Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Round Rotherham 50

Well, this was the last race of the series, and for me, a great end to a great year! I was slightly apprehensive about this race due to the different reports I had read/heard beforehand. However, I have to say that I enjoyed the course mostly and it was certainly a change from the previous races, being mostly flat. I ended up running the last 20 miles of the course with a local girl, Claire, and we finished together in 8 hours 20 minutes which I was delighted with, and joint second place. It was a real help running with someone who knew the course, particularly as my map had disintegrated in the rain...so I am very thankful to her. Kate did brilliantly and got a new course record.
I had to miss the Runfurther party and prize giving but I was so pleased to find that our Ladies Team had got first prize in the UK ultra running championship, and so had the Men. What a fabulous result!
And I have to echo the sentiments of Martyn too, and say thank-you to the Runfurther team for all their support and help, and for making this such a special year for me.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

And relax...

My final ultra of the season (and the Runfurther series) was Rowbotham's Round Rotherham. When I was choosing my races at the beginning of this adventure the 50 mile distance was beyond my comprehension - just a long long race that I had no idea how I was going to finish! However over the last three races I'd discovered that the primary requirement for ultra running is stubbornness, not always a great quality in general life but in this environment I've finally found a use for it...

Unfortunately during the High Peak 40 I developed a painful knee that prevented me from doing any running until a week before RRR. This meant that my primary objective for the race was to survive intact (or at least get far enough round the course before injury that I'd be able to hobble to the finish).

Having taken the great decision to stay the previous night in a nearby hotel I lined up for the 7am start not unduly tired and looking forward to a good long day's running. The first few miles were unevenful if a bit dull and I was able to settle into a decent rhythm. Around 18 miles in my lack of preparation was beginning to show mentally with lots of "why bother?" questions that I tried to ignore. Thankfully the frequent checkpoints were brilliant, where you could sit whilst lots of volunteers were dispensing food and drinks, although the chairs were very difficult to get out of at times!

Having been through every terrain possible (including a sodden golf course) I eventually caught up with Henry who I had met during my first ultra at Osmotherley. This season he'd become a bit of a specialist at DNF-ing, most recently at the Hardmoor's 100 where a cattle grid/ ankle combination eventually put an end to his race (only 11 out of 30 competitors made it to the end) so was determined to complete this one. We ended up running together on and off all the way to the end.

Together we looked to be on course for a 10 hour time but managed to take a wrong turn between the last checkpoint and the finish and eventually got directions from a local who unfortunately I need to apologise to for saying he was winding us up when he said how far the finish was! Eventually we did make it to the hall where there was welcome hot food, drinks and even tea cakes. Best of all though was the feeling of achievement - managed to keep me satisfied for all of a week!

As it happened, the following weekend I was in Venice for a holiday and to take part in a marathon I had signed up for back in March. I had planned on skipping the run but as I had survived RRR intact I thought I'd go to the well one more time... A mistake really - was running pretty well until 19 miles then my legs just had enough and ended up crawling home in 3:43. Disappointing for sure but I'm thinking my days of road racing are numbered - tarmac is pretty unforgiving!

Thanks to all at Runfurther for all their great support this year and the opportunity to run with them in these fantastic races! Next year I'm hoping to continue running long and maybe attempt a 100 miler... unbelieveable!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

High Peak 40

Last weekend I went up to Buxton for the High Peak 40 where perfect conditions awaited the lucky starters. Admittedly 'lucky' wasn't the word I was using pre-race - after my poor run at Bradwell something between apprehensive and scared was more appropriate, after all I was back in the Peak District but this time had another 8 miles to do.

On the plus side, training had gone well in the previous few weeks and in the race itself I got talking to another novice called Dave who was going at a similar pace and we ended up doing the whole course together. This made life a lot easier and the miles seemed to fly by chatting. To be fair to Dave I think he was taking it a little easy as I was saying bad things about the hills and he was running 'The Beast' down in Leicestershire the next day - certainly mad enough to be an ultrarunner!

As it turned out the hills were manageable, for the first time ever we were actually willing there to be more so we could have a break from running! There was a fair amount of roads but this was offset by the lovely scenery and the incredibly friendly checkpoints. As well as great encouragement we were even made a cup of tea near the end (sorry to destroy any notion of toughness).

Another aspect that I particularly enjoyed was the signposting - there was never any doubt about the right route which took the pressure off, 40 miles is quite far enough. The only negative point for me was feeling a tightness behind my knee after 32 miles that reduced me to a hobble when walking but was manageable enough when running. 8 days on I can still feel it but the limp has gone now so hopefully I'll be able to start training on it later in the week.

My final time was 8:24:33, quicker than Bradwell so I was fairly satisfied. Only one more race to go in the series now, the Round Rotherham, a nice 50 mile jaunt - for the first time since joining the team I'm actually looking forward to it!

Saturday, 18 September 2010


Race 3 in the series for me. I had heard that this was going to be quite tough with all the big tussocks and boggy terrain. It had also been raining for most of the week so I was thinking that could make it more difficult. I had spent a week near Aberystwyth back in June when the weather had been a lot kinder, and so I had been able to do some running around the Cambrian mountain area then. I thought this would have helped me in the race but then I did not account for the mist and wet conditions! I met up with Mark and Martin at the start, and also got to meet Kate for the first time too. We had the luxury of the Nant Yr Arian forestry centre to shelter in before the start, and then after some final race instructions, it was off fairly gently at first around the lake and through the woods. The next five miles or so were fairly easy, but then came the climb up to Pumlumon Fawr, and the mist came down, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Suddenly it all seemed very bleak and remote. Amazingly, a huddle of volunteers were providing water & energy goodies at the Cairn on the top. The next few miles on the top moorland felt hard because of the wind & cold. But then it was downhill and at the start of the Severn way, the sun came out briefly. There was a well defined path of flagstones along the stream here and running felt comfortable again. However, things changed rapidly as the route became less obvious and started to involve navigating a way through the boggy tussocks. I lost count of how many times I fell into the gaps between the tussocks! This seemed to go on for miles interspersed with some hills which were a relief from the tussocks. The last few miles were mostly on tracks. I had been running with Mark Townsend and chatting about his UTMB experience and we missed a turn. Fortunately, he was able to get us back on route quickly, and we picked up a bit of speed after this. The run into the finish was soon upon us and I was able to enjoy the last downhill section into the woods.
There was much appreciated hot drinks, cakes and Pasties provided, the sun shone again and everybody seemed very relaxed. Kate was first lady in an incredibly quick time. Nicky Spinks was second lady and I managed third. Still a long way off their times though!
Next race for me is the Atlantic Coastal Challenge in Cornwall...three marathons in three days, and then Rotherham 50....the last of the series.
Just wanted to say 'Good luck' to those racing at High Peak 40 today! Wish I was doing it too.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A wet Wales and other training

If I've learnt nothing else from my first two utras I now know I really need to get some hill work in. To that end, a couple of weeks ago I swapped my Sunday morning long run from the Sandstone Trail in Cheshire (high point Raw Head 227m) to a far more challenging route covering the Clywdian Range in Wales (high point Moel Famau 554m).

Although it was a little ambitious to double the climbing and keep the same 20+ miles distance, the beautiful views over the Vale of Clywd as I ran along the ridge from Moel Famau to Moel Arthur made it more than worthwhile. It took a bit longer than planned but at least I felt it was some 'proper' ultra practice.

Looking to repeat the trick last week I soon discovered that Summer is fast turning into Autumn. After about three miles a few spots of rain appeared and by the time I started the ascent I was in the middle of a full blown storm with visibility down to about 10m! Once I made it to the top and the rain had turned into hailstones I decided the most sensible option was to get back down pronto as I'd left the canoe back at the car...

The last week has been a real mixed bag training wise. On Monday I ran 15 miles in around 1:50 - amazing how much energy you have if you cut your long run in half! On Wednesday I ran into work then in the afternoon had an hour intensive squash coaching followed by a session on the step machine. I felt pretty pleased with myself at the time but by Friday was running in a whole new (painful) style!

Yesterday I met up with some friends to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks. Although we only walked it I'm hoping that by now my quads are getting some idea of what's expected of them. The route itself was a very enjoyable 25 miles taking in Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-Y-Ghent. Next April I might have a go at the Three Peaks Race just to see how fast I can do it although I think the incredible winning time of under three hours will be a long way off.

Good luck to everyone running the Pumlumon next week!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Martyn's Looooong Tour of Bradwell

Two down, two to go… in my head I’ve now entered the seasoned fell runner bracket! Seriously though, I learnt a lot from the Long Tour of Bradwell, easily summarised by ‘ultras are tough’. Surprising eh?!

The weekend started off at Edale where I met up with the other members of Team Runfurther and quickly forgot the ominous struggles my car had just getting up the hill there. We spent a few hours checking out the Kinder part of the course and posing with sponsored kit. The scenery was breathtaking prompting Martin B’s rueful comment that it’s a shame he doesn’t have time to take it in when he’s racing. I suggested he ran at my pace which would allow him to enjoy each blade of grass, “there’ll be plenty of time for that when I’m 70” was the response!

After Osmotherley I felt really good and thought I’d take it out a little harder this time. In retrospect this was a mistake. My troubles began once I’d left the Druid Stone behind and started the steep descent where my toes began to hit the front of the shoes in a rather painful manner. Then going up Lose Hill, cramp began to set in (note to self, spend more time on step machines) which then came back frequently, set off by anything from tough stiles to dense heather. After some helpful guidance by fellow runners pointing out checkpoint 13 which was located down a slope above a river (the organisers had more faith in my balance after 23 miles than I did) I slowly and painfully made my way back to Bradwell, eventually clocking a disappointing time of 8:30.

Needless to say within minutes of finishing I was already thinking “that wasn’t so bad” and was pretty proud of myself for actually finishing the toughest race I had ever done. Just to make sure that it was the race that was tough and not just my lack of conditioning I had a confidence boosting 10 mile race last Sunday at Great Warford where I got a new pb of 1:12:22 - it felt pretty good after going so slowly the previous week however I’m paying for it now with extremely tight calves and general aches caused by road running again.

Next up is the High Peak 40 so I’ll be getting to know this beautiful area of the world even better. I’ve got a few weeks to prepare so am planning on getting in plenty of miles and spending time on the aforementioned step machine… hope my work isn’t expecting too much of me!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Long Tour of Bradwell race, A man in a bikini & other stuff.

In the middle of July I spent 4 days in Alps on the UTMB training camp with Lizzy Hawker. It was a fantastic experience and I learnt loads from Lizzy who is such an inspiration. I am hoping to do the UTMB next year so it was a good chance to run on the terrain. We ran the whole route in 4 days, but got to sleep in between days. I am sure it really toughened me up and made my legs stronger. A week after I came back I did an off road marathon on Dartmoor and felt like the hills were easy after the mountains of the Alps! I was first lady home so I was so pleased, but more importantly for me I felt that I had more left at the end which I was hoping was encouraging for the Long Tour of Bradwell.

The weekend of Bradwell, I was staying with friends in Edale so Saturday morning I went out with them and walked over the Win hill section of the route. And then in the afternoon I met up with the RunFurther team and did a recce of the Kinder section. Karen and Mark took photo’s of us in our gear. I also got to try some clif shot blocks which I think I am now addicted to, and which are great as an alternative to Gels. It was a lovely afternoon and good fun, but also proved really useful for the race the next day.

The morning of the race, and the weather looked perfect. I was looking forward to the race ahead but I was also worried about the navigation on the bits I did not know. The first section felt quite straight forward and the recce the day before meant the Kinder section went well. I joined up with a bunch of guys to go up over Lose hill, and saw Andy taking photo’s and offering words of support. On the way down we missed the turn and ended up being shouted at by an irate farmer who nearly ran us over in his tractor. We quickly turned around and made backtracks up the field.

The next section up around Win Hill and down to Ladybower was so enjoyable, and felt easy as I was confident I knew where I was going. However, after Bamford and ‘the escalator’ , it was all unknown territory. I was hesitant going over Stanage edge, and made a couple of silly errors. However, fortunately a couple of local guys behind me put me right so ‘thanks’ to them. The last section, and through Abney and almost home. At this point there were three of us running together, and none of us knew the route. We could see Bradwell in the distance, and in our excitement, we did not consult the map and therefore missed the turn off, sailing on along the stoney track. After a bit of running back & forth, and some choice words on my part, we managed to find a way back to connect to the route and it was a sprint into Bradwell . I was delighted to find myself 2nd lady which was a perfect end to a lovely race, and a wonderful weekend.

Waiting for friends to pick me up later, I saw a man in a bikini being chased by ‘police’ and a camera crew filming it. It was all quite amusing but I never did find out what it was all about.