Category: Uncategorized

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 ( 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.

Over and Out 2013

I am sitting with my feet up looking at the Scottish hills. We have been here 24 hrs and I haven’t been up the mountains yet. I did manage a walk up the hill to see husband coming back from his run, but one ankle is so swollen I cant bend it and my quads still feel like someone has bashed them with a mallet.

I ran Beachy Head Marathon on Saturday. After the Downslink 38 miles at the beginning of October I had a very easy week and then picked up training a bit before trying a mini taper. To be honest I never got my legs going again and didn’t feel fresh however much I rested, ate, didn’t rest ,tried to run etc. The truth is I think I should have called it a day for this year after Downslink, but I love the Beachy Head course and lots of my club friends were doing it, so I thought Ill give it a go.  The lack of rest I get from having two very small children really showed as I struggled to get going again. Getting up sometimes 4 times a night, plus 5am wake ups means every day I am exhausted and trying to recover from one ultra to a super hard marathon in 3 weeks was going to be a tough call. Of course, I gave myself a tough time, come on body, legs, mind, get moving why aren’t you working yet? I know how important sleep is to recovery and I know now for 2014 that if I want to race as hard as I want to race I will only have a handful of super human efforts in me (not the 15+ I have done this year!)

Of course if you toe a start line people have expectations of you, as I do of myself and I knew if I had a ‘bad’ day it would be  public knowledge and as a result some people were commiserating with me at the finish. However I was pretty chuffed with what I achieved out there. My legs and heart were weary, but I knew I could still pull out a semi decent performance and to me the fight against my tired self was almost more important than the battle to win the race.

I led for about the first 10 miles occasionally swapping the lead with the eventual winner, she was kicking my butt up the hills which showed how tired I was, but I have been working on my down hill speed (thanks Bob!) and was able to catch up a sometimes 500m deficit by pacing it down hill. However when we met the hill out of Alvediston my legs just couldn’t move. They felt like I had run 30 miles not 10 and I lost view of the leader and with it my motivation to keep up that pace. I walked for a little while and gathered my thoughts. Unfortunately my gels had fallen out of my shorts and so I was pleased to meet my super supporters who handed me a gel and drink . After the long climb up onto the South Downs there is a nice steady section and I tried to get the legs going. Some wonderful support and I covered the next 5 miles with relatively little effort, resigned that this was going to be the best I could do today. Dropping into the aid station  I heard the crowd cheering third lady behind me. Oh crap I wasn’t prepared to give up my 2nd place, my head was willing to go,but my legs were just refusing to join the party. She overtook me up the steep climb and I grunted some encouragement. We made the steep hike up past the piper ready to drop down to the start of the 7 sisters. Here I knew my super team mate Paul would be waiting to kick me up the butt. I knew he would be disappointed I wasn’t leading and even worse I was now in 3rd. But, as only a fellow Centurion team mate can do, he ran alongside me, passed me some gel shots and gave me the following words which got me over the last toughest 6, but most glorious miles of my 2013 running season. ‘The leader is walking up the hills, DO NOT WALK, run up the hills, every single hill, run up and then hammer it down, you can DO IT.’ I struggled up the last incline before the start of sisters, not wanting him to see me walking and then pulled alongside the girl in 2nd as we started the climb. ‘Come on I said, lets run these together.’ She started running, but soon dropped to a walk, the temptation to start walking too, knowing I could was so strong, but Paul’s words echoed in my mind and I dug in, deeper than I have done really this year, I really wanted that 2nd place, the competitor in me is so strong. I knew my time wasn’t going to reflect my ability, but I ran everyone of those bloody sisters; I nailed the down hills and passed 6 men over the last 5 miles. Pulling down into Eastbourne I was disappointed not to win, but in my head I knew that I didn’t deserve to win. My sister and her new husband, as a surprise, had turned up to see my finish and that made my day! My mum and dad know nothing of my running and my sisters have never seen me run  before so it was quite emotional for them to come and give me a cheer!

On reflection I could easily have DNS this race, but I am really pleased I ran. It is the first time this year I have been under pressure and really dug in on knackered legs. I really lack confidence in my ability when things get tough and I know when I am racing 8 plus hours next year that this sort of experience will be invaluable, when I thought nothing could be salvaged from my day I found that I could ask my body for more and it would respond – eventually!

Super thanks to all the supporters out there, sorry it wasn’t quite the result you were hoping for, but I wont apologise for putting myself on the line and leaving a little part of my soul out on the seven sisters-till next year dear girls.

Centurion Ultra Team and Downslink Race

I am absolutely thrilled, stunned and a little bit embarrassed to have been asked to join Centurion Ultra Team Scroll down on the web page and you can read my very lowly profile and race results. I am in the company of Great Britain’s finest ultra runners, who also happen to be great guys, have been very supportive of me since I started running longer distances and I greatly look forward to chasing them over the Downs next year!  I have a lot to live up to, but there is nothing like someone saying, ‘I believe in you’ to add an extra boost to training and racing. When you have had kids, given up your career, your sport, practically changed everything about your life, in many ways you have to find yourself all over again. I really do feel ultra running has given me back my identity, sense of purpose and joy of extreme pain again! I hope to do the team proud and will wear the yellow t shirt glowing with pride!

Last weekend I entered the  Downslink Ultra by Sussex Trail Events. Starting at St Marthas Hill, Guildford and running down a disused railway line to Shoreham By The Sea. I felt that 38 miles was a really good distance for me at the moment. My strength, and more importantly, confidence over holding a racing pace is gradually building and I could convince myself that 38 miles is closer to a marathon distance than 50 miles, so would be less painful!

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions, lovely warm Autumnal day. Most of the route is along a well walked trail, with the occasional field, road crossing, horse, small child wobbling on stabilisers or gate to break up the monotony.  I had recced the last 21 miles of the route, which at the time seemed a bit pointless, but actually has shown me how knowing where you are going makes the final stages of a long run much easier mentally and physically.

Paul Navesey (the eventual winner) and I set off leading the race and the route quickly dipped sharply down hill. I couldn’t see anything in the glaring sun, so took a more cautious approach than Paul who hared off, not to be seen again, or so I thought. I had planned to run a 7min 10-30 pace, which seemed easy to start with, but I knew post 30 miles it would be an effort. I am super competitive and the urge to run out hard and try and hold the pace, is a strategy I have tried and failed at. I had written all my splits down, with the aim to getting to 20 miles with having done the least damage to my legs. The route was simple, but with bright sun and a few intersecting paths, I kept having to stop and check I was on the Downslink route. There was no one in front or behind me, so I just kept hoping I was on the right path. After about 8 miles, Paul suddenly appeared behind me, looking rather sheepish! ‘ I went all the way  back up the hill.’ I think he snorted through a mouth of clifshots. ‘You idiot’ I replied helpfully. We trotted along for a little while together, but we were creeping into 6.30 min miles, so I forced myself to slow down and he disappeared to catch the one runner I knew was ahead.

I ticked the miles off to 21, where I had planned to meet husband and the kids. We had spent a long time planning what we would do with the kids. Its an ultra in itself, husband managing them in and out of the car, feeding them, naps, epic whining etc. So we decided we would just meet up at one point where he could refill my water and I could have a quick chat with the boys. As I went through the checkpoint, I knew the business end of the race was about to start. The trail is relentless with very little change of gradient, so I was trying to run on different sides of the path to change the camber and played, catch the cyclist, beat the horse, jump the dog, to break up the monotony. The miles from 26-30 seemed to take forever and I was growing bored of seeing the same path. I had slowed and was just about holding 7.30s, but I knew this was the hardest part and once I got into the 30 miles I would feel better both mentally and physically. I was forcing down the gels by now, hoping they would give me a little lift to the line.

Once I hit 31 miles, I started to feel strong again, I felt like I was running fast (ha ha!) and was moving smoothly. I am getting used to running with pretty mashed up legs now and yes it hurts and yes most normal people wouldn’t want to spend their Sunday afternoons putting themselves through it, but there is something so raw -like about embracing pain, working with the pain. Your senses become heightened; you know many people will never feel their bodies working like this and you realise the strength of your mental fortitude.

The finish was over a toll bridge, then a series of paved slabs, which were pretty rough on battered hamstrings. I couldn’t find the end and actually ended up heading into the car park, till husband appeared frantically waving down by the river. I was pretty shot at the end. I couldn’t even do my normal victory run in with the kids, but just wanted to sit down and be fed tea. Fortunately the race organisers had this all in their plan and I was plied with baked beans, some Drymax socks for being first female and a lovely cup of tea and massage. Paul was already looking feeble in the corner after taking the victory by ruining himself  making up for his lost time. A really impressive race for someone that ran an extra mile, though I have a sneeky suspicion, he just wanted to add in a few bonus miles to make it an even 40.

‘Job done’ were husbands congratulatory words to me. ‘I almost rang you at mile 30.’ I said, ‘I needed a lift.’ ‘Woman, you don’t need me, just get on with it and bloody finish!’ I love that part of our relationship, he knows I don’t want any praise from him, I don’t need to be mollycoddled, knowing that he believes in me and the strength of his support for me gives me more boost than I could ever put into words. Juggling the kids, work, life, training is a proper team effort.

So I was pleased with 4.47, 3rd overall and 1st female. I felt I ran strong, but that I had lots more to give, especially in the middle of the race, but its a really positive step forward to running a super competitive 50 miler. The next day was truly horrendous, I could hardly move, every time the kids stepped on my toes or touched my quads, I would leap through the roof, but I’d do it all again tomorrow. I love the pain, I love the ultra community and I love the inner sense of satisfaction I have of a ‘job done’ well.

Thanks to Sussex Trail Events for a great race,  next up some proper quad bashing at Beachy Head Marathon.