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!