In Training


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I know I’ve been quiet for a little while. Didn’t have much to say and too occupied with office work and getting into a new routine with the family. So while I have a few minutes to digitally ramble away to the void of web space, this is what I’ve been up to.

I’ve signed up to a coach. Me! I’ve promised to listen and ask sensible questions. Why a coach? Why not save my hard earned dosh and read through all those running books and blogs to get inspiration and shortcuts – er – correct ways to train!! Well, I’ve seen the benefits of runners being coached and until now I was perfectly happy bimbling along at my own sloth pace. But….. Yes, that inevitable but!! If I want to get myself through a big distance ultra I need to get that little bit faster. I’m not happy about it. I would still be happy at the back of the pack bimbling along at my lovely sloth pace. It would not get me to the finish line of a big ultra in the time limit allowed. Sigh!

Plus I have a tenuous relationship with speed. Me and speed have not been the best of friends. More like those distant family members you know you have but just don’t talk to. That’s my relationship with speed.

So here I am. Learning – gracefully and humbly – to be that little bit faster.

My first two weeks have been interesting. I’m now running to timed workouts rather than distance. I’ve misjudged a number of routes because all the running plans I’ve done before have been focused on distance. A route I thought would take 45 minutes took 30 minutes which ended up with me doing loops until I reached 45 minutes. I’m sure there was an Einstein–Rosen bridge along that route, there’s no way I’m THAT fast!! My gps watch disagrees with me on a regular basis telling me I’m going much faster than I think I am. It’s all becoming very strange. I’ve even learnt how to program workouts into my Garmin 620 – Tempo/progression/easy. I’m regularly running along with the Garmin bleeping away at me and I’m sure I need a bleep machine myself to silence the curses I’m shouting back at the watch. Its become a little bit lonely too. I’m not sure of my pace anymore, it’s changed so much over the last couple months and the usual suspects I run with wouldn’t appreciate me speeding off into the sunset just to keep my watch from bleeping at me so I’ve kept my training runs to myself.

There’s been no training this week. Those things called “Children” brought home one of those lovely viruses that made me feel like my head was to small for my brain, all my joints were 90+ years old, all food was the flavour of cardboard and my throat and chest felt like a bottle brush had been used to clean them with bleach!! Blergh! Today has been the first day I’ve felt even slightly back to MY normal self.

Merry Xmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz
Keep on running

Do I have to? But, but, but……..2014


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Yes, yes you do. What do I have to do again? Oh right. THAT!!

Training. ME!! Training. Like seriously training. Properly even. WTF!!! Welcome to Facebook!! What the flannel? Well that’s Fudged!!

I’m fairly fit now. I’m not super fit – although my kids like to brag that I am oober fit compared to other mums. I get the odd niggle which is quickly sorted out or fixed by a very very friendly local physio. I can quite happy run for miles and thoroughly enjoy the scenery rather than thinking – PLEASE MAKE THIS STOP!!!!!!! It’s been a four year journey full of frustrations, injuries, happy times and downright miserable times. I’ve witnessed a completely different self that has sometimes shocked me as to how downright determined I can be and also how much of a complete wimp I can be as well. I’ve put in hours of running, cycling, swimming, rock climbing, cross trainer(ing) and loads of time crawling over the lounge floor tying myself in knots trying to do the exercises the physio has given me to fix niggles. All of this has been my own doing and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, well, most of it!!

So how come I’m training? Surely I’ve trained enough and I can just go out the door and run? What’s the point?

Well. Because I’m a data nerd I’ve been analysing how each marathon has been affected by how well I’ve prepared for it. At times I’ve pulled out a really good (for me) marathon time with what felt like very little effort. Other times I’ve struggled and felt like ripping my own legs off because everything feels so downright difficult and its taken all my will to keep myself going.

I’ve looked at what I was eating. Some foods did affect me but I could eat the same thing and I would improve.

I’ve looked at how well I’ve slept. Bad night’s sleep beforehand affected how well I took on food but nothing else.

I’ve looked at how much I was doing other exercises. Direct affect. Rock climbing at the beginning of the week improved my running pace. Rock climbing a couple days before a big run made the run feel like I was running through treacle. Hmmmmmm.

I’ve looked at how often and how far I was running through the week. Another direct affect. The short 5k runs I’ve been doing have made a huge difference to my pace and stamina.

So what next? Well I’ve tried mixing up my 5k runs to include hill sprints and cross training. The club runs have been good but they’re either too easy or too strenuous. I’m running to someone else’s pace and I’m either to fast or to slow. I’ve scoured google for training plans but none felt like they would fit me and my office/family lifestyle. I’m in limbo!! Lost for how much or how little I should run/train because very few people I know are doing the same distances as me. Plus those people are A LOT faster than me!!

Hello. My name is Helen. I’m going to be training to run faster and more efficiently.

Faster? ME? What have I become!!!!

All the things I’ve rebelled against – running faster, training, serious training, running faster!!!

This is all down to me entering a 100 mile event and its no one else’s fault but my own. I’ve come to the realisation that after 4 years of trying to run I need to go back to basics and learn how to do it properly. And yes – I am ranting inside. There is no proper way to run!!!! That internal disbelief will be watching and waiting for me to not improve. To FAIL. Well there’s the line in the sand. Nothing like shear stubbornness to keep me motivated. WATCH ME!!!!

I’m of to make myself a cup of tea to calm myself down. It’s only training! What the worst that could happen?

Happy running

Dark Scary Cold Dark 2014


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I suddenly realised – blog!! I’ve been busily reading other blogs and planning next year’s events that I completely forgot to ramble on senselessly on my blog. It’s been dark, scary, cold and did I mention it’s downright dark in the evenings? I’ll soon pick up the nerve to get out running in the evenings but at the moment the dark scary cold is proving to be a deterrent.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Since Stort 30 I’ve completed the once every 10 years Stevenage Marathon and the LDWA Shillington Shuffle. Both events came with lashings of rain haha!! Not unexpected for this time of year I suppose.

The Stevenage Marathon was a two lap course of the half marathon route. I was prepared for a cold run and was running light again. All I had was my water bottle filled with electrolytes and my Nathan waist pack filled with Cliff shot bloks, my mobile, car key and rain poncho. Parking was a good 5-10 minute walk away but I had loads of time to get myself ready and hand in my bag of clothes to get changed into after the run. At that point the day was cold and cloudy with a forecast risk of rain later in the afternoon so I was prepared to get wet at some point. Little did I know it was going to be a thorough soaking throughout most of the first half of the marathon. 20 minutes before the start and I head out from registration to walk to the start. There’s a little drizzle of rain starting so I shelter by the school entrance for a few minutes. Good thing I did. Just as I reach the school entrance the rain starts hammering down. Less than 10 seconds out in that kind of rain and you’re soaked. People still heading to registration looked thoroughly soaked before they’ve even picked up their number!! It was Poncho time!! Yes I felt a bit smug as I headed out to the start line impervious to the drenching rain. The only things getting wet are my hands and feet. I love my poncho, my poncho keeps me warm and dry! The rain eases off for the start of the race but moments later its torrential rain again. This carried on for most of the day. The last two hours of the marathon for me were dry but cold due to the thorough soaking from sweat I was experiencing and my legs being utterly soaked from the torrential rain but thankfully my feet were relatively unscathed considering they were soaked by mile 5. Apart from the weather this marathon was full of twists, turns, bridges and underpasses. A good view of the lake and open park but very little interesting scenery running through housing estates and industrial estates. The almost constant up, down, up, down hills gave me what felt like loads of time walking uphill but I did try my hardest to run everything else. I didn’t push myself at all for this one and took everything at a very easy pace. The resulting time was a bit of a surprise – 5 hours 8 minutes. I was expecting closer to 6 hours due to the pace I had chosen. Hmmmmm – regular 5k lunch time running is going to be a must from now on.

LDWA Shillington Shuffle. Oh what a fun that day was. I always enjoy having company on a run. If someone is faster than me I’ll happily send them on ahead so they can carry on at their own pace but today I wasn’t slow or fast. I had company and it was thoroughly entertaining. For an event like this I would usually start with how beautiful the views were but there was thick fog that only gave us 100 or so meters to see. Not far from the start there’s a big climb onto a ridge of hills. Well, all we saw was fog, more fog, a bit more fog and some lovely views of fog covered with fog. Running through open fields surrounded by fog gave a sense of complete isolation. Usually there would be views of runners/walkers up ahead or trailing behind but today – nothing but a big fluffy wall of white! Emma and Claire were taking turns using the etrex or reading the route instructions. I was happily following them or following my own etrex and occasionally following the obvious trail shoe prints in the mud.

Selfie compliments of Emma

Selfie compliments of Emma

The checkpoints were fantastically awesome as most LDWA checkpoints usually are. Sandwiches, cakes, biscuits, wraps, jelly, cold drinks, hot drinks and even soup!! Not once did I dip into my own supply of gels and after having a tea with 2 sugars at each checkpoint I felt superb! After leaving the Stondon checkpoint at around mile 17 it started to drizzle. Oh dear!! I started to get out my poncho to have it ready for if the weather decided to get really wet. Yup! It decided to get us as soaked as possible. Sideways rain whilst in the middle of a field. I was ready for it, poncho already on before the wind picked up. Emma’s rain coat didn’t quite cover her bag so she had my spare poncho and Claire was sporting some odd looking shapes in her rain coat! For some reason we were all in very good spirits. Still laughing and joking and most importantly still moving a good pace. The only thing slowing us down was the unbelievably thick, slippery mud encountered when trying to cross fields.
Did someone order mud?

Did someone order mud?

The heavy rain adding to the slip and slide fun. This carried on up to the last mile or two before the finish. Just as the light is starting to fade and we’re now running mainly on paths or road. At this point I’m running through as many puddles as I can find to clear as much mud as possible from my trail shoes. It works really well. Emma and Claire’s shoes were still caked with mud by the time we finish and it looked like I had changed my trail shoes just around the corner from the finish. This event was loads of fun with great company.
Emma selfie compliments again.  BIG THANK YOU x

Emma selfie compliments again. BIG THANK YOU x

The only odd thing about it was the fact that I felt like I could quite happily run it all again. Sure my feet were feeling a little battered but it felt like I was stopping at halfway. It was a very weird feeling. Roll on next year for the Sundon Saunter and the chance to get the triple challenge badge. Oh yes!!

So what else have I been up to?

Regular lunch time 5k running. A mixture of just 5k – 5k with two short sprints after 1 mile, 5k with hill sprints in the middle and 5k with a workout in the middle comprising of side jumps, burpees and more! All of these 5k runs have a limited max heart rate. I need to go fast but only as fast as my set maximum heart rate will allow. To begin with this proved to be incredibly frustrating. Within moments of starting my heart rate was soaring and I had to slow everything down. Recently it’s been a completely different story. I’m starting to feel when I’m close to my heart rate maximum and I’m automatically slowing down before the alarm goes off on the watch. I’ve seen my pace increase from 10 minute miles to a consistent 9:30 minute miles. When my pace reaches a consistent 9:00 minute miles I’ll reduce my maximum heart rate setting and see how I get on again. I’ve seen improvement every week and that’s the only thing that’s keeping me going at the moment. Why? It’s getting boring! The same views, the same path, the same hill, the same equipment, the same time and so on….. However, I feel great afterwards, I feel refreshed, I feel stronger and I’m definitely getting quicker. So I’m treating these lunchtime runs as a kind of ultra training. Even though it’s incredibly mind numbing I’m going to keep at it to get stronger. Oh, and I’ve started up My Fitness Pal again. Just so I can see that I’m eating enough calories rather than cutting out as much as I can. If you want to join in or cheer me on it’s the usual Hels205.

Well, I’ve rambled on enough. You can go now but a cup of tea would be nice before you leave. No? Ah well, until next time.

Happy running

Stort 30 – 2014


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I had heard of others running this event and read through last year’s race reports. It looked like a good challenge and from the pictures, very scenic. 15 miles out and back along the river Stort sounded like a really nice day out. Yeah, I’m that nuts now that I reckon 30 miles is a day out!! What have I become??
I had felt completely wrecked after my own torturous Leighton Ultra on Saturday. Somehow by Monday I felt superfine and completely normal again. I didn’t trust this almost miraculous recovery so I gave it a couple days before I managed a slow but still faster than my normal plod 5k lunchtime run on Wednesday. I felt perfectly fine. A little bit more drained after the 5k than I usually am. Things are starting to feel very weird now. I still wasn’t sure I was fully recovered but I would give Stort 30 a go and see how I got on.
I didn’t even feel nervous on the Saturday beforehand. I knew the course was along the river. I had thought there would be a hill or two in there somewhere but no, the only report of hills were the bridges/locks on the riverside.
Weather checked.
Kit checked – I decided on no hydration pack for this one. I took gels, mobile phone, car key in my Nathan waist pack and I could carry my waterbottle with electrolytes.
As it was going to be a fairly flat event I thought the most useful bit of kit would be my Gymboss. I reckoned the return journey from the turnaround point was going to be hell so running/walking on the way back would be a good idea if things started to get difficult.
That was it! Where was the rest of the kitchen sink that I usually carry? It didn’t look like I had packed enough. I had my poncho ready in case it was forecast to rain. That was it. Hmmmm, is this a wise move? Well I couldn’t justify taking anything else so I took myself to bed, set the alarm for the following morning and got comfy!
The awesome timing for the event date meant that the 9am race start was on the day the clocks went back an hour. Bliss!! I got an extra hour in bed and still managed to drive to Bishops Stortford in time to get prime position parking right next to the start/finish. Nice one!!
A quick hug with Karen Webber (love station) and I get my number.

Stort 30 race number 2014

Stort 30 race number 2014

The closest I’ve been to a number 1 for a race number. Cool!!
I quickly get the rest of my kit on and with trail shoes ready I get myself a cup of tea and wait. More and more people are turning up and it’s starting to look busy. A quick race brief in the hall and we’re starting to head outside for the start. A quick toilet break and I join them. The horn goes and then I realise – my Garmin!!! Hahahaha!! I had completely forgotten about setting the gps for my new Garmin 620 because I’m so used to my Garmin 310xt being ready the instant it’s turned on. So as we’re all running around a field I’m running along waiting for my Garmin to find a satellite!! Oh well.
The two laps pass quickly and we all head out towards the river Stort. During the race briefing we were all told to keep to a single file unless we needed to pass someone. This made for a rather strange 3-4 miles along the riverside. It was a surreal feeling of being in traffic on a busy road, not able to overtake until there was space ahead and being kept to someone else’s pace. Thankfully I was in a line of people who were travelling at a very comfortable pace for me. There were a couple moments where brake lights would have been a handy warning to someone stopping in front of me – trying to stop when you’ve been watching someone else’s heels for the last 10 minutes is tricky!! Funny, but still tricky!! A few people were grumbling at the lack of passing space but this didn’t last for long. Soon we were on riverside paths that had enough room to pass people and the pace soon increased. The first stop at 5(ish) miles was a nice relief. The paths up to that point had been challenging and muddy and my ankles are still a little achy from the constant twisting of uneven ground. Not long after the first stop I nearly wreck my left ankle all over again. I heard it crunch as it twisted but thankfully it was painful. Phew!! If it had gone numb instantly I would have been hobbling back to the checkpoint as quick as I could before the big pain kicked in! (Note 1)
The ankle twist after the checkpoint slowed me down a touch but not by much. I was walking occasionally but only when I felt I’d pushed myself too hard over a section. The views along the riverside were beautiful. A few conversations with people on the way to the halfway point were lovely. I was having a lovely chilled out run and thoroughly enjoying it.
Approaching the halfway point the views change and I could hear what sounded like a motorbike track. Small engines roaring and tyres screeching. The countryside view changes to what looks more like an industrial estate and then it’s a bridge across to the River Lee. By this time the front runners are passing us on the way back to the finish. They look so fresh!!!! How do they do it? Well, I know how! Hard work and sheer determination. It still amazes me though. Getting closer to the turnaround point and runners passing me are saying “not long now”, “nearly there”, “keep going”. It’s lovely but by the time you’ve heard this a few times you’re thinking – this is the tenth person who’s said nearly there and I’m still going? How far is nearly? Are we there yet? Oh come on!!!!!!
Then, just as I’m thinking this is going to go on for another mile the lovely view of the halfway checkpoint appears from around the bend in the river. Oooooooo lovely!!! I run up to Karen and get my halfway love station hugs, then grab a biscuit or two and get my bottle refilled.
I so wanted to sit down for a bit of a rest but I dug in and got back to the river to start my return journey.
It’s at this point the biscuits I took at the checkpoint made my mouth go dry and then I started feeling really queasy. Blergh! I decided I would walk for a little while and wait for the feeling to pass. Whilst I was walking I got the Gymboss ready and turned on for the trip back. I was running by myself a lot and I needed something to keep me going. I’ve used this once or twice when I need to switch off and I’m not up to arguing with myself to keep me moving. It works. It’s like a microwave beep or the sound of toast popping up. After the first few times of hearing that beep you become programmed to run/walk when it beeps and it gets very difficult to stop haha!!
Beep beep. Run….. Beep beep. Walk….. Beep beep. Run…..ugh you b****ing, Ar***ing, GIT!!! Beep beep. Walk….. oooooo thank you.
The run/walk on the way back was very entertaining. I would pass a few people and as I was walking they would then pass me. This carried on through the whole return stretch. By the time I was nearing the finish I had become so ingrained in the walk/run routine that when the Gymboss beeped I swore and then started running. Even when it came to the run uphill from the river to the finish. Beep, beep – ooooooo walking now.
The timing was perfect. The last hill climb to the finish the Gymboss beeps. I start cursing the thing and start running. I reach the field and just as I’m about to finish the lap for the finish the Gymboss beeps again and I’m cursing the thing because all of a sudden my legs turn to lead and it feels like I’m running through treacle. I can’t stop now!!!!!! Woohooo!! Finish! – 6 hours 18 minutes. Not bad considering I thought I would be over the time limit.
Time for a very well deserved sit down with a cup of sweet tea before I get myself changed and driving home.
Stort 30 Medal 2014

Stort 30 Medal 2014

If I’ve managed to drag my arse around St Oswalds Ultra and I’ve recovered enough by then I’d like to do this event again.

My knees feel a bit sore from this one so I’ll get myself looked at to see where I’m missing some stability. I didn’t feel wrecked afterwards and my Salomon trail shoes were a good choice. They had just enough cushioning to make my feet feel pretty okay after that mileage. A couple small blisters which was a big improvement on last week. I’ve been massaging, moisturising and pampering my feet all week and they’re looking pretty good. Well, as good as feet can look!!
So, as it’s Wednesday and I feel pretty good all over again. I’ve got my kit packed ready for a lunchtime 5k run. I’m not sure how I feel doing the Stevenage Marathon but I’ll give it a good go.
Happy running.

Note 1 – To explain – I’ve noticed on my many injuries over the last few years running that a twist/trip/fall that results in pain that will eventually wear off and is okay. A twist/trip/fall that results in numbness is a big injury and I’ve got about 20-30 minutes to do whatever I can before BIG pain hits. I found this out when I broke my big toe. At the time I hit the toe it looked a wrong shape but didn’t hurt at all. So I put it back to where it should be and thought I’d dislocated it. 30 minutes later and I’m in agony so I get it X-rayed and I find I had broken my toe!!!! I fall down a hill and give my ankle a real bad twist and I heard it crack. I sit down to check it out and my whole ankle is completely numb and starting to swell. So I strap it up and start walking back to a pickup point. 30 minutes later I’m in agony and the ankle is unbearable to walk on. Blergh!!

Leighton Ultra 2014


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Leighton Ultra 2014 elevation

Leighton Ultra 2014 elevation

This event had been at least six months in the making. Planning, plotting and getting lost in fields trying to make sure I had a route that was equally challenging as it was scenic. I hadn’t run the whole course but I had done the route in sections. I had a gpx file to download, a map to follow and my first attempt at route instructions. I had no idea who was going to turn up and a panicked last minute blog post before the event prompted a couple runners to reassure me that I wouldn’t be running the course alone. Phew!!
I had been watching the weather for the weekend all week. Rain, no rain, heavy rain, no rain, showers, no showers. Even hours before the start Metoffice weather forecast 80% chance of rain.
I had badges made by my lovely son, printed out copies of the route description in case anyone didn’t have one. My number and my husband’s number on a handy strip of paper in case anyone had an emergency. A sign in sheet so I could contact emergency services if anything happened.
I was so over prepared for my own Leighton Ultra that it felt like I was heading out to run the Lakeland 50 all over again.
I got to the Tesco car park just after 7:15am. I am soooooooo grateful to Lesley for picking me up in the morning so I could drag down my bag of bits and my own running gear for the morning registration as it might as well have been. Goolia (Jewell of Linslade) was also on hand to help out and Disco Stu a fabulous local ultra-runner I look up to for inspiration. The skies looked heavy with rain and I was prepared enough to run the whole route even if it did rain.
As the time was getting close to 8:00am we started seeing people in running gear turn up. A gentleman from Peterborough – WOW!!!! A very lovely lady from Fleet and her husband who would be taking photographs along the route. Then a very lovely gentleman and his three lovely ladies who were local to Leighton Buzzard. I’ll happily add names later but because I didn’t ask I’ll not add them to my blog just now. I know I took names and numbers at the start of the event but I did destroy the emergency contact piece of paper like I said I would. Data protection and all that jazz!
After a few introductions and handing out of badges and emergency details and such we all left Tesco’s at 8:08am. Just as we left it started to rain, I found this utterly hilarious. We had all be standing around under the collection point in Tesco car park with not a drop of rain in sight and just as we leave it starts to rain!!! Hahaha!! Perfect timing! Thankfully the rain didn’t last long and I’m guiding our happy band of ultra-runners through Leighton Buzzard towards the start of the muddy trails opposite the Leighton Buzzard narrow gauge railway stop at Vandyke Plant. It’s no longer raining and the trails are thankfully not boggy or filled with mud puddles. The broad bean field of doom had been harvested and re-seeded which still managed to slow us down with mud platform trail shoes by the time we finally got across the field. Whether its leg snagging plants or shoe clogging mud that field manages to slow me down every time I cross it!!
Through a small avenue of trees and out onto a rough trail road. It was here that Mr Peterborough Ultra Man headed out onto the trails alone looking very comfortable and at a good speed.
A sharp left turn is where the next footpath across a field or two is hidden. Uphill across a field and a quick hello to some graves and we’re on road heading towards Hockliffe. The next road crossing can be a bit dangerous as cars heading to and from the Hockliffe traffic lights can be racing around corners. Thankfully the next turn is onto another quiet country road and we’re heading to a small farm. I’m always surprised to see the ostriches in their little field but I’m starting to enjoy seeing them now. Through a field with a couple very frisky horses – Note to self: Walk through this field or warn farm owner of race to allow the horses to be less stressed out. More uphill and more mud fields and then down into Tilsworth the first checkpoint. I was expecting to reach this checkpoint by 10am and thought the pub might be open. We were 30 minutes ahead of what I expected and I still don’t know if that pub opens at 10am. We didn’t pause for a break and carried on towards Sewell farm. A few more fields to traverse and thankfully nowhere near as muddy as the last few and we reached the A505 footpath crossing. Crossing this with one or two other people was not an issue but crossing here with a few people on a Saturday morning was looking very risky. We did manage to cross safely but I will be changing this crossing to go over the footbridge instead. It’s path that I would like to avoid but for safety it’s a better choice.
We pass Sewell farm and we are now storming along green lane towards Dunstable Downs. There’s very little let up in the climb towards the Dunstable Downs Centre and by the time we get there it’s a welcome relief to have a comfort break and grab a cup of tea. Yes, a cup of tea!! It was a very civilised ultra, even though there was loads of mud still sticking to our trail shoes haha!!
We left the Dunstable Downs Centre still sipping and slurping our hot drinks. I collected the empties in my trash bag and then we were all back to running along the trails. We were now following the Dunstable Downs Challenge route for the marathon distance past Whipsnade, through Studham and on to Little Gaddesden along trail paths that took us through woods, fields, woods, fields, woods, fields. This section has the feeling of Deja vu for me. Down a long steep hill which has a wonderful view of the steep hill we were going to climb after crossing a road! Yikes! That big dip in the middle of the elevation profile was this point in the route. Another field and footpath behind some houses and we reach the next pub Bridgewater Arms. This pub was open but Ashridge coffee shop and the promise of a cookie with a mug of tea just under 2 miles away felt like a better option so we carried on towards the golf course and then towards Sallow Copse. After following a woodland trail for just over a mile we reach the Ashridge Monument car park and coffee shop. We all decide to take advantage of the lovely LOVELY cakes on offer and decide to have a break.
Sweet tea and a giant chocolate chip cookie taste wonderful after 18 miles – YUM!!
It’s starting to drizzle now and we’re all getting a bit chilled. The lovely local gentleman was worried that the trail route from Ivinghoe Aston would break his three lovely ladies and they wouldn’t want to tackle another ultra again after attempting mine! I couldn’t have that and he was thinking of staying on the road from Ivinghoe Aston all the way to the canal. That sounded very tempting!!
Up to now I’ve had the company of the lovely lady from Fleet playing catch up to lovely gentleman and his three lovely ladies. They’ve always been within a minute or two of us and we had been catching up regularly. After the Ashridge coffee shop that changed because lovely gentlemen knew Ashridge very well. By the time we left the forest path from the coffee shop heading downhill towards the climb for Ivinghoe Beacon the lovely gentleman and his three lovely ladies were a long way ahead in the distance.
Ivinghoe Beacon was its usual windy self and the views were spectacular. We got a great view of the Whipsnade lion and the rest of Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire. Leaving Ivinghoe Beacon I followed the gpx route I had on my etrex because each time I’ve tried to find a route down to Ivinghoe I’ve managed to get lost. Not by much but the route never seems to match the maps. Today was no different but thankfully we didn’t go too far astray. The lovely lady from Fleet was very cheerful and we were chatting away. She could have done this route much faster than my plodding place and I’m very VERY grateful for her company over the whole route and especially over the last six miles from Ivinghoe Aston. My legs were tired and I should have stuck to the route that I planned from Ivinghoe Aston but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. We took the road down to the canal instead. I’m still not sure that was any better than the trail route!!
Plus – whose idea was it to put six FLAT miles on the end of an ultra? Come on!! Own up!! Sigh! Yup. ME!!
It was tough going but I packed my gymboss just for this flat section. Five minutes running, three minutes walking. I’ve done that on a number of flat routes and I’m faster doing that then keeping up a plodding half running, half walking pace – the shuffle! The road felt like it was never going to end and the beeps in-between the running/walking felt like they were getting shorter by the time we reached the canal. Oh the canal. It was a huge relief getting there. Lovely lady from Fleet was looking strong and confident and this kept me moving to the finish. Oh the finish.
7 hours and 58 minutes of Leighton Ultra with a slight detour that excluded Slapton from the route.
After only ever managing to get out and run this route in sections, putting it all together was a wonderful experience.
Now I have some homework to do. The route through town might change to go through Rushmere or Redwood. Or I could put Shenley Hill in after the canal. After running past the Tiddenfoot Lake on the way back I realised that would have made a better starting point with parking available and a leisure centre a short walk away for people to use for changing. I have no idea why I didn’t think of that at the time of planning this ultra but next year – yes next year!! – it’s going to be back with a few tweeks and hopefully some aid stations and with a licence to make it all official. Yes, official!!
Leighton Ultra will be back in 2015 and I will get the route notes checked thoroughly before handing them out. Thank you to Mr Peterborough man who completed the whole course in 6 hours 24 minutes (course record holder), Lovely local gentleman and his three lovely ladies and the very lovely lady from Fleet and her husband for being the event photographer for the day. You were all very nice and thank you so much for turning up.
Plus – if you’re still reading this – THANK YOU.

Happy running

The Spotlight Dread


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That moment, when you’re sitting there thinking – I’d like to try that or I can do better.
Yeah! That moment.
That happened to me whilst reading through some Social Ultra events and how they’re organised.
All you need to do is set a date. Make sure the route is okay. Know where you’re going – that one was important for me. Advertise the event and wait for some interest. Sounds simple. Uncomplicated. Free!! Sigh!
I have learnt so much since I had that moment of inspiration that’s now advertised as Leighton Ultra.
Putting together a course that’s tough but includes enough break points where people can refill water bottles or use the man made device called a toilet rather than using bushes/walls along the route.
Nights spent researching footpaths on ordnance survey maps and then organising reccie runs to see if those routes are passable. Getting lost in the middle of a field was becoming a regular occurrence!! The Broad Bean Field of Doom – ever tried to traverse a field of fully grown broad bean plants that has no discernible footpath? It’s an experience! Especially when the plants are taller than you are and you’re wondering if you’re going in the right direction.
Then route instructions. I now have an overwhelming respect for those people who write route instructions. Mine are patchy and there’s a few bits where I’ve used the phrase “not sure”. Not because I’m not sure of the route. It’s because I know the route so well its hard to picture that section without being there. Coma trail running. A route run so many times that I’m blind to the landmarks. So instead of confusing the instructions I’ve left them open for abuse.
Now I’m usually super organised when it comes to things like this. Lists a plenty. rehearsals a plenty. Backup plan followed by backup plans B, C and D – E is when everything goes completely wrong!
I’ve advertised this event and I’ve supplied so much information for the route and the day that makes it look like a super organised affair. Well, as organised as I can be. Hopefully that will be enough.
So why the hell do I feel so unbelievably uncomfortable and nervous about something that should be a heck of a lot of fun?
What if no one turns up?
Do I run the course alone anyway?
What if loads of people turn up?
What if I’m too slow for them?
I’m not incredibly slow but after 20 miles on this course I’ll be shuffling along at a comfortable pace.
I’m awful with names and faces.
Why the hell did I think up this damned plan and WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING!!!
Do other Race Directors feel like this?
Is this normal?
I need a strong coffee!!

That moment!! That moment when you think – Yeah, I can do that!!

Roll on Sunday where I’ll be relaxing and stalking Centurion runners as they attempt to finish the Winter 100. My day in the spotlight will be over and I’ll be recovering from the fun weekend I planned so long ago.

Keep on running

Chester Marathon 2014


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Chester marathon 2014 pic
After a week of no mojo and then a week of getting back onto the supplements wagon I felt good about Sunday and had no tiredness or weakness leading up to the Chester Marathon weekend. I even felt surprisingly good on Saturday. A lovely cheese and tomato pasta bake for lunch and I’m on the road to Llanarmon-yn-ial to stay at my sister in laws which was a 40 minute drive from Chester. Three and a half hours later and I’m being sat on by a very large and friendly flat coated retriever. A lovely pub dinner and a chat and more cuddles with the dog and its bed time. No stress, no sleeplessness – I was out and it felt like a minute later and the alarm was telling me to get my arse out of the lovely warm, cosy, comfortable bed. UGH!!! I was good, I got out of that warm lovely bed and got myself ready and out of the door super on time for a very easy trip to Chester. Pulled into the race course along with loads of other cars and then noticed the temperature 4c BRRRRRRRR!!! My choice of running kit would be just about warm enough but it was an hour or so till the race start so I got myself to the loos and then back in the car to keep warm until 20 minutes before the start where I needed the loos yet again!!
The start was lovely. The race course was a perfect shape to herd a large number of runners through the start tunnel. Whoever the guy was on the speaker was thoroughly enjoying himself which kept the mood cheerful whilst we all waited for the start. Jogging on the spot with goose bumps all over and then we were walking to the start. I kept myself at the back behind the 5hour pace guy. I wasn’t there to rush things, I was there to see what Chester Marathon had to offer and to enjoy the scenery. As always the initial start gets me breathless and feeling like I’m a lump of lard with glass legs about to shatter. Standing in the cold had me all tense and it was taking a bit of time to unravel all those muscles into a relaxing run. The course heads out of the race course the same way I drove in and we all head uphill into Chester town centre cheered on by supporters. The uphill was enough to warm me through and I was passing loads of other runners. I passed the 5 hour pace guy and thought he would catch me up later. The route went out of Chester into the surrounding countryside. The whole route was on closed roads which gave me and other runners a lot of room to manoeuvre and just kept passing runners. I didn’t feel like I was running fast, I was determined to only look at the mileage on my watch to help with fuelling. Beep! Mile 1 rushes past. Wow! I felt good and calm and I was not pushing myself. I took my shot blocks every two miles this time. After my blunder of lack of fuel for Beauty and the Beast marathon I was determined to ride the sugar train for this road marathon. Mile 3 – Beep – Shot block. Mile 5 – Beep – Shot block. This carried on and I kept passing other runners. I was getting a bit worried now. I passed the 4:45 pace team. I passed the 4:30 pace team. Errrrrr has someone given me a different pair of legs to play with? Is this what it feels like to run fast whilst making it look super easy? Keep calm, don’t worry, just keep on going till it stops. It’s not going to last. I kept saying that to myself all the way up to mile 17 when a steep downhill took away my momentum and I lost my stride. I stopped to walk. Ugh! I felt a bit tired and my legs were complaining like crazy about the sudden downhill after such a mild flat course. A little hill climb later and I’m run, walk, run, walk for the rest of the way to the finish.
Each village we passed through had supporters out with kids awaiting high fives and loads of jelly sweets on offer. The drinks stations were very well organised and it was very nice to see only the occasional bottle thrown on the floor. Most runners discarded their bottles responsibly and that made a huge difference around the water stations. No dancing around the deadly water bottles on the floor or getting a water bottle kicked into the back of your legs. Thank you to all those runners who kept the roads clear. The marshals were cheerful and the route was lovely. The last mile was tough as the route came back into Chester and then along the riverside. I had no idea where I was and couldn’t see any sign of a race course. I kept running that last mile. The only time I really pushed myself throughout that whole race. Then all of a sudden the race course appears and I’m running along the race track to the finish. I couldn’t quite believe the time shown on the clock. 4 hours 50 minutes!! I whooped and jumped up and down and roared. Dang that was a good time. If IF I had kept pushing myself from mile 17 I’m certain I would have been closer to 4 hours 30 minutes. I was super happy with that time. Then I checked my Garmin. 4 hours 46 minutes!! Hell yeah!!!! As the picture shows – courtesy of Chester Marathon Photos – I was very happy about that.
It looks like the Lunchtime Run 5k’s are working but I need to work on refuelling strategies and figure out what I’m missing. Four years later and I’m still trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For the rest of October I have a surprise entry into Royal Parks Half Marathon, my own Leighton Ultra and then Stort 30. It’s going to be a high mileage month. Here’s hoping the cold weather will help improve my speed through to next year.

Happy running

Where is my Mojo?


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No seriously, where is it? I’m sure I put it down somewhere but it’s gone and run of somewhere.

After my bonked Beauty and the Beast Marathon I took a good long rest…… no wait!! I didn’t rest at all. I went out the following day and did a 3 mile run – with kids and Paul which meant it was a good slow run. Then did 3 days of lunchtime runs of 3 and a bit miles each at my unusual fast pace. Then I thought I’d have a bit of a rest before Nottingham marathon and lazed around for Thursday and Friday. By Saturday I was feeling utterly rubbish. Woozy and lifeless. So I chilled out Saturday thinking that would help. Well, chilled out as much as you can when there are hounds and kids and a kitten to entertain haha! It got closer to bed time and I thought and good night’s sleep with an early wake up to drive to Nottingham would be no problem at all. I got my kit ready, running bag of bits and clean change of clothes for after. Then settled to bed and then I didn’t feel tired at all. I just couldn’t rest. It was awful. I’m usually pretty good with sleepless nights but I was knackered and just wanted to sleep and couldn’t. The more I stressed about it the more awake I felt – UGH!!!!! Nottingham was not going to happen at this rate which made the stress build up that much worse. So I decided it was not going to happen. Took some medication to help me sleep which would make running the next day a complete no no and within 5 minutes I was asleep. Sigh!

Sunday was no better. A head filled with cotton wool feeling along with dizzy spells and painful legs at around lunchtime. Pretty much the same feeling and time as last weekend’s nightmare. Downright bizarre!! Migraine? Could it be a migraine? There was no headache at all just a feeling of being disconnected, dizzy and very run down. I tried my migraine meds and within 20 minutes the cotton wool feeling was gone and I was feeling a lot better. Another silent migraine attack!. Since then I’ve felt normal but tired so I also upped my iron intake back to what it was before summer. Nearly a week later and I’m back to feeling like myself again. It’s taken at least six months for the lower dose of iron to affect me and it wasn’t obvious until things started to go really wrong.

This week I did rest. Only one lunchtime run which was yesterday which felt super easy even though I was zooming along. An average pace of 9:13mins per mile is super-fast for me and it felt like an easy jog. Yikes!

So what else has been occupying me this week? The Leighton Ultra of course. My warped mind thought – hell yeah, lets bimble around the Bedfordshire countryside for a whole day with no support. Yeah!! No problem at all. What the hell was I thinking? I’m no race director! What if no one turns up! What if the weather is thunder/lightning/monsoon/hail/snow/tornado/cyclone/hurricane!!!!! What if we get lost! What if the broad bean field of DOOM is still there!!!! Yup! Here’s me sitting in a corner, rocking to comfort myself from the insanity I’ve unleashed. I know it won’t be that bad but I’m a complete and utter coward when it comes to things like this. I have loads of great ideas but very rarely do I put them into motion. Somehow this idea slipped through the insanity checks. It’s been published. People know about it! PEOPLE!!! Yes I know it (might) will be a fantastic day out. The weather (might) will be fine. Who knows, I might meet some fabulously entertaining peeps. I’ve finally gotten round to adding a route description and there’s a couple sections that I know but can’t put into words. Who knows? I might not be running by myself on 18th October haha!!

Roll on Chester Marathon – I’m travelling up on the Saturday to make sure I’m rested for a bimble around a lovely, friendly course. So I’ve been told. Here’s hoping my proper rest week has helped and I’ll be able to complete this one.

Happy running

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

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


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