Monday, 15 December 2014

Running here, there and everywhere.

What do you do when you don't have a car? Well, if you're a runner, you guessed it! The pros of this are that it's a fantastic way to get in all sorts of varied training. Running to and from work with my inov8 rucksack adds a little extra weight to my run, so that mixes things up a bit. I also get in some ‘night running’, since I’ve been running back from work in the dark. Then there’s also running whilst tired, as I almost always feel after work. So, sleepy runs on little food double as good ultra training. 

Running from work also means that I don’t have to drag myself out of the door after work, as I’m killing two birds with one stone via running home. And it is pretty hard to drag yourself out of the door into the cold night air once you’ve settled down in the warmth of your living room. 

Finally, since I’m working a lot over Christmas, that’s a lot of festive training in the bag, which makes up for all that mince pie munching. This also puts a bit of a positive spin on working so much over Christmas, which isn’t the happiest prospect ever (Boo!). I guess the only major downsides to running to work are having hat hair (wearing a hat becomes necessary if the weather is bad, to avoid looking like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards...) and remembering to take my makeup with me ;-)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Here's to new beginnings

To quote Semisonic... ;-) 'Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end'

I can’t believe how fast this year has gone. Crazy. I have been working down in Eastbourne, in a big old ex-stately home, which is now a language school and tomorrow is my last day teaching. I feel happy to embrace new adventures up North, but there is also a little bit of sadness there. I will miss the building itself. It is so beautiful and extraordinary working here. You definitely don’t come across places like this very often, if ever. So, I feel really privileged to have had the chance to work here. And then there’s Eastbourne. I had never had the chance to visit Eastbourne before I worked here. It was just too far away from the North West. I’m glad I got the chance to stay here and experience the wonderful surrounding hills and scenery. The South Downs Way has been an amazing running route to have on my doorstep, and Beachy Head. I will make sure to go out for one last meander or maybe two, before I leave on Monday morning. Then it’s northwards I go and off to discover new adventures.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Shake it

I used to be one of those people that shrugged off protein shakes a little bit. I wasn’t the best milk lover in the world – I’m still not - and I didn’t like the taste or the smell. I reasoned that I could just go and eat some tuna or chicken and get some extra protein that way. Obviously, eating some extra protein is a really great idea, but it’s just a little inconvenient. I’m not likely to carry a chicken breast or leg around in my bag now, am I? (that thought/ mental image made me giggle a bit).

I’ve bought whey protein in the past and I’ve ended up trying it once or twice and then passing it off on relatives/ my brother. However, after years of trying to embrace the protein, I’ve finally found one that I actually like the taste of and isn’t the most expensive thing ever.

Myprotein is a pretty good website in terms of offers – I’m always getting emails with excellent deal codes. So, last week I decided to invest in a 2.5kg of ‘Total Oats and Whey’. It is what it sounds like, a mixture of whey protein and oats. I decided to go for ‘Chocolate Smooth’ flavour and I really like it.  I’ll have one in the morning and I’ll have one in the afternoon or evening or after a workout. I feel like I’m doing myself some good and I don’t feel like snacking at all. It’s not about bulking up, for me, as it would be for a guy hitting the gym and doing heavy weights. It’s about recovery and looking after my muscles and not getting injured and being the best I can be.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Running in the dark

Ability is what you are capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do. 
Attitude determines how well you do it. 

--Lou Holtz

The air was chilly, there was a lot of wind resistance and it was slightly uphill - such a great run :) It wasn't too fast, because I was running in the dark, with my head torch wrapped around my wrist, but it sure made me feel energised. I like this cosy time of year, you can go outside and embrace the chill, and then you can go back inside and snuggle up with a cuppa' and be cosy

 I'm quite 'warm bodied', which is basically my fancy way of saying that I warm up really quickly, so even when it's chilly, I end up getting fairly warm - so no running tights or long-sleeved tops for me just yet....just my good old comfy Centurion Thames Path 100 t-shirt and comfy shorts. Bring on winter training...

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Tea L C

Today is all about tea. PG tips to be precise. Sometimes there is nothing better than a big cuppa' tea when it's chilly outside. I'm one of those 'strange' people who leaves the teabag in, so that it goes really strong and dark. Just a splash of milk. The fact that I'm really craving tea may also have a lot to do with the fact that I had a nice catch-up with one of my friends last night, who is also an ale loving girl.

Big jug and baby jug

Being in East Sussex all year, I have gotten to know some of the local breweries and I particularly like Dark Star. I also particularly like their ale, 'Revelation'. It really is quite the revelation. It is also pretty strong at approx. 5.7 %. So, I have therefore found myself feeling a bit worse for wear today. PG tips to the rescue...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Getting back out there.

Choppy waters - kite surfer

Today, I’m getting back out there. I’m going to run my old favourite route and do my first run in 2 weeks. Obviously, my old route includes a long stretch of road leading  up to the Beachy Head Marathon start/ finish line and the first bit of my run takes me up that route. I guess I refuse to let what happened define me and destroy my love of this beautiful scenery. It’s mine and all the great runs that I have had there will never be erased.

Choppy sea and cliff edge

So, I might as well take this opportunity to create more lovely memories and runs up there. Slowly but surely, things are getting better. I feel motivated to find my next challenge, I feel energised to go after that job, to move back up North, to see what possibilities are out there.  If someone can’t see the magic of something, find someone who can. So, whilst I’ve not been running, I have read about running and I have plotted various run goals. I have also focused a lot of my core and mastered various ‘plank exercises’. I’ve embraced the protein shake and become a regular protein monster. I’ve also done a lot of arm exercises and swung my kettle bell around a fair bit. On the side, I have engaged in a little bit of retail therapy.

South Downs Way

Random piccies from today's meander (see above, across and below ;-) )

Stretching out...

Friday, 7 November 2014


I'm a big advocate of vitamins. I know that some people would disagree and say that I shouldn't need to take them if I'm eating a balanced diet. I don't entirely disagree with this. I do try to get all my nutrients from food, but considering that I end up battering my body so much and running in the rain etc., I think it's only sensible to supplement my diet with something. So, a long time I have taken a mixture of Spirulina and Chlorella. It can be expensive, but I have shopped around and found one - again, on Amazon - that I really like. I guess Chlorella is a type of algae and it's classed as a super food. I just really like the fact that it has so many minerals in it. This chlorella is from a brand called Rainforest Foods and I'd highly recommend it, just saying :)

Thursday, 6 November 2014


I think I have mentioned this before...I like a good bottle! That is maybe a little bit sad, but there we go. I'm a bit of a bottle 'cheat'...I find one I like and then I see another and I move on... Oooh and of course, drinking water is really important. I find that if I have something that I like to drink water out of, then I drink more water than I would normally. And, when I drink more water, I feel better.

So, I was browsing around the kitchen department of a shop the other day. I came across a Brita water bottle. Oooo, even better than a snazzy water bottle, it's a snazzy water bottle which makes water taste better. Naturally, I went on Amazon and bought one cheaper :). It arrived about an hour ago and I am not quite sure if I have inserted the filter properly yet, so I might have to give it a while before I can tell if it's any good or not. However, it is a rather nice bottle. 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Health-kick up the bum...

Hello there,

My name is Liz.

I guess I’m reintroducing myself as I feel that I am reaching and have reached a bit of a turning point in my life. Relationship status changes, location changes and job changes.

I’m a runner, as some of you may know and, very likely will have guessed from this blog. I love getting out there and running over hills and through forests. I’ve now done 150 events which are at least a marathon in length, and you could say I’m hooked. Ultras are my favourite. I’d say an ultra was anything over 30 miles. They come in many different shapes and sizes. The very hilly. The very winding. The very muddy. The very rocky. The very, very long. I love the variation and the beauty of all of them. I find it fascinating to witness how the mere act of running so far breaks down barriers. 

You talk to people and people open up. You open up. You learn so much about others and about different experiences. It can be the best life lesson and it is all accompanied by an enormous sense of adventure.  It’s a kind of therapy. I would never wish to change it. There have been tough times when I really thought I couldn’t move forward, but it is in my heart (as cheesy as that sounds).

As my time living in the South of England come to an end, I have decided to reflect slightly. I’ve realised I do want to be the very best that I can be. I’m rambling. Sure, I ramble, but I’ve realised that I want to ramble more. So, here’s to more rambling. Let’s make this a daily thing, eh? So, in an effort to improve and learn, I’m going to ramble. This will be my kick up the bum. I’m going to write my thoughts. I’m going to write down my future travel and running aspirations. I’m going to write about the fact that my quads are aching, because I decided to do some weird lunge/ squat combo. I’m going to write about how I very nearly tripped over my kettlebell yesterday (although, that's probably not useful or advisable to anyone...).

So, here’s to my health-kick up the bum :) cheers!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Liverpool to Leeds - 130 Mile Race

I started writing this a number of weeks ago, but I thought it was right to finish, even though these memories are sweet and painful (for various reasons...)

Update: Looking back at this blog, it wasn't the best that I could have written about such an epic, eventful and scenic race experience. After the race, It took me quite a while to write this blog and then my race partner/ actual boyfriend decided to - without warning - end things, so it wasn't a happy time. Anyway, there's always next year...


I never did end up writing a blog for this. It was all too tiring at the time and I just wanted to savour the feeling of lying down in a comfy cosy bed. This was what I dreamt of and promised myself and George for approximately almost all of the 127+ miles.  This dream then turned into some sort of mantra/ chant: ‘Big fluffy pillow, big fluffy pillow’. This later evolved into the words, ‘Big soft, king-size mattress’. It’s true what they say, you always do forget the pain that you go through at the time. You forget the tears, the psychological torment, the throbbing feet, the sweatiness, the cold, the ‘almost falling in a canal whilst falling asleep’! 

Prior to this Northern Canal adventure, we had promised that we wouldn’t run this one too. My third GUCR had been tough. I actually got the best time I have ever gotten, but it was mentally tough going and it rained a lot. Me and George promised ourselves at the time that GUCR was our big adventure for the year and that there would be no more long canal adventures in 2014, if ever. But we HAD to do it. Something told us we had to do it.

We had already signed up and it felt wrong not to do it. I’m so happy we did decide to do it, because it felt like such an amazing achievement at the end. It was so tough battling poorly tummies, feelings of not being able to move forward, rain, a freezing cold night section and me falling asleep on my feet. That bed waiting for us at the Hilton in Leeds seemed like an impossible goal, but it wasn’t. If you just keep moving and keep motivated and want it, you can do it. It’s tough, but you overcome the struggles and you get there. When you get there you forget about the problems you overcame, they don’t mean anything anymore, because you’ve achieved success and that was the goal all along.

The night before

I know a really good Argentinian steak house in Liverpool called ‘Meet’. It’s super tasty and a good change from having pasta the night before a big race.  It was an excellent decision. We ate rib-eye steak and ribs and drank some tasty beer. So, protein and carb-loaded up, we found a Sainsbury’s express and bought lots of ultra-munchies. I find that buying multiple meal deals does the trick. I also love Coke when I’m running an ultra and it really perks me up and the fizz is satisfying, so I bought lots of coke with my meal deals. I also bought lots of crisps, a big variety of Pringles and things that were easy to eat. I also had a few choccie raisins, which I put in cute children’s’ sandwich bags with animals on them (although I almost always crave savoury over sweet on an ultra, so not too much chocolate). After this shopping extravaganza it was back to our Travelodge for some final preparations and sleep. We set our alarms for 4.30am. The race started at 6am.


The Leeds and Liverpool Canal main line is 127 miles (204 km), although I think we ended up running about 135 miles. My main impressions of this canal were that it is much prettier than the Grand Union and much ‘hillier’! It crosses the Pennines and even visits Skipton and Shipley, in Yorkshire.  I think scenically, Skipton was one of my favourite bits. I’ve done marathons up in those hills before and it’s a very picturesque area. However, it was quite a long stretch in very quiet countryside and because I felt very tired at the time, some bits dragged on a lot here. I needed the mental stimulation of people and civilisation and things going on. I think my least favourite bits were around Blackburn. There were some dodgy bits near Leigh and then up to Blackburn and some weird people. There was also a scary dog at one point – some sort of angry Staffordshire bull terrier, that I literally thought was going to bite us.

The night section

The night section was very tough. I’m so glad I was not alone. The temperature plummeted considerably and I felt so cold. This was bad for a number of reasons.  The colder it got, the more tired I felt. It also meant that there was no place for tiredness. Being tired was bad because it made me slower, but we needed to keep on moving in order to keep warm. It was a bit of a vicious circle.  I also seem to remember it raining pretty badly. When we found a toilet during this section, we actually barricaded ourselves inside it for about 10 minutes, to gain some warmth and composure back.

We got lost

I think it was around Foulridge Tunnel and it was during the night section. We read and re-read the navigational instructions, but we couldn’t find the right path or the right gate. During situations like this, where you’re just not sure of the way to go, your mind tends to ‘make sense’ of the directions before you. Sure, that could be a bridge, why not? I can’t see a path, oh maybe they think this road is a path? That sort of thing. In the end we must have taken approximately a 3 mile diversion down some country roads and we followed road signs to the town we were headed for on the map. Amazingly, this worked and we were able to find the canal and re-join it. It was slightly stressful. It was so dark out there, we were worried that we would struggle to find and re-join the canal. There was a check point not too long after this. A positive outcome of getting lost was that it made me alert. My sleepiness just disappeared and I was so concerned that we were lost that I became more aware and awake.

The dream

The last 20 miles or so really dragged. Our feet hurt, our legs hurt, and we were knackered. And the miles went so slowly, so we’d run to a barge and walk, run to another boat and walk. However, some nice things also happened during this section. At 113 miles, we stopped at a pub and had half a pint of pale ale. I freshened up a bit in the pub toilets. The drink really hit the spot. At 6 miles to go, a lovely man who was supporting another runner bought us an ice cream. We were about to buy one anyway, but he insisted on buying it for us. I thought it was so kind. I think things like that put a big smile on your face and that feeling is amplified at this stage in a race.

Little by little, that finish line got closer. Before we knew it, we could see what looked like a city and tall buildings. Knowing that we were nearly in Leeds was the best feeling ever. The last few miles were a bit of a tease, because there were mile markers by the canal and it was pretty slow going. There were also a few twists and turns and we’d think, ‘Oh it must be there...ahhh, it’s not’!

Running over the line, I was so sleepy, but so relieved. We had made it. We got our medals and our bags and we hobbled to our hotel, which was conveniently situated just around the corner. It was such a relief to get clean and be in the cosy warm. It was definitely a lot harder than I had anticipated and tougher. We were also slower than we thought we might be, completing it in just less than 37 hours (36hrs 57mins to be precise). It was worth it. We got there in the end.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Cosy Autumnal Contemplation

I'm back off holiday and readjusting to England. I wasn't away a long time, but we packed a lot in. There were no sun loungers and no sunbathing in this holiday scenario, but I really loved Singapore. It is such a laid back country and the food is brilliant. I'm definitely missing avocado juice and smoothies from my life. We did so much in Singapore. We even ran a marathon and saw monkeys! You can't say that for races at home. I think the world needs more marathon monkeys. I will do a race report on this, as it was all very sweet and the runners were lovely. It was crazy sweaty though. However, I got to thinking that if I could run in sauna conditions all of the time then I'd be ultra buff (can you use the word buff if you're a lady? I don't want pecs...)

We also flew over to Hong Kong and had a little nosy around, but we only truly got to see a glimpse of what it was like. I don't want to judge it too harshly, because I believe I would really like it if I knew where I was going more, but it's a bit overwhelming when you're on a tight schedule. I will have to revisit at some point. We missed the riots though. Phew. And our hotel was very special and luxurious.

So now it seems like a hectic time, but it should hopefully turn out to be an exciting time. I'm open to new job opportunities and actively looking and there is Amsterdam marathon, Beachy Head and my birthday on the horizon. And it's becoming very autumnal which makes me want to cuddle up in front of a log fire with a very big blanket.

And because I'm not back to work until next week, I am currently snuggled up with a cuppa coffee and Scott Jurek's book, 'Eat and Run'.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The voice of caution knows nothing of real joy...

A fellow runner and all-round inspiring guy, Rajeev Patel, quoted Neal Donald Walsh, in relation to LLCR130: "The voice of caution knows nothing of real joy for what joy is there in doing that you could? Try something you could fail at ... that might just be living".

I can't think of many truer words than those, but I will write a short summary of this adventure...I can't summon the words to write a proper description and blog just yet.

Well, that was a challenge! 

It was slow going, it was tough, it was tear-inducing, it was swear-word-inducing, there were blisters, blisters made worse by wet and sharp stones, lots of far apart bridges, pretty scenery, dodgy bits, cosy barges, falling asleep on my feet, lots of comments about how far away Leeds was, quizzical looks from passers-by, lots of random food, a bacon buttie at 95 miles, a half pint of beer at 113.5 miles, an ice cream with 6 miles to go... And after it all: We did it :-) hurrah!

36 hours 57 mins (slower than we wanted, but glad to finish and much under the cut-off of 42 hours, so happy)

Proper blog to come. Watch this space.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Almost ready.

Almost ready to run 130 miles (or thereabouts). Unfortunately (well, hopefully not unfortunately), I work as a residential teacher in a language school and there are lots of germs going around at the moment. In the last few days it seems that there has been some sort of stomach bug going around. It seems similar to a Norovirus type thingy – diarrhea and vomiting. I really do not want to get sick. I really, really, really do not want to get sick. I have been really looking forward to LLC 130 too much and I am avoiding this ‘plague’ like the plague. I don’t think I could possibly anti-bacterial-ise my hands any more than I have. I’m also eating lots of fruit, taking lots of chlorella and drinking lots of beetroot juice. I feel like I’m getting lots of antioxidants and vitamins this way. And I’m staying optimistic. Also, I’m drinking a lot of water.

I’ve now bought most of my supplies for the race, which includes Pringles...3 tubes of Pringles (once you pop, you can’t stop...), a first aid kit, ibuprofen, paracetamol, wet wipes, baby wipes, toothpaste, Peppa Pig toothbrushes for on-the-run dental hygiene, SIS energy gels, energy bars.... phewwww. I also found my Grand Union Canal Race 145 race no. still attached to my race belt from last time :)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


I get a little worried when I talk to non-runners about upcoming ultras and events...even past ultras and marathons, actually. I’m aware that a lot of people don’t have a clue what I’m going on about and absolutely hate running and that’s okay, I’m not trying to be preachy, just trying to spread the running love. But, some people look so shocked. I’m not sure if it is shock over the actual act of running for over 100 miles or completing 100 marathons or the fact that I don’t really ‘look the part’. 

I’m not super skinny and I don’t wear Lycra 24/7. I’m slim and I think I’m fairly toned with adequate muscle, but I’m not what most people would consider a marathon runner to look like. I don’t look like what you see on the tele when some championships or other are being aired. And I guess I am a part of a unique little running community. I’m not sure what people who run crazy distances and hundreds of marathons are supposed to look like. I’m not sure that an exact formula or image has been worked out for that one in the general media or society. I admit that when people act so shocked and have lots of disbelieving questions I panic a little. 

I know that I know more than they do, but it still leaves me a bit unnerved sometimes. For a few moments I wonder if I am completely capable or not. I have a little worry that maybe they know something I don’t know. I know this is irrational, but then again, there isn’t always a rational aspect of running so far. We just do it because we can. The question isn’t ‘why?’, it’s ‘why not?’ And there’s always pre-race Guinness (and recovery Guinness...)

Edit: George added that 'it's also a real shame that people are so shocked by it - its such a fun wonderful thing to cover long distances on foot and see some amazing countryside and scenery and build up a big appetite for some yummy food and some well earned beers - it should be commonplace really'. I agree. It shouldn't be commonplace that people exhibit shocked 'smacked by a trout' expressions. Also note: some people are nice :)

Monday, 18 August 2014

Game plan

I admit it – I’m a compulsive laminator. I laminate everything. Teaching TEFL, I laminate so much of my lesson stuff; word cards and pictures. So, last night I stayed up for a little while longer and typed up a table filled with info on Checkpoint timings and cut-offs for LLC 130 this Saturday. It’s really useful and motivating to know how (hopefully) far ahead of the cut-off times you are in a long ultra. It makes it all into a bit of a game; ‘OoOoOoo we have 1 hour in the bank for later, we have this many hours to spare just in case...’ Let the game begin :-)

Sunday, 17 August 2014

'Die germs die!', I'm off to run an ultra...

LLC 130 countdown is seriously on (seriously...). I must admit that running 130 miles down another canal hasn’t been high on my list of priorities of late. This isn't because I don’t want to, because I really, really want to go on this adventure. However, I’ve been catching every possible bug/ germ/ cold virus going. All the germs seem to want to hitch a ride with me. Currently, I’ve had a cough for the last 6ish weeks and I’ve seen a nurse at the walk-in centre and doctor during this time. The nurse just told me my lungs were clear, I had a great lung capacity and I was just unlucky to catch one virus on top of the other and there was nothing she could do. Boo! I saw the doctor last week and he agreed that I had a temperature and prescribed some antibiotics (finally!). I know doctors are quite reluctant to prescribe antibiotics willy-nilly as they think everyone is becoming immunised to these nasty bugs, but I haven’t taken any or even been to the doctors for 6 years! 

So, I finally feel like I’m getting better and a lot of my energy has returned and now I’m raring to go and run from Liverpool to Leeds. The only annoying thing is that I haven’t run for well over a week and I wasn’t doing too much before that due to this nagging cough and hectic-ness at work. However, I do play with my kettlebell and work-out and I feel I’m up to the challenge.

When it comes to something so long I believe that mental strength is incredibly important and that adequate nutrition before and during is vital. So, I’m leaving nothing to chance – lots of vitamins, rest, sleep, crazy flavoured yummy tea and fresh nutritious food (lots of fruit salad). Bring it on... Rarrrrrgggghhhh!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Things I like: Camelbak chill bottle

I have a fondness for things that carry things. Bags, running rucksacks, makeup bags, waist packs, purses, pockets, bottles....

For some reason and somehow I have managed to lose most of my good water bottles for running (boo!). And water is important in general, so I have been in need of a new one. But I didn’t want a super expensive one and I did used to have a Camelbak Podium Chill bottle before now and it just so happened to be my favourite. Consequently, I got on Wiggle and ordered a new one :) and it came today, with three free mini bags of Haribo. So, today I like bottles. And Haribo. And wiggle. And this is all especially good and necessary due to the extremely warm weather and impending 50k on Saturday. Hurrah!

The end.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Airkix 'Indoor Skydiving'

Sooooo much fun. I was a little bit nervous and a bit apprehensive. I'd heard about it before but never tried it. So, last weekend, Me and George (top right, top left) were treated to a visit to Airkix 'Indoor Skydiving' in Basingstoke with his brother Joe and wife Fi. And we got to go on a 'high fly' to the top on the air tunnel. It was so fun. I was smiling so much I had slobber all over my face....

Friday, 11 July 2014

GUCR: 3rd time faster...

“Life is always either a tightrope or a feather bed. Give me the tightrope.”
- Edith Wharton

44:24:00               43:13:00               38:25:00

Running down a canal for 145 miles (practically 147 miles in reality) is always tough. This time around was my third GUCR adventure. I have written a blog every year and you’d think I’d have run out of things to say about it. After all, it’s a canal and it hasn’t really changed too much. They haven’t suddenly landscaped any hills or built a theme park. It’s just a canal. And yet, it always seems so captivating. There’s something about that stretch of man-made water that keeps me coming back. It keeps many ‘regular’ faces coming back. I admit that at around the 100ish mile mark this year that I struggled to see why I had come back. I was in a ‘touch’ of pain and it was bringing tears to my eyes. Yet, the pain is so easily forgotten and that is the danger. So, you inevitably end up going back, because you convince yourself that there wasn’t any pain. You forget the blisters and the mental torment.

5am in the morning - feeling sleepy

Now, I’d been looking forward to this year’s GUCR for many reasons, although I was also pretty nervous. I didn’t want it to be 'third time unlucky'. I’ve had a pretty good run of it so far and I don’t take finishing this for granted. I know that it can be unpredictable. However, I was nonetheless excited because this year George would be running it. Last year, he helped man the 133 mile Checkpoint for the entire time that it was open and he emerged just before the finish to walk/ run in with me. It felt really special and he also gave me a lovely post-run bottle of Guinness and got me home safely afterwards. This year we would both be running and that was both an exciting and terrifying prospect. I was excited for him to see what all the fuss was about and experience the full craziness of GUCR, after his taster in 2013. However, I wanted us both to finish and not to get injured. There was more pressure in some ways, because I wanted both of us to have a good time. We were also running unsupported this year and it would be the first time I had run GUCR without a crew.

Me and George had already decided that we would run our own races. I knew George would be quicker than me and I didn’t want to hold him back and stop him from getting the best time possible. However, I was also going for a GUCR PB, as I’d never gotten sub-40 hours. I reasoned that no crew would mean less stopping time and more pushing forward. This was a pretty organised strategy for me. We were also organised in other ways regarding race prep. We booked a Travelodge close to the start and packed our race bags full of tasty goodies. I made a mental list of everything I knew I would crave. I always crave coca cola. Always. So, we raided the Sainsbury’s close to the start on the Friday night and stocked up on meal deals, sandwiches, crisps, pot noodles, peanuts, M&Ms, coke.

I admit that I didn’t sleep the best with all the noise outside, but the Travelodge close to the start was still our best option with no crew and not having our own transport. Anyway, I have always said that you can’t blame a lack of sleep the night before GUCR for not finishing. I can’t imagine that many people sleep well the night before a big race. I never really do.

Start to Checkpoint 1 (10.7 Miles)

We wandered to the start and began to see some familiar faces.  We grabbed a quick coffee and had a good chatter to some of the people we knew. The start of this race always makes me nervous. Before you know it, everyone is off and running. Me and George decided to run the first bit together and run our own race after the first check point. We started at a steady pace, not too fast and not too slow. I was pretty slow to wake up after only a few hours sleep. The Travelodge was hellishly noisy, with lots of trashed people partying all night on the streets of Brum and lots of beeping car horns. It was interesting. Nonetheless, we put in a good effort to begin with and tried to get comfortable. We had our OMMs on ready and near enough straight away, it began to rain. Upon reaching the first CP, I slowed down to get some food and go for a pee. I think the key is to start eating early. Start early and eat little and often.

‘The Middle bit’, also known as 10.7 miles to Checkpoint 4 (53 miles)

To be honest, this section is very much a blur to me still. Like when you have a dream and you wake up and it’s all patchy and you don’t quite remember what happened or who was in it.  I remember that there were lots of ducks and ducklings and swans and geese and goslings. There was also a lot of rain and everything seemed soaked. The ground was wet underfoot and there were lots of puddles. I just kept thinking that I was glad about my footwear choice of comfy inov8 trail shoes. It was really pretty soggy and muddy out there. I was a bit disappointed that the weather was so miserable. I remember running GUCR in 2012 when the weather was torrential and it really dampened people’s spirits (literally!). It can really bash your confidence in your ability for finish the race and stay optimistic. It’s not nice running a marathon or a small ultra in lots of rain, so the prospect of running 145 miles in those conditions has the potential to break your spirit. This mind-set made me think about George a lot. How was he? How far ahead was he? How was he finding it? Then, just before CP 4 and the 53 mile point, I got a phone call on my back-up mobile. It was George calling to say that he had only just left the CP which I was approaching. I was so happy and also strangely emotional at this realisation. He had been on my mind for a while. I was so happy when he said that he was going to walk a little bit to eat some food and that he would wait for me to catch up with him. I was longing for the company and it was a major high point to consider that I wouldn’t have to run the night section alone.

53 miles to Checkpoint 5 (70.5 miles)

It took a little longer than anticipated to catch up with George. He was like a moving target. I kept looking out for his red backpack and was hugely excited when I spotted him. I had been running between ‘walking food-breaks’, with a quickly-disintegrating sandwich in one hand and a Del Monte fruit pot in the other. It was a little awkward. But, I needed to eat some food, so it involved a bit of multi-tasking. We caught up with how each other was doing and moaned about the rainy weather a little. It was so nice to speak to someone familiar. Despite the rain we were both making good progress. So much of this section is also a blur. I mainly remember Blisworth Tunnel after the 63 mile mark (or thereabouts). I know this bit well and I’m always glad I do, because I fear that if you’ve never done this bit before, then it could be confusing to run, for what seems like ages, off-road. I also kind of like this mile or so of running on the road, because it’s a nice variation from the endless canal. Also, once this bit is done, it feels like you’re well and truly on your way to the 70.5 mile mark and almost at the half way point.

I have never reached the 70.5 mile mark before – Navigation Inn – in the daylight. I was so happy, I think I cried. In fact, I’m pretty sure someone managed to capture a picture of me looking rather emotional...

I'm pretty sure I was actually crying here - 70ish miles in

After this point, we got out our head torches and warmer clothes and readied ourselves for the night section. This preparation also included getting out our mp3 players – anything to keep yourself entertained and wide awake during the night section is welcomed. As it turned out, we didn’t really need the warmer clothes. Even though it continued to drizzle during the night section, it never really got too chilly. In fact, I ended up rolling up my sleeves and taking off layers, especially my sweaty fleecy hat.

The Night Bit

‘The Night Bit’ was tough. It was tough last year, as I found myself nodding off and having to slap myself awake. It was tough this year for similar reasons. I wanted to close my eyes ‘just for a second’. I was run/walking in a meandering zig-zag and I looked like I was drunk, but I was just falling asleep. However, I still managed to get food down and I even brushed my teeth, so I wasn’t a complete wreck. Although, the sleepiness took a long time to wear off this year and it continued past 8am in the morning. Fortunately, we were a lot further ahead on our journey now.

The Next Day Bit

In complete contrast to the Saturday, Sunday was really warm and incredibly sunny. It was nice not to have the threat of constant drizzle and be able to dry out a bit, but I wasn’t prepared for the sun either and by the end of the race I looked a bit lobster-fied.  Luckily for me and George, we managed to seek out any ice lolly suppliers along route and ultimately have two lollies at different points. This was especially refreshing since we had run out of water at one point earlier in the day. However, we did manage to track down a water point and make the most of our waterways key at around the 117 mile marker.

The Painful Bits
My feet were in a whole lot of pain. It started quite early on and just got worse. It was impossible not to get them soaked in the rain and flooded bits of trail and the skin went all white and macerated. I also had a few deep blisters under layers of shrivelled skin. At mile 100 I did manage to dry my feet and Sudocrem them, before putting on some clean socks which helped as much as it could. However, it was all about moving forward and clenching my teeth (and swearing...and a little crying).We ran to the red narrow boat, the black boat, the tree, the corner, the shadow on the path, the next bridge. We legged it. We walked. We hobbled. We had a little sniffle. We kept on going.

The damage at the end

We did it! (in daylight...)
Bits of the last bit that normally look so grim, that I remember having looked so dodgy from previous years suddenly seemed pleasant and friendly. We were nearing the end of the race, but the sun was still shining and it was glorious daylight! This was such an amazing feeling. I kept looking at my watch and checking the time against the distance to double check that I wasn’t going crazy. We would make it in daylight. Me! I’d get to see Little Venice in daylight. Bloody hell!

Pulling a weird face/ attempting a smile

As we inched closer and closer to Little Venice I started to notice familiar bits, although I always forget certain bridges and twists and turns on this last section. This year, the finish line was quite unexpected. I had experienced so many false ‘are we there yet’ moments in my mind that when we finally approached the actual finish line, it took me by surprise. I quickly grabbed George’s hand and made a run for it. I always like to run over the line on this one. I may have had a few little cries because of my feet and wanting to fall asleep, but I can run the finish. It didn’t beat me.

Results are in...

And, there we go. We were in. We made it and together. And because we made it over that line together, I felt this extra sense of accomplishment and pride. I was and am so proud of George. I’m so happy how we kept on going and pushing each other forward. We didn’t have a specific time in mind, but the time we got exceeded all expectations and was my course PB – 38hrs 25 mins.

40 hours of being awake...Finish line wooo!

I spent much of the race wanting it to be over and for my feet to be dry and rested. I also spent a lot of time contemplating why I was doing this race for a third time and if I was indeed crazy. I felt certain that I would not be back next year and that ‘this was it’, no more, I’d been there, and got several t-shirts and I was hanging up my smelly trainers. Well, that was during. On crossing that finishing line the pain miraculously disappeared. It does that with GUCR. It always happens. The truth is that crossing that finishing line is so special. It’s such a great feeling. Who wouldn’t want to experience that? Never say never (in a good way, not a Justin Bieber-esc way!)

In the meantime, GUCR adventures will have to’s the Liverpool to Leeds 130 miler up next!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

15th Lap of The Lake.

18th May 2014

After much ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ over whether I would be able to organise any days off work to make it all the way from Eastbourne to the North West and onto the Lake District or not, I decided that it was worth the effort of organising (that was a mouthful!). Windermere Marathon started it all. It's where all the madness started and when the ‘marathon seed’ was planted. I also get complimentary entry from completing the 10 in 10 in 2011. If this wasn’t good incentive enough, I also knew a few friends participating in this year’s 10 in 10 challenge and making my way up north also meant that I got the see the family and I got to go to a lovely part of the world for a weekend 'break'.  So, I got the train to London, from Eastbourne on the Friday and me and George travelled up to Chester from London later that same afternoon. Then on the Saturday morning, we drove to the Lakes with my parents.

Once we had reached the Lake District, we drove to Newby Bridge (almost half way point of Windermere Marathon) and cheered on the of the '10 marathons in 10 days’ runners. It definitely brings all of the memories back. We said hi to a few people and stopped for some food and a drink before making our way to Brathay Hall to pick up my marathon number.

We also managed to sneak in a little wander around Grasmere on the Saturday, before making our way to the hotel – which was lovely and situated in Near Sawrey – the home of Beatrix potter. That night, we had some lovely local food at the pub in the village, which also happened to be Beatrix Potter’s local! The views were beautiful around there.  It isn’t hard to see how she managed to come up with Peter Rabbit; there was so much wildlife and bunnies everywhere!

On Sunday morning we got to Brathay early and saw the 10in10 runners go off I saw lots of familiar faces and had a giant catch-up with everyone. Once we were off, I vowed to try my best, but I didn’t want to go too fast. I was really aiming for anything around the 4hrs 30 min mark. After all, Windermere is a hilly place and I had GUCR to think about the following week. Nonetheless, I decided to run as many of the hills as I could. And relish not being quite as slow as I used to be. It was a hot day, so I didn’t push it too much. In the end I was extremely pleased with a finishing time of 4hrs 24 mins 35 secs. I even got a suntan. And lovely George was stood there at the finish with a pint of ale for me. He’s so thoughtful :)

This blog is dedicated to Badger who we sadly lost (literally) during our adventures in the Lake District. He is sadly missed by me, Fox, Grey Mouse, Brown Bat, Black Bat, Penguin and Hedgehog! We called up the hotel to help track him down, but I fear we will never see him again. Hopefully he is now living amongst the bunny rabbits. Bye bye ultra-buddy Badger! x

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

GUCR - Take 3!

Not really sure how to write a proper blog about it yet. It was an amazing and incredibly tough weekend. My 3rd GUCR 145 miler in 38.25 – so, sooo happy with my time. Brought to tears by foot pain, blisters and manky feet, we got through the painful bits and we finished in the daylight. Funny to think that we were in the Lakes just the week before and I did Windermere; two very different experiences!

Watch this space for a proper blog...too much to write....

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Three Forts 27

Up and down and glorious sunshine...

Sunday 4th May

Another bargain of a race (only £20) and another lovely run along the trails of the South Downs Way. Highly recommended. We got the train to Worthing and it was easy to walk to the start from the train station. The route was partly out and back and was well marshalled. Marshalls were also really friendly and supportive. The route had a fair few hills thrown in for good measure. At the end we got a nice medal for our efforts. All in all it was great value and a great day out. However, I’m not sure Worthing has the best pubs on offer and because both me and George didn’t know our way around, it took us ages to find somewhere serving beer and food afterwards and it the end we had to make do with good old Wetherspoons. However, overall a great day was had... apart from the sunburn! It was a little too toasty out there....

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

South Downs Way LDWA Marathon

Whilst I’m in Eastbourne, I've decided to try out new races that I wouldn't normally get to do. After all, Eastbourne is so far away from the North West. So, I decided to be brave and do the LDWA South Downs Way Marathon (well, 28 miles). I used to do LDWA ‘self-navigational’ marathons all of the time, but I’m a bit rusty these days. I think far too much about all of the times I have gotten lost in the past....which is a lot, by the way!

Early morning on 27th April, I decided to get a bus to a little place called East Dean and sign up on the day for the 28 miler. I saw a few familiar faces, but not many. Runners were meant to start at 10am, but I arrived early and found my way to the village hall by 8.20am, so I decided to start with the walkers at 9am. A lot of other runners started early also. We all knew it’d be a hilly one and it didn’t disappoint. The South Downs and the Seven Sisters are hilly, but so beautiful.

Fortunately, I managed to tag along with some extremely friendly locals. They had done the route many times before and knew exactly where to go. I didn’t even need to look at my route description. Although, I had – very professionally – highlighted and laminated my route description.

Ultimately, I’m really happy I decided to give this one a go. We took approx. 6 hours 17 mins (you never know quite how long you're going to be out there for where hills, trail and directions are concerned), with over 3, 600ft of elevation. There was some chilly wind and drizzle up on the hills but overall, the weather held out pretty well. We also got biscuits and sandwiches on the way round. However, the sandwiches were a strange array of apricot jam and Marmite. I’m more of a cheese, pickle and/or ham kind of girl... But we did get beans on toast and a cuppa' tea at the end of the race :)

I think my favourite bit of the day was when some friends came to see me after the finish. They actually made me a banner (If you can't read it, it says something along the lines of 'Liz, you're the biz, you might need a whizz, so lets grab some fizz and set up a pub quiz'), which was so sweet and I got to have a nice pint of ale in the pub, which was aptly names 'Legless Rambler'. Overall, I would definitely recommend this one. It was only £8 in advance and £3 extra on the day = bargain!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Manchester Marathon & The Elusive Sub-4...

54 ultras, 54 trail marathons and 32 road marathons (now 33) – I had never achieved a sub-4 marathon. So, I was pretty happy and a little teary on Sunday 6th April at Manchester Marathon to finally get a sub-4 (just) PB :-) - 3:58:43

I have been running a lot better than I used to, largely because I haven't been running quite so many marathons or ultras and so, my leggies now get better rest and better quality training.

I just had a look at my splits and there were definitely lots of places I could have upped my time. I couldn't go as fast as I wanted near the beginning as there were just too many people in the way/ people in the wrong bit, with the wrong colour numbers for predicted time etc. There were at least 6,000 runners doing Manchester Marathon and it was very congested to begin with. In hindsight, I think I should have gone further up the field, but I'm in the habit of doubting my ability and speed.

Some well-deserved post-marathon ale...

It definitely wasn't the most scenic marathon in the world. It started from Old Trafford and there were a lot of out and back loop-de-loops. I saw a sign for the sewerage works at one point. However, I made sure to stick with the 4 hour pacer for a little while and eventually I was able to overtake him. Soon, the 4 hour pacer was out of sight and remained so until around Mile 22, when he overtook me. It actually really threw me off, because I was still running at a sub-4 hour marathon pace. I could still do it. I was struggling and really warm and my energy was being quickly zapped, but I was still on target. When the 4 hour marathon pacer overtook me, I had a mini panic. He was obviously going faster than this pace, which I guess is great for those that had followed him the whole way, but was really bad for those that he overtook, because it puts you in a bad head space. Anyway, I tried not to let this scupper my dreams. I did not want another Loch Ness Marathon moment, of finishing just over 4 hours and 6 seconds! So, I absolutely legged it (and kept saying 'Come on!' to myself, a lot!)

Overall, I know there were lots of bits I could have run better, the wheels definitely fell off at some points. However, all in all, a great day :-). And in some ways, knowing that I could have done better and knowing that I didn't feel my best at some points is amazing, because it means that I can do even faster on a really good day...

Ooooh and I also bumped into some other runner buddies at Victoria Station in London. I was making my way back from Manchester Marathon and they had just run Brighton Marathon. It's a small world!