Friday, 31 December 2010

Sore feet, lots of laughing and another newspaper article!

The plan for this week was 90 miles. So far I have managed 84, so it looks like I will make the mileage for the week. Which quite frankly seems both ridiculous and mad. How can a plodder like me really run 90 miles in a week and live to tell the tale???

Here's how - don't think about it!

So many times I have got up early with 20+ miles to do on my own in the dark, and been filled with trepidation, dread, worry..... and so many times I have finished the 20+ miles. So, the moral of this story is, cut out the worry, and just get it done. I have found comedy podcasts fantastic to run to, they really make the time pass quickly. Plus you seem to look really friendly! Whilst listening to my comedy stuff today on the run, lots of people seemed to be smiling and waving at me - it may well have been because I was running along laughing out loud!

Although my detachable spikes have been great for keeping me upright in the snow, they did leave the soles of my feet quite sore. I suffer with blisters on my forefoot quite regularly, so tape them if there is a problem. After Monday's icy run my feet didn't really recover until today, Friday. Thursday's run was very uncomfortable. Due to the mileage I really need to look after my feet on a weekly basis. But that's exactly the kind of thing that goes out the window when I am tired, and boy am I tired!!

Some very good news this week was that the Rhyl Journal would like to run an article on the RunWales Challenge with a view to getting local runners and running clubs out to run with me whilst I am in North Wales. This is fantastic news, as the more company I have, I am sure the better it will all be. It will also be great to have some more publicity for the run up North to help with charity donations.

It is only 5 weeks of proper training now before I start winding down for the event itself. I have said that I won't do anything like this again, but there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you are managing to do what you truly thought was unmanageable - it's quite an addictive feeling really!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Get a Grip!!


Over the last week the deep snow has been trampled underfoot and refrozen overnight. Running in road shoes has been similar to taking your life in your hands, offroad shoes made the scenario little better. However, I had been organised and planned for just such an eventuality! I am now the proud owner of a pair of "Get a Grip" tungsten carbide spike outsoles. They are fantastic!


I have now done 2 runs in them, today's was 14 miles of alternate slush and sheet ice. The blue circles house a 1/4 inch tungsten carbide spike, which is apparently harder than steel. On contact with ice, it sinks in and grips the ice fantastically well. Running with them on tarmac is just plain awkawrd, not to say noisy!
At first I was very nervous about running on the ice, but soon learned I was totally safe. I have had plenty of incredulous looks from passerbys. I want to shout at them, "It's ok, I'm not as mad as I look, I am prepared!!". I did see a couple of runners out today, running in road shoes, no spikes on the sheet ice. Now that really is mad. They were both running slowly and gingerly, you wouldn't have caught me running with them.
Last week, I managed 34 miles. Which given the weather, and the time of year, and the fact that I had no childcare for the boys, was pretty good. This week the plan is 90 miles, but I will just do the best I can.
90 miles seems so huge, that I try not to think about it. I just run whatever I have for the day, usually in multiples of 3 miles. It's a good distance to think of runs in. 3 miles is a short run, an easy distance, one that I can do no matter how bad I feel, so I just keep on doing my next 3 miles until I am done.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Even snow hasn't stopped me - yet!


Ran a stunning, but tough 15 miles today in about 5 inches of snow, with Nina.


I really didn't think we would last the distance judging by the first breathless mile, but we did it, and enjoyed it! We did get a lot of strange looks from people, and a few people even went on to comment how "brave" we were (probably they meant mad, but were being polite!)


Nina and I always run together on snowy days, as she only lives round the corner. Normally I wouldn't be able to keep up with her as she is a 3.3o marathoner, but in the snow she slows down for me, and we had a blast today. Unfortunately she isn't running tomorrow, and I have another 15 miles to do. Maybe I can persuade someone else to join me for a plod in the snow...... any takers???

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Running - a glimpse of life

I just wanted to share a couple of things I witnessed whilst running, that I wouldn't have seen otherwise, and that made me really think about what it is to be human.

I passed an elderly man standing at his door waiting for his delivery of "meals on wheels". His cardboard and tinfoil packed lunch was being delivered by a young man in his early 20s. The young man handed over the packets, and almost simultaneously answered his mobile phone. The elderly man seemed to be hard of hearing, and a little confused, as the "meals on wheels" worker turned towards his car and spoke into the phone, already involved in the next part of his day the man called out "So, are you all ready for the snow?"

It really touched me the difference between the two men's worlds. The young man, pressured, busy, and moving quickly from one job to the next, concentrating on the things that needed to be done. The older man, trying to make contact with the outside world, and feel a connection to those around him, making conversation for the sake of having someone to talk to, not realising the pressure the young man was under.

The whole encounter was over in a matter of seconds. The old man was left staring off down the road as the meals on wheels van sped off into the distance.

The second scenario I witnessed whilst running down the cycle track past the Bikeability centre. The centre provides modified bikes for use by disabled children and those with learning difficulties as well as the general population. On the tarmac was a young lad of about 16 on a large trike, cycling with vigour around the track, singing at the top of his voice. It seemed he was unable to contain the enthusiasm and enjoyment he was experiencing, and was literally singing it out.

I love the solitude of running, but I also love the way in which at a sedate running speed you are able to take a glimpse into the lives of those around you. Whilst you pass you are offered a snapshot of what it is like to be someone else, and for this privileged view I am truly thankful.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Funding news

Corus Steel have agreed to help fund the Run Wales Challenge! This is particularly good news, as it now means I can book the couple of B&Bs we need, and I don't need to worry about fuel costs, or scrimping on food.

I have run 75 miles this week. Having sprained my ankle last Friday, I'm pretty pleased with the mileage! My ankle is still not fully healed, but it is no worse after a run than before, and although still a little puffy, it is recovering but probably just a bit slower than if I'd had my feet up all week. It has been shockingly cold again, with the water in my camelbak drinking tube freezing whilst running a couple of times. It has been a challenge in this weather, especially as the pavements have been so icy. Most of the week was run along the front on the flat, which made for very dull running. My Wednesday run, was particularly challenging, mostly I think because I had already decided before I started that it was going to be hard. It was also the first time ever I have had to wear 2 pairs of trousers to keep warm. My weather station was saying -5 degrees when I started. On Thursday I ran with a group for the middle few miles, and that made a huge difference.

I am glad it is looking not quite as cold next week. The plan is to run 83 miles. This week my legs have been sore whilst running, but have recovered really quickly. I managed to fall over again today in the last mile of my 20 miler, no serious damage just a bit of a bruised hand. I think the fall was mainly down to tiredness. I had to get up at 5.45am in order to get as many miles done as possible before I met up with Helen's group at Pontardawe. These days I really understand it when people say they find it impossible to run on their own. I do too!! Running to a group, running a few miles with company and then running back to my car is the only relatively painless way I can get my long runs done, and I have about 4 long runs a week. Thank god for all the Women's Running Network groups!

I have also contacted some newspapers in North Wales in the hope of getting some company for the first 3 days of my run. So far no-one has offered to run with me in Anglesey, but I have a couple of people for Snowdonia, and from Mid Wales on I'm fine. I know that having people to run with especially towards the end of each day will make a huge difference. The WRN PR person has also been contacting the media on my behalf and it seems I will be in my local paper on Monday!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Mini Disaster

After missing my long run last week because hubby was too ill to be left in charge of the kids, I was intent on getting back up to 80 miles this week. Everything was going well until Friday, when whilst walking (yes walking) back to stretch with my running group I put my foot in a hole and sprained my ankle.

I knew it was quite bad as I instantly felt sick, even whilst I was lying on the ground giving instructions to my group to meet me in the carpark. I managed to hobble back to the carpark and go through the stretches with them. I then decided I'd try and walk it off with the hope of finishing the last 8 miles of my run. I did try and run, but it was sore, and I was sensible. So I phoned Ben and he drove to my rescue.

I had a little moment in the car when I thought the Run Wales may be all over, then gave myself a metaphorical shake and decided not to worry.

During the weekend I plastered my ankle in Arnica every few hours, iced it, massaged it, stretched it, and got started with some wobble board exercises. It was quite swollen and the bruising was fairly impressive. By Sunday it was a lot better and I actually decided a run was in order. 3 miles later and the ankle was fine, no issues at all. It was a bit stiff this morning, but no worse than yesterday. I have a massage booked for this morning, so that will help as well.

I am particularly proud of how I coped with my mini disaster though. In the past I would have been far more obsessive, and uptight. I was thinking on Friday though that I could make it a lot easier on myself, by just accepting it had happened and getting on with the recovery process. Injury usually follows the same route every time. Denial, anger, depression, acceptance, recovery. I skipped pretty quickly straight from anger through to acceptance and recovery. I don't have time to be in denial, or to get depressed about things!!

I have had to rework my schedule a bit, but I am hoping that with an extra massage this week, and some concerted strength work I will be able to get back up to major miles quickly. Although dodging the icy pavements this week could be interesting!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

No snow but it's cold!

Running in a windchill factor of -10 degrees, isn't funny.

Everyday I get my running kit on. Everyday I worry that my legs are sore, and that I won't be able to finish my run. Everyday I finish my run.

This ultra long distance training is so much more than logging the miles. It's about how much you want to log the miles. It's about coping with the demands the miles make on your body...... and it's about trying not to worry! At least for me it is.

The weather has made my training considerably harder. I am eating like a horse, and losing weight. I do hope this weather is the worst we will have this winter, or I may have to start eating chips for breakfast!

Monday, 22 November 2010

The filmstar lifestyle

What a hectic weekend!

My brother in law, Lorne a talented film director, very kindly offered to make a 2-3 min promotional video for the Run Wales Challenge. So, we spent much of the weekend filming out on the Gower. There was lots of running and heavy breathing, interspersed with lots of jogging up and down on the spot trying to keep warm. Hopefully the video will be useful in order to approach the media with, and will generate more interest in the challenge and the charities I am raising money for.

As far as proper training goes I ran 43 miles last week, as my first full training week back after the 3 in 3. I am pretty pleased with that. I am beginning to feel like I have a little more energy too. The horrible lethargy and empty legs feeling seems to be waning, so I will be aiming to get my mileage back up above 70 miles this week.

It is just 14 weeks until I begin my run, so both my training and the organisation has been a little more focussed of late. I have also been asked by the YWCA in England and Wales to extend the run by 10 miles in order to finish at the Welsh Assembly in order to raise some media interest. I think the extra 10 miles might be quite hard, but the thought that it may make a big difference to the charities funds and media exposure makes it well worth running.

I now have a bed for the night for all of the nights I need to spend away from home, for myself and my support crew. I also have funding for any B&Bs that are needed and fuel costs. I am also beginning to build up a timetable of runners joining me for various sections of the run. So far, from Swansea to Cardiff is pretty sorted. I also have a friend Polly who will be joining me for an entire day, 30 miles from Tregaron to Llandeilo, which is great. I have started contacting running clubs in North Wales in the hope that I will have company for as much of the challenge as possible. When I first started planning the run I had a romantic image of running free through the mountains of Wales on my way through the country. The reality is I need the company of others, and the more people who are prepared to join me the better!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Things I have learnt from the 3 in 3.

Running off road is seriously hard!

I knew I hadn't really trained properly for the 3 in 3, and it showed in my times. My focus has been Run Wales obviously, so the offroad running really took a back seat. I did run offroad in training, but only the easiest routes on the Gower I could find, and never 2 days in a row let alone 3. Just goes to show how specific training needs to be. My training will be fine for Run Wales as it's hilly and on road, but was a poor preparation for the kind of extreme terrain of the Pembs Challenge. I found it very tough to stay upright on slippery trails, and the muscles I needed for that stabilisation just weren't strong enough. I hadn't practiced any speed marching on hills either - mainly because I just don't enjoy it! But being able to do it, would have come in really handy in Pembs.

Sports massage is wonderful. I had 2 very different massages after the first and second day. The first felt lovely, very gentle, but completely useless. The second was quite uncomfortable, at times painful, and made a huge difference to my legs the third day, making the DOMs far more comfortable and manageable.

I have the eating and drinking thing sorted. Eating early, drinking well, and making sure you fuel up at every opportunity even if you don't feel like it, will make sure you survive the course. I found I wasn't at all hungry in the evenings, but needed to eat plenty of mars bars, salty food etc during the day. Things I particularly liked were zingy haribos, brown sauce and coke. Anything with a really strong flavour was good, as it made it a little more appetising when you were feeling a bit queasy.

Company makes the miles go faster. It's nice to run on your own, but not if you want to go quicker. I found company of any sort helped, as did little mini targets, like gates and hills. Of course good company is best, but a couple of times I followed people in the 3 in 3 I didn't talk to, but just having them there spurred you on to run harder.

Tape everything you think might be a problem later. I taped the balls of my feet, and one toe which had a small blister. It was the spot where I often get blisters on my little toe that I didn't tape, that was the only really painful blister and actually caused me to change my stride and slightly strain my instep - lesson learnt, tape everything!

I also learnt that I probably had the beginnings of a stomach bug whilst away at the weekend. Whilst I was racing, my youngest had the bug, and that feeling of lightheadedness, and queasiness on the first evening may well have been the stomach bug beginning. I didn't realise, so I finished the event, but on the Monday night I felt very odd, and by Tuesday I couldn't bear the thought of food. Until Thursday evening I ate very little, the odd biscuit or piece of dry toast. Not great recovery from a marathon. I have run this morning, my first one, 3 miles very slowly. The legs are fine, but I feel tired now. I should have been eating at least 2500-3000 calories per day for 2-3 days post event, instead I probably managed 800 or so per day. I am trying to make up for it now, and I certainly feel loads better than I did on Tuesday. The learning here is, I suppose the human body is quite wonderful, and will do what you ask of it, you just have to be really careful you look after it as well as you possibly can in between the hard stuff!

The aim for the next week is to get back into the running habit, rest whenever possible, and restock my body's fuel stores ready for the big mileage to come.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge 78.6 - Day Three


Again it was a real struggle to get out of bed, even with the help of an excellent sports massage the night before. I had decided to join the walkers for the last day to get an early start as I knew I would be very slow. This meant getting out of bed at 5.30am, but not surprisingly I was awake at 4.50am and starving. Everyone at breakfast was complaining of not having slept well. Exhaustion seemed to be setting in with everyone.

There had already been several retirements due to injury, and 7 people had been stopped from finishing yesterday's race because they didn't make the cut off time for the last check point.

After another full English breakfast, and cups of squash (not my usual fare at all!), we arrived at Porthgain at first light. There was a definite air of hysteria in the air as we set off over the coast next to a wild sea, and a strong headwind. Given that day 3 had been billed as the toughest of the 3, it started pretty comfortably, with lots of rolling hills and flat gassy tracks. I had decided to walk the first 2-3 miles until my legs felt better. After a slight detour into a cornfield we reached the first CP and fuelled up. I was feeling a lot better, but was finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with Caz and Paul's energetic marching pace. I found I had to run to keep up with them, and then would drop back again as I walked. So I gave up, and decided to run. Caz had a nasty blister on her instep and decided not to run with me, so I was on my own. What followed to CP 2 were miles and miles of slippery, muddy downs and ups around headland after majestic but frustrating headland. Just before CP 3 the runners who had started an hour later started to pass me. It was the first time I'd seen the front runners, apart from a brief view of their backs at the start line, and they looked so comfortable. They certainly weren't flying finding the terrain pretty tough going, but they all looked so natural.

At Strumble Head CP2 my legs were beginning to suffer. I had developed a couple of blisters on the ends of my toes, and this was beginning to affect my stride. My foot was beginning to hurt, and so I decided to walk far more. What this meant in practice was that my pace slowed to a snail. My balance had gone, and my quads were in agony, so going down was tough, going up better but tiring. On climbing over a rocky outcrop I managed to fall again, this time to find myself on my back in some heather and gorse. A fairly soft landing, so I jumped up and plodded on.

I managed to break into a run again just before CP3 once I reached the tarmac of Fishguard. It felt strange to be running through town whilst everyone else was enjoying a lazy sunny Sunday afternoon. A couple of people asked what the race was, and to be able to say I'd run 73 or so miles in the last 3 days, was a pretty good feeling.

Having fuelled up and been assured by our favourite marshall that the last 6 miles was just a short stroll along the coast to the finish, I grabbed a bag of crisps and plodded onwards. The last few miles, were like the last few miles of any event, painful, neverending and frustratingly slow. Again so close to the end my mental determination let me down, and my pace slowed. This is definitely something I need to plan for, and find a way of dealing with. It was only Paul on day 1 and Caz on day 2 that saved me. I met a girl just a few miles from the finish line of day 3, but just couldn't keep up with her pace, and found myself dropping behind. Caz passed me at a cracking marching pace, shouting about missing her flight, I needed some of that determination to get me home!

I did finally make it in 8.56, a truly shocking time, but one that says it all about the terrain and the challenge we all faced over 3 days of it. With 6.17 on the first day and 7.03 on the second, I managed to come 32/67 a fairly creditable position, where 14 dropped out. I was the 10th lady and 3rd female vet, and frankly enormously proud of my acheivement.

I am now planning to take it easy for the next week and let my body recover. It was an amazing weekend, with some amazing people, and fantastically well organised. I don't want to see my trail shoes for a while though!

Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge 78.6 - Day Two


I woke on the Saturday feeling very lightheaded and dehydrated, and really struggled to get out of bed. By the time I'd washed, dressed and packed my kit bag, I'd downed several glasses of sports drink, and half a packet of salted cashew nuts, and I was beginning to feel a bit more human. The walk to the hall reassured me I could at least move my legs reasonably well.

At breakfast another runner I'd met on the first night, Caz said she would be taking it easy, and I offered to run with her. She seemed unsure, and said she didn't often talk when she ran, but agreed to stick at a similar pace. The weather was sunny and clear, a perfect start this time, no rain expected.

For the next 7 hours, Caz and I talked 19 to the dozen. It was fantastic. We worked brilliantly as a team. Caz's amazing ability on the uphill dragged me up the first 3 miles of ridiculously steep and challenging slopes. I ran in front on the downhills and flat, and dragged Caz along with me. Having again started 2nd to last, we were soon picking people off, and made a real challenge of it. As soon as anyone was sighted in front, the shout would go up, and we would aim for an overtake. It didn't matter if they were runners, walkers, or indeed locals out for a stroll, another person, was another target.

At some point during our overtaking spree, excitement of the challenge got the better of me, and in one most probably entirely graceless moment, I landed face first on the path. Being so tired stopped me from putting my hands out to save myself, so I simply hit knees, hip, shoulder and face in that order. My first thought was that I had broken my glasses, and so would have to pull out, but luckily they were ok. Caz was magnificent. She went into full on mountain rescue mode, and wiped me off, saved all the bits of my broken garmin, and even gave me her buff to scrape the mud off my face. Once I'd recovered, and realised apart from a slightly swollen cheek bone I was fine, the race was back on.

Check point 2 came and went in a wave of enjoyment. Along St David's Head we were still passing people, including the first of the walkers. The downhills were an opportunity to relax with the good ground, and allow our legs to have their way and fly down. We decided on a special Caz & Fin run/walk way of doing things, which in practice meant we always planned to walk after the next 20-30 mins running, but invariably put the walk off if we found a particularly nice bit of path to run.

Once we reached CP3, had a chat and a hug from our favourite marshall, it was a quick cup of coke and some Haribos, and just 2 miles over the hills from Abereiddy to Porthgain and the finish. The light was just beginning to fade, but Caz was determined we'd finish before dark. I have to admit that I lost it on the top. Once the driving hail and rain started, and I realised I'd lost my hat and that my headtorch was a bit pathetic, the finish line was close, but just not close enough. Caz rallied her troops though, and I did my best to keep up with her swift march to the steps at Porthgain. The final flat to the finish was fantastic, with Caz doing a superman slow motion run, and plenty of whooping from me, we arrived to another warm minibus and the satisfaction that we were 2/3 of the way through.

Getting off the minibus at St David's was not pleasant though. My legs had completely seized up, so I hobbled inside and booked a massage for later, and then shivered my way back to the cottage for a cold bath, a hot shower, and some warm clothes before supper.

Just 1 more day to go, and I'd have my hands on that trophy!

Pembrokeshire Coastal Challenge 78.6 - Day One


Having travelled up the night before, and found I had booked a very comfortable cottage extremely close to the race Headquarters in St David's City Hall, I was looking forward to the first day.

I had promised to run the day with Paul who I'd met at supper the previous evening. He described himself as a non runner (doing 3 offroad marathons in 3 days - mad), so wanted to take it slowly, which suited me.

We arrived at 11am at a wet and dark Dale harbour. 65 runners were counted through, and then we were off. Paul instantly disappeared with the leading pack and I found myself plodding along at the back, second from last. My plan was to run my own race, and take it at a pace that felt easy. I soon picked up with Ross, a guy who was a multiday eventing veteran, who reassured me that we would soon start to pick people off. He was right. By Check Point 1 I was beginning to pass people, even though the mud was thick underfoot. Those runners in road shoes, were already suffering, and one guy wearing Vibram 5 Toes barefoot shoes, was just plain mad.

At Checkpoint 2 I left another handful of runners behind, but by now I was cold and the weather had really closed in. Luckily I was familiar with the route having spent years holidaying in the area, so found CP 3 with no trouble. However I'd run out of water about 3 miles before CP3. but with no option but to keep running, dehydration was a real issue. With just 4 miles to go to the end a runner in front turned and waved at me. I waved back thinking how friendly the race was. It wasn't until I drew alongside I realised it was Paul! Unfortunately Paul was no longer able to raise his arms to run, or lift his legs properly, and was really struggling, so I walked alongside him for a bit, until I cajoled him to start running. With a bit of bullying and friendly banter we made fairly quick work of the next 3 miles, even the seemingly endless steep slippery ups and downs. Once Paul and I had had an inevitable moment of hysterical giggles we rounded a headland and the lights of Newgale could be seen.

For the last mile and a half with my headtorch on, we shuffle jogged down the road and completed the day with a final blast across the finish line. Job done, day 1 complete.

It wasn't until I had changed and sat down in the warm minibus with a cup of soup that I realised how rubbish I felt. Both legs had DOMs, probably exacerbated by the speed work last weekend, and the countless hills in the race. I felt light headed and not at all with it. That evening as I lay in bed, aching, I truly wondered whether my career as a multiday runner was an unobtainable dream, or whether it really was possible to feel this awful, and yet still get up and do another day.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Prince of Wales offers his support!


It's just 2 days now before the 3 marathons in 3 days, and I am feeling surprisingly calm. Still there's loads of time to panic yet!

Earlier in the week I had a reply to my letter to the Prince of Wales. Apparently he is not in a position to grant me leave to run across the Principality, but he does wish me every success in my run!!

It's not every day you gain the support of royalty, or get a letter stamped by Buckingham Palace!

Training is practically non existent since the beginning of the week, and after a very vigorous sports massage on Monday my legs are feeling a little stiff and sore. The lethargy and tiredness of this last bit of taper is always tough.

I have a couple of hours tomorrow to pack my bags and make sure I have all the essential kit on the list, and then I'm off to deepest darkest Pembrokeshire on Thursday. I expect the race to be a real experience, and to be able to practice alot of what I'll need to do on the RunWales with regards to fuelling etc.

Now the Prince of Wales is backing my run.......... I really must make sure I complete it!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Taper Madness

Week 2 of taper this week, and the madness is beginning to set in.

Already eaten too much, beginning to feel quite lethargic except when running, and the temptation to run as fast as I can is beckoning!

Half term this week, so busy with life. I now have the final instructions email from Votwo for the 3 marathons in 3 days, so the fear and terror has started too.

Why do I do this to myself???

Monday, 18 October 2010

Taper

After a really hectic weekend, I am now beginning to taper for the 3 marathons in 3 days around the Pembrokeshire Coastal path on Nov 5th.

I managed 80 miles last week reasonably well. I have learnt that the best way to deal with aching legs, tiredness, and worry about whether I will be able to complete the distance or not, is just not to think about it! Having done 18 miles offroad on Wednesday, and another 12 road miles on Thursday as well as a couple of power walks, I was not looking forward to Friday's 23 miles. Rather than worry about it though, I actively put it out of my mind, and trusted that as in the past my body would rise to the challenge and get it done. And, would you belive it, it did!

The 23 miles was done on a circular route (no opportunities to cut it short), with plenty of hills (keeps the boredom at bay), and a strategy of 3 miles run 1 minute walk. The run/walk really helped. During the walk breaks I fuelled up, reorganised anything I needed to, and gave myself a bit of breathing space. Only having to concentrate on the next 3 miles, made the run a whole lot easier, and my pace was actually exactly the same as on previous runs which had had no walk breaks at all.

After the 23 miles I made tea for the family then drove to my parents' near Bristol. On the Saturday I got up at 6.30am and drove up to Solihull where I spent the next 2 days doing an Initial Tutor Training course for UK Athletics. The course was incredibly intense but very interesting, and I even managed to get up at 6.15am on the Sunday to complete 5 miles. Not getting home til 9.15pm last night was tough though. I missed my family, and I have had no break this weekend, so I feel shattered today. That hasn't stopped me doing a 6 miler though.

Lessons learnt this week - if you've done the planning, there's no need to think about it any more, just get on and do it!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Being lucky




Whilst out on my 13.5 mile run this morning, I was lucky enough to enjoy some quite spectacular views, and here they are.
There are some advantages to doing lots of running!




Saturday, 9 October 2010

76 miles - done!

A big week before the 3 in 3 in November. 76 miles all done.

I have found eating enough pretty tough this week,mainly because after a long or particularly hard run I feel a bit queasy not at all hungry. This is something I need to work on before RunWales, as the day after I always struggle. I have been experimenting with grazing when I feel I can eat, and although I feel I am being a bit of a pig, it seems to be working.

As it was my son's 11th birthday party this Friday (a sleepover, groan), I did all my long miles during the week so that I didn't have to run on little sleep. It now means that I am seriously tired, but satisfied I have completed all the miles I need.

80 miles next week, here I come.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Easy week a 5k and a big change of plans.

Well, the plan was for it to be an easy week this week, but given the marathon last Sunday, it didn't feel that easy.

I last took a rest day on Tues 21st September, that's 11 days running on the trot, so just getting through all the running this week was a bonus. However, I ran the Women's Running Network All Soles Fun Run today, a 5k and managed to win my age group. About half way round I was wondering what I was doing there, and why I was running so fast (9mm, fast for me right now)! It was a very small race, but taking a trophy home is always a nice thing to do.

The big news this week though is that given my performance at the Tenby Marathon, and the impressive way my body has coped with the lack of rest this week, I have decided that I will be running the length of Wales a little earlier than planned. The original date was to be the last week of May and first week of June, but Wales tends to be quite warm around that time, and I don't do well in the heat. It might also cause a problem with accommodation, especially if it coincided with school holidays. What finally decided me though was knowing that I have enough time between recovering from the 3 in 3 to getting my mileage up to 100 a week before I need to taper for the RunWales challenge.

So many people have offered to come and run with me, or to support me that I need to finalise dates in the next 2 weeks, and get on with it. I know physically I am capable of doing it now, so I just need to get on and do it!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Wales Marathon

What a fantastic event!

A little hillier than I was expecting, especially the long tough hill at mile 20ish.

This was a training run for me, with 10 miles on Friday and another 15 on Saturday, the aim was to follow my body and finish feeling good, possibly ready to run again on Monday. So I guessed that would mean a finish time of around 5 hours.

The day didn't start particularly well. I went to the wrong registration place to find it was closed, then managed to fall over a curb once I'd found the right place. I jumped up quick, and pretended I hadn't fallen over, whilst cursing myself inside as my knees were banged, and a bit painful. A swift hobble round the corner confirmed there was nothing too wrong with them though, thank goodness.

The start was small only 200 runners, but in the gorgeous if chilly sun, with the drum band and cheering crowds it was very exciting and atmospheric. Two flat or downhill miles led us out of Tenby until we hit the first hill, and boy what a hill. It just seemed to go on for ever and ever, and it was steep. Once on top of the ridge it undulated towards Pembroke. The route really was very pretty, and the support fantastic. As the field had spread out pretty well by half way I ran down Pembroke high street to cheers and claps, almost completely on my own, so I felt like an Olympian.

The second half was warmer, with a tail wind, and had 2 nasty climbs, but plenty of views still and more runners as the half runners had now joined us.

I felt comfortable and chatty all the way round, nothing hurt and my breathing was fine, so when I looked at my watch in the last 2 miles to realise the time, I was very suprised. I managed 4.38 without seeming to try too hard, and the legs are a little achy but fine. Last year I struggled to manage 4.50 in Snowdonia. This year I can pull 4.38 out of the bag in amongst 51 miles over 3 days. I think I may be getting fitter.

I am hoping that as I am up and down stairs ok, and nothing is aching too much, that after a massage first thing tomorrow morning I may be ok to run tomorrow evening with club, but we shall see.

Oh yes, I also found out on Friday that I have passed the interview and I have been selected as a UK Athletics Coach Education Tutor, so that's 2 whole weekends away in October. I'm already planning when I can squeeze in the running!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

An Easy week

A step back week this week, so just 46 miles.

Had an interview in Solihull yesterday for a tutoring position with UK Athletics, and the 6 hours driving over 2 days and sitting around, plus the stress of the interview has left me absolutely exhausted, more tired than 82 miles!

This week it's 73 miles with the Wales Marathon on Sunday. Oh and I've lost 4 pounds in weight this week, not quite sure why this week, but I'm thinking my body has finally caught up with the mileage I'm asking it to do, and dropped some excess fat. I reckon I have another half stone of weight that I could lose without being scrawny, we will see if I lose any more next week, and then worry about my food intake. I am eating very well, not stinting on anything, but maybe I need to look at higher protein foods, and eat more often.

Anyway, I need a nice relaxing afternoon, shame I have 5 pairs of school trousers to take down instead!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Running with Chris Moon MBE and other stories


What a week!

82 miles in 7 days, and still in one piece. 69 of the 74 miles I had planned to do since last Monday.

This week I had the opportunity to run with Chris Moon, a double amputee and amazing ultra athlete on his Post Office 1000 mile challenge . That's 36 miles every day for 30 days. Having read a small article on his arrival in Swansea on Thursday I googled him and managed to get in contact with his business. Through them I was able to contact his support team and arranged to meet Chris at Wetlands at 7.30am on the Thursday. We ran along the coastal path towards Loughor, getting wet feet in the exceptionally high tide, through Gowerton and down the cycle track to the front, where it was straight along Swansea Bay and into town.

He is an amazingly determined man, with extreme mental strength, and of course he's quite fit too. We ran for a couple of hours together, chatting mostly about running. We stopped on the way for him to do a radio interview and a bit of filming before arriving at Swansea Post Office. I then dashed to work, and he went on to run another 22 miles!

The run with Chris allowed me to see that ultra endurance is as much about determination and the will to succeed as it is about physical fitness. For a man who lost his arm and leg clearing mines in Mozambique he can run blinking fast! It also showed me what it might actually be like to run across Wales. The constant focus you need to do something that challenging, and how you have to involve as many people as possible to help make it a success. It was an incredibly inspiring run, and an extremely interesting one, but above all it made me realise how Chris Moon, and other endurance athletes are not superhuman, just ordinary people who work very hard at doing extraordinary things, quite awe inspiring. I hope to have some photos and maybe video from the run for the blog soon.

That all happened on the Thursday, so I managed 14 miles with Chris. On the Friday I had 16 miles to do, which was tough. Towards the end of the run when I was just about to leave the cycle track and head uphill and home I bumped into Lowri Morgan the S4C presenter who ran the Jungle Marathon in Brazil last year. I had watched the S4C coverage of her run with interest, and had emailed her to ask if she would support the RunWales. So bumping into her was a godsend, she introduced herself and declared she'd love to support the run!! Which is fantastic news.

I'm ecstatic to have Lowri and Chris on board and willing to support the RunWales challenge, their support will be a huge boost to the event, and a huge boost to my confidence knowing there are other endurance athletes out there who believe I can do it!!

Today I did another 18 miles, helped along by the WRN long slow run group. I couldn't persuade myself to do the extra 4 miles needed for the 22 I had planned, it was getting late and I felt I had added to my training by upping my 3 day total from 45 miles 2 weeks ago to 48 today. My legs were also still sore from the sports massage I had yesterday which was quite definitely the most painful massage I've ever had. I came very close to screaming abuse at Wayne my masseur and for a few moments I most definitely hated him! However, my knee was fine for 48 miles in 3 days, which given the problems I had last week, I'm very pleased with.

Next week I only have 45 miles to do. What used to be a peak week in marathon training now feels like a rest. Then the Wales Marathon the following Sunday. I'm stiff, sore and tired, but happy!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

It nearly went all pear shaped...

When I said last time that I felt much better for taking it easy, that didn't include how I felt running a day later. Certainly getting up and down stairs and carrying on normal life was easier, but then having taken Monday off from running after 45 miles in 3 days, I ran on Tuesday and for the first time in years I was in pain. A specific, knee centred pain. It was, quite frankly horrible.

For the first half mile of the run the inside of my left knee just below the kneecap was painful, not achy, but sharp pain. After the first half mile it loosened and it was just uncomfortable, but the whole of the rest of my legs felt "wrong", achy tired and all out of kilter.

So what did I do? Well of course, I did what any self respecting neurotic runner would do, I panicked!

This panicking involved several short run/walks riven with doubt and worry, constant running up and down my hall and dining room trying to convince myself I'd recovered overnight, and huge dollops of self doubt. I ran twice on Wednesday, then decided I couldn't cope with the stress and took to my bike until I saw Wayne on Friday, my fantastic sports massage therapist. Just hearing from Wayne that a hamstring had tightened and was pulling at the insertion point, and that no knee ligaments were involved was a huge relief.

One excruciatingly painful sports massage later and I was back running. Looking back on the last 6 weeks of the school holidays, the camping, kayaking, and body surfing hadn't done my muscles any good, add to that pretty high mileage, and only 2 sports massages, and minimal strength work and my muscles had tightened up to painful levels. I have learnt my lesson, the shcool holidays are hard, and I need to look after myself a bit better.

So having run a couple of 3 milers on Friday and Saturday I ran Bristol Half Marathon today with Lynne who has spent the last year recovering from a brain haemorrhage. It was fantastic, Lynne was fantastic, and my knee held up. We took it easy and got Lynne across the line in 2.23, with a strong last couple of miles and a sprint finish, so job done. My knee was complaining a bit from mile 11, and for a couple of hours after the race the muscles around the knee spasmed quite painfully making me look like the Ministry of Funny Walks, but it feels much better now, just a bit stiff. So with another sports massage booked for Friday I am far more confident that I can run the planned 74 miles this week. Mind you, just typing 74 makes me panic, and I instantly want to qualify it by saying I may only do 20 this week if the knee falls apart, ah well........ maybe panic is part of a runner's life?

Monday, 30 August 2010

And....

The day after 3 long runs in a row is much better if you've run the long runs fairly slowly. Feel fine today, just a bit tired, no extra aches or pains.......... all good!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

45 miles in 3 days - done!

68 miles for the week, 45 of which were done in the last 3 days. I actually think I may be able to run 3 marathons in 3 days now!

Having spent a week in France running fairly easily, I had it all saved for my return. Mind you I shouldn't be let out alone. Yet again whilst on holiday I managed to fall over bashing the same knee as in Pembrokeshire, which this time bled profusely having not fully healed from the last fall, and ended up pretty bruised too. It was another early morning run, just 6 miles, I fell over a bump in the road. Had the usual horrible slow motion thing, fell heavily on both knees, and saved myself with the heels of my hands, both of which are still scarred! Whilst lying on the ground at the top of the Normandy hills above the sea, and wondering how badly I was hurt, I did wonder whether I should start wearing kneepads to run in (but later decided that might be tempting fate). I managed to finish the run, with lovely bloody tracks from both knees, the locals must have wondered if I'd escaped from somewhere. The knee was stiff the following day, but pretty much recovered in 2 days. It is stiff again now after 45 miles, but I guess that's not really surprising.

I did a little aquajogging in the sea whilst in France too to save my legs from the constant pounding. Although it was scenic and kinder to the legs, swirling around in the sea can get a bit dull after 30 minutes or so, so I was pretty pleased that I managed about 45 minutes. It also allowed me to go to the beach with the rest of the family rather than dashing off into the hills on my own. That is a real issue now I am doing more miles, the amount of time I spend away from the family. I hate to miss anything. My husband is very understanding, and I try to time my runs so that everyone is still in bed, or not doing anything too exciting, but it does mean I get less sleep, and housework has had to take a bit of a backseat lately!

Anyway getting back to my miles this weekend. I managed 10 miles on Friday afternoon having returned from France that lunchtime. I forgot to charge my Garmin in time, and so ran by time, so have no idea how fast I ran. I suspect it was a little on the fast side, closer to 10 min miling than 11. Mentally it was hard, particularly leaving the house. Once the decision was made, it was more manageable, but a constant effort to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. I then did 20 miles on my own over the Gower on Saturday morning. That was tough, I mean really tough. I threw in 30 second walk breaks every 2 miles from 6 miles in. Not that I think I really needed them physically, but they broke up a seemingly endless run, and gave me something to aim for. The pace was slow, 11.18mm overall, with hills and walk breaks, and moments of moaning. I survived, but the balls of my feet were tender in the afternoon, and playing on my mind was the 15 miles I had to do the following day.

Today I really acheived something. I managed to find a Women's Running Network long run group to join for 7.5 miles of my long run. I did 3.5 very slow very achy miles before I met them, then they dragged me along for an hour and a half. If I had been more organised I would have done all my extra miles before the group, but I couldn't face getting up at 6am. It was fantastic having such good company. The pace was slow 12mm+, but it was absolutely perfect for me today. I will definitely be joining the group again to help with the miles later in the year, I just wish there was a group both days of the weekend.

So a little easy running on holiday, and some big miles this weekend, and I am another step closer to my goal. I can't think about the whole run across Wales at the moment, the 3 marathons in 3 days is enough. But after a tough weekend I am still in one piece, if a little sore and tired, and I really believe I can do this running thing!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Another weekend, another long run (or two...)

Managed my 20 miler today, with some excellent company, thanks Mandy. That's after a 15 miler yesterday done over 5 hours with clubs, clients and a bit on my own. That's 65 miles in total for the week, and I feel much better! Confidence is now well on it's way to being fully restored.

I felt much more positive and less achy after my 15 miles yesterday. I am sure that was helped by my first sports massage in nearly a month, which turned out to be pretty painful. It was of course a good kind of pain, and sorted out all the niggles and issues I have had in the last few weeks. Running with someone else really does make the miles go faster. I took regular 30 second walk breaks from about 9 miles in, mainly to see how it worked with regards to my overall pace, and whether it helped. It did help mentally, having an easy bit to aim for. Mandy refused to let me take one at 19 miles, and it has to be said, I'm glad she wouldn't let me, I didn't need it. However, there was only a 20 second per mile difference between mine and Mandy's averages, as she ran when I walked. My aim is to finish in one piece, and if taking walk breaks makes that plan more doable, then I will be walking.

A week off hard training next week, and then the following week it's the first of the 3 hard days in a row. 10, 15 and 20, one week followed by 12, 20 and Bristol Half the next week. I now feel like I could actually do that and survive.

This time next month I will be running 74 miles a week, a first............ new territory all the way from here on in, yippee!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Family camping and high mileage don't mix.

I have just returned from a fantastic camping holiday in Pembrokeshire. I now feel thoroughly relaxed, if a little tired, tanned and a bit grubby!

I had decided whilst on holiday to run a big week, 65 miles, rather than take it easy, mainly because I thought I would have more time. This was a mistake. However, I quickly realised my mistake and ran an easy 25 miles all week. We arrived on the Saturday, so I went out for a quick 6 miler. I then took Sunday off running (but managed a fairly arduous hilly 8 mile walk), and ran morning and evening on Monday, 6 miles both times. I was feeling super stiff and tired by this time, having not slept well. I had also forgotten that camping is very physical and sleeping outside makes you stiff. The 6 miles in the morning was done on just a banana at 7.30am on the coastal path. And I felt dreadful. The legs were tired, I just couldn't pick up my feet, and it took all my mental energy to stay upright. One minute I was checking my watch, the next I was flat on my face in the dirt. I had tripped over a stone and scraped my right knee and dented my confidence badly. But I dusted myself off and managed to finish the run ok.

The next few days consisted of easy short 4-6 mile road runs or days off.

Falling over on the coastal path was not good. Alot of the time I was on holiday I was thinking of the 3 marathons in 3 days I will be doing in November, along that very stretch of coastal path. The race HQ is in St Davids where we were camping, so I had constant reminders of what I have signed up for. Confidence for offroad coastal running is very low at the moment. My knee is actually still very sore to touch, albeit a surface wound only. I am hoping that it was a combination of camping tiredness and general exhasution that led to my fall, and not an innate inability to run Pembrokeshire Coastal path safely!! Before the holiday I was dog tired, but coping. The holiday was great to get away from work for a while, but sleeping in a tent and living outside for a week is never very restful. I am off again in a few days camping to France, so I am planning on adjusting my schedule to take that into account, having learnt from my experience in St Davids. Trying to run a 60+ mile week, in the gaps of a family camping holiday left me feeling extremely stiff, tired and a little tearful. Once I'd taken the pressure off myself and swapped my easy week planned for this week, and my 60+ mile week, which I will complete this week coming, I felt so much better.

One great thing about the holiday though, was bumping into an old friend in St Davids, and finding he and his sister and brother, spouses and parents plus children were all staying in the area for the week.Having known them for nearly 20 years, but due to geography only see them every few years it was a fantastic chance to spend the week catching up, and enjoying everyone's company. We now plan to do it again next year!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

A Quicky

Just a quick post to say I'm ridiculously busy!

Having the boys on holiday makes everything a little harder. Running 62 miles this week, as well as working, looking after the boys for at least some of the time I'm not working, and trying to keep a house running relatively smoothly makes for a very tiring time.

Still it'll feel so easy when all I have to do is run!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

How to avoid injury or "Neuroses R Us!"

It was supposed to be 22 miles, but the neither the mind nor the body was in the slightest bit interested. To manage 18 miles was in fact a real bonus.

I have been struggling with stiff knees this week, mainly due to a weights programme designed to build leg strength and protect joints. The side effect has been stiff tired knees. Couple that with a rather large dollop of neuroses, and you have a rubbish long run.

One of the reasons I think I have managed to avoid injury for the last 4 years is that I am an incredibly neurotic runner. Every little twinge and I am convinced I am injured and will have to give up running forever. So, if something isn't right I try and find a way to deal with it immediately. On Thursday I had the best hilly 6 mile run for a while, my knees were completely niggle free. Then I followed it up with a slightly hard strength workout followed directly by 3 miles power walking. During the walk my left knee was tight, very tight. As a result Friday and Saturday both saw a complete loss of confidence. Running long for me, especially when you are tired, and you are in the final week of a 3 week hard cycle, has a great deal to do with how confident you feel as a runner.

On starting Saturday's run my thoughts were "if I manage 3 miles, at least it's a run." This gradually crept up to "8 miles is a decent length", then "10 miles is double figures", "16 miles is a proper long run", and I finished on "18 miles will do today". I am convinced if I hadn't procrastinated on Saturday morning and got out of bed earlier, that 18 miles might even have been 22.

I am disappointed in myself that I have failed to hit my target twice in the last month. I have of course had very valid reasons for not hitting those targets, but just the simple task of having to adjust my schedule to take account of those missed targets has had me soul searching and wondering how things will pan out over the next few months. It is or course 15 weeks until the 3 marathons in 3 days, my first real test, so allowing myself a little more time to acclimatise to the high mileage is very sensible. Yesterday I thought 18 miles instead of 22 was an early sign my training was falling apart. I suppose I am pretty hard on myself.

Next week sees the boys break up from school and my husband away for 5 days, so no childcare, and limited running opportunities. I hope to be able to squeeze in some early morning running, but it will be a light week for miles, which will do me good. A chance to regain my confidence and give my body a chance to recover a little energy.

This week I have learnt that this challenge is very much a solo event, and that means training as well as completing the actual challenge. Unless Rory Coleman, or another ultra distance coach suddenly decides to become my patron, mentor and all round good guy, then the only one who's going to get me through this is me. So starting to unravel the reasons behind some of my more debilitating neuroses would be a good way to free myself up to just run. Whoever realised running would involve so much psychoanalysis?

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Ran a lot - learnt a lot!

What I didn't expect was to be on such a journey so soon.

I honestly expected to just add a little bit to my training every week or so, and to pootle along until I was ready to take part in some events. What I hadn't anticipated was how much I would learn about myself and about running so early in my training. It's been 11 weeks since I started training for running across Wales, and the biggest thing I've realised to date, is that this challenge will be far more mental than physical.

For the last 6-8 weeks I have been suffering with a "tweaky" left knee. At some point I twisted it, and it just twinges when I land awkwardly, or I have to run particularly slowly. I have been stretching, had my massage therapist check it out, and recently I have been strength training as well. I have known for months if not years that I need to strength train to protect my joints, but it is only the last week that has seen me take that seriously. I have found some full body exercises specifically designed for marathon runners by the Furman Institute, that take only 15 mins to complete twice a week. It's made me feel more tired this week, but having seen results already I now realise it's essential. My right achilles/calf has been tight for weeks, but after strength training, it's feeling a lot better. Why oh why didn't I do this earlier??

I have also learnt this week, that I need to pay more attention to detail. Having done 60 miles this week, with 12 on Friday and 20 on Saturday, with stiff knees............ I suddenly remembered I needed new running shoes. I had it in my head that I was doing roughly 40 miles per week, which would mean new shoes in August, but for the last 8 weeks I have been doing 50 as a minimum, and it all adds up. Thank goodness I have some new shoes ready to go. To be honest I usually just wait until my current running shoes feel like slippers, all sloppy and no support. I think I really need to be a bit more scientific about it and actually count the miles in each pair rather than waiting til they feel used. My knees have definitely suffered over the last couple of weeks running in shoes that should have been in the bin already.

The biggest thing I've learnt this week by far is that I'm not a natural risk taker. Friday's 12 miles was really tough, quite hilly and my energy levels were really low. After the run I felt like I'd done a long run, sore legs, tired (even had a little nap), and stiff. Technically by now 12 miles should be something I take in my stride, so the thought of going out and running 20 miles the next day was hugely daunting. I had convinced myself I would be running at 12mm, and struggling the whole way. In fact I ran sub 10.45mm over a very hilly route and coped well with the heat. I worry all the time that I'm going to break my body. I think my body is able to do far more than I give it credit for. But it still seems a hell of a long way from where I am now to being able to run 30 miles every day for a week. Another 60 miles to do next week, and then it's an easy week to recover.

Oh and then there's the question of my food intake again. I had another realisation this week. On Wednesday I had an hour's work in the morning, and then the rest of the day to run and do whatever I liked. Having worked so hard last week I decided to run, and then do some clothes shopping. I enjoyed myself so much shopping that I didn't realise the time, and had just 1 small snack between breakfast at 7.30am and lunch at 2pm. I ate well at lunch and didn't think anything more of it. However the next morning, I paid the price. I woke at 6.30am so hungry I felt sick and weak. I had a big bowl of porridge, and felt still hungry, an hour later my stomach was rumbling again, so I had a couple of pieces of toast. During my run I was constantly hungry, and it was tough. I can't miss out on calories, or I pay for it. Since Thursday I have been eating well and often. And I do love food, but even I am struggling to eat enough to fuel my running.

Another week done, another long list of things learnt, another tired Sunday pottering round feeling a bit spaced................... running is great!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Food glorious food!

Another long run done, another week completed.

This week was 58 miles plus 16 miles power walking, plus normal life. Quite a lot, and I am a bit tired.

18 miles off road completed yesterday around the Gower including some pretty steep hills and fantastic views. A bit of soft sand too. Since I started training for ultras my husband has taken over the cooking at the weekend..... and he's fantastic at it. Today we had beetroot, goat's cheese and hazelnut puff pastry tart with mange tout, and strawberry and raspberry flan with creme fraiche to finish. Delicious! A lot of the ingredients came from his allotment (I would say ours, but I have managed 30 minutes of weeding in the last 8 months of ownership). Which is not only very satisfying but cheap and tasty.

It's a good job the food is so good, because I worked out this week I used 1300 extra calories a day exercising, that's a daily requirement of 3300 calories, and it's only going to get worse. The temptation when you are physically tired and hungry is to wolf down anything to hand, so having someone else cook the kind of food I really should be eating is really wonderful. At this rate I may never cook again!

Next week I have a slightly less hectic week as a couple of clients are on holiday, and I have fewer meetings for work, so I hope to be able to choose routes for running that are a little more scenic. 60 miles to do next week, bring it on!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Battered and Bruised

This very hot humid weather is tough. I managed to fall over whilst out working today, scraping a knee and jarring my shoulder, but nothing serious. Then whilst putting a jumper on and walking along the hall at home, I banged my elbow on a door frame bruising it badly. The elbow is very sore and movement is restricted. I am sure neither of these accidents would have happened had I been less tired.

I am very tired, but then I am doing a lot.

This morning the enormity of the challenge I have set myself really sunk in. This morning wasn't any special occasion, just a busy day at work. I've had to split my planned run between morning and evening to fit it in, and having to do that just made me think "how am I going to manage??" My first real moment of doubt. I am sure there will be plenty more along the way, and I will cope with them and get on with it, but it's a huge challenge, and I do have moments when I wonder if I really am capable of running across an entire country.

This morning I ran or walked from 8.40am until 1pm. This afternoon I will be resting/working for the WRN , and this evening I will be running and walking from 7pm until 8.45pm. A pretty long day.

What makes this week tough is that I have a lot of work to do for the Women's Running Network, and a lot of clubs/clients. I will get it done, but to fit in 58 miles of running this week has had me scratching my head. What it's going to be like when I have to fit in 80 or even 100 running miles in a week goodness only knows. Luckily I am doing my long offroad run with a slower friend this weekend, so I will be able to take it easy and enjoy the views.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Llanelli 10k

What a beautiful day, a nice breeze and loads of sunshine. Pootled round the course with Lynne, who did fantastically well considering this was her first 10k post brain haemorrhage. Surprised at how fine I felt yet again, finished in a very comfortable 63 mins.

Unfortunately found out today that entries for Snowdonia Marathon have closed, so my plan to accompany Lynne on this one have been scuppered. I may yet be able to join her for some of the race, but how much will have to see.

I don't have many big races coming up now until after the summer holidays, just a steady building of mileage. By the end of August the plan is to be comfortable running 40+ miles on consecutive days, and be running 60+ miles per week.

I might be able to slot in the odd 10k or 10 mile race, but life is pretty hectic at the moment, so the emphasis for the next 2 months is to get some heavy miles in the legs and begin some gentle speed work to mix things up a bit. Long runs will be off road every other week. I'm very tired at the moment, more from the rest of my life than from running so it makes sense to take account of the other pressures on my time, and just train well rather than train and race, and then burn out.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

A Revelation

I am amazed at the capacity of the human body.

I ran 30 miles on Saturday, on Monday I went for a 5 mile run at just over 10 min miles, and I survived! Not just survived I actually feel better for having run.

For the last 4 years I have believed that running during the week after a marathon is not a good idea, running more than 23 miles in training is not a good idea, and that running very heavy mileage is not a good idea. Well, I think I need to forget all that advice!

Seriously though, I am chuffed that my legs are feeling so good after the ultra at the weekend. I think there are various reasons for that. I covered the course at an average of 13.15mm, which in reality means that I was running at anything between 10 to 12.30mm, and walking the rest. There were also large stops during the run for checkpoints and refuelling. I didn't feel like I was running hard, although by 28 miles my legs were stiff and tired and holding good form was a real challenge. I think I also got the fuelling right. Every time I started to feel hungry Lynne was there with a flapjack. Although I need to look into salty snacks, because by 25 miles in that heat I was really starting to crave salt. A friend last night suggested hula hoops, which is definitely worth a try, because I could stick them on my fingers and lick the salt off! I have spent the last 5 years running and walking for up to 5 hours a day, that is what my body is used to. All I need to do now, is persuade it to do it quicker and for slightly longer.

I am ready to throw out the advice I have been running to for the marathons I have completed so far, and listen to my body. Now it's time to push as hard as my body will allow and see what I can do.......... it's so exciting!!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Gower Gallop 30 - race report

I was especially lucky for this event. My friend Lynne had very kindly offered to be my own personal support crew, and what a support crew she was, fantastic!

Lynne arrived at 6.30am to pick me up and take me to the start line in Pennard. The start line consisted of a small hut in the middle of Pennard park, which for the day had no mains water (nice!), surrounded by a few benches and deck chairs. A 5 min queue to get my little blue card with my number on A13 (my lucky number), and then 30 minutes sitting on the deck chairs at the start line and chatting and watching the walkers drift off. The Gower Gallop is incredibly low key, not a race as such, a challenge walk, which they let runners complete too.

A couple of friends turned up for the later 20 mile event, so I thought I had better go. A quick wave to Lynne, and off I trundled at a very sedate 12 min mile. The first check point was the furthest away at 8 miles. I had opted to head round the top of the river at Parkmill rather than risk the stepping stones, which can be covered by the tide. I made good progress and reached Oxwich Beach quickly, meeting some of the walkers there. The next section took me along the top of the coast along a small road and then onto a track. A lot of swearing ensued on meeting so many stinging nettles, good job there was noone around.

Checkpoint 1 in an average of 12.50 min miles, and I was feeling fresh. A quick flapjack and a drink and I was off again. The next section was along the coastal path and there were some very tough steep ups and downs. I had completed this section for the Gower Trails Marathon in December, and it was looking and feeling very different in the warmth of the sun. The ground was good, not the 3 inch mud of December and I overtook a couple more fast walkers by Checkpoint 2 at Rhossili. It is quite amazing how hard it is to overtake a fast walker. When I was running it was easy, but when I stopped to walk I really couldn't match their speed.

At Checkpoint 2 only 4 people were ahead of me, so another flapjack and I set off to skirt round the bottom of Rhossili Downs. The plan was to overtake the other walkers by Checkpoint 3. Things were now feeling a little tougher. The ball of my left foot had a sore spot on it, which I suspected was a blister, so I retied my shoelaces and tried to ignore it. The path was continually on an angle hugging the side of the Downs and had been along the coast as well, so my knees and feet were beginning to complain. By Llangennith I put my music on, and after nearly 3 hours of silence the sudden burst of noise made me laugh out loud. I had a hairy moment at the bottom of Llanmadoc Hill when the path I was following petered out and I had to scramble up the side of the hill to reach another path above me, but the going down the other side was good, and I took the opportunity to scare the sheep by singing along to my headphones not caring if there was anyone else around.

There was no checkpoint 3. I had beaten the opening time for the checkpoint, so I met Lynne and hung around for 5-10 mins until it opened. Within 5 mins of leaving Checkpoint 3 I promptly ran out of water. Knowing that Lynne would pass me if I stuck to the road I prayed for a fresh supply and kept one eye out for her behind me. Thank goodness for Lynne! With my camelbak filled up I cracked on to Checkpoint 4 and made good time.

At Checkpoint 4 I found there was only 1 person now in front of me. That felt good! Just 1.5 miles cross country to the next checkpoint, and my aim was to beat Lynne there. The going was very tough though, rough moorland, 600 ft of ascent, and bogs. Having managed to sink knee deep in a very smelly boggy patch I was pleased to reach the last Checkpoint.

Checkpoint 5 was heaving. The 12.5 miles walkers had reached it, having started around 9am. 20-30 people all trying to check in at the same time. When I gave my number and said I was on the 30 mile route there was a moment of disbelief from the marshall before they quickly moved on to the next person. With so many walkers there, I just grabbed a biscuit and headed off. Only 4.5 miles to the finish along the top of Cefn Bryn then up and down Pennard valley.

Within 5 minutes I had run out of drinks again. I'd missed Lynne at the checkpoint, she'd got lost on the way and decided to go straight to the finish, so had missed out on her stash of drinks too, and been too overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of the crowd to really think about drinks. Luckily there was a little shop at a campsite on route. The guy behind the counter clearly thought I was mad, mud to the knees, sweaty and panting, and by 28.5 miles unable to stand still very well. Having fuelled up again, off I went for the last few miles up and down the side of the valley. By this stage I was definitely into "old man shuffle" mode, but still feeling ok. It actually measured 30.62 by the end, but not bad for such a long off road route.

Technically I won the lady's race, beaten only by the very quick male runner in front of me. I would love to say I had beaten other runners, but I didn't. It was a lovely feeling though to lead the field over such a long tough race though, and one I probably won't get again.

Today I feel tired but not sore, just stiff. The blister is tiny and not at all painful, I have some interesting sunburn, and some annoying scratches and stings, but all in all, I'm in pretty good shape. I hope to try a run tomorrow................. now a 40 mile race seems doable!

Monday, 7 June 2010

A new sponsor signs up

Fantastic news, Up and Running in Swansea the specialist running retailer has offered to supply all my nutritional needs for the Run Wales challenge and training. This is an amazing boost. Not only is it wonderful to have the support, it is also hugely encouraging to have the backing of a running specialist.

Knowing there are people out there who believe in me, makes it easier to believe in myself!!

The supporters to date are now:
  • Up and Running, Swansea
  • Do Running - specialist running retailer
  • Women's Running Network
  • Melanie Walters - from Gavin and Stacey

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Less than a week to go

Did my last "long" run before the Gower Gallop this morning. Managed 9.5 miles on part of the Gallop route. I have now run the large majority of the route, so that will make navigation easier I hope.

I have been struggling with tiredness this week though. Mainly due I think to having 2 full time jobs at the moment. I always find having the boys at home and continuing to work a bit of a challenge. After my run today, both the boys were out and I just couldn't stave off the tiredness any more and spent 2 hours fast asleep. I am still feeling a bit dopey now. Last half term I spent the second weekend in bed ill, so just feeling tired is an improvement.

I am feeling nervous about next week's Gallop, 30 miles off road is a long way. Still, I will take it easy, walk the uphills and aim just to finish. I haven't really tapered for the race, just had a slightly easier week this week, running wise, only done 37 miles. I intend to run only 5 days next week and the week after. But I am hoping I won't have to take any time off running after the challenge, unless of course I get blisters.

The weather this morning would have been fantastic for the race, low cloud and damp. Went up onto the top of Cefn Bryn, and although the views were disappointing, I had the chance to run a section of the race route that had been bothering me. I had hoped a few friends would also be doing the 30 mile route, but I think they have opted for the shorter 20 and 12 mile routes (probably very sensible - only me that's mad!)

I also managed to complete my final assignment for my OU course, yippee! I now intend to take a year out and concentrate on running for a bit. It will be a nice not to have to worry about anything hanging over me in my free time.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Tough, difficult and hard!

That was my run today! 18 miles off road, and I had forgotten when the terrain is rough, how difficult it really can be. The intention was to run 20 miles, but to be honest, I gave up. It didn't help I had to do this week's long run midweek only 4 days after the last one, due to a commitment on Saturday. But it's done!

I felt fine until about 6 miles, and then I reached a steep descent which involved open moorland, and bogs. Circumnavigating the really wet bits, whilst still heading in the right general direction, and trying not to fall over, took all my concentration. Then it was a nice easy downhill path to the coast (I was paying attention to how far down I was going, knowing I would have to run back up it very soon). I then picked up the footpath leading me along the north edge of the Gower. When it was actually path it was fine, when it turned into fields with massive deep cow hoof holes, it wasn't fine. The fields were close to the marsh, and therefore liable to be a bit wet, so the cows had made deep imprints in the mud, which today was dry and hard as rock. Stopping myself from twisting an ankle, or going headlong was a real challenge. Coupled with the fact that I had horrendous hayfever, and as a result streaming, itchy eyes, which was making seeing the finer details of the terrain pretty tough. After 4 miles of it, I'd had enough and decided to turn round a little early. I was running (or should I say hobbling) at barely more than a walking pace, so it seemed sensible to head back to the better terrain, and try to make up some mileage closer to home. When I got to the better terrain however, I was a little concerned about a couple of aches and pains, and used them as an excuse not to do the full 20. On the whole I think a sensible decision.

What I learnt today -
  • Keeping running when you are tired is possible, it just takes quite a lot of determination.
  • Keeping the pace down to something I know I can sustain is the way to get the miles done.
  • Getting the calories in after a tough run is hard because I tend to feel a bit sick, this is something I really need to conquer if I am going to do back to back long runs.
  • Geobars are better than Nutrigrain bars on the run, more sustaining.
  • Shorts and nettles don't mix.
The best bit of today - finishing in one piece.
The worst bit - deciding to give up early.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Power of the Brain

What a hot weekend!! Managed my 20 miles in the heat, very slowly, and I finished dead on 11.30am, so not bad timing. I ran with 3 friends for 8 miles, and was very glad of their company, it kept me ticking over. However, I was also very sorry to see them stop, and have to run on for another 5 miles. The route I'd taken was all down hill on the way out and uphill on the way back. So waving goodbye to company and knowing the hills were waiting, wasn't much fun. BUT, I have never been so motivated. It seems the bigger the goal, the more ooomph it gives you.

Whilst out running, one of my friends asked at what point in a long run do you think "right that's it I've had enough, I want to stop now". Which was a very interesting question. At the time I answered I rarely felt like that, but on second thoughts I often have that thought lurking at the back of my mind. It's just that once you are committed mentally to however many miles, whether its 2 or 20, that's what your mind is programmed to cope with. The thought of giving up is often lurking, but I very rarely allow it to the forefront of my thoughts. In fact in races, I am often struggling to keep it pushed way back, and employ every ploy possible to overwhelm the negative thoughts with positive thoughts. My sister in law Hannah a consultant clinical psychologist suggested that wallpapering over feelings like that was very old fashioned therapy, and what might be more helpful would be accepting the feelings and working with them. This is definitely something I have used in races. "My legs hurt, my lungs are burning, and there's another hill, oh my god!" to which I now mentally reply, "That's ok, its normal to feel like crap, you know you've felt this way before and survived, so HTFU* and get on with it"

The only 2 runs I can actually remember feeling negative enough for it to affect my running dramatically were firstly when it was terrifically hot, out on my own in the Black Mountains, with another 2500 ft of ascent to go having already done 2000ft, and I stopped to walk, and felt utterly dejected for a while. The other was an early off road long run, 18 miles I think, where I got my fuelling all wrong, felt really hungry, my stomach was already rumbling, I'd completely run out of food, and I had another 8 miles of really rough terrain to go, with no shops in sight. That one really taught me a lesson!

The power of the brain is amazing. It means so much more in the longer, tougher runs and races too. You learn to do all kinds of things to deal with the negative thoughts. I have counted, mentally made an entire meal start to finish, had whole conversations with myself and others, repeated mantras, and of course torn myself off a strip and sworn lots (usually in silence, but once out loud, which scared a few sheep!) I think to run long distances you really have to want to do it. Running across Wales is going to be the hardest work my brain has ever done. Let's just hope it's up to the job!

*HTFU - Harden the f*** up

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Squeezing it all in

This week has been an interesting example of time management skills. I am now back up to a pre marathon mileage, and busy training to complete the Gower Gallop, but work has also become hectic, plus my Open University final assignment is due in soon. Oh and half term is coming up! Half term means another full time job being Mum on top of my other commitments.

Fitting in even more mileage is going to involve some early mornings, or late nights, or both. And the support of my fantastic husband!

This weekend I need to get my long run done before 11.30am, in order to be out again at midday. That's 20 miles at 10-11min miles all done before mid morning. Of course if I were a quicker runner it would be done and dusted by 11, but I'm a plodder so I need a bit extra. It will mean starting running by 7.30am, up by 6.45am. I know that's not that early in comparison to some people's working days, but it's quite a challenge on a weekend, when everyone else is still in bed and likely to stay there for at least another hour.

Having read other ultra runners' blogs, it doesn't seem unusual to get up in the middle of the night to go for a long run, in order to make a serious running habit more family friendly. And I really do mean in the middle of the night, 3am onwards! I think as my mileage increases I am going to have to become more and more creative about when I fit my running in. For example, I've been for 2 runs of 3 miles today, but I could have run between 1 session and another and back again thereby adding an extra 8 miles to the total. I don't enjoy missing out on family stuff, plus it's not fair on the family, so I'd rather miss out on some sleep in order to get all the running done.

I'm also back to running 6 days a week this week, so things are on track and the legs are fine. It's a very good job my OU course will be finished in a week or so when I hand in this last assignment, because in a week or so I will need that time to run!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Feeling Good

16 miles offroad all done and I feel good again.

The legs felt strong, and I enjoyed the weather. The easiest off road route I know on the Gower mind you, with lots of wide tracks and undulations rather than steep hills, although there were a couple of short really steep sections. I took it easy, and was a lot faster than I expected to be, so I am very happy. The views and the sunshine were fantastic, so great to get away from the roads again.

Last year it took me several weeks to build up to 16 miles off road in preparation for the Caerphilly Summits Challenge. This year it felt easy just 3 weeks after a marathon - a definite improvement in my strength.

The only downside to the run today was my shoes. I have recently had new orthotics, and I wore thick socks, and the shoes are just too small. I have ordered a new pair on the internet, so I am hoping I can break them in sufficiently over the next 4 weeks, so that I can wear them to the Gower Gallop. I don't get the chance to go off road that often though due to work constraints, so I'll have to be creative about wearing them in, it may come down to wearing them around the house!

A very positive run, and I'm really looking forward to the Gallop now.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Psychology of the long distance runner

I'm a bit down today.

I'm still very tired after the London Marathon, and that really made me wonder about what it'll take to get me from a full 3 week recovery from a marathon, to be able to do 30 miles a day for 7 days straight.

I have been following the runners doing the Brathay 10 marathons in 10 days challenge. They are all experienced marathon runners, and the 2 I have been following through their blogs have been doing double marathons at the weekends for some time. I have neither the time nor the money to travel the country to do marathons on Saturday and Sunday. However, I do intend to build up my back to back mileage so I cover 50+ miles in 2-3 days. But it's a slow process getting to that point. I have the Gower Gallop 30 miles in 4 weeks, which I intend to use as a training run so my long run will then be 20-25 miles. Once I've done the Gower Gallop I will be concentrating on consecutive days of big mileage, to get used to running long on tired legs.

Last week I covered 30 miles + 10 miles power walking. This week it will be 40 miles + 12 miles power walking, and I guess I should be happy considering its only a little more than 2 weeks after London. But, I want to be better at this already. I have no patience. I did 2 x 3 miles with a client then a friend, and my legs were full of niggles. Nothing serious, but just enough to worry about. Of course now I've stopped running, and had a break my legs are absolutely fine. I think sometimes I magnify the aches and pains the more I think about them. The number of times I have been full on panic about some knee pain or hip pain or something, only to go out for a run and find it completely disappears. Mind you, that worryful side of me keeps me scanning my body and paying attention to any little niggle, and it must help because I haven't been injured or had to stop running for anything other than blisters for over 4 years.

I suppose I should recognise my condition ......... I am a runner and I am neurotic about my body.

On days like today when I wake up tired, I do think about what the tiredness will feel like when I'm covering hundreds of miles in a week. That doesn't stop me wanting to do it, in a way I want to do it even more.

I have very high expectations of myself and my body, and if I'm honest I'm dying to really test it, it'd just be great not to have to go to work the next day!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Route Setting

I have just spent a couple of hours setting the route for the challenge on Fetcheveryone.com . If I do 30 miles a day (and that's a big if), I can get the whole thing done in 7 days. If not then it can definitely be done in 8 days. I will start in Bull Bay (fantastic name), in Anglesey, and go to Aberthaw near Barry as the southernmost point of Wales.

The itinerary looks like this so far:

Day 1 - Bull Bay to Llanberis
Day 2 - Llanberis to Trawsfynydd
Day 3 - Trawsfynydd to Machynlleth
Day 4 - Machynlleth to Swyddffynon (just north of Tregaron)
Day 5 - Swyddffynon to Cwmdu (just north of Llandeilo)
Day 6 - Cwmdu to Swansea
Day 7 - Swansea to Aberthaw

For anyone who wants to have a look I have saved them as public routes on Fetch under RunWales. The last day actually comes out at 32.5 miles, but I'm sure there will be slight inaccuracies throughout.

I have had several offers of accomodation, and it looks like I may have to spend very few nights in B&Bs which will help keep costs down. Of course I have no idea of the terrain on a lot of the roads that are included in the route. I had to include the Llanberis pass and the Talley Valley near Llandeilo, which is beautiful. Let's just hope I can do the full 30 each day.

I sent my entry off for the Gower Gallop on June 12th which is 30 miles, a rough, offroad, self navigated 30 though. But, it will be interesting to see how I cope with that distance. I am intending to take it very easy and see it as a training run, and pray not to get lost. I also managed 12 miles today as a long run. Considering it's less than 2 weeks since London, and I had to do the run with a client first, and then a running club session, so I was out on the road for 3 hours+, I am very pleased. Mind you my legs are complaining a bit!

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Progress

There has been progress on the preparation for the Wales Run. Melanie Walters who plays Gwen in Gavin and Stacey has very kindly offered to support the run. I am immensely grateful for her brilliant offer. Having the support of a celebrity will be a huge boost to the challenge, and will hopefully raise its profile. The more people who are aware of the work that Swansea Women's Aid do, hopefully the more donations the challenge will receive. It was also very encouraging for me to have that support, it makes the whole fundraising thing seem more doable somehow. It's tough asking people for their time and energy, so far I have had a lot of encouragement, and some very generous offers, but there have been a lot of "no"s too, so it can be a little disheartening sometimes.

My brother in law Lorne, has also very kindly offered to make me a 2-3 minute video promo to offer to the media. He is a film director so really knows what he's doing, and I'm sure having a professional looking video will really help publicise the challenge. It will be a surprising amount of work for such a short film, so I really grateful to him for agreeing to make it.

Talking about running for a moment, by blister from London turned out to be a little larger than I realised at first. Any squeamish readers please skip the next sentence or two! It was the size of an egg running down the side of my foot. It had burst during the race, so I basically had a raw patch only partly covered by the original skin. This was mainly due to the fact that I had missed taping a section of my foot. It made work this week quite a challenge, as until Thursday it was painful with every step. But I dressed it and taped it up, and got on with it. I told myself it was good practice for RunWales - every running challenge I'm facing at the moment is preceeded with the thought "If you can't do this, you can't run across Wales!" It worked! Having spoken to my sports massage therapist about it he agreed that I need to spend the next few months experimenting with the taping so that I have it sorted before I attempt the challenge.

Just about to head out for my first run since London. The legs have been feeling very good this week. No real problems getting up and down stairs. They have been stiff, but haven't taken any time off work, have just cycled with clients and clubs but continued to power walk. I'd like to do 8 miles, but will be happy with 2. The intention is to run out and back on a mile lap until I've had enough, or the legs give up. I really can't wait to get started on all the miles I need to do - only 6 weeks til the Gower Gallop now, but now more than ever I need to stay injury free.

Monday, 26 April 2010

London Marathon

I entered the Virgin London Marathon in Oct 2008 for the 3rd time hoping to get in on the ballot, which to my surprise I did! Having made the assumption I wouldn't get in and having planned my races for 2009 already, I decided to defer until 2010. So I took the family up to London last Friday to complete it. My legs are stiff and sore today, but I've been for a walk, and I was fine whilst moving. The blisters smart too, but there's nothing that won't be fixed by a week off running, and some walking and cycling instead.

It was a great weekend, we stayed in a very well appointed apartment in Woolwich overlooking the Thames. Being the East of London, it wasn't the poshest of areas, which made me feel homesick for our first flat in Toxteth in Liverpool. We did the Expo on the Saturday, having stayed with my sister in law in Winchester on the Friday, and then the family did the Science Museum whilst I did the marathon on the Sunday.

The marathon was quite frankly daunting. The last marathon I did, the Gower, there were only 150 entrants, and it was all very low key and close to home. This was quite a different event altogether. Just getting to the start line proved a challenge. I managed to get onto the wrong train, and had to get off and go back. The start area was huge, I thought I'd never manage to meet my friend Mandy there, but with a few frantic phonecalls and texts we managed it. There were just so many people there, it really made you feel like you were travelling on a tide of humanity. To be honest I found the crush in the pens and throughout the race a little claustrophobic. There was quite a lot of pushing and shoving, with some bad temper from some runners, and a woman in front of me fell over at about 10 miles, which was horrible to watch, I really felt for her, she came down hard. I lost count of the number of times I said "sorry" as I tried to squeeze through between runners, or ducked out of the way past water stations. I even said "sorry" when I was thumped in the chest by other people's elbows and arms. I wouldn't say I could have run alot faster if there hadn't been as many people there, because without all the people it wouldn't be the VLM, but I had to work hard ducking and diving to run the pace I wanted, and I wasn't always able to.

The noise of the crowd was overwhelming. It did make a difference, you could feel yourself surging to every shout of your name. Each mile was marked by a balloon clad gantry, which felt like a mini finish line in its own right, and again had me pushing to get past it. I finished in 4.19 a pb by 11 minutes, and I ran the last 10 miles quicker than the rest of the race, and felt strong. I had blisters from mile 11 from my orthotics, but they were all on the sides of one foot, and I had taped my feet so knew they wouldn't be too bad.

I am glad I've done London. The interest of my non running friends and aquaintances has been huge, probably because it's a race they all know about and have seen on the television, but I wouldn't want to do it again. I don't like being penned in at the start line, and not being able to turn up at the start when you are ready, rather than when the marshalls demand you to be ready. The noise of the crowd was immense, several times I was wishing to be on a welsh mountain with the views for company rather than the screaming spectators. After 4 hours of it, the support at the Mall had rather lost it's appeal, and I had stopped listening to it at about mile 18.

I don't get the same buzz from doing big city marathons that I do from doing some of the more unusual events. I'm not a very fast marathoner, and I'm never particularly impressed with my times. I do get a huge sense of achievement from completing an event that are a real adventure and take me to beautiful remote places like the Gower Trails Marathon, where I have to completely rely on my own strengths and ingenuity to get to the finish line. Plus the point of running for me is being at one with myself and my surroundings, in London with so much noise and so many people all struggling to get there as fast as possible, I felt crushed by the size of it all, no space to breathe and run.

I might give another flat road marathon a try in a couple of years to see how I've improved, but for now I'm happy to stick to my plan to run the length of Wales!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

The Courage to be last

It's just over a week until the London Marathon, my last race before I start training for the Run Wales Challenge in earnest. To be honest I just want to complete London in one piece and without any lasting damage, so that I can get running for real. I entered London 2 years ago and then deferred my ballot place til this year, my running goals have changed quite a lot since I entered. I am not looking forward to negotiating the tube or the crowds. The support is going to be a lot more than I am used to, the last marathon I completed, the time keeper had to be "got" from the cafe to come and record my time, it was very laid back!

I was race director for the annual Women's Running Network All Fool's Fun Run held in Swansea this morning, and it is always inspiring to watch the runners cross, what for some of them, is their first finish line. There were trophies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd but also for the last runner of each race. I think it takes an enormous amount of courage to cross the finish line last, and they deserve just as much encouragement if not more than the faster runners. I am not a skinny whippet (or at least I don't feel like one), and I will never be very fast, so if I can give a little extra confidence to those back of the packers then I have made a contribution to my sport.

What each of us want to gain by being a runner is very different. I would love to be able to run a really fast time, but I'm just don't want it enough to endure the pain the speed would demand. I relish the challenge of running, but time goals just don't seem to challenge me. What really gets me going is not knowing whether I'm actually going to make it! As I get fitter my goals have to get bigger. So from starting in the Race 4 Life, an event not dissimilar to today's WRN race, to running the length of Wales, is as far as I can see just a natural progression (at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it).