Wednesday 24 October 2012

The photos

The photos from the Stort30 race are up now and you can see the full gallery here:

Here are a few of me from my new favourite race! :)

My prize for first woman home.
Can not believe I have my eyes closed!! Typical

Monday 22 October 2012

I only went and won it!

I ran Challenge Running's inaugural Stort 30 race yesterday... a very pretty out and back 30 miler along the River Stort, with some lovely tree-covered sections, views across fields, lots of locks, and a bit of street running at the beginning and end.

I had been really looking forward to this race for ages, and when I heard about it thought it'd be a good one because of the route and location, and because the race director was Lindley Chambers who's a very experienced ultra runner. I was so enthusiastic, I was the first person to sign up!! This afforded me the privilege of wearing number 1 for the day but also of having everyone joking with me that I'd have to win it now because of my number! ;)

I told Lindley that I was going for a sub 4:45 (a 5 minute PB for me at 30 miles) and so he could forget about me placing anywhere near my race number! 

The night before the race, I'd been reading the twitter reports about that day's route recce that had been done by Allan Rumbles (who'd supported me at the Challenge Hub 50 miler in the summer) - he said it was slippery in the muddy sections from all the rain there'd been and someone was likely to end up in the river! ;)  Unfortunately it then proceeded to rain pretty much all night, so by the time I got to the race I was ruing not having any trail shoes & convinced I'd be the one who'd be taking a swim! Nevertheless, my trusty Brooks road shoes were going to have to do as they are all I have!

The thing I'm really enjoying about running these small ultras is the community aspect of it...and it's really nice that I'm starting to recognise and know people at the races.  I hadn't met them before, as I know them through Twitter but I caught up with Conrad and Kate before we started who were both running their first ultras - so nice to put a face to the name and meet people in real life!  I ended up running the first 5 miles with Conrad and it really does make such a difference running with someone - definitely makes it easier! Unfortunately we went out much faster than we'd planned. In my mind, I'd decided to keep my pace below 9:30min/miles, and Conrad had planned on 10min/miles but I think we did those first few at about 9min/miles which goes some way to explain why the wheels came off a bit for both of us during the latter part of the race! 

Anyway, despite forecasts to the contrary, the weather held for us all day, and it was cool and cloudy but with no rain. As expected though, it was ridiculously muddy in a few sections, and I lost my feet from under me many times where it had got very slippery...I am amazed that I didn't fall over or end up in the river. I had one ankle turn but only very minor and after hopping about for a few seconds, the pain disappeared quickly.  A lot of the race was on hard path with a couple of sections on tarmac thankfully, so it wasn't all hard work! I definitely felt the effect of the mud though - I found my legs and back aching much more than I'd expected, and think it was because of all the sliding about and zigzagging!  

There were 5 checkpoints out on the course, and the marshals were all lovely - really enjoyed my brief chat with them, and the food and drink provision was excellent.  The morale boosters from them all was even more appreciated...I passed the second checkpoint to be told I was second woman! Never happened before (the benefit of the Stort 30 being such a small race with so few female entrants) and unlikely to happen again, but I was very pleased.  After that, at each checkpoint, I was reminded I was second woman.  At mile 20, they told me I was still in second, but I should go after 1st place.  I told them I was slowing down, and it was getting hard, and the girl in front just seemed to be disappearing from me, but they were very persuasive and confident, and told me to go for it. So I did.

At some point, I managed to catch up to the girl in 1st, who stood to the side and wished me luck as I passed. How awesome is ultra one would do that in a marathon!! She was running with (I'm assuming) her boyfriend - we had a chat after we'd finished, and it turns out he runs 100 milers and she's an Ironman, training for a double Ironman next year - incredible! This was her first ultra though so she did incredibly well.

Anyway, after catching up, I carried on, but was getting slower and slower, seeing my time goal slip further and further away :( I kept walking when I should have been running, and stopping to stretch when I know I didn't need to. I'm not sure what was going on in my head, but it certainly wasn't my best performance in that respect.

Unfortunately as I slowed, I got overtaken by lots of guys coming up through the field who had been able to maintain their pace, and I was definitely disappointed with my last 10 miles, but I finally made it to the finish line...1st LADY!!!! Yep, I won (the women's race) and it's the first time that's ever happened! 

I'm very pleased, and am really looking forward to seeing the photos from the race as I think there will be quite a few and without a doubt, this race is now going to have a special place in my heart, even though the time was way off what I'd hoped for - 4:57:38. I will be back next year and I'm determined to do much, much better - I doubt I'll be able to place again, but I'm will get a time I can be proud of!

I stayed at the finish for an hour or so, having some of the lovely cake and supplies that were provided at what was essentially a final check point but with hot drinks too (why don't more races do this?!) chatting to people.  I got presented with my prize for first lady (still totally unbelievable) and waited to see Kate finish which was brilliant, and then made my way home.

It was a very good day! :D
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Tuesday 9 October 2012

Reflections on my running

I find myself in a reflective mood about my running at the moment, and this is, I'm afraid, a bit of a self-indulgent post.

I've been spending quite a lot of time tinkering with my training schedule and race plans for the next 12 months, as I work out how to best prepare myself for the 10in10 and beyond, but it's struck me that I'm getting so involved in my schedule, planning for the next race and filling in spreadsheets, that I've lost touch with what I've actually been doing.

I've had a brilliant six months - better than I think I'd hoped for - with PBs at the half marathon and marathon distances, carrying the baton for a solo-marathon stage of the RelayGB world record attempt, and then discovering the wonderful world of running ultras, with 30 miles in July at my first Enigma race, followed a couple of weeks later with the Challenge Hub 50 miler, and then completing 90 miles along the Thames Path at the Toad two months after that.

I'm also really lucky to have been able to share the success and progress of so many of my friends as they've taken on their first attempts at distances, achieved fantastic PBs, set records and recovered from injury. It's been a privilege and a joy to hear about how everyone has got on in their most recent endeavours, and I hope I've been able to support those who have had set-backs too.

All in all, it's been fantastic and I can't quite believe what I've achieved recently.

So, just for once, I'm going to take a moment to really remember those awesome races, the people I've met through them and the friends I've made, and how much I'm really loving being a runner at the moment!

Monday 8 October 2012

Learning lessons from Eat & Run

Far too long ago, I got sent a copy of Scott Jurek's "Eat & Run" book to review.  It has taken me forever to get around to reading it, but I took it with me on the Toad for some evening entertainment and then finished it on holiday.

Scott Jurek is an extraordinary ultramarathon runner, who has won practically every race going - he's a bit of an inspiration of mine, and I have a Q&A article that he did for TIME this year, pinned on my desk - so I was really looking forward to reading Eat and Run.

I've stolen some blurb about it from Amazon in case you've not heard of the book:

In Eat and Run, Scott Jurek opens up about his life and career—as an elite athlete and a vegan—and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family, to his early beginnings in running (he hated it), to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, to his world-spanning, record-breaking races, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart all the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Chock-full of incredible, on-the-brink stories of endurance and competition, fascinating science, and accessible practical advice—including his own favorite plant-based recipes—Eat and Run will motivate everyone to “go the distance,” whether that means getting out for that first run, expanding your food horizons, or simply exploring the limits of your own potential.

So, did it live up to my expectations? Did I enjoy it?

Yes - I definitely did.  Jurek's story is incredible (at times heartbreaking) and his achievements definitely inspiring! Although I skipped all of the recipes in the book (I'm no cook and have no interest in reading about how he prepares his meals!) I enjoyed the structure that swung between narrative and sections of running advice, and although I'll never be a vegan, the message about clean eating, to someone who eats so much processed food, really hit home

I read a lot of books, and to be honest it's not many that I remember, but I have really taken on board Eat & Run and since finishing it, have continued to consider it.  The way that Jurek became a runner, the struggles he's had, the training he does...he's been on a fascinating and unique journey, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to share that, but I have also come to the conclusion that I could learn a few lessons from him too.

Don't get me wrong though, I don't think the book is intended to preach about a way of life, or how to be a better runner. It's not written that way - it's just about Jurek's story - and the advise about training, races and nutrition, is just as a result of what he has found works best for him, but it all makes such sense, I've found myself keenly remembering four key messages.

  *  Experiment with different ways of living/eating/running. Pay attention to how you feel and react so you can identify what works best for you.
  *  You don't have to make drastic changes instantly. Gradual change will work just as well in the long run and you're more likely to stick with it.
  *  You are responsible for becoming the best person that you can be - it is entirely within your control - it just depends how hard you want to work.
  *  Clean eating really does make a difference. It's not about making a sacrifice - it's about looking after your body and giving yourself the best possible chance of succeeding and of being healthy.

These are probably not the key points that everyone would remember from the book. I can see that other people would learn more about specific training or race techniques, how to make healthy post race meals, or how to transform from a meat-eater to a vegan but that's the wonderful thing about reading books - like listening to poetry or admiring a piece of art - the meaning is whatever it means to you!

Saturday 6 October 2012

So how did the Toad go??

On the Wednesday after finishing the Toad challenge, we went on holiday to Croatia - had a wonderful time (managed to get a few fantastic runs in too, so glad I took my running gear!) and we got back late last night.

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to blog about the Toad before we went...every time I tried to write something it just didn't seem enough, but I did manage to put together a few words for the Brathay Trust's website where I have another blog, specific to next year's 10in10 challenge.

I've decided to copy and paste that blog post below, as now two weeks have passed and I'm not sure I can really remember enough to write a decent detailed account of what happened at the Toad. I know that I learnt an enormous amount about myself and what I can achieve, that the countryside along the Thames is varied and gorgeous, that I found out on the last day that running with people can be much better than running on my own (thank-you to Ellen, Lesley and John for running with me for 20 miles, my favourite part of the weekend I think, wish I'd stuck with you to the end), and that I felt recovered from the 90-odd miles after just a couple of days. Really though I just have an overwhelming memory of it being awesome!!!

"This weekend, I took part in my first multi-day event, The Toad Challenge, which involved me running just over 90 miles in three days, along the Thames Path from Oxford to Walton-on-Thames.
I was incredibly nervous before it started...if it went wrong, or I really struggled, I knew it wouldn't bode well for the 10in10, but I needn't have worried - it was a fantastic event and as strange as it might sound, I really enjoyed myself, and ended up finishing the run in 16hrs 10minutes.

The Thames Path is mainly trail, and as I do 90% of my training on tarmac this was definitely a bit of a was having to negotiate numerous gates and herds of cows stood in my path, sinking into boggy marshland after spending the day running through a storm, and getting lost a couple of times! 

Regardless though, I loved it. The scenery was generally beautiful, the checkpoints well stocked with a fantastic selection of snacks (food is always very important to me!) and completing the 90 miles has made me feel so much more positive about how my training is going, especially as I seem to have recovered quickly too.

As well as the running though, spending the three days with like-minded ultra runners was wonderful. I met some inspiring, awesome people and for those few days, I was able to talk to them about the 10in10 without them thinking I was crazy (which is the usual reaction I get when I tell people about it!). For just a little while, I felt pretty doesn't happy often ;)

Anyway, it was a great event, and before the 10in10 I think I'll definitely sign up for a few more multi-day races. Not only is it good training, it's so much fun! :D"