Thursday, 3 April 2014

Kelso Marathon

I saw on the web recently one of those lists. You know your a marathon runner when? Well one of the answers was when you run a marathon as a training run. Well that was my reason sorted for running the Kelso marathon that and the fact that it was on my door step was a good enough reason for me to spend my Sunday morning running 26.2 miles in the company of other equally mad runners.

This was never an A goal, for me as this year all roads lead to the West Highland way in June. So in preparation I have throwing myself into this off road running lark. Anyone that know's me knows I do not exactly embrace he hills or the mud, so when you combine the 2 if you are anywhere near me you will hear my honest and frank opinions.

So I had been finding the training hard and a little frustrating as you don't cover the same distance as you do on the road. Also my poor bad left ankle was taking a  real dislike to early morning trail runs.

So when I heard about the Kelso marathon I thought it would be nice to have a change and to put some miles in on the roads. (Yes I did not read the course description which stated it was 25 laps of a gravel track on the racecourse, who actually reads those little details anyway?)

So for a few weeks my emphasis changed and I put in some paced road runs and some mile reps, yes those things that along with core workouts which I know are good for me but boy do they hurt!! That said coming back to road training was like meeting a old friend and it was nice to feel some speed returning to the legs and it was a change from all the mud.

Going into the race I was aiming for around 3hours 10 mins and under 3hours 15mins if I wasn't feeling great. I knew I wouldn't be in PB shape due to not having done enough speed work but I was hopeful I would be somewhere in the middle of my two targets.

So the race started and right from the first lap I felt Ok but I also felt that I was uncomfortable and I was forcing it to much. I tried to relax and settle into it but maintaining the pace I had started at was feeling a real struggle. But I knew the marathon can be like that, some days you find the start easy and the end hard and other days you just struggle the whole way, well so it was today, I relaxed, settled into my rhythm and tried to switch off, pushing the pace as much as I dared in the hope the legs would eventually want to play.

I knew I was strong because of the hard training I had done, t I felt off today and wanted an answer why? I kept thinking I had spent too much time running slow miles on rough ground and now I was asking my legs to turn over so much faster on flat level ground that it just didn't feel right.

 All I knew was that I couldn't force the pace anymore and I needed to slow down and treat it as a training run, I was lying in 2nd at that point and at the start I had wanted to win, but today was not my day, so I consolidated. I have learnt to listen to my body and not run it into the ground when it is not feeling right. Once I made that decision I started to feel better and started enjoying the race and of course his meant I could now eat real food.

As I ran along with my new attitude I felt the pressure had been lifted from my shoulders, I realised that maybe I had came to the race wanting too much a PB/a fast time/the win and expected all this off heavy legs and very little leg speed. In the end I finished in 3hours 20mins not too bad for how I was feeling. Over the next day or 2 I got my answer when I came down with a really bad cold, which left me with no energy and meant that I missed a few weeks of training. With hindsight it was the right decision as I am now back to normal and am still on course for that A goal.

The race was a great wee event and one I would definitely do again, the course was traffic free and pretty flat, the organisation was spot on and with it being lots of laps the support was great. I was well beaten into second but to have beaten the girl who won would have required a pb and boy was she flying.

To end on I felt I learned a few new lessons and reaffirmed a few old ones!!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Newcastle race course ultra 50km

This was to be my last ultra of the year and it nearly never happened because of a lingering head cold which I had for over a week. The cold mainly affected my breathing when I upped the pace, which had resulted in some of my training runs feeling a lot harder than what they should have been. On the easy days I felt OK and wanted to race, but on the days I struggled I had just about persuaded myself there was no point in racing. So with 3 days to I talked it over with Stevie and we both decided that I would start the race but with the real possibility that he would pull me from the race if I was struggling.

I guess I just really wanted to race, as I felt that my training had been reasonable and I had started getting some good miles in through the back to back runs, but that was all before  I came down with the cold. I was not targeting the race, but I wanted to use it as a gauge to see were my fitness was. I felt it would provide me with a good base to start the new year in.

So we travelled down on the Saturday and stayed in the Marriott Hotel right next to the course, Steve  picked it as he said it was the best one for me, but I think I got done, as we have a rule, whosever race it is they pay for the weekend.

The hotel was lovely though and I slept well, but when I woke up on the morning of the race my nose wouldn't stop running but generally I didn't feel too bad so I was hopefull that I was going to at least get to the start line. My first transition went well as my alarm went off at 5am and by 5.05 I was alreay eating my breakfast in bed which was the cue for Stevie to go get his miles in.

It was a 2 min drive to the course and when we arrived I got a shock as I had expected it to be cold but I hadn't expected it to be so windy. Well that threw my clothing plans into kaios as I had to decide on legging or shorts, long slleeve top or arm warmers, and did they all match, well I thought these where all important things a girl has to think about even if Stevie did not agree. I was glad I did make the effort as some of the girls looked so pretty running around and very matching, well it was Newcastle and they do take their fashion seriously down here.

The start was a little strange as they had all the different distances starting at different places on the course, so for the first lap everyone was in a mad rush to overtake. I had set off quite easy not letting the shorter distance runners effect me. I soon fitted into a pace that felt comfortable and I was actually feeling not too bad.

The first couple of laps I never really felt the wind but then it soon become very noticeable towards the end of each lap. At times it really stopped you in your tracks or even felt that it was pushing you back, it became very frustrating as I felt I was moving well and still harboured thoughts of a good time.  I soon decided to adapt a strategy to ran at a good pace when not in the wind and when faced with the wind to ease back and not fight it, that way I felt I was conserving my energy for the later stages.  In these easy miles I was still feeling good, the cold was not having an effect except for the runny nose, in shorter races I had started wearing nose strips to help my breathing and for me they really seemed to work as I was wearing one today.

Into the middle part of the race I was still feeling good but really noticed that the wind had changed direction a little so that it felt very windy for most of the lap giving you very little time out of the wind. I have to say at this point I became quite annoyed as it was making the run even harder than it should have been and I started moaning to myself, I wasn't a happy bunny. I thought I should maybe turn my Ipod on as it might help me to forget the wind. The first song that came on was my favourite song so off I trotted instantly feeling a little better.

I knew that the wind would eventually get to me but I was knocking the laps off and kept passing people even those doing the shorter distances, I felt I was moving well and I was feeling really good. I always felt I had another gear and I kept wanting to push harder, but I knew I had to hold back, saving my strength for the later stages. I was feeling really happy to be enjoying my race, so I took time to have a cup of tea at 1/2 way and then a drink of hot chocolate at 2/3, I know I lost some time taking these on board but they made me feel happy and its all good practice for the longer challenges. The race was 19 laps so I had made a conscious decision to not take food or drinks every lap, so that overall I felt that I ate enough to fuel my strength but I did not overdo it meaning I had no stomach issues.

At no point in the race did I feel that I struggled so on the last 6 laps I felt that I could take the brakes off and started to push on aiming to finish the race strong. I knew I wouldn't get near the time I was hoping for but I felt good and I was enjoying myself. I nailed the last couple of laps and finished first lady and 6th overall, making the 4th and 5th men work hard on their last lap.

The race organisation was excellent, as they found that balance between keeping it relaxed but also making it work.  Lots of laps are not to everyones liking but they make for good support even if they do eat or give away all your home made flap jack. I wonder if other ultra runners have this problem?

I know all my ultras will not go this easy but this race goes to show that I am fit and I can now start looking forward to next years challenges.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Clyde Stride

Sitting in the car park before the start of the Clyde Stride I was a bag of nerves, I was so scared that I was actually crying. I just wanted to run and finish the race without an injury and to enjoy myself just running lots of miles. The reasons for these emotions was that it felt like it had been along time since my last ultra which had ended in an injury and dissapointment. The training leading up to this race had been difficult as I increased the mileage while recovering from the injury and also managing to get new injuries on route. During this time it had made me feel like I was falling apart. Because of the niggles I felt I hadn't put the miles in which had become my normal Ultra build up, but I felt I had got in some decent training and I needed to run a race without any pressure to get my love for Ultra's back.

So I had entered the Clyde Stride at short notice and here I was justifying why I was here?  For me today wasn't about racing, it was about re-discovering my enjoyment for Ultra running and finishing in one piece and hopefully not to much pain. So here I was at 7am on a Saturday morning sat with Stevie in a supermarket car-park in Glasgow with him trying to calm me down before I headed into what I felt was the unknown. The last few Ultra's had been hard and I felt they had taken their toll not just on my body but also my mind.

When I got to the start line I realised I had forgotten my Garmin, not that I really look at a watch but as I have no sense of direction so I felt it would be handy to know from the distance when I was near the check points. I shouted to Stevie, who said he would get it to me for the first check point. We were off and it was nice to be running, and I soon caught up with my friend Richard who had also been injured so we didn't spend too much time taking about injuries if anything the subject was avoided so as not to tempt fate!! as the one thing we both wanted was to finish in one piece. Richard helped me make it out of Glasgow and through all the busy road crossings as me and road crossing are really not a good mixture. With Richards company the miles certainly flew by running and it was nice to be running with someone. Into the first check point I got the Garmin and took on some fruit. I had prepared my drop bags in advance with gels, cereal bars, crisps and home made cookies, normally stuff I love, but it was so hot all I wanted was the fruit, which was a very last minute buy at the super market at the race start. Even through it was hot I felt was drinking plenty and Stevie was able to give me cool drinks at each station. Since my experience in the Barcelona 24 hr I had learned a lot about how to cope in the heat, and the need to be prepared with ice, sun cream and full body cover. Right from the off it felt hot so it was a nice feeling at the check points to get cooled off a little even it did sometimes mean your support got a bit wet. Then I was off again onto the trail, thankfully Richard was ready to leave the checkpoint to, so he would now be forced to listen to me for another few miles and keep me safe from the road crossings.

Sadly coming into the second check point Richard said he would be stopping longer so I would now be on my own and also now at a great risk of getting lost., as Richard had been keeping me right with the route as well as the crossings.  Anyone that knows me knows I have to sense of direction, so I am sure Stevie was now very worried about me getting lost. So off I went feeling a little apprehensive about now being on my own, but I soon recognised this part of the race as Strathclyde Park,  which luckily I knew as I had recently done a ten miler along here. It was now midday and the park was exposed, so the heat running along here felt unreal and it made me want to jump in the lake, but the only thing is I really don't like getting my face wet and I can't really swim so that was not really a good idea. Even though I knew this bit I was thankful when some nice women further along told me to watch for the race marking as they had found some runners going the wrong way which was nice.

About this time I started to feel a bit sick so I slowed my pace a little and after a while I started to feel better. I think it was just the heat, but I have learned to listen to my body more. I was now moving well again and I felt I was coping with the heat.

I even started catching some runners which would turn out to be a god send when the next part of the trail was blocked by cows who had moved down towards the river. I am not very keen on cows so I adapted the safety in numbers approach and hid in the group. It was near here that I saw a couch in the middle of the river, its amazing what thoughts can occupy your mind in an ultra, oh how I wanted to sit on that couch in the river with my feet in the water.  But no I was in the middle of a race so there was no time for that, but it was a nice thought. I kept pushing on and I could see I was now gaining on a runner with a red top but I then lost sight of him as we ran through a forest. I thought I had got lost so I retraced my steps picking up the two other runners I had went past after the cows incident. We all then ran together until a road crossing or rather I stayed with them when I saw I had to cross a road again.

Into check point 3 and I felt I was chucked right back out by Stevie as he wasn't wanting to hear about any of my dramas with the cows or what I had seen in the water. So back on the trail but it was not long after this that I started to feel sick again, I slowed down but this time the feeling wouldn't go away. Thankfully I was sick and I soon started to felt better. My first thoughts after I had been sick was that I needed to get some food back into me, which for me this was a positive response as before when I have been sick that's it I don't want to eat and Stevie has to normally force me to eat. I gave myself some time to let my stomach settle and then I was able to eat small bits often. It was only with around six miles to go I started to feel tired, and I started walking a little. I felt really pleased to have got this far in the race, in such hot conditions on limited training. I was able to walk for short periods or on some of the hills and ran the rest. The later part of the race was a lot more shaded for which I was glad as I really was starting to feel tired. The finish was a welcome site and to finish with no injuries was a huge bonus.

On reflection what a great race and what a lovely way to spend a hot saturday out running lots of miles and meeting some really nice people on the journey.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Anglo Celtic Plate 100km

Even though the race did not go according to plan, I felt that I had bettter get this written and out of the way. To say I am upset about how it went, would be an understatement, after all the training I had put in and it goes so badly wrong. It's never easy writing your blog when you don't have something good to say but you cann't always write about the good races. It is the bad races that make you a stronger and better runner.

Going into the race I felt like I was in the best shape I had been in for a long time. I even had a few nose bleeds which for me is normally a sign that I am fit. I did have a few niggles along the way, mainly a pain in the neck which caused me to loose some training at the start of my schedule but it never really bothered me during my runs, so I did not over worry about it and I was confident that it would not be an issue during the race.

Well onto the race then: The race started well for me but I was unsettled and it took me a while to get into a rhythm and warm my body up. To say it was bloody cold was an understatement. I was just glad I was running rather than standing about getting cold. I got to half way  32 miles feeling good but then I develpoed what I thought was some cramp on my right thigh a couple of laps after the 50km mark. I took some Dyorilite and tried to run on but the pain just got worse. My support crew suggested a massarge, the first  one helped me and I got back running but the pain soon returned. It got to the point I could run but if I tried to go any faster the pain become unbearable so I felt I had no option but to run as hard as I could with the pain bearable. Every stride hurt to the point I felt like I was running on one leg.
I had never felt any pain or discomfort in my right thigh during any of my training runs. So when the tightness came on during the race I had no reason to think it was anything else but cramp. Still to this day I am not sure what caused it but the mussle from the hip to my knee remains tender during physio.
On the second ,massage during the race at about 75K the physio added tape as they thought it would help, but by then the damage was done and it made no difference as the pain remained constant. Stevie wanted me to stop, and blocked my way as i came through. There was no way I was stopping wearing a Scotland vest and just pushed past him. If I I had to crawl to the finish then that was what was going to happen. It certinly felt like I was crawling at the end.

In those last 25 laps I went from 2nd to 6th and I lost my scottish title, which hurt as much as the pain in my leg, but I finished it!

So there goes another 100km and not the result I wanted. I know there is a good race inside me and one day it will happen. So until then back to the training and the dreaming of the perfect race.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Country to Capital

I really should not be allowed to pick what races I want to do, this race required map reading and I can't read a map! After reading a few blog's about the race I was even more worried, would I ever end up in London. I think Stevie was shitting himself that I would get lost, he even offered to run the race with me.
In the end I was to run on my own, Stevie was too scared he was about to get chicked!  Well that's what am telling myself.

What a race, i like a wee drama and this race had plenty.
I took to the start line in my normal running kit and a few extra bits to keep me warm ( hat, gloves and arm warmers) i got plenty of funny looks. I don't think they are used to ladies wearing not many running cloths. Yes it was cold, but I live in Scotland so this was just on the chilly side. We would soon warm up after a couple of miles. Other runners had that many cloths on am sure they would be over heating after five minutes of running.
The race started and within a couple of strides my first drama had happened, my i pod went flying out of my pouch in my back pack. So I stopped to find it, running back up the pavement looking for it. With Stevie shouting at me to get running, well he could have helped me look for it. Thankfully a nice man had picked it up and was running back to the start with it. So I chased after him and got my i pod back.
The first bit was muddy and hard to get past other runners so i just settled in and waited for the opportunity to get past. It took me around forty minutes to get lost, which I thought was good going for me. Once back on track I would always go past a runner who I called Mr Tambourine man. I passed him a few times thinking I could almost kill him with the noise he was making if I had to run with him.
My next drama was getting to first check point to put water into my bottle, when I went to open it I didn't need to as I had no lid. I wonder if that went flying at the start too. Not to worry it wasn't hot so I would just use the water at the check points.
This was soon followed by getting lost again, passing Mr Tambourine man again. It was at this point I thought it was best to ask him if he knew the way, he said he did. So I decided I would run with him.
 Mr Tambourine man turned out to be called Andy and he saved my ass from getting  lost. But am not sure what he was all carrying but what a noise was coming from him. He sounded like a one man dance band. In the end I ran a fair bit with him and others who had all started following him. What a lovely man, without him I would never have made it on to the canal. So a huge thank you to him.
It was a really nice group that I was running in, we all chatted away. For once it was really nice just to forget that it was a race and enjoy the run. Although it was off road, I coped better than normal and the mud didn't bother me too much.
The next big drama was a small girl getting kicked up the bum by her horse which had spooked and jumped over a barbwire fence. Mr Tambourine man didn't stop so I didn't want to wait around and loose my mobile map so I went after him. Am sure the girl would be fine as she was still standing and walking around in pain I hope they found the horse.
We eventually arrived at the canal and it was time to say good bye to Mr Tambourine man, to say that I was glad to see the canal was an understatement. I may have showed far too much excitement at reaching the canal by having a wee dance and shout. The end was of the race was near, twenty odd miles but the chances of getting lost had nearly gone. Mr Tambourine man had told me to come off the canal at a sign saying Paddington thirteen miles. He said you couldn't miss it, he obviously he doesn't know me. I didn't miss the sign as I went right up to the sign nearly heading into the water. There was a small bridge that I was meant to go over and then take the left, which I did. Now I could relax as I knew it was a straight run into the finish.
Once I had hit the canal I had upped the pace but the legs just didn't want to play. I felt it was a real struggle but I did try to push on. I hadn't given myself enough time since the last race but I need to run on tired legs so this was good practise. I knew there was a chance that the race could have been a struggle earlier on so am pleased it didn't really start hurting until around five miles from home.
I finished second lady, so was pleased with that. I also had great cake during the race. It's a real shame they don't give you a cup of tea with it, I did ask! I meet some really nice people during the race too and thank you again to Mr Tambourine man or I would still be running.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Barcelona 12 hour track race

When entering this race the only real aim I had was to finish it and get over 62 miles. 62 miles is the longest I have ever ran. The last time I attempted to go over 62 miles in a 24 race it ended in disaster and never finishing the race. The other aim was to try to enjoy the race, well as much as you can.

With everything that happened last year and the sale of my dad's house it has been quite a upsetting and stressful time so the idea of going away seemed like a good idea. I was going to do the race and have some time each side of the race to rest and recover.
My number one support  was also going to be in Spain but sadly not in Barcelona  with me but away to watch football in Marid. When i happened to mention at work that i was going to be doing this race i got some offers of support for during the race. My support crew for the race was to be three nurses and the house keeper (who i call Auntie Cathy) Stevie briefed them what to expect and what was sort of expected of them. Auntie Cathy gave them there orders on race day and was keeping them all in order.

The day of the race I was a little nervous but eager to get started. I didn't really understand the race briefing as it was in Spanish. But hey am running round the track and got to change direction every three hours really what else did i need to know. Oh stop when i get to twelve hours, simple.
The gun went off and i wasn't really sure what lanes of the track i was meant to be  in but after a couple of laps and abit of pointing from a race official i was sent into the outside lanes and got a thumbs up from the official so i was sorted for the next 12hours.
Right from the off I wasn't happy and things didn't seem right. Looking back the only thing i can think of what was wrong was that there was too many people around me running. What ultras i have done it is normal to run most of them on your own with small amounts of passing company of other runners for a short period of time. This was strange and difficult at times avoiding other runners when attempting to pass them. Thank goodness for my razor sharp elbows. There was music playing throughout the run on a loud speaker sometimes it is just nice to have some peace and quite. Or your choice of music, I did use my  i pod more than I thought  I would. It helped take my mind off all the runners around me and noisy supporters around the track.
It was at this point that I knew i  was going to struggle and it wasn't going to be the legs that would let me down. It was going to be a mental battle. There is times when you have to give your self a good talking too, I told myself it didn't matter that I hated it I was just going to have to get on with it for the next twelve hours and put the head down. It was during this talk to myself that I said to myself No Surrender and which was repeated many times during the race.

With the music being so loud I did have difficulty speaking with my support crew and found at times I felt like  I was barking my orders at them. They where great they stood there the whole race taking turns to look after me and give me what ever I needed.
Am not sure it's what they expected but it helped explain why I come to work some Monday's unable to walk and feeling sick. One good thing about having nurses there is I was worried if I became ill during the race they would pull me out of the race, so there was no option to stop or even the dreaded sit down anywhere near them. Which worked for keeping me moving during the race.
I got up up six and bit hours and the sickness kicked in, you try to run through but it got to stage I had to slow down and that eased the sickness feeling. Anytime i upped the pace and feeling of being sick grew. Thankfully I was sick and felt slightly better. While attempting to be sick this nice long haired man kept asking me if i was ok, thankfully what i was saying in my head I didn't say to him. What i told him was i still felt sick and had been sick. He offered me a tablet telling me that it would help, i took the tablet and it did help. I got back running but wasn't able to push the pace as the sickness feeling started again. The tablet really did help and while being sick i thought i was going to have to spend the next six  hours walking and vomiting.

There was no point during the whole race that i ever thought about leaving the track and not finishing. I feel i showed some true mental strength, the race didn't go to plan but I stuck with it and finished it.
The last 20 minute's of the race was great the relief that this hell would soon be over. It felt like i was sprinting round the track, it felt so nice to be flying round and round.
Thankfully when it got to twelve hours I was stopped near my support crew which was so nice to share the moment with them. I also got a nice hug from part of the GB train. It's at this point I should say without there chat round the track i could have easily stopped, i looked forward to them passing me. Boy's you made me laugh and it was a pleasure to see you make it look so easy. Vicky, you so deserved your pb.

I finished first female and second overall, first male two laps just in front of me. Thank you to my support crew, i couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Jedburgh ultra

What the hell was i doing on the start line of an off road ultra, well it was for chairty The Margaret Kerr Fund. It seemed like fate that the race was giving some of the entry fee to the charity and the money would then go to build a purpose built  pallitive care unit for peeple with cancer. While my dad was in hospital he often talked about this and said how it was such a good idea. I felt it was a fitting tribute to my dad to do this race and I had raised 600 pounds in sponsership.

I knew the course would be hard as we had to go up the Eildons not just two but all bloody three of them. I am not known for my down hill running!! You would never guess i was a junior international scottish hill runner, how things change.
The race started alright on my favourite surface road then onto a tree leave covered path's. This was soon to change when we hit the mud. I was slipping and sliding At one point i was doing the splits and am not normslly very flexible. Runners all around me where falling, the whole time i was thinking please don't let me fall. Having never really got over the cold from the marathon my paced was dictated by my breathing. If i ran too fast i couldn't breath so at least that way i didn't go off too fast.

One of my main concerns of the race was the route, and not getting lost. I have no sense of navigation and really shouldn't be let outside without an apporate adult. Thank godness I managed to find loads of them during the race. I often found mine in the trees looking for tape. It is not often you are so glad to meet people in the under growth of a forest. I have to give a special meantion to Phil who looked after me for a while and stopped me getting lost.
What can i say about the Eildons, they hurt and i really did think my lungs might come out of my body. The down hill off of the second Eildon was intersting and saw me swearing, praying and shouting for help. My decent was completly out of control and it made me feel as if I was going head first down this hill.

I can promise you this i will never be up those hills again. Poor David Knox got it tight when i got to the third hill, asking me if I was ok i just about killed myself i told him.
I felt i was running steady and eating loads. The mud was making it hungry work.  I was dreading the really muddy section the second time round again but this time round my legs wouldn't be so fresh.  Also this time the mud had got worse and i was doing the splits in all directions.I did walk abit towards the end it was easier than falling on my arse when the mud got too bad.

I was so glad to see the finish on a good day with firm ground this would be a great race. But for me I am not an off road runner, so i was always going to find it difficult but i had a good reason to do it so I tried to put the head down and run through it, I would recommend this race if you like off road. The views are amazing.