Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Salisbury 54321 - Marathon number four

Saturday 10th August to Sunday 11th August was supposed to be volunteering for North Downs Way 100.  In all the distractions of work/kids/marathon training and the terror of Lakeland50 I hadn’t replied to an email which now left me at a loss for the weekend.  I was all ready to be up all night cheering on super, fantastic people that were attempting one hell of a distance – for fun/choice/adventure/madness!! 

What do I do now?  I start looking at the 100 marathon club web page for marathons that weekend of course.  But why a marathon?  Why not 10k or a half marathon?  Give myself a rest and just chill for the weekend?  Do some gardening?  Go to the swimming pool?  Loads of other weekend things to be doing other than running a marathon just for the hell of it!! 

There was a local 10k race near Wendover – Bearbrook 10k.  I had already run that event a couple times before and I knew there was no medal.  Yes.  Medals.  I’m a medal hound.  I like my race bling and if I’m going to enter an event more than once it’s because it has medals.  Sad, I know! 

There were a few marathons on that weekend – Hardmoors, Isle of Man, Salisbury 54321 and Northumberland Coast.  None of them sounded close.  Salisbury sounded the most interesting from the description on the website.  There were places still available and better yet – Firemen!  It was at Salisbury Fire Station.  Plus there were medals.  Sold.  It was going to be an early start to get there for the morning start but from the looks of the course it would be a nice challenge.  Anyway – my plans for the weekend involved not sleeping at all Saturday night so an early start was a lazy morning.  Yep.  Makes no sense at all does it! 

5am wake up call and on the road by 6:20am.  The roads are empty and the trip down to Salisbury was easy.  I didn’t even need to use my sat nav.  I arrived at 8:30am with more than enough parking spaces still available.  There were walkers starting at 8am who were also walking the same routes as the runners.  The runners got to leave an hour or so after the walkers.  The weather was cloudy with the occasional feeling of drizzle to begin with.  I had my emergency poncho and featherlight trousers ready for if the day turned into a drench fest. 

Number collected.  Kit checked.  Kit checked again.  I’m sure I’m forgetting something.  Kit checked again……sun block!!  On goes the sun block and my back pack and water and food and road shoes.  I had brought my trail shoes but from the description of the course being half trail and half road/path I wasn’t keen on ruining my comfy Inov8 slippers on roads.  Right.  I’m ready.  Very nervous but ready. 

There wasn’t a huge number of runners for the marathon which made the start very easy.  Of we all jogged away from the firestation and up the first hill to run around the castle.  The first checkpoint – rather nicely timed just after the hill climb!  After that it was path, track, road, trail for a while.  Nothing to slow any of us down for at least a few miles.  The very regular checkpoints were lovely.  I made sure I gulped down at least a cup of water at each checkpoint.  Made sure I had my dextrose and gingernuts at each calorie alert from my Garmin.  A lot of the trail was very much like the Dunstable downs marathon route.  One hill in particular stood out – it wasn’t steep but the ground underfoot was so uneven that every time I tried to break into a jog I was almost falling over and twisting my ankles.  I couldn’t get into an even stride and the heat of the sun at that point was very distracting so I kept myself safe and steady and stomped up that hill nice and steady.  Lovely views at the top of hills.  I’m beginning to see the good side of hill climbing.  Yes, I did just say “hill” and “good” in the same statement!  What has happened to me this year???? 

The rest of the run went really nicely.  I kept myself moving.  Walking when I felt over exerted and jogging along and enjoying the scenery the rest of the time.  The big country house was beautiful to look at.  The lovely coolness of running through some spectacular woodland following red string.  Walking then running past a horse race course after scoffing some biscuits from a check point.  Then the last few miles were counting down.  Getting close to the end of the marathon.  My legs were feeling a little heavy but the rest of me felt fantastic.  My feet were sore but I couldn’t feel any hot spots.  My backpack was irritating my left arm a little.  That’s all I could pick fault with myself.  One last checkpoint before heading into the town centre and they had mars bars!  THAT’S WHAT I FORGOT!!!!  My mini mars bars.  I quick gulp down of water and I’m walking again whilst chomping down a mars bar.  A few minutes later and I’m back to jogging along at a nice steady pace.  Having a walk now and again to ease the tiredness in my legs. 

It’s at this point I meet a few of the Ultra runners who started of at 9am.  They were running 50k today.  We kept passing each other and having a little chat and a laugh.  Only 3-4 miles to go.  Not long now.  Keep up the pace and the finish is only 30-40 minutes away.  A lovely lady kept me running through the last couple miles past the cathedral and through the town centre.  My legs were tired and I was used to stopping to relieve the tiredness.  But the finish was so close.  We could hear the band.  If I could just keep my legs moving the tiredness in my legs will finish sooner.  But walking is easier.  But running is what I’m supposed to be doing, not walking.  Keep running.  Keep the breathing steady.  Keep the pace steady.  Keep running.  I can see the field.  Woohoooo!!! It’s the finish! 

I wasn’t out there to run a fast marathon so I’m pleased with my time of 5 hours 47 minutes.  If I’d managed to get up and down the hill with the ankle breaking ground I’m sure I would have shaved at least 30 minutes of that time.  My feet were amazingly unscathed.  Only one blister on one toe.  Rather amazing for shoes that usually give me loads of blisters!!  A quick change into some fresh clothes, a lovely cup of tea, handing in someone’s lost £5 note that I found on the course and then I’m in the car heading home feeling okay about running 27 miles. 

For those of you who think running a marathon is a bonkers distance.  5k used to feel like a huge distance when I started running again.  10k was an immense distance that I kept repeating until I felt okay with it.  Half marathons were a stupendous effort that amazed me, they were not easy and my first half marathon nearly stopped me running long distance for fun.  Marathons – yes, it really is bonkers.  Nothing else describes the feeling of having completed 26-27 miles of running/walking.  It’s amazing.  It’s an adventure.  It has its fun moments and bad moments.  It’s hard to beat the feeling of accomplishment though.  Awesomeness!! 

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Lakeland 50 - The Torment of Failure

The weekend of the Lakeland 50 event was here.  Three women, two tents, loads of options of clothing/kit for the day of the race loaded into a car travelling to the Lake District on Friday morning.  Not only did we want to get there to make sure we were rested for the day of our race but we wanted to be there to see of the Lakeland 100 participants. 

Nerves and excitement were in full swing when the 100 participants left the line at Coniston.  We were here.  Our time to run will be tomorrow.  It’s really happening.  It’s really really happening.  Oh dear, what have we done.  Relax, chill, take a moment………

Quick unpack and set up of our tents and a kit check ready to go and get registered in the school hall.  I weighed myself in the morning before we left so I knew I’d be 73kg.  The lovely scales at check in said I was 72.2kg.  Nice one.  Then the kit check in the hall.  The bits of my kit I wanted didn’t pass but I did have kit in there I didn’t want to use that did pass.  What did I do?  I took it all.  Note to self.  Buy lighter kit that can fit in one of those tiny small back packs that everyone else is wearing…… how do they do it?  I want to design a back pack called “Mountain running Tardis” Light as a feather with everything you’ll ever need including the kitchen sink!! 

During this whole process there was lovely, pretty, I want that gear displayed in the hall for those who didn’t have the right kit or for us, it looked so tempting we couldn’t resist.  What did we do?  Of course we did.  It would be rude not to.  We spied some calf compressions and shoes.  I went for the Inov8’s – three styles later and I’m in love with some stylish red Rocklites.  As if I need more trail shoes!! My friends had gone for the latest Hoka’s – loads of cushioned support for those very rocky paths. 

After the excitement of the check in we grouped together with a number of other Leighton Fun Runners and walking into Coniston to find somewhere to eat.  A nice relaxing chill out and nervous talk of the day to follow we headed back to our tents to settle down for the night. 

Tent zips, car doors, clock bells a plenty and the wonderful sound of snoring to keep those light sleepers like me awake.  I apologise sincerely for being one of those car door/tent zip moments at around 1am – retrieving some extra layers from the car to get comfy in my tent.  It worked because I don’t remember hearing anything until 4am sounded out on the clock bell.  A bit more sleep and who needs an alarm when early risers start shouting “morning” across the school field at just after 6am.  Why?  Well I know why but why?  It was 6am!! Another 30 minutes before shouting MORNING would have been welcome.  Oh well.  It was time……… Time to get my lazy arse out of the sleeping bag and get ready. 

Kit checked one last time.  Back pack checked one last time.  Trusty Inov8 trailrocks on.  Sun cream, bug spray, spare buff, contact lenses and face wipes packed into the drop back sack so I could sort out the essentials on the bus.  Then it was time for the race briefing which was not easy – how to squish 200 adults with back packs into a school hall with speakers located only at the front.  It was handy that standing outside the hall you could hear better than if you were packed into the hall.  Plus there was more fresh air. 

After standing around for the race briefing my left foot was feeling bruised from a bit of the cushioning inside my trailrocks.  I can’t wear these!  My foot will be liquid pain if I leave these shoes on.  What do I do?!?!?!?!  Those were my only trail shoes……. Wait……. I bought another pair last night didn’t I?  But I haven’t even tested them running yet.  But I can’t go out in the pair I’ve brought with me.  No choice then.  A quick change of shoes to the new Rocklites purchased the night before.  New shoes on their first outing and no way of changing them if they kill my feet.  Not sensible at all but they felt like heavenly comfy slippers when I wear them.  Mmmmm, rocklite slippers.  I sincerely hope they feel like slippers by the end of this thing. 

All loaded onto coaches at 9:30 am to get to Dalemain Estate – the beginning of the Lakeland 50. 

Hot hot hot – Yes some of those runners really did look fit, and hot…… Focus!!  There’s hills to climb!  We were here.  The start.  That’s it, no turning back now.  Dibbers dibbed and then waiting in the funnel line for the start at 11:30am. 

Nervous energy had us running towards the first gentle hill which then took us on a merry wander through some fields.  Ruts, holes and dips hidden by tall grass to keep you on your toes.  Across a road and then back towards the start.  A near miss for a packet of jelly babies that managed to escape from a friends back pack.  They were soon rescued.  A nice gentle 4 mile warm up before you really start hitting the trails. 

With loads of energy to spare we were storming up the hills and running down the other side.  Sun shine and gentle breeze.  It was gorgeous. 

Seeing the 100 participants on the course was truly inspiring.  They’d been going since 18:30 the day before and were still moving.  Every time I passed them I made sure I said “well done” or “good going” or “total respect, you’re amazing” to them.  It was very motivating because if they could keep moving for that long and past 50 miles already then I have the easy job of just getting to 50 miles. 

The first check point at Howtown was getting close and we started seeing signs – “Don’t let the thing between your ears stop you”.  It kept us amused all the way to the checkpoint to find super helpful marshals and biscuits and water a plenty.  Fabulous smiles as well.  Thank you. 

Then out onto a real steep climb.  At the end of the road and beginning of the trail the last sign was “This seemed like a good idea last September”.  Yes.  Yes it did, hahaha! 

The climb seemed to take forever to reach the top.  One of our team was taking to the hills like a mountain goat and she powered on ahead.  It was awesome to see.  We met a couple 100 participants, one of which was having real trouble with sickness.  I had nothing but dextrose tabs or ginger biscuits that might help, my friends had painkillers a plenty.  We felt so guilty leaving her and her partner. 

We reached the top and then enjoyed some lovely views.  Met up and stayed with Graeme and Stuart – two very entertaining fellas who were absolute gentlemen.  Down through some very high bracken.  Finding a hidden path next to a stream/river.  Undulating path alongside Hawswater.  The views from there were amazing.  We just needed to make sure we stopped before looking up as the path was very challenging. 

Just as we get to the second check point the heavens open.  Quick stop to pull out waterproofs and we’re on our way again.  We passed by someone injured on the path down to the checkpoint.  Their Bivi bag was very useful at that point to those peeps, the rain was heaving down.  Ouch. 

We caught up with our mountain goat friend at Mardale Head checkpoint and we were debating at that point whether to quit due to the heavy rain or carry on.  A number of 100 participants were going to be collected by coach and the lure of quitting there and then was very strong.  Go out on the hills with heavy rain or get on a lovely warm bus and go back to the start a quitter.  Hmmmm.  I’m very glad we continued. 

Again up a very very long steep climb.  The mountain goat flew up the hill and again it was great to see my friend attacking those hills with what seemed like unending strength. 

Navigating around various trails, roads, fields, bracken, walls, gates and then encroaching darkness before the next checkpoint – Kentmere.  At this point I chose to change from my poncho – nick named Russel – to my waterproof coat.  I didn’t know it then but I was approaching exhaustion. 

All I remember of the trip to Ambleside was lots of rocky paths that looked like rivers.  The occasional road and trail that gave my feet a welcome rest from being massaged to oblivion on the rocky paths.  A path down a very steep hill surrounded by very tall bracken.  A Post Office pit stop to sort out a friends blister.  More trail then road into Ambleside.  Not much scenery at this point as we were in darkness and navigating by head torch light. 

By the time we got into Ambleside I was beginning to suffer.  Feeling very hot and wanting to remove my jacket to let the rain cool me down to violent shivering and feeling so unbelievably cold.  My throat felt like I’d been eating glass and my tonsils felt huge.  What the hell was happening!! My feet were tired, my legs were tired – if it wasn’t for this hot/cold/bad throat feeling I would have been very happy to continue.  I decided to quit at that point.  Majorly disappointed in myself.  The thing between my ears was screaming at me to stop and I did. 

My friend “The Unstoppable” continued on to Consiton.  The “Mountain Goat” had already been through the Ambleside check point and was already on her way to the finish line.  Me?  I was in a taxi heading for Coniston with a number of other DNF’s all feeling pretty gutted about not being able to continue on to Coniston.  It took me another 2 hours to finally warm up and once I did I felt fine.  The pity party didn’t start until after the awards at 12pm the following day but until then I kept myself occupied by clearing up the hall for the finishers.  Cheering as much as possible for all the finishers and having kit ready for my two friends that were out there working their way back to Coniston. 

It was an amazing event.  I’ve gone from feeling extremely angry with myself to being sort of okay with quitting.  My friends have been amazing, not only for finishing but for also giving me a good talking to.  35 miles in those conditions was tough.  I got to 35 miles in those conditions.  35 miles is a long way.  35 miles is farther than a marathon.  Yes I didn’t finish but I listened to my body and didn’t put myself at further risk by going back out into the cold, wet night.  I will be happy with that at some point and I’ll keep telling myself that until I believe it, groan!!

Thank you to my friends and everyone else that made it to the event from Leighton Buzzard/Linslade.  Leighton Fun Runners have truly taken Ultra Running to a new level. 

Thank you Marshals – you were fabulously cheerful, helpful, ready with cups of tea and cakes/biscuits/sandwiches/cheese on toast/pasta…… so much food I hardly needed my own. 

Thank you to the lovely people at the School.  These guys/gals were making tea/coffee and serving food all the way through the nights.  24 hour service – you’re amazing. 

Finally thank you to the organisers – An amazingly well organised event that I won’t forget.  Bits of it might be a blur but wow.  Fantastic!!  

Monday, 24 June 2013

Trail Marathon Wales 2013 - Marathon number two

A couple weeks before this event I had decided that a reccie across the lake district was a really really good idea.  It was only 14 miles or so from Ambleside to Coniston.  Nothing could go wrong, could it.  Well, in true form, something did go wrong.  My left knee to be exact.  The Lake District is no walk in the park and the route I was taking should never have been done alone.  Two very valuable lessons learnt that day.  Strength training is all important for hill events and when attempting a difficult trail, try your hardest to drag along a willing participant.  All this before I tackle my second marathon.  Plus it was not only my second marathon but the toughest marathon I could find before the Lakeland 50 event.  A good training marathon.  That was my thought.  So, did I do it?  Did I make it to the finish?  Did I quit?

I travelled to Porthmadog on Friday, the day before the marathon.  I had everything I could think of packed - or so I thought!! - what I didn't expect was the sights going through the park and the hills I would be tackling the next day.  I nearly turned the car around right there and then.  I've never run around hills like this.  The nearest I have is running the route for the Dunstable Downs marathon and those hills are mere bumps compared to what I was seeing.  How am I going to run this?  I'll get up that first hill but it will sap all my energy and that will be that.  All this way to quit.  What was I thinking! Why am I doing this? Oh lord this is going to hurt! Damn it damn it damn it damn it!!! I'm here.  I've planned this.  The weather IS going to be okay and I AM going to get to the start and damn well TRY!!!! Blimey I feel queasy!

A very good 6 hours sleep later and I'm all showered, Lycra clad and ready to rock it on those hills.  Blergh, I  simply can't do this.  The weather out there is lashing down with rain and it's only 7am.  What is it going to be like at 9am! Oh no no no no no........ There's something to be said about going to an event like this with someone.  Anyone.  Friend, family or another runner who's just as bonkers as yourself.  I felt like the weather - downright miserable.  But I'd planned this.  I got to Porthmadog all on my lonesome.  I had peeps on spacebook wishing me well.  I can't quit now.  Right.... last minute kit check.  Where's the bug spray..... Oh yes.  It's sitting at home all safe and snug and obvious on the shelf in the lounge.  Yep.  Put there by me so I wouldn't forget it.  Yep - I forgot it.  So what about everything else.  It's all there - waterproofs, gps 310xt and etrex, dextrose tabs, gingerbread men (oh yes!!), first aid kit, spare socks and spare socks, spare compression wrap, phone, emergency foil blanket and lastly...... the emergency poncho.  Oh yes.  I have my emergency poncho so everything will be okay.  Right, lets rock....

I get to the Coed Y Brenin park in good time.  Nice and early but the weather is still not looking good.  Time to break out the emergency poncho and grab a cuppa before the race.  Not so many people around at the moment at 7:30am.  Its early so I can relax and look at those absolutely enormous hills staring back at me, daring me to quit, whispering at me to just go home.  But they also look so lovely and inviting.  Oh, okay.  I'll get out to that start line and get over at least a couple of those hills and then think about quiting.

9am rolls around far to quickly for me.  The weather has improved.  It's all dry and blustery now so I pack away my lovely, lovely emergency poncho (my good luck charm).  Lock up the car and get out to that start line.  A quick pre race briefing and we're of.  I thought they said the first three miles would be fairly flat along the track in the park!! It was up hill right from the start and amazingly I was still running near the top! Where was all this strength coming from??  Who cares, lets go go go......

It took a while before we left the track and got into the trails in the woods.  Oh dear, the trails.  They were almost constant, non stop hills that almost had me climbing with my hands.  At this point I was rather pleased with myself for getting this far and still having the energy to tackle these trails.  Surely this is the toughest part and it's all over?  Please!  Oh, it isn't.  There's more!!  Oh, okay then.  One more hill and I'll quit.  WOW, look at those views.  Oh I've got to see more of this.  A little bit of road, a little bit of farm land fields and sheep, quite a bit of rough stone track road but mostly single track trails that take you higher and higher and higher and when is this ever going to stop, lung burning, jelly leg inducing hills!!! I'm sure I'd enjoy more of the views if I wasn't watching every single step I took with great care.  One slip and I'll be rolling down one hell of a steep hill.

So what kept me from quiting?  I did keep up my mantra, I'll quit after the next hill...... but at about mile 12 or so I met the most bonkers pair of runners.  Had me nearly dying with laughter whilst I'm trying to breathe whilst running.  The distraction these two runners had on my negative thoughts were amazing.  Denzil - stir crazy bonkers on Red Bull and 9 bars and Claire who was just as stir crazy on Red Bull as Denzil.  This double act were a blessing for me.  Can't thank these two enough.  And I'm still not sure what was captured on camera by Denzil but I'm sure the whole discussion of FF or DD or GGG's will be in there somewhere.  Thank you.  And I still think they should hire themselves out as a double act on tough ultra type races.

Did I finish.  YES, yes I did.  It took me a whole 6 hours and 39 minutes.  My left knee was pure agony from just before the last hill.  Oh that last hill was pure evil.  EVIL!!!!  I am so please with myself.

My left knee is now a shambles but I'm confident I'll get it back to working order very soon.  My ultra spirit is now stronger than ever.  I went to Wales feeling sick to my stomach that I was tackling this giant of a race alone.  I've yet again gone way past what I thought I could do.  Fear and doubt have been in my life for so long but I'm now finding that I can still be afraid and still doubt myself but it doesn't stop me from achieving my goals.

Bring it on!!!!

Monday, 20 May 2013

My First Ultra Race - Cardiff Ultra 50 miles Brecon to Cardiff

This was my first Ultra of 50 miles.  Not only did I smash my longest distance - MK Marathon - in one day, I nearly doubled that distance.

I had trained as much as I could for this, I had worried so much about this, I had been booking marathon's to keep me from thinking about this event for a long time!!  Insane?  Yes.  Yes it was.

The week before this race it had been raining with the forecast on the day being rain by the evening.  What was the weather like?  Blue skies and hot sun - ALL DAY!!! I'm sure there was another long distance race that was full of hot weather all day......?

The day started at 4am for me and Lesley at the Travelodge in Whitchurch.  We got to Sport Wales in good time and took our seats on the coach that would take us to Brecon.  Gear and packs checked, checked and double checked we sat and enjoyed the scenery for the next hour.  We arrived at a theatre complex in Brecon and had enough time for a cup of tea and one more check of gear.  Toilet breaks a plenty due to nerves.  Then a quick briefing in the theatre and we headed out to the start.

The drama for the day consisted of me panicking about my Garmin eTrex30 that I somehow lost from the coach and the start outside the theatre which lead to me delaying Sian and Lesley from starting with the rest of the pack.  Swearing and bitching about the fact that I should have been more careful I gave up trying to find the eTrex and we started way behind everyone else which also made me swear because we'd been left behind.  Dang it all!!

After a couple miles I gave up worrying about my lost eTrex and we were following Lesley's ultra plan of run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute.  Yes I wanted to run that little bit faster than my friends but I also wanted to very much stay together for this first Ultra 50.  Never underestimate the power of friends.  The last 12 miles of this race were only possible because of that companionship.  Thank you - You're amazing.

The scenery from Brecon was amazing.  We ran along a canal for a while and then headed out into the hills.  The views along the lake were amazing as the water was so still.  The amazing view at the top of the longest hill I have ever had to attempt in a race - 7 miles long!  The classic hills of Wales as we passed through Merthyr Tydfil and then the longest ever paved tree walk the seemed to never end through Abercanaid, Aberfan, Abercynor, Cilfynydd, Pontypridd...... The list goes on.

Some parts of the route passed through housing estates.  Near Brecon people were asking us where we were going and would raise their eyebrows and wish us good luck.  Near Cardiff people would ask where we had come from and give us a hearty "Well done, keep going, you're nearly there".

So how long did it take us?  Myself and Lesley it was 13hrs 11mins.  For Sian and Micheal (Green wig dude) it was 13hrs 48mins

I accidentally stopped my Garmin somehow but I was very impressed with the battery life.  After all this activity I still have 50% battery.  It's clunky, it's a pain to set up but wow that battery life is something.

For my first Ultra this was one hell of a learning curve.  The run walk was difficult because I was not used to walking that distance, I'd been training for running only.  The food I'd packed and kept munching on throughout the day was invaluable.  I would have become queasy and felt much worse by the end of the event without testing what food works when.  I need to pack more preventative care for blisters and most importantly.  I need to be able to run more than 40 miles as a training run before I attempt my next ultra 27th July - Lakeland 50

A few things I'd like to say to anyone thinking of running an Ultra.

Training - Don't ever under estimate the need for training when you're going to do a long distance event.

Food - Another thing you need when attempting a long distance event.  What's good?  What's bad?  You won't know until you've gone out and tested what other people have tried.

Gear - Why run with a pack when you don't need to?  Because it's good training.  Just like finding those beautifully comfortable running shoes that will let you run for miles without pain.  You need to find gear you can run in for miles!! Compression/t-shirts/shorts/socks/bra/packs - everyone's different.

I'd spent so much time testing, training, testing, training and testing some more that it worked well up until the mile 40 checkpoint.  That was my furthest distance I'd trained for over my weekend training runs.  After that it was sheer determination and having friends with me that kept me going.

Thank you Ultra Race.  My Virgin Ultra event will never be forgotten.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Milton Keynes Marathon - What a day!!

2012 MK Marathon was rain, rain and more rain.  2013 MK Marathon was sun, sun and more sun!

Today was the day.  I'd trained and trained and trained and trained some more.  My longest run in one go before the marathon was 24 miles.  Not very fast miles mind you but I had made sure that I was not injured or in pain after each long distance attempt.

You're supposed to taper before your first long event.  Something I've not yet got the hang of.  Reduce your mileage, carb load, stretches and gentle jogs.  My legs were twitching for a run on the Friday two days before the marathon and I just had to go for a run.  Granted it was only 3 miles but it took some of the tension out of my legs.  I felt like an animal boxed up and not able to move after all my training.

I had my plan all set out.  Run the first 10 miles as I would a half marathon.  Don't put everything into it, keep  my pace steady and after 10 miles adopt a strict - walk up hills, run/jog everything else.  If you feel queasy, eat the oat & nut bar in your bag.  If you feel hot, chuck water over yourself.  Dextrose tab when you see a water stop.  If something doesn't feel right, run on it for 10 mins.  If it still doesn't feel right, stop and check it out.  That was my plan.  No time, no speed, no pace and the only mileage marker I was looking for was good old number 10.  Easy.  Hahahahahaha!!!!

The waiting from 6am to 10am on Monday was beyond painful.  I had everything prepared and ready the night before.  I had a lift organised (thank you Jason) and friends to distract me (thank you Claire and Lesley & Rodrigo).  Sun tan lotion, money, water, arm warmers, money, oat & nut bar, dextrose tabs, phone, water, wind proof jacket, socks, money........ I'm sure I forgot something!!

So many people at the start.  I've never felt so packed into a start line before.  It didn't help the nerves but it was soon over when the horn sounded the start of the race.  Remember, nice n easy.  So difficult with people rushing past you to get ahead as fast as possible.

The route began on the road outside the stadium which took us to central Milton Keynes.  A few loops of the office blocks - would have been more interesting around the shopping centre - up and down the same hill a few times before heading downhill towards Caldecotte.  This was lovely after expending so much work on those hills at the start!!  We stayed on the roads until we got to Simpson and then we started to use road and paths as directed by all those lovely cheering Marshall's.  A brief "hello" to Caldecotte lake before heading towards Walnut Tree on the red ways.  The heat was starting to affect my feet now and my rule of running with it for 10 minutes was getting close.  A quick stop to sort out my sock and I was back into the running groove.  Then the first hill after not seeing many for a few miles.  Ouch.  Mile 10 was at the top of this hill.  So unfair.  Stubborn determination kicked in and on step in front of the other I gently climbed the hill.  Mile 10, that's it, no more running up hills, woohoo!!!  My first task complete.

We were now heading towards Willen lake and the shade in the trees was wonderful.  I had been using my buff as a cooling scarf around my neck and I had been using the water from the water stops to drench myself to keep cool.  I couldn't afford to sweat to much, dehydration in this weather was already affecting other runners and I didn't want to suffer from that myself.  Approaching Willen Lake I started to feel queasy, time for that oat and nut bar in the bag.  Wow, such a welcome relief.  I had been taking the dextrose tabs at each water stop but after a while my stomach wanted more than just sugar.  The queasy feeling eased of and I was back to running at an easy pace again just in time to run all the way around Willen Lake.  It felt like ages to get around that lake.

A lovely shady tree moment at the edge of Woolstone and then we were heading towards Linford along the canal.  I tried to distract myself with the scenery but I was starting to lose concentration now.  All this plodding and one foot in front of the other was getting monotonous.  Are we there yet?  At this point the 5hr pace orange T-shirt dude caught up with me.  Why did I notice this guy more than the rest?  All the other orange t-shirt pace dudes had groups of runners with or behind them.  The 5 hour pace dude had most of the runners looking like they were trying to run away from him.  This cheered me up no end and with a hearty chuckle my running mojo came back to me.

From that point I played a game of leap frog with a number of other runners, the 5 hour pace dude and a speed walker that I was just not going to be beaten by.  I would walk up the hills.  Runners, 5hr pace dude and the speed walker would pass me.  On the flats and down hills I would pass them all again.  We carried on this game for at least 8 miles.  Totally distracting me from the fact that I was nearing 24 miles which I totally missed because all of a sudden there was the stadium.  Wow, those miles flew by.  Or did they?

My thoughts over those last 2 miles were - I can see the stadium now, keep running for that last mile, keep running, keep running up to the stadium, legs are burning, keep running, feet hurt, keep running, there's the stadium entrance, keep running, move those legs, pick up those feet, move those arms, smile, keep running, turn the corner, look at the finish, look at the finish - WOW that's the finish!!!!!!  Seriously, I've finished, I've finished - WOOHOOOOO!!!!!!!!

The weather was gorgeous but oh boy was I glad to have a soaking at around mile 11 and the very polite kids at Linford just after mile 20 with their super soakers were oh so welcoming.  The crowds and charities along the route were fabulous and I'm so glad most of the water stops had water and not lucazade.

Will I do it again.  YES!!

Would like to make sure that I say thank you to all those lovely peeps that sent me good luck & cheered me on. It was very much appreciated.  THANK YOU XXX

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Will I Survive my First Marathon?

After my damaging fall last year that scuppered my chances of testing any kind of marathon skills on the hills and trails of Dunstable I am again a few days away from again - running my first marathon. 

Not only that but for some reason I've gone marathon mad this year!! 

Milton Keynes Marathon - Monday 06.05.2013 -
Trail Marathon Wales - Saturday 22.06.2013 -
Enigma Summer Marathon - Saturday 06.07.2013 -
Enigma Gold Marathon Saturday 17.08.2013 -
Dunstable Marathon (unfinished business) - Sunday 08.09.2013 -
Beauty and the Beast Marathon - Saturday 21.09.2013 -
Snowdonia Marathon - Sunday 26.10.2013 -
Enigma Firework Marathon 1&2 Sat 09.11.2013 & Sun 10.11.2013 -

I may have to blame it all on nerves and a deep desire to conquer this unfinished business I have with long distance running.  Since I started running again in 2009 I've overcome numerous niggles, pains and set backs due to one injury or another and 2013 has begun with some very serious distance training runs.  Not only have they impressed me greatly that I have that kind of mileage in me but instead of being terrified of this distance I am seeing the marathon distance in the same light as my first 5k that I ran in 2009. 

When I first started, the thought of running for more than 10 minutes was a challenge in itself.  Then came the 20 minute barrier.  The pain in those unused and untrained muscles, screaming at me to stop doing this insanity.  The feel good factor of reaching one goal after another beat those untrained muscles into submission.  It was tough running my first 5k but I did it and that first medal got me hooked.  Hooked!! 

Then it was 10k.  How could I run twice the distance.  That's insane.  You're all bonkers.  Again, I did it and collected more medals.  Yep, you guessed it, I run for medals as well as fun! 

Then a half marathon.  I hadn't trained properly, my body was not used to the distance and parts of me were deffinitely not happy with the healthier me.  My first major set back.  I ran my first half marathon and felt great that I'd managed to run that distance at all.  I'd only been running for 7 months by then.  My recovery afterwards was terrible.  I couldnt run for 10 minutes let alone 2 hours for the next 4 months. 

Various niggles and illnesses later and I was back into training.  Right back to the beginning building up to 5k then 10k and last year half marathons. Whatever happened in 2009/2010 to knock me down so thoroughly was quite terrifying.  It hasnt stopped me from being careless with training, it's made me train harder for events than I should do. 

So am I ready for 26.2 miles on Monday 6th May 2013?  NO!  I'm terrified that I'll knock myself down all over again and it will take me another year to get back to my current healthy self.  But this time I'm not going to give into my fear of failure.  I'm going to run this marathon and own it and be proud that I've conquered yet another distance. 


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Running Low - Knowing when to let your body recover

You know that feeling. You've come back from a lovely run and your throat feels a bit scratchy. You think nothing of it so you have a good nights sleep and then in the morning your eyes feel sore, your throat feels sore and you feel generally run down and rough.

Is it a mild cold virus? Is it the beginning of an infection? Is it the change between cold air and heated air in your house? Or is it your body trying to slow you down a bit? Maybe it's your mood - depression/anxiety/anger can affect your health too.

I've been feeling super strong over the last few training runs and then the weekend of cancellations due to weather happened. I was ready for the Oakley 20. I knew I could beat that 4 hour time limit. But the race had been cancelled due to freezing temperatures and snow that would endanger people if they were to travel. All this energy.  All this organising. I was bouncing of the walls with energy. So when the local club - Leighton Fun Runners - organised a Leighton 20 I quickly joined in the frenzy to get out there and run.

Then the cold decided to remind me of an old injury. My left ankle and calf muscle didn't feel right on the warm up jog to the club house. Then whilst waiting for everyone to meet up for the run my ankle and calf started feeling okay again. Hmmm. Just a niggle I thought. Then we all set of for the 20 mile run around Leighton Buzzard.  I got to 1.5 miles and my ankle and calf were screaming with pain.  I stopped to wrap up the calf to keep it warm to see if that would help.  It did but not enough.  It started to tighten which was even more painful.  Dang it dang it dang it!!! 

I had a choice.  Run through the pain and get the muscle warm enough to function.  This would feel stupidly painful for a while and after the run the muscle would need a lot of care and attention to heal.  Or call it a day and walk home now when I’m not far from home.  The possibility of injury to the muscle will be much lower and recovery much quicker. 

What did I do?  I walked home grumbling and ranting at how weak I am and it’s only a little cold and I’ve been able to run in worse and so on.  Completely negative for the whole 1 mile walk home.  Yes I had managed to damage a muscle on the outside of my calf somehow.  Hot and cold therapy with a compression sock helped the muscle heal very quickly.  My mood however was low and by Monday morning I felt rough.  I’m still convinced it’s not a cold or infection it’s my general bad mood that’s affecting my health. 

So how do you improve your mood?  Good question isn’t it.  Sigh.  I found my mood improving by plotting and planning my next few training runs and events.  It’s helped, not much but it’s better than nothing.  I’ve also kept on running.  I’ve been out for my daily 1 mile run to my son’s school and I’ve not felt worse doing so. 

Whats next?  Delepre Abbey – last year it was 10k, this year it’s a half marathon.  I wonder if I’ll be doing the marathon in 2014?