Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

A Testing Fortnight

I know, I know…. I’m cheating. Catching up with two weeks marathon training in one post. It’s been hectic. I’m tired just thinking about the last two weeks. Or maybe I’m just tired. We are at that point.

Week 6

The one that brought all the artic weather, and a nice humdinger of a cold to go with it. This is the first week since October, I’ve missed a session. Not only did I feel vile, the cold settled on my chest. We all know the golden rule. Above the neck, go and try. On your chest? Hold it right there. I missed a session completely in favour of a rest day (if you can call constructing flat pack, rest) The idea being, I would benefit enough to still be able to attempt my long run the following day. I probably felt worse the next day, so decided to just go out for a few miles with Fred in the remainder of the snow. No pressures, just go for a pootle.

Week 6 training

  • Monday – Rest Day
  • Tuesday – Easy 10k. Strength and conditioning session.
  • Wednesday – 5 miles Steady
  • Thursday – 15 minutes warm up, 20/15/10 minutes (Increasing pace each time) with 3 minutes recovery between each) 15 minutes cool down
  • Friday – (Snowmageddon) 1 hour Easy
  • Saturday – Missed Session/Rest Day
  • Sunday – 7.5 miles easy paced (Pootle with Fred)

Total weekly miles – 32.5 miles

Aside from being knocked sideways by the being poorly and the snow issues, it was a productive week, learning more about strength and condition under the guidance of a local gym. I have previously, worked on this by myself. At home, When you fling a few weights around or swing a kettlebell trying not to take out the TV (or small child) but felt like the time was right to get more running specific workouts, under guidance to make sure that my form was correct and that I’m not actually doing more damage than good! I will be delving into this a bit more in a separate post.

Week 7 (I think it’s probably actually more like week 8) 

I’ll be completely honest here. I think I should of taken more time off to recover from the nuclear cold. Total rest, instead of rollocking on with easy miles and continuing with training. I’m still not 100% and I do wonder if this might have shifted totally by now had I just stepped back. But anyway, as it is, I didn’t and the week wasn’t too bad, although I have felt pretty much wiped from every run! Add into that lack of sleep from trying to study towards my PT qualification in the evenings, and I’m on the edge! The week finished with the youngest sprog being struck down with Chicken Pox. Did I mention that I hate this time of year? Spring marathons are definitely the hardest to train for. Anyhow, poorly child meant a confined one with her little spotties. Which also meant, that if I wasn’t to miss a second long run, I would have to fit it in around her. Cue Netflix and Treadmill. 18 miles split between nap time, and bed time. I can’t say I hate the treadmill, I can’t say I would ever want to run 18 miles on one again either. But its a good tool. And a far better alternative to missing out on a run altogether.

Week 7 Training

  • Monday – 9 Easy Miles
  • Tuesday – Alternating Miles. 1 Mile Warm up, 4 x mile on, mile off, 1 mile Cool Down. I bailed on this one, The head was just full of cold and I struggled. I do almost all of the miles, but bailed on the last off and cool down. Oops.
  • Wednesday –  Easy 10k
  • Thursday – Easy 4 miles. Wasn’t feeling great after lunchtime chorizo. Learning something new every day.
  • Friday – 10 minutes warm up, 20 minutes MP, 5 x 2 Minutes 5k pace, 20 minutes MP, 10 minutes CD
  • Saturday – 3 recovery miles
  • Sunday – 18 miles Long Run

Total weekly mileage – 57.2 Miles

 

 

So that’s pretty much summed up the last couple of weeks. It’s been full on, and just get along with Marathon Training as best as I can. There are a few things I know that need improvement, and rapidly if I’ve any chance of getting sub 4 in Manchester. The lack of sleep is something that needs to be addressed, and also incorporating more strength and conditioning. So this week, along with just trying to fit it all in, I need to pay more attention to what my body needs right now! Mini goals, one week at a time.

For us mere mortals, just trying to train for a marathon alongside everyday life, work, family and commitments is a tough ask. It becomes all about the juggling act. Inevitably something gets out of kilt, something is sacrificed, or put on the back burner. Tuning into your body, what it needs most and prioritising that, is all we can do, so we are not feeling totally overwhelmed or that we are failing. You never know when a spanner will get thrown into the works, whether it be illness, or being missing a session in favour of something else that is more important that day. It’s part and parcel of marathon training.

Have a great week you guys. If you’ve got this far, you rock!

 

 

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Some Week Into Marathon Training

Another week has passed, without any dramas or significant news. That’s a good thing. Time to recap last weeks training, week number (I don’t actually know) of Manchester Marathon training. I say I don’t know, because I’m not sure when I consciously started training towards this marathon. It was all about building back up from the stress fracture. Lets call it week five. Makes sense as it’s been five weeks since the long runs started up again. ok, so now that’s established, time to stop waffling.

Week 5 looked like this

  • Monday – 1 hour recovery run
  • Tuesday – Hill intervals (6 reps + 6 Hill sprints)
  • Wednesday – 1 hour easy run
  • Thursday – 90 minute medium long run
  • Friday – Easy 3 miles
  • Saturday – Progressive 10k
  • Sunday – 16 miles LSR

Weekly total – 50 miles

img_8211[813]

This week was a bit of a slog and had it’s usual highs and lows. Some runs I thoroughly enjoyed, In fact all of them minus the long run and Hill intervals. I lacked any kind of umph for these.

It’s been a slightly stressful week. I made the mistake of having a Netflix and chill moment early on in the week, which led to me watching ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’ Wow. I hadn’t even finished watching the first episode, and I wanted nothing more than to empty my entire house of all its contents and spark my own joy by embracing black bin bags. I began, without thinking about the fact that life has to carry on as normal whilst you are deep cleaning your soul. Changing my entire house, has left me feeling slightly frazzled, because its being done in dribs and drabs. Though the parts that are done, do indeed leave me feeling joyous, living in the worlds must cluttered jumble sale does not. Add in to the mix starting a personal trainer course, poorly children (yes, all three of them in one go!) and its felt a little strained this week. I digress. I seem to be mentioning Marie Kondo in every other sentence right now. It must stop.

marie

I joke of course. My children always spark joy.

Long run Sunday was completed amid bone chilling winds. Just absolutely vile. I truly felt battered after this long run, just a constant fight against the wind no matter what direction I headed. I also, almost quit at mile 10. I had planned an out and back, then a 10k loop. Running past my car at the 10 mile point, was torture. It was safe in there. Dry, warm, sheltered. I finished the run, and actually felt pretty awesome for not bailing on it, despite the fact it was pretty shoddy running wise.

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed there was no usual rest day on Friday. I felt that. Despite encouragement from coach to have the rest day, I ignored it, because I thought I was feeling good. Big mistake. I should of had a rest day even more so this week, with the tidying/poorly house stresses. It probably didn’t have a huge impact on my training, but I felt it on my long run. As much as I, and most runners hate the rest day, I do believe in the magic of it. Letting your body heal, rest, respond to the training you have been doing. I don’t really know why I was so bolshie about not having one this week, when I do champion them on the whole. You’ll be pleased to know, I’ve started this week absolutely missing a Monday and resting up ahead of another full on week. Thinking long term, not just about the current day.

On to week six (ish) and another jam packed week ahead. 9 weeks to go.

 

 

Manchester Marathon Training, Uncategorized

Hello 2019

Happy New Year! Yes, I’ m a little late to the party. But we are still in January, so it all counts. Right?

So it’s a New Year, which of course comes with new goals. I’ve broken it down a little year. Little segments. Seems much more manageable that way. The priority has been to make sure I’ve come back from the stress fracture that ruled out Chicago Marathon correctly. It’s been a long build up of mostly easy miles, trying to increase my mileage gradually and build up a base ready for the next event. All eyes on Manchester Marathon on 7th April!

 

The easy miles have worked a treat. I mean true easy miles. This meant investing in a chest strap to monitor my heart rate and switching off from Strava trap. Not literally, I love logging my runs on there, and achieving segment pbs as much as the next person but switching off from the fear of posting ‘slow’ runs. I have used Strava as long as I’ve been running. I love it, I like to see my accumulation of weekly miles, it feels good to receive Kudos for getting out there and doing your run. But switching off, and not caring about what my pace or runs look like to anyone else on Strava has been key to me finally slowing right down and approaching training the right way.

 

Running using the chest strap has been a revelation. Firstly, just how inaccurate wrist-based readings are. Secondly, that running to heart rate, and logging easy miles is a lot different to going a few seconds a mile slower, but still calling it an easy run. We’ve all been there. When I first started using it, it felt like I only had to shuffle in a forward direction, and my heart rate would rocket. So many walk breaks to bring my heart rate down, I actually felt like I couldn’t go easy enough to keep it low.

 

So this was my November and December. All the easy miles. Watching my heart rate. There has been a huge gain since the beginning of November though, and my easy pace according to heart rate is now around 90 seconds quicker per mile. I say around. There are other factors that determine the pace/heart rate. Days following sessions, tiredness, stress, a bit under the weather. All plays a part.

 

New Year has meant I’ve been in a good place to start marathon training and kicking it up a notch. This time under a watchful eye and new coach Matt Rees @TheWelshRunner The person who has instilled all the sensible training I previously lacked, and ensured the comeback from this injury has been done the right way, not my normal way! The last few weeks I’ve been able to incorporate track, hill, interval sessions. Obviously not all at once. Always followed by more of the easy stuff. Apart from the general stiffness that accompanies marathon training, all is feeling good, and I’m seeing improvements each week. It leaves me positive.

 

gower

 

So, what do I want from this year? Simple. Not to miss my marathons. Last year was soul destroying missing both my Spring and Autumn marathons. Hopefully, I’ve learnt from it. Time will tell. But my approach to returning from the latest injury has been a lot more sensible, and different from previous injuries, so hopefully, I have learnt something!

Lots of big events coming up this year, and mostly I just want to remain fit, healthy, and not broken for them. I still have time goals. Sub 4 for Manchester! It still feels like a long way off, and I don’t know if I am being extremely ambitious, but I will be giving it a good go. That’s all any of us can do! Then I guess, it’s try for the original goal and the reason I started this blog in the first place. Sub 3:45 at Chicgao in October. We shall see. One step at a time.

Aside from the marathon goals this year, it looks to be promising with lots of other races and adventures. May will see Liverpool Rock n Roll Marathon, where I will be speaking at the RunFit expo. Cannot wait for this one, it seems like so much fun. I’m super thrilled to be a Threshold Sports ambassador also this year. This means returning to Race to The Tower, and Race to The King, and also adding in Race to The Stones. Cannot wait to go back, with the aim of improving my time for the first two ultras, and also completing the treble! Well hopefully. July will be time for fun and adventures after the Ultras, at a wonderful trail camp in Bansko with the Run Bulgaria team. Then Chicago in October! First goal – make the start line this time!

So there it is. A brief roundup, a catch up, and stage set for 2019.

Lets hope for a good one.

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Type 1 Diabetes. I’m In For The Long Run.

I often get asked how I deal with running and Type 1 Diabetes. Particularly long runs. When training for marathons and ultras and the mileage starts creeping up, it becomes a split of concentrating on getting those miles in, whilst planning and executing perfect fuelling to ensure stable blood sugars and no crashes or harmful spikes in levels. I say perfect. It rarely is. When it is, boy does it feel good, but still now after a couple of years of running long, I am learning. Type 1 diabetes isn’t that beast that can be fully tamed. But I have found what works for me. Mostly.

Before I share my tips and how I fuel, please do take note. I am not medically qualified. this is just how I deal with it. My own opinion. You may find it helpful, you may not. Living with type 1 diabetes, isn’t a one size fits all condition. It’s extremely personal. Only you know your overall blood sugar control, and what works for some, doesn’t work for others. There’s different treatments to consider. I am still very much old school. I inject four times a day. 3 x Novarapid (short acting insulin) 1 x Lantus (long acting) so the advice and tips I have to give, wouldn’t necessarily apply to those on pumps. It is also very different to managing running with Type 2 Diabetes.

Before a Run

Unfortunately, when you are running with diabetes you do lose a little of the drop everything and just go for a run freedom. I do mostly try and plan when I am going to run. I certainly plan long runs.

pre run tips

  • Try not to run within two hours of giving yourself a short acting injection. For something short like a parkrun or half hour run, I will wait until afterwards to eat. Short runs can be more unplanned, so long as your sugar levels are ok before heading out. But the two hour rule still applies. Unfortunately this also means that if you are planning an early long run on a Sunday, yes you do need to get up extra early to eat a decent breakfast. The plus side is you can go back to bed and snooze for a while.
  • Try not to inject in the top of your legs. Stick to upper body. This can cause fluctuations in your sugar levels whilst running and working those leg muscles!
  • I tend to try and run on a starting level between 10 – 14 mmol/l. The higher end for a long run. I’ve found these levels work for me. They might be slightly different for you.
  • I always embrace the carbs before a long run, mostly just to keep something longer acting on board. It always helps me to keep more stable levels.

Short Runs

When I say short, I mean anything up to an hour. For a half hour run, I wont fuel. I don’t need to. I will just check my blood sugar is ok. I find around 10 mmol/l sits just fine. An hour run, I will have a few jelly babies or half a gel at 30 minutes. I have a few times, had a hypo around 45 minutes in if I haven’t taken anything, and particularly if I am working aerobically. Those easy runs drain my sugar levels. You would think it would be the other way around, but no. Hard efforts make them rise, easy makes them fall. Something to be aware of.  It can also be helpful to add in some short hard bursts to kick up the levels again, but depending on what you want to get out of a session, it may not fit. So stick with fuelling properly.

Long Runs

If you are marathon training, these are your bread and butter, and the most important run to nail fuelling. How you fuel during a long run, can be applied on race day. The more you can get this right in training, the better a race will be. If I am running anything over 10 miles, preparation starts the night before, with reducing the number of units of Lantus I take. I’ve found this not only helps to keep levels more stable during the run, but also helps to reduce the risk of a hypo in the hours after finishing. Embrace the carbs beforehand, but don’t go overboard! After trial and error, I’ve found porridge or a bagel works well for me. it’s the right amount of carbs I need to start off with, and also the ones that I can actually stomach before long running without encountering GI issues.  I tend to start long runs at 14 mmol/l or as close as possible.

During these runs, I aim to take on board a gel an hour. Which equates to roughly 30g of carbohydrates. My personal preference are torq gels, I’ve found these to work well for me. Plus there are some amazing flavours (Hello Rhubarb and Custard!) Most will need 30 – 60g per hour. I go to the lower end, based on reducing long acting insulin, the carbs I have beforehand, and the level I start off at. Again, it is trial and error as to what works for you.

I always, always carry something for treating a Hypo (low blood sugar) I’ve been caught out before, where I have been low in the middle of nowhere with nothing to treat the hypo. It is not a nice situation to find yourself in, is extremely dangerous and quite frankly terrifying. Again, plan on what works best to treat a hypo for you. For me, I take jelly babies. If I do start feeling a little low, I’ve found these work quickly to kick up the levels again. Sometimes some sporadic jelly babies are required on top of my gels. Particularly if I am doing a slower long run.

Ultramarathons

These are another thing altogether, although still the same principles of a long run. I can only stomach a certain number of gels, so for Ultras I have been using a mixture of Tailwind, flat coke and real food! Two double marathon ultras done, and still I’m learning. The second I did get it more right and although started going low, I didn’t have a hypo as I did in the first. I have a sachet of Tailwind per hour right from the start. The trick is to start early on and take little and often. Flapjacks worked well for me, along with peanut butter sandwiches. Finding what gives you energy but also sits well, again takes some playing around with. I spent some runs trying different foods. I also halved my Lantus the evening beforehand!

General Tips

  • I’ve mentioned a few times, trial and error. It really is.  The best way to learn about what works for you is to experiment safely. Try different things, different gels, drinks, sweets. It can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be, just be prepared. Go on longer runs, take a ‘survival kit’ to ensure you can treat low blood sugar. If you are concerned, rope in a friend to come with you, on foot or by bike. If that’s not possible, find a public mile loop close to home. Yes it’s boring, but it serves a purpose! Spend time testing before, during and after a run to see how your body reacts.
  • Always, always run with some form of easily accessible form of identification, your emergency numbers, and most importantly something that displays you are a type 1 diabetic. I run with my parkrun band on long runs, as this has medical condition and ICE details. You can also put this information in on your phone.
  • It’s a pain carrying emergency hypo treatment or fuel. I wear a Spibelt on shorter runs, and don’t notice it there at all. Plenty enough room to stash Jelly babies, phone, and for marathons, gel loops which is perfect! I almost, always, wear a Camlebak for long training runs. I take my blood sugar monitor, just in case (sometimes if out for a few hours, its reassuring to pause and test to see where your levels are at) and probably go a little over board with hypo treatments. I’d rather be prepared. Plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when taking on gels.
  • Be kind to yourself. you can find what works, but there will always be times where curveballs are thrown in. Stress, lack of sleep, what you ate yesterday, misjudging the amount of insulin for your last meal, there’s a huge list of things that can throw a curveball in and mess with your blood sugars. Sometimes it may even seem like there is no real reason, it just happens. Don’t let it knock your confidence. It happens. So long as you are prepared, you’ll be fine. Try again, next time. You are a complete badass for doing what you do, whilst living with diabetes!

So that’s about all the little nuggets of useful information I have, whilst trying not to ramble too much! It can be scary, it can be a pain in the ass, it can be incredibly frustrating, but I promise you, it is worth it! Any other questions, please do feel free to leave a comment. Stay safe and happy running!

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There’s Goals. Then there are Goals.

Chicago Marathon is coming up fast. Two weeks to go. I’ve found myself in the horrible situation of picking up a niggle, not listening soon enough, and said niggle now meaning that I am cross training my way to the start line. But it’s all good. Because actually I’d rather get to the start line relatively in one piece and just enjoy the experience of another world major. I’m fully intending to ‘Jeff’ my way around. Run, walk or craw. Powered solely by sweets and high fives.

Had you said this would be the outcome, last year or even a few months ago I would’ve cried. You see, Chicago was my goal. My ‘Goal’ for a whole year since saying I wanted to obtain Good For Age time in a year last October (after another London marathon ballot reject) in my mind, all I wanted was to obtain that at Chicago. But a lot changes in a year. And actually, I have learnt a lot about myself and also about how goals do and don’t work for me. My heart has also been stolen this year. No longer am I driven to find fast road marathon times. I’ve found my love for trails. For Ultras. My whole outlook on what I want to run for has changed, and has made me a happier person (mostly) for it.

You see a goal doesn’t work without a spark. When setting a huge goal, it needs to be something you truly want. Something that really does set your soul on fire. I am, essentially a goal driven person. I need that, for motivation, for achievement. Goals and dreams are very much the same for me. I still very much, want to achieve my GFA and complete all world majors even though I seem to have developed a slight aversion for road running. But I’ve taken it off my priority list. For me, it’s now something that will happen eventually, and as part of the process of achieving my new goals.

So what have I learnt about setting goals?

Set a goal that means something to you.

What you want to achieve, may be completely different to the runner next to you. You may want to get that sub whatever time 5k, you may want to complete your first marathon in x time, or you may want to run from John O’Groats to Lands End or run 5k non stop, Whatever it is, it has to be something YOU want to do. Don’t follow the crowd because that’s what everyone else seems to want.

Just because it seems impossible, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it.

The ‘big’ goal. It should be big. Big enough that you have to work for it. The goals that both terrify and excite us are the ones that you won’t be able to stop chasing. Goals are there to challenge you. To make a change for the better.

Set mini goals.

Yeah, I’ve just said set a huge goal.. but break it down into smaller goals on the way to achieving the big daddy, it keeps you motivated. If you’ve set a goal that will take time to achieve (which it should do) you need smaller aims to keep you motivated and enthusiastic along the way. Chip away at it, one step at a time.

Don’t lose heart

If you truly want it, stick at it. Some super humans are able to set a goal and progress in leaps and bounds towards it, making it look effortless in the process. But this isn’t the usual. And if you were to ask that person how they’ve done it so effortlessly you will more than likely find that they have put their all into it, they’ve grafted away still. You’ll have ups and downs. The trick is, when going through the downs, keep in mind that the up will soon make up for it. Expect the rough with the smooth. Not everyone’s progress or journey is the same.

If it isn’t working for you, change it

Last but not least. Don’t be afraid to adapt your goal, or change it completely. If it’s not working for you, or you change your mind completely on your journey, as I have, then drop it, adapt it, make it work for you again. There’s no shame in that. At the time of setting my original big goal, I don’t think I really knew who I was as a runner. Sometimes you need to go on a journey to discover more about yourself, and that might not fit with what you originally started with. You’ve got to be you.

So that’s about as far as my little nuggets of wisdom go. Above all else, find that goal that makes you soul happy. Then knuckle down, buckle up and enjoy the ride on the way. My news goals excite me, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Needless to say, 2019 will mostly be trails, Ultras and mountains…. and THAT fills my belly with fire.

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Summertime Funtime

So, I have been missing in action. Again. The summer has been full of fun, the kind that leaves your heart full, but your blog writing capabilities on the back burner. Hidden somewhere between the need for a granny nap, and standing looking aimlessly at an open fridge wondering whats going to be devoured next.

My last post was Race to The Tower Ultra. I thought that was it for ultras for a while but as it turned out, fate decided it liked me falling over various parts of the countryside, and turning into an emotional wreck. Ultra number two happened two weeks after the first one. Race to The King. I think Ultras are much like childbirth, I can only remember the good bits. That’s for a reason. Otherwise you wouldn’t do it again. It was actually a really good race, I fell three times, leaving some pretty awesome permanent scars to remember it by. I got sick in this one. But nonetheless completed another double marathon ultra two weeks after my first.

July consisted of Thunder Run and the ASICS Frontrunner UK weekend meet up. Thunder Run was amazing! A 24 hour event, entered as a mixed team of 8 Frontrunners. It brought a new meaning to the term team bonding, camping together, running through the night and day. There’s not much to hide during these things. But an amazing weekend spent in great company. Our UK meet up followed in Warrington. Again, another hugely fun weekend spent with teammates, enjoying Parkrun, sports day, presentations, casino night and a few well deserved beverages.

August was mainly ruled by surviving summer holidays (parents will just know) but also some time to get reacquainted with the 10k race. Which I still suck at (5k and 10k races are really not my thing) starting with Westonbirt 10k. A terrible race, that I completely talked myself out of, but I still managed to take over 4 minutes off from the last time I raced it. There was the international ASICS Frontrunner weekend in Amsterdam, which was beyond amazing. I don’t think we stopped all weekend. It also included another 10k race. The kind of race you turn into a fun run (as much as you can with a hangover) Fair to say we partied hard, trained hard. For a great blog about this weekend check out this piece from my fellow UK attendees.

https://www.asics.com/gb/en-gb/frontrunner/articles/what-happens-in-dam

So there it is. Lots of fun times, running time, and family time. Chicago Marathon is creeping up fast now, with just over four weeks to go, and training for it has been interesting. There hasn’t been any structure as such. I’ve not stuck to a plan. I’ve just tried to incorporate key sessions and easy runs around having fun. I don’t regret that decision for this marathon. It’s kept things fresh, and the lack of pressure works wonders for the soul.

Summer Summary done, normal service can now resume.

Ultra Training, Uncategorized

Popping My Ultra Cherry

So it’s happened. I am an ultramarathoner! I completed Race To The Tower. And what an epic, life affirming journey it was. So epic, I needed to calm myself down a little writing this piece for fear of turning into George R R Martin and creating a biblical sized novel.

I am still incredibly sore, 2 days post Ultra, beyond tired but I’m bursting with pride. I’m incredibly happy, in the best way.

I had to rely on a lift to get to the start line, in Stroud. My mother kindly offered. She drives like a mole, and was more worried about coffee stops than getting there. She took a wrong turn and sent us 15 minutes down the motorway in the wrong direction. Typical. She also doesn’t get running. Although she did kindly say she would be proud if I did three miles. Thanks mum. Still, we managed to arrive at the start with 25 minutes to spare before the off. Quick pee stop, start line selfies with some of the wonderful Instagram crew I did manage to spot and it was get to the start line for the warm up. I didn’t warm up. They make me cringe. Instead I babbled to two familiar faces, who I was lucky enough to bump into. This calmed the pre race nerves…. a little. I still felt like my stomach was in my mouth.

8am- let’s go! And it’s off. The first few miles flew by, finding a rhythm, trying to slow my breathing down. Nerves soon vanished. I’ll be honest I think they vanished at the very first gate (number one of 160) hearing everyone gigging and in high spirits waiting to go through.

The course was beautiful. Really stunning. But I soon realised that although I train on hills frequently, living where I do (I struggle to find a flat route) it hadn’t been enough. These hills along the Cotswold way were monsters. As I was trying my best to power walk up them, I made a mental note… you need to practice hiking more.

Pit stops 1, 2 and 3 flew by. I didn’t hang around long. Topped up the water bottles, grabbed some fruit (the watermelon was absolutely amazing) and snacky bits. My plan was to grab stuff I could eat on the go. Just walk for a while, whilst chomping on something to try not to lose any time. I do actually think I spent a fair few miles with salt and vinegar crisps getting shoved in my mouth, or annoying everyone around me with the jostle of crisps rattling in a bag clasped in my hand whilst I ran. Those and freddo frogs. Freddo frogs are a little less intrusive on eardrums!

After pit stop 3 it went downhill a little. Almost straight away, there was a ridiculously steep incline through some woods, around mile 18. It was single track and no where to escape to let anyone pass, so it was keep up or pass out! That hurt. I then fell, just being clumsy. I was too busy looking at the views. Bang. Down like a sack of spuds. I managed to take a chunk out of my hand and give myself a pretty impressive graze on my leg! Still, I thought, keep moving forward. My tummy started playing up a couple of miles later. Poo gate. I was begging for a secluded spot. None to be found. It was buttocks firmly clenched, and hang on for dear life until pitstop 4, halfway. I’m being honest…. toilet troubles and all. To add to matters, the final mile climb into pitstop 4 I had a huge hypo (low blood sugar) where I dropped down to 2.1. Trying to still move forward, whilst trying to ram jelly babies, dextrose and freddos down my chops, whilst trying not to shit my pants. Is this what Ultra running is all about?

Halfway, a marathon done. Once I had found solace in a portaloo, I didn’t stop for any of the wonderful ‘real food’ on offer. Instead I made myself a peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwich to eat on the go, and quickly drained a cup of flat coke. Which was amazing!

The poo and junk food worked wonders, soon I was flying along again, feeling really good. Positive and full of energy. The next part seemed to fly by again, the hills continued, I slowed, I found bits of energy. It’s so easy to be distracted by beautiful scenery. It helped. Pit stop 5 through a farm was great, more bread and flat Coke! Keep on moving.

Pit stop 6 (38.4 Miles in) and I realised I was starting to struggle. Emotionally more than anything. I felt tired and was hurting. I honestly had a good 5 minutes where I don’t know what happened but it felt like I could keep on crying forever. I was just overcome with emotion. I thought about my little boy. I thought about how 12 years ago to the day I had last held him. I thought about my babies who would be there for me at the finish. Emotional bloody rollercoaster. I guess that’s what ultras do. They bring it out, there’s no where to hide when it’s just you and your thoughts, your struggles. Thankfully I was inundated by virtual support from Instagram. I don’t think I could of done it without that. Just message upon message from people who had my back, urging me on, supporting me. Messages from my husband, willing me on. Thank god for 4g! I managed to get a grip. Slightly. I started admiring random trees and cows. There were some pretty impressive trees and cows.

44 miles in, the wheels came off completely. Blisters. All around the insides of my heels. I carried on for a couple of miles before deciding to stop, pop and cover. It didn’t offer any relief. I was down to a shuffle, at best. I didn’t feel too bad, but my god those blisters. Because I was down to a shuffle everything just started ceasing up. Pit stop 7 I could’ve quit. Only 5 miles to go. Only.

They were the longest miles I’ve ever known. It got dark, I overheard someone say that the last 10 gates were all up the horrific hill to the finish. The last mile. Running through the beautiful village of Broadway before this, did lift my spirits immensely! A beautiful evening, and beautiful pubs and houses. People cheering and clapping as we went past shouting encouragement. There was a huge part of me that just wanted to stop. Go and sit outside in a beautiful place and have cold cider. It sounded like heaven in my head.

I was met near the top of the evil hill that I was practically crawling up, by my eldest two children, and my husband. They came down with little lights shining. They looked like angels to me. Just gone 11pm, I finished by running over the finish line holding hands with them, my daughter then placing my medal around my neck. The flood of emotion that came out then was on another level. I’m pretty sure I could’ve filled both my soft flasks with tears.

I got really cold almost immediately and couldn’t stop shaking whilst my husband took my trainers off, and helped me into warm clothes. I felt really ropey. And yes, I was that person. I begged him to take me straight to McDonalds. Whilst sat waiting in drive through, any fluid left in me came out into a Tesco carrier bag. I’ve never professed to be classy!

I learnt a great deal from my first ultra. I do think that until you’ve actually done one, you just don’t know. It’s the unknown. You don’t know how your body will react, you don’t know if you’ve done the right training, if you’ve got everything dialled in. I certainly didn’t. I ballsed up my hydration from the start. I had one flask of water, one with electrolytes. Once I had finished these, I for some reason decided to stick to water only. This came at a price. The most important thing I think you can do is get that hydration and nutrition spot on in your training, and stick to it. I had two hypos in all, and would of been much more stable if I had paid attention to what I was consuming.

Kit wise, I was really comfortable. Blisters not so much. Again I should of dealt with them much earlier. I also forgot compeed. I took far too much. For an event such as one the Threshold series, where everything is catered for at extremely regular intervals, the route extremely well marked out, you don’t need to pack a picnic for the start as I did, or for the eventuality that you will be lost in the wilderness for days on end. I never touched my spare socks/shorts. I guess I would’ve if I hadn’t come across the portaloo

7800ft of elevation, 160 gates and styles, and relentless sunshine. Blisters, hypos, poo gate, and all that was in between. I just wanted to finish it. 10 weeks of training, the majority of which were super cautious to avoid the injury returning and I managed it. I made a lot of rookie mistake, but that’s the way to learn. My first ultra has stolen my heart. I’ve found something that I truly love to do. And I cannot wait to continue learning, and do it all over again!

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Ultramarathon Playlist

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain” Bob Marley.

Music often takes us away, distracts us, ignites passion and evoke memories. Sometimes even a pain in the backside, when you get an “ear worm” that gets stuck in your head all day.

With the ultra coming up this week, taper tantrum/wobbles are in full swing. Whilst running, I tend to listen to a variety of music (for long runs and easy runs usually it’s a good audiobook or podcast which I shall share on another post) My tastes can vary anywhere between Dolly Parton and S Club 7 to full on make your ears bleed Slipknot, and all that is in between. I have my favourites artists and bands, but I like variety. After all, isn’t that the spice of life. So I started thinking about the lonely stretches that may arise, the times during this Ultra where I may need a bit of distraction, some motivating music maybe? I’m not normally one for listening to music during races, I enjoy the atmosphere and ear wigging on random conversations people have. But a back up plan whilst stepping into the unknown this weekend is never a bad thing. So, naturally I turned to fellow runners on Instagram, and asked for their favourite running tracks. You did not disappoint!

You can find the list here

https://open.spotify.com/user/kelruck/playlist/7CGC29BMlLFIG39bnFeNaa?si=u8t5PebCTq-344JT46a2rQ

Some great tracks to add to any running playlist. I’m hoping that Bob is right, and this will help me along. What do you think? Do let me know if there are any that are missing and should be on there.

Ultra Training

Crash Course Ultra Training

The last few weeks have been a flurry of all the sunshine, easy runs, cranking out a marathon as part of standard training (who even knew) and embracing hills as much as I embrace my coffee.

April saw the return from injury. Finally. Which meant keeping pretty much every run to an easy pace. One which was a lot slower than pre injury. I found it pretty tough, knowing that my first Ultra would soon be creeping up. It required patience and perseverance just getting my legs back in to running. Everything seemed off, from breathing to just feeling awkward. Pretty much, like starting all over again. Seeing what I should be doing to prepare for a double marathon and what I was actually doing was a little nerve wracking. But I stuck with it, complimenting those easy runs with lots of strength training and tlc in the stretching and rolling department.

Then I signed up to a local trail marathon. Please note, that I am telling you what I did do, which is most likely, totally not advisable.

13th May I completed the trail marathon in 5:18 hours. The longest run I had plodded before this was 6 miles (post injury) it was a huge risk, I could of come away with injury again. My aim was to just spend time on my feet, with a mixture of walk/running. Trying to suss out a tactic for how I would approach the ultra. It worked. I walked the huge hills (probably more crawled the last) and just kept moving forward. It was an incredibly difficult day for it, high temperatures and no escape from the blazing sun. It was also a 4 lap course, with abandoned aid stations after the first lap, and not another soul to be seen. Even when I finally crossed the finish line there was nothing. The whole event (which had a nice number enter the 10k option – the first lap) had been taken down. No finish line, nothing. One person, sat on a chair by a timing mat, waiting for my return. I cannot tell you how soul destroying that was. Aside from my views of how shocking the whole event was, it served its purpose and probably helped a huge deal with mental preparation. Yes humming the wheels on the bus did help.

I actually felt amazing on the days that followed and happily eased back into more easy miles. I don’t know if it was the easy pace, or the numerous Epsom salt baths and my new found love of Oofos recovery shoes but it was all good.

The second long run of 24 miles followed that week. Again, super easy. I walked, I ran, and I stopped at a shop to have a lolly in the stupidly hot weather. I enjoyed this much more than the marathon. But running along the River Wye in beautiful surroundings on such a beautiful day certainly contributed to it. I have a new love for Ultra training long runs as opposed to marathon training. No paces to hit, no slogging out a long run. Just time on feet, taking it all in. No pressure.

I did feel the results of these two weeks with my energy levels taking a huge dent. I ran an appalling trail race a few days after this run. Just couldn’t get going, completely out of puff. The hills most definitely ruined me that day. The recovery beer helped take the edge off any bad feelings about that though.

The last long run before taper, of 14 miles again was a completely different story. Most enjoyable until mile 10, energy levels had returned. The last 4 miles of all the uphill Home, and a huge thunder storm made me drop any easy pace and pelt it. A lot more strenuous than it should of been!

Now it’s less than two weeks to go until Race To The Tower, and that has been the extent of my training. 3 weeks of 30-39 miles, far lower than I would of wanted. But time on feet spent, different weather conditions and making sure that almost every one has included huge hills. I don’t know how it’ll all fare come 9th June. But I know I’ve done as much as I can without being completely ridiculous, I’ve come through without injury, I’m feeing stronger and I’ve recovered well.

I also know that time isn’t an issue for me. I’m not racing it, I’m not wanting to be a super speedy speed machine. The reason I entered Race to The Tower, is because it’s the 12th anniversary of my son passing away. The last day I held him. I struggle every year around this time. So to spend time doing the thing I love, the thing that helps me mentally, remembering him whilst challenging myself in beautiful surroundings…. for me, that is what my first ultra is all about.

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All That Is Good

The last week has been amazing in so many ways. I have been more than quiet on the blog front, and I’ll be honest, continuous injury lead me to a horrible place. One where I was fighting daily to make something work, that wasn’t going to work. I was so desperate to make the marathon start line that I kept pushing, putting pressure on myself and my body that wasn’t needed and only had a detrimental effect. Which leads me to the start of the week. The moment of clarity.

I finally decided (a week out) that I would withdraw from the marathon. The decision came after what should of been a wonderful Easter trail run on the Saturday with fellow Asics Frontrunners, which ended up with me hobbling back after a mile. If I couldn’t run a mile, even going super easy for 26.2 would have been disastrous. I cannot even begin to describe the instant relief. The weight that I felt lifted from my shoulders. I had made myself so unhappy for weeks on end, that when the relief came from choosing to withdraw I realised the decision should have been made much sooner. It is an incredibly hard decision to make, when you’ve trained for, and been geared for that single event. Eventually (a little late) I realised that the first marathon was not my goal this year. A summer of doing my first ultras and going for GFA in Chicago Marathon IS my goal. It came down to looking at the bigger picture. I’ll be honest. Just to run carefree and pain free is something I had taken for granted, and something I desperately need back in my life for mental and physical happiness. There are plenty more marathons in the sea! On a little side note I did however, learn a whole array of useful cross training and strengthening work, which I shall detail at a later date.

It was also my birthday. A wonderful day spent with my family, which also saw the return of proper pain free 2.5 miles. Albeit incredibly cautious and unfit miles, but they felt wonderful. No pressure. Just go out and plod. Another 4 miles on Friday and a wonderful bit of fun Parkrun tourism with friends (the beautiful Ashton Court) chatting, giggling and messing about in puddles and the miles are creeping in.

Then Manchester Marathon. Cheering duties. A wonderful night and day spent with fantastic company, and being totally inspired by the wonderful runners. If you ever need a huge dose of positivity, to see determination and grit working across all types of runners, please do go support a marathon. Any race. If you can’t run it, support it. You never know just how much you may help someone, how you may just distract or encourage with 25 miles of pain behind them, the final agonising stretch so close, yet so far. I had wonderful hugs with many of the Instagram runners. All wonderfully inspiring, and such a pleasure to see! There were two who stuck with me for different reasons, and reiterated all that is good about running. The two Dans. I managed to catch Danny O’Reilly twice on the course (@the_running_dan https://www.instagram.com/the_running_dan) who was officially pacing a group of 3:30 runners. Brimming with positive energy, and making it look effortless, he stormed by with his pack all smiles. The type of running that made me want to hop in and join. If a pacer can make you believe you can stick with him, he’s the man! The second, Dan Cogswell (@the_marathon_dan https://www.instagram.com/the_marathon_dan) who’s face lit up when he spotted us, with a mile left to go. It was one of those hugs where you knew he was battling, he was giving it everything, he was hurting, but he was smiling….and that’s when it really hit home how much support is valued. Such a special moment, and actually really emotional.

It’s the start of a brand new week, and another new chapter for me. The start of working with the wonderful Team Project Run https://www.teamprojectrun.com who have already been extremely welcoming and positive. I’ve never used a coach before. After the fiasco of the start of this year, and with such a huge amount still left for the year, I’m trusting my training to the watchful eye of a coach. Hopefully safely tucked underneath a guiding wing, good things will start to happen in preparation for Race to The Tower and Race to The Stones, and even more so for Chicago marathon 😊.

So there it is, a brief (ish) round up. Normal service will now resume.