Wednesday, 1 March 2017

"Rocky Mountain Way Is better than the way we had"

So, the most important news in July 2016 is....
The appearance of Grandson Ethan, which transcends anything else.

I'm in love again 💓

Hazel had a pretty rough time, but thankfully nothing too serious and Ethan made his appearance on the very first day of the month.
So now I am a running Grandma! The start of a new chapter in all our lives.

Despite the excitement and the distraction of the lovely Ethan I manage to fit in an 18 mile run (felt like another ultra though I must say) and the following week ran part of the Invader Half route, running out to meet Jenny partway and run back with her to the finish. Took the dogs too. It was very very hot.

The Snowdonia Trail marathon loomed ahead at the end of the month. I was running this with my friend Lesley (well I say 'with' but as she is much faster than me perhaps its more accurate to say I was 'attending' with Lesley!)
We travelled to Wales on the day before, and stayed not far away at a hotel in Caernarfon, overlooking Anglesey. It was windy and cold when we collected our numbers and we had been warned beforehand if the weather was bad we would have to bring full body cover as part of the minimum kit. This was confirmed when we picked up our numbers - waterproof jacket and trousers both required.
This meant that I would have to wear my only just newly broken in Salomon vest as the waist pack I had also brought in wouldn't fit everything in. Decision made!

Next day we got to the start and took nervous pre-race photos!

Countdown by the RD - then we were off - obviously I soon lost track of Lesley as she forged ahead. 
The first couple of km were on tarmac as we wended our way through the streets of Llanberis, then hit the trails through a caravan park and onto the hills, hitting nearly 500m of elevation in the first 5km before heading down again and meeting the Snowdon Ranger path. As we zig-zagged down towards the road you could pick up quite a bit of speed! 
There followed a short road section then back onto the trails at Rhyd Dhu, and a relatively 'flat'-ish section till we reached Beddgelert

the comparatively flatter section continued to just over halfway (some technical difficult to run bits though, given the mud and rocks) 

then after crossing the road again we entered into a very muddy and slippy section through woodland before hitting gravel paths again at around 28km 

Then the real elevation started. A couple of km of what felt like straight up before the cut off at the bottom of the Pyg track at the base of Snowdon. I reached this point with time to spare but had to get someone to help me refill my bottles as my hands were really not working! 

If you've not been up the Pyg Track before let me tell you its not like just climbing a hill - there are large boulders to get up and over and much scrambling required. Someone offered to take my picture at halfway up, you might not be able to tell but it was very cold and damp. 

I was very glad to reach the 'zig-zags' as to me they signalled the approach to the highest point we would have to reach - we didn't quite go to the top but at the gap in the ridge where the Pyg track meets the Llanberis path we would start to descend. Not having walked the Llanberis path before (as I had the Pyg track) I did not know what to expect.
5km of non-stop down was not what I had in mind! But I did take a little quiet pleasure in going past some runners that had gone past me on the way up.
On leaving the trail the descending did not let up, but just became downwards tarmac for another km before what you would think was a little bit of respite running down through a wood. However the ground was so muddy and slippy it was difficult with tired legs to make fast headway.
More tarmac plus a confusing loop round a little castle, then heading away from the finish area, then turning back to cross the river before the stagger to the finish making a total of 44km in 7 hours 48 minutes, with a total elevation of over 1600m, making this possibly the toughest race I have done to date!

Lesley had predictably finished way before me in just over 6 hours and was waiting to cheer me over the line. Sadly I didn't even get a medal as they had run out! (they did promise to post them to us though)
The stagger back to the car felt almost as hard as the race itself, and as I struggled to get changed in the car park (how many of us have done that before?) I reflected that this might take a little while to recover from...

Eventually when the medal arrived it was a little bit of an anticlimax! - I'm sure it ought to have been bigger for all that effort....

and so onto August which brings a new distance (not what you'd expect though!)
and lots of laps.....

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

To DNF or not DNF, that is the question..

After a final short jog, June 2016 sees us off to Coniston in the Lake District in order for me to take part in the Coniston Trail Marathon organised by Lakeland Trails. This is a place I won from Trail Running Magazine. We had decided that in lieu of any other holiday this year we would make the most of the trip and have a weeks holiday in the area too. I have found a tiny but lovely cottage at Sunny Bank about 5 mins walk from the shores of Coniston Water. With access to canoes so it should be a good week.
The Coniston Marathon has a cut off time of 6 hours so I am hoping I am up to it. When I applied for the place I had not realised that there was an earlier start option with a cut off of 8 hours and I perhaps should have applied for that instead. There are also checkpoints along the way
We get to our cottage in the end and the next day go down to collect my number and also a strange velcro on race chip that has to go on your ankle. It looks like it could be a warm one according to the weather forecast.

The following day is race day and I am up early to get ready. We dont have far to go though just about a 20 min drive along towards the town of Coniston where the race HQ is situated.
Its very hot. At 9am everyone is alternating between standing in the shade and paddling in the lake!
The start was delayed by about 15 mins due to an issue on the course but eventually we are off. The race heads towards the town and soon it looks like I should have taken the earlier race start after all as I am quickly near the back. Still I'm thinking someone has to be so I try not to let it bother me and I do manage to overtake a couple of people in the first 3 miles.
After that though comes a really big uphill and there is more road than I like. Then comes the first checkpoint and I am astounded when I am told I cant carry on as I am outside the cut off. By my watch I am still under it by around 10-12 mins, so i am a bit indignant but I realise perhaps they did not know the start had been delayed, and sure enough they don't (which tells me that the race communication is not the best!) but they are not sure whether to take my word for it or not so I am glad when someone else comes along to back me up. Still the Marshall decides he's going to warn me that I am 'still very close to it' and I should 'get a move on'. This annoys me as I am well aware of the time, and how does he know that I am not suddenly going to go a bit faster (I'm not of course but he doesn't know what my race strategy is). I feel like if i am inside the cut off even by a minute they should just leave me to it and if I am outside then fair enough I get stopped?

Anyway I keep going but its getting hotter and hotter and I'm feeling a bit pressured.
Why didn't i realise there was an earlier start option? What an idiot!
At around 7 or 8 miles approaching the loop of Tarn Hows (a local beauty spot with walks around a small lake) I'm starting to feel a little odd. I haven't felt like this when running before.
I feel a little dizzy, and breathless and feel like my heart rate is a bit fast.
I slow down and try a walk. I feel a little better and so carry on but this keeps happening. It must be the heat I think but am not sure what to do about it apart from dip my hat in the cold water and put it back on. I keep going. Maybe I need more sustenance I think and try to take on a gel but my stomach is having none of it and I throw up.
I think "that's not good" but I am not sure what to do about it apart from keep going.
Of course the more experienced of you will have realised that I am probably suffering from what i now know to be heat exhaustion, but not having experienced it before I didn't realise.
I had a vague idea that I am being affected by the heat in some way but can't seem to grasp the seriousness of it despite the fact that I have no energy left by now.
Eventually at around 15 miles I am just walking and looking behind me I glimpse the sweeper in the distance. I am on a white stony forestry commission type track and on a hill above Coniston water. The sun is refecting off the surface and the track seems to be never ending.
At some point in the next mile my befuddled brain has managed to alert me to the fact that something is seriously wrong and I know I need to stop. I decide just to keep walking until the sweeper catches me and then pull out as I know I am not going to be able to finish.

As she draws level with me at about 17 miles I explain all that has happened. She agrees that it is the heat and tells me not to feel bad about it, she had completed several ultras and once had to pull out of a 10k because she felt the same way!
She tells me that it will only get worse if not dealt with and that although it's always a difficult decision I had done the right thing deciding to stop. I had also ran out of water having had a raging thirst so she kindly gives me some of hers
Unfortunately, she tells me that we have another mile to go before any sort of side path leading off of the the hill towards the road at the bottom. But I would have to make it down the hill on my own. Or I can keep walking until the next aid station about 3 miles away with her, and pull out there, although unbelievably I am told there will be no one to take me back to the finish on the other side of the lake where Kev is waiting. So basically I have to try and organise Kev to come and pick me up myself.
I was not in a state of mind to argue but after the event I was not happy that there appeared to be no medical cover for this kind of thing, or perhaps it was not considered to be serious enough but in hindsight I thought it bad that I was just left to it?
Anyway 1 mile v 3 miles, I pick the former and hope that once I am off the main track the tree cover I will descend into will make me feel better. I also hand the sweeper my chip so that they can count me out of the race without us having to go back to race HQ
At some point I have phoned Kev and told him of the situation and although I cant really remember the conversation he tells me I have never sounded so bad! I try to explain where i am and what point i am likely to appear on the roadside

Unbeknown to me he now has to get out of the car park, the road to which the organisers have seen fit to make one way (in only) until a certain time of day. SO Kevin being Kevin he just ignores this and drives out anyway!
SO I do the 'walk of shame' down the hill path towards the road and eventually cross it to sit on a stone in a prominent place to await pick up
I don't have too long to wait but the cool shade is making me feel a little better and so once Kev arrives I am a little more coherent, and more importantly he has brought me cold ginger beer!
Never has ginger beer tasted more like the elixir of life than on that day.
We drive back to the cottage. I am ridiculously exhausted.
I didnt realise until afterward what I had been experiencing
So that was my first DNF. Not a spectacular DNF but more a long slow downward spiral.
What did I learn from it?
Well how it feels to have heat exhaustion for a start. Very useful to know.
How sometimes its OK to pull out of a race and you shouldnt always keep pushing on.

Dont overestimate your ability and if theres an option with a longer cut off, take it!

Obviously I didnt really enjoy the race because of how I was feeling, but that aside, I'm not sure If Id like to go back and try it again. There was more tarmac than I like on a race (not as much as the Salisbury 54321 but still a fair bit!). The event was billed as 'the most picturesque marathon in the UK' but to be honest I've done more picturesque ones.
From the emails i was sent It appears that Lakeland Trails is run by VOTWO which would explain the obsession with chivvying people along and the lack of support for anyone dropping out. (I'm sure they have their good points, but my own experience with them as a race event company has not been very good).

We do have a nice rest of the week doing some walks around the local countryside and canoeing on the lake, but it actually takes me a couple of days to feel really normal again.

The following week was Jenny's 50th parkrun which is at Poole.
The week after I decide that I am going to cycle the round the harbour route again to fill in the gaps in the video. Unfortunately it ends up raining a lot of it and I got completely soaked!
I ended up with usable footage however but the video looks a little bizarre as it swaps back and forth between rain and bright sunshine!

And so we come to the last weekend in June and the Giants Head Marathon starting at Sydling St Nicholas with Neil & Dave again. This is important to me to finish following the DNF as I need to know I can still do a marathon! This might sound odd but I had never DNF'd before and It had knocked my confidence a little. We are also on tenterhooks as my first grandchild is due any minute and Hazel is under strict instructions to keep legs crossed until at least after the marathon!
As it happens I shouldn't have worried as I ended up finishing in my fastest ever time I had done this race in 6 hours 20, and managed a lighthearted sprint finish with Dave! Poor Neil however had tweaked his knee with a couple of miles to spare and so had decided to walk the rest of the route in order not to make it worse.

Luckily the imminent grandson didn't put in an appearance and so we leave the month on a cliffhanger, waiting for the phone call....

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Here we go gathering Medals in May

So, when the subject of doing the Ox Ultra (36 miles) came up between myself and Neil, we were just thinking about completing the Ox medal set before the designs changed. It was also mentioned that, you know, it was 'only' 5 or 6 miles longer than our first Ultra, the RTTS 50k, so not a huge leap.....
I'm sure we made that mistake before RTTS, not realising the effect that the previous 26 miles would have before those last few!

Still the month of May 2016 started out with 4 of us Rebel Scum trying out the mainly trail section of a round the harbour run route which I hoped would one day be turned into an event. It turned out to be a tad longer than Jenny thought at 16 miles but she battled on towards the end, going into 'dont stop me' mode as we approached the Studland Ferry. The concensus was that it was a very nice route. 

I got back to a bit more cycling and also managed a kind of parkrun PB, well a course PB anyway, the fastest I had ever run the Moors Valley event. 

The week before the Ox Ultra me and Jenny decided to cycle the entire round the harbour route and we had a lovely sunny day to do so in. This would be the longest cycle I had ever done at 28 miles!
Now Jenny can do this sort of cycle mileage in her sleep, but I could really feel it towards the end :-)
I had decided to film the route so as to make a little video but unfortunately when I looked at the footage I realised there had been a little problem. Unbeknown to me the Ricoh camera I was using which was Kev's only filmed around 20 minutes at a time, after which it stopped recording and you would have to re-start it for another 20 mins. As i didnt know this, we had a little problem. I think that I managed to record a fair bit just by the fact that I happened to turn it off and on again in less than 20 mins segments for a while, but then of course after a longer section it turned off and then when we stopped for a short rest and I thought I had stopped the camera, I had actually turned it on, and when I thought I had restarted it, I had actually turned it off! So after about an hour the only footage I got of the 3.5 hour ride was recordings of our rest stops! 

Bit annoying as it meant I'd have to go back and do it again to record all the missing bits. :-(

anyway, couple of short runs later and Me, Neil and also Dave who joined us in signing up, are at the start of the Ox, wondering if we have done the right thing and whats the worst that can happen.. 
The weather is dodgy and there has been a bit of rain, so mud is likely.
We start before the Marathon but on the same course to start with for the first 15-16 miles and then approx the last 7 or 8 so we expected to see some of the marathon runners especially the faster ones! We had already agreed to only run the flats and downs and anything vaguely up was to be walked.
The course did a 10 mile loop before coming back near the start and then setting off towards the Ox Drove for the remaining 26-ish
It rained, it was muddy, we did a lot of either slipping about or wading through puddles, putting waterproofs on, taking them off....
In fact it was so muddy that towards the end it was impossible to even run DOWN some of the hills for fear of going arse over tip, thus meaning that we were getting precariously close to the cut off time of 9 hours.
My mate Chris was sweeping the Ultra with his two collies and we were expecting to see him behind us at any moment but he didnt appear until after we had eventually finished in just over the cut off at 9 hours and 9 mins making us almost the last in!
Dave had dropped behind me and Neil with a few miles to go so we waited to cheer him in followed by a few other stragglers. Eventually Chris appeared accompanied by his collies (for which 36 miles was just a stroll!) and a nice lady by the name of Kim who had been struggling but kept going and had been allowed to carry on to finish. 

And so we had completed our medal set, and our second ultra!

the rest of the months runs were few and short. However I did manage a 26.2 cycle ride on the last sunday of the month, on the road this time. The reason I knew it was 26.2? well myself and Gemma from WSR were checking out the route for the inaugeral Dorchester Marathon

The route was pleasant but hilly in places, going up through Dorchester town, and then out through surrounding villages. Although nowhere near the hills you would encounter on some trail marathons, i could imagine it would make the legs ache! It certainly worked my cycling muscles :-)

And so after my longest run, and my longest ride, and a month which turned out have my longest mileage so far (359km if you are interested), we look forward to June and the very first of something......sadly it was my first DNF......

Sunday, 1 January 2017

That There London...

April 2016 brings the London Marathon.
Before we visit London we need to visit the Devon coastline, however.

Neil - not looking enthusiastic
Picture a group of runners who think that they've done some hills because they've run in Dorset, and are about to get a bit of a shock. A bleak seafront in Exmouth, and a freezing cold coastal wind, and we're off on the Exe to Axe 20 (ish) mile coastal path race.

I suppose the small fact that this race is registered as a fell category race should have given something away but we were not fully prepared for the steepness of the hills that were in store for us.
Me, Neil and Jenny had spotted that there were some pretty serious looking runners on the start line, this also should have been a big clue!

half a km in and we are already going up, as we head off for Budleigh Salterton. In fact the section from Budleigh to Ladram bay (a distance of around 8km) turned out to be the 'flattest', only reaching 42m elevation in height but once we were past the holiday camp and headed for the aptly named 'high peak' it seemed that the terrain was only going either UP or DOWN and quite steeply at that, and nothing in between!

it was pretty much like this and steeper the whole way!
Total elevation was 1256m in the end, a lot of that crammed into the second half.

Having reached the halfway point around Sidmouth, we were told that we had just done the 'easy half' and we had the worst to come, a fact which Jenny was none too pleased to hear as the furthest she had run prior to this was about 14 miles, and she was fast running out of oomph, a fact that became apparent upon hitting approx 15 miles and we came to a grinding halt while she contemplated the meaning of life and whether in fact she was going to carry on. Top marks to Jenny though as she battled the demons and got going again, assisted by the dry wit and spare sports drink of the sweeper, Danny, who had caught us up by that point (we werent the slowest up till then, but a few people had dropped out).
He conjured up such gems as 'Are you looking for sympathy? If so i'll send out and see if we can get some brought in'. He was brilliant!

We finally overtook the last runner in the last couple of km (thus giving Danny the slip) and headed thankfully for the finish line on Seaton Seafront

it was all a bit emotional for some, well done Jenny!
Last long run over with, it was time to look forward to that there London, and start to taper training. We also had some birthdays to celebrate.
Each year we have a joint birthday party for myself, Kev, and my 2 daughters Stephanie and Hazel as all our birthdays are within a few weeks of each other. Coined by a friend of mine, its entitled P.O.T.Y or Party of the Year! and its always fancy dress.
This years theme was book characters. Kevin and I were dressed as Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil from Terry Pratchett's 'Guards, Guards'. I had the maddest red wig on!
I had promised a unicorn birthday cake to Steph so this is what I came up with

looking like a good party!
So, to Londinium. Saturday 23rd April
Thanks to my work having a Premier Inn account I had managed to book a room right inbetween the London Eye and Waterloo train station. I was due to meet some friends who were also running the marathon the next day, and join them along the south bank for a meal.
Eve was going to be running her first marathon at London and Graham her husband was supporting, and Steve was also running.
I had a lovely walk along the south bank, and took some great pictures, here are a couple of my favourites.

Forward to the next day we're up bright and early. I'm feeling nervous. My aim is to start and finish feeling OK. In addition to that I have decided it will be a bonus if i finish in under 5 hours.
Its flipping freezing, and I cant remember the start we were on but its a long wait on a drafty field, and we are struggling to keep warm. Steve is resplendent in green mohican wig, and union jack running tights and is living up to his nickname of 'media whore' because in the first 10 minutes of arriving on the start field he has managed to get himself interviewed and also for some reason japanese runners are keen to have their pictures taken with him! I have a dilemma about what to carry and wear. for some reason I dont want to wear the waist pack i bought with me so stuff gels in my pocket.
We start slowly, running together. Im eventually starting to warm up. We see Graham at a few points and he kindly takes my longsleeved top from me.

Waving to Graham, and Steve in his outfit!

Me and Eve have to stop for the loo at 8 miles and we tell Steve to go on, but he waits for us.
Just over halfway, Eve is struggling with an old injury, and Steve says he will stay with her, but they both urge me to go on. Im torn between staying with friends and running my best time, and it takes me a mile to leave them, feeling very guilty as I do so.
However, I manage to keep a decent pace up (for me anyway) and at around 21 - 22 miles I see all the nifty nanas and support crew at the side of the road, and so i stop for a quick chat and it really gives me a boost.
Weirdly just before Birdcage Walk, I suddenly think about my mum, and I think 'this is for you mum' and then im so choked up I cant breathe and am gasping like I have asthma, and have to walk for a little while.
Turning into the Mall though i suddenly realise 5 hours is fast approaching and I manage to pick it up and get to the finish in 4:59:29! Phew, half a minute to go, but I am ecstatic because i have finally broken 5 hours :-) Unbeknown to me my friend Luretta is in the stands and has managed to spot me among 1000's and take a picture!

I didnt realise though how horrible it would be finishing such a big event with no-one I knew to greet me after the medal/bag collection etc.
Bit sad really.
I had arranged to meet the others in a specific place, but i couldnt see anyone, and was quickly getting cold, so decided i needed to get changed. Having looked at the crowd between me and the changing tents, and not be able to cope with any more jostling, I snuck into a little quiet area between the corner of the first aid tent and a wall, and proceeded with the kind of changing routine you do at the beach under a towel. Luckily the surrounding area was so busy no one really took any notice!
Then i made my way over to the meeting areas again just in time to see the others arrive.
After many mutual pats on the back, we made our way out of the crowd and headed off to the underground station to start making our way to Graham and Eve's car and then home.
I was nice to get driven home and not have to take the train!

I'll finish on that happy note.
May brings a 36 mile ultra.....yep thats it, what more do you want?

Keep Marching on....

March arrives and with it my first bit of Grandma shopping - I could get used to this, its great fun :-) 
I only bought the one thing, dont want to overdo it but I could work up to overdoing it later...

This shirt is so cute!

Being a Grandma I hope will be awesome, but Mothers Day this year was once again a bittersweet affair with mixed emotions. I love my children and they spoil me again, but I also miss my own Mum.

My training for London and in the shorter term the Larmer 20 mile race was struggling a little with the Sinus problem hanging around a bit too long, and so the start of the month contained some pathetic attempts and some missed sessions, but hey at least i got out there!

I tried a (unintentional) kill or cure approach on one dark heath run, involving ending up calf deep in such churned up cloying mud I had to wash it off in a freezing stream before it dried. Maybe it worked as soon after that i managed 13 miles including parkrun.

I've never been one for winning things so was very surprised to win a cycling jersey from OSmapping on a Twitter competition. Even more suprising was that it fitted as well :-) My first bit of proper cycling kit.

The ideal time to test it out came up with an invite from Jenny to come along on an 8 mile bike ride round a local Try-a-Tri bike route (she was taking another friend along for a route recce who was doing the event). And then that was followed an hour later by a 7km run so I'm sure that was almost a 'Brick' session (although I'm sure my Tri friends would suggest that an hour between means it was not even close!).

There seems to have a been a few 'shuffling a bit and finding it hard' type runs in March interspersed with stuff like 'intervals in the rain' and a couple of short dark heath runs plus another 13 miler, but nothing too much to write home about, well apart from the following three exceptions:

Larmer Tree 20 miler on 13th March.
This started off OK, but ended up feeling like a really bad run. I had picked Jenny up in the morning and we headed for the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Rushmore Estate on the Dorset/Wiltshire Border.
If you have never been here I would suggest a visit. The Gardens are very beautiful and they hold other events there such as the Larmer Tree Music Festival.
Jenny was running the half and I was running the 20 mile race. We hoped that given the difference in start time and the fact that the routes converged at one point, we might spot each other on the way round, but this was not to be, mainly due to the fact that somewhere around mile 14 the wheels appeared to fall off and I struggled with energy levels and just had to slog on to the finish, where Jenny had already arrived some time ago! Fellow Rebel Scum member Dave was also doing the 20 miler, but he dissappeared ahead near the start and I didnt see him again till the finish either!
At the start I had been chatting to a lady called Kelly Lucas who is a much better runner than me and has completed among other things the Mont Blanc 80km for goodness sakes, and I think in unconsciously trying to keep up with her for the first few miles, I may have started off too fast instead of easing into it. Then at 3 miles came a blooming great hill which didnt help matters after a fastish start.

That Hill. With Kevin marshalling
not looking too bad at this point!
As you can see it was a bit of an energy sapper to be tackling when you've only just warmed up! We then had a slightly downhill road section towards what was camping field at the Ox races.
A left turn took us into the woods along a muddy track then left again through the woods of the Rushmore Estate.  Another 3 km or so which went through a large circular clearing in the woods called 'the roundabout' then saw us breaking out of the trees briefly to skirt the golf course, then back into the trees again for a long slow descent to an aid station and a sharp bend left to return back up the long slow hill we had just come down, albeit on a different path!
This was a tiring hill, not steep, but just went on for ever it seemed. Just before we hit the 'roundabout' clearing again we took another couple of right turns and downhill again, to exit by some houses. The route went around the houses and then took a nice little jaunt through some pretty woods to take us to an old path called 'The Shire Rack' which actually marks the boundary between Dorset and Wiltshire. We go up, once again through the pretty woods, then followed the edge of the trees. At this point which was about 13 miles I really felt the tiredness hit, and had to walk quite a bit. We then joined up with the half route and dropped down a nice hill to a junction and a gate.
The hill wasnt so nice heading up the other side to the Ox Drove path and Bigley Buildings (as the OS maps tell me), it was about a mile of slippy muddy track. Once onto the Ox Drove the wide flat gravel track seemed very monotonous and I was glad to get this bit over with.
Obviously now the half and the 20 mile were following the same route which is the one me and Jenny had practiced earlier in the year. And so I remembered the route from here on.
Just before the Ox Drove turns tarmac we doglegged onto a single track through some trees, the path was quite sticky mud by now due to loads of runners going through before me!
Pop out the trees, turn left, cross the road, and there was the LoveStation at which there appeared to be a party going on with no one in a hurry to leave!
luckily they also had a portaloo so i took advantage of the facilities and also the chance for a bit of a rest and a refuel.
The next bit was downhill for some time, across a field, then down a lovely grassy section along the edge of some trees, followed by a very steep hill down, and we were almost back to the bottom of the steep hill at mile 3.
This time however we turned sharp right and ended up going through a section that had sheep in it and up a steep hill that had been affectionately named 'Sheep Shit Hill' by Kevin!
the route took a wide horseshoe around the top of the hill then through some trees and a gate and down a very steep track towards Tollard Royal, where the Larmer Tree Lovestation had been last year. Just before the village green we were directed over a stile (How inconsiderate, having to lift legs high enough for a stile! Ow!), back up a muddy singletrack then across the top of the hill and back down where we rejoined and retraced the outward route for the final couple of miles, which of course cumulated in an uphill climb followed by the run to the finish past the folly within full view of the car park!
a right struggle to the finish

Not my finest hour of running, or certainly didnt feel like it, finishing in 4:38, which actually in hindsight was not a dreadful time, so perhaps I am being too hard on myself.

thank goodness thats over!
The following week I was attending a work event at Marwell Hotel, and managed to escape in the afternoon, while everyone else went Go Ape-ing or visiting the zoo, i went for a run. Interesting to run somewhere different for a change. As usual when running a strange route, an out and back is always recommended, and i managed to fit in a 10k in total.

I also was trying sections of a route exploring a new idea for a WSR race but can't say too much at the moment!

March ends with anticipation of next months big races - Exe to Axe 20 Mile with big hills and London Marathon.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Here we go Loop de Loop

No Races in February, just training runs.
Started out with a welcome back for my friend Chris as he returned to running on the heath with tales of The Spine Race, which he ran in January but sadly had to pull out of after 80 ish miles and a couple of days (correct me if it was more Chris!) due to injury. For those that don't know The Spine is a 268 mile non-stop challenge along the whole of the Pennine Way. In January.  To get 80 miles in the conditions the runners usually find themselves in is an achievement in itself. Never mind finishing it!
It had taken Chris a few weeks to recover sufficiently to run again, so luckily he was running slow and I was able to keep up with him! He had sure been in the wars though as no sooner than his leg injury was looking like recovering, his dog charlie headbutted him and took out several teeth!

just for you Chris!
Mileage was increasing and I had 2 x 20 milers to plan. The first one was to be the Larmer Tree 20 in March, the second I wasn't sure yet but was looking around, I find it better to do the really long training runs as events if possible as they seem so much easier than trying to find a route and then running it on your own.
Jenny was also booked into the Larmer Tree half race and was feeling a tad apprehensive as she had only done one half before and so as I had a 13 miler to do the first weekend in February we decided to take a Recce of the half route, taking it easy and walking the hills and just generally trying to kind of enjoy it!
Jenny had her own grand plans in operation and had booked into a half ironman in September so wanted to get some 13 mile practice! 
We dawdled, we opened and shut gates, avoided sheep with the dogs, stopped to take pictures, read the map, got the route a tiny bit wrong etc etc. and had quite a good run, although poor Jenny found the wheels fell off a bit with 2 miles to go and so was just following my feet towards the end as we found that due to the route going a tiny bit wrong, we had to do the 'run round the car park to make the distance up' run at the end. It did however help confidence in managing the hills.
Daisy was also pretty tired and couldn't wait to get in the car but Max the seasoned long distance runner just stood in the car park as if to say "is that it? only 13 miles, i thought we were going for a long run?"
We found a stray WSR sign on the way too.

we didnt go wrong on this bit!
The following week had 15 miles in the schedule and would be Daisy's first run at that distance so I decided to miss out the big hills and get in a little bit of tarmac practice interspersed with trails and do 'The Loop' a flexible circuit which is a good standby route, that goes from my house to, well, my house! The route takes in part of Canford Heath, Broadstone and Castleman trailway, Creekmoor heath, Upton park, and then Holes Bay and home.
By cutting out or adding in little offshoots on the off road sections I can make it 12 miles or I can make it 17 miles so its quite handy, and of course I don't have to drive anywhere to start with.
Jenny was going to join me partway as I went close to her house, and complete the last 9 miles with me all the way home.
We did have a good run but it seemed like a lot harder work than it should have done given that the previous year I did a slightly longer version in a quicker time!
Thankfully I had made Lemon Drizzle cake previously which made a great pick me up.
I found my second 20 mile event just after that, The Exe to Axe in Devon at the beginning of April running along the coastpath from Exmouth to Seaton. Sounds idyllic and lovely doesn't it? at least that's what we thought, surely it cant be as bad as our Dorset coast path, oh no siree.....
How wrong could we be. But more of that later. I mention 'we' as Neil had foolishly decided it sounded like a fun event too...Shortly after that there was the sound of a gauntlet hitting the floor as Neil said to Jenny 'why don't you join us'. Even though she had never done more than 13 miles before. And so with Kev roped in as support crew, we were to be '4 go mad in Devon'. What could possibly go wrong?
A full report on the effects of Murphy's Law on the unsuspecting will be featured in the full race report in April's post!

Meanwhile, back in February, we received the news that the grandbaby was in fact to be a grandson!
Hazel and Alex had decided they wanted to know what make they were expecting and found out at the latest scan. Here you can see the top of his head and his arms and hands.

The next long run was a 17 mile. So rather than try and work out another route I did a version of The Loop again, but this time, since I didn't want to take Daisy over 15 miles and it would have been unfair to take Max and not her, I did it without the dogs, but added a Chris instead.
Yes Chris had worked his way back up to some good mileage again so he met me shortly after the start and then we also picked Jenny up on the way too the same as last time although she was to turn for home at some point and not finish the whole thing.
Its surprising how much quicker you can be without having to stop every 5 or 10 minutes to chivvy dogs along, put on leads, take leads off, pick up doggy doo, etc etc, and so we managed a reasonable turn of speed along most of it, although it was my turn for the wheels to fall off a bit in the last couple of km, although in my defence they were mostly uphill!

Unfortunately though i may have overdone things somewhere along the line as in the final week of February I picked up a sinus infection of some kind and instead of a long run managed only a somewhat congested 5 miles. Cue a couple days off for recovery.

One thing I forgot to mention in January was that I felt very honoured with a request from a friend Anthony Clark (who is an incredible long distance runner) to write up a profile of myself about my nutrition and training tips for the Mont Blanc race, for the website of his new venture XMILES. In February my write up went online, see it here, have a laugh at me being next to some REAL athletes, and please take a look round the rest of Ant's website :-)

Next stop March, which includes a race report on the Larmer 20, a bit of cycling, I start grandma shopping, win something (not a race!), run somewhere different, and most importantly The Clocks Go Forward!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

River Deep, Mountain High..

So, January.
The official start of London Marathon training.
I had already decided that given the issues I had with road marathons before, that I would concentrate on:
A. getting to the start line in good shape and in one piece, and
B. getting to the finish line in good shape and in one piece!

A decent finish time was to take a back seat, and in my case as I am not a quick runner, a decent finish time would mean under 5 hours. If this happened it would be a bonus but I would not obsess over it.

In addition I also decided that I would take better notice of what my own body was telling me, and although I was following a training plan (I find it easier to do that than to think what I should be doing), I would make allowances for feeling tired, having an off day, having an especially good day etc and so hopefully avoid injury such as I got in the build up to Paris partially caused I think by sticking to a training plan too rigidly.

Of course also in January 2 new things in my life were announced.
One was of course the enormousness of the official announcement of Grandparentness, which is extremely exciting, I do hope I can be a good one. More about that later!

And the other was the start of Poole junior parkrun.
Jenny had been working on starting a junior parkrun for some time and the first event happened on January 3rd.  A 2km course for 4-14 year olds in Poole park on Sundays, and just like the main parkrun, at 9am.

I don't remember If this was the first one but there were 62 juniors running their little hearts out on the first day. I can really recommend volunteering at a junior parkrun, it is so much more rewarding even than the normal 5km version.

Oh and nearly forgot, I also started a 365 day (which turned into a 366 day when i realised it was leap year this year) photo a day blog. Its proving more difficult than I thought but if you would like a look its here

Anyway back to training, the plan I was following was one by Martin Yelling, available online, a lot of his training plans involve time rather than distance, except for the really long runs and I do like those as they make allowances for the times that you are feeling a bit off, you can do a bit less miles in the time. Or if you are feeling really good you can end up doing slightly more!

January's plan consisted of mainly 1 interval run a week, 3 or 4 shortish runs of up to an hour, and a longer run. Starting with a 6 mile, then an 8 mile, then an 11 mile which should have been 10 but 4 of us decided to do a run across Black Hill in Bere Regis which i had done before, and there seemed to be more of it than I remembered. Also poor Max had flashbacks to a time in the past when he disappeared under water as thanks to the rain one of the fields we had to go across looked like this

Yes although Daisy thought it was amazing and bounced like a gazelle through the water, Max decided he was having none of it "for goodness sake mum you cant see the bottom!" and stood his ground, so Neil had to carry him across!

Talking of the weather we seemed to have been through the mill with it in January, my training log records mud, torrential rain, cold, ice, wind, water, and more mud again. Testing to be sure.
The last longish run of the month was back down to an 8 mile but as the heath tracks had been chewed up by the Caterpillar tracks of 'heath maintenance' vehicles, we decided to run 8 miles of the Larmer Tree half route, firstly because Jenny would be running it in March and also because Kevin wanted us to check out some of the course as it had to be changed from last year. So from 4 go mad in Dorset, we were 4 go mad in Wiltshire!

No races in January which was a nice rest, although I did add another interesting one to the Calendar. The Snowdonia Trail marathon.
They have a road one which goes around Snowdon but this one goes over the top! Here is the route and profile.
looks a tad hilly!

Looks a bit tricky doesn't it? Why am I tackling this as well as the Coniston one this year? well I have it in my head that I would like to make at least one attempt on the Mont Blanc Marathon in the next couple of years and so i figured I needed the mountain practice!

See you in February's post.