What the Helly was That About!

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This weekend gone I had myself booked into the Helly Hansen Beauty and the Beast Marathon. I knew it was laps, I knew it was a tough course, I knew I had to pace myself and most of all I thought – THOUGHT – I knew that I could just keep slogging out the miles no matter what!

Time to learn another lesson about changing my training routine!

I’ve recently changed my training routine to 5k lunchtime runs throughout the week for two weeks and the third week has no running but more strength, turbo or cross training depending on how I feel. This is not following any kind of training plan set out by a professional. I’m no professional myself unless you want your accounts looked at! I came up with this training plan after listening and talking to a few other runners. There’s four major categories to these long distance runners. I’m not saying there’s only four training plans, it’s fairly easy to categorise long distance runners into one or more of these categories though.
a) Struggle to fit themselves into training plans that just seem to wreck them rather than improve them. No pain no gain attitude!
b) Promise like crazy to follow a training plan and completely fail at this. Then blame said training plan for not producing results!
c) Have a qualified coach that’s continually adjusting and moulding a training plan for the athlete. Now these guys and gals I class as “Ultra Bambies”. Those peeps who look as though they’ve been gifted with athletic ability but it’s pure training and effort producing results.
d) If I feel unfit, I train until I feel fitter. If I feel slow, I train for speed until I’m faster. If I don’t feel like training, I rest until I want to run/cycle some more. I like to run so I just run!!

Now I’m a mixture of A, B and D. I pick a training plan. I adjust it to work around family and work life and then if I don’t feel like training, I don’t! I will not push myself to breaking point! I will push, I will train but self preservation overrides the complete destruction of myself for improvement! Which ends up with me blaming said training plan for not delivering results. So here I am, with my own training plan. It’s simplified. It fits my work and family life. I’ve no one to blame but myself and I can change and adjust this plan on the results it produces.

The Dunstable Downs Challenge Marathon last week felt easy. Yes my feet hurt. Yes I felt a bit wrecked at the end but it felt easy! I was supposed to do lots of strength work through last week but work and family got in the way and I just lazed around for the week. It felt good. I was enjoying my lunchtime breaks and my appetite showed no increase or decrease whilst I was not training.

The morning of Beauty and the Beast Marathon was cool. I was super prepared. I felt good. I knew what to expect!! Well, mostly! I didn’t expect to walk through a river four times!! The first lap was brutal. A steep hill climb, run back down that hill and into the woods and up another hill, more trails, up another hill, more trails, downhill, follow a dirt track turn a corner and another steep hill confronts you, though a gate, across a field, downhill, water stop, uphill, uphill, more uphill, follow a trail, across a field and downhill, downhill, downhill, downhill, RIVER!!, run around the lake, uphill back to the start and repeat! First two laps were great. Third lap was tiring. Fourth lap was going well until I got to the river and a minute or so after I dragged my sorry legs up the riverbank to run around the lake I felt like I’d drunk a whole bottle of whisky and my legs were on fire with cramp! What the hell!! I stopped, gasped for breath, the pain was closing my throat and I wanted to just fall down and cry! Oh good grief!! I bent over until the swirling head feeling went and then tried to walk. I felt utterly drunk! I wasn’t walking I was staggering! My throat was closing up again. I stopped again and waited for the feeling to pass. Started walking again and then tried to up the pace and wham!! Cramped legs again. How I didn’t throw up at that point is a mystery! What the hell was happening! I’d been taking my shot blocks but at 4 mile intervals rather than 3 miles. I was thinking clearly but the swimming head and vomit inducing pain in my legs was a new one on me! I took my cap of and resolved to get myself to the finish and just quit. That last half mile to the finish was incredibly painful. The marshals were great and the lovely Beast at the start/finish was so kind and helpful it really did cheer me up.

Looking back I think this is my first experience of hitting the wall or bonking! Still can’t get used to using that word for running! Seriously! Who used that term first and then how the hell did it filter down to running? Bonking???? Sigh!

I felt good from the rest and I had a good amount of reserve fuel which hid the need to pile on more fuel while I’m dragging myself round this gruelling course. Usually I’m stuffing my face with biscuits, jaffa cakes and all manner of sweeties but that day I was running on shot blocks alone. So, note to self. When running an event after a rest week, make sure you fuel effectively not on how you feel because it’s not going to work! Are you listening? Good! Now don’t do it again!

My legs feel wrecked but I’m back to lunchtime 5k running for the next two weeks. The run today was faster than I usually run and it felt tough. I’m now feeling much better about next weeks marathon – Robin Hood Marathon – Woohoo!!!

Happy running
Helen

Dunstable Marathon Challenge 2014

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I didn’t know what to expect this time. I’ve run bits of this challenge as reccie runs and I’ve gotten lost and injured myself so many times during those reccie runs that when I first managed to run this event I was cheerfully surprised that I have a knack for remembering a route. In detail!! Last year I had the instructions, etrex30 and map just in case I didn’t remember a bit of the route properly but I didn’t need any of it. I just knew where I was going! What made that more surprising was that I was extremely sleep deprived from running a midnight marathon through London Friday night and didn’t have a good nights sleep Saturday night.

This year I had tired legs at the start but not from running a marathon, this was from a daily, speedy (for me!!) 5k at lunch Monday to Friday for the last two weeks. I felt good but my shins were feeling a bit tender and my feet already felt like they had run. Not the best kind of training to do before a tough 27 mile challenging run!!

The initial start was rough. The usual bag of bones feeling with everything just not working together. This didn’t take long to disappear thankfully and I felt great by the time we were out of the housing estate heading towards the Dunstable Downs. The first few miles to the Dunstable Downs Centre and up to Whipsnade felt great. Usually it takes me a good mile or three to warm through but this time I was raring to go from half a mile in. I didn’t take off though, I was unsure and held back. Plus I wanted to run with some club friends. So there was a lot of what felt like an easy jog but was actually quite a fast jog compared to my old usual speed and a lot of walking to wait for friends. This carried on while everything felt super easy. I wasn’t used to this “easy” feeling and was grateful for the company to keep me at the pace I’m usually running at. This easy feeling carried on until we got to the golf course and bit by bit the easy feeling started to dissipate and my feet started to ache like crazy along with the very tops of my thighs. An odd place for aches to appear!! Hmmmm. The last 10 miles after that were tough, very tough. I felt like I was running the last five miles of North Downs Way all over again. Determination not to quit and knowing the course so well kept my spirits up and sticking with Max and Karen was a bonus. It took all four of us – not forgetting Holly the super hound! – 7 hours 3 minutes to complete the course. Slower than last year by a whole 8 minutes but thoroughly enjoyed because I knew the route well. I’m still amazed at how well I can follow a route I’ve run before.

Next years plan is to improve on my time. I was fully capable of being able to complete this course in a much faster time and being unfamiliar with my faster self I held back. The 5k daily run has definitely improved my running and I’ve noticed my running form has changed as well. I’m using my arms more, lifting my legs higher – both of which is powering me forward more efficiently.

It’s rest week now. No 5k run but lots of core work and 10 minute turbo training. Sounds a bit odd to use the term rest week but it’s a rest from running, not from keeping myself ticking over.

Roll on the Beauty and the Beast marathon next weekend. It’s another tough one but here’s hoping I’ll have as much fun as I did at Dunstable Downs Challenge. Thank you Dunstable Road Runners. The course was challenging, well marked and cheerfully marshalled.

Happy running
Helen

5K Speed Training

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5k training runs 2014

This is what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks. I thought I’d go back to basics after my running mojo decided to hibernate and refused to come out of its hiding place after my holiday. Distance – Meh! Trail run – Meh! Run with the hounds – Meh! Nothing was giving me a satisfying run and I found myself quite happily walking along enjoying the views and not in the slightest bit interested in running!! Meh!!

What also helped was my lovely husband buying me a very expensive Garmin Forerunner 620. More data than you can shake a stick at!! The run is still feeling a bit Meh! but now I’m data crunching. My heart rate is through the roof!! How to I lower it? My cadence appears to tie in with my heart rate, hmmmm, that’s interesting.

Keep on running
Helen

Lycra vs The Suit Rant

Is it just me or do other peeps out there feel the same way?

I dress fairly smart for work. Okay it’s not the full formal suit all the time but it’s definitely trousers or skirt with a nice top to compliment me. Nothing fancy or too relaxed. Just smart. I’m comfortable with that.

I dress for comfort at home. Basically anything that can handle dogs and kids and give me enough freedom of movement to be comfortable at doing anything I like.

I dress for sweat and cooling or warmth (depending on the weather) when I want to get out for a run or ride. This involves a lot of skin tight gear that hugs or squeezes me into shape and helps my body perform as efficiently as it can.

At work/home/running I’m not embarrassed by what I wear, it’s functional, it’s comfortable and most importantly it’s useful. Nothing fancy or over the top. That’s for special nights and dancing times.

So WHY???? Do I feel overly concious of what I’m wearing when I get changed into my running gear to go for a run during my lunch hour. One curious whispered comment was that I looked like I was going to a strip club. Was that a compliment or criticism? I couldn’t tell and didn’t want to embarrass myself further by confronting the critic. During my run I decided that it was a criticism but to me it would be a compliment. If I looked good enough to be in a strip club then wow, thank you. I think!!

I’m never ashamed at what I’m wearing when I run in an event and when I run from home so why do I feel so embarrassed when I walk through the office to run during my lunch hour? I feel scrutinised and assessed by everyone I pass and it’s downright uncomfortable. I’m not going to stop though. But I really do wish that someone going out for a lunchtime run was not out of the norm for a large company!!

Rant over.
Have fun running
Helen

Do I Need a Personal Trainer? 26th August 2014

It’s been quiet since Lakeland50. Too quiet. I’ve hit low again but after reading through my own blog I had a plan. Keep to the plan….. That’s all it was. Could I do that? Seriously!! It’s not like I’m dieting – which I’m completely and utterly inept at doing by the way!!
The plan after Lakeland50 was – Attempt the marathons booked. Get out for a good run at least twice a week. Keep my mojo occupied with writing up course notes for Leighton Ultra and lastly, read all the running blogs for inspiration. The first falter was two evenings out in the weekend that should have been for Salisbury 54321. I was looking forward to the marathon but I was also really looking forward to having a couple nights out dressed up and enjoying a dance with close friends. Four hours on the dance floor took its toll and there was no way I was fit to drive to Salisbury in the morning to then run a marathon. I took the lazy option and rested. Then for some reason I had a week of self-loathing because I wimped out of running a marathon!! G’ah!! No one else was on my case about ditching a run but me. Why book something when I’m not going to do it. Grrrrr Get off my case! I know already!!
A couple days later I go for a longish run and the world is back to being okay again. I get back to route planning and holiday planning and boarding kennels and packing and food packing and hiking kit and waterproofs and and and…… Too much planning!! This spiralled into holiday plus running stress. The holiday plan was…… pets at the boarding kennels, kids and husband plus everything else (kitchen sink packing) in the car for a one night stay at Weston Super Mare to then run the Cheddar Gorge Marathon on the Sunday then drive home, repack and get ready for the holiday in Coniston starting Monday. I was on edge before we got to the hotel at Weston Super Mare. The stress was building but it wasn’t about the run it was about leaving the family to wander around until I had finished wombling around the countryside!! Getting everyone back home in time for bed time. What were they going to do when all the shops were closed? Oh the stress!! THEN!! Last minute car parking change on the day of the marathon had me in the worst mood ever, adrenaline fuelled panic as it was getting close to registration time. My phone had no signal and the signs for the car park just vanished when we reached Cheddar. Only AFTER the event did my phone get enough signal to download the email that said “parking is now in Cheddar”. After pulling over a few times to ask for directions I found that we could park in Cheddar and registration was at the top of the gorge. Errrrr, right! More adrenaline fuelled panic to get to the top of the gorge as quickly as possible on foot to find out the start had been delayed!!!! ARGH!!! Panic + event + adrenalin = Helen having a mental moment!! I had been a grizzly monster in the car to the kids and my lovely husband (soooo sorry) and to top everything I had used up every ounce of umph on panic. GREAT!! I had 30 minutes to chill out and look at the wonderful views Cheddar had to offer and by the time the marathon started I was in completely the wrong mood to push myself to finish. I was out for a bimble and was enjoying the views. Any drive/effort/push was non-existent. I thoroughly enjoyed myself for 4 hours but I only got to do the half marathon. I was over the time limit for the halfway point. I wasn’t even gutted, I was relieved. I could get everyone home and ready for the holiday in Coniston sooner. Note to self – It’s lovely to have the family around but only do it on local events! That way, they can take themselves home if they get bored. Sigh!
The holiday in Coniston was perfect. Lovely weather. Beautifully scenic walks. Superb B&B. The only downside was the drive there and the drive back.
So, am I back on plan? No. No I’m not. I’m feeling a little lost and very slow. My determination is the only thing dragging my lazy arse out of the door to run but my heart/soul is not in the mood for this running malarkey. I feel like I need a kick to get me going again. Is that what personal trainers are like? Someone else to take over thinking, telling me how and what to do and just give a list of things to do. Sounds great but I know what I’m like. Unless I’m responsible for someone else I’ll just duck out of appointments or some other family responsibility is far more important than it really is. Maybe I should be the personal trainer and I’ll get fit by getting others fit. Half of me jumps for joy at this idea and the other half wants to crawl under the duvet and groan in protest at this far to energetic idea haha!!
I know the slump will slowly go away by itself but it’s frustrating! I just need to be a bit more tolerant with myself. A little bit kinder and lazy days are okay. I just have to make sure I get my lazy arse off the sofa every now and again so I can enjoy the fabulous scenery when I’m out running.

Keep on running.
Helen

Event Route Descriptions – How do they do it?

Over the past few days I’ve been making notes, scouring websites, running through my memory of the route for the Leighton Ultra I’ve set in motion for 18th October. Last night and today I’ve attempted to write up a route description document.  I’ve managed the first six miles of the route from the start to Tilsworth. It all seems so simple, turn left here, go down there, turn right here and keep on running. Right? Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good challenge and the route descriptions for events can be a challenge on their own without adding the trail conditions. For those of you who have run with me you’ll know I rant and rant about how a yellow post could be one of many yellow posts along a route! How could someone miss that vital piece of information from the route description and so on.
I humbly apologise to anyone who is responsible for writing up route descriptions. You have to be familiar with the route to be able to do this but because you’re familiar with the route you miss things that are obvious to you because you know the route.   To someone who is unfamiliar with the route simple things like the number of yellow topped posts can be a very important step that’s missed. Not only is the simple things that get missed but you have to reduce the instructions to what is needed rather than something that anyone could follow but would then be carrying around a book instead of a few pieces of paper. I take my hat of to you route description making geniuses.
Here’s the first six miles of the Leighton Ultra. I’ve got another 26 miles to go! I’d rather be running it!! Haha!!

Key:
AH – ahead, TL – turn left, fpath – footpath, CP – checkpoint, L – left, TR – turn right, bway – bridleway, GR – grid reference, R – right, cont – continue, WP – waymarker post, X – cross, BL – bear left, junc – junction, opp – opposite, SLOT – same line of travel, BR – bear right, yds – yards, thru – through, Imm – immediately, KG – Kissing Gate

GR SP91570 25183
Section A – Tesco Car Park to Tilsworth

TR out of car park onto canal path. TL at second gravel track slight L from canal path, follow gravel path thru KG, follow gravel path to 2nd KG. X Bridge, TL follow path to Plantation Road. TL and then TR at junc, Carnation Close. Cont to Heath Road, X at traffic lights TR and then TL into Northcourt and take first R. Follow road showing rear gardens to houses. (1) At end of houses TL follow path to Winston Close, follow road to T-Junc to Churchill Road. TL follow road to T-Junc to Nelson Road. TL and take first R. Follow path on R between houses to Vandyke Road. X road, TL follow path past Gilbert Academy & Vandyke School. When path finishes take care & cont on road. (2) Cont past Xroads. Cont past entrance to “Redland”, take fpath on L opposite the end of narrow gauge railway station.

GR SP94125 27483

Follow fpath to treeline, TL & follow path thru trees. (3) At WP TR over wooden bridge. Head for tree in middle of field. At tree head for gap in trees to the L of farm buildings ahead. Cont on fpath to gravel road. Cont ahead on gravel road. Slight L, slight R following road. (4) At 2nd L turn, cont slight L thru KG in hedge. Follow faint fpath to KG. Cont ahead uphill to KG. TL follow fence to hedge, thru KG, cont ahead to gate, TR onto road. Follow road around to L. Take first R onto Church Lane. Take care, follow road to T-Junc. At T-Jun (TAKE CARE) TL follow Leighton Road to 1st R, Woodcock Lane. TR (TAKE CARE) follow road (5) to farm. Follow road R to wooden post. Fpath sign hidden by hedge. Follow fpath between paddock and brown farm wooden building. Thru gate, head towards kennels (dogs barking). To R of Kennels over stile, over bridge thru KG. Cont ahead to KG. Cont ahead to KG in hidden in hedge. Slight R, if path not visible head towards brow of hill (6). At top of hill BL towards hedgerow ahead. Look for line of trees, thru KG follow fpath downhill towards gate, cont ahead, thru KG onto road, Blackhill.

GR SP97901 24430
Section B – Tilsworth to Dunstable Downs Centre

Keep on running
Helen

Rest After 50 miles 3rd August 2014

Rest? What’s that? After Lakeland50 this week has been recovery from the 50 rocky miles I had accomplished last weekend. Foot soaking, stretching, core workouts with a little rock climbing thrown in because I felt so good. A much needed reprieve from training to a specific event that I almost fell into the post event slump. So much focus on the big event to NOTHING!!! That feeling of – what do I do now? I noticed this post event slump after North Downs Way 50 and did a little digging into what happened in May and made sure this didn’t happen this week.
I had no training planned – it’s a rest week to recover from the insane miles I’ve just run.
I can eat loads – it’s a rest week to recover from the insane miles I’ve just run.
I can mooch around – it’s a rest week to recover from the insane miles I’ve just run.
Yep – No training, mooching, eating like I’m still running is NOT good for my mental health. No plan to keep me moving forward, no training to keep me motivated and eating like I’m still running made me feel sluggish and miserable. I was NOT going to repeat that experience again. My plan after Lakeland 50 was to repair my feet, stretch out anything that was getting tight and try some We Love A Challenge core workouts. I’m still not sure I like burpees but they do get me warmed through in no time at all. As soon as my feet stopped looking like I was trying to make balloon animals out of them I would head out for a short run and then lengthen each run after that. Simple. It was very simple and I’ve really enjoyed this week.
I managed a lovely 5 mile run Saturday morning. It didn’t start lovely at all. The first mile or so I felt like a badly put together bag of bones that didn’t work well at all. Everything felt like it was crunching and grinding. Not comfortable at all. But after that first mile I started to warm up and the breathing eased up, the crunchy bag of bones feeling went away and then instead of concentrating hard on not falling over or stopping I felt like I was skipping along the route I had chosen. I felt so good I tackled one of my evil hills that I rarely manage to run up in one go. I felt awesome!
Sunday morning I went out with Kelly to do a simple and easy trail run taking in the first part of the Leighton Ultra which would take us to Tilsworth to then loop back to Vandyke Road via Standbridge and Eggington. Simple trail run! Yeah. That would have been great. Well, most of it was great. The broad bean field of doom, however, was not great. With no discernable footpath we were fighting through cleaver, nettle, thistle, broad bean and many other plants that were clawing at our legs to get through the field of DOOM to get to the other side. Much laughing, ouching, falling over, battling, comedy running later and we made it to the other side. It’s at this point Kelly’s legs look like they’ve been whipped because she was wearing shorts!! OUCH!! I got away with only my ankles being whipped but having brightly coloured leggings on (yes, my lovely purple ones) attracted a different kind of pest. Horse flies!!!! Argh!!!!! They hurt!!!! Run away……… Even with the field of DOOM we did manage to have a good time and made it around the loop to finish with a respectful 9.9miles for our efforts.
My plans for next weekend are to get to Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 and enjoy the remarkable scenery once again. Last year this was a last minute impromptu event I found. This year I’m going back because I really enjoyed it.
What do you do after a big event? Do you plan for the next one or just get right back to training?
Keep on running.
Helen

Lakeland 50 26th July 2014

Where do I start? The terror. Oh the complete nullifying terror of this weekend has given me nightmares about running packs, falling of rocky paths, feet disintegrating rain, faulty headtorches and………. The list goes on. I took part in this event last year and got to Ambleside and just gave up! I had some very valid and pretty scary reasons at that point but ever since then I’ve been haunted by that decision. What went wrong? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why didn’t I just sit down and chill and make a decision afterwards? Dimwit!! I know I shouldn’t be so hard on myself and I didn’t let anyone down. I felt like I should have tried harder so ever since then I have. I’ve pushed and pushed and trained and tweaked until I could just keep on going no matter what. The recent failures after North Downs Way 50 brought back all the nightmares of failure. I really did not want to fail this time. I wanted to face my adversity. There was a pre-race speech with mentions of firemen and kittens, it was a – you had to be there – moment.
I arrived on the Friday after battling the M6 traffic; ultra-driving at its best. As soon as I arrived in Coniston I put on my race ready running pack and went to find Lesley, John and Karen at the school. The 100 participants were getting their race prep speech and I found my friends chilling out on the grass in front of the school. I was there, this is it. It’s real. Ugh!! That feeling of excitement and vomit inducing nerves. I kept repeating to myself – everything will be okay, everything will be okay, everything will be okay, oh good grief what am I doing, everything will be okay…….
We watched the 100 competitors from the bridge in Coniston. Every one of them having that look of determination, the occasional smile broke through but these athletes were on a mission. Awe inspiring stuff.
Afterwards I got my kit checked and myself registered and weighed. Heavier than last year, hmmmm. Too much carb loading? Or more muscle? It didn’t matter; there was nothing I could do about it now. A lovely meal in one of the local pubs and then Lesley and I headed off to get some sleep before it was our turn to start the next morning. Much faffing and kit checking later we got some sleep haha!!
Saturday morning was looking sunny and bright. The B&B we stayed in put on breakfast early for us, thank you. The morning just rushed by and suddenly I was sitting in the school hall with other 50 competitors getting briefed on what was to come. A whole load of why we were doing this. To confront adversity. If this was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge. Firemen and rescued kittens. Get out there and be awesome. The kind of people who work in IT. Don’t quit because it’s too difficult. Be awesome!
A quick toilet stop and we were being loaded onto the coaches. The day was staying sunny and the coach was warming up on our trip to the Dalemain estate. I had suncream to apply and one last pack check to perform. This kept me occupied a little on the coach. An interesting journey later and we’re at the estate ready to go. One more loo trip and we’re watching weary, hot 100 competitors whilst we pack ourselves into the starting pen for the start of our own adventure of 50 miles across the Lake District. I had agreed with Lesley before we started to run our own race. If she felt strong then keep going and I would keep going myself. I managed to keep up with Lesley for just over a mile before she started pulling away. My ankles felt like rocks, my feet were cramping, my knees just didn’t feel like working and the heat was energy sapping. Not my best 2 miles but I kept going, kept repeating to myself that it will get easier and I knew this bit. Get to Howtown, checkpoint 1, bag food and climb like it’s the last hill in the race!! What I forgot was there was a climb before Howtown, hahaha!! Yeah! It was that funny – not!! Every time I felt too tired to go on I would stop, turn around and take in the view. Awesome, beautiful views. Then I would get back to work, step after step up those hills.
The Howtown checkpoint arrived really quickly – 14:16. Bottles refilled, food bagged and I headed for the big climb up one heck of a hill that just keeps on giving! Just when you thought you were at the top there was more uphill to go. This hill may have felt the most difficult but I knew this one was the easiest climb. A nice clear path with no rocks that could be tackled with a steady pace. At the top I had a sit down and munched on my checkpoint bounty whilst cheering on other competitors as they arrived at the top of the hill. I got some bemused looks and some big smiles. TOP OF THE HILL!!!!! Then it was onto the next checkpoint at Mardale Head. Lots of twists, turns, rocky paths alongside Haweswater reservoir and soon you can see the checkpoint. More rocky paths then a bridge or two later and I was welcomed into the Mardale Head checkpoint – 18:06. Cola, drink, water bottles filled, food noshed and bagged, quick loo visit and I’m heading up the next climb. This time it’s a rock path that keeps twisting and turning. Lots of unwell looking competitors this time. I took my time of this one. I would stomp uphill for a while and then take a rest on a rock, more stomping, more rock resting, more stomping, more rock resting, enjoy the views, more stomping and so on. Bit by bit the hill was tackled and again at the top I cheered on others that had reached the top whilst I had a sit down and munched some food on top of the hill. The route from there to Kentmere was a blur or rocky footpaths, roads, wall styles and bracken. I met a couple at this point and we kept each other company until we got to the Kentmere checkpoint – 21:02. It was getting dark now and it had started to drizzle when we arrived so I got a very sweet cup of tea, slice of pizza, loo break, sweet tea, slice of pizza, half an apple. Then got myself changed into my waterproof bottoms, rearranged my pack so I could easily reach my head torch and my poncho, swapped my cap for my buff to keep my head warm, made sure everything was secure and agreed to help out another competitor, Bob, to Ambleside. Most of the route from Kentmere was easy going, there were a few climbs but nothing like before. Bob was going strong and kept up with some faster competitors so I was alone for most of this leg. Creepy dark lanes with my head torch as dim as I could comfortably get it to preserve the battery life. The rain after Kentmere was heavy but blissfully brief. I kept myself occupied with singing songs to myself and dancing when I came to tarmac. A few runners past me but being alone along that stretch was really odd. By the time I reached Ambleside at 00:34 I was in a really happy place having talked to myself for a good two hours!! My feet were really sore at this point so I decided to undress a little, get myself comfortable for the next stage and give the food I was stuffing into my face a bit of time to work its wonders before getting up and heading out of that checkpoint. It took a good 15 minutes for my feet to stop throbbing and another 10 minutes for the food to settle enough for me to get organised and out of that comfortable warm cosy checkpoint. I knew this next section well and the night reccie earlier in the year was flooding back to me at each turn on the route. Out of the checkpoint, into the park, over a bridge and yep, up a hill hahaha!! It was during this hill climb I met Ann and Nicola who were appeared strong but they felt they were struggling with the directions. I was confident and agreed to help get them to the next checkpoint. After the climb from Ambleside this leg of the route felt the flattest. I’m not sure if that was good or bad but my feet and legs hurt more from the constant walking pace than climbing and descending they had been put through so far. I enjoyed the clear night sky and kept up a good pace to the next checkpoint at Chapel Stile – 03:28. This was an inviting checkpoint with a log fire outside to get toasty and sleepy with. I kept myself on mission with a desperately needed loo break, kit check, sweet tea and custard to settle my stomach that was trying to figure out what the hell was going on at this time of night!! I had no appetite for food at that point but I knew I needed something that would give my poor stomach something to work on whilst I kept moving through the night. Ann and Nicola were ready to leave, it was so difficult to pull myself away from that lovely warm fire but we needed to keep moving. My feet were starting to complain constantly now and I was managing the pain well. The next section was a mixture of tricky rocky paths and open fields. I had planned to change my socks at the unmanned checkpoint because I knew there were two sections of boggy ground to cover but my feet never got wet or soggy because we followed the trampled path the other competitors had made for us. That was a very welcome and nice surprise. This section also had the most beautiful change in sky colour. When we left the last checkpoint the sky was black, by the time we reached the unmanned checkpoint the sky had changed to purple, dark blue then light blue. Awesome!!
After the unmanned checkpoint I was trying to remember where a section of really tricky rocky path was. Had we already gone past it? Was a remembering the route wrong? I was doubting myself. As soon as we reached the farm at the bottom of the road I remembered where that horrid rocky path was. We were heading straight for it. My feet were really starting to complain now and my legs were getting very tired of the constant motion I was asking of them. I really didn’t like that section to Tilberthwaite but we did it. Ouchy, ouchy OUCH we did it!! We arrived at 06:53 and I knew if I stopped to sit down I really wouldn’t want to get up. I wanted this over with. I knew that next hill would be tough and the downhill afterwards would be terrifying. The finish was a mere 4 miles away! I couldn’t stop. I grabbed a sweet tea, said good luck to Ann and Nicola and headed for the steps of DOOM!!!!! Oh those steps hurt. My feet hurt. My arms hurt. My back hurt. I couldn’t tell what wasn’t hurting so just agreed to let everything hurt as long as I could keep moving. Every few steps I would stop to catch my breath and then push on again. Not long after I started climbing Ann and Nicola caught up with me. I’d gotten them this far and they didn’t want me to face the pain alone. Bless, add heartache to the list of pain I was going through. Those ultra gals were awesome!! Bit by bit we kept moving till we reached the top of Old Man. Now we just needed to get down the craggy steep slope the other side. With tired pain filled legs this took all of my concentration. For every 100 mile competitor that passed us I felt inspired to push myself that little bit more. Some looked fresh as daisies, others looked in so much pain it was painful to look at them but they were moving faster than I was and they had covered far more mileage than I had. If they can do that then I could push myself that little bit more and finish this thing!! It felt like a really long time to get from the steep rocky path to the road but we were there. Sore, painful feet being forced to continue. It wasn’t long before we reached the tarmac road and people from Coniston were cheering us onto the finish line. So close!!!!!
Lesley and Veritie were at the bottom of the hill and they ran/walked with us to the finish line – 09:03.
I cried, smiled and downright enjoyed the cheers as we walked into the school hall. I DID IT!!
Ann and Nicola from Holborough Harriers – THANK YOU SO MUCH. I thoroughly enjoyed your company, you were both amazing.
The checkpoint volunteers were amazing. Thank you so much for looking after us. So much help and food on offer and always with a smile. Totally fabulous.
Will I go back and do it again? My initial answer whilst I was removing my painful feet from my shoes at the school hall was an emphatic NO. I’m not sure what my answer will be when it comes time to enter again. At the moment I’m so pleased I managed to get myself around such a tough event with only swollen feet and one blister to show for it. Time for some rest and relaxation.

Keep on running.
Helen

In the Heat of the Marathon 20th July 2014

Fairlands Valley Challenge 26.3 HOT miles – Sunday 20th July 2014.
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My 22nd marathon in total and my 9th marathon in 2014 – not including NDW50.
A not so early start to pick up two marathon gals on the way to Stevenage Sunday morning. We arrived in plenty of time to register and do the usual pre-race pee without rushing. You can’t rush that pre-race pee or you’ll be needing a pee just after you start. The horror!!
Kelly and Julia – The marathon gals – were already on form and instead of dreading the hot, humid day I was looking forward to a laugh on the trails. My kit was ready for a hot day as well but looking back I could have done a bit more to keep myself hydrated better. The start was different to last year and the course was apparently different too. This was made very clear not long after we started out on the course. We were playing follow the leader until it was necessary to start reading the instructions and after a few minutes we were greeted with runners who had split and gone the old route at the start. Oops! Best keep an eye on those instructions then!!
Most of the start was similar to the 13 mile route I followed last year. Kelly, Julia and I kept up a decent pace until we started hitting the hills at about mile 4. That and the need to check route instructions kept making me stop to check where I was going. The day was already warm and I was determined not to push myself to hard because I wanted to save everything I had for the following weekend. I know this slowed us down a lot. Sorry girls. Sweat was pouring off us and we tried to keep hydrated as much as we could. As the miles ticked by these are the random things that amused me greatly. We met and laughed with other fellow runners – slower runners seem to have a deeper sense of humility and humour that always makes me feel welcome. My purple leggings were a hit, one statement of “I could really get into your leggings” was awesome haha!! The jokes of the Queens Hoo Hall nearly had me crawling rather than running.
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Kissing gate humour – “mwwwaa!! Darlins”. A one liner that had me stumped until I realised what Kelly meant – “Where’s all the Spartans?” Me “They’re over there….eh?……ooooooOOOOO!!!!!” Buff men in cloaks and underpants. I get it. Took me a few seconds, sheesh!! Another Kelly moment – “These fields are killing my legs” Me “Nope, don’t feel a thing” Kelly “I’m wearing shorts” Me “Nope, still can’t feel a thing” Kelly “RUN, BEAR!!!!” hahahahahahahaha!!!! That’s one way of dealing with my sarcasm! The “Are we there yet?”, “Mum, she’s doing it again” and so on. Vass up! Julia, that’s all I’m saying on that subject!!
The temperature throughout the run just kept creeping upwards. The fields were sauna’s and the few moments through trees were a welcome relief to the scorching sun. I’m really glad I managed to carry a bottle of coca-cola for each of us for mile 15. This perked me up no end, BUT!!! It stopped me from hydrating. I should have sipped at the cola and not drank the whole lot leaving me feeling filled which made me forget to keep taking on water. 5 miles later and I was suffering, a queasy knot of a stomach and other signs of heat exhaustion – reduced sweating and headache. This was not good and the day was not getting any cooler. I could push myself to finish but that would finish me for the following weekend. Instead I slowed myself down and started forcing myself to drink more. Kelly and Julia kept me occupied on far more amusing things and step by step we all got closer to the finish. My right knee held out until mile 20 which I was pleased with. A few more stretches picked up from the physio are working wonders as always. My only pain was my shin after rolling over on my right ankle not once but twice, G’AH!! No sprain thankfully but one sore set of muscles and ligaments that will be looked after this week. Dimwit!! Haha!!
It was a stupidly hot day for a run but I’m walking around today as though I’ve just done a bit of gardening in the heat of the day. My head is a bit sore from the heat yesterday. That’s it. I’m very pleased with my body glide spray that’s reduced bra and running pack chafing to nearly nothing. Even though I suffered with heat exhaustion I managed the symptoms well enough to keep going.
So am I ready for Lakeland 50? I’m much stronger than I was last year, much stronger. My kit choice is getting better with experience. Each event is different and I’m getting better at bringing just the right amount of kit along. I’m slower than last year but my ability to just keep going is getting better. After Lakeland 50 I have a hill training plan to “Love Hills” ready to go. I’ve picked my hills and I’m going to beat them!!
A positive weekend for me. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and will very likely be back next year.
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Photograph credit goes to Kelly. Yes we are that bonkers haha!!
Keep on running.
Helen

You Can’t Carry on Like This

More on the title of this post later. First let’s get up to date on what I’ve been up to.
Giants Head Marathon – Saturday 28th June 2014.
What a totally fabulous day that was. I had the option of camping the night before the event but with a choice of a free hotel room an hour away from the start or the thought of being eaten alive by midges I chose the hotel room. Only hardened campers would choose camping over a warm room and I’m definitely not a hardened happy camper!!
The forecast for the day was wet with a side of wet followed by some drizzle and maybe a shower or two. The weather I experienced was overcast at the start then light fluffy clouds with blue sky on the side. It was beautiful.
I recognised a few faces at the start but as usual with my inability to remember names I kept to myself. The race briefing was brilliant – “you will be treated as road kill” I can’t remember the sentence that had this statement in but that bit stuck! I was looking forward to the “Love Station” and it was obvious there were going to be hills in this event. I had heard all manner of horror stories about the hills on this event so my plan was to just finish. No racing, no pacing – just finish.
I started with Claire and Emma from Leighton Fun Runners (LFR) . A gentle run out of the village, a walk up the first steep hill, then we were confronted with the bathing farmers. Runners taking out phones and camera’s to immortalise the moment and we were running again. Claire was running strong and by the second aid station she was pulling away at her own pace. I was content to stay with Emma and go at her pace. The course was very well marked and the scenery was breath taking. Chalk man on the hillside (Cerne Abbas Giant) was much smaller than I imagined but now I can say I’ve seen him. The hill climbs – yes they were tough going, I’m no ultra bambi so I wasn’t skipping up the hills but I did take time to stop and look at the views this time. Wow. With the fluffy clouds and clear visibility the views were amazing. Worth every drop of sweat getting to the top of each of those hills. My knee had decided it didn’t want to cooperate by mile 10. Painkilling spray applied and things felt much better. At one of the checkpoints we met a lady who had fallen and hurt her hand. Out came the painkilling spray and compression bandage. It felt like I had more to offer than the first aid kit at the aid station!! The “Helen Grills” knick name was back haha! We met a few more weary soles after that point. We would pass a few and then they would pass us later. By that point we were travalling at a similar pace heading toward the “Love Station” at around the 20 mile mark. A long run across a field, then a road crossing and we started to see writing on the road. We were close to hugs. I’ve experienced Karen’s marathon hugs before and it’s a revitalising experience. You’ve made it this far, not long to go, grab some cake, drink, hug and get out of here before I kick you out…… hahaha!!
A couple more hills after that and at the end of a long, dusty, chalk stone filled track a guy who’s watching runners head towards the finish says “not long to go now, just another 1.5 kilometres” – hang on!! What!! The man at the top of the hill said that!! We round the corner and there’s the finish! OH!! Meters, not kilometres hahahaha!!! Finish time of 7hrs 9mins
The bling – awesome. Cerne Abbas Giant with trainers on. Memento – just as awesome. A bright blue shirt and a glass with the same picture. Only the glass has some additional coloured in “bits” lol!
I’ll be back next year. I really enjoyed this course.

Enigma Double Marathon – Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th July 2014
This weekend had been booked as my test weekend for Lakeland 50. If I couldn’t manage this marathon double then as far as I was concerned I had no right being out on the hills in the Lake District. It wasn’t about fitness or determination it was about giving me the courage and confirmation that I had worked hard enough to make it further than I had last year in the Lakeland 50.
The Enigma Marathons are usually seven and a half laps around Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes. The first day was an early start and a number of things made it a very interesting challenge. The weather felt like one side of the lake was dry and the other side had constant rain. My favourite purple running tights had decided my thighs were far too much to contain and I ended up with chafing in a crucial place!! My first experience using Vaseline to prevent further damage was an experience to remember!! My right knee was great up till 15 miles this time. Painkilling spray and it was manageable again. With just under two laps to go Lesley appeared and kept me company. The distraction of company on those last two laps was fabulous. I managed a strong finish and day one was finished in 5hrs 22mins
The second day was tough. I wasn’t sore from the previous day. I was tired. A hot bath and massage on my legs had kept me moving freely but by morning both knees were complaining about the mileage. I had dug out my knee brace from years ago and put it on the knee that was complaining the most, my left knee. I got ready to go and headed out the door. The weather was going to be dry at least. Tub of Vaseline ready, electrolytes ready, me…..not so ready. There were a number of people there doing both days and it was obvious who they were from how fast we all started. The fresh ultra bambi’s skipped away and the rest of us shuffled up to running pace. My first lap was awful. Full of pain from my right knee. I thought I’d sorted this out with the knee brace……… oh!! It’s on the left knee! Sigh! A quick changeover at the aid station and the knee brace is on the correct knee. By the time I’m half way around the lake my knee is feeling much better. Dimwit!! I was joined by Kelly at this point and she had me laughing like crazy woman. Running comedy, nothing is better when I’m tired and want to stop than to have someone like Kelly make me laugh and forget everything but keeping hold of my pee!! Two laps later and I’m refreshed and shuffling along nicely. A lap or so later and Lesley, Mariam and Glyn join me for a lap of the lake as well. Thank you so much. The distraction of chatting away and shuffling away was fabulous. The day was getting hot and Lesley and Mariam had just run the Milton Keynes Half Marathon to then come and join me for a lap of the lake. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was greatly appreciated. I had a lap to go and it really felt like I was running on empty. One more time past this bench, past the bridge, past the pond and so on until it was the last few hundred meters. Then out of nowhere my stride lengthened, the arms swinging, breathing deep and pushing myself to the limit to just finish this thing. Get it over with. I have no idea where this comes from but up to that point I was ready to walk to the finish. I felt like I was hanging onto a runaway horse racing home and no way of stopping!! A not too shabby finish of 5hrs 55mins.
So – I managed to break the spell of quitting. I also managed to complete my first double marathon weekend. Still not sure how but with the help of Kelly, Lesley, Mariam and Glyn it felt much easier than I had expected. Due the reoccurring knee issue I booked myself in to see a local physio last week for some deep tissue massage to see if that would help. I’ve recovered over the weekend and my knee is feeling much better. Next week is Fairlands Valley challenge. 27 miles of navigating to get me in the mood for Lakeland50 the following weekend. Woohoo!!!

My last post highlights that I have periods of quiet. Where I really don’t like to express what I’ve been up to for fear of judgement. Oh here’s another blog on some random subject, why don’t they just find something better to do – kind of thing. This blog sometimes feels like an effort in stupidity and narcissism. So yeah, this blog is a bit narcissistic but I also know that I’m forgetting things more lately. I’ve gone through and read some old posts and thought “I don’t remember that at all” which is scary but also a gentle reminder that I need to keep at this. This is worth the effort. Don’t stop!

The post title. You can’t carry on like this.
My marathon double weekend highlighted that I put myself through an immense amount of suffering for what appears to be a bit of metal on a ribbon. Well, no!! No it’s not!! Hearing “It’s not normal. Why put yourself through all that suffering when you can sit back and relax for the weekend”.
Have you ever heard that before? Along with so many other statements that doubt the amazing ability of the human body to just keep on ticking. I can understand why people say these things because I sometimes ask myself the exact same thing. I’m not ignoring the fact that my body is being put through an immense amount of suffering but……yes……BUT the alternative is just as destructive and quite astoundingly encouraged!!! Sit, chill out, don’t worry, munch on this, chill, don’t worry, munch on this, chill……. When my body is unable to carry on then yes, yes I will chill and munch and look back on all the amazing things my body has carried me through. That’s if I can remember anything hahaha!! I push myself to extremes because I can. It’s as simple as that. No one is forcing me to do any of these things. I can count on one hand the number of people who have actively encouraged me to do bonkers events. All of the suffering is for me. To prove to myself that I am not weak. Of course I enjoy the bling, that small item of proof that I did it. My personal record of achievement that has no meaning to anyone else but me. I’m not an elite athlete, I’m not even a fast runner, I’m a loving wife, mother, office worker, friend who enjoys the thrill of picking personal challenges that are just a little bit scary, that push forward, that keep me moving, that show me parts of the world I had no reason to visit until now. Why not! Rant over. Time to grab a cup of tea and “CHILL” hahahaha!
Keep on running.
Helen

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