running as long as I can. In terms of an end game point, there will always be just one more race, one more experience, one more challenge whilst I'm still fit and healthy.

Foreign runs will be the very very occasional luxury, so my current (realistic) plan is to try out the 100 mile plus races in the UK over the next few years.
Mr. K. asks: Congratulations, a well done hardly covers the year you had. What races are left on your wish list?

Avon says: Hello. Currently working around the 100 mile plus races in the UK and there's lots to tick off their including WHW, Lakeland and I really need to enter a few of Mark Cockbain's events before I can consider myself a proper ultra runner! Completing Spartathlon has given me a little taste for "epic foreign runs" but these will be the odd exception largely due to cost. It would be easy for me to throw a few high profile race names out there but I'm going to reserve judgment at the present time.
Night-owl asks: Congratulations MOTM But where does it stop is there a distance you wouldn't run. Would you ever say can't run that far, that's plain crazy

Avon says: Hello. Cost, logistics, work and family responsibilities would stop me running distances and part of the reason I like long single stage events as opposed to multi-stage events is for the challenge aswell as the time away. I often see these "Top 10 Toughest Races" type articles on the internet and I would like to think I would give any race a go if I could afford it (completing them successfully is an entirely different matter).
GeeeM asks: Well deserved MOTM mate :-) Where do you go from here? Any plans to up the ante into the hills & mountains, e.g. Spine, Dragons Back or even the shorter ones, e.g. the MCN events in Wales. And - do you really dread the inevitable DNF?

Avon says: Thanks GeeeM. I do like the idea of some mountain races (having enjoyed the occasional hiking event) but living in the pancake flat South of England I would need to do some serious hill work or hiking. I did take part in the Beacons Ultra a couple of years ago.. and detested going up the summit. So some practice required!

I think my wife is dreading the DNF more than me, as she knows I'm going to be really grumpy and upset when it happens.
jog-on asks: Congrats on MOTM :) What has been your "BEST and "WORST" moment since becoming an Ultra Runner?

Avon says: Cheers. Best moment has to be the recent Spartathlon finish as it was something outside my comfort zone and was my complete focus for the majority of 2013. It's nice when all the hard work pays off.

There's a lot of low points during long races but I would have to say the worst moment was probably coming close to quitting during the Thames Ring. I was 90 miles into the race with 160 miles to go, I was at a point of despair where I just couldn't see myself being out for another 2 days and finishing the race. I was even contemplating giving up ultra running altogether at that moment of weakness.
Mrs Hamish asks: I live in Reading - can you recommend a good running club? - exflyboy forced me to write this. Very well done! x

Avon says: I hear the Reading Joggers are a sociable group :) although those Roadrunner guys and girls seem like a nice group of people aswell. Waves to Davey (see what I did there?) and Disco Dean.
Sunbed Athlete asks: Congrats! All the best for 2014! What's better? Pre-season training or ultra training?

Avon says: When I actually did some pre-season football training it was your typical old school shock tactics (shuttle runs 'til you puke). Ultra running is far more relaxing and sociable.. I'm not a great trainer, too many plods and not enough (any) harder workouts. An aim for 2014 perhaps.
Jago15 asks: how do I log runs I did 1ts 2nd 3rd jan etc ?

Avon says: 1. Click on Training
2. Click on Add Training at the top right hand corner of the menu
3. Click on Add Training Manually
4. Add your training details.
5. Submit training details.
6. If you mistakenly forget to insert the decimal point after the number of miles so 10 miles becomes 1000 miles (this is known as "The Sue") then Fetcheveryone members will kindly highlight this via the comments box in your training log.
7. If you are still stuck then press CTRL ALT DELETE and reset your computer
8. If this still fails to work, then you should try entering the information with your opposite hand.
9. If this fails, then an angry Tweet or Facebook rant would be entirely appropriate
10. As a last resort you could visit the Talk forum and ask for assistance.
K-Web asks: Bloody mahvluss :-) So - peas or carrots: Or both? And - on a more serious note before I get told off, in the long ultras, crew or no crew? And - who would be your ideal crew team?

Avon says: Peas please and no crew is my preferred choice these days as I tend to be a lot quicker (although I am very grateful to my crews who have helped me in the past).

However, if I had to have a crew it would be Chuck Norris (he knows Kung Fu), Bear Gryls (he can survive anywhere), McGyver (he can fix anything) and Ola Jordan (she's er... quite hot) ... we were talking about Zombie survival team weren't we?
RunningRonnie asks: Is your screen name pronounced as in Avon calling, or like the mountain Ben Avon?

Avon says: Avon calling!
_andy asks: Congrats Avon, great to see an ultra MOTM. What an awesome year (and more you've had). There's too many questions to ask someone of yur experience, so I'll just settle for a short and simpe one - Why run ultras? At least, how would you explain the appeal of it to the non-runner or 'normal' runner, including what got you into it in the first place. That's really only one question, just a big one. Congrats again, and thanks for the brilliant ultra-tales.

Avon says: Hi Andy. I ran my first Ultra as a challenge to prove my fitness after a pretty nasty ankle break playing football.

Ultra running offers the challenge of just completing the distance, being out and "surviving" an event reliant on your own mental and physical skills. It's great to look back at a long run (jog/walk/crawl) and say "Yeah I just did that". For me, there is a fixation with times on shorter based events with your enjoyment of the event influenced by your finishing time. You could miss a PB by a minute and consider it the worst race in the world or beat it by a minute and consider the event a great success. We also have a fantastic ultra running community and there's definitely a "we're all in this together" type bond between a lot of the runners.
Duchess asks: An ultra MOTM, fabulous! How do you choose which races you enter? What makes one more attractive than another?

Avon says: Hello. I tend to look at the race length as I'm currently interested in the longer races and may also be influenced by timing of the event and cost/logistics. Each year I tend to do a couple of new ones and a couple of more local ones. After the longer races are in the diary, I will look at a few smaller ultra's or marathons in between these events to use as build up events.
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