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10 Things I Learnt by Running 50 miles (or my SDW 50 mile race report)

1. Tapers can mean no running and that is OK. I didn’t run for 2 weeks before the race. I was injured and sad, I was freaking out inside my head. But I tried to trust my training. I sent panic messages to my Centurion buddies. I cant walk let alone run!

The 50 mile Question

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it’

My husband sent me this quote last week. Its apt for this week. As I face my biggest ultra challenge so far over the South Downs.

The Balance

An awkward question… when asked by a long lost friend over tea and cake last Saturday when she asked what our plans were for the next day. ‘I’m going off running all morning,’ is the answer. All eyes turned expectantly to Husband McDreamy – ‘you let her do this?’ ‘What do you get in return?’ ‘Oh I’m supposed to get something in return?’ he laughed as we brushed over the moment, but the comment stayed with me for quite a while.

The Slog

I am slogging it out in training and life at the moment. Everything is tiring, everything is taking such an effort to get done, standards are slipping, the hoover is being pushed around with less and less frequency and shares are being taken out in Pampers wet wipes as I use these for every household chore from snot wiping to basin cleaning. This is the hardest part of training.

Why do you do it?

‘Miss?’  Said a girl at school yesterday. ‘Is it true you can run 30 miles?’ ‘Yes I said, I can.’ ‘Why?’ She said. ‘Ummmmmm’, I answered in that inspirational and awe inspiring way. ‘Well because really its the only thing I am good at;  running a long way in a straight line, its takes a certain sort of person…’ I then launched into my full athletic history, which by then she had lost interest and wondered off to talk to boys.

Country to Capital 45

There is nothing like a plan coming together. There is nothing like the weather gods having peed all over you for every single training session, turning their spouts off and letting the sun shine on the beauty of a hard earnt effort. There is nothing like joining a team who look after you, encourage you and will sacrifice their own races to help you achieve their goals and there is nothing like working so hard and bloody achieving what you set out to do.

Chasing Time

The biggest shock in my life came after I had my first child. Bam! There you go Mum-yes that’s you now, here’s the child, oh yes that’s Daddy, but he is about to go back to work, to his job, his friends, his routine, here you are, this is you now. Sorry-did you want to go out, no the baby needs feeding, sorry did you want to go to the loo? No you must take me with you. A shower? You are joking? And now you want to go running? Are you having a laugh?

But I really want to. And anything I really want to do  I do (ask my sisters!)!

Hang on you are you just getting the gist of me? I know lets have another one! Woooooohooo, now you really don’t have time to change your pants lets alone get out the door without 2 small helpers.  But slowly, like everything in life you learn to cope, you learn to adapt, you see life as changed not ruined. Your inner self isn’t changed, it just is seen by others in a different form. Most of my Mum friends don’t even know I run-why should they? Its what I do as my hobby, the fact it dictates my everyday living is my choice, its an addiction which feeds the Mum side of me, enabling me to cope with the demands of kids with strength, power and courage.

So now my children are still wee, but we are coming out of the baby stage. Huge milestones like not needing a pram all the time, a highchair or endless food options makes life so much easier (and palming them off on grandparents way easier!). And in return I really feel like am finally back to my pre baby self both physically and mentally. Its been really hard. Ive fought, mainly against myself, to get out the door and get fit again. Feeling guilty and sad leaving them, but knowing if I don’t I will be dragged down with the endless chores and  the monotony of staying at home.

Running wise I think I am in the best shape I have perhaps ever been in. I am putting together some great training, but just don’t get the important rest I need to really make the training count. But, that’s my choice, I know in two years time the kids will be at school and I will get some more time to rest, to develop my personal training business and tidy the house! I am not a patient person, I want everything now, I want to be the best I can be now, but this form of me is the best I can be at the moment. As I tell the athletes I coach you can only be the best you can be at the moment in time and that is me now. Ive done every session I have set myself through a pretty rough few months with endless sick kids and no sleep. Ive eaten the best I could and been to bed ridiculously early.

So the start of 2014 season is upon me. This Saturday I race Country to Capital which I did last year as my first ultra; then I was still feeding the baby, had just done about 3 months running and was keen to just get round. My goals now couldn’t be more different. What a change a year makes. So, though I am impatient to get my life back. to achieve all my dreams, I know and am learning to wait a little longer, time flies and we will never get back these precious baby moments. This Saturday, whatever the result, I am a different person to the one who lined up last year. I am proud of what I have achieved and as always immensely grateful to those who support me.

Chase your dreams in 2014,
don’t accept anything but your best. Saviour every moment, even those which are hard, for its these that make us strong. Enjoy the good times, call friends, sit and listen to silence. I’m learning life is too short to wish away.

Gatliff 50km or 56km or maybe even 60km

Yesterday I did the Gatliff 50km,. I had heard epic tales of mud, rain, cows and hours and hours of following descriptive directions. I have done three other LDWA events this year,  I like their informality, friendliness and the chance to get some easy miles in with good company. The ‘ lunch’ stops are also pretty awesome, hot soup, sandwiches, pies, cake. I think I consume more calories than I burn. It didn’t disappoint. I set off on my own and was happy running at my own pace, following directions. I was pretty tired from a big week of training plus one child with chicken pox, so was quite relishing being in my own company, knee deep in mud.  I was making good progress till I hit Ashdown Forest, here I met some nice guys from Norfolk and we wandered back and forth a bit trying to find some heather or bush to turn right at. We then. of course, fitted the description to our location and off we trotted. After about ten minutes, we realised we had gone wrong, but we weren’t sure about the way back either. So about 25 minutes later, 2 car parks later and a lots of hilarious conversations with dog owners we found the check point. Here the walkers shook their heads and plastic cups  at our idiocy, all fun though. I cracked on and enjoyed the rest of the day with only a few minor mistakes (ahem!). My legs held up well and though they were struggling with stiles at the end (I reckon there were over 1,000) I was pleased with how used I am getting to running on sore legs and it is phasing me less knowing that once they really start to hurt, it doesnt get much worse so you might as well crack on and stop moaning!  In total I did 35 miles, about 56km which I think was what a lot of people recorded, apart from the guy who wrote the instructions who always seemed to be at every check point munching on a mars bar/milky way and looking suitably smug.

That’s my last ‘event’ now till Country to Capital in January. I have a busy few weeks ahead, with end of term, kids nativity plays, Christmas fairs and coaching sessions. One of the guys I ran with commented on how the hell I fit in all my training and kids and that is down to two things. Determination and my husband. Firstly I really, really want to be the best I can be at ultra running, and it doesn’t come easy. I have to get up and go out in the pitch black day in, day out, I only have a few slots I can run in,  so however much sleep I have had, if I want to train I cant faff about I have to get out and get on with it. When my husband comes home I often have to be waiting on the doorstep to head out, exchanging quick instructions about tea or washing to go out and I am off. The minute I am out the door though 9 times out of 10 I am focused on the session and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, even when its mile reps. Secondly my husband plays a huge part in the amount of training and racing I can do, in fact he positively encourages it. Some may think he wants me out of the house, so him and the kids can eat bacon sandwiches and watch the rugby, but I think he sees what a huge amount of enjoyment and satisfaction I get from running. I know I am blessed with the support I get, yesterday I got home to a clean house, happy kids, a lasagna in the oven and then he took the kids to sweep up the leaves (I know our kids are very lucky) whilst I had a shower and 15minutes power kip. So here’s to you husband and determination, please carry on working so well together over the next few weeks and lets see what we can deliver on that canal post 20 miles in January.

Mud, shoes, kids and cake

Four words to some up my week; Mud, shoes, kids and cake.



Shiny new Mammuts
Stinky Muddy Mammuts

I have been on a mission to get into my winter training and get some consistent quality sessions banked. I have cut back on the cough mixture and my secret delvings into the kids calpol supply is lessening. Last weekend I did a coaching session for my running club then headed into the big smoke to get fitted and checked by Profeet (http://www.profeet.co.uk). Ive always had slightly dodgy feet; the balls of my feet sometimes burn like hell and the blisters and lost toe nails have mounted up over the season. Lots of runners are super proud of their trashed feet after races and see it as a mark of honour, I see it as a poor fitting shoe/sock or a specific weakness in bio mechanics. I was so looking forward to getting everything checked,. I was all ready to to be offered orthotics, but I am personally passionate about strengthening my body first rather than sticking in an insole or wearing a  highly supportive shoe. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Rich Felton, who is passionate about feet (well I think its more the trainers he really likes, but he didn’t mind man handling my sweaty claws) spent a long time checking my feet, analysing my gait and then going through every shoe in the shop till we found ones that matched my natural foot strike. When you are going to put miles and miles of training in plus race over miles and miles of varied terrain, spending a bit of money getting your feet and trainers checked is priceless. To me, as well, its one more bolt in my armour, I know my feet are strong, I know my foot strike is strong, my trainers fit and so mentally its another tick in the box to get training.  And so get training I have.

Why, I thought, do my legs feel like jelly on my recovery run on Wednesday after just 4 days of what I would see as quality training. Of course, since August I have done three ultras and three marathons, so all the recovery and tapering has meant I haven’t actually done a consistent training load for months. I am loving getting back into training, fitting it into my life and feeling the burn of getting the speed back into my legs. Sweat pouring into my eyeballs, legs mashed and the inability to take off my sports bra after a session all mean things are going in the right direction.

I follow a strictly low carb diet

This week I have concentrated on making every session count, plus eating like a champion and trying to be active for my kids – the temptation to stick on Cbeebies when I am knackered and just want to lie down has to be fought, both hubby and I are agreed that TV has its place, but only for very limited time per day so I have tried really hard not to moan every time a wooden trolley is cannoned into the back of my legs and to think of things we can do sitting down. Cake and biscuit making being one of them-win, win situation…though some of he ingredients are a little questionable.

Its now Sunday night and for the first time in a while I have done a full week of real quality training, 800ms, 2000ms, tempo runs, long hard double runs and I am absolutely done in. Tomorrow is a rest day and I need it. I know I am grumpy with the family, muttering every time I have to get up to provide more drinks, snacks, nappy changes. I often feel guilty for running as I know it has a real detriment to my energy levels for my family, but I also know how much it gives me as a person. Confidence, strength, power and most importantly self esteem.
So I continue to try and get the right balance between family, work and running. Something always gives, but I am going to try and  keep the balance for as long as possible, as hubby says, happy running wife is happy kids and life!

Learning the hard way…

I had a great week off running after Beachy Head, though we were up in the highlands I didn’t have the faintest desire to put on my trainers and do anything more physical than stroll to the cafe for scone and tea. The kids were both ill (of course, its half term) and with the clocks going back too we had some very early starts and so I was pretty exhausted after 5 days of ‘holidaying’ or as I say to my Mum, same S**T, different sink. We decided to come home a day early, which I was more than happy about and hubby and I took it in turns to drive through the night. As we were home early I offered to run in my village running clubs relays races, I love a bit of cross country and even better in a relay format where I can really unleash my competitive elbows. I had a bit of a sore throat and cough, but thought a little trot wouldn’t do me much harm. Two legs later of 2.5miles in ankle deep mud and even though I ran them ‘steady,’ the pouring rain, the getting cold then starting running again meant the next day I found myself unable to breath without pain as the cold air hit my lungs. So, what did I do? Did I rest up and let me body recover as I would have told any of my athletes and pupils? Did I drink plenty of fluids and lie around the house in my pyjamas? No, I went back to work, I cleaned the house, I started my winter training programme even though I felt I was breathing through a straw and by Wednesday I was a bedraggled, heaving wreck. I got on the treadmill to start my speed session (I know you want to hit me right now, I am irritating myself) and the minute I pressed start I knew this was not the thing to do, even me, the most competitive person, possibly in the world, knew that I should be resting now, so I pulled the plug and rang up James at Centurion Running for some sound advice and a strict talking to!

Coaching yourself, mainly training by myself and also being by myself most of the time (I only count my kids as company when they are not gribbling, whining or demanding things, which I think is about 5% of the time) means I quite often lose perspective on the ‘real’ world. Looking on twitter and facebook you can panic yourself into thinking that people are constantly setting world records in training, plus holding down full time jobs, running the world and bringing up little Alfie and Cecilia to be the next poet laureate and Nobel prize winner.  I question my own training, my parenting, my life, my decisions and why,  based on something someone else has written that is probably only put out there because they are insecure about their own training, relationship, job or kids. 

So I backed off. I had a good chat with James about my winter training, he talked me out of increasing any volume, which I was secretly so relieved about as I think I am limit of what I can do with the kids and life and instead we came up with some ideas to get me faster which I am looking forward to trying out. Speaking to someone who has been there, done that is sometimes all you need to change your thinking in one minute. I went from being a frazzled wreck to being confident that it didn’t matter if I needed the next two weeks off  to get healthy I was still going to come back stronger.

Of course, the minute I let myself sit down and actually be ill I embraced the fluey bug with a raging temperature, a 50 -a -day chest and the need to watch Loose Women in my dressing gown. Kids are relentless and they don’t care if you have a limb hanging off as long as their cereal is in their bowl at 7am prompt and Postman Pat is recorded for after Nursery melt downs, but I let some of my parenting slip, gave them ready meals, gave them some toys I was saving till Christmas and let them run a muck whilst I lay on the floor, in said, now rather grubby, dressing gown.

I am feeling much better now, normally I would be thinking about going for a short run maybe tonight, maybe in the morning. But I am determined not to put the trainers on again till I am ready to actually to do a run that is ‘worthwhile’ rather than just a way to see if my lungs still are the size of a pea. Why I don’t have confidence in my own ability I don’t know, but I do know that I have learnt the hard way this week and from now on, I’m not stepping out of my door in my trainers unless the run is going to be beneficial to both me and the kids. We all make mistakes, but I seem to make the same ones again and again, so I’m putting this one out there in the hope I will listen to my own advice and become a more sensible and confident runner. Time will tell.