Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Quadzilla, rOAAAAAR

Over a week has passed since the Quadzilla (4 marathons in 4 days, roaaar) now and I have been thinking of how to sum it up. Sometimes I think I think too much (see, right there, too much thinking). Overall I had a brilliant time and it has definitely made my February more exciting. I didn’t have anything as such planned in for February, since I have been aiming to do fewer events in the lead-up to the Thames Path 100… I really don’t want to mess it up & I am yet to complete a 100 miler, so it means a lot to me.

I have tried and failed twice previously at this distance through lack of preparation and over-doing the marathons and shorter ultra’s in the lead-up to it...meaning that I would do a marathon/ ultra/ back-to-backs for weeks upon weeks before the big one and the weekend right before it and hope that things would just work out ok. I’ve not battered myself too much this year yet and following the Quadzilla I have not raced these last two weekends.

Ok, I seem to have gone off on a bit of a contradictory tangent because I have seemingly filled up my February with marathons where I had not planned them due to tactical preparation…HOWever, it has felt like some good training mileage and I didn’t overly exert myself. More to the point, at least I’m not doing a marathon or an event this coming weekend, eh! Psychologically, taking part in the Quadzilla was a huge boost for me because I had been feeling rather down of late. I was feeling out of ‘the loop’ of running and events.

Taking part in events allows me a bit of escapism and inspires me; seeing all these fascinating people and hearing all their amazing stories of adventure or plans of adventure makes me feel excited at the possibilities that are out there. Life can be boring without getting inspired once in a while. So, I was experiencing a bit of withdrawal. These 4 marathons addressed that issue and I had a great little break. What’s more, we had SNOW! Now, in the North West, we haven’t had any snow…not a single flake. Sure, it’s been freezing and feeling wintery, but no snow.

Day 1 - Thursday 9th February 2011

It was really freezing and I felt really tried from the outset. Having train-ed it down to Telford the previous night and crashed at some lovely runner friends’ house, our drive across to Milton Keynes on the Thursday morning wasn’t such a long one. I still slept in the car though. I felt really sleepy. I feel like this a lot in the cold. I have the best sleeps in the cold and yet I’m always tired, like I should be in hibernation. Brrrr. Still, it was lovely to see so many familiar faces upon reaching our starting location. It is a familiar location. I have run around this lake many many times before. I completed the 4 marathons in 4 days last year in preparation for my Brathay Challenge of 10 marathons in 10 days. It is a really good way to get in those training miles and get some good quality time on your feet. 

Now, me and this lake don’t always see eye to eye. It can get a bit monotonous. However, it was lovely to see this lake in a different wintery light. I have never before encountered such an expanse of frozen water. It was great to watch the ducks and geese and swans skate around on the ice and take in the scenery. And it seemed to change every day. There were a few icy patches and one particular bit proved quite treacherous around the far side of the lake. Some of the frozen bits stayed with us for the next 3 days. Day 1 was my fastest day.

Day 2 – Friday 10th February 2011

It snowed on the Thursday night and as I watched the snowflakes fall I felt like a little kid at Christmas. It seems like so long ago that I saw snow fall and I was excited about the prospect of running through the snow, albeit I had not packed my trail shoes. Still, I was excited. I felt a bit more awake on the Friday morning from the sheer anticipation of getting out there and experiencing the lake in a whole different way again. When you are running 7 ½ laps on the same lake every day for 4 days in a row, it really helps to visualise your surroundings in a different light.

Therefore, the snowy/ frosty/ wintery weather meant that each day our surroundings seemed that bit different. Granted, by about half way through the third day, I was beginning to go a bit crazy, but a bit of added frosty glitz can make anything look more magical. On day 2, I found myself laughing at the ducks and how they slid across the ice…the things you think of whilst out running! I also noticed that at one particular point, members of the public would stop to feed a particular bunch of ducks and geese and appeared to laugh at them as they frenzied across the ice in search of the food on offer. The simple things in life amuse me.

As Day 2 drew to a close I noticed that my left foot was someone tender. It never got painful, but there was a niggle there. I figured it was due to running on an uneven slanted section of grass and then repeating this silly idea 7 times over. My right foot was fine. Anyway, I really felt it and so, that night I found a patch of snow and covered my foot in it…. A wintery improvised ‘ice bath’ type thing – I found it really helped.

Nutrition-wise, everything was going ok. I was aware that I wasn’t consuming enough water, which is undoubtedly due to not sweating quite so much in the freezing temperatures and not feeling as thirsty. Even so, I tried to drink what I could to save from dehydration for the remainder of the days. Food-wise I had been organised. I hit the sweetie isles of Sainsbury’s hard and stocked up on Liquorice Allsorts, chocolate peanuts and wine gums and made my own little assortments up in snazzy little children’s sandwich bags that were decorated with animated creatures such as monkeys and dinosaurs. I am easily pleased!

To be continued…because, well, if I don’t at least blog some of these events, it’ll take me just ages to finish telling any stories at all & they will be lost amongst the endless files on my computer, so I will break it up

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


So, I got to looking at all my friend's status updates and began pondering. I couldn't really decide what to give up for lent...If I gave up alcohol, there would be no post-race recovery Guinness. If I gave up crisps or sweeties, then I probably wouldn't make it through my upcoming running shennanagins at all. So, I may just decide to give up some lazy days & run for 40 days (in theory)

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Quadzilla - Day 1

My Arctic (Milton Keynes) Adventure

Today was rather chilly, but adventurous. Day 1 of my 4 marathons in 4 days challenge! Although I normally like to run far and away and lapping a lake repeatedly isn't always easy, it was nice to see so many familiar faces. Icy and patchy bits of snow remained, but it was a nice change... We've had no snow in Chester or the North West, only freezing rain and icy temps. In fact, as I type, it is snowing here in Milton Keynes :) woooo! Let tomorrows' adventures begin.....

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Ultra Race

I wrote this blog the day after Ultra Race 45/90, which took place on the weekend of January 21st & 22nd . I’ve encountered this race twice previously. I did my best in the first year I attempted it in 2010. 2011 was difficult as I had just overcome flu and only did Day 1. 

This year was tricky…well, I was ok…I didn’t struggle as such, just found myself stressing over silly things like a bit of a bad stomach, people’s stupid dogs being off leads and tender feet, but nothing majorly bad. I took my time…probably more time than I needed to really. I guess I do have a problem with pushing myself forwards sometimes…I need to work on that inner voice a bit. Ultimately, I did find this race really useful for the inevitable loneliness that the Grand Union Canal Race will bring. Although, the dark and scary bits of the canal weren’t the best…however, it’ll be much better when I get a better head torch. 

I may also get some more cushioned trainers for the GUCR, since my feet really were quite sore following these two days…and I’m used to ultras…it’s the strangest thing, but I did end up getting a bit blistered and I never normally do. Ultimately, I may have been right at the back…but from a different perspective, there was only about 29 of us on Day Two, a lot of those that were going to do Day Two decided to do just Day One, some people DNF’d and I was fourth lady and even though there were only four ladies in the whole thing, it felt good to be in a male dominated event and stick it out until the end! So, below is the blog that I wrote the day after Ultra Race 90 (although 94 miles in reality over the two days) :)

Feet are just a little bit mashed today. But good training was done in the form of UltraRace45/90 ….although it is more like 47 miles each day! I am now quite scared about GUCR, mainly because of dogs…yep…they were one of my main grievances/ fears along the way.

I’ve always been a bit weary of dogs and I’ve never been brought up with them, so I don’t really have a lot of confidence around strange dogs. However, there’s one certain longish stretch of canal along this route where people just let their dogs run free without a lead and I was a bit petrified...some of them were really ferocious looking dogs and I was growled at too. I was frustrated with myself for being silly/ scared and I think the tiredness exasperated my frustrations and emotions, yesterday. I had a bit of a cry. I did want to get a good jog on and in places I just felt a bit nervy to do so. Anyway, yesterday was never going to be fast after 47 miles on Saturday, but my legs felt ok...my feet were a bit mashed though…which is a good thing to happen now so as I can reassess foot comfort for bigger adventures later on in the year.


Shortly after my emotional dog meltdown moment I came across a police officer who had cordoned off a part of the towpath for 5 mins or so because someone had died aboard a narrow boat L That was sad to hear, but also added a bit of surreal-ness to the day.

It was quite a lonely day all in all and I was mostly alone. However, I did catch up with a guy who had been cat & mouse with me near the start and I walked for a bit and had a good chat. Speed-wise, and foot-wise, it wasn’t what I needed, but mentally it was. It was nice to speak to someone, especially when I was being all over-emotional. Ultimately, I had to run on because it simply hurt too much to walk. I popped some nurofen which seemed to do the trick and I jogged on into the dark. Another lesson was learned in the dark and that is that my head torch is a bit rubbish really. It’s a Petzl, but even with new batteries it is really very dim. And in the pitch black, when you’re trying to navigate/ see where you’re going, it can make you go even slower. And the only thing you want to do is get closer to the end. There were a few points where I got confused as to where to go, since there was a lot of cordoned-off bits of towpath where work was being done. It was guesswork, but after a bit of pondering for 5 mins, I decided to cross over a lock: right decision.


The last stretch was very lonely and I felt a bit drained. I also felt bad because I knew everyone was waiting for me to finish, as I think those that were behind me had dropped out. But when I reached the last checkpoint and had done 38 miles, there was no way that I wasn’t carrying on, even if it can be scary to be down a pitch black canal alone in the dark. I think the prospect of not finishing after so long kind of outweighs those fears. So, I tried to push any thoughts about the creepiness of the last bit to the back of my head. I ran and power-walked…mostly walked since I nearly did the splits at one point through slipping on invisible mud. Finally that big glowing green beacon of the Carlsberg sign was in sight and I was homeward bound and I finally got back onto the streets and into familiar looking territory. I followed the treasure hunt of Ultra Race signs on lampposts and finished!

Yesterday was such a long day, but a really good learning experience. Sometimes I guess that when it doesn’t run the smoothest, you end up learning the most.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I have not written a big blog in quite a LONG while and I have really been feeling the need to more than ever, despite the fact that nothing much has really happened. But I feel it needs to. Firstly I feel the need for a festive update of running and stuff….Yup, I know we are now into February…it really has been that long! I have been meaning to update recent race shenanigans. There haven’t been many, but I guess there were a few over the Christmassy period….

Christmas Enigma Marathon – Day 1, 21 December 2011

I had to wait a month for this one. It was my first marathon since the Cornish Marathon and it seemed like such a long time. In reality, it was merely a month, but having become accustomed to running marathons or doubles or an ultra every weekend, this was a long hiatus from running for me. This break was gladly broken and although I wasn’t looking forward to the lappy’ nature of the course (we would have to run around the course 17 ½ times to complete the marathon distance), I was more than happy to be out there running a long distance and seeing lots of familiar faces and friendly runners.

During my month off I had been out running more on my own. ‘Training’ isn’t something that I am always that familiar with; owing to the amount of long distance events that I have done in the last 2 1/2 years; training has taken a bit of a backseat to much needed rest and there’s been a bit of sleep deprivation- triggered lack of motivation. I was interested to see whether my increased training and increased rest from longer distances had increased my speed a bit. I knew that this theory would not be fully tested, due to my mindset not being at its best on a multiple lap course. Some people love laps, but I like to go on an adventure or a journey and run into the distance…I don’t much like going around in circles and it always plays with my mind and interrupts my focus a bit. However, that being said I was still hoping for a bit more speed. I hadn’t got below a 5-hour marathon time in well over a year. I used to be a 4 hour marathon person when I trained better, rested more and did not run so many marathons. I felt a bit sickly/ cramped up in my stomach in the last couple of miles of this marathon – mainly owing to a lack of salt and inadequate refuelling, I concur. Yet, I nearly cried…in fact, I think I did shed a tear upon reaching that finish line in 4:47:17 …it has been such a long time since I had done this ‘well’. I also knocked out a few 8 -9 min miles during the day. I was made up; I didn’t care how I did on Day 2!

Christmas Enigma Marathon – Day 2, 22nd December 2011

I was feeling a little bit stiff and not exactly looking forward to Day 2 and its familiar laps. However, I was again excited to be in such excellent company with all the other crazy runners I know and I had been promised a Christmas shopping meander in Milton Keynes after the marathon. Shopping, now, there’s something the aim for. And so I ran as well as my mind and body permitted and jogged on. I wore my reindeer antlers for a lap, until the wind resistance threatened to send them flying off my head. I tried to keep focused and just relaxed and enjoyed my day. I wanted to do as well as I could, but really I wasn’t so worried about time. Ultimately I finished in around 5:17ish – Job done and a lovely two days had. And Milton Keynes provided a really good shopping experience!

Sunrise to Sunset Holly Challenge Marathon, 27th December 2011

I tried to be good over Christmas and not over-indulge too much, but I think I failed. I’m not normally a ‘drinker’. Well, I don’t go out a lot or have a lot of mad alcohol fuelled benders like lots of people my age often do (although I’m not criticising it…sometimes haha). I normally crave a good pint of Guinness after an event or a nice cold lager, but there’s nothing unusual or over-the-top about that. Christmas, however, always seems to bring out the Baileys, Gin etc; Although, I think it was all the nibbles that accompany the presence of such drinks that had me feeling sheepish. I don’t know how I would have felt if it had not been for these events.

Christmas day had not provided me with a good run, owing to a harsh ground frost and me deciding to go and explore an off-road footpath up the road. It was a marked signposted right of way. However, this didn’t stop some angry scary farmer woman shouting at me from far away to get off the grass…and I was on the very edge of the field. I was already feeling a bit low and that’s why I had gone out for a run in the first place. After that debacle, I decided to run off home and thus, my run was much incomplete.

I was really looking forward to the Sunrise to Sunset challenge - another great chance to see some lovely familiar running faces and have a nice run about. I wasn’t looking forward to the laps…33 laps if I remember correctly and there’s a nice hill thrown in there that you must encounter each lap. You had the option of doing 33 laps for the marathon distance or carrying on until sunset and thereby completing an ultra of whatever distance it ended up being. I had intended to carry on. However, the laps played their mind games and my left hip-flexor was also complaining. I really didn’t fancy messing up my hip flexor and fortunately it has been ok since that day.

I decided to just do the marathon distance. It was a great day out and I ran faster than I had previously run early in the year on that course. We were also treated to jacket potatoes and bolognaise on completion. Yum! Small independently organised events like these always make me smile. They’re small, but so friendly. You always end up seeing so many familiar faces and there is always a sociable atmosphere. If I’m ever feeling down, I think about people such as these and remember that the world is full of fun, inspiring, kind-spirited people. You just have to think of them and block out the baddies and then it’s a brighter day. This is one of the best things about running; the people.


Back to earlier thoughts of not much happening lately; well there was Christmas I suppose. That feels like it was so long ago now. It came along so fast and it went by even faster. And now we are well into January and the New Year. Its crazy how fast time goes and yet at the time it can sometimes feel like it is dragging by a little bit with all the ‘boring’ everyday bits and bobs going on. But it goes by so fast. I want this year to be the year where a lot happens for me, but I don’t want it to absolutely fly by. It makes me sad to think that it absolutely flies by. And then before you know it you’re another year older and you try to figure out what you have achieved from it all.

Last year I met a few goals that I wanted to and a few are still outstanding. I reached 100 marathon distance events and I completed the Brathay 10 marathons in 10 days challenge; I met lots of amazing people and had some amazing adventures. I did NOT find a new, ‘graduate level’ job (or whatever that means these days); I did not complete a 100 miler; I didn’t visit some faraway destination abroad; I didn’t come to any significant conclusions about my future career

This year I aim to find a job, complete a 100 miler, complete more a 100+ ultra, and come to some conclusions about where I want to go career-wise; in fact start a career full-stop. I want to be more motivated and not have as many lie-ins (January doesn’t count…January is a cold & tiring month). I want to train more and bring up my speed and reach a greater potential. I want to smile more and care less about the unimportant things that can often bring you down. I want to appreciate the little things in life and be less materialistic, because it never makes you happy. I want to read more and be inspired by the words and work of amazing people. I want to keep in touch with all the people that mean the most to me, whom through time or circumstances I may not always see enough of or speak to enough.

Yesterday I got to meet up and speak to a really good friend from university and went to visit my old uni town of Aberystwyth. It was full of laughter and longing for the ‘good old days’. I miss the fun and excitement of not always knowing what’s around the corner and I miss the feeling of there being endless possibilities out there to explore. Lately it has seemed that there are not many possibilities out there for ‘us graduates’ in this country. And I guess I have been feeling angry and frustrated about not fulfilling my potential or using my mind or what I have learnt in any of the ways in which I would like to. It was lovely to visit Aberystwyth though. It was nice to walk along the promenade and look out to sea and remember why I enjoyed being there so much and why I enjoyed living by the sea so much. I think, in the future, I would really love to live by the sea again.

Tonight, I was undecided whether to go for a run or not. It was my day off and I had done little all day and I really craved the fresh air and exercise. So, I made up my mind and decided to go out for a moderate-length run and deal with the icy pavements and frost when it came to it. It was definitely very icy out. Yet it was a really enjoyable 6ish miles and I'm very happy I decided to throw caution to the wind and get up off my bum and head out the door. I did some icy interval running, i.e. run, stop, dodge ice, run, stop, dodge ice - much fun and highly recommended. From this little experience has emerged another resolution: Don’t over think things, go out there and do it.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?