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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.

Back to school

Off to nursery-wait for me!

Back to school for me and my big boy last week. A new start for both of us and new routines to work around. I have had a ‘three year’ maternity leave with the luxury of being able to bring my babies up myself, letting the days go by, able to cater to their every whim, mood and need and now its time to head back to reality. We have struggled the last year to cover our outgoings, actually to be honest, we haven’t met our outgoings, each month getting a bit further and further into our overdraft. We have planned, budgeted, cut back as much as we can, but over the last 6 months we have had to face up that we need a little extra each month.

Youngest enjoying Farnham prizes as weapons

So, very luckily I got offered a job at the school next to us in the village and I have gone back to some very light part time teaching in the afternoons. When I last was a ‘working woman’ I had no kids, no other responsibility other than my job and my ironman training. Now, though I am still the same person, my whole outlook on life is so different. I am and always will be absolutely passionate about getting kids into sport and now I have kids myself I am even more convinced that starting them getting active early and instilling it as a habitual part of their life is big part of a parents responsibility. I read the nursery’s guide to what my just 3 year old should be able to do-stand on one leg and throw and kick a big ball. Come on, we can set more exciting physical guidelines than this and challenge our kids a bit more! I was amazed how unfit the senior school kids were, not even able to run 300m at a gentle jog, but frankly I don’t think they are to blame, who has let them sit on their butts all summer?

Anyway its so nice to be working with grown ups again and to have a few hours of teaching under my belt everyday. I remember someone in my old department who had two young children saying she loved coming into school as it was her break-pah I use to think, nothing it harder than this job, now I couldn’t agree more!

Having added another dimension into our already pretty hectic lives, I am struggling to really do anything properly, constantly forgetting things, not finishing tasks, fighting the battle of laundry,cleaning and cooking add into the mix a pretty tough running schedule and last Friday I just stood in the sitting room, chaos reigning around me and had a little weep. How do people do all this?

I hate not doing everything to the best I can be, but sometimes you just cant do everything perfectly all the time, which is a very hard lesson I am still learning. Funnily enough my husband couldn’t care less if the house is cleaned, meals are cooked, kids are clean, all he wants is us to be happy and healthy, he is the perfect balance to my constant need to be organised and in control!

I ran the Farnham marathon on Sunday as a little extra bonus training race after a disastrous 50 miler two weeks before. Lets just say about mile 33 I was hit by terrible cramps, D and V and was man down for the next 48hrs. Being sick in a nappy bag on the M25, with kids screeching in my ears demanding to see and then  at home sitting on the loo whilst at the same time puking in sons potty was up there with some momentous memories! I was disappointed as had had a good taper into the race and was feeling good and steady, but hey ho. So I decided to run Farnham two weeks later as a little extra present for myself. Once fit and healthy I got straight back into training and smashed out some good sessions. I had no real taper leading into the race and felt okish till mile 20 when after a v steep climb and then descent, my poor hamstrings which had been whining all race just gave up on me. I presumed I was well in the lead as hadn’t seen another woman all race and on one long stretch looked back and didn’t see a soul. So I eased down and jogged in at 8 min mile pace, only for a woman to come flying past me at mile 23! I went with her, but the minute we hit another incline the pain in my hammys was so much I just eased off. This wasn’t my race to fight, I wanted to back in training again by Weds or Thurs so I let her go. My inner competitive demon was screaming, but just like the week I had had, I knew that if I went after her I would be wiped out at the finish (as it was I could hardly walk anyway!). You cant win them all, I cant expect to be flying around every race and carry on my current  training load. Just like my work home balance, I have to be prepared to make the balance in order to make the long term goals.
I am trying to be realistic with what I can do right now in both life and running. Always, always my kids and husband come first, I am so lucky that my husband is so supportive with what I do and in return I have to lead by example to my kids, be an active, happy and well organised mum not a crying, exhausted wreck. I haven’t quite got the balance right yet, but I’m getting there! Next up Downslink ultra and I’m prepared to give it everything Ive got.

Running with the boys – Salisbury 50km

I had this race on my, maybe if I can fit it in, race calendar. It is run by the Salisbury Fire Station and there are the options of doing 10,20,30,42 or 50km, its called the 54321 because you go over 5 rivers: Avon, Bourne, Ebble, Nadder and Wylye.  Climb 4 hills: Old Sarum, King Manor, Clearbury Hill Fort and Salisbury Race Course. Visit 3 Country Estates: Clarendon, Longford and Wilton. See 2 Castles: Old Sarum and Longford (oops missed these) and 1 Cathedral.

I didn’t really want to taper into the race, but have learnt that you have to respect the distance and even as a ‘training’ race you cant go in with completely smashed legs as otherwise you ll end up doing more damage than good and having a pretty miserable time- as I have learnt! So I did one hard session leading up to it this week and the rest pretty steady and easy miles so legs were tired, but still able to bend-always a bonus!

Up at 5.30am to get things ready before the kids were awake and make the designated number of ‘jammy sandwiches’ which are an essential part of an under 2s race day nutrition! My eldest wakes up so excited on race day morning, he loves getting in the car in his PJ’s and getting stuck into aforementioned jammy sandwiches, in fact incorrect calculations meant all sandwiches were eaten before we had even left the driveway!

Easy registration and then back to the car to get the kids dressed and clear up mess of jammy sandwiches. It was pouring with rain so I decided not to treat Wiltshire to my crop top, but a good old vest which makes carrying gels a bit easier. I wasn’t sure about the aid stations, but took the risk that I could manage with enough water from these and carrying my gels. The kids start to get a bit fractious when they realise Mum is actually running away from then, so hubby took them off to the swings, so I could stand around posing/strecthing for a few minutes before the gun. I love having the kids at the races, but it is sometimes so hard to even get a number on my vest when they are both vying to be carried or fed. Hubby and I have already decided for my key races next year to enlist the help of grandmas and grandads as its exhausting for him too trying to crew for me and cart them around the county.

I didn’t bother with a warm up as thought 50km was long enough to get into my groove, but positioned myself at the front of the race so i would know where I was in the field in the first few miles. The lead men set off at a cracking pace. My flipping garmin has finally given up the ghost so I had no idea of pace or distance, but wasn’t that bothered till the last few miles when I had no idea how far to go and was starting to lose the will a little bit. As we went through the first mile I asked the chap I was running next to our split, 6,05 he said, oops a bit fast, but I felt fine and thought a bit of adrenaline can count for that speed. I could see the lead man and bike about 50m ahead, with a couple of guys in between and I just let them do their own thing and tried to relax into the run.

I had two aims for this race one was to run my own race, not to worry about what others were doing and my other was to remain positive throughout. I really struggle with negative self talk, so I had two rules. My pace and only my pace was I to run and if the monkey got on my shoulder and started bleating my ear, I was to give him a good rattle then put him back in his cage.

Eldest suitably impressed with mums achievement

We did a 5mile loop before joining the marathon runners onto a 26 mile circular loop around the south of Salisbury. It was a beautiful trail with a few really challenging climbs, some rough downhills which I was hopeless on and lots of trails and tracks. I tried to stick to a good honest hard pace, not enough that I was blowing, but enough that I was having to concentrate. I felt really strong up the hills and was pegging back the lead men every time we had a long climb. I went through 10 miles in 1.06ish which I felt was perhaps a tad fast, but I felt good. The temptation to crack on and take the overall lead of the race was calling to my competitive spirit, but I knew once I had done that you instantly become the hunted and mentally the race takes a new dimension. So I let the two men ahead of me fight it out and just bided my time.

After about 8 miles the lead marathon woman ploughed past me going at quite a speed. I let her go, but after a mile or so pegged her back and then we ran together for almost 8 miles. She was cracking along and I was working hard to keep up, but it felt so good to actually be ‘racing’ an ultra rather than just surviving. We had 2 long climbs before the turn for home over the last 8 miles. On the first she strode away from me, but on the second I felt good, maybe more confident in my ability as the race progressed. At the top I pushed on along the ridge and was left to run the last hour on my own. I knew there were still two men ahead, so I put my music on and put my head down to ‘work’ all the way home. It was a lovely long downhill stretch and then a long pull into Salisbury around the back roads. Unfortunately either all the markers had been removed or it was presumed people would know the way, but I didn’t have a clue where to go. Fortunately the 2nd place marathon man came alongside me and I followed him through the back streets, desperately trying to keep up and not lose sight of my route to the finish! As we approached about 3 miles to go I overtook the 2nd place ultra male runner , sad that he was struggling in the closing stages, but elated that I was going to finish 2nd overall. I estimated that I went through the marathon in about 3.08 and thought a 3.45 finish was a good result, but the final two miles through the centre of Salisbury on crammed streets with little direction meant I lost a bit of time. But I wasn’t bothered, I was so happy to have run so strong up to them, to have stayed positive and to see the effects of all my long hard lonely training coming to fruition.

A cup the size of a toddler from a fireman what more could a girl ask for?!

And  it was all over, apart from the then 2.5hrs to wait for the prize giving, when they put my result down in the marathon times and the nice lady questioned whether I really could have beaten all those men?! Nice lady take a look at my thighs!!

Hubby and the kids did me proud on what was a rather dull day for them. The sugar high inside the fire station after being fed a dubious number of cup cakes was something to behold and when we finally got home they (the kids, not hubby)  insisted we set up a check point which they kept running past shouting ‘gels’  and ‘water’ and I got repeatably told off if I didnt clap or cheer loud enough! Now where have they learnt that from?

The Fish and Chips Ultra

Another good block of training culminating in a day out running from our village to the sea…a trip of just under 50 miles along the Vanguard Way.

Busy few weeks juggling husband away and trying to keep my mileage and key sessions ticking over. Various degrees of success! A ‘fun’ run over at Bewl 15 was rather harder work than I envisaged, I didn’t taper, but carried on with my key sessions and just cutting the volume back on my easier runs. 8 x 800 on 2.40 is an impressive session, but you are still going to feel that 3 days later! It was a hot day and I got round, not pretty, but a good hard run out. The week after I joined the LDWA for a ’26’ mile route. I love these events, they are low key, cheap, great check points and with the added challenge of reading route descriptions. It was another blisteringly hot day and with over 4,400ft of climbing in the first 21 miles a hard route. 28 miles in total, with two fab new friends to boot who we chatted and laughed all the way round and I enjoyed beasting them up the hills…got to love running.
Then last weekend the highlight of my running post baby my villages very own ultra. Amazingly within spitting distance of my house are a number of fellow ultra runners, one of which suggested we found a mutually suitably weekend, a route map, a bag (truck) of snacks and headed off to run to the sea.

The ‘Fish and Chip’ ultra crew

I was game as though I don’t often do 48 miles as a training run, i knew i had a week of enforced rest after, so now was as good as ever to spend some time on my feet. I also knew this was a social run so would give me lots of experience of not sitting down all day (like I need that), eating on the move and just enjoying running for the sake of it rather than my session satisfaction being constantly dictated by my garmin. I also thought it was really cool to be able to say ‘Oh yes, we went to the sea yesterday…quite a long way’ at playgroup on Monday morning.

No sign of Tigger

Brandon aka Team Leader rallied the troops and we set off at 7am, with various people joining in, dropping out along the way. The first part took us along favoured club routes and we then headed towards Ashdown Forest and the Pooh Bear Tree!

To the horizon!

It was quite hilly over the first 20 miles or so and some of us cracked on up the climbs and others took their time. There was no pressure to do either and it was so lovely and refreshing to run just for the joy of running and with a group of such easy going runners. Part of this was down to Team Leader who is a very experienced long distance runner, but has bags of patience and time for those still new to the sport. He was great company over the latter stage of the day when we both started to get weary and my chaffing moans became a permanent feature of our conversation!

don’t leave us!

Lunchtime came and went saying good bye to all our company, some had other things to do and some wanted to slow down a little. What was great was everyone wanted to go further and many keen to do it again next year and make it the whole way. Its amazing how a personal challenge sparks people enthusiasm, no need for expensive entry fees and promises of medals and prizes, but just an adventure with buddies. There is not enough of this in the world!

Team Leader and I cracked on for the next couple of hours through what was probably the easiest running of the day, but the most map intensive, but just when we thought we might need a head torch the South Downs appeared on the horizon and along with it Sue and Chris who had offered to run the last 8 miles with us and very kindly let us sit on their chairs at the beach hut! It was great to meet some ‘fresh legs’ and to find out the cricket and tour news! We ran the most beautiful section of the route under blistering sun and along some of the Beachy Head Marathon route. I ran hard up the hills knowing that if I could do that post 45 miles on the day in October  there is no excuses!
And then Bliss! The sea appeared and we were almost there..well not quite we still had 5 miles to go, but you cant complain when running next to blue seas, so I pushed on and enjoyed the view and satisfaction of such a great day out.
Team Leader and I, note awkard stance due to chaffing…Fearless Team Leader as ever, fresh and ready for anything

We were very well looked after at the finish and were ‘forced’ to eat fish and chips, flapjacks, tea and recline on sunbeds. It was such an enjoyable day and so nice to have a complete day ‘off’ from the kids. My adventures these days tend to be the soft play and sticks in the stream variety so I really enjoyed the satisfaction of another personal challenge. No medal, no time, no record, just running with friends, just how I like it.

Me rocking the beach hut look..

No Junk in the Trunk

Sitting down to write this blog is almost impossible, actually opening my laptop takes such an effort and when I finally sit down at night the only things I have any energy for is the TV remote and the odd grunt for tea to my husband.

The kids are now 1 and 2 and keeping me busy from dawn to dusk. Both my kids and I have two gears in life; 5 and reverse. From about 5.30am its go, go, go as breakfast, milk and lets play garages are shouted in no particular order till 7pm when kids bedroom doors are shut and I handover parental duties to husband,  sprinting out of the door to do my run session. The effort this sometimes takes is much harder than the actual run. I am absolutely shattered from a day of kids, cooking, cleaning, tantrums, the endless patience and normally have between 6-10 miles to cover before I can feed myself and collapse on the sofa. However its sitting on our door step, putting on my trainers, feeling weak when I remind myself- this is frigging hard, you don’t want to go, you want to lie on the floor and rock back and forth; this is what makes you strong, this is how you are going to achieve your dreams, get your fat butt out the door and start moving! I always, always feel better and am positive I am a 100% better mum for being fit and healthy.

Following some really good advice on my training I am now much more focused on making every session and every step count. I think I ran myself into a bit of a hole, from January to April I was running high mileage, with big weekend runs plus still feeding the baby. Everything was really aching all the time and I was running with more and more niggles. I had some good results at local races, but felt like I couldn’t maintain this without ending up injured and mentally burnt out. I was also rocking up to races not really excited about running a long way as it was all I doing!

So I have now binned these long long runs for a while and am now spending the next few months on quality runs. I love a good smashfest/darvada breathing session (one nice volunteer at an aid station this weekend commented on how she had my drink ready as she could hear me coming!) and am enjoying 2-3 weekly track, tempo or hill runs. I am understanding this aren’t necessarily going to make me that much faster, but they are going to make me stronger. I know I can run a really decent 30 miles its the next part that I am now concentrating on and funnily enough by running shorter and harder I know the strength both mentally and physically will come.

The thighs in action!

I had a brilliant and eye opening time last week attending a 3hrs endurance session with Robbie Britton ( and Rebecca Cox ( over Box Hill. The session not only fuelled my passion for the sport, but also reinforced my new found understanding that you need to be strong to run ultras (Coxy forced us to look at Robbie’s thighs to determine this fact). We competed a number of eye watering squats,burpees and up hill sprints to rip our muscles up nicely before running up and down a hill for half an hour…I love a good burpee myself and loved meeting Coxy who is passionate about women and the role sport plays in their lives. We also talked about how important it was to maintain functional strength in muscles and how you can gain this through running without adding another set of strength and conditioning sessions to an already max out training plan. We had a nice 8 mile jog  after the hills reps where I got to chat to Robbie about how he stays positive during his epic long runs, a lot of it seemed to do with talking his opponents into submission (not much of that this week as he smashed the SDW 100 from start to finish).
 What a pair of role models, its great to meet people so passionate about their sport and so willing to give up their time to share.  Robbie is all about making ultras easy and he talked about how much hill running he does in everyday training and how….well I wont tell you anymore of his secrets, you’ll have to attend the next session and find out for yourself!

Ill take the lighter one!

I am looking forward to another couple of weeks of solid training before I have a little taper to take on Bewl 15, there is prize money for breaking the course record and I really need a new running t shirt. Then its another few weeks before Salisbury 50km, Sussex Ultra and Beachy Head marathon in October to hopefully add to my trio of wins over bloody hilly marathons.
It feels so good to be into the swing of life once more and with the prospect of a small part time job and kids getting slightly easier life is happy and running whatever the speed is great.

Sometimes it takes more than one journey to reach your goal

My blog has been neglected somewhat of late. I have written a number of posts, but never published them as on re- reading they sounded so depressing and boring I couldnt inflict that on my huge readership! In short they went……I am tired, will this baby ever sleep, I am running a long way this weekend, will this baby every stop feeding, I am tired and basically repeat. However I feel I have something slightly more interesting to write about and as baby no2’s first birthday is approaching I finally feel I am ready to open up my laptop and reembrace life.

We have had a busy year both running and life wise, moving house, out of London to a village chosen randomly on a map becuase it had a nice cafe and walkable station in. Seemed a crazy idea, however it has proven to be a real success.I am so happy to be in our home, with a garden and surrounded by incredible coutrnyside. There is  fabulous running club in the village which I have been welcomed into and now have a ready made bunch of running buddies, plus races every week on my doorstep and lots of local knowledge of good routes and ultra runs.

I had initally entered a couple of 50 milers and 100 mile runs this year, but I had underestimated how much energy I would need to look after two children under two, with one waking sometimes up to five times a night wanting feeding. I wont lie it very nearly broke my spirit a number of times, endless, just as your head hits the pillow wake ups, baby only settling with mum plus trying to be lively and entertaining to the toddler and run 60+miles a week.

I withdrew from the 100 mile races as I just couldnt see how I would manage to fit in anymore training  in and whether I would ever manage a night away from the baby. So, perhaps foolishly in some cases I have trawled around the south racing a number of ultras, marathons and 10kms.

I completed the country to capital 45 mile just ‘jogging’ as a test run to see how I went and perhaps this was a little false knowledge as three weeks later I attempted to race the Thames trot 50 and blew up spectacularly at 35 miles (it was diverted to roads and three weeks between these two ultras was too close for my post natal, weak, flabby body…we live and learn and I just like to make my mistakes after 5 hrs of running). Not to be deterred a few weeks later I had a lovely long 33 mile run around Leatherhead with some members of the LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) who gave me lots of tips and encouragement and I felt slightly more convinced that I had a future in ultra running. Next up in March was the Steyning Stinger marathon which is up and over the South Downs four times….hard work, blew up on the last hill, but pleased with 1st place and a 3.35 considering I walked a lot in the last 5 miles. Another LDWA event at the end of March the ‘Sevenoaks Circular’ which was 33 miles in the freezing cold, knee deep mud and bitter wind, but the checkpoints stuffed with cakes and flapjacks kept me going and I was pleased to come in 1st especially having followed a route description all the way. A little trail 10km for my club in April blew out a few cobwebs and I finished 2nd lady in just over 38mins which wasnt too shabby considering I do very little speed work.

But the elusive 50 miles that I really wanted to do was still haunting me….when I got a last minute entry to the South Down Way 50. I convinced husband this was a good idea, he could drop me off, I could even get the train home, no one would notice I was gone for the day….at the start James of the amazing Centurion Running warned the weather was closing in, it will be fine I thought I can take a bit or rain! 25 miles in I was a shivering, cold, wet rag of a woman. The rain and wind were so strong I couldn t even see my hand in front of my face.  I had got cold and instead of getting my coat on and prepping food etc before the weather came in I carried on, so by the time it started raining everything was so wet and I was so cold I couldnt even do my coat up. I lost mental focus completely, stopped eating properly and allowed the monkey to take a good hold of chain and rattle and rattle it till I was convinced I couldnt finish. Having dropped off the downs at mile 33, well in the lead and still running ok I called Bryn and wept down the phone; I was hating this, why was I doing this, I was tired really more mentally than physically, I was scared of hurting myself and getting hyperthermic on the downs with noone to help with the kids. A wonderful marshall chatted to me and found husband. He gave me a bit of advice I will never forget…I got in the car huddled under towels and sulked for 24hrs In someways this was the best crashing mistake I could have made. Husband and I chatted through what I had being trying to do, too much, with too little rest, not enough preparation both physcially, but more importantly mentally. He banned me from doing anymore ultras till 1) the baby was sleeping 2) we focused on just one or two races with someone to look after the kids 3) I got some proper rest and training in.

It has been  a huge shock to me how much I have changed mentally as an athlete since having kids. Most of my athletic talent has always been the ability to hurt myself for prolonged periods…medical tents were there to be used in my opinion, now finish lines are not for lying down, but where the kids are reunited with their mum, they want attention, they want to tell me about the massive poo in the bush they have just done and can we go to the swings noooooow! However I still have this burning desire to use this athletic ability, I want to win races, break records and be the best I can be. Its part of who I am and what I want my kids to believe in as they grow up.

I had entered the Three Forts Challenge last weekend a few months ago, I was nervous to mention it to husband due to my recent escapades, but with no other race entries till October I was keen to have another crack over those South Downs and bury a few demons…it was only 27miles, just a short run really! He agreed to let me do it on the understanding I ‘enjoyed’ it and didnt run myself into the ground (ha ha there was 3450ft of climbing!).

 The day was hot, over much of the SDW 50 a few weeks before and I ran because I love to run.  I ran because its what I do, its what I am good at. Its where there is no one but me to answer to, no where to hide , no whinging kids, no meals to cook, no tears, but mine to wipe. Up in the hills is when I feel like the old me; the athlete, the competitor. My body moving like it used to move and my breathing strong, but controlled. It was a great course and I was pleased to run much of it just behind my new ultra buddy Luke Ashton who I seem to bump into at every race! I concentrated on better feeding, running strong down the hills and staying mentally positive throughout. I ran strong, but didnt push myself over the edge, this wasnt the time or place. I was rewarded with two very large blisters, a first place and course record.

You can just see my eldest running up the South Downs to cheer Mum on!

Its taken me almost a year to finally feel a peace with the athlete I am now and what I can do in the future. I have survived having two children, I have survived sleep deprivation, I have fed them both till I have nothing left to give, I have watched as my husband and I have learnt how to be parents and how our lives must now mould to fit our children. I finally feel I can use this to draw on and let them be my future, I dont need to just be their mother, I can be someone they can be proud of and aspire to be like. I have some exciting ideas for one more big race this year and then a proper crack at a couple of ultras next year. I am proud of what I have achieved so far this year, both the races I have won, but also the ones I have struggled in. No one, as much as I hate to admit to myself, is perfect and learning to cope with these imperfections is how we become stronger. My family have taught me that they love me whatever and I couldnt be prouder of the boys my babies are growing into or the job my husband does as a father. Now to make them proud of me..both up in the hills and down at home as mum.

The Power of Two

I haven’t blogged in a long time… I have written quite a few, but none I felt were publishable as they were so unbelievably dull or so unbelievably morose. People didn’t need to hear me moaning about my lack of sleep, crying children, lack of waist, fat ankles etc etc.

However life is beginning to slightly resemble normality again now..nearly 6 months after our second little boy was welcomed into the world. My labour was yet again a textbook example of how not to give birth. I read books, I went to classes, I met midwives, but still I had another disastrous time which left my body battered, scarred and both of us mentally traumatised. As I lay on the operating table loosing nearly all my blood, my beloved husband sitting beside me, holding my new baby who was just staring quietly at me with the biggest blue eyes. I stared right back, holding onto my life because nothing was going to stop me seeing this little man growing up.

So after a prolonged and rather painful stay in hospital I was eventually released by weeping at the nurses station whilst holding on to my husbands arm saying ‘I am not letting him go, till I can go too!’ The after care was really appalling and left me very tired and drained before I even got home.

Life with two under two has been hard hard work. Much harder than I had ever envisaged. Having an enormous baby who is off the scale in weight has been challenging to feed and into the mix the most active and high maintenance toddler in London has left me weeping some days as I try to do the best by both of them and fail miserably! However here we are, we have all survived, limbs intact (that’s always my main aim of the day), smiles/grimaces on our faces and I have just started weaning baby. Toddler is now talking and slightly less fearful of every old granny we meet so life is getting easier every day.

First ‘8 miler’ back-almost killed me!

My saving grace in all of this mayhem has been as ever my running. Split abdominals has meant hours of boring exercises and though my stomach still looks like my Granny’s  at least the muscles are now working again and my back is supported. This meant very little running till a few months ago. This did my head in and I felt physically and mentally depressed when I couldn’t get my exercise fix in everyday. I was aiming to do an ultra at the end of November, but am still feeding the baby round the clock, haven’t got enough long runs in and to be really truthful don’t feel able to commit to something which means leaving the baby for more than a couple of hours yet.

Someone else loves to run too

So I have slowly ramped up my mileage, man alive the first 4 weeks hurt. I couldn’t even run round a corner without pain and 3 miles seemed like a lifetime. But having small children has taught me patience (well as much as I will ever have) and I have taken it really easy both on my body and on my mind. Desperate to hammer out the miles and feeling guilty if I miss a run because husband is late home or a baby is clingy, I now feel much more relaxed about my training and try to look at the overall week rather than every day individually. I set myself a mileage target to do each week and if I meet it good on me, if not I just try again next week. The great thing about ultra training is that the slower I run the better so early morning or evening plods are all good parts of the jigsaw.

I have my first ‘race’ middle of January, hopefully by then baby will be on solids and I will have got in a couple of 30 milers really more for my confidence than anything else. Its amazing how having children and all their unpredictability can totally knock your own self esteem and belief in your self. This is what running and training is slowly giving back to me over the past few months. A belief that my body can do amazing things again, a feeling of freedom and power as I move silently through the early morning mist and most of all the spring in my step again as I turn the corner to home, my boys and my life as an ultra mum.

I’m desperate

I’m desperate

I’m desperate to see my feet again

To move without grunting

To wear clothes without elasticated waist bands apart from my cycling shorts

To not be ashamed when I look in the mirror

To feel the wind in my hair as I move faster than a shuffle

To have some time with just me, not carrying a baby either on the hip or in the belly

To feel the first painful shudders of contractions signally my baby is coming..

To feel that great sense of achievement after a day of hard training

To bring  a new baby safely into the world and into the womb of our family

To make my husband proud by labouring with courage and the most determination I can conjure

To start life as a family of four

It is always worth every second….!

To show my children what they can achieve in their life when they put their mind, body and soul into something

To enjoy every last second of being with my one baby who I love more and more everyday
To not complain, as I have friends who have lost babies, cant have babies ever or desperate for babies and I know how lucky we are to be such a happy and blessed family

Lunchtime madness

I have just spent half an hour clearing up lunch, no lunch was actually eaten (well not by toddler, I of course didnt miss a morsel!). He was in a mood from the moment we went from car to pram, from pram to shop, to shop to car and back home. Queues in the bank and then me dropping milk all over Waitrose floor (thank goodness it was Waitrose, the staff practically clean you up too) meant we were on time faults and so no play park or run around. I rarely take him anyway in the pram now as he loves walking so much, but it is such an effort and today I just didnt have the energy to go up every single step and shut every single gate. Lunch was therefore a screaming fest, everything rejected, everything thrown. I grit my teeth as I see my clothes, my floor, sofa get covered knowing that losing it will do nothing but increase the rage. Its so frustrating for him and me, words are coming, but they are his own little language at the moment and I cant work out what he wants. I try, I really do to be patient and understanding, but sometimes I just want to howl with frustration myself, this is my life, this endless coping with tantrums, screaming and mess. Sometimes I lie down on the floor myself and howl, other times I just let silent tears drip as I cant do anything right and am trying so hard. And then I get a smile, or a kiss given without asking,  a new word or delight in a new found game. And my world is sunshine again, life is good, I love being a Mum, oh and arent I the best Mum? Look how happy and wonderful my toddler is, struggling? Not me!

All my years in sport and coping with racing and training high and lows are nothing compared to a day with a toddler. The only comparison I can make is to riding up hills on my bike. A friend once said to me, just remember no hill can go on forever….so I used to repeat that as I grinded up some particular favourites and I remember that again now….none of this will  last forever and what seems like uphill, soon turns to downhill, free wheeling, with the wind in your face, feeling refreshed, revived, you forget about the pain, you are ready to face another hill, another grind….it wont last forever and you’ll almost miss it when its done.