Unfinished Business

I knew it had to come one day, a race that didn’t got to plan that is. I’ve read enough runners blogs and tweets to know that we all suffer them, but it doesn’t make it any easier to take.

My race fail was really through no fault of my own, but by Mother Nature. I’d been looking forward to the Adidas Thunder Run for 12 months, since I did it last year as a mixed pair, racking up 10 laps of the 10km trail circuit each over the space of 24hrs. I was so well prepared this year, physically I am the fittest I’ve ever been and building up endurance so had big plans of reaching 15 laps. I had even arranged a support crew, some dear friends Nina and Fiona, who sacrificed their weekend to come and camp, supporting not only me, but also hubby & pal Ben who were also run as a pair. Their support was invaluable, especially when things went wrong!
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It was a hot start, not just hot, but roasting! I started with Dion, but he quickly left me in his wake! At the end of the first lap the ambulance was already carting people off for heatstroke. The trail circuit was hilly, with 142m gain each lap, some areas very woody and winding with tree roots to look out for, and some areas of old fields where the heat radiated up from, creating a sauna! I was enjoying the heat though (good training for Kalahari), keeping my fluids up with plenty of water and Nuun. I was looking forward to the sun setting I will admit.
My strategy was to carry a camelbak, particularly through the day to keep fluids handy, and to eat every lap. I looked forward to the 8km marker each lap as this is when I would call my friends & request my next ‘meal’. This was working well, the first three laps were just a grab n go scenario, but lap 4 felt a bit tough, so took a 5 minute sit down as I had a cup of sweet tea and some food, which worked an absolute treat, and so lap 5 was brilliant. I was feeling strong, we’d had visiting support in the way of Dion’s Mum & husband, and a couple of friends of Ben as well. This was a great boost. And of course the ongoing support from Nina & Fiona.
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I was really coming into my element, enjoying lap 6 even more as the sun had started to drop along with the temperature. I met one of my ultra running idols, Sarah Gardner-Hall on lap 6, who won last years with 18 laps, and ended up 2nd female with 15 laps this year, and had a lovely little chat with her for a bit. I heard the boys were doing well, Ben suffering from the heat a bit, but Dion was absolutely flying through his laps. 1km into lap 7 and the thunder rolled and lightning flashed all around, and the skies opened up with torrential rain. And I mean torrential! Within a minute I was soaked through, which at the time I thought this is great, a but of a shower to cool down and then back to dry conditions, perfect! This was not to be, by the time I got to 5km the trail had turned into something resembling Tough Mudder, with ankle deep water and mud, making running impossible in parts. It was now 9pm, it was dark and the amount of sheet rain made seeing a task even with the head torch in full blast. By the time I reached our camp at the 9km mark I was absolutely freezing as I was no longer running, but walking to prevent slipping over. And the rain was not easing off at all, if anything it was getting heavier if that was even possible!
This is where the support crew came into action. They got me in the back of the van, brought me some dry clothes and made me get changed. Thankfully Dion was also in camp after having just done a double lap, but poor Ben was out in it, moving slowly.  There was no other decision for me but to sit it out and see if the rain would clear, it was dangerous up there in tired legs in the dark in the mud. A lot of people kept running, many of these in teams, where they only had to go out and knock out one lap, which actually would have been quite fun I would imagine, but I wasn’t seeing the fun side, all I could see was a very real potential fall resulting in injury, or cold causing me to get sick. With Kalahari coming up there was no way this was worth it. Absolutely gutted with this I decided to sit it out until morning. We had to wait for Ben though and time ticked by. We were getting pretty worried about him when he finally appeared at 11.30pm in a bad state, freezing cold & not really functioning. The girls jumped into action and made him a cup if tea whilst he wolfed down a massive bag of peanut M&M’s. Now making a cup of tea is not normally an amazing task but the fact that they did this in the tiny porch of a tiny tent in the torrential downpour without any regard for their own comfort makes them heroes in our eyes!
The boys also made the same decision to sit it out and re look at the situation in the morning, as devastating as this was for all of us as it meant an end to our race plans, but safety must come first.
The rain continued to come down until 4.30am. As the light came we arose and surveyed the damage, the ground was wet through, the camp next to us now had a swimming pool, and the part of the trail that cam past us was pure mud, we were watching participants coming through, slipping and sliding covered head to toe in mud themselves. As our races were over we were in no particular hurry, so it was time to make cups of tea and BBQ the bacon. Tasty start to the day but I started to wonder what the trail was like, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I’d already done 7 laps, it was only 8am, I could still fit in a few laps….Ben was keen too, so we got changed and off we went. I felt pretty good considering I’d already run 70km and jogged along until about 1.5km in then it got really muddy, and really slippery. A slight downhill meant you were sliding all over the place, then other parts had so much sticky mud that my shoes were threatening to come off each step! It was slow and laborious and not at all fun. There were a few crocodile tears in the woods as I was feeling pretty sorry for myself until I caught up to a lovely lady taking it a but slower than me who was in a team, I stayed an chatted with her which took me out of my sorry self, focussing on someone else, a much healthier approach! This made the last couple of Kim’s go a bit easier wi some company (I’d lost Ben at the start). I made that my final lap though, yes I could have walked another one or even maybe two, but I still wouldn’t have been satisfied with that and it just wasn’t fun, and still dangerous in my eyes, some of the steep descents and even the deep and uneven puddles were all injury potential!
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Dion was happy with both Ben & my evaluation of the course so we wandered back to the finish line to wait for our finishers medals. Ben’s wife had turned up by now as well, and shouted us all ice creams.
We got our medals, still richly deserved and waved goodbye.  Thunder Run is unfinished business as I know I was in plan to smash it! This will have to wait for another time.
It was still an enriching experience, I learnt more about 24hr racing and the strategies needed, how the support crew work (which they did absolutely fabulously), used my new head torch, and realised that for future 24hr races, the importance of a better camp set up, we missed having a marquee that we could have sheltered under, instead of sitting in cars or crawling into small tents. I realised our planning was pretty good, nutrition and hydration strategies worked, the gear was all correct, but how do you prepare for that sort of freak weather?
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We are eternally grateful to Nina and Fiona for their support, and we still had a really enjoyable weekend of running and companionship!
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From Fan Dancing on Pen Y Fan to running in all colours of the rainbow

It was a tough week to get the miles in, some long days at work meant for a real push to get out at all. So I was pleased to have a tough event scheduled for Saturday to push my limits. Hubby and I had entered The Fan Dance, run by Avalanche Events, a 25km mountainous run in Brecon Beacons taking in the summit of Pen Y Fan (3000ft ascent) twice. This course is designed and used by the SAS as their training and testing ground, so we knew it was going to be tough. BBC news story – http://t.co/hBIGcGVYjT Didn’t think we’d make it to the start line after our supposed 3hr journey turned into 5, if sat nav told us our route had been recalculated due to traffic one more time I think we might have turned around and gone home! Pleased to say we didn’t and we arrived at the Premier Inn Merthyr Tydfil just in time for a steak & chips dinner. As we had to be up and gone before breakfast was served we tried out some our rehydrated meals. I had Bla Band potato with beef and bearnaise sauce, and Dion had the Extreme Adventure Food Mexican Chilli con carne. We needed to try these put to see how they sit in our stomachs. They both tasted great, with no ill effects. Read my review on Bla Band here and Extreme Adventure food here.  After filling our camelbaks with Nuun cola flavour and another couple of bottles of water (we had to carry 3L & have and additional 2L to hand in for the mid way checkpoint), we headed off to the start. From the start it was a direct steep incline that nobody ran, we all walked and believe me this was tough going enough! The route was immense, steep, rocky climbs followed by steep descents absolutely caned the calves on the way up and the quads on the way back down. Once over the summit of Pen Y Fan for the first summit, we went the wrong way slightly (taking in an extra big hill-just what we needed), still ended up on Roman Road where we had to be but had lost a good 10mins and quite a few places. Luckily Roman road was a rocky downhill stretch so we hot footed it along here at a blistering pace, leaping and bounding over rocks and holes, somehow managing to stay upright! This brought us to the 7.5 mile checkpoint and turnaround point. We’d seen as people were doubling back past us that I was in 4th female position with 3rd not too far ahead, so that pushed us on to run hard back up Roman Road, which was more uphill than it had felt coming down. It was pretty energy sapping on the legs and hubby pushed ahead of me at this point, leaving me to try and catch third female. I was pulling her in as she was slowing up Roman Road, but kept looking back and seeing I was catching was making her push harder. By the time we got to Jacobs Ladder for the last serious assault of ascent, I was only 100 yards behind her, I kept this distance going up this gruelling incline but once I got to the top it was shrouded in cloud and I again went the wrong way and descended the alternate path to the finish line, losing any chance of catching her up! I was pleased to hear I wasn’t the only one who’d taken this route. What a run! 3hr 11mins of hardcore mountains, definitely be back to tackle this one again. Finished off with a tasty hog roast and a special edition Fan Dance beer before a much quicker 3hr drive home!  Lesson learnt – drink! I had only drank about 200ml of my camelbak, and drank 3L of water on the drive home without needing to go to the toilet, dehydrated perhaps? Not wise, must learn to drink more, I’m normally actually quite good at doing that, not sure what made me not drink.

At the start

At the start

On route, massive ascents

On route, massive ascents

Dion on Pen Y Fan

Dion on Pen Y Fan

Finished!

Finished!

Pretty knackered all in all, but hubby got us out first thing for a 6 mile recovery run before breakfast which was painful as the quads in particular were pretty tight. Tried to ease this with the foam roller, but that was killing! I had a little 5km event planned that afternoon, so I ran another (slow) 6 miles to Etihad stadium from Didsbury, and then joined my fellow Bioticfitters for The Color Run. What an awesome way to finish a tough weekend, a fun 5km running around Etihad stadium, wearing white and being powder paint bombed every kilometre! Dubbed as ‘The Happiest 5k on the planet’ I’d have to agree! No garmin watches or chip timing here, just pure running for fun. Surprisingly the paint powder washed off easily which was a relief. I did get some strange looks wandering into Tesco being all colours of the rainbow and then some!

Me and some of the Bioticfit gang at the finish

Me and some of the Bioticfit gang at the finish

All colours of the rainbow

All colours of the rainbow

55mile week. Happy with that after a weak start. Legs have been well and truly caned, need to keep stretching them out this week ready tackle Adidas Thunder Run next weekend.

The best laid plans…..

I was rocking my training plan quite nicely until the end of June, when my boss rings me on Friday afternoon (28th June) and asks *tells* me my assistance is required in Edinburgh, as my company is due to re-open their hotel as a newly branded Crowne Plaza hotel, and they need the big guns in, aka me. Now normally I would jump at the chance as I love a change, but leading up to my Kalahari Challenge I am pretty keen on routine. Routine training plans, routine eating, routine sleeping patterns, you get the drift…boring I know but needs must. How do you say no? You can’t, so off I go, to Edinburgh the next Monday for a week and then again the week after. I do have a serious chat to my boss to say whilst I am happy to help out & as busy as the hotel is, I must train every night and most weekends I have events booked as part of my training that I can’t/won’t cancel. We have an understanding.

Luckily Edinburgh is a great city and with the fabulous Holyrood Park with the impressive & imposing Arthur’s Seat (251m elevation) right in the heart of the city. Coming from Manchester and accustomed to running on the flat, this makes a lung busting & calf straining change to my running training! I think this is actually going to be positive for my training plan as long as I don’t let the nutrition side slide whilst staying in a hotel during the week. 
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I’m managing regular runs in Edinburgh, trying to get in a couple of 10 miles through the week before starting work, and when time is of the essence switching to some hill reps after work, a half hour of these and you know about it! I’ve also just bought some resistance bands to try and keep up some muscle tone along with press ups and burpees on the hills (which gets me some strange looks from by-passers).
As for big mileage, I had a 25mile walk for Children Today charity with my team in Manchester on 6th July, which was the Bolton Boundary walk, taking in Rivington Pike on Winter Hill. It was tough for me to walk instead of run, so this was a good training day with some rough terrain and hot temperatures.
 
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Not really big mileage, but a 13 mile run around Ladybower reservoir with a friend, Gillian Haworth, brought my mileage up For the week ending 14th July. Some great company, hills and hot weather made for a great day out in the Peak District.
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Now back to Edinburgh for another jam packed week, got to get back early this week as we are heading off on Friday afternoon to Brecon Beacons in Wales for the which is a 24km mountainous route used by the SAS for their training.  Bring it on!