Race Review: Robin Hood 100

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I went for another run at the weekend (Robin Hood 100). It was supposed to be a pleasant, 100 mile bimble along the Chesterfield Canal, round Sherwood Forest twice and then back along the canal. What actually happened was the first canal bit and the first loop!

The day started off brilliantly when we couldn’t get out of the hotel car park because the code to lift the barrier wouldn’t work. Not for us, or the night porter. In the end he had to switch the barrier on and off again to trigger the “IN” barrier to lift as we drove through at high speed, hoping we would make it before the barrier dropped on us. Luckily we, and the car, survived.

Of course this still wasn’t a huge issue as due to my love of being early for stuff I think we were still in the first 5 runners to arrive at registration. Numbers allocated, RaceDrone trackers collected we set about faffing for the next hour. Getting Tailwind into bottles, drop bags loaded to the van to be taken to Aid Station 3, numerous trips to the loo, deciding if I wanted my jacket out (light drizzle) or not (drizzle had stopped). In the end I went for arm sleeves instead and it was the right move.

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The Boyf and I set off at 8am, taking it steady and positioning ourselves near the back of the pack. We weren’t in a hurry and the plan was to run 4 mins:walk 1 minute from the start. We stuck to this and made good time along the canal, reaching the first aid station (10.4 miles away) in just over 2 hours. A refill of our Tailwind….conveniently packaged in individual plastic bags, snip the corner, add powder to bottle, top up and away we went. The scenery was lovely and the course was empty! We barely saw anyone in the first 20 miles other than a couple of dog walkers, a runner and the aid station crews. We did see sheep, horses, pigs, cows and a king fisher!

Aid station 2 was just off the canal at 16.2 miles and we hit this at 11:32. Another bottle top up with Tailwind and here we went with the refined technique of adding the water to the plastic bag, a quick shake to dissolve and then snip the corner to pour the water into the bottle before topping up. Much quicker and a lot less sticky (plus the powder doesn’t blow everywhere). I was also adding Peppermint Oil or Sicilian Lemon Juice into a couple of the bottles to add extra zing! Plus the peppermint is great for cooling and keeping your stomach settled.

Aid Station 3 was just under 3 miles away (19.06) and we were there by 12:19. Although I had up to 20 mins on my plan to stop here we probably weren’t more than 5 minutes. Another Tailwind top up and a swap out of our first fresh bag of Tailwind and gels to cover us for the next 30 miles. Can you sense a theme here? It’s all about the Tailwind!!

Robin Hood 100
We continued to make good progress to Aid Station 4, we were into the forest trails now with greater tree coverage and an increase in humidity but the run:walk strategy was working well and we were making good time. Still slightly ahead of my “ideal” zone on my planner. Hurrah!

Aid Station 4 to 5 was where I started to feel the heat. Not the external heat so much as my internal heat. I could start to feel my temperature increase but at this point I wasn’t really acknowledging it. I think the Boyf may have noticed a slight slowing in my pace but I think at that point he put it down to me running the undulations. As he put it afterwards, I was running stuff he would normally have walked on a 24 hour race like Spitfire Scramble. At this point though I was happy, not feeling like I was trying to hard and felt as though I was running well within my limits.

Robin Hood 100

Aid Station 5, 27.78 miles was reached in 6 hours 37 minutes and after topping up my bottles I poured a glass of water over the back of my neck. This helped me fell refreshed and we headed off into the 10 mile loop that would take us past the Major Oak. I was really enjoying myself and the scenery, but as we dropped down into the forest the humidity started to take its toll. Once we were past the Major Oak we were finding more ups than downs and we adjusted the run walk a bit more to have slightly longer walk breaks to keep me feeling in good shape. By the end of the 10 miles things were starting to be more of a struggle though.

We arrived back at Aid Station 5 having taken 2 hours 40 minutes. So about 30 minutes longer than our 10ish miles along the canal had taken, but considering our legs were less fresh and the course was more undulating that isn’t a bad drop off. This aid turnaround took slightly longer, I had removed my t-shirt in a bid to cool off, got my water bottles refilled with more Tailwind and took time to get myself bug-proofed with Avon Skin So Soft…..this worked as I only have 1 mosquito bite on my ankle and whilst it’s a bit red it hasn’t blistered like the last 2 mega-bites I have had.

The Boyf and I headed off to Aid Station 6, this section was less fun, there was a lot more running on actual road, and the local drivers weren’t really fussed about giving us much room. Plus my internal temperature was really starting to spike. Despite not having any nausea at all (thanks Tailwind), I did start to get a couple of vomit-burps bubbling up. Not a good sign….this meant I was starting to properly over-heat and my body wasn’t happy about this. We were about 40 miles in when it really all did go wrong. Despite having my cooling rag round my neck I just couldn’t keep the pace. We slowed to a walk in a bid to try and keep me cool but by the time we got to Aid Station 6 I was pretty sure that it was game over.

Robin Hood 100

A lot of chat and analysis was going on as we kept pushing forward, but it was obvious I wasn’t able to run any more. My legs were feeling strong and I could keep my pace up, but if I did my temperature spiked and that wasn’t good. What was a worry was that we were pretty much alone on the trail, in the middle of nowhere with no mobile signal. We had trackers with an SOS button but didn’t really want to get in a state where we needed to use those. We carried on from Aid Station 6 to Aid Station 3 (back at the start of the 30 mile loop) as dusk, then darkness fell and decided that we would call it a day. There was no way it would have been sensible to set out for the 30 mile loop again. Yes I could have walked the remainder of the race, but I didn’t set out to walk 100 miles, I set out to run 100 miles! This wasn’t about gutting it out and ultra-shuffling to the end. If I was going to do it I wanted to do it safely AND in (some semblance) of style.

So we decided enough was enough….a gutting decision to make, especially as we were meeting our lovely crew member Fiona back at Aid Station 3 as she was going to look after us throughout the night. Best laid plans and all that! So at 20:41, 12 hours 41 minutes after starting we reached the 48.66 mile point (80.11km in Garmin distance) and handed in our trackers.

Huge thanks go to the volunteers who fed the Boyf soup (I couldn’t risk it for fear of triggering more over heating) and helped us get in touch with Fiona when we couldn’t get a mobile signal. She eventually managed to find the aid station location (not easy in the pitch-black with a post code that didn’t match the real-world presence of the station) and rescued us. A trip back to the village hall start point, a chance to change into fresh clothes, and then we headed to McDonald’s for a chat and burger. I can’t thank Fi enough for trekking halfway up the country, sitting and chatting to us before driving home again with minimal crewing complete.

We were back home before 3am, bathed in Radox Bubble bath with added Epsom Salts and Rosemary Oil (the perfect recovery combo, and the rosemary oil is great for soothing irritated skin e.g. mossie bites and bramble grazes!) and that was me out cold! Not the race I had planned but one that has given me much food for thought and a reignited plan for the future. More on that to follow!

My planned pace and real time arrivals:
My pace chart from Robin Hood 100....it was all going so well. Blog post to follow soon 😄

Garmin Stats (click if you can’t see the embedded version):

The Road to Samphire100 – 100mile Race #1

As you know, I didn’t finish my first 100 mile race at Samphire Hoe……here’s how the Boyf got on!


Samphire 100 Finisher Buckle (front)

For the TLDR Crew
I ran my first 100mile race in July 2016. It was hard. I didn’t eat properly. I didn’t drink properly. It hurt. A lot. But it’s done, and I earned the world’s finest finisher buckle and T-shirt. I learnt many things about myself and how much respect the distance demands. But make no mistake, it bloody hurt.

The Boyf finishing his first 100 mile race at Samphire Hoe

For the Technical Manual Reading Crew 

A Quick Run-down

It has been a long year. HQ and I signed up for Samphire100 almost the moment it was released by the superb Saxons, Vikings and Normans team back in July 2015. It gave me a year to extend out my current running distances, get a bit fitter and get my hydration/nutrition right. The race was run out of Samphire Hoe, which is a great place down on the Kent coast, snuggled right below the White Cliffs of Dover. The course selected by the SVN team consisted of an out and back 3.71mile route, run 27 times. The time limit on the course was 32hours, but I’d checked my training and race paces, and it became apparent that I could potentially achieve a sub24 hour finish. Well, that was the plan…

Preparation. Preparation. Preparation

In June I ran 4 distance races, all as 100mile training. By the end of June (two weeks from race day) I was knackered. My training races were all about pacing, race nutrition, race hydration and learning to run on nausea and dizziness. It went well, but I was completely empty. We’d booked another bunch of marathons for me to run in that two-week run-up, but I decided to bin them and rest a bit. My two week taper consisted of running fast 5k/10k’s local to me, running a few hills and hitting the gym. I had no interest in running any longer than that. All in all, everything looked good. One thing though – I’d be running this 100miler without any support crew, as HQ would be running her own race and have no time to deal with my trials and tribulations during the race. I’d also be pacing myself with no additional pacing help, so my prep had taken this into account – so I thought anyway.

Race Hydration and Munchies

I have a problem with food. If I don’t have enough food, there are problems. However, things are different when I run. When I run, and once I hit 35miles, I can’t eat, and when running these ultra long distances you have to eat, or you will pay. So I’d been researching foods, gaining the opinions of those who’ve covered the distance before and come up with a nice tasty and varied selection of food ready for race day. This included gels, sweets, gummies, biscuits, juices, water, electrolyte powder, salt capsules, salted snacks, pot noodles and chocolate treats. If there’s one thing, I was prepared food and drink wise.

Race Day

We turned up on the dusty doorstep of Samphire Hoe at 7am on Saturday morning, broke out our personal aid station tables, loaded up our water containers, unpacked all of our food and made sure that everything was available and ready to go when needed. We’d decided to park our car on the race route, about 100m from the main SVN aid station, that way I could drop into my personal aid station to grab my stuff at the end of each lap and hit the SVN aid station for anything else as I go out on my next lap. Easy stuff. Everything food related was packed into mini lunch bags, ready to pick up and go. No problem. All of my 500ml water bottles were in the boot of the car or in my ice box, cooling down nicely. Chilled. Having put smeary gloop in all sorts of unmentionable places, and kitted up fully, I was ready to go. My goal for this race was simple – survive. Oh, and to make sure I ‘survive’ before the 24hour point. This meant running a km pace of around 8:55mins/km for 24 hours. Sounds perfectly simple, doable, and achievable. To make 27 laps palatable, I broke the race into 4 races, each containing 7-laps (thanks Alex!). At 0800 I set off into the warm early morning Saturday sunshine… ready to take anything the next 24hours would throw at me. Maybe.

0-26miles – The First 7-Lap Race

The first lap was great. I executed my strategy to the letter and hiked out of the start gate, up the incline and out onto the trail. Once I hit the gravel path beneath the White Cliffs I started to run to the gravel hill and down to the seafront. Once at the concrete sea wall on the seafront I started to hike for a minute to let my heart rate recover, and made my way along the sea wall for a mile or so, past the early morning fishermen and all the way to the turnaround point. Having tapped the turnaround marker I began my trip back to the aid station. Back along the seawall to the gravel hill, another hike break. I am not running up the hill, it takes too much out of my legs. At the top of the hill I began to run again, along the gravel track, remembering not to turn back the way I came, but to continue on to the car park where my aid station was. I dropped in and swapped my water bottles over. It was hot and I drank 500ml on that lap. Time for some biscuits too. I jogged slowly from my aid station upto the SVN aid station and got my lap card punched. One lap down, 26 to go.

The next few laps came and went. The day got hotter and more humid, and I made sure I was drinking at least 500ml of fruity water on each lap. I was eating too! A few gels were downed, many biscuits were eaten along with some nougat. Everything was going great. Importantly, I wasn’t feeling nauseas yet, nor dizzy. On my checklist of things to go right everything looked great, and with that 7 laps were done and hole-punched.

26-52miles – The Second 7-Lap Race

With a quarter of the race out of the way, I was feeling positive. The timings were fantastic, albeit slightly faster than I’d expected, but that was no big deal and I was drinking and eating. It was around 1300 now, and I’d been on my feet for a little over 5 hours. All was good. As I started out on the 8th lap, I started chatting to a few more people and discovered that the race seemed to be going good generally. So much positivity out there and it was infectious. All was well until the 10th lap… Whilst coming back along the seawall from the turnaround point, I started to feel sick. I popped a slurp of drink and tried to swallow it down, but it didn’t work. The next thing I knew I ran to seawall and forced the drink to ‘re-appear’ which it did. This was annoying, as all of my recent food intake re-appeared too. In these situations I would normally call it a day as the nausea feeling can continue for quite some time and can become very unpleasant. But I’d trained myself to continue even when feeling shite – so I continue I did.

When out on the 11th lap I started to worry as the nausea wouldn’t go away. I spoke to HQ and she advised Gaviscon. That would be a lap away, so I trudged onwards to complete the lap and made it back to my aid station in a bit of a state. Once back at my aid station I sat down in our comfy camping chair – this was a mistake. I grabbed the Gaviscon, downed it and looked at my vast selection of food and started to feel sick again. Things were not good. It was around 1730, I’d covered 40miles, puked once and now was sat in a chair feeling like re-fried crap, and the sun was still up and it was still hot. After 10minutes sat in the chair, I got up and started out on the 12th Lap. The Gaviscon did its job and my stomach settled for a few laps, and no more uncomfortable events sprang up, but I was slowing down and my run rate was dropping. By the end of the 14th lap my feet were in bits, my quads were dying a slow death and I’d broken a nail. Life was getting bad. On top of that the bloody sun still hadn’t set and it was still warm. This was annoying too.

No More Races – It’s Mile by Mile

By the 50mile point, I’d binned the ‘7-lap race strategy’ (sorry Alex!) and decided that this was going to be a war, one mile at a time. Out on the 15th lap the sun finally showed signs of setting but the humidity remained. I’d stopped eating now, and the thought of food just made me feel even sicker, so I had to stop thinking about food altogether. Hydration wasn’t good either, I was down to small sips of water from my bottles and even those were trouble to down. I wasn’t salting either. I kept forgetting to take my salt caps, and when I did they also made me feel rough. It was getting dark now, and the laps were getting slower and more laboured. I just wanted to get to 60miles. I’d also stopped talking to people. In my eyes, everyone was doing far better than I was and I didn’t want to bring down their race, so I shut up shop and concentrated on my own issues. My worry now was that at the end of each lap, I was starting to find the chair at my aid station very very comfortable… The end of the 17th lap arrived and with it the end of the 63rd mile, and as my pace had died off, it was now 2230. The sun had buggered off and I decided to reward myself with a quick stop in my aid station chair. Blissful. I put my feet up on my cool box and just stared up into the star-covered sky.

I’m Calling it Quits

Ok. I’m a little hazy on what happened next. After nearly 25 minutes sat in my chair, I contemplated withdrawing from the race. There was chatter from the SVN aid station and from passing runners. Everybody in good spirits – except me. My low point had finally come. During the next 10minutes I contemplated what the hell I was doing running this race. The call to walk away and quit was loud and could be heard loudest from my feet. I took one final look at the White Cliffs, now illuminated by the yellow moon hanging over the channel, and got out of my chair, and began walking towards the SVN aid station ready to hand in my card. As I walked towards Traviss and Rachel to hand in my card, I remembered a little saying told to me by a friend – “Get friendly with pain. Get to appreciate pain. Learn to love the pain.” I then realised that I was about to quit my first 100miler because of pain and that’s not on. I wanted to own that finishers buckle. If I quit, that goes. I got to the SVN aid station and Traviss wasn’t around, and Rachel was busy dealing with an issue. In a fit of bravery (or stupidity) I banished my thoughts of quitting and got my card stamped. Out I went onto the 18th lap. Only 10 laps to go.

The Right Decision?

My decision to go out the 18th lap soon proved to be right. I was feeling pretty lonely out there now it was dark. Everybody had their crews and pacers and I was just plodding along on my own. I’d just taken off my backpack when I heard a familiar voice behind me – it was Liz V! She’d not entered the 100miler but was busy doing several distance challenges in the 32 hour time limit. Her company couldn’t have come at a better time! It turns that we both have an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths, and just having that common ground made conversation very easy going. Before I knew it, we’d discussed all kinds of great topics and my mind had forgotten about all my aches and pains. And with that, the lap was over! On the next lap I bumped into Louise T, and we ran a lap. On the next lap I ran into Jon F, again a fascinating conversationalist, which kept me moving forward one step at a time.

I hit the end of the 21st lap. I was broken. I’d chatted and laughed my way through 4 hard laps. But it was 0030 and the 24 hour target was on its way out. I sat back down in the chair of comfort and convinced myself that the goal now was to survive. With no time limits. Another 20minutes went by. The chair was comfy and now time didn’t matter. I was feeling sick again and leant over the side of the chair to expel anything out. Nowt came out, but my groin was now killing me. Now out of the chair and back at the SVN aid station the wonderful Dee offered me toast and a slice of pizza. Oh my god did I fancy those. I grabbed a warm piece of toast and a slice of pizza and went out. 6 laps to go.

Almost Done

The next few laps, upto daylight are a bit of a blur. I was dizzy. I was sick. I was wretching at most opportunities and now I was down to what resembled a shuffle – hurting my feet even more. I’d stopped drinking fully now. I didn’t really care anyway. I’d just wandered into a haze of bruising pain on my feet. Then, I bumped into the glorious Fiona, who give me some chewy mint sweets (2 bags for £1 a bargain) and some After Eights (from a previous SVN event), which were both amazing to taste and took my mind off throwing up. As daylight broke I had 3 laps to go and the sunrise was fantastic! But I was on my own again. I was also starting to see people with their ‘last lap’ flags – I’m not sure if this was an inspiration or a knife to the ribs. A bit of both if I’m honest. It was still warm and now getting warmer. I was walking more too and that didn’t help. I walked a lap with HQ and Lorraine just to try and get some energy back. 2 laps to go. On my penultimate lap and on my own again, at 95miles, I stopped dead in my tracks. I’d had enough. My feet were dead. My legs were dead and my head was dead too. I stopped and sat on the sea wall. I was done. I put my head in my hands and started contemplating the walk back to the SVN aid station where I would call it. Then a friendly voice asked if I was ok. It was Amanda out on another of her marathons. I think I replied “yes I’m ok”, but I really don’t know. With that I got up and moved forward. That little exchange was enough to remind me to move forward and get the job done. So I did.

Done

Out on the last lap with a finish flag. Brilliant. I’ve 3.71 miles to go and I can finally sit my tired arse down. I’d been awake and on my feet for nearly 26hours and it felt like it. I was bruised, busted, broken and bissed off. When I came into the finish I wanted to stop at my aid station, but I was asked to run into the SVN finish. I tried to run, but my right foot was killing me. So I limped into the finish. It was done. 26hours and 32minutes of painful torture was finally over.

The Aftermath

As I came into the finish, the legend that is Traviss handed me my buckle. Along with a big handshake, a “well done” and a “that was hard earned” he also told me that in the coming hours I’d vow never to run 100miles ever again, but by the end of the week I’ll be actively looking for another 100miler to run… He was right.

Sitting with the rest of the SVN crazy finishers, I felt pretty good. I’d completed the distance. But, at the back of my mind I knew that the shit had well and truly hit the fan. I’d spent over half the race feeling like I could puke at any minute and I didn’t handle the pain well. More importantly, I’d missed my goal of hitting the 24hour time. I hate missing goals. However, it was done, I’d done it, had an ice cream, put my feet up and sat in the sun with everyone else. Good stuff. By my own admission I screwed up. I went out too fast, got my hydration wrong, got my pacing wrong and found it difficult mentally to keep moving. Based on these realisations, I decided that there was no way on this blue marble I would ever run 100 miles again… In the week following the race, and at my request, HQ signed me up for two further 100milers and I set myself a target of finally running 100miles at the Spitfire Scramble 24hour event in August! Quite the turnaround! It wasn’t until the following week that I could run again, and then it was tough on my feet. My appetite returned with a vengeance and many pots of ice cream, slices of pizza and boxes of donuts were consumed. For days I stared at my buckle, thinking about how close I came to quitting that race. At one point I was a vocal cord oscillation and 10ft away from handing in my card…

If you’re thinking of entering a 100miler, this is a great race. But my advice would be to bring on a crew to keep you moving and maybe a pacer to keep you company over night or to get you to the finish. The SVN crew really do put on a top notch set of events and this one is no exception. The finishers buckle, tee shirt and general level of support was fantastic (the midnight supporting hugs at the SVN aid station were fantastic), and the location below the White Cliffs is mesmerising at times. The registration is open now for 2017, so if you’re reading this and contemplating a 100miler, this is the first I would recommend. Would I do it again? Without a doubt. Would I do it differently? Err…

Geek, Nerd or Annoyance?

I’m a bit of a stats annoyance. I like to look at my numbers and see where things went right and wrong. Numbers never lie. After a bit of tickling in excel I wound up with this simple graphic:

Samphire 100 Analysis
The blue dots are the actual min/km pace times. The white line is the 24hour pace target, and my physical breakdown started really early into the race, around 60km. That was not planned. The actual km times started to drift out and the last 100km of the race resulted in the majority of laps well over the target pace. The trend line (green) running across the race was aggressive from the start. I went out too quick and didn’t fuel for that fast start. I paid for that with a quicker breakdown and struggled to hold on. The km times over 15min/km were a result of me finding the chair too comfortable! It’s an unfortunate reality that I almost screwed this race in the first 3rd, and now I look at it from a data perspective I find myself fortunate to have completed this race at all. I’m actually amazed I finished in the time I did! I said before the race that I wanted to be quick in the aid stations and always be on my feet. At that I failed. I spent over 2.5 hours stood (or sat) still. If you want my advice? Never buy a camping chair, they’re far too comfy and deadly.

Samphire 100 Finisher Buckle (back)

Race Review: Race For Life #marathon10

IMG_465738607-2.JPGSunday was runday! But first Saturday was parkrunday and we popped along to Malling parkrun’s first event. Originally I was planning to do Malling on 31st October when we would be in the area for Black Ranscombe but when Rosemary posted that she would be there to celebrate her 250th parkrun it would have been decidedly rude not to go along. Many of her friends wore African themed costumes at her request and it must have been a novel sight for some of the parkrun newbies or local run clubbers who were also there. IMG_465738607-3.JPG
Malling parkrun is 2 laps round a lake, it is flat and the surface is solid underfoot. There are loos at the car park (80p for parking) and there is a van for bacon rolls, coffee etc by the start/finish area. The early morning waft of frying onions was amazing but I went for some of Rosemary’s celebratory cake instead. We headed home via Bluewater where I did some pre-marathon fuelling at Wahaca.

IMG_465738607-4.JPGUp fairly early on Sunday to get pre-race prep (eating & plenty of loo stops) done we headed to the Lee Valley Country park, arriving early enough not to get stuck in traffic. As we were heading back to the car after a wander round to check on the water situation at the aid stations (water in bottles, energy drinks in cups), and make use of the portaloos (30 is not enough for a women-only race with plenty of friend & family support) , we bumped into Kate. It was Kate who had suggested this Race for Life marathon to me and as I was playing catch-up on the Boyf I figured it was a good time to close the gap back to 2 marathons difference. Unfortunately for Kate it wasn’ t to be her day and in the end she made the decision to drop down to the half….you can read all about her race on her blog. I lined up in the 4:30 – 6 hours wave and we were soon underway, I very nearly took out the group of photographers who had placed themselves right in the middle of the timing mat as I was busy hitting start on my Garmin and really wasn’t expecting large stationary objects in the middle of the flow of a mass start! It will be interesting to see if I feature in any photos in near collision positioning. At the half marathon point

My plan for the race was to trial a run:walk strategy. The course was billed as primarily flat, with just one hill (done twice as the course was 2 half marathon laps). I had my Garmin Fenix 3 pre-programmed to alert me and 6 minutes in to the race I switched to a 1 minute walk. So may question why you would start walking so early on in a race but I wanted to do this scientifically and the idea is that by starting your walk breaks early you are able to stay fresher and benefit more than waiting until you actually feel tired. The course was pleasant with most of it being in the Lee Valley park, there was a stretch or two where you ran alongside a main road but it was on a path so there were no issues with crazy drivers. Thankfully there were also quite a few shaded sections. The weather was a lot hotter than I had hoped for (exactly the same as for Wimpole Half on the same weekend last year), but I felt that as long as I drank plenty, fuelled well and kept to my plan that I would be OK. It wasn’t long before I started taking two 330ml waters at the aid stations (3 miles-ish) apart and made sure I was drinking a few mouthfuls each water break. I was also taking an S-Cap every hour and over the course of the race I used 6 Push gels (one half an hour before the start), and a mini Soreen. It was the right strategy for the day, I didn’t feel like I hit the wall at any point and I didn’t suffer from parkrun-ear (what I term the slight ear imbalance I get when I run 5km without drinking and get dehydrated).

The run:walk strategy was going well and I freaked the Boyf out a tiny bit by the speediness with which I reached the half marathon point, all in all I was feeling pretty good at this point. The lazy cow in me had had a minor ponder of stepping down to the half as I was coming to the end of loop 1 but I reminded myself that not only did I want to make sure I finished my 10th marathon, but people had sponsored me for the run, and my friend Mel who had intended to run the race for a friend who had lost theirs to cancer couldn’t as she was injured. So I waved at the Boyf, threw down an empty water bottle and pushed onwards without stopping for a chat.

As expected lap 2 was much tougher, with the sun higher in the sky I was really feeling the heat but by now I was running in my soaked Legionnaire’s style hat to try and keep myself as cool as possible. A couple of times I deviated from the 6:1 ratio but not that much. The running was getting a bit slower but I was still ahead of the average pace needed to get a PB, so I kept pushing and moving forward.

One thing I did notice about the race was that the other runners were a lot less supportive than I was expecting. I’m quite a cheery runner and I try and give encouragement to others if I pass them or run near them but I am not sure it was appreciated. Maybe it’s because people were struggling or in pain (although I always find l like comments from others in the dark times), or perhaps they were focused on their own reasons for running a Race for Life marathon, thinking of loved ones etc. or perhaps it was just good old competitive nature meaning they didn’t like being over taken. Ah well, it seems that women only races sit with me in the same way as women only snowboarding events….I’m just not a fan.

UntitledI slowly ticked off the miles and was glad to finally make it round to the 26 Mile marker, not far to go and I finally made it up over the bridge and sprinted (ish) for the finish line. The Boyf was most frustrated that the woman doing the announcement failed to read out my name and time as I came through the finish funnel….perhaps it was poor number placement under my pack fastening or perhaps I was just too speedy! He was generally frustrated by the announcements though, it would seem her choice of wording could have been better on a number of occasions. As he put it, saying “pretty much all of the runners out there today really deserve a pat on the back”…..erm how about all the runners!? Who doesn’t deserve a pat on the back? Those running the half marathon not the full? Those going slowly? Those who can still run at the finish?

Anyway….marathon 10 was completed for a new PB of 4:48:44….that’s 8 minutes 49 seconds faster than my previous best. Confirmation once again that despite the TrainAsONE training program I follow being lower in mileage than most off the shelf plans the way it targets your training really does get maximal improvement for the effort I put in. Thanks guys! It truly does pay to “Train Smarter, Not Harder”!

If you would like to donate to support research into cancer through Race For Life then here is my JustGiving page

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Race Review: Thetford Iceni

I did it, my 9th marathon (and my 3rd in 13 days!) which has meant that on joining the Marathon Maniacs I snuck in at the Silver level of maniacedness. The Boyf went in at Gold due to his recent flurry of long runs which included his 77 miles at Spitfire Scramble. I have a feeling I can go up a level if October goes to plan though.

Number 9 took place in Thetford, Norfolk on 13th September. At a mere hour’s drive away I think this could be classed as local and that, along with the fact that it was being put on my our friend Mel, was what drew us to it. This was to be Mel’s first marathon as race director, and I was keen to see what she could put together as someone who ran their 100th marathon at the first SVN event we did back in February. I am totally in awe of Mel as she’s pulled off some amazing achievements including running the Barrow 10 in 10 twice in a 12 month period…that’s 10 marathons in 10 days! Craziness!

We bumped into another parkrun/SVN friend, Ulen, in the pub at the start and once the race got underway we headed off into the distance roughly together. The race was being run on an out and back course from Thetford to Euston (not the London one) and back again. It was also to be the first navigational even that the Boyf and I had done so we opted to run together (2 heads being better than 1), he had the printed instructions and I have the GPS trace on my Garmin Fenix 3. Down through the town and the underpass we were soon on familiar ground as we covered part of the Thetford parkrun course, it wasn’t long before we were suffering our first navigational query and had to call back a couple of runners who went straight on instead of turning left. I think it may have been at this point that Ulen decided running with us might be a good idea as at least there’d be 3 of us lost together and we stuck together for the rest of the race.

The course covers a mix of terrain, from tarmac to sand with grass and uneven track in between. It definitely felt more uneven and rutted on the way back as well! There was also the giant puddle…we had been warned in advance not to try wading through it as it was deeper and stickier than it looked, but we managed to find a clean dry route round it without issue. The weather was not as cool as it was supposed to have been, I think in part it was due to the fact that Helen was running on the same day and she has mythical weather powers drawing hot weather from places unknown even when coolness is predicted. Luckily she was only running a 10km race, so shortly after we reached the halfway turnaround point the sun went in and things cooled a tiny bit.

We were putting in a mix of running and walking. The Boyf was taking the lead from me and Ulen seemed relatively happy easing off a bit from his normal pace as well. I was probably less chatty than they were but then I was running at a pretty fast pace for me so had less spare oxygen for nattering. I was pretty pleased with how things were going and on the way back I was still managing to keep a pretty good pace. I was feeling much better than in my last 2 marathons and was determined just to keep pushing forward, walking when I needed to but maintaining as much running as I could. Things went well on the return and we eased past quite a few other runners, my slowish start paying off. There was one sticky moment when I was picking up speed going downhill and missed a turning, luckily Ulen spotted the “yellow dog” warning sign and hauled me back before I was too far off course. A quick back track and we were soon at the final checkpoint for a final water top up before heading back over the common towards the town.

Typically everything looked different in reverse and we did have a couple of moments in the last 3km where we weren’t entirely sure that we were heading the right way. We were thank goodness, but it was during this grumpy and tired phase that we reached the far point of the parkrun course to see Mel cheering us on. A quick grump and comment that I hoped my goody bag really did have beer in it and we pushed onwards. Coming to the underpass again we called back the runner ahead of us as she missed the turn and we started on the “hill” back up to the finish. I had a plan, that plan was to put in a sprint finish and as we climbed through the town I kicked things up a notch, over-taking the runner we had redirected and pushed hard to complete the race in 5:37:27! I think Ulen was taken by surprise, the Boyf of course knows me well enough that no matter how knackered I am there’s always enough in my legs for a bit of a sprint at the end.

Mel had done a blinding job of choosing a local pub as the start and finish point, so Ulen, the Boyf and I headed in for a well-deserved beer and a sit down. I was suitably stoked to have completed my 3rd marathon in 13 days just over 20 minutes quicker than the first! Even better there was the promised “Norfolk Champion” beer in my goody bag which I enjoyed when we got home.

Well done Mel, the first Marafun Events race was great fun and I wish you every success as you grow the brand and bring more runners to the Norfolk area! The medal was lovely and very fitting having local Queen, Boadicea, on it and the goody bag containing locally brewed ale was a great touch too.

image of Thetford Iceni course in 3D

Race Review: Black Hugin #marathon8

Black Hugin #marathon8Saturday, it falls just 5 days after Monday, and this Saturday was the first time I attempted to complete a second marathon in a week.  We were back in Kent, returning to Pegwell Bay, the location of our first ultra, back in February.  It was lovely to be back and I already had my race strategy planned out, walk up the hill, run down the hill and run as much of the rest of the course as I could…oh and walk out of the aid station refuelling.  Marmite cheese straws and Southern fried mini chicken balls were the day’s snack of choice. The weather was much better than Monday’s Cakeathon, and I actually ran for the whole race without over-heating!  I even put on a layer once the sun went down. Whilst Black Hugin was run on the same course as the Hugin, it started at 4pm meaning that mandatory head torches had to be donned at 7:30pm to ensure you didn’t get lost in the dark. Everything started really well, I settled into a good, steady pace and put my run/walk strategy into action by fuelling on the hill.  It’s a lovely course with a mix of trail and road.  You wander through the country park passing horses and Highland beasties and then head out of the park, up past the Hugin Viking ship and then back down to the park again.  The course is a bit of a figure 8 really and this means there are quite a few out & back sections where you see other runners.  I hit the half marathon point in 2:26:51, 8 minutes faster than Monday’s 2:34:59, I was feeling much stronger than Monday, which just goes to show that run/walk suits me.  It’s just a shame I chose to add Yazoo into my fuelling strategy.  The Boyf swears by it, it got him through Spitfire Scramble, but it would seem that it doesn’t agree with me.

image of Hugin Ship in the dark

Black Hugin – by the Boyf

Shortly after leaving the aid station I felt myself struggling to swallow, I could breathe OK but swallowing was an issue, and I panic when this happens. When I panic the swallow gets stuck halfway, I can’t breathe and I panic more.  I slowed to a brisk walk through the park and then decided I didn’t want to risk heading up to the top of the course….I didn’t want to quit but I was worried about how I was feeling.  Luckily stashed in my running first aid bag was a stash of anti-histamines…..a quick left turn and I popped a tablet before heading back out to complete my loop.  I was mostly walking, my legs were fine to run but my head wasn’t letting me.  Thankfully the anti-histamine started to kick in and after a lap and a half I was feeling much better and started back on my run/walk.  I had lots of company on the way round, I love these races as you not only see familiar faces but make new friends as well.  Everyone loved my pink socks (they do mens’ sizes in yellow) and once the sun went down I added flashing lights as well.  You certainly couldn’t have missed me. Black Hugin #marathon8My pace picked up over the last 2 laps and I ran over the line in 5:48:20, marathon number 8 complete (and 10 minutes quicker than Cakeathon).  I quickly grabbed my goody bag and medal before heading back into the darkness to meet the Boyf as he came round to finish his 10th lap (32.75 miles).

Once again the medal was brilliant, the same shape as February’s but this time with glow in the dark shields! Totally cool!

I now get to put my feet up until next Sunday (except for a couple of training runs obviously) when I head off to do the Thetford Iceni Marathon…..roll on number 9!