Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Becoming more logical...

“The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.” 

― Kent M. Keith, The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council


I’ve really felt the need to clear my head this last week. I was just feeling in a rut, lacking in social interaction and bored by the monotony of not having work, but looking for jobs constantly & then being so far away from those that I care about. I like to be busy and I like a challenge and I’m not being challenged...well, my patience is a little. I know positive mental attitude counts for a lot, but I’ve been really lacking in that of late. You reach a point and you start to get a bit whiney and forget all the positive aspects of your life. And the thing is there are a lot of positive aspects.

For starters, I’m going on holiday to Canada with my lovely boyfriend in October...I’m so incredibly excited and I absolutely cannot wait. And despite the on-going job battle, meeting him this year has been amazing. Also this year, I completed my second Grand Union Canal 145 mile race & Thames Path 100 miler. Lots of great things have happened. I think sometimes, I just get too excitable and I constantly like to have things to look forward to and I’m like ‘what’s next, what’s next...?’

So yesterday I got a lot off my chest and I sat myself down and I decided that being this down-trodden moaning misery isn’t me and I don’t want to be that. There are lots of amazing things out there and I need to cast my mind and my eye on the good stuff. Consequently, I got proactive and I searched for lots of jobs, renewed my ‘enthusiasm’ for applying for jobs and applied for things. I also de-cluttered my junk and things I don’t use or wear and ebayed lots. And I will continue to do all these things, to take all these steps, to get to where I want to be.

Of course, one of my main grievances was that I can’t do any racing at the moment, because I simply can’t afford to do it. That hurts, because it is so much a part of me.  Now, I’ve spent a few days not running which has been partly down to feeling down and unmotivated, but also down to a hurty knee – which is funny because when I’m doing lots of races and things I never seem to have these aches, but now I’m not I do. However, today I decided to get out of that door and go and run.

I put my sunglasses on, because the evening sun was so beautiful, but glaring and I ran to The Wirral Way.  I took my phone with me and took some piccies to remind myself of how lovely this run is and how much I like this trail.

I saw cyclists, walkers, and horse riders and on the way back home I saw a friendly runner. It always strikes me as calming and just lovely (I can’t think of the words, but lovely describes a lot of nice things...) to see friendly people out and about, enjoying the same surroundings as you are. I like this mutual appreciation of the outdoors and of nature.

So, today has been a nice day. It hasn’t been super eventful, but it’s not been bad and I’m getting out of my rut. And to top it off I had a lovely run.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Missing DOMS

Yep. I'm missing that aching, the sort where you have to walk tentatively down the stairs backwards or sideways like a crab. Treasure those aches and pains fellow runners, for they are a sign of great achievement and an adventure well-lived...

So, it’s been a while again, but on here seems to be my only form of company, for what has been a really lonely week of complete and utter boredom. I guess that's just the price you pay when you don’t have any money or a job or seemingly any friends that live within close proximity to you. And my car is off the road. This isn’t a rant as such. I’m just clearing my mind...I think it’d be less constructive to not express any of this. I think I’d just go out of my mind.

I need a sense of achievement, to do something again. I actually miss DOMS. It was Ridgeway 85 this weekend, but I just couldn’t afford to do it. It got me thinking back to 3 years ago when I did Ridgeway85 – I was working in retail at the time (not a profession that I went to uni for, but at least it was a job), which wasn’t amazing, but at least I got to do races, eh... I remember going into work on the bank holiday Monday, the day after Ridgeway, where I had to stand up all day and spray my feet with cold spray to lessen the discomfort...yep I used to be hard-core. 

I guess my point is that I no longer feel ‘hard-core’, and I’m missing the thrill of the long distances. Not trying to be overly dramatic, but honest about it, it’s like a drug and I simply cannot afford my next fix. And what the fix entails is an adrenalin buzz, a sense of achievement, an adventure, an experience, a sense of self and social interaction all manifested in that one event. I keep all of my race numbers and it’s sad to look at them all; the crumpled, weathered, mud-splattered, gel drizzled race numbers that all went on that journey with me and are now all holed up in some dingy bedroom. It’s hard to remember that I ran with them. I’m probably a little too sentimental. I just feel out of it and I don’t want to be.

I am applying for jobs and things, so I’m not, not doing anything about this. I’m just missing my running spark and my calendar is looking decidedly empty. I don’t feel like an ultra-runner anymore.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Happy trail training :-)

I went for a really lovely run today. I ran a new route that I always think about doing, but today I finally thought, ‘why not, why haven’t I done this before, what’s stopping me?’ (Sounds quite dramatic haha) So, I’ve been a bit lazy on the run/ training front of late. I do a lot of weights and cross training stuff, but I’ve been a lazy runner. So, whilst I have been occupying my days with a mega job search (someone give me a job, please...), I have told myself that I have to run at least 5 miles a day, most days. This is good chance for me to get mega fit.

Alas, my Garmin is still broken (although I know some people don't like Garmins *cough*, George...) & so I have to ‘mapmyrun’ everything. This is okay and I had weaned myself off wearing my Garmin in most events and training runs, but it’s always good to have it on me because it’s so easy to see how far you ran afterwards. Anyway, I got myself out of the door and I went for a run. I’m glad I took my sunglasses with me, because I kept getting dive-bombed and kissed by June-bug type insects and flying things. So I ran to Hooton railway station & then I met up with the Wirral Way footpath.

The Wirral Way is a path on the track of an old railway that goes from West Kirby to Hooton in mid-Wirral offering superb views over the Dee Estuary to Wales. Originally the railway formed a circuit of Wirral and this is the missing link.

It is situated within Wirral Country Park. Wirral Country Park is a place of contrasts. Birds nest in the dense hedges or feed on the berries in winter, and you may see up to ten kinds of butterfly in summer. From the boulder-clay cliffs look out over the Dee Estuary across its 31,500 acres to the Welsh shore, 5 miles away, and on a clear day you can see the familiar outline of Moel Famau in the Clwydian Hills. The estuary's ever-changing light, broad vistas and westerly sunsets reflected in the mudflats and the sea are a constant delight.  (I totally stole this from the LDWA website: http://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Wirral+Way ).

I think the reason I never run a lot along the Wirral Way on my own is because I get really paranoid about dogs...I am a bit of a scaredy cat. I know that I run all sorts of public footpaths on my own during organised events, but somehow I convince myself that this is somehow safer, because there are lots of us out there all at once. Anyway, I pushed this paranoia and scaredy-cat-ness to the back of my mind, put on my brave-girl face and went running.  It was a couple of miles up to where I joined the footpath and then I clocked up about 3 miles out-and-back along the path itself. I ran as far as Willaston and then I ran back. However, I got to thinking that I can run so much further along here. I could run to West Kirby or Parkgate; so many possibilities. And there were no scary doggies. It was actually very quiet along the path. It was lovely to get out there in the countryside, away from traffic and cars and really take in my surroundings. I very much enjoyed this run. Overall I did almost 8.5 miles, so I exceeded my ‘at least 5 miles a day’ target. Hurrah!

I was so hot and sweaty afterwards that I had a lovely orange ice lolly :-) Happy Friday everyone...

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Thunder (literally...and lightning) Run

Note: You are about to read a bit of a long and winding ramble. It might go round in circles, much like the race in question. It will probably come across as quite negative, but I’m just being honest from my perspective. From what I could tell, a hell of a lot of runners out there has a fantastic time & well done to everyone who did participate. There was definitely camaraderie going on for sure. Now, brace yourself for my undulating bloggage...


I love running long and I love running trails and I’m pretty comfortable with staying awake for long periods of times and enduring bad weather and sleeplessness. However, I also really like to go somewhere; I like to go on a journey. I like to travel from point A – Z and end up in some place new from where I started, knowing that I got so far away with my own two feet. I love it. I love the adventure and above all, it’s exciting.

I think it is true to say that I have rather avoided the whole ‘24hour race’ scenario. Like track marathons and lots of laps, this scenario fills me with a sense of running-dread. However, I was willing to give Thunder Run a try. The advantage of this course is that each loop is 10k in length and on off-road trail, through grassy paths and woodland. There were also a few hills in there, which added variety. For me personally, I need that variety. Sure, I’ve done the Brathay 10in10 and I’ve done marathons with multiple laps, but for a 24hour race, I wouldn’t just want to be running around a track. Hats off to the running nutters I know out there who do amazingly at 24hour races and just keep on and on, but I know that running around the same course repeatedly for a full 24 hours just isn’t where my main strengths lie.

So, whilst contemplating this event, the course offered some positive points to me. Furthermore, I was in a female pair with Sarah Aston, so it would be a fun experience and I wouldn’t be in it alone. There was a sense of camaraderie and ‘let’s do this, let’s go for it, rarrrgh!’ After all, there were only a small number of female teams and we were anticipating that we could in theory, do quite well.

We arrived on the Friday night and camped, ready to get going at midday on Saturday. Sarah did the first lap since she had done thunder run last year and knew how it all worked, whereas I was a bit clueless, but I soon picked it up. You basically wait in a cordoned off ‘holding area’ and spot your runner as they are running back in. Then, they give you the wrist band and off you go on your lap. At first it was hard to spot your runner coming in, as there were so many people all crowded around at the same time and lots of hustle and bustle, but I definitely got into the swing of things.

For most of the day it was boiling hot. It was so warm out there and we took a little longer at some loops that we had planned, but nothing too slow and it didn’t really matter because we had a full 24hours. By 7.30pm, the weather had changed dramatically. Thunder Run was living up to its name and there was quite a sustained thunder storm. I love thunder storms, but I’d rather have not been out running in it. I think it must have rained for the next 7 hours and the lightning was a little scary. Needless to say this drastically transformed the course and pathways became flooded. It was a mud bath out there.

You know that bit in Jurassic Park, when that big dude is out in the rain, with that canister full of dinosaur sperm (or something like that...) & it is pouring down with rain and he can’t see, and he loses his glasses and then that scary dinosaur starts attacking him and all the pathways are really muddy and rainy and scary....?! Well, that film clip kept popping into my mind!

Ultimately, I think my main grievance was that it felt to me that there were hundreds of different people all out there at once all running entirely different races. Yep, it was a race, but it was more of a rush for some than others. If you’re in a team of 8, you’re going to be able to run faster than those in a team of 2 or a solo runner. I love running through woods and I love the trail, but I couldn’t enjoy it. Some of the paths were very narrow, with exposed tree roots etc. I wasn’t plodding along, I was going at a fair speed, but obviously, teams wanted to win and were going hell for leather. That’s fine, but I constantly felt pushed to the side and in the way. On a few occasions I felt like I had to keep stopping to let people past me. But it’s difficult, with there being so many different sizes of team on the same course at the same time and I’m not sure how it could be rectified, but I just didn’t find it enjoyable.

It got much worse later on in the day, following the mega thunderstorm and monsoon style rain. Much of the course became a mud-bath and flooded and tree roots became hidden, running became slippery and with the low-light, some bits got a little treacherous out there. I don’t mind rain so much and I did GUCR last year in the pouring rain for 40+ hours, but it started to become dangerous in places. I was taking it easier because I couldn’t see properly and the paths were so narrow and now very muddy, but there was still a constant stream of speedsters itching to overtake. Again, this is all well and good, but a few times these speedier runners were flying all over the place and stumbling and because they were just throwing themselves about I nearly ended up falling into bushes and tripping also.

I just got fed up.

Things came to a head for me after my double-lap, which I finished at around 11pm-ish. All together I had run 30 miles. It was okay. Actually, we were in second place out of five female only pairs for quite a while. Mysteriously, during the night an extra team that had not been on there all day appeared. I think we eventually got pushed down to fourth, but we had basically given up by then, so all was ok.  We definitely deserved our medals though – we put in some hard work.

So, there I was after my last lap. I was soaked to the skin. I was beyond soaked. I was shivering uncontrollably. I was so cold that my whole body was aching, purely from shivering so violently. Stood in the food tent, I came across some solo runner friends who had changed into normal dry clothes. They had decided to rest and sleep until morning and then go out again when it was daylight and hopefully no longer raining. In my mind, I knew that I just didn’t want to go back out again. My original plan had been to run 50-60 miles, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I was running around the course, cursing it. My mind and heart wasn’t in it and then my body followed. I started to feel quite nauseous and whilst I was in the food tent I bought a baguette. I forced some food down because I really didn’t feel too good. Then I summoned the courage to walk the five minutes or so back to where we were camped. I just didn’t want to move, and yet, I was just stood there shivering.

I got back to camp and my pop-up tent had flooded. This wasn’t a surprise to me and fortunately Sarah had given me here car keys before she had gone back out to run her laps. Once in the car, I just sat there, you guessed it, shivering – shivering like a mad woman! I must have looked quite funny and mental now I think about it. I was shaking my head and muttering to myself that I didn’t want to go back out there.  I managed to rummage through my bag and dry myself with a towel and put on some dry clothes. My towel was soaked. I tried to snuggle down for a snooze, but at this point, I was still dreading the possibility that I might have to go back out. I didn’t want to let Sarah down. Near the end of her first lap, she came by the car, since where we were camped was on the course route, just past the 9K mark. There was still a possibility I could have to go back out, so I set my alarm on my phone, but deep down I knew that I really, really didn’t want to go back out there. A little while later, Sarah came back around, on the end of her second lap. She had some ‘bad news’, she said; she just couldn’t go back out there, it was muddy, it was dangerous, and we just weren’t running to anywhere in particular that would make it somehow purposeful, just running around in muddy circles. This news was far from bad for me, I was the happiest I had been in hours. I was so happy that the decision not to go back out was mutual.

So, right now, I’m sat here and I’m wondering, now that I’m writing about this around 4 days after the actual event whether or not my opinions of this event have changed. Was it all as bad as I had thought at the time? Could I have done more and gone on to enjoy it? Well, I guess you can always do more. I could have run further and kept on going. But, at what cost? I really think it got quite dangerous out there and although I had wanted to do well, it just didn’t matter that much to me that I wanted to cause myself serious injury. Also, a lot of it just became un-runnable, it was that muddy.

It got me thinking about GUCR in 2012 and how wet and miserable the weather was on that weekend. I was soaked to the skin and I had to wear a binbag and I knew from the very beginning in Birmingham that I had 145 miles ahead of me and that those miles would likely be very wet. Yet, I was so willing to endure this and I never once contemplated giving up. As extreme as it sounds, I would have done anything to finish. Similarly, a few years ago, I ran Hardmoors 55 in Yorkshire. This 55 mile trail race passes through open moorland and pretty high ground. The terrain is very rugged and we were faced with patches of snow, biting wind and torrential, unrelenting rain. It got so bad that more than half the field dropped out and many ended up with hypothermia. Yet, I was determined to finish it and indeed I did. 

So, I know I have the mentality and strength to overcome tough weather conditions and distance and keep going. I think the difference is that on other events, I had a clearly defined goal: to reach that finish line. Furthermore, everyone else running those races had the same goal in some respect, to go on a journey and reach the finish. On Thunder Run, I didn’t have that sense of purpose and I just grew frustrated, because even though I was trying to do well, I wasn’t going anywhere and I wasn’t going on a journey. I was running around in miserable circles. I think I’ve learnt some valuable lessons from this event and I know now that 24 hour thingy-magigs really aren’t my thing...