When it’s not the Moonlight that’s Challenging

image text - When's it's not the Moonlight that's Challenging

SVN Moonlight ChallengeWell that didn’t go quite to plan!

On Saturday I headed down to Kent for the SVN Moonlight Challenge. This was on a new course for me (and SVN) and with loops of about 10km and an 8 hour cut-off, so I was hoping to get about 33 miles done. I love running in the dark, so was looking forward to this race as it ran from 4pm to midnight, giving me plenty of time in the dark to practice running with my head torch.

SVN Moonlight ChallengeI set off and settled into a pace that felt good, I was comfortable, not pushing too hard all felt great. I got the first lap done in 75 minutes, perhaps slightly fast, but I was feeling good and after a quick pit stop I set out on lap two. Again, I was running on feel….bimbling along happily and enjoying being outside in the fresh air!

This was the first mistake! Running by feel and not following my Garmin stats…I was sticking to my planned 4:1 run/walk strategy but running faster than I should have been.  I just didn’t realise it! Lap 2 was done, I grabbed fresh Tailwind bottles and headed out for lap 3. I decided to try something different at that point (testing pace ratios for my upcoming 50 miler) and decided I would do a lap at 2:1 to see how that panned out.

SVN Moonlight ChallengeHere comes mistake number 2! Shortly into lap 3 my temperature spiked & I knew I was working too hard. Since I was only running for 2 minutes at a time, not 4, I had subconsciously picked up my pace! I dropped pace and tried to settle down but the damage was done. It probably didn’t help that I had a small backpack on, making it hard for my upper body heat to escape, but as there will be days when I have to wear a pack to carry mandatory kit, I need to find a way to balance the practicalities of racing and my internal combustion issues.

Throughout lap 3 I was struggling to keep my temperature down, and my stomach under control (lesson learned – increase in core temperature definitely causes my emergency poop reflex! Thankfully I managed to do the loop without needing to stop on the side of the trail!).

As I ran I was trying to distract myself from thinking too much about needing a pit stop. I was busy listening to my music, and for once had it on the All Songs playlist. It’s funny that there are so many songs that you have loved in the past but forgotten about, that crop up when you least expect it. It made me think that I should probably listen to more music at home. At the moment I only listen to music when I run, but I think that when we eventually get our own house I might look into getting a wireless music system put in. I’ve seen these Panasonic Wireless Speakers that look really cool, so I’ll be adding them to my list of possible purchases when we have the space and the cash! Maybe then I’ll be able to remember what music I have available and get some new playlists prepped so I don’t listen to the same 30 songs over and over again.

SVN Moonlight ChallengeThings weren’t going great and in the final third of lap 3 I did a quick check of my heartrate, it showed as being up at 200bpm…..oops!!

The Boyf caught up with me at that point (as he was on lap 4) and I brought him up to date, but let him know I was OK and would just be taking it steady on my 4th lap (needed to get the marathon distance). When I got back to base camp the Boyf was there waiting for me! He wanted to make sure I was OK and when he knew I was going out again he sacrificed his race plans and decided to do the lap with me. We set out nice and steadily, mostly on a 1:1 run walk, but at a much slower pace than I had been doing. Anytime I felt like I was struggling we slowed down and took it easy. All in all things went well and by the time we hit the last road section to the finish I was able to put in some solid running without stopping to walk. I had finally got my temperature back under control (or my body knew the end was in sight) and we managed a sprint(ish) finish for me to get in and ring the bell at 5:51:39.

SVN Moonlight ChallengeI could have gone out for another lap, I had over 2 hours to walk 10km to get my planned 33 miles, but there didn’t seem to be much point in possibly stressing my body further. Instead I got changed and relaxed whilst the Boyf headed out to get his 6th lap of the day done!

All in all, I have learned that using my Garmin IS beneficial! If I had been watching my pace then it is likely I would have slowed down straight away, I would have been running well within my limitations and not gone crazy when I dropped to the 2:1 intervals and probably would have stayed pretty cool and managed to get 33 miles done comfortably!

So note to self, if you think you’re going slow enough, slow down! And use your Garmin!! I’ll be making very sure I stay very slow at the upcoming Fowlmead 50 race…..here’s hoping it works!

Race Review: Fowlmead 50 (or the one where I ran for more than 11 hours)

50 Miles, Princesses not welcome!

Saturday 16th April saw me set out to run my furthest distance yet, at the Fowlmead 50.  Another excellent event put on by Traviss & Rachel at Saxons, Vikings and Normans Marathons and Challenges.  What a challenge it was set to be, running 20 miles more than ever before, with a hard cutoff of 12 hours.  Now the cunning SVN team had softened the blow a smidgeon, if you failed to complete your 50 miles in the 12 hour time limit then they  would drop you down to the 12 hour challenge, and you would still get a medal and goody bag.  I didn’t want to resort to that though, my plan was to get to 50 miles, no matter what and if I finished in 11:59:59 then so be it!

I’d done my usual pre-race planning with paces and run:walk times in a spreadsheet and I was confident that it was doable, but you never know what is going to happen on the day, so I wasn’t too complacent.  My build-up to the race hadn’t been ideal, work has been crazy and I only managed to run 79km in March.  Thankfully the awesome TrainAsONE plan lets me get the most out of each training session so I still felt like I would be OK as long as I stuck to my plan and didn’t start too fast.

I had a plan and was determined to stick to it, or at least stick to it until I needed to tweak it, and then adjust accordingly.  My new Garmin Fenix 3 HR was prepped with my run:walk strategy, 4 minutes run: 1 minute walk, the start was announced and we were off. Garmin started and a nice gentle run up the incline from the start.  Initially I was running with Helen, she was planning on her first 50 miles as well but she was running to a different schedule, so after 4 minutes I slowed to a brisk walk and she continued on her 10:2 strategy.  We leap-frogged each other back and forth probably till the 10 mile point where I rewarded myself with my first loo break and she got ahead of me.  Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan for her, but she’s already signed up to beat the beast next year!  Helen, you were awesome, and it was lovely to spend some time running with you!

I had broken the race into 5 10 mile mini-races (this idea was totally stolen from the Boyf). No stopping at the aid station, eat and drink what I was carrying and only stop every 10 miles to replenish my mobile aid station.  Whilst the concept worked brilliantly I messed it up a bit by over drinking, a mistake I hope not to make again in the future, especially now I have read “Waterlogged: The serious problem of over hydration in endurance sports” by Prof Tim Noakes.

My legs were feeling good, but I was having some gurgly stomach issues and the over drinking also meant I needed more loo stops than I had planned for. Still you have to roll with the punches and at least I was on a lapped course with access to toilet facilities rather than having to hide behind a bush in the wilds somewhere.  My pacing strategy was working well but my heart rate was starting to climb and so I adjusted my run:walk on the fly, moving down to 3:1 for a while.

Oddly the laps weren’t bothering me, I was plugged in to an audiobook and was just focused on getting the job done, I started to lose some of the time I was ahead of plan but at no point did I feel like I was in real trouble. At this point I should confess I wasn’t pushing hard.  My goal was to get to the 50 mile point, finish und the 12 hour cut-off and have my legs feel like they could keep running.  This was not about me doing the fastest 50 miles I could, but about building my confidence ahead of my 100 mile race at Samphire in July.

Things did get tougher.  Soon I had passed the 30 mile point, and was now firmly in the land of the new.  I had never run this far or for this long before. It was all unknown and all I could do was focus on keeping moving and getting the job done.  I think because I was so focused on my pacing and my book that I didn’t really suffer any bad times in the race, I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t that tired, I just knew that I needed to take it steady as my heart rate kept spiking and I could feel the stress rising in me when it did.

It was at this point that I got a nice surprise, the Boyf texted me to let me know he had done his 50 and was carrying on, and that we had a surprise visitor…..Louise had decided to pop over to support after completing her 250th parkrun that morning, and even more importantly she had cake!  It was so lovely to see her, and after a quick hug and refuel (apple cinnamon cake tastes amazing at 40 miles) I was off again.  Each lap she kept me focused and stopped me hanging around for long, you can tell she’s pretty good at this ultra running malarkey, no time shall be wasted eating or chatting…..or at least only if you are doing it on the move.

I knew by now that I was able to get to the end, and I just focused on moving forwards.  It was quite quiet out on the track by now, with most people having finished and so it was lovely to have the opportunity to run with Fiona for some of her final lap.  Fiona is another ultra runner of awesome, and it was great to get to spend some time with her as we are normally passing in opposite directions on shorter races.  She finished her 50 and I had 1 lap to go, so that was it, back out and picking up the pace and the running intervals.  All I wanted to do now was finish, and finish I did in 11:42:08.  Louise was on hand to prove I was still running at the end and I am pleased to confirm that if I had needed to keep going then I could have.

Check out the medal! It’s huge and I was a bit worried I wasn’t going to be able to keep my balance when Traviss hung it round my neck at the finish. Totally worth the effort!

Medal Monday: my first 50 miler! 20 miles further than I had ever run before 😄 11:42:08 Thanks @trainasone for the on-going support! Looks like the 50 mile function works....now to test the 100! #trainasone #trainsmarternotharder #runstrong #runlong

All in all a great experience, that I learned a lot from.  Now I just need to put it all into practice over the next couple of months so I am ready for July!

Garmin stats (click here if you can’t see the embed):

2015: the round-up

Image 2015 round-up header

As I have decided against squeezing in another run this year I thought it was time to get the stats statted and a 2015 round-up posted for all to see.

2015 was a big year for me. It was the year of realizing that not only do I enjoy running but I quite like running for a long time (with a few walk breaks thrown in admittedly). It was also the year that I realized racing trumps “running” when the running is parkrun.  Having reached my 50 parkrun milestone on 1st January 2015, I only managed to fit in 29 parkruns and 10 volunteering sessions (4 were tail runner so count twice!).

I also succeeded in my goal to run more than the distance from Lands End to John O’Groats, in fact I managed to get part of the way home again.

Image Tailfish year of 2015I did however manage to fit in 24 races…..
It has to be said that things have escalated rather quickly. I first signed up to one of the SVN races at the end of 2014, the race wasn’t due to take place until September 2015 but the medal was cool and I had heard good things and so I wanted to get one in our calendar. Then another race was opened up and so we did our first race with them in February. At this point II was expecting this to be my first (and last) ultra. Just one to tick the box and say I had run a marathon and run an ultra-marathon. Everyone was so nice though, and more races, with cool medals, great goody bags and the promise of cake, were released, and so we signed up and did more marathons and a 2nd ultra.

All in all, of the 24 races, 2 were ultra-marathons and 12 were marathons! Taking into account last year’s single marathon that means I am now 15 marathons into my “quest for the vest”, or my aim to be part of the 100 Marathon Club.

I’ve battled my way through over 1000 miles in a year, I have run PBs all over the place (thanks TrainAsONE!) and I still want to run! I have come a long way from when I started Couch to 5km in April 2013.

2016 is going to be an interesting year, I have a couple of longish goal races and I am looking forward to seeing how I get on with them. I am also going to be focusing more on my general health, fitness & strength. I want to make sure I am in the best possible state to achieve everything that is on my to-do list and to do that I need to commit to the gym and yoga as well as keeping my running training on course.

Huge thanks go out to everyone who has supported me in person or virtually over the last year, I look forward to 2016 being even better for all of us!

The Usual Suspects #marathon15

Image Folkestone sea frontAfter establishing that back to back marathons are a bit of a struggle for me at the moment it was nice to have a single that went smoothly and brought me up to 15 completed marathons.

Originally I hoped to have a few more under my belt, but it wasn’t to be.  Since doing the Ranscombe Double in October I have tried twice more but it just wasn’t to be.  Marathon 13 for me coincided quite nicely with October 31st, Halloween.  To make it even better the race went on into the night so everyone was running in the dark in fancy dress.  Great fun and a steady but solid run from me.  Unfortunately the next day my shot at number 14 didn’t go quite as much to plan.  Whilst it was lovely to be running with some parkrun friends, James, Teresa, Vanessa & Nicola. They were all there to run different distances and that is what makes the Saxons, Vikings & Normans races so perfect. A group of runners can come together and have fun running whatever distance they want to on the day.  Unfortunately for me I called it a day at the 5 lap point (it was 8 for a marathon) as I was getting knee pain, originally I thought it was the trainers I was wearing that day but upon reflection I think it might just be that running so far in such a short space of time irritates me a bit.

Fast forward a month and I completed marathon 14 at the Martello Marathon between Folkestone & Hythe.  I started out at PB pace and felt strong, but the wind was stronger and it meant I ended up easing off and just making sure I finished in a reasonable time.  It was nice to see Louise a few times during the race (she was down for parkrun and the Dymchurch marathon the following day) and Cassie, also down for Dymchurch.

Image of signs at Dymchurch firing rangeDymchurch beat me, I let it but it definitely beat me.  I started the race with Cassie (doing her first marathon) and Helen but I had to fall back pretty early on.  Martello had taken its toll and I was finding it tough.  Over the course of the first few laps the pain got worse and in the end I decided the concrete and the wind were not going to be my friends that day.  While I want to get more marathons ticked off I refuse to break myself doing them and given that it took 7 days before I could walk down the stairs without a shooting, stabbing pain in my right knee I know I made the right decision.  I was totally stoked for Cassie though! She finished her first marathon with a smile on her face and as much of a sprint finish as you can into a 50MPH wind on 26+ mile legs! I was especially pleased as I had suggested she follow the TrainAsONE plan that I use, and it’s so nice when someone puts their faith in your suggestion (and the magic plan!) and succeeds!

Which brings us to the Usual Suspects! Another of the SVN races that sold out extremely quickly.  The promise of a medal with our names on meant I signed up as soon as I heard about it and I am so pleased that I did.  The Boyf and I were both looking forward to it, and were a bit nervous at the same time.  I was concerned that I would get knee pain again and he had been suffering with a bad back all week, so we weren’t sure how far we would be able to run.  Luckily it was a challenge event, which meant as long as we got one lap completed in 6 hours then the medal was ours.  Luckily for us both though it was all OK.  I completed my 15th marathon(14th in 2015) and Jools his 19th (18th this year).  Of course he went a bit further and actually ran 38.5 miles, in a course PB time!

It was a really special race, so much support for each other and a lovely chance to catch up with people and have a bit of a chat.  My knee was pain free throughout the run and the Boyf’s back pain was pushed into the background and isn’t giving him too much trouble today either.  Oh and the medal….totally amazing and a complete one off, with all our names on it.  A brilliant idea and I can’t wait to be part of it again next year.

Image the Usual Suspects medal

2015 isn’t quite over yet though…if all goes to plan I can still squeeze in 2 parkruns and a marathon, before kicking off 2016 with a parkrun double on New Year’s Day!

pause for parkrun

I didn’t race at the weekend, I did fit in a parkrun at Wimpole Estate though (it’s a run not a race). The Boyf & I were all signed up for Beachy Head marathon on Saturday, but in the end we decided it was better for us not to run it. He’s had the lurgy for the last few weeks and as part of that has been struggling with sinus induced headaches. I’ve just been feeling really tired. I think a combination of two marathons in two days and some really hectic weeks at work have left me feeling a bit drained, and in all honesty my heart just wasn’t in it. It’s really important for me to enjoy my running and not feel like it’s a chore, so mid-afternoon on Friday we decided to skip it and have a lazy weekend instead.It was both well earned and well worth it and I am already feeling more relaxed and reinvigorated. 

On the positive front I have a few more days off from running this week as I am in Basel for a few days. I have decided to leave my kit at home, focus on the final few weeks before our next go live (and the chaos this stage of a project inevitably brings) and then run 3 times over the weekend. Well you need to balance rest and activity.

The plan is to visit Great Lines parkrun on Saturday, then we have the Black Ranscombe challenge in the afternoon/evening and the Hugin challenge on Sunday when we will be catching up with some parkrun pals as we run round Pegwell Bay. Teresa, James & Nicola have all enjoyed an SVN event (they were at the Spring Cakeathon), but for Vanessa this will be her first. Given she has an upcoming operation on her foot the challenge style of the event will make it perfect as she can do as many laps as she feels like without being under pressure to complete a set distance….basically a “parkrun” will see her in possession of a huge medal and bag filled with goodies. Teresa could well be in a similar situation as she’s recovering from a badly sprained ankle so I am sure we’ll be making sure she doesn’t over do things….the frustrating thing with injuries is wanting to run when your body just won’t have it. It’s tempting to push a bit too hard but then you have the risk of delaying recovery. A tough call, but hopefully made easier by being in the presence of friendly faces and cake. I have a feeling James will be aiming for an ultra and Nicola says she’s going to try and run for the 6 hours if she can. I can’t wait to see how we all get on.

To balance the non-running I am going to try and squeeze some yoga into my day, of course that all depends on how much floor space I have in the hotel…..this week it’s a “small room – no window” so it could be a tight fit. At the very least I shall just have to practice reclined goddess & corpse pose on the bed. Here’s to a relatively stress-free week at work and a fun weekend of running.