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.

Longest Day Run

I’d signed up for the Longest Day Run months ago without really thinking about it, and after roping in a pal, Jen, to join me, we decided to go for about 40-50 miles.  She’d never run more than a marathon, and me not further than 34 miles, so it was going to be a test for both of us.  We’d also never run together, but knew that we had a 5 minute difference in marathon finishing times so couldn’t be that much different.

The week of the run had arrived and I didn’t even feel nervous, even went out for 2 run commutes and a sprint session on Monday night, which very nearly put an end to things as I pulled my right calf when pushing off for a sprint.  Spent some time icing that and I was blessed to receive a call from G4Physio asking me to come & have a 1/2 hr massage for free, they had a new therapist that they wanted me to try and give some feedback on, Oh yes please!  Wouldn’t say no to that offer, and boy did Sarah do a great job, she sorted out my calf and then some!

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Looking pretty pleased with my delivery!

I didn’t even really carb up like I would before a marathon, normally starting 3 days before; I did have pasta for both lunch & dinner on Friday and increased my hydration on Friday.  Made all the more easier by a fantastic delivery from Vita Coco full of hydrating coconut goodness.

Saturday morning was D-Day, and I got up to enjoy my first taste of Mountain House Europe freeze dried scrambled egg with ham & potato.  See my review here.  Off for an early train to Kidsgrove where I was to meet Jen for the start of our adventure.  The weather forecast wasn’t looking promising so that meant ensuring I had some back up gear packed as well, I took a punt thinking it wouldn’t get too cold, and took a pair of gloves, buff, long sleeved tech tee and my spray jacket.  All of which thankfully I didn’t need, I did put the long sleeved tee on for the bus trip back home though, more to hide my stink than anything 🙂

I think the lack of nerves was down to the fact that it wasn’t really a race, just a challenge, so there was no pressure.  We met and hit the canal path at 8.30am.

We ran from Kidsgrove along the Macclesfield canal, taking us through Congleton, Macclesfield, High Lane through to Marple which was at about 27 miles.  We had a short rain shower along the way, but apart from that one we had pretty good weather the entire way.  My goal of today was to work on my long distance nutrition too, and to make sure that I ate something every 5 miles as this is one of my weak spots, I tend to stop eating after about 15 miles and then start to suffer after 25 when the fuel tank is empty!  I had a variety of food for the trek, with a mixture of Clif double espresso gel, 9 Bar, Salted pretzels, Salami stick & pork crackling; all of which worked really well.  I find I like the sweet options for the first few feeds, but then have a craving for salty, savoury items.  This was my first try of pork crackling along the way and this worked a treat.  I hydrated with my camelbak filled with Nuun Kola flavour and this worked really well up until about 35 miles, when I started craving plain water.  This will be solved when I get my pack for Kalahari as it will have 2 water bottles on the front, so I can have one with Nuun and one without, so I still get my electrolytes and some flavour but can mix it up depending on what I feel like.

Aqueduct Viaduct

That’s the viaduct, & the aqueduct is beside me – Thanks Jen for the lesson!

We stopped in Marple and met up with my Mother in Law and her partner for a well deserved cup of hot, sweet tea and some crumpets for me, and Bakewell tart for Jen.  After a half hour rest, sufficiently refuelled and seizing up, we made a comic departure with our stiff bodies struggling to find the momentum again and got onto the Peak Forest Canal.  Out momentum did come back after about a mile and we carried on running & chatting, with a few more stops to stretch out our tired muscles.

At about 36 miles we were onto our 3rd and final canal, the Ashton canal, one I know well as I run this as part of my run to work, so it was nice to see familiar signs.  We pushed onto Manchester and made it to Piccadilly Station spot on 43 miles in 7h39mins.  Elated & exhausted we hugged each other, causing a spectacle of people wondering what on earth we had just done.

We made our separate ways home, and I ‘treated’ myself to an ice bath before my hot shower.  OMG!  Try getting your tired body into a bath full of cold water without screaming, I couldn’t, I wonder what the neighbours thought!  My cat was in a panic, worried because I was shrieking so much!  After about 5 mins all was good and I settled in for a soak.  It definitely works for me followed by sleeping in my compression tights; my muscles the day after felt pretty good, I was taking stairs as normal and wasn’t overly sore.

A total of 61 miles for the week!  Unbelievable, epic achievement.  I am really pleased with how my training is progressing and I am becoming stronger and able to endure more every time.  It is great to see the progress happening.  As one of my colleagues put it; “Your long runs are like our nights out on the razz, you get all pumped up, go out & run, then recover!”.  I think that’s the perfect way to describe it!

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From the start gazing thoughtfully at each other at Kidsgrove to Manchester Piccadilly station – 43 miles!

36 miles in 24 hours & I become ‘Bug of the Month’

The plans were set, so even without ideal preparations (a weekend of bad food, booze & late nights), the plan was executed; mostly.

The hubster and I parked up at New Mills and joined the Macclesfield Canal and ran 26 miles to Kidsgrove on Monday.  It was a good run, the sun was out, it was pretty warm (by our standards) and it was great to get this training run ticked off & test out this route.  The canal path itself was harder than we both expected, very hard rocky surface which caused the knees to suffer along the way but we persevered.  Again I suffered with the inability to eat after 15 miles.  I was doing quite well up to 15, I ate salted peanuts at Mile 5, had a salami stick at mile 10 and then had half a chocloate Clif Builders bar at mile 15, but by 20 I had my usual nauseous feeling and didn’t take any more food on; much to my detriment.  Maybe it was my hydration……I normally drink Nuun http://www.nuun.co.uk/ along the way which has always worked for me but thought I would try Elete water http://new.eletewater.com/ on this run as I had been hearing a bit about it, but it just didn’t taste as good or feel that it was giving me the same hydration kick as Nuun.  So my apologies to Nuun for even considering another product, I’m back with a vengeance, my bulk order has been placed!  Image

We arrrived at Kidsgrove and it was still 3 miles to Alsager where we had a room booked for the night at the Best Western, absolutely knackered we jumped on the train for the last 3 miles with a Mars milk in hand.  Great recovery drink!  Even when I’m feeling nauseous this manages to settle my stomach and refuel me wonderfully.  The hotel was great, always a bit hit & miss with Best Westerns, but this one is great, odd location as there isn’t much out there, but we were only there to be fed & sleep.  Food in the Stables Bar was perfect, we both had the steak, egg & chips and the meal was so substantial there was no need at all for dessert.  We will definitely  be using this route again with this hotel, the good thing is there is a pool & sauna there too which could be quite handy.

The original plan was to run the 26 miles back, but considering we both needed to be at work this was not really practical, so we caught the early train back to Macclesfield and ran the 10 miles back to New Mills, got home, showered and worked a full day.  So not a bad effort at all.  Legs felt surprisingly good after sleeping in compression kit and we managed 9:30min/miles for the 10 miles.

No rest for the wicked though.  Back on the bike on Wednesday for the cycle commute to and from work and even got to Bioticfit for a tough session of Military fit that evening.  Still feeling my abs on Sunday after monstrous V-sits!  A short 7 mile run on Thursday, followed by a day of rest on Friday left me feeling fresh for a ride on Saturday.  Took the mountain bike out and explored the Trans Pennine Trail from Reddish Vale to Longdendale.  I would have liked to go further but was running out of time, so it was a nice 32 mile loop along some lovely tracks & found a new route to get home when I am doing my long run home from work as well, so that was a bonus.  Always nice to get out on the bike to take the weight off the legs a bit too.  It was quite a warm day so I kept hydrated with my camelbak filled with Nuun & a tasty flapjack on route to keep fuelled.Image

Finished off the week with a double run commute, so a tidy 14 miles, to take my weekly running mileage to 57.  Pretty pleased with that!  I stopped via Asda on my way to work and found that they stock Milo, as my husband would say ‘Oh Yes Please’, I bought a tin of that, perfect recovery drink for me, just need to stay out of the tin for extra helpings of course!

You are probably wondering what ‘bug of the month’ is…… There’s a great website, called Running Bug where there are loads of tips, competitions, log your miles & forums for runners from all walks of life.  Take a look at the link and get involved.  It was great to be selected as bug of the month & I really enjoyed chatting to James at The Running Bug to tell my story. http://therunningbug.co.uk/rbblogs/follow-the-running-bug/b/weblog/archive/2013/06/14/bug-of-the-month-lucja-leonard.aspx