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 . 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


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.