Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Making The Excuses

In my 'spare' time I write coaching plans for athletes wishing to normally accomplish something that scares them. They all come to me for different reasons, but underneath the different backgrounds, running experience and life commitments is one shared goal. They want to achieve the best they can do on that day or over that series of races. I am often astounded how 'amateurs' like this who are paid no money, receive no accolades for their performances apart from maybe a medal, a t shirt and a plate of chilli at the finish are so dedicated to their training and commitment to their goal and dreams. No stone is left unturned, I write plans which are hard, they are challenging, but they are also realistic and I am realistic with what you can do with balancing work,family, training whilst still trying to have a resemblance of a small social life and not burn out 12 weeks into a plan. Its a tricky combination to balance, they have to trust me with their dreams and in return I hope I give them the tools to carve their dreams, toeing that start line with no excuses, but the one mantra that they did everything they did to get here here and they will give their absolute best on the day.

I'm just adding the icing to my first winter training in the Alps as I race The Highland Fling next weekend. I'm super excited to race as it seems an age since I last put a number on and this winter has seemed a very very long time of lonely miles. But I have no excuses. Running here in Winter is the hardest thing I have ever done; the cold, the snow, the dark, the ice, the black ice, the slushy ice, the monotony of running the same trail day in day out, sometimes the same patch of trail for 400m for 10 miles, the treadmill miles, the loneliness. Next season I will do things differently, but the reality of living here is that conditions are hard, for the breathtaking beauty of the mountains comes the harshness of the seasons, the frozen eyelashes, the white fingers, the constant stream of snot. I questioned myself many times (as did quite a few skiers!), but in  a strange sort of masochist way I enjoyed running through Winter. I enjoyed ploughing uphill in thigh deep snow, cutting my legs on razor sharp ice, slipping and sliding along trails and for the first time in my life feeling what proper cold feels like on your heart and lungs. It was exhausting, but also so exhilarating. You come through that, you run, you hike, you go out day in day out when its dark,cold, every single run is an effort and you come out stronger. Stronger in the mind and body. No excuses.

My clients know I don't have time for excuses, I have time for juggling work, life, family with goals and dreams, I have time for illness and injury and resetting expectations and conquering fears. I have Last year I had excuses, I had just had my third baby, we moved house, we moved country, I was busy, I didn't have time. I'm not making any excuses this year. I have worked as hard as  I could in some of the worse conditions I have ever faced this winter. My husband has helped me tirelessly juggled, family, school, ski school, childcare, jobs, life and alongside that the exhaustion that comes with training and young kids.  Ive dug myself into a few winter training 'pits,' not respecting the effect of the cold, the effort it takes to run in snow/on ice/on the treadmill plus the pull of my little family. But instead of getting frustrated or just ploughing through, I have tried instead to reset the frame, look at the picture of my life and training at a different angle, take a breath, not make an excuse, but see all the little setbacks as part of the process and part of what will make me stronger in the end.

Here I am, ready to race, with just a handful of runs to complete till I see that if running through snow and ice for 5 months really does make you stronger. I think I already know the answer. So, if races and life don't go quite as planned this year, well just how its meant to be. As long as I stand on that start line or put my kids to bed every night knowing I did the best I could on that given day that is all I can ask. Sometimes its just not going to work out and I'm good with that now.

So out on the trails this season when the going gets tough, don't make excuses, think of everything you HAVE done to get there; the suffering, the sacrifices, the day in day out grind. Answer the doubts head on, draw on their power and fling it back down the mountain. For me, when the going gets tough I will close my eyes for a second and imagine myself back on the icy trail, eyelashes frozen, heart pounding, silence all around apart from my footsteps. No-one out there, but me. I have left my  excuses somewhere high up in the hills. You do the same. Go out there with nothing but a heart full of thankfulness and your spirit full of life.

Don't let races determine who you are, results do not give you a value as a person, you determine who you are, you are your destiny. Instead race with honesty, respect and resilience, we are a lucky few that get to do what we love day in day out. Make every moment count,  do your best and you will get the result you deserve. Don't make excuses go out there and make them proud, those that believe in you, make them proud.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A New Life

We sleep with the window open, we can hear the river running, the cow bells, the occasional dog barking, a bat rustling in the eaves and that's it. Silence. Silence for some can be frightening. Time to be with your thoughts, to face your fears. I love it. Days in our house our loud, voices shout over each other to be heard, the mountains take no notice, at night we are shrouded in peace. 

The sun rises behind the mountains on our left and when I set out early for training  the valley is shrouded in mist, low lying clouds offering a glance of a glorious day to come. Straight out of our door I can climb up 1,500ft within a mile. My legs often feel tired, my calves especially have had a brutal introduction to the alps. As I begin the switch backs through the forest I break cobwebs, listening to the dog bustling around as slowly my breathing steadies and I get into a rhythm as we rise and rise up to the first summit of the day, feeling the sun touch my skin as we rise through the trees, sweat beginning to drip off my face, down my arms, 1,2,1,2 I count as I switch to a hike.  Running here is not easy, its brutal. My feet feel battered from the rocks and stones, my knees ache from descending, sometimes my shoulders and even fingers hurt from climbing up rocks, but I love it. I never thought this move would intoxicate me so much. The air. The water. The people. The space. The peace. The simplicity of life and training. Most of all the unrelenting mountains. The unjudging mountains. They beat me every day. But they are becoming friends, I am beginning to know their curves, their undulations, where to stop to gather my breath, to have a moment to think without a child. I tell them my worries and they reassure me that the world continues to turn, the seasons will come and go, stop your worries I hear them whisper. Enjoy this time, embrace life, stop, look, feel, take a moment, don't rush, breathe, breathe, breathe.  They are helping me to get stronger both physically and mentally and both as a runner and as a mum. If I can do this I think, I can do anything. My boys love nothing better than pointing up the mountains and saying 'My mum runs up that! Soon she is taking us too!' (No rush I think!!)

I have already learnt so much from living and running in the mountains. I feel like a completely different runner from the one that ran the ACP in March. I wont lie, the training and the constant race broke my spirit a little. It was so so hard to get fit for that race with a newborn, I focused so hard on that one outcome that when it was over I felt a bit lost and that I had given up a lot of time and effort for not much reward apart from being really tired, sore and disheartened. It took me about 2 months to feel my energy levels rise again and to even think about running over a couple of hours. The thought of following a training programme, counting the miles, watching the pace, fitting it all in alongside a busy life just didn't excite me. I was offered a chance to race 100km aboard, but I couldn't face it. Somehow that 100km had stolen my love for running which had never happened before. Alongside this we were selling our house, moving our whole family to a new country which wasn't just a new life, it was a new life in the mountains with all the challenges that brings. So much learning, so much moments of huge doubt, of fear, of sadness, but alongside that the epic thrill that we are doing something so exciting. Many times I thought why are we doing this. This is too hard, this is too unsettling, but just like running, I focused on the end goal. Took it lap by lap, mile by mile. The journey is never easy, even harder with three small children in tow. But we both felt very much that this was right for our family, for the life we wanted to live- teaching our children to understand the seasons, to read the weather, to move in the mountains with ease and respect, to be strong, healthy and confident. So much of what running has already given me I wanted to give to my children. 

In the last few months we have often felt like we have 'escaped' reality, are we 'cheating' our way out of life, by hiding behind the hills? But more and more now I think this is the real world, this is not man made, computer generated entertainment. Life here is simple, its quiet, its content. No one cares who you are, what you look like, what you do. The children are embraced as part of life. Being outside, running up hills, sitting at a cafe sipping a cafe au lait, its all normal. 

So the summer time is passing, the sun is rising a little later over the ridge, the chill in the air lingers a little longer, the paths are well worn from hikers, I can bound up climbs now that I struggled to walk up a few months ago, I feel content in the mountains rather than out of place. I still have so much to learn, but feel I am a different athlete already. Every morning I take a breath, listen to the mountains and turn up the trail. I feel the strength seeping into my spirit  This is real life, its hard, its relentless, its breathtaking, but the view at the top is always always worth the effort. I take a breath, pat the dog, turn and head down the trail. I am truly happy. We already call this place home.

Friday, 8 April 2016

An Interview for Centurion Ultra Running Team after ACP 2016


No time, but no excuses.  Debbie Martin-Consani talks to fellow team runner, Edwina Sutton who won silver at the British 100km Championship – only nine months after having her THIRD child.
Tell us a little bit about your running background? 
I was a jack-of-all trades at school and represented the county at netball, hockey, athletics and cross-country.  The 800m was my speciality, thanks to the geography teacher used to drag me to the track to train. I’m so glad he did, as I have never lost that bit of raw speed.
When I went to university I played hockey for three years and still ran, but just recreationally. Once I left university I realised I wasn’t going to play any better hockey, so started dabbling with triathlon. The dabble turned quite serious and I competed at a high level for a few years. Even from with a running background it was my bike leg that proved to be my strength, with not many women – or men - being able to match my power.  The 25-30hrs a week of training plus a full time job as a PE teacher was a real juggle, but I loved being an inspiration to the kids I taught. Two of them who used to join me on recovery runs are now professional triathletes.
Practising time management from a 16-year old at school has stood me in good stead for having a family and trying to achieve my athletic dreams.
What would you say are your greatest sporting achievements?
Tricky, I think I have lots of ‘moments’ during races when I think ‘yes this is the best moment ever’: Paddling in the Pacific Ocean at the start of the Triathlon World Championships with 2,000 other athletes;  dropping the ‘hammer’ along the canal during Country to Capital 2014 and reeling in all the boys; laughing my head off at Paul Navesey as we shoved cliff shots into our mouth at Downslink Ultra after he went the wrong way (it’s a straight path); and winning the SDW50 after spending the previous three weeks with my foot up. 
DMC – I should also throw in that Eddie was 15th in her Age Group at the Ironman World Championships 2009 in Hawaii with an impressive time of 10:48.   Her Ironman PB stands at 10:07. 
Eddie Post Race with the Family
You got back into training quite quickly after having Evie in July.  How did you physically cope with that?
Firstly I do not advocate getting back into training straight away after having a baby, but to listen to your body and getting proper advice from a qualified personal trainer.
With my first child I took much longer, but I was much more confident third time round.  I knew what I was doing and how to mend my diastasis recti (split abdominals) and juggle feeding and exercise.  I also committed to weekly osteopath and massage appointments. My body was very much a constant work in progress, but I listened to it very carefully.  I can’t say I rested when I was tired, because I didn’t, but I didn’t push it and did heaps of easy running.
I also worked very hard on my core by myself and also with my osteopath. It wasn’t till the week before the ACP that I had my final appointment and she said my pelvis was level again. She pushed me hard and often 2-3 days after appointments I would feel absolutely battered, this did hamper training, but I have tried to constantly think of the long term project and that this year is really just about getting fit again and hopefully at the pointy end of races.
The first three months were brutal, as I felt so unfit and was carrying about 20kg of baby weight. It was slow progress, but it was always progress. Every session was part of the bigger jigsaw and I tried to not be overly concerned with one session, but take each week as another step forward.
I didn’t bother with dieting as I needed the energy and I knew the weight would have to come off in its own time. 
How did you find training around feeding a baby, running after two exuberant boys (Finlay 5 and Rory 3) and working as a running coach?
There is literally not a moment in the day when I am not doing something. I breastfed the baby for seven months and that was even more a juggle as running had to be fitted in with her feeds, as she wouldn’t take a bottle.
I would have my kit on before she woke up, feed her, throw on back pack and run for three hours till she needed feeding again. Sometimes I would run around the block until she needed feeding again. I found it very tiring feeding a baby and looking after the boys.  Although I am big advocator of breastfeeding and I think you can train and feed a baby at the same time, sometimes something has to give and it’s usually the Mother’s energy levels that are the first to go. 
In the final month of feeding I was definitely starting to feel that I had given all I had to give. When Evie was weaned, the difference in my training and energy was huge. Plus I didn’t need two sports bras anymore, which saved me some washing too.
As for the boys, they are mad.  Being boys, as long as they are fed and are out playing in the fresh air, they are happy.  I am very lucky that they both love being active and also love watching me race.
I absolutely love being a running coach and personal trainer, after spending 12 years as a PE teacher.  I have a real core of fantastic athletes. They are all different, all hard working and I feed off their enthusiasm and dedication. Often this means 2-3 hours of work in the evening after training and putting the kids to bed, but it keeps my brain active.  I get to give back to the running community and seeing and helping others achieve their dreams is just as important to me as achieving my own. 
What did your training week look like?  How did you manage to find the time?
Every week is different. I normally set out with a plan and then mix it around as the day/hour dictates. Being flexible is absolutely key.  Don’t get me wrong I always get all my training done, but sometimes that means two runs a day, going out super early, going out at lunch time, getting someone to watch the baby for 45 minutes and running on the treadmill whilst the kids play around me.  My biggest training saviour is my running pram.
About 25-30 miles of my easy running Monday to Thursday is done pushing the pram. Not very easy, but I just wouldn’t be able to fit it all in otherwise. I have run with all my babies and do enjoy it. Everyone I meet in our village calls me “The crazy lady who runs with the pram”.
I run with boys the mile up to school and nursery every morning and go from there. It’s a set in stone routine,  which means I get my first run of the day done. I have thought this often means my recovery runs aren’t very easy, but I like to think none of my competitors are pushing their babies around whilst they are training. Marginal gains people.
After having Evie, it took a while just to get my weekly mileage back up to a decent level. I managed about 60-65 miles whist I was feeding and held 75 miles for a couple of months before ACP. I also did 3-4 strength sessions a week, which really helped my running form and power without adding in extra mileage.
I was able to introduce one tempo/interval session into this. Sometimes two, plus a long run.  But I found I was still adapting to the mileage and the long run was still causing some muscle damage even as close to four weeks out from the ACP.
In a normal week - and how my training will go into May - will be one rest day a week, two interval sessions (one long rep marathon type effort and one shorter paced effort) a long run of up to 3-4hrs and the rest all easy running. I probably won’t go over 85 miles a week, as I don’t have the time and don’t see the benefit.  It’s all about quality.  
Eddie Mid Race at ACP
You a big advocator of strength training – and planking.  Do you think that helps with endurance running?
Absolutely.  There is no way I could have got through the 100km on my cardiovascular fitness alone. At 50km it came down to strength and form. Holding myself correctly from the tip of my head down to my toes allowed my body to work at its most efficiently.   Plus when the wheels started to come off, I had my strength to fall back on.   I concentrated on holding myself correctly, driving the knees and using my arms to propel forward.  Focussing on this killed time over another three miles.
I am very proud that I got my body back strong, functioning well and injury free. I do mainly body weight movements and exercises, which mean means I can do them around the kids.  Heaps of squat, lunges, holding my body weight in movements and kettle bell work to mix it up.  I think runners who don’t do strength work leave themselves susceptible to injury.
 Your first post-baby A-race was last weekend’s Anglo Celtic Plate.  Was that always the plan?
Yes I looked at the ultra-calendar during labour, counted forward 8-9 months and there it was.  It also helped we knew Perth well, as my in- laws live just up the road. It excited me as a distance and I thought the relentless pace would pay towards my strengths. 
You hadn’t run a qualifying race, so how did you make the team? 
I entered the open race, thinking I wouldn’t get selected.  I almost didn’t want to, as I knew it was a big ask to get fit again in the tight timeframe.  I also knew every week I was making huge gains in fitness and there would be a big difference between my running at end of Jan and end of March.  
However I got an email from the selectors saying they were going to announce the team, which I had been provisionally selected for, but had to prove my fitness in a 50km road race by the end of February.
Of course there aren’t any road races of that distance in the depth of winter so Walter Hill, the England selector, offered to come and watch me run up and down outside my house on a 2.5 mile loop.  I toyed with this, but decided I would regret it if I turned it down so I agreed.
Walter set a target time of 3.50 and I cruised it round in 3.38 and got my selection. In hindsight I ran it too hard. Who wouldn’t?  It was the furthest I had ran in two years and my legs were destroyed for 10 days after. But we live and learn.  It did give me a good confidence boost and was very thankful for the special treatment and my personal makeshift race.
How did the race go?  You were leading for quite some time.
In my head the race was a massive disaster, but in my heart I am so proud with what I achieved. I think I am capable of something with a 7hrs in, but looking back I just didn’t have that back end of endurance training to maintain the pace that I could hold for 5-6hrs.
I made a catalogue of errors, which I’m not ashamed to share with you.  I’m not perfect.  To start with I hadn’t left the baby for the night before and I didn’t sleep a wink the night before worrying about what I was doing.  Could I run 62 miles? Should I be running? Shouldn’t I be at home with my children? What sort of mother was I?
Of course, it was all pre-race massive jitters, but 4am came round with no sleep and I was literally sick to my stomach with fatigue and worry. I managed a few mouthfuls of soaked oats. Normally I eat a massive bowl of porridge, but every mouthful was coming back up.  
Then I got my period. Sorry guys - skip the next few sentences - but it’s a major issue for us ladies.  It was truly awful.  I had cramps, portaloo dramas and my legs just didn’t have any spark. When I knew I was going to get my period on race day I did seriously think about not starting the race.  I always run terrible at this time, but I tried to convince myself it would be ok and I do think I managed it the best I could.
The first four hours of the race went to plan.  I didn’t feel particularly great, but I was trying to just trot along and enjoy the scenery/headwind/seeing Bryn/three step incline and then simply repeat.
After probably 4.5 hours my quads just blew apart. I have felt that pain before in ironman marathons and it didn’t scare me, but I had hoped it would be 6-7hrs into the race when I had to battle down the hatches and work hard, but it was 35 miles or so into the race. The prospect of almost 30 miles of that pain made me want to weep.
Through all my training, I had focused so hard on getting to the start line that I don’t think I had allowed myself to face the truth that I just didn’t quite have the endurance to perform at the level I wanted to.  Having an international vest on was a huge pressure and in hindsight meant the race probably became more important in my head than in the long term it really is. 
I spent the rest of the race thinking about my kids and concentrating on moving, when all I wanted to do was lie down on that sweet soft grass. I went back to basics and repeated left-foot-right-foot and for the last 10 miles, I simply counted to 100.  Literally not thinking about anything but counting to 100.  
Melissa Venables crept up on me and went on to win. I knew she was coming, but I was so scared that my legs would just give in completely, so I just concentrated on getting myself to the end.
I was bitterly disappointed, but I didn’t deserve to win that race. Mel ran the better race.  
Eddie and Mel at the Finish
How did you deal with mental aspect of running 42 loops of a park?
The laps didn’t bother me. I almost enjoyed it.  I totally zoned out of the lap number and concentrated on my splits and pace.   Although in the last couple of hours, I wasn’t really comfortable with everyone seeing me suffering every 12 minutes, but James Elson kept shouting at me, “one lap at a time” and that’s what I did.  I just focussed on one lap at a time.   Though the moment my lap counter shouted: “one lap to go, Edwina”, I could have kissed her. 
It looked like your support (Husband Bryn) was struggling to get you to eat.  Do you think that effected your race?
I wasn’t struggling to, I just wasn’t.  I guess as my race plan went out the window, I lost where I was with my feeding.  Not having a proper breakfast set me into a negative balance to start with and although I tried to shove in more calories at the start, I started feeling hungry within about 30 minutes. 
My stomach cramps meant solid food wasn’t working and really all I wanted was coke. By 50 miles I was literally downing litres of the stuff. Bryn still hasn’t recovered from every lap trying to make me take a gel and me just shouting ‘COKE’ in his face like our 3yr old.  So many errors, but we both learnt a lot from the experience and that is invaluable for going forward. 
And we now have a new term in our household for anyone having a major tantrum.  It’s called a lap 32-er.
Do you have a recovery plan?
With the kids there is no recovery.  It’s brutal, but it’s life. The week after an ultra I massively fail at parenting as I struggle to change nappies, cook meals and household chores take forever. But being busy and active – carrying scooters, pushing swings, lugging about car seats and walking the dog – get the blood flow going.     A lie in past 5.30am would be nice, but I try and focus on the controllable things in my life - lots and lots of good food and water, early to bed, family walks and fresh air.
What’s next for 2016?
The million dollar question.  Obviously when a race doesn’t quite go to plan then you immediately want to set another goal, have another crack at it and get training again, but I am mighty aware of the big picture and know I need a bit of down time. As do the family.
I don’t have any other races entered, but will either head back onto the trails and have a go at getting selected for the GB world trail team or will focus on running a decent 100km. Though I didn’t put the race together I thought I could on Sunday, I definitely enjoyed the distance and think six months down the line I would be in much better shape probably both mentally and physically to put in a decent performance.
Though I am desperately disappointed with the outcome of the race, I am very proud of the process it took to get me there and so grateful to my husband and the Centurion family for all their help. I’ll take a deep breath, let the race and all I have learned from the experienced sink in and go from there. 
Would you like to have another go at 100km?
Watch this space.
What are your top three would-love-to-do races for the future?
UTMB, Comrades and Western States 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bringing home the bacon

I awoke early last Sunday for my lift to the Steyning Stinger marathon. All my kit was ready on the table, oats soaked, gels packed. On top of my bag was a Mother's Day card, inside was written- "Bring Home the Bacon Mum" and three kisses from my three children. No pressure then. 8 months pretty much to the day I had stood in the same place feeling very uncomfortable, feeling that something wasnt right and anxiously waiting for my husband to come home so I could go to hospital to have my third baby. I was in a lot of pain. Things escalated very quickly and within 3hrs I was holding my little baby girl. I was right to feel worried. My womb was rupturing and was being held together by a thread, had I left it any longer neither of us might still be here. After some heavy blood loss, I was left feeling very very battered, shaken and weak. A complete and utter shell of my former self.  So from there, here I was 8 months later, fit, healthy, strong and happy with the hopes of my little family behind me off to do what I LOVE doing.

Its been a long and bumpy road back.  But I am where I am and that is all I can ask right now. I am happy, injury free, strong and have a great base in which to go forward. Its not been easy.  Anyone who looks at my strava page can see how I have to juggle life and mileage. Day in, day out running with three kids to look after, feed, wash, keep alive, plus run a business, occasionally clean the house and also just keep 'life' going is relentless. You have to want it badly, take a few risks, a few knocks, set backs and a massive swallow of your ego.  Fitness is not something you acquire overnight, it takes weeks, months even years to get. Throw in having an injury from April 2014 and having a baby in June 2015 and I felt very out of shape and very rusty coming back from baby 3. However, just like anything, our body and mind doesnt forget and though its taken me a long time to get back into 'running' shape I have been amazed how quickly the body took to being hammered on the road and trails again. I suppose third time round it knows the ropes, you settle into feeding the baby a little quicker and of course Dad at home is an old pro by now so can be thrown the baby with no instructions or manual required.

If you would like to read a little more detailed and emotional (!) report on my coming back into fitness have a look at this great publication which I wrote a piece for in this issue https://www.ultra-magazine.com/

But if you are just coming back from a baby or have a young family at home or just a high maintenance husband/wife/ partner here are my handy tips on how I managed to get my running back in gear whilst not losing my sanity or husband (sort of- the sanity, not the husband he a keeper):

1) COMMIT - commit to something, anything. Breathe. Take a step in the direction you want to go and keep taking steps till you reach your goal. Sometimes the steps are forwards, sometimes backwards, sometimes you are not sure if you are going the right way. But fortune favours the brave, you want it enough, you'll get it. And if you dont, you either didnt want it that bad or it wasnt yours for the taking. Harsh, but true. Right from the offset I wanted to run the 100km in Perth as my first 'race' after baby. 9 months post natal was going to be a push, it meant training all winter, it meant running between feeds, whilst the baby napped, to and from school drop offs, late in the evening, before dawn, A juggle, all day every day. But I wanted it, so I made it work.  I wont lie, sometimes I have stretched myself very thin. But it has worked, just taken some gumption and more energy than I often even knew I had. Thats often the case with motherhood though isnt it? Finding the strength you never knew you had.

2) MAKE A JOURNEY PLAN- you know what you want, now how you going to get it? I am a big believer in working backwards....start at your goal and work back from there, first by month, then week, then days and then the minutiae of those days. You just know with kids, family, life, work its all going to go tits up most of the time anyway, but by having a plan you know what you wanted to do and fitting in a session, core work or even, shock horror a rest will normally happen if its in the 'plan.' Almost every day something happens which means I have to change what I have planned, the timing, the session, the duration, but by keeping an eye on the overall plan and that end goal nearly always by the end of the week I have achieved what I set out to do running wise and everyone has been fed,watered, bathed once or twice and dressed, most days.

The A team- Dex and Baby, many miles together
3) RECRUIT YOUR PACK - Support is crucial if you are to achieve anything in life, in fact I have found that the bigger the solo adventure the more back up you need in the planning. Negative people can do one. I dont have time to hear or talk about why I am running again, or how I fit it all in or arent I too tired? Isnt 10km good enough for you?  I have surrounded myself by positive people,; from my amazing husband, who I know is the true unsung hero of my story, a wonderful friend who offered to push baby round the village in the morning so I can do speed work or run off road, the Centurion Team (and wannabe Rick Ashton) and especially James Elson who keeps me on the straight and narrow and tells me to slow down most days. Kelly who has accompanied me on many many muddy long run adventures and didnt laugh when I couldnt keep up and was 10kg overweight and was also the co founder of the St Piers Lane Ultra when the England Selectors asked me to prove fitness so I ran up and down the lane outside my house for 30 miles. Liz the osteo who has put me back together- its only taken 9 months to have a level pelvis again, Rachel who has battered my legs into working order most weeks. All who have been flexible around the baby, feeding and supportive. When you are doing something scary, treading that very fine line between pushing yourself to achieve and to the limit you need people who have got your back. Keeping a firm grip on where you are going when you lose your way, but most of all just being there. Its a very lonely experience being a long distance runner, you need their voices in your head and within your spirit when you doubt your own.

4) BELIEVE- If you have been out of competition for a while, havent been in shape for a long time you can begin to forget what it actually feels like to move pain free or with ease, to feel the nervous tension before a race, the exhaustion of a long run, the effort it takes to hold that top end speed for the 6th rep. When you think of the whole journey its terrifying. Putting on your trainers when you are wobbly and unfit, need three sports bras, none of your clothes fit and you cant hold even a jogging pace is the hardest step I have ever taken. Especially third time round. I know whats ahead of me. The hours and hours of blood and sweat its going to take. I cant do it. I cant. But I believe I can. I take each day, each moment as it comes. No one can see me out there on my own, working my butt off (literally) to get back in shape. I could stop, I could go home. But I dont. Because I believe, I believe in myself, I believe I can do this. Breathe. Take a step out the door and thats the hardest part done. No one else can achieve your goals and neither can you unless deep down, rooted in your heart is that little voice that believes in yourself. Hold onto it and listen to it.

5) BE KIND- And this is almost the hardest thing to do when you are a driven person, especially a first time mum or used to being successful in your chosen field. Having just had a baby not only is your body a train wreck, but there is the added factor of no sleep, hormones flying around the place, a few extra kgs and where you once had abs a flubbery mess. Dont punish yourself if your body doesnt do instantly what you want it to do, or is slow, unyielding. It will remember how to move, how it works, but it needs daily reminders and it needs kindness. If something hurts or niggles, stop, if tiredness overcomes you cut yourself some slack, those jeans dont fit quite yet, they will. Everything worth having takes time, patience and gentle perserverence. And thats something I learnt much more third time round, I let me body come back into shape at its own pace, I definitely put it on the right road, but I was a lot less bothered about how I looked or losing baby weight. I knew in the long run if I wanted my body to come back stronger I had to nurture it along the way. I feel much more in tune and relaxed about my shape post three babies than I did as a twenty year old triathlete! I have learnt that what you put into training and life is so much more important to how you look. Looks mean absolutely nothing once that race starts.

So I finished my first 'race' last Sunday with a huge huge smile on my face. My journey was almost complete. I was healthy, strong and happy. I now have to take a deep breathe ready for my England debut at the Anglo Celtic Plate next weekend in Perth. Nothing, nothing will be as hard as the last 6 months, and whatever happens on race day there is the knowledge in my heart that I did it. I committed, I worked and I believed. What better gifts to show my family, really the running is just the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Facing the Reality

So here we are 12 weeks down the line post the birth of our sweetest little girl. We wont go into the gory details, but the birth was, as is my forte, pretty horrendous (why do I keep doing this?!). The consultant sat by my bed after Evie had been safely delivered and made me promise not to have any more babies....though we didn't plan to have anymore I am kind of sad that there is a finality of this new born stage, every day my little baby gets a bit bigger and thats it then, no more newborns in our house. But there is so much to look forward to as they get older and I am loving the boys as they get wilder, chattier and really are becoming their own little people (or he - devils as I call them post 5pm).

Due to the blood loss I experienced and the fact the baby tried to break through my womb I was really battered after the birth. For the first 3-4 weeks I felt absolutely exhausted, weak, emotional and just like an enormous lumbering cow. Coping with the boys and feeding the baby took all my mental and physical strength and trying to find the energy to get through the day took every ounce of my mental fortitude and courage. But day by day it has got easier. My body has and is recovering. We are now getting into a routine as school and pre school has started and this gives me 2-3hrs every morning with just the baby and a little head space to work with my clients and get a bit of light training in round feeds and house wifely chores. I will never regret having baby no 3, but I wouldn't do it again, 3 babies in 4 years has put a strain on both my body and also my poor husband who has to deal with a sleep deprived wife every evening!

I started back running about 4-6 weeks post baby. I worked up to walking 10km most days tying it in with dogs walks and the nursery run and then one day i just decided to try a little jog....i managed about 50m before having to walk. The next day I tried again and this time managed about a 1km and a few days later did a 2 mile run/jog. It wasn't easy, but it didn't hurt, just felt really strange, like I had lost all my coordination and the effort it took to move my legs forward and get them up hills was huge. Slowly, slowly, like anything thats really worth having it has got easier. So much so that I haven't even really noticed that 2 miles run have become 3 then 4 and now 5 has become my daily run.  The hills I had to walk I can run, the loops that took me 30 mins now take me 20 mins. Sometimes I would come home and lie on the floor, weeping, 'its just too hard' ' i have such a long way to go till Im back to fitness' and a little voice in my head said 'it would be so much easier to just stay at home,'  'this is too hard, ' ' you can't do it,.' Looking in the mirror in my sports bra and shorts I would be appalled by what I saw, my body really just a wrinkly shell of what is was this time last year. I preach and preach strength and core work to clients and I felt like a fraud as I could hardly hold a plank for 10 secs. You have just had a baby my husband kept saying to me, but I want my body back now, dreading the hours and hours of strength work it was going to take to get back to fighting form. It all just seemed too much of an enormous task, not to mention that it all had to be fitted between feeds and looking after the boys. Patience is not a virtue I possess, but this post natal period has shown me I do possess it. I have been forced to accept reality, this is your body now, this is your fitness, work with what you have, stop comparing yourself to your previous self. That self is gone. Time to rebuild a new Eddie. One who has three children, one who shows clients that you can fit, strong and manage a family and work.

People have kept asking me, when are you racing again, what have you entered? You must be desperate to be racing again to show clients you still go it! Initially I had hopes of a winter ultra or marathon this year, but thats not going to happen. Not because I can't, but because I realise have nothing to prove to anyone by turning up at a race and running on pure base fitness and brute force. My current clients respect me for the coach I am and I think will be much more impressed if I can come back next year with a strong body and mind and show the world what you can do postnatal if you follow a sensible and progressive programme. I like to think that people will be more inspired by the way I juggle my day to day life and fit running into our family schedule rather than how quickly I can get back to racing post baby. I want to be in this running game for the rest of my days now not just the next few months.

Facing reality I am. I HATE the way the media and society expect women as soon as they have had their babies to banish all evidence of it from their bodies. Dare it take you a few extra months or even years to get back into shape or perhaps you never will, but somehow I feel ashamed that three months down the line I'm still not sporting a six pack. But I know if I was it wouldn't be made out of happiness and strength, but rather heavy dieting and strict control. There is a time and a place for dedication and I don't believe that having just had a baby you should force your body into doing anything, but rather coax it back into your way of thinking! Remind it daily of what it used to do, nurture it and I do believe it will respond and work with you rather than against you. Our bodies were made to be used not to be preserved, but quick fixes and intensive programmes without a proper build up and base are a disaster waiting to happen.  So, no I am not racing yet, I'm catching my breath, Im making myself strong so firstly I can cope with the daily demands I place on my body and slowly slowly I'm adding to my mileage and increasing the speeds of my twice weekly interval sessions. As a result  my body is beginning to look strong again; I am truly happy and content with a wonderful family and learning how to fit training in with three kids, a busy husband, a dog and school life.

Whether I'll ever be the same runner again we will have to see, but I will be giving it my absolute best shot, facing the reality that is given to me, letting my running come back to me rather than forcing it and whatever happens and whenever that next finish line is I know I will  have 4 of the best friends cheering me on a girl could ever have. Thank you Bryn for the last three months, I hope to make you and the family proud in 2016 x

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Pregnancy, running, the truth and all

Are you still running? Has been the question most people have asked me throughout this pregnancy. I have felt the pressure to keep fit and to stay in shape, mainly because I want to get back racing as soon as possible, but after pushing myself to run for 36 weeks I am looking back now wondering if it was my most sensible decision. We will see!

Black is very forgiving 
After the first 4 months of morning sickness this pregnancy has really been relatively easy, as easy as a third pregnancy can be. I have pushed through a few barriers to carry on 'training' (mainly to match  Debs  who told me she ran to 36 weeks and she is my idol ). At 36 weeks I was having to wear pregnancy running leggings, plus a band and a supportive vest to try and keep my bump stable and was spending more time squatting in the bushes needing a pee than running so decided to call it a day. I also noticed my feet and ankles were getting really sore, which was probably from the slight increase in weight (ahem!) and the fact I was running funny and epically slow. So I packed away my running kit and have since then just walked the dog a couple of times a day and generally kept moving by looking after the boys. I would have liked to have swam, but getting to a pool, changed, doing a session etc in the evening was never going to happen, once bath time is over this big mamma needs to eat and watch Made in Chelsea reruns.

In the first week I didn't run I really beat myself up over being lazy and not sticking with it. Ridiculous really, my end goal of this pregnancy was always to get to full term fit, healthy and with a vague recollection of what my toes looked like.  Being able to run again a few months after the birth with two functioning feet and a healthy core and pelvic floor would be a mark of this.  Forcing my body into carrying on running when every muscle and fibre was hurting was not wise, but I still tried a few times. I did feel pressure to be the mum that could carry on running till her due date. But us mums need to be realistic.  I have been so lucky to have come out of having two children and be able to run well again.  Its NOT easy, you want those abs back, you want to have control of your bodily functions , but man alive do you have to work hard. Losing the baby weight, for me, is the easy bit, its getting the muscles and legs back working again which takes time and patience. No one tells you that or is interested in that though. As long as you are back in your jeans that is all that matters in our society, but that is so just half the story.

The 'Kate' effect  has done us Mums no favours..having just packed my hospital bag with my stretchiest tracksuit bottoms, comfiest nursing t shirt, biggest pants and flip flops ready for my 'going home' outfit, knowing no one will give the slightest notice of what I am wearing, no one will care, all anyone will be interested in will be that the baby and I are healthy and safely at home. The pressure that poor girl must have been under to make a glamorous appearance hours after giving birth makes me mad. I wish, wish she had appeared in her slack pants, then I know we would have been friends for life. So the last few weeks I have been asking myself why should I feel guilty for feeling too sore, too heavy, too tired to run when I am just about to give birth? I do though and that is just the madness of the world and the pressure on women right now. We applaud those who win races 3 months post birth, who ping back into shape, who go straight back to work. Just like everything portrayed in social media nowadays no one looks at what is going on behind scenes, just at the glossy images and text that are thrown our way and projected as the 'ideal.' Take a look a little closer and I wonder if Kate cried the minute she got home or the 'mum' who is back running straight away really knows the damage she could be doing to her body?

Being dropped by the kids
So I REFUSE to be one of those women to lie to you about being pregnant, exercising, having kids, training with kids. Its bloody hard work. Being pregnant and running sucks. You want to do it, do. But do it on your time frame and on your own agenda. You want to sit on your butt for 9 months and eat cookies. Do.
Heres my technical advice - running  and exercise will make you feel better and keep you clinging on to that last scrap of fitness and muscle tone, but it will hurt, you will heavy breathe, you will pee yourself, people will make comments. It wont however stop you getting fat arms, fat legs, a fat bum. There is nothing you can do about that. There is no point fighting nature. It is the only time in life when we really can't do anything about the 'experience' apart from to sit back and enjoy the ride! I am only wishing now I had slightly sat back a little more and given myself a bit more slack for being 'pregnant' not just 'fat and unfit.'

Though I paint rather a gloomy picture of my past 9 months I can guarantee by keeping active it will mean coming back to fitness and strength post baby is easier (in my experience). I am not sure about making the labour any quicker, I am perhaps not the pin up girl of giving birth, neither so far have been my finest hour! But I know the trauma of childbirth and the consequent few days have been greatly helped by my ability to cope with pain, my endurance and determination to get up and moving again and the amazing gift from nature that you forget all the pain and swearing and are willing to do it all again!

So the last few weeks, instead of worrying about my current size or pace I have concentrated on what I can control. Feeding my body well, resting (ha ha!!), enjoying my time with just 2 children, trying to embrace slowing down rather than fighting my way through it (as is my way in most things in life!)  , watching my runners and triathletes come into some great shape ready for lots of upcoming races and generally just letting everything 'loosen' up. I know the road back to where I was and beyond will be hard, but I have a great support network in my husband and Team CR. Both I know will be pushing me out the door, but also holding my hand should the journey back prove a little steep and rocky,

So thats my story of this pregnancy; I have run longer than in the previous two, did I enjoy it? Not really, but I hope that by stopping before I have done myself any long term damage I will be good to get back in a bit of shape this year. Has it been hard? Yes, incredibly. More fatigue, more aches, epic sickness, but never ever have I regretted my decision to both keep running and have a third baby. I cannot wait to be a family of 5. I cannot wait to see my children continue to grow, get stronger and develop their love for the outside and running. I cannot wait to get back into my yellow t shirt and smash up those trails with my buddies. I am very very lucky I know that, cankles and all.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

When The Going Gets Tough

All jokes till we actually have to start trying! 
Paul Navesey, Rick Ashton and I have something we laugh about called the 5km opt out...whatever race we are doing, the longer and the harder it is possibly the earlier the 5km opt out comes in. We run for about 3 miles then decide this is way too much effort and we convince ourselves that we will just 'jog it in' due to a sudden injury, leg falling off, nasty case of sudden ebola. Of course we don't, but the doubts hit pretty early, even for super sonic runners like Rick and Paul. But thats part of running, doesn't matter the pace, doesnt even matter the distance, most of the race is a battle with our mind rather than our bodies and 99% of the time its the mind that will win.

I have 2 fantastic clients who have set themselves a challenge to cover 500km in 5 days on their bikes and running to raise money for cancer research after both losing loved ones to this terrible disease. We have been training together for a while, starting off with a basic strength programme and lots of easy miles and have built up their distances both on bike and feet and they are currently now undertaking their 'dress rehearsal' of three days covering almost 300km. I asked for some daily feedback of a few simple questions and 3 words to describe how they were feeling. One of them, who is physically very strong,  was seriously doubting her ability to complete the challenge..where had this come from? Why was she suddenly full of nerves?  What could I do? Of course we have all been there, the week before a big event or a practice half ironman, suddenly the challenge ahead seems too big, our bodies too weak and our negative mindset too strong. Her monkey (see The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters for better details! ) had well and truly jumped onto her shoulder and was being given full reign to shout 'you can't do this, ' 'this is too far' and 'you are too busy!' (They both work and have families). The questions started and they both felt tired and perhaps the challenge became bigger than it actually is...a direct e mail was sent back to said lovely lady, saying in no short terms, ....get that monkey out of its cage...think of everything negative you can, sit and just let your worries be and then, feed the monkey a banana, thank him for his opinion, lock his cage and put the key in your back pocket (or words to that effect!)  I got a smiley reply back and just now as I type, they are half way through day 2, a text saying 'the monkey is ass up, flat out of the scene!'
What happened? How had she turned this round overnight? Well of course nothing to with physical strength, but..  Belief. She needed her mental strength to come alongside her now physical strength. This takes practice and thats why we train, not just the body, but our brain too. Never under estimate the power of your mind. So the ladies have found their belief. Its always about belief and sometimes you need someone else to believe in you firstly before you can do so yourself.

As the UK ultra season is getting under way and I am reaching a number of 'red boxes' of races on clients plans I have been thinking what I can give them to put the final icing on their training cakes....then I heard this great piece of advice that Bear Grylllis was dishing out to a load of celebrities pretending to be tough in the jungle. Apologies to Bear for adapting his wise words, but this is how I interpreted it and after some thought adapted.

There are three parts to racing, any distance, any sport. Use the following three statements in THIS order and see if you can turn negative sessions or races around. 3 simple key words, to set you back on the straight and narrow - Think, use your Determination and then your Fitness.  Don't be mistaken by thinking pure fitness will get you anywhere in life, without careful thought and even more determination you will (I promise- I have been there!) be found weeping by a trail...


Facing a challenge, any challenge use your brain; take a deep breath, assess the situation, ask yourself what would (insert HERO here- whose yours? Mine is someone very close to me, very handsome, very long suffering and mentally tougher than anyone I know.) do?
Focus on the goal and work or rework out your strategy. In a race if things start going wrong, instead of reaching for the panic button, take a moment, even stop, press refresh and reformulate the plan. Take your time. The goal is still going to have the same finish line, you might just need to take a different route. This is when decisions need to made using your mind, not your ego. And after doing this eat food, always.


Brain, determination then fitness
Secondly use your determination and strength. As runners, parents and athletes we are blessed in this department, there is not one person I coach who isn't innately determined to achieve. USE THIS. Relax your shoulders, pull in your core, turn off that monkey rattling its cage in your mind and let your strength and determination do the work for you. Its a lot less tiring than fighting your mind. You have a plan, now use your strength. Determination-it's free and limitless...just make sure to keep feeding it or it will tire.


Finally use your fitness. How many times have you seen a field of athletes racing off over the distance at a crazy pace when they have 100 miles to run?  How many people use all their fitness up in the first stages of race and rather than using their brains and holding back, plough on only to suffer like a dog in the final stages. Use your fitness wisely, imagine it as a bucket you have filled up during training...every session putting a scoop in, sometimes two. On race day you only have so many scoops to use..dont pick it up and empty it all out leading for the first 30km only to find when you really need it there is nothing left in the can! Keep your powder dry...knowing how strong you are and then when the going starts to get tough, the brain has worked, the determination is in place allow your fitness to show through and ENJOY the race rather than fighting the monkey and a tired body the whole way!

Brain first, determination next and then allow the fitness to flow. I believe that is the biggest lesson any athlete can learn and something I hope to teach my athletes both in training and racing.

I hope everyones races go to plan, if anything all the hard training you have put in is reflected in the results, be that a CR, a PB or crossing the finish line. And if all fails, you are alone out in the rain, the cold, you are hungry and tired, you are contemplating the 5km opt strategy and all you want to do is lie down and sleep -  use your brain, eat something, reach into that fitness bucket, take out a scoop of training and determination, pour it all over the trails and put a massive grin on your face....you are alive, you are achieving and you are amazing! Be so proud of all you have done and when you look back on this adventure with a rye smile, only you will know how hard it was and how you and only you achieved that dream. And that is something no one can ever take away.