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

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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.

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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.

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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

Fighting the Monster Within

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I’ve been quiet over the last couple weeks.  This is the quiet, withdrawn side of me that seems to revel in self recrimination and doubt.  I’m not looking for hugs or boosts.  I’ve come to learn that sometimes I just need to retreat into my cave of darkness and hibernate a little.  Review my life, see what I’ve achieved or failed and assess how to come back fighting fit.  Thing is, I don’t notice this withdrawal from happy, nutters me.   There’s no particular time of year or event that triggers this.  So, bear with me…..hahaha!!

The quiet withdrawal wreaks havoc with my running fitness and my mental toughness to stick out a tough event.  The first failure of Northants Shires and Spires was the first warning sign.  I had blisters, so what!!  Last weekend I attempted the Wales Trail Marathon.  Everything went well up to mile 10.  Then breathing difficulties and knee issues!!  Did I push on?  No.  I just plain quit at the half marathon point.  Was I miserable about it?  Yes, yes I damned well was.  Irritated and angry with myself.  

So here I am.  I’m okay.  I’m not my usual determined self.  Hills are looking like mountains.  The effort to control my diet to help my fitness just seems boring.  

I feel like I’m stuck at the bottom of a well getting a good view of the world but not really feeling part of it.  

But that’s okay.  It has to be!  This is me, this is how I roll.  I will be back.  I just need to relax and be okay with myself.  Accept that I will have failures.  Accept that I can’t push myself through everything I’ve planned for myself.  Recognise my depression and accept it for what it is.  It is a part of me.  It’s who I am.  

So I’m planning myself an Ultra.  Planning helps structure my life and guides me out of this darkness.  Simple plans.  Reccie runs.  Plotting maps.  Investigating routes.  More reccie runs.  Whilst I carry on with the rest of my life and keep on moving as though nothing is wrong.  

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be at Giants Head Marathon.  Lets see if I can get to the finish this time!!

Helen

Too Much Too Soon

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Last weekend should have been a breeze.  The weather was perfect, the ground was soft, my body felt mended.  Nothing should have held me back.  Nothing!!!  Oh how wrong was I.

Saturday morning I met up with my running buddy Kelly at 8am and I had plans to recon a route as far as we could get before turning back to get home for 11am.  I had the route planned on the map, I had my etrex all programmed.  The only thing that could go wrong was missing footpaths.

It was a fabulous recon.  I missed one turning for a footpath, I should have known this one because I’ve used that path before but we soon got back on course.  Then we encountered a field full of new mother cows.  Dang it.  A quick look on the map and there was another footpath back along the way we had come further down the route.  Our first big U turn.  This footpath wasn’t used much and the height of the nettles around the footpath gate had us laughing and “OUCH, ouch, ouch”ing.  This is where we met our first farm animal for the day.  A great big pig.  He looked huge!  As we were discussing how big this pig was I got the feeling we were being watched.  Yes we were.  The pigs owner, obviously a bit worried about two brightly coloured individuals talking to his pig.  We waved, the owner waved back and we moved on.  This new footpath took us to the church in Hockliffe and from there we took the road to the next footpath section.  I couldn’t find a safe footpath route to cross Leighton road so taking the roads on this section was safer.  Our next U turn was at farm on Woodcock Lane.  Thankfully the very lovely lady at the farm directed us to where the footpath was.  We apologised and thanked her for the directions and carried on.  Some furious dogs in kennels, a very lovely little bridge across a stream and we were in a field with two very friendly horses.  Nothing but love for this trail so far.  It was lovely.  We then entered a field full of high grass.  Our feet had been wet since hitting the footpath from Stone Henge works on Mile Tree Road.  Our feet were now squelching with all the water drenching our legs from the long wet grass.  A soggy but firm route so far.  The next field gave us no clue to where the next footpath gate was.  No footpath through the field either.  So this was a walk around the edge of the field moment whilst we scouted out where the gate was.  Eventually we found it.  We were then heading downhill through a tree lined lane.  Mud, mud and more mud.  Okay, I’m regretting thinking that we had gotten away with not having to get our feet muddy!  A few moments of navigating mud puddle gates and we arrive in Tilsworth on Blackhill.  Kelly realises where she is and we also notice a great stopping point The Anchor.  Before this point we should have turned back at the field with no obvious footpath but we were enjoying ourselves.  Arriving in Tilsworth we decided to head towards Stanbridge along Stanbridge Road and make our run a loop.  I made a note of the next turning point to continue the route to Dunstable Downs centre and we continued on to Stanbridge.  Took a turn towards Egginton along Mill Road and instead of just staying on the road I dragged Kelly into some more fields.  More mud and a little bit of getting lost we ended up on Stanbridge Road not too far away from the industrial estate on Cherrycourt way.  By now our poor shoes looked like they had been dragged through a very muddy river but we did have an absolute hoot of a time.  We part ways at this point and I run home to end Saturdays run at 10.5 miles.

After getting home I found that all the old blisters that had been slowly mending were now separated and dead skin.  My feet looked a mess.  So I spent a good hour or two fixing them up before soaking them thoroughly in a lovely bath.  I felt good for the rest of the day.  Chipper.  I didn’t feel in the slightest bit tired because the recon was taken at a very steady pace.

Sunday morning was another early start to get to Northampton for the Shire and Spires Go Beyond Ultra.  I had my comfy trail shoes on and everything felt good.  The morning was already warming up.  The day however was not going to be fun.  We arrived with very little time to register and get to the loos.  The race started whilst some of our group were still otherwise occupied.  We weren’t far behind the main group of runners but this did have an effect on our group.  The terrain was far more road than trail which made was affecting my feet by the first checkpoint.  We only just made the cut off for this one.  We all pushed on and the day was getting hot by now.  The second checkpoint achieved with 5 minutes to spare this time.  The group had been pushing themselves and it wasn’t a comfortable pace for me.  I was struggling.  This should have been easy, the pace we were going was much slower than North Downs Way.  Maybe it was the heat!!  Or the roads.  Or the fact that I was wearing trail shoes and it had been mainly road up until that point.  I was not feeling the love of the event today.

After the second checkpoint things started to go downhill.  One of our group developed sickness and diarrhoea and our group split into two.  Two people looking after the sick member and the rest of us pushing on to the next checkpoint.  This was not ideal.  At mile 15 we start worrying about whether we’ve missed a checkpoint because we were in the middle of nowhere and we were getting close to the checkpoint cut off and there was no sign of this checkpoint.  We pushed on and at the top of a hill at a farm was the third checkpoint achieved with minutes to spare again.  Water refilled and a few snacks noshed we waited for the last three of our group.  A phone call from the sick member informing us that they pulled out and were being picked up.  Do we wait for the two left behind?  If we did wait then we wouldn’t make the next cut off at the next checkpoint.  This was getting very stressful.  We decide to head on and know that if there’s trouble they have phones and will let us know.  A few strides is all it takes for me to realise that my feet are getting blisters on the newly healed blisters.  Huge pain striking through my toes.  This is not good.  My head is not on right today, I’m not feeling the love for this event and I’ve been nothing but stressed out this whole time.  No, I’m not going to continue.  I encourage the rest of the group to continue and they do thankfully.  I felt relieved.  The last two members of the group arrive and hand over the chip from our sick friend.  The checkpoint is closed at this point and they’re informed that if they continue it will be unsupported.  They’re encouraged to sign waivers without reading them and then they head off to try and catch up with the rest of the group.  That was a bit strange!!  I get a lift back to the start from one of the checkpoint volunteers and we had a lovely chat on the way back.  Now I could have just made my way home.  All I would be doing would be hanging around waiting for the rest of the group to get back which could be another 6 hours.  I stayed.  I wanted to help at the finish but there didn’t seem like there was much to do.  So I made my way down the course, passed a pub and found the last gate before the finish.  That would do, I had a plan.  I got myself some late lunch at the pub.  Feeling refreshed I made my way to the gate and kept it open for the runners to go through whilst I made sure no cattle escaped from the field.  I even opened it for the owner a couple times which they found amusing and helpful.  After a few hours I get a phone call from my group that they’re close and could I get an order of drinks in for them at the finish.  I had 2 ciders and a shandy waiting for them.  It didn’t take them long after that to come past the pub.  Where were the other two?  What had happened?  A couple hours after the first 3 of our group had finished we got a call.  They weren’t far away but they had been having a very bad time.  There were no checkpoints and they had been knocking on doors to get water for the rest of the route.  An hour or so after the phone call they arrived at the pub only to find that they’d made it all that way to get nothing.  No medal, no finish arch, nothing.  We had 2 very unhappy exhausted people.  It was only later that we all realised that unsupported had meant they were running outside the event and would no longer receive any help or get a medal or recognition on completing the course.  OUCH!!!  This made it a weird drive home.  Some happy but not wanting to upset those that had gone all that way for nothing and then myself who just didn’t enjoy the day for completely different reasons.  What a mixed bag of results!!

The following day (Monday) and I’m feeling exhausted, wrecked.  This didn’t make any sense.  Then during the evening I kept wanting to go for a pee and that was a clue.  I thought I wasn’t hydrated enough from such a hot weekend.  I still felt rough the day after (Tuesday) so I take myself to the doctors.  Urine infection.  Well how dumb did I feel.  Of course!!  Sheesh!!  I’m now on antibiotics and feel like I’ve been pulled through a rocky desert by my legs.  This new ultra body of mine needs to sort out it’s “I’m sick” signals because I missed that completely.  I thought it was dehydration from the hot days, looking back it’s obvious it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have even toed the start line on Sunday.

That was one hell of a weekend but I think I need to put in some hard work on my form and work back in some regular short runs during the week.  I’m new to this whole distance running thing and I’m treating it like running 5k.  As long as I can run that distance I don’t need to do much else unless I want to get faster.  WRONG!!! I need to keep training as though I’m still working up to that distance.  I know that now.  I just have to implement it.

Hope you all have a week and weekend.

Helen

I’m Not Broken

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Before North Downs Way 50 I had foolishly or optimistically booked myself a place in the Liverpool Rock and Roll marathon.  Why?

Well, my plan for North Downs Way 50 was to take my time, not rush, not push myself too hard, have a great day out on the North Downs Way but this got completely lost until 20 minutes after I received my medal.  I pushed myself so hard, pushed past the painful feet, almost dragging my sorry tired arse up those hills.  I was driven – I NEEDED to FINISH!!!! There’s stubborn me and then there’s complete and utter I WILL DO THIS me and that’s what took over that day.

After Centurion North Downs Way 50 I felt tired, my feet felt bruised and I had a couple blisters that would need a week or so to work their magic and heal the damage I had reaped whilst earning that precious time limit and medal!!  I gave myself until Wednesday to feel okay.

In truth I felt like I could skip out the door and easily run 5k.  Sure my feet were still sore but I was still on way to much of a high to judge whether my body was capable of running a marathon a week after the battering I gave it.  I was torn!  Sensible or fun!  My husband was worried I was pushing myself to hard.  I was worried that I should be feeling more…….well……wrecked!!  This is insane.  I should be jumping over the moon about how fine I’m feeling yet I’m holding back, worried that this is a false sense of security, waiting for the wheels to fall off at any moment.  Nothing!!

Wednesday – I sit and work on my feet.  Just to see if there’s anything still out of sorts.  There’s some swelling, no surprise there.  My left ankle has lost some range of movement, lots of manipulation and its feeling better.  The backs of my knees have some swelling.  A little bit of tightness in the calves.  Do I run Liverpool marathon?  No.  I’m not running until the swelling goes.  I don’t want to break myself after I’ve done so well.  It’s worry holding me back, not my body now.

Instead I take part in the Blisworth 5 mile event.  5 tough miles on a Friday evening.  A short enough distance to test myself and long enough to see if my feet have recovered enough.

I was far too relaxed for this race.  The first time I ran this course I came in last! 62 minutes.  My best time was in 2012 at 44 minutes.  How would I do?

It was very tough at first.  Everything felt out of kilter.  My ankles felt like they were going to break like glass.  The downhill start engaged my upper body and I got the most painful stitch by the time I reached the bottom of the hill.  It all felt wrong and I was fighting hard to keep running.  Then the first mild climb.  My ribs reminded me that they had also worked hard at the weekend.  This was just plain uncomfortable.  The next steep downhill I managed better than the first and then it was the only big climb of the run.  I had a lump of heavy clay where my heart should be, my legs felt like they were going to stop and I was going to face plant into the road.  Then…….. freedom…….  All of a sudden everything eased, I took a deep breath, pushed into the hill climb, a rhythm started to develop.  I was in full flight by the time I got to the top of the hill and my pace was increasing, to fast, slow down.  But it felt too easy and I was pushing hard into the next hill.  2 miles.  Wow!  That felt quick!  3 miles and a water stop.  This is too easy!  I’m pushing myself now.  There are no more steep hills after this.  I finished in 45 minutes.  My feet felt like they had just run the North Downs Way 50 again.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 miles.  It also confirmed that I wasn’t worrying for no good reason. I was quite rightly giving my body a good recovery after working so hard.  The 5 miles did feel easy, too easy!! But it was enough.

My mind put at ease that I had made the right decision made it so much easier to enjoy seeing the social media posts of my friends taking part in the Liverpool marathon.  It looked like a brilliant time was had by all.

My lovely husband in the meantime gives me a great idea to navigate home from Dunstable.  No rush, no racing and the opportunity to create a route for an ultra that starts and finishes in my own town.  What’s not to like!

So Sunday afternoon I get dropped off at Dunstable Downs Centre and start heading back to Leighton Buzzard.  I have a route planned.  I have my own Ordnance Survey Map with footpaths marked.  It was all going so well…… And then I get lost in a field.  I followed the map.  I was sure I was in the right place.  But I’m in the middle of a field with no way across a small river.  Plus, to get to that point, I had encountered chest high nettles and thistles and such an overgrown footpath it was just silly!!

A quick recheck of the map.  I’m sure I’m in the right place.  Retrace through the overgrown footpath and back to the cycle route.  Dang it!  I wanted to find a trail route home.  At least I got to 7 miles before I called for a lift home.  I was far too tired to concentrate and it was getting close to the agreed time that I should be home.  I’m going back to that route again.  I’m going to find a trail path to Dunstable.  I’m sooooo enjoying myself hunting for footpaths hahaha!!  Plus my new trail pack was doing a fabulous job keeping my kit nice and snug.  A bit hot for a summer trail run but for a winter run this pack is going to be my bestest friend!!

Hope you all have a great weekend.

Helen

Centurion Running – North Downs Way 50 17th May 2014

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I had spent the whole of last week worrying and trying my hardest to convince myself that completing the NDW50 was possible.  In hindsight I’m glad I didn’t manage to reccie the route.  I would have been more terrified that I hadn’t trained enough.  My worry list was expanding each time I thought about the event and it was starting to really eat at me.  Why was I putting myself through all this, it seemed like a really good idea, a fun day out, a blast, an epic adventure, meet other likeminded ultra nutters – I had to keep my focus on why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Keep it together.  Don’t let fear creep in and destroy what could be an amazing experience.  Focus!!!

I was going to drive down there on the day.  Thankfully my lovely husband offered to book me a hotel room near the start.  It was free because of a reward scheme of some kind but it was lovely to have one less worry on the day of the race.  My first thank you goes to my lovely husband.

Friday morning and my work colleagues are saying good luck for the weekend along with – bonkers/nutter/insane distance hahaha!!  This really cheered me up.  Gave me a bit more steel for my focus.  Fear was not going to stop me!!

Friday afternoon and I’m at home checking over everything that I’ve packed.  Batteries, charger, shot blocks, electrolyte tabs, sun cream, anti-chafing stick, hat, map, torch – the list goes on.  Worry is a great organiser but its pants at trying to rationalise!! The kitchen sink would be next! An hour or two of checking, lunch downed and I’m in the car on the way to the hotel.  Oh jees this is really happening.  Oh dear, what have I done, I can’t do this, it’s bonkers, insane, why am I doing this!!!!  That’s it fear.  I’m not listening to you, you’re not helping.  Pink, Foo Fighters, Alex Clare and others get played in the car at full volume to drown out the bad thoughts.  One bad traffic jam drive on the M25 and I’m finally at the hotel to chill.  But where’s the start?  So I unpack and drive to the start.  Not far away.  20 minutes max.  Excellent.  I grab some food on the way back and arrange to pick up Stuart on the way to the start in the morning.  Fabulous.  Some company for the morning.  I thought I would find it difficult getting to sleep.  Nope.  Out for the count.

Yep.  This isn’t just about the NDW50 it’s the mental battle beforehand to get to the start line.  I had completed at least one 50 mile event before.  I knew the distance was a mental battle rather than physical.  I knew I could tackle hills on repeat after getting to 35 miles in the Lakeland 50.  The kit I had was good.  The electrolytes would work in the hot weather if I timed them right.  There was nothing left to do.  I was in the school hall with Stuart and Mark, ready to go, looking at all the other super SUPER fit people thinking – I shouldn’t be here, I’m nothing like them, what the hell am I doing.  Then completely ignoring the bad thoughts.  I’m here, I can do it, what have I got to lose, get out there and do it!!

A quick race briefing – it felt quick, it probably wasn’t.  A huge cheer for the volunteers.  Total respect for the volunteers.  You guys n gals ROCK!! Then we walk to the start.  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear………

Stuart tries to get me closer to the start but no, I’m slow, I deserve to be at the back, let the faster people go in front so I’m not holding them up.  I must admit though.  The picture Stuart took was fabulous.  I look like I’m really pleased to be there.  Totally not how I was feeling inside.

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Then everyone starts running.  It’s happening.  Most of what I remember of the start was orange trainers, mud trail, black shorts – they fit nice, solamon pack, ultimate direction pack, bright yellow trail shoes, hairy legs, skinny legs, wow those calves are HUGE!, traffic jam at the first kissing gate, then open trail, I like those purple trail shoes.  A lot of following/being in a pack of runners before the first short hill on a road.  After that things were a bit of a blur.  I remember a very sandy track that was tough to get through.  A lot of scouts with huge back packs.

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Picture credit goes to Jon Lavis – Still looking very fresh at this point.

The first checkpoint was fleeting, water refilled, coca cola gulped down and on my way within a minute.  A very impressive turnaround.  It felt almost formulae one pit stop style.  Bacon sandwich at mile 12 – I’ve never had a brown sauce bacon sandwich.  I have been suitably educated, it was deliciously yummy.  A mixture of trail and road and then there was the next checkpoint.  Water bottles refilled again in formulae one style along with more coca cola.  Nearly 15 miles and I was still feeling okay.  Yes it was getting a bit hot but I felt comfortable.  My High Five Zero tabs were working their magic – I made sure I had at least half a tab between each aid station.  Shot blok every 3 miles.  I’ve never had coca cola on a long run before but this was working well for me too.  I was feeling very good.  I was even within my own calculated times for the aid stations.  At least an hour before their cut off.  Wow! I can do this.

Negative thoughts at this point were – just because you feel good now doesn’t mean you’ll finish.  There’s Box Hill to come yet!!  You’re slowing down, you’ll start missing your own cut off times if you don’t keep up the pace.  You’re too slow!!

The Box Hill check point was cruel but joyous to see.  One minute you’re following a trail, the next you’re standing next to a dual carriageway and across the road is the check point.  Lovely red tape markers say to turn left.  Hmmmm, is this right?  I wave HI to the lovely aid station volunteers and head in the direction of the tape.  AH!! It goes to an underpass.  Right!! Under the road and jog on to the aid station.  Phew!  That wasn’t far.  Another lightning fast pit stop.  Bread scoffed, coca cola drank and I was on my way again.  Gotta love Centurion volunteers.

I think it was after this stop that I decided my feet needed checking.  I could definitely feel hot spots so better to sort it out now then after the hill climb to come that I’d been warned about.  Socks off, blisters popped, pain killing gel applied, socks and trail shoes on and away I go.  Sorted.  Now I must admit, pain killing gel is not something I’d recommend in any way for blisters but I really didn’t want to mess with my hydration and I knew taking oral painkillers can mess with my thirst mechanism.  On a hot day like this I couldn’t risk that.  So please don’t take this as an okay to use this yourself.

Box hill.  Seriously! This hill should be in Lakeland50 not near Dorking!!!! Good grief! One step at a time, keep moving, if I have to stop I count to ten and then move again.  Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, oh hell, there’s MORE STEPS!!! Keep moving!! WOW!! Look at that view.  Keep moving.  The top – HAH!! BOOYAHH!! DID IT!! I BEAT YOU!! Not sure if that was the hill I was yelling at or my own disbelief but boy it felt good.

Reigate Hill check point was a welcome sight.  More of the formulae one style water refill and coca cola and the promise of jelly and ice cream at the next check point.  I was starting to worry now though.  I was falling behind my checkpoint closing time agenda.  This wasn’t good.  I had to increase my pace.  I had to run everything but uphill.  Every uphill had to be done quicker or I wouldn’t make it in time for the coach.  I must get back before the coach leaves!!!!

My head went down after this point and I’m sure I missed some wonderful views.  I did however see some wonderful optical illusions.  Giant bear head statues that were a mixture of logs and leaves.  Grey rabbits that were plants lined up just right.  I was thankful for the distraction.  Wild garlic that was so over powering it was sickening.  More steps.  More fields.  I checked my watch and noted the next checkpoint with jelly and ice cream was just over a mile away.  I NEED to get to that checkpoint.  KEEP MOVING!! The trail opens up onto an open field downhill and there’s another runner in the distance.  I’m catching up with him.  All the while chanting “jelly and ice cream, jelly and ice cream, jelly and ice cream”.  I made this guys day apparently, the thought of jelly and ice cream was so enticing at this point.

The trail came out onto a road and just around the corner I could see the aid station.  I tried to run up the hill towards them but there was nothing in the legs for this.  No matter how much I wanted that jelly and ice cream.  After lots of cheering from the volunteers at this aid station and lots of encouragement on how well I was doing I finally got to the jelly and ice cream.  OOoooooooooooo my!!!!! Heavenly food!!! Absolutely perfect.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!

I stayed at this aid station longer than I should have but oh boy did I need it.  Refuelled and water refilled I set of to the penultimate aid station.  I was losing time and was definitely pushing myself harder than have in any other event now.  I met up with two lovely guys who missed the red and white tape signalling the footpath in the verge.  I can see how they missed it.  If you weren’t looking for it you would have no idea it was there.  We were all going at a similar pace at this point which helped me a lot.  This had to be the loneliest ultra I had done.  Normally I’m with a group of people and we’re all different strengths but we stick together and get each other through the tough patches.  Today I was slow, way behind the majority of slow runners and feeling like I needed to catch up or lose the chance of getting back to the start on the coach!! I was so grateful for the distraction to my ranting fear that was now forcing me to move ever faster than I felt comfortable with.  Lots of kicking branches, tripping over rocks, nettles and I even managed to bash my foot on a tree stump!! OUCH!! A few steps later and I could feel the hot spot from the skin that had just been moved to start forming a blister! Damn it!! A few moments later and one of the guys stopped.  A blister he had been ignoring had popped.  OUCH!!!  A quick discussion on what to do and my idea of pain killing gel seemed like nothing to lose.  At least it would get him to the next check point.  Shoes and socks off, gel applied, socks and shoes on.  Back on his feet and walking for a bit.  Then after a minute or two, back to running.

There was so much woodland trail, fields and stairs going up and down that I lost track of how close I was to the next check point.  Just as I was cursing the fact that there was this large F**ing hill climb once again and my legs are just turning to jelly and I’m not going to make it I see a person near the top of the track.  It’s the check point.  Wow!! I still have a chance.  As I’m forcing myself up the last bit of the track I’m quickly sorting through in my head what I want to do.  Sort out the blister, get it comfy, cola, water, move move move move…… The checkpoint volunteers were absolute angels here.  You beautiful wonderful angels.  I tried sitting in the chair but couldn’t reach my foot so dropped myself on the floor to get to my poor painful foot.  I tried to pop the blister but it was too far under the skin so painkilling gel applied again and that would have to do.  Loads of cola supplied by the wonder angels.  Then a helping hand to get my butt of the floor and I’m up and running again.

The last section was a blur of panic looking for tape, distraction of being investigated by cows, walking when I wanted to run through a field that had uneven ground hidden by grass, following my gps because I’d lost track of any sight of red and white tape, road, field, more woodland trail then an open field.  All of this whilst I’m panicking about the time.  It was getting close, the finish must be close.  There can’t be much more.  Keep running, keep moving, don’t stop.  It’s starting to get dark so I pull out my head torch, just then the trail turns to giant sticky and slippery mud.  Head torch on, back pack on and I’m running again.  Another field, wait, is that the finish.  It must be.  So close!! I’m running as hard as I can now, out of the field onto the road, oh thank goodness its downhill.  Oh wait!! The last bit up to the school and the finish in the school field is uphill.  ARGH!! I can’t stop now!! I need to run!! I’m met by the most wonderful person who keeps me moving, keep going, come on you can do it, last bit, not long now, keep going, you can do it, nearly there, you’ve got two minutes, come on, you’re doing really well…….. My legs felt like they were going to break apart, my lungs just couldn’t drag in enough air, my heart felt like it was going to run to the finish on its own, my brain had lost all sense of what the hell was going on – FINISH!!!!

I DID IT!!!

With seconds to spare!! Seconds!!!! 13 hours, 29 minutes, 15 seconds.

I couldn’t move, I’d stopped and couldn’t move hahahahahaha!!! I did it!!! I tried to gently sit on the ground but I fell to my knees, took off my back pack and lay down on that cool lovely grass for at least 10 minutes.  A very lovely volunteer handed me my medal – a very hard earned medal.  Only ultra runners get one of these and today that was me!!

I really do wish the two ladies who came in after me whilst I was lying there on the ground had got a medal too but they’d just missed the cut off.  I really felt for them.

Eventually I got up with the ever present helpful volunteers on hand.  A very sweet cup of tea and a few bites of a giant hot dog roll and I’m ready to get changed and head back to the start.

Now here come the thank you’s.  A massive thank you to Louise who gave me a lift back to the start because the coach had to leave with the last of the runners already on it.  A big apology to Peter who followed me when I lost sight of the red and white tape.  I’m sure we would have made it to the finish a couple minutes sooner without having to climb over a fence!! Big thank yous to ALL of the Centurion team/volunteers – you were all so lovely and kind and helpful.  Thank you.  Lastly, thank you to my lovely son Vincent who knew I was running 50 miles and made me some badges and insisted on buying flowers for me for when I got home.  Bless!

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