Endurance Life – Coastal Trail Series – Northumberland Ultra 35.7 miles

My first DNF

After training hard the week before with 123 miles ran I was feeling pretty invincible to say the least. Well I was in my head in any case but my legs seem to tell a different story which was to play out later in the week.  I had felt OK but knowing I needed a rest I took Monday off as  a full rest day, headed out for an easy 5 miles on Tuesday, easy 10 on Wednesday, and an even easier 2.5 (yes you heard right, 2.5!  It was my first workplace jog club so I took it easy on them!) on Thursday.  Friday was also a rest day, though I did go to Bikram yoga on Friday night to try and ease out any aches and pains.

Saturday was race day of 35.7 miles-We had to travel from Edinburgh about 2 hours to Bamburgh Castle for the Endurance Life, Coastal Trail Series Ultra, so the alarm was set for 4:40am, out the door for 5am.  Coffee in hand, tasty pastries for a pre-breakfast treat, then at 6am we fuelled up with a ProBar for proper race fuel. Registration and parking were easy as is usual with Endurance Life events, it is all pretty low key to get started.  This start was a bit different and we all got bussed out to the start at 7:20 to make it for an 8:30am ultra marathon start.  It was cold, frost on the ground, but dry & still, so ideal running conditions.

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Bamburgh Castle at first light

After the usual pre race briefing and a relatively quite joint countdown start, all 74 of us set off on our way.  I wanted to try and lead out the ladies from the start and in hindsight I may have gone out too quick. After the first 3 miles I was the first female, running at about 8:15min/miles; silly girl, much too quick for me in an ultra.  As 2 ladies passed me I settled into a more steady 9min/mile routine.  I was soon joined by another lady, of whom I ran with for about the first 15 miles, swapping places along the way through checkpoints and toilet stops en route.

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Dion and I at the frosty start

I had mistakenly thought the race would be easy.  When is 35 miles every easy one would ask?  The race map showed it would be fairly flat the entire way with some downhill, perfect.  Not so.  It certainly didn’t feel flat, and with quite a lot of sand running on the beach it was pretty draining on some pretty tired legs. This was however great prep for MDS in April.

I also wanted to  eat better than on previous runs and I managed to by munching on nuts (100g mixed macadamia, almonds and brazil nuts) regularly and take on small snacks every 5 miles.  I had a Clif energy gel at mile 5 (I don’t normally have gels but thought I would try and eat some different snacks to what I am taking to MdS), pepperami stick at mile 10, tried to eat a mule bar at mile 15 (these just don’t agree with me, note to oneself-no more mule bars), and started on some thai sweet chilli sensations nut at mile 20. Unfortunately from then it was just munching on nuts as I had lost the will to eat which is continuing to be a problem I’m looking to solve.  

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Views along the way

 

Got a great lift from the half marathoners who were milling about somewhere around mile 13/14 into the race awaiting their own race start which was great, but by mile 21 I was fading fast.  It wasn’t long after then, that the first of the half marathoners started to pass me on their fresh legs, but it wasn’t enough to motivate me to a faster run, my legs were just empty.  It was here that I saw the 10k racers getting ready as well to start their race and another couple of miles in some of these started to pass me as well. 

By mile 25 the dreaded little voice inside my head wanted me to pull out so for the next 2 slow mile I was seriously contemplating  pulling out at mile 27, where the race actually takes you past the finish line to go on to do another 9 miles.  It is quite cruel and easy to quit knowing your car/warm clothes are close by, and all the Endurance Life events have the same race route, where the Ultra runners have to go past the finish to do the extra loop to bring them to the Ultra total mileage.  This I guess is the mental challenge part of running an ultra.  I just didn’t have it in me to keep going for some reason and I took the ‘easy’ option of finishing at 27 miles.  In the back of my mind I had thought that hubby may have pulled out here as well also due to the big mileage he did the week before. It probably would have taken me another 2-2.5hrs to finish the last 9 miles, so I didn’t want to leave him sitting them endlessly waiting (another excuse).  He hadn’t pulled out however as I found out after I climbed the gruelling hill to the top of Bamburgh Castle.  I was absolutely shattered when I finished and pretty disappointed with myself for not following through and finishing, but too late now, I had made my decision.  I told one of the marshals I had pulled out, as I could only manage the 27 miles that day not the 35, she was quite incredulous to say ‘only 27 miles’ as well as the runner behind me who was dead on his feet after doing the half marathon distance!  It’s all relative I guess.

I tried to keep myself warm as I waited for hubby to cross the line, and about 45 minutes later he appeared.  In a complete state, he was completely spent, so much so he completely collapsed in a heap when he crossed the line with nothing more to give.  Food smeared all over his face from trying to eat along the way, he was close to tears and huddled in a ball for about 15 minutes until he was functional enough to walk back to the car.  For once it was me waiting for him (albeit I had run 9 miles less!) so it was my opportunity to look after him for a change and get him warmed up in the car and begin rehydrating with our first choice for recovery, For Goodness Shakes,  and some food sorted out.  I was super proud of him for finishing in 9th place especially since he had actually ran 140 miles the week before himself.  My very own Superman!

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Dion making it in to the finish! 

A rest day ensued on Sunday and Monday to get some time off the feet.  It is now only 3 weeks, 6 days and 22 hours until the start line of the Marathon Des Sables.  All the hard work is done, the time left is to keep things in check, diet & exercise, and get my head totally right and focussed for the week.  My aim is to make it into the top 100, which is a massive goal, a scary goal, but imagine how great I will feel if I can accomplish that!  My secondary goal is to be in the top 25 of all the females, and would also like to be the first Australian female home as I am competing as an Australian as this meant I could go this year and not join the UK waitlist!

 

 

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From the hills of Shropshire to the Peaks

Started off the week with a lovely 9 mile hike from Carding Mill Valley up over part of the Long Mynd with a dear friend (& fellow blogger smirnieoutdoors.blogspot.co.uk). Considering the weather throughout the UK we were treated to a dry day with patches of sunshine!  It was lovely to natter away and soak up the lovely sights and sounds of a beautiful spot.  Nina, prepared as always, had her mini stove at hand to boil us up some water and make a brew, along with a taste test of Noodle, Chicken & Black Bean from Mountain House (http://www.mountainhouse.eu/) which went down a treat.

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Monday to Friday saw the usual runs and cycles to and from work to keep things ticking along.  I did make it back to Bioticfit at long last for Thursday night circuits & yoga which was great.  A monster session of circuits followed by a relaxing outdoor yoga session listening to the birds tweeting and the thunder rolling.  It did stay dry however.

I attended an event through http://www.eightpointtwo.co.uk on Saturday morning in Hathersage in the Peak District, which was the Dig Deep Ultra Talks, so got to listen to Marcus Scotney talk about his experience of ultra running and some tips on training, nutrition and gear.  This was really beneficial for me and I got to meet some great fellow runners as well. I missed out on going for a run with them all as I had to go to work 😦 Still managed to fit in a quick 8 mile run after work, went up from Didsbury through Stockport and back through Abney Hall Park. I love the fact I now bound up the steps to the overpass instead of gasping for breath!
Sunday saw me head out for a 10 mile run, with hill reps x 6 and some good ole hills along the river path just for ‘fun’. Hill reps are not my favourite by a long shot but I know I need to get these in for Kalahari, really good at pushing the heart rate up (as you can tell by my photo!). So a total of 40 miles running, 35 miles cycling and a 9 mile hike for good measure.

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Hill reps

I am an Ultra Runner! And so is Dion!

After a false start on 19th January when I was supposed to be running the Endurance Life www.endurancelife.com Coastal Trail Series Anglesey Ultra, but this got cancelled due to the snow, I finally made it to the start line of my first Ultra with hubby in tow.  34 miles around the North York Moors.  Of course there was the option of running a 10k, half marathon or the marathon, but not for me!

We made a weekend of it by heading off Friday afternoon from Manchester and stayed at a fabulous B&B in Whitby, http://bensonsofwhitby.com/ who were superb in organising our porridge breakfast for the ungodly hour of 6am without hesitation.

To the start line, it was a 7am registration, after running big name marathons this in itself was a shock to the system by the simplicity of the whole registration and start.  It was a refreshing change though.  There were 39 of us that started, even one with a dog!  The Marathon got underway at 9am, half marathon at 10.30am and the 10k at 11.30am.

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The first section was a gorgeous run along the cliff tops of a 6.9 mile loop that we would revisit again as our last stage.  We were all flying along there, not even noticing the stairway to hell (more on that later!), even with me stopping for an impromptu toilet stop in the bushes courtesy of my pre-race nerves.  I remembered to down a Clif Espresso Shot gel at about 5 miles, just after CP1 at 4.8miles and just before 3 others & I (including hubby) took a wrong turn having to run an additional ½ mile and losing about 15mins in faffing around trying to figure out where to go.  At least we figured out where to go, some poor runner ended up in Scarborough and needless to say did not finish the race, probably just had Fish & Chips and a taxi back to Ravenscar!  We found out afterwards that some local funsters had pinched the directional signage 3 times already, little nutters, lets make them run 34 miles and see how funny it is!  Anyway back on track and having to overtake a big group of runners that we had all just passed 1/2hr previously was pretty demoralising and mentally draining to say the least.  This loop took us back past the start where the half marathon and 10k runners were all milling about waiting to start, so that gave us all a bit of a push from their cheers and encouragement.

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The course then took us north up through Robin Hood’s Bay and the views were absolutely stunning and the hills unrelenting, particularly through Boggle Hole.  I tried eating again at 10miles with 2 bites of a Clif bar, which was all my stomach could manage, I must get better at this eating whilst running business.  Being such a great weather day there were a lot of walkers out giving out lots of encouragement and keeping well out of the way.  CP2 was just at the edge of Robin Hood’s Bay at 13.3miles which we passed again after a ‘quick’ loop around up a rather unforgiving hill!  I did try eating again up this hill, taking advantage of walking, with a cheese & ham roll, again I managed 2 or 3 bites before giving this to the seagulls to finish off!

Just under 5 miles later I was at CP3, which was listed as 18miles in, however my Garmin was showing 20, this worried me as I didn’t think we had gone that far off course earlier, but now started to think this was going to end up a 36mile race which was not a positive thought!  Chatting to another runner, his watch was half a mile less than mine, so I was pleased to see that.  By this stage the marathon and halfers were scattered amongst us all which provided some more conversation and helped kick me along.  I got chatting to one half marathoner who was already in agony stating he was pleased it was only 4 miles to go!  I just agreed and plodded along until he asked me what distance I was running.  He was then in awe and asked if he could run with me until the finish to pace him, I agreed but said I’d be lucky to keep up with him!  However I dropped him along the moors and didn’t see him again.

The run along the moors was beautiful but tough, my energy was waning and it was a walking shuffle jog, is that a technical description?  I thought I had better try eating something again and managed half a salami stick, which tasted surprisingly good!  It actually gave me an energy boost too, I’ll be using that again, they are so light too so easy to carry.  I’m glad I had my next energy wind as I then passed hubby at the marathon finish line, who’d pulled out after the marathon as he had been sick across the moors and it just wasn’t going well.  I agreed to keep going and would see him soon I hoped!

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It was back on the loop now for the last 6 odd miles to go through.  This was an up and down loop emotionally as well as physically, the stairway to hell I mentioned earlier was nearly the end for me, I was in so much pain for them I had to go down them sideways one step at a time leaning on the bannister and the uphill back out the other side of hell wasn’t much easier!  I was also worried about taking the wrong way again, but needn’t have worried as this time CP 5 was located there.  What a saviour!  Managed some water there and half a bourbon biscuit and back on the disused railway line for the last 2 miles to the finish.  I caught up with number 325, Iain Denby, at CP5 and we walked/ran the last bit home.  Hubby had recovered enough by then to meet us about a mile from the finish and walked/ran back with us as well which was great.

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Gone were the adoring crowds of the finish line, but I clocked out and got my finishers dog tag and were were off!

I can’t believe how well I pulled up the next day, felt much better than after Manchester Marathon 6 days prior.  I was even walking down stairs the right way, and 2 days after the race was back on the bike, and running on the 3rd day!  I think this was down to 2 reasons, trail running is much softer on your joints and muscles, although some different ones in my ankles & calves ached from the uneven terrain, and of course you run differently, its not as fast and there is some walking (in my case at least…..as well as for many others).

I was stunned by the scenery and loved the whole run, the experience and the fact I am now an Ultra Runner.  Look out North York Moors, I will be back! 

Now this run was a test for both of us, and after much debating, we have decided to really challenge ourselves to complete the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon www.extrememarathons.com .  Our challenge is to run (walk or crawl) 250km (155 miles) through the Kalahari National Park (think sand, rocks, gravel, hills, mountains and then some) in temperatures ranging from 40 degrees during the day to 5 degrees at night, over 6 stages taking place over 7 days.  With set distances each day ranging from 28km (17mi) to 75km (46mi).  It is a fully self sufficient race, so we have to carry all my own supplies to survive, including all our own food & compulsory survival kit.  So stay tuned, there will be many a training run between now and then!

Just miles on the clock Day 11 Janathon

Woke up pretty tired so grabbed the bike to ride to work instead of a run, but made sure it was a run home, 7 miles each way. It’s days like these, the hard tired yards that count, pushing the body through tiredness, I just kept imagining Anglesey Ultra next weekend and how much more tired I will be!

Had to stop on my way home…..to buy onions for dinner 😉Had a lovely chat to the shopkeeper who was in awe that I was running as a way of commuting, always nice to get some positive praise along the way.

Ass Kicked Day 10 Janathon

Thank goodness my hubby suggested putting on my jacket for the morning run commute to work, I think I have been deceived by our recent mild weather and looking outside at 6.30am, it looked aok, but heading out it was absolutely freezing! A great run though, I was warm enough in my gear for the 7 mile jaunt to work, but it is a nice feeling to feel the sweat kicking in under it all! I even wore my new buff from http://www.endurancelife.com (Never Give Up is the slogan so very fitting!). I kept thinking of my monster race coming up on the 19th in Anglesey through the same website, 32mile ultra planned, so these 7 miles to work are really just base miles, so when I get tired I just think it’s only going to get harder so keep going! It’s a great reward to get to work and have a hot shower and feel refreshed and ready to take on the day.
With Bioticfit circuits planned, I cycled 9 miles to Abney Hall Park and did a monster session of circuits. James, our trainer, certainly knows how to get the most out of all 28 of us. We kicked ass doing static squats, kettle bell squats, squats with sledgehammers and burpees with a tyre to name a few killer moves. I’m feeling it in my rear this morning so it definitely works!
Relaxing on the couch afterwards hubby and I settled in to watch The toughest race on earth, with James Cracknell completing the MdS, Marathon des Sables. Considering we are eyeing it off for 2014 it was certainly educational, scary, thought provoking, but still utterly inviting in a crazy way! Deep respect for all the runners that take part, whether they actually finish or not #Respect!