Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Temporary loss of ultra mojo

Avoiding the likelihood of further DNFs, my ultra marathon journey of 2017 is definitely over, if it ever truly started. I had intended to do the 'canalslam', having done the canal double in 2014 and 2015 (GUCR and LLCR) and always being extremely slow, but successful at canal ultras. But then in 2016, my 4 consecutive GUCR 'successes' came to an end and I dropped out, feeling as if I was running on a treadmill, with heavy legs, in the hot sun. My confidence took a knock, but I knew I'd be back this year.

But, this year,  the DNF streak continued instead and I pulled out at a similar point. My mind wasn't in the game at all and I seemed to have lost my ultra mojo. Maybe I had dropped it into the canal?

I did a couple of marathons after that and I convinced myself that my head would be in the game for KACR. It sort of was, but not enough. I can say with all certainty that I didn't try my hardest. When I knew that I was going slower than I should be, my negative voice told me I'd only just make the next CP cut off and did I want to feel the pressure of only just making that CP - it'd have a knock on effect to the next bit of the race and only just making a cut off isn't good enough, especially only 45 miles into a race; better to slow down and DNF now, get it over with. At least it was expected. And even though I've never DNFd at LLCR, I avoided it this year through fear of making it a 'DNFslam'.

But I realised then that I seem to have lost my ultra stubbornness somewhere. I seem to have misplaced my 'I will get to that finish line at any cost' mindset. I need to get it back. And there are moments I know it's still there... like when I'm running home from work with my rucksack and I feel like I'm on an adventure and moments from ultras come back into my mind and I wish I was on those adventures now. I miss that feeling. It's good to know it's still in there somewhere.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

When you can't be arsed.

Thoughts of the day...

Sometimes when you really don't want to go for a run, you really, really should. You should just get your bum through that door and do it with even more urgency than ever before, because you don't want to and can't be arsed.

However, sometimes you should just give yourself a rest, stop getting 'run envy' against more motivated runners than yourself who are running down the road, stick some tunes on, chill out and relax. Or lift weights. In a dress. Or do all of the above. Even throw in a beer, especially on such a sunny day. Especially let your mind relax. I don't know about you, but my runner's mind tends to run around tirelessly, thinking about random stuff and running worries. My mind is always running.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

The year I became...

...a fully fledged Primary School Teacher.
Tougher than any ultra, I have worked so hard to train and learn to become the best teacher I can be. I'm still learning. But, like most hard work, it was all worth it.

This year....

... I made it through several thunderstorms, whilst simultaneously being lost during the Liverpool to Leeds Race.

Did I feel nervous for this race? Yep, more than normal since I had bombed GUCR so bad, and dnf'd which I'd never done before and I can describe (just about) just how horrible that feels to do. I'd been lucky to escape that before last year. So, my luck changed during this year's GUCR...(not going to keep me down next year though!) I didn't want to get a taste of how it would feel to DNF at Liverpool to Leeds as well. However, I was a little unprepared and I also hadn't factored in the altered CP timings that reflected the amended lesser race time limit.

Surprisingly, all ran smoothly for a while. I got a good pace going and I chatted to some familiar faces. The weather wasn't too bad - was fairly sunny from what I can remember. But it changed.

The first sign that I got of an imminent thunderstorm was around the 70 mile mark. The thing is, at this point, we thought we had loads of time to play with. Wrong. Our pace became so slow due to the rutted, uneven ground which had now become muddy with rainwater.

There was sideways rain and wind. And I was getting a little bit scared of the lighting moving closer. I love thunderstorms, when I'm indoors. However, rather than dampening my spirits, I felt absolutely determined that I would make that next checkpoint. How dare it rain AND thunder? I legged it. And just made the next checkpoint with a bit of time in the bank. Although, I was sad to say goodbye to my running buddy thus far, who had been such fantastic company, but had decided enough was enough. Yet, I saw a familiar face from GUCR who had dnf'd at the same checkpoint back in May. Spoiler: we ran nearly the entire race together this time and both finished. Yey.

I didn't know at the time, but that was merely a warm up 'baby' thunderstorm. Just after the 100 mile point, we got horrendously lost. And I was annoyed at myself because I've done this race before, and I remember this tricky bit, but in the torrential rain that ensued, I couldn't remember the way.

We added on miles. And over an hour of time. And nearly our will to carry on. And my new iPod got completely water damaged and died. There were moments, though, when I envisioned a news story detailing how some runners had been struck by lightning whilst lost during an ill-fated ultra marathon. I have never seen rain so bad, let alone been so absolutely soaked to the skin in it and so close to lighting. Scary stuff. And yet it was all worth it.

To cut a long story shorter, my feet held up amazingly in injinji socks...until I changed them to some dry 'normal' running socks, and my shrivelled feet ended up covered in huge, deep blisters. I don't know...I've battered my feet more times than I can remember and I'm still learning. Don't change socks unless you have to - I had to deal with the worst peely feet for months afterwards.

Monday, 10 October 2016

I'm (not) a morning runner

Four months since I last wrote on here and a lot has happened. I now have a job as a primary school teacher and that is pretty amazing. And, since I have to get up early for work, I've started to make a real effort to go running early in the morning.

I have never been a morning runner. However, I have always admired those early morning runner types. What a great routine to get into,  thought... I find it far too hard to get up early sometimes. However, it finally started to make lots of sense, after years of thinking it'd be a good idea to run before work, I now try and get in a morning run as often as I can.

I had been getting up at 6ish, but I switched this to 5ish am. So, now I can get up, grab a quick coffee to wake myself up a little and be out the door by 5.30ish. The great thing is that I'm still pretty much too tired to complain that much about dragging myself our of the door or overthink it. And the hardest part is always dragging yourself out of that door! When I get back I feel so much wider awake and I can get on with my day then. It lets me be lazy later on. I don't have to do as much in the evenings as I would otherwise have to. So far, it's working really well. I'm actually out there training again!

Once a week, I also try to get a slightly longer run home from work in, with another teacher. In fact, tonight is run home from school night. I never feel too enthused about this at the end of a busy school day, but it's worth it once you're out there....

Friday, 3 June 2016

Overthinking it and sulking...

First run back since epic GUCR fail. I know, I know, 'fail' isn't a positive word to use, but it's what happened. I'm still over-analysing it of course. Any one who were to read this blog, who isn't a runner would have no idea why it even matters so much to me, but it does.

(Side-rant): I'm not a wealthy runner, I'm a nearly (but alas, still training) qualified primary school teacher, so money is tight and entering races is somewhat of a luxury these days. Ultras are expensive too, especially when you take into account the petrol to drive, possible accommodation costs, kit, food etc. I literally can't afford to fail... But, money isn't everything and I logically know this.

I'm going off-point and ultimately the money angle only matters in relation to how often I can race. And I would love to do it more than I do. I'm just venting. About everything. I put all of my eggs in one ultra-basket. Almost. I've got to remember I have a chance of redemption at Liverpool to Leeds Canal Race in August and I'm more than up for taking the opportunity to do so....although, I wasn't so positive about this when I called it quits on Saturday!

What matters more is that I'm still feeling a bit emotionally bruised. I wasn't able to see beyond the moment like I normally am. I wasn't able to transcend the pain or pull myself together. I wasn't able to use all the advice that I'm normally so eager to give out. I rely on that mental stamina normally. It's my rock that can often pull me through. It all feels a bit crappy and embarrassing. And I don't like not finishing things. I like to set out to do something and do it.

However, I know it's not all doom and gloom. Having trawled the internet for motivation and post-race affirmations, I have come across many words of wisdom...

You don't pass or fail at being a person, dear - Neil Gaiman:

So just keep going. Yes. :: 365 Days of Gratitude: Day 262 - Susa Talan: There is nothing more powerful than confidence. Here are 10 quotes that will make you believe in yourself again: http://www.williamotoole.com/Survey Get motivated :-):

 : "You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be." -Marianne Williamson #quotes:  50 Life Changing Motivational Quotes for Entrepreneurs – as Awesome Posters – Design School:

You try, you fail, you try, you fail - the real failure 
is when you stop trying.

If you don't fail, you don't learn. 
If you don't learn, you'll never change.


Okay, you got me...I LOVE Pinterest!! And, I have no race photos ;-)

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Daring to fail - tale of a GUCR dnf

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts" - Winston Churchill

DNF and GUCR are words that I have been lucky enough to never have to use in the same sentence. Until now. And that's exactly what I did. I DNF'd. And it feels rubbish. For so long, I was so proud to say that I had finished GUCR 4 times in a row and never dropped out. Not bad for someone who doesn't look like a 'real runner'. I never really contemplate not finishing. I always think of that as one of my strengths, to keep going, no matter what. So, it was strange and actually heartbreaking to dial that Race HQ number and confirm that I wouldn't be carrying on.

From Mile 36 to Mile 53 is a tricky section. Despite having done this race from 2012- 2015, I had forgotten how tough I find this section. It's very rural, a lot of it looks the same and the ground is quite uneven. The ground is fairly hard to consistently run on during this bit. The scenery is pretty though... During this never-ending section, I felt both mentally and physically rough and I couldn't see the let-up. I became one of those 'negative Nancies' (a miserable, negative runner who you don't want to meet on an ultra) - one of those people who is so relentlessly miserable that you run faster just to avoid them.

As I finally neared the 'unreachable checkpoint', I burst into tears and had a word with myself. I just felt limp and my mental strength had wilted in the warmth of the day. I felt sure I must be right at the back, and I wasn't far off. But, as I got nearer and nearer to the CP, some other runners emerged from behind me. By that point, I had this strange feeling that I wasn't part of the race that I loved any more. I didn't feel a part of it. I had given up. 

I know we do these races and prepare ourselves for pain, both emotional and physical, but I couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. I normally think things like, 'pain is part of it, deal with it', 'pain comes and goes, get on with it' and 'expect pain', blah blah blah. I was so close to the cut-offs and if I'd have carried on and made it to the 70 mile CP after the cutoffs, then I would have been stranded in the middle of the night. I know that's my fault, because I was unsupported, but it's just something I've never fully had to contend with before. I've always had stubbornness on my side, but it had all but gone this time.

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently." Henry Ford:

Ultimately, the best I might have hoped for on zero energy was to spend another 30+ hours down a canal. Imagining another 30+  down the canal wasn't hard to imagine, as it's something I had to contend with last year, when my feet well and truly ended up battered. However, at least last year I was further ahead of cutoff's at this point in the race. Psychologically, this really messed me up this time round. 

Depressingly, my feet were great this year. I taped my big toe, arch and the ball of my foot with Rocktape the night before and it worked amazingly. I experienced no rubbing and no blisters. It was 
my body that wouldn't play ball this year.

I can't really explain. Ever since Saturday I have tried to dig deep and really think about whether there was any way I could have carried on. I hate giving up and I hate making excuses. Yet, as much as I try to explain, I can't. My body simply had no energy. I felt like a rag doll. All of my energy had been zapped from me. I wanted more than anything to move forwards and yet, I felt like I was on a treadmill. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't run for long periods of time and the miles dragged on. I felt clumsy and a bit disorientated. On more than one occasion, I dropped something on the floor. I nearly dropped my map in the canal, but it landed right by the edge. However, I wasn't so lucky with my MP3 player - I looked down after CP2 to discover that it was no longer attached to my earphones and that I'd lost it. It was a bit demotivating and frustrating. Actually, it was more than a bit frustrating - music is such a useful tool to have when you're on your own down a canal, with lots of thoughts bouncing around your head.

It was a humid day on Saturday and I definitely think this contributed to the energy-zap I felt. However, I don't want to make excuses. It just wasn't my day. If I were to put it down to fate, I may point out that my boyfriend's car broke down the night before and we nearly never made it to the start. He went through all the trouble of renting an emergency car, last minute, to help me get there! I could also point out how I couldn't find my running rucksack or OMM up until the day before the race, despite looking for over a week [I can't afford to replace everything, so I kept looking and eventually found them]. And on the morning of GUCR, there was a shortage of technical t-shirts in Size Medium, and so I wasn't able to get the shirt I had ordered - a good thing, it now appears.

Success is a mindset. Leaders are created and when you have the right blend gret things happen for you and your business partners.:

I can't deny it, a big part of me did have a little bit of anxiety over possibly failing at this race. It means so much to me and as much as I know I have nothing to prove in some ways, I can't shake the feeling of still wanting to prove something to myself. That's part of why we do these races and put ourselves through the challenge, right? Aren't we all trying to prove something to ourselves; to prove that we can be better, go further, realise our dreams? But maybe, just maybe I needed to fail in order to face up to that fear of failure and realise it is possible for me to come back stronger next time.