Training Continues – Week 8

Yes – it really has been 8 weeks.  Christmas was a bit of a mess for training because the running was unfocussed and more for fun.  Which is never a bad thing – I really enjoy running lately.  I may not be super fast and I may walk a lot but I keep going.  That’s when I get to nosh on snacks or grab a picture of the views or just stand/sit and relish the noise of nature – complete silence, creepy rustling, bird song, freaky squeaky squirrels and wind through the trees.

Back to training – To begin with I was finding the structure a novel experience.  Not sure what results it would create.  It was a shock to the system but I was ready for this.  I want to get as much out of the training as possible and I’m taking each planned session seriously.  So is this seriously fun training?  Yes!!  I’m enjoying the challenge each session brings with it.  Its no longer the same route, same scenery, same run.  Its now – challenging route, sections to beat and new routes to plan because I’m getting faster haha!!

I’ve been given week 8 and it’s a tough one.  Nothing I’ve not done before, nothing supremely tough in there at all.  But there’s a lot of running time to be done this week.  Best make sure I’m all stocked up and well fed then.  This weeks mileage might break the 100 running miles for January for the first time for me.  Wow!  January 2014 = 63 miles, January 2013 = 33 miles, January 2012 = 14 miles, January 2011 = 12 miles – You get the picture.  January is usually a very quiet month for me but this year I’ve got my jiggly arse into gear and worked.  This is no “New Me 2015″ – this is “I Want This 2015″.

Hope everyone elses January is just as enjoyable.

Plus, when I get a few minutes I’ll update my gear page.  I’ve managed to grab a few bargains and add some new gear to my arsenal.  Some great, some good and some I still need to try.

Enjoy ;-)


100 miles 100 MILES ONE HUNDRED M I L E S!!

Driving 100 miles is a long time sat in a car! Cycling 100 miles can be thrilling, enjoyable and yup – tough! Running/walking 100 miles – there’s something about it that just doesn’t feel real. I know I need to get my brain around it somehow, even my mojo is cowering under the table giving me despairing looks!
I know this feeling though. I have had this feeling before. This is the exact same feeling I had planning my first 50 mile ultra. The marathon training felt normal – loads of people run marathons! But 50 miles! The training plans, kit, mental training for that distance was for super fit people and I did not class myself as super fit. But I did it, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed it so much that I went back and did more! 50 miles still feels like a bonkers distance to “enjoy” but I really do like pushing myself beyond what I think is possible. The element of stress involved in tackling a big distance has developed my own skills for handling my own personal demons. Each trail event is another opportunity to learn how to cope, to enjoy rather than fear, to see the challenge rather than a closed door.
100 miles will no doubt break me, it will eat me alive and turn me inside out. I have no illusions on how difficult it will be. I’m doing this for me, to push the boundaries, to enjoy and take part in a fantastic journey. I am responsible for my own journey and cannot blame anyone else but me for this endeavour.
So when it gets to August, when I’ve done all the training I can possibly do, I need to come back to this post and remind myself.
You’ve had that feeling before.
That terrifying feeling of something waiting behind the tree/hedge/wall/fence.
I’m under no illusion as to how difficult it’s going to be.
I understand the enormous task ahead of me.
I must be flipping bonkers!!!!!
Most of all – What a grand adventure it’s going to be. Woohoo!!

Oh and as for my training – LOVING IT!!!! My pace has stabilised, I’m trying to supplement the running with lots of core workouts as well. A couple weeks of pain on the inside and outside of my shins has finally gone away – lots of exercise and massage helped! I’m running up hills almost like one of those Bambi type runners. It’s not for long but I can do it – woohoo!!
Oh – and my GoPro Xmas pressie. I’m thoroughly enjoying the fact that I can grab a pic without risking my mobile anymore.
Enjoy ;-)

2015 – Big Changes in Small Steps

There’s no easy way to say this. I’m quiet shocked at myself. My stubborn nature can be useful but sometimes just plain idiotic at times!! I mean!! Who would have thought I would enjoy waiting to see what’s next on the training schedule? Seriously!!! Me!!!
I’ve looked at training schedules and plans before and tried to fit them into my life but I had adjusted them to the point of not fit for purpose. Plus I’m at a level of fitness where I know my niggles, injuries and fears well enough to stop or push through them if needed.
I’m thoroughly enjoying waiting for the next week of training. My mojo is back, waiting like a puppy at the door to get outside and run run RUN!! I’m running with ease around routes that had me gasping for air last year. It’s awesome!
There’s a part of me that wishes I should have sought out a coach earlier but I know there would have been excuses or frustration due to working through injuries. I’ve surpassed my own skill to be bloody minded and dig in until I make it work.
I’m not saying everyone should sign up for a coach. I’m expressing my surprise at enjoying a training routine designed for me by someone else.
As for Christmas!
I fell in love with the big distances because of the views and sheer beauty of being in the middle of what felt like no where. But I had no sensible way of capturing some of those views. To share and to keep for myself. I wanted to be able to live those moments again when my memory fails and show to my family the beauty of being fit enough to enjoy those fantastic views on foot!!
I got a GoPro camera. MASSIVE THANKS to my adoring husband. This tiny thing is good fun but with a huge price tag it’s not for everyone. So expect a few more pictures of my adventures from now on. I’m still camera shy but the views will hopefully be amazing ;-)
That’s all for now. I’ll try to keep up to date a bit more but it’s going to be a training breakdown rather than an adventure of events for a little while.
Keep up the good work for those who took up running in 2014 and welcome to the club to anyone who is taking their first steps to being amazing in 2015
Xx ;-) xX

In Training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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