Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Iceberg

I recently read this blog from one of my favourite triathletes Catriona Morrison.  ( It struck a real chord with me, especially after spending the day helping (checkpoint food testing) at the Winter 100. Winners, losers, death marchers, everyone is in the same boat when push comes to shove. Ultra running is a true testament to character strength, there is no hiding from the real you at mile 75 as you bare your soul to the trail, leaving a little part of you at every race when you dig into your inner resolve.

What we see in life of people and people's performances is really just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the water, where no one sees and only you know, is where the work is done. Your base, your support, your breadth of confidence, this is what makes up you performance, not the tip everyone can see. The tip is merely the icing on the cake and should never be used to rate how you value your work and belief in yourself.

For some this season their races will have all gone well, their PBs improved, their confidence grown and their twitter followers doubled, their icebergs will be impressive. For others their seasons won't have gone to plan, their races been disappointing, not reflecting their hard work, or thier body plagued with injury or illness, leaving them frustrated and with nothing to show for all their hard work. I know how it feels to be both .I started this year so well with a record breaking run at Country to Capital, topped up with another course record and win at SDW 50, then a joint first and 7th in the world at Wings for Life and a 50km win at the Weald iceberg was tall and strong, but underneath the water things weren't what they should have been. From March I was running in pain, the cracks were beginning to show in my base and slowly they got bigger and bigger until there was nothing left to hold me up and I came crashing down. I had let my running become bigger than myself. I had believed my running to be a judge as to who I was. When it was taken away, I realised that I had done nothing to support this running habit, I had nothing else to show for my hard work apart from trophies and t shirts. Running had not given me real confidence or belief in myself, instead as my body said 'woah there slow down girlfriend,' my mind had fought against it, totally believing that if I didn't keep running the world may possibly end.

Without an iceberg the last couple of months I have had nothing to show for my efforts. No wonderful feelings of winning races, training runs with Paul and Rick or filling out my training log. Instead I have had to go solo, build myself up slowly, brick by brick. In the end, I have learnt, no one can help you overcome injury, but yourself and that relentless determination you used to push yourself in training and races. If you want to compete in running and like me you want to compete for years, not just be a flash in the pan for a couple of seasons, you must make sure you heal the cracks before ploughing on. Your running must not be all about the good stuff, the glittering iceberg that shines so bright and everyone wants to see and be part of. Your running must be bigger than that. It must come from a base so strong, a belief in your ability and a foundation of strength and solid movement. There will be cracks, there will be storms, but if you can weather the rough, just imagine how good it will be on a beautiful day.

It may take me a while to get back to where I was, but without a doubt next year, the next decade I will be a runner again. I will never take for granted again moving through the fields at dawn. I know I will moan that I am tired, that I can't be bothered, but I know that putting on my trainers and heading out the door will never feel quite the same. Underneath my running I am a different person, I am me with strength, with belief. I know me better than I thought I did. So come on. Check your foundations. Check your strength. Only you know how hard you work, make it count and belief in yourself. Bad races, seasons come and go, but you, well you, you last a lifetime.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Pressing Restart

At the beginning of the year I flew around the Country to Capital course, I was in great shape, not super fit, but really good, strong winter fitness, I hadn't run over 60 miles in training, clocked a couple of 20 mile long runs in the mud, but mostly had been doing lots of steady runs with some short intervals thrown in. I felt that this was going to be my year and was so pumped at all the races I had planned. And then slowly this pesky injury creeped up on me, taking over my normal life, then my running life and it has now completely taken over every waking moment of my day.

Last week, after finally getting back into some running, building my mileage up from 1.5 mile jogs to a couple of pretty decent grass reps session and I was feeling OK. The foot wasn't pain free, but it wasn't hurting like before just aching and a bit stiff....then BAM, I woke up and couldnt walk. The pain was so bad it hurt sitting down, I had been hiding this from my husband as I didn't want him to be cross or disappointed and in truth I had been hiding the pain from myself. Getting so used to the fact that I was always running in pain, but this was exhausting. I am so drained from juggling clients, kids, life and simultaneously trying to force my body into shape because I am so desperate to race.

This week I finally asked myself why? Why am I doing this? How long am I going to go on pretending this is all ok that I can manage this all until I crack. The foot needs your attention, it doesn't need to be swam, biked, strengthened into submission. It needs rest, sofa time and a bit of listening to. Stop slamming the door on what you know is the truth and listen to yourself. Jump off this merry go round you have got stuck on, trying to hold onto fitness, trying to get fit for a race, trying, anything to be back to how you were. Because you are never going to be that athlete again. You are never going to be the athlete who had never had an injury, who bounced back from having two kids and ran ultras whilst stopping to feed the babies half way through. Who didn't need to do strength work, stretch, could run and run with barely a niggle. Life is different now and its time to adapt. Stop and Listen.

So this is what I have told myself. Start to become the athlete you are going to be next year Now. The athlete who has hit rock bottom, who without running has felt an irrational sense of loss and identity. Stop letting the person I was self destruct the person I can become. There is no going back I need to restart somewhere different and be someone different.

This someone different needs to start by listening and learning. Being patient and most of all being kind to myself. Instead of seeing this injury as a sign of weakness that requires me to punish my body, I must see it as a sign that my body needs a little time to heal. It doesn't need to be pushed in other directions, forced into submission. It needs a little bit of nurturing, it needs me to stop and let it refresh all by itself.

I have talked before about believing in myself, but somewhere in the last few months I have lost that belief, convincing myself that without my running I am worth nothing, merely a cleaning, cooking, clearing up machine to two very demanding children. Without races and competition to reinforce this believe I have somehow got swallowed up in the day to day mundaneness of life at home and lost my identity as a person. Believing that without my value as a runner I have no place in life. The desperation to get back out there competing has completely overtaken the sensible part of my head telling me that the world will not stop if I can't go jogging round the fields. I had totally underestimated and misunderstood that the mental side of injury in someways is way more powerful, painful and destructive than the actual physical damage you have inflicted on your body.
The same mental toughness that we find out on the trails, that pushes us to limits that most normal people will never achieve is capable of allowing us to drive ourselves into holes and then keep on digging because we don't let the sensible side of our brain pipe up, if it did we wouldn't do what we do.

So mentally I am forcing myself to heal. I am forcing myself to face life with NO exercise whatsoever for the next couple of weeks. And you know what? The world still goes on. I still wake up every morning, the kids still love me just as much, the husband still asks me a 100 times where something is before he looks, life just carries on. Really who cares if I am running? Only me. My kids don't want me sad, limping and spending my entire time on google trying to diagnose my injury. They want a Mum who is fit and healthy and happy. So I am pressing restart on 2014, starting to get ready for 2015 instead. Beginning to create the new athlete I am going to be. Yes stronger, but mentally so much tougher. The ability to suffer has never left me, but the desire to achieve which I know sometimes faltered will never leave me now.

So when I see you, please don't tell me I will come back stronger, that rest is the thing I need and that all the best athletes carry injury at some point. I will want to punch you in the face. Please don't ask me how my foot is or whether I am running. Instead I  want to hear all about your running adventures, I want to hear how you smashed out your hill session. I want to hear how you ran through the dawn and into the dusk. I want to hear how you have found a new trail for us to run on, that you have races planned and goals to achieve. I want to know that the running world is out there, waiting for me whenever I am ready, just let me get set and I will be there again, pinning on that number, kissing the kids goodbye and getting ready to fly.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Believing in your Belief

On me bike in the playroom as you do
Tough, tough, tough few weeks in the Sutton household. Morale has teetered on low to dangerously low. Teeth have been gritted and words spoken in frustration that weren't needed. The smell of a grubby gym, ingrained sweat and blisters on my hands are all signs of a runner who has nothing to do,  but repeat endless strength work. Very soon if I cant get out of the gym I may actually find myself wearing a lycra one piece and turning up to body pump with Rick Ashton.

I  have made peace with my inability to run at the moment. In fact when I do try to do a few steps of jogging it feels quite alien to me. The ability to run long distances and run fast seems a mile a way from where I am now. This seems to be the minds way of coping with, what in my head, is a sort of bereavement. Denial of the injury at first, guilt, anger and eventually facing the fact that the one thing you really love doing you cant do. My mind has now taken the running me to the back of my conscious , occasionally to be painfully touched, but then pushed back again. So I have been focusing on what I CAN do. Gym challenges have taken over my training time.

 Do you know how much fun you can have doing endless squats, calf raises and single leg balances in an empty school gym all by yourself? Well you can! I am a person who is totally motivated by competition. So I have driven myself through this period setting myself challenges, falling over backwards trying to lift weights I shouldn't, doing press ups till I face plant and triceps dips till I fall through the stack. Seeing a stronger body emerge from what was really a very weak shell has been more satisfying than I could ever have imagined. 2 babies in 2 years left me chronically weak and this injury was only a matter of time happening. You cannot build a house on dodgy foundations. Too many people get injured and dont find the real root of their problem. Many runners tell me they have 'no time' for strength and conditioning work either they dont believe in it or miles are more important than muscles. Unless you are freakishly lucky you will get injured in your running career. I am absolutely certain that adding some core conditioning work into a programme  will save yourself heaps of heart ache and it will also very quickly highlight your weaknesses.
Gym bunny

Hitting a rehab programme hard takes some dedication, life can too easily get in the way and getting out the door to get to the gym is not easy when you have a troop of mini dwarfs following you everywhere, two of which insist on peeing and pooing everywhere and keeping you up half the night. But it is this dedication I know which will make me into the runner I want to be. I am sure once I am running again  I will gain my fitness back quicker by providing my heart and lungs with the soundest structure I can. Well this is what I have to tell myself. That all these hours of lonely work are worth something, that my dedication to this mini crusade will pay off, that one day I will be running again and these rather bleak days will be a thing of the past. You have to have faith like all things in life with the path you choose, be it smooth running or rather bumpy and that is half the battle in any challenge-keeping the faith.

So my mantra of 'belief' which I have used so powerfully over the past few years I have now employed in a new phase of my life. When I first had kids, I HAD to believe that the sleepless nights, the sore boobs, the saggy belly and endless nappy changes would end and they did. When I married my husband I had to believe that what we felt for each other was the real deal and this person was the man I wanted to be with for the rest of my life and he is. And so every time I toe a start line I have to belief that my body can do this. If you dont belief in yourself and the path you choose  it will be too easy to listen to those that 'cant' rather than those that 'do.'  So through this injury I have learnt not to listen to the negativity, remove those around you, who pull the 'pity' face when they see you and instead surround yourself with the Paul Navesey's of this world who can find joy at the bottom of a jar of a nutella (it means you get to start a new jar! Simple things). To believe that you will be healed and the joy you find in both life and running will be back sparkling and new again. 

So keeping the faith I am. Faith in my body and in my mind. Storing up every ounce of sweat, grunt, last rep in the gym till the minute I toe the start line again. And in the meantime I am enjoying spending more time at home, appreciating the smiles of my children, the early morning chats over tea with my husband and taking our new addition to 'puppy school.' There is always joy and faith to be found in life, it sometimes just takes a little time and belief to appear. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Wait

A snapshot of a new addition to our family!
I cried in the doctors surgery last week. Frustrated that after 4 weeks of limping around I am still yet to have any proper diagnosis of my injury. I am very lucky to have some financial support so have been able to fund some physio work, but after fainting when she tried to manipulate my foot the physio did the right thing and said I think you need a scan and an x ray now. I have seen three physios in the past month, each one prescribing something different, everyone has their own opinion and ideas. So I went to the doctor to get a GP referral letter for an MRI scan. How long will this take I ask? 6-8 weeks she said. But I can't carry on like this for another 2 months! I need to move for my job, I have two children under 3. I am a serious runner which is also partly my livelihood and I am in pain 24/7. I am having to get up at night to ice it or take pain killers. I am worried I am doing myself long term damage. Yes she replied, continuing to type in her computer, that's tough. I left in tears. This seemed so unfair here I am an athlete, a personal trainer, a mum, I spend everyday helping cut costs for the NHS by encouraging people to bring activity into their daily lives and no one will help me!

The last month has been so hard knowing my fitness has been creeping away, missing that feeling of running, moving, seeing the summer season and the harvest on late evening runs and  misty fresh mornings,with the promise of a glorious day ahead. No running means very little break from the kids, there are on me and at me from dawn to dusk. Some days I just want to hide behind the sofa. But slowly and almost noticeably I have come to turns with no running, and I think this is the first stage of healing. I can't run and I won't run till I can walk around for at least 10 days pain free.And so I realised as I walked out of doctors surgery nobody is going to heal this injury apart from me.

There is no quick fix, no wonder physio or amazing pill to take. I need time, patience and rest to get moving again.

So I have thrown myself at other projects that always get pushed aside when running takes over my being. I have finally got my web page up and running. ( I am building my personal training client base and have about 16 online athletes, who I love coaching, though am getting a little bitter that some are now faster than me! I am spending more time with the kids, not exhausted, but able to be a little more patient, a little more fun and a little more understanding to their needs. I have been riding my bike and swimming as much as I can plus spending the time I would be running in the gym, working on what was my epic weakness my core. After two babies in close succession I suffered from diastasis rectus, separated abdominals. At its worst I could almost fit a fist straight through the separation. I knew I was running on borrowed time with a weak core, but wanted to spend all my time getting the miles and quality sessions done not doing gym work and I am absolutely sure that is a large part of my injury. 

So, I have embraced my 'kids free' time in the gym. Not being able to put much weight through my foot means adapting and adopting some strange exercise techniques, but in a strange, cave woman sort of way I am starting to enjoy seeing the strength appear. Seeing a strong foundation being built, knowing this will half the time it takes me to get back to running fitness.

So whilst other things have been occupying my time I have found that I can live without running. As long as I get my shell sweating at least once a day I can feel 'exercised' and less like kicking the wall in. Running is an obsession of mine, but in order for me to come back and stay injury free I can see I mustn't let the mental side dictate what is sensible and reasonable to demand of my body. I can now see I don't need to run miles and miles to be strong,  actually by cutting out the running I have become stronger. Now for the tricky next few weeks whilst the injury plays less and less on my mind and I start to feel the itch to run again. But I wont. Who wants to talk to  a moaning injured runner, its so boring and its too tough on my poor husband who has to witness my epic tantrums and finally its no good for business no one wants to hire a limping, grumpy personal trainer.

Morale of this tale of woe so far is, listen to your body, feel a niggle, back off, rest, go to the gym, jump on your bike, lie on the sofa. Don't take it out on your loved ones when you are injured, they are your crew and your support without them you wont be running again they are the ones you need most now embrace the rest and the time with family, come back with new dreams, a fresh approach and maybe even a little idea of a new distance to tackle!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Obstacle

Hello my name is Eddie, I'm a runner and I'm injured. I have finally faced the fact that finishing everyday hobbling, running in constant pain and eating painkillers in order to run is not healthy and not sustainable in the long run. 

From the middle of March, I have noted in my training plan- foot hurts. I carry on training, couple of days later, foot hurts more. And from then on every single session, the foot is mentioned. I had 2 weeks off before SDW 50 and ran that in pain, but it was manageable pain. After that I took another week off, got back to running, it was sore, but I wanted to get training again. I raced Wings for Life on road, it hurt, but I carried on. After Wings for Life I had an easy week, then ramped up training again. Holding high mileage week in week  out, 3 quality sessions, training like a pro, but running constantly in pain and not running to my potential because every step had to be managed. Why didn't I stop? So easy to say now. Why didn't I just stop the moment I felt the first twinge. Because part of what makes me a gritty and determined runner also makes me a stubborn and single minded athlete. I can take high levels pain, I can take high levels of pain for hours on end. I almost enjoy the painful part of racing and training, I live for the lactate burn....and so I don't accept my body being injured. I cannot accept that it is showing signs that I am over training, overstretching it.  I am completely focused on being the best runner I can be, plus working, looking after the kids, the house, I do not have time to rest and face the truth that this is going to end in tears. I push and I push until I crack. 

Sad hobbit foot
On my second recce weekend at the Lake District, having made it through one with the foot strapped, but feeling every flex of the foot over the rocks, I go over on my ankle and almost feel the plantar fascia give one big sigh and finally just give up on me. The pain is now at a new limit. We get round the course, but my ankle is pretty swollen and descending brings tears to my eyes. I refuse to acknowledge it. Don't even look at my foot, for fear of what I see, I set out the next day to cover the last 16 miles and I cant even bend the foot. I cant get any flexion off the floor and am grimacing in pain. My husband is concerned. This is real now, I cant hide anymore. I have to stop. I stop. I sit on the floor and weep. Knowing that its my fault. I wanted this so badly I have run myself into the ground. 

I have never been injured. I have never had to cope with the disappointment of missing a large block of training or a big race. I have pushed my body training for triathlons to the absolute limit. But when I was training for Ironman I had rest. I slept. I had lie ins. I had time to stretch, to warm up and cool down well. I had time to listen to my body. My life now has become so hectic, rushing from this to that, a constant background noise of other things needing to be done. My training happens, but it means very limited rest, recovery and down time, vital components of a programme when you are working hard. So in some ways this was a train crash waiting to happen. 

Wonderful service at Profeet,
showing me how to tape my foot
and checking my trainers and gait 
So, 3 weeks no running, after 10 days I tried a jog, felt ok, but not entirely pain free, the next day I tried another jog, I tried to pick the pace up a little bit, felt ok, pick the pace up a little more, just try a mile rep, see if its ok. Felt ok. Try another one. Starting to hurt now, stop now, just do one more, might as well finish the set (you see where this is going). End of the session. Hobble home. Next day, running client at 6am, cant get to clients house because the foot is so sore. Am so angry with myself. Am I learning nothing . I refuse to be one of those athletes who is constantly injured, comes back to training, gets injured again. I am not that person. So I have a self inflicted ban in place now. Not a step of running until I can feel no pain in the foot. Not a step of running until I can go about my daily life without 'feeling' the foot. And when that moment comes I will give myself time to build back into running. Running may rule my life, but it will not dictate my health and happiness anymore, that is my responsibility.

The pain face, Nice.
Many many tears have been shed. Not for the injury really itself, but for the disappointment in myself, why didn't I just rest when I felt the pain? Why didn't I do more rehab work? Why this and why that? Many whys of which I cant answer. But what I can answer is my need to get stronger. The need to improve my functional strength, my resistance to injury and holding form whilst fatigued. I can still do all this. I can swim and bike, I can swim and bike hard. I can match the sessions I would have been doing running. Its fun being back in the pool and on the bike. Its fun training with new people and using different muscle groups. 

This battle is not one which will be rewarded by a trophy, a course record, a flurry of twitter followers, it will be won by a quiet, steely determination. Hours of listening and working with my body, not against. Not punishing it for showing weakness, but working with it, using my inner strength to scaffold a structure of formidable mental and physical strength. Or as my husband says, its just a foot injury, get over yourself and come back stronger! 

Picture by James Eric Elson
So I am using every ounce of my positive self talk to remain optimistic. I am working harder than ever in the gym. I am using the time to make sure I rest a little more, I am trying to smile when inside I am crying a little, I am trying to not let my life revolve around my foot. I am more than that. I will not spend another 4 months in pain ever again. I will show my foot who is boss. I will have abs of steel that could climb 5,000m by themselves. And then once my body is strong, I will begin to plan again. I will never run the miles I just have without adding in some cross training, without adequate gym work and without listening to when I am tired and need to rest. I think I got a little lost in my running, in my need to achieve and to prove myself, but I'm finding my way out again.

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Fear

I am just back from an amazing three days of running with The Centurion Team. I covered 59 miles, climbed a lot, ran down hills a lot, laughed too much, ate even more and spent some real quality time with the amazing Debbie ( Martin -Consani who I am just in awe of (she carries lipgloss in her running pack whilst smashing apart 100mile races) and Danny Kendall the coolest and fastest GB man in the desert having recently finishing 4th at the MdS. Esteemed company.

The trip  was a chance for the Centurion Team to get together and for those of us who are racing over Lakeland 50 and 100 to recce the course. My idea of heaven, running, friends, tea on tap and hills out the back door. I am very much at the lower tier of the Centurion running pile and still feel that I need to earn my place amongst such athletes. These guys and gal are epic, I spend most of my day to day life cleaning porridge off the floor and making cars out of sofa cushions, sometimes it feels so surreal to have to switch to the part of me that runs till I cant run anymore.

On the Friday James, Paul, Robbie and I ran the 3rd leg of the Bob Graham round. Saturday we ran from Pooley Bridge to Ambleside and by about 2hrs into this run I started panicking. We were running super easy, but my legs were feeling it. I was scared.

In my head, I composed an e mail to James Elson (team manager at Centurion) telling him that I was really sorry, but I was withdrawing from the Lakeland 50.  In my head, I would get to the opening gambit....Hi James, really sorry but I am not going to run in the British Trail Champs because...and that is where I got stuck. Why wasn't I going to run? I have a niggly injury which I can manage. I am getting the miles in. I am coping with the exhaustion of the miles and the kids. What excuse can I use to withdraw from this race? Whats the truth?

'Hi James, really sorry I am not going to run because I am scared. I'm scared of the pain I know I am going to inflict on myself over that course. I'm scared of how every single step is going to be an effort. I am scared of all that climbing, I am even more scared of the descending. In short, I'm scared.'

But on the third day out on the course the fear turned into something else. I began to find my lakes feet a little more. The uphills weren't quite so daunting, the downhills not quite so steep. The hand that had gripped my heart with fear, lessened its grasp and my heart began to beat with fight rather than surrender. I could hear my inner voice echoing off the hills, knowing, just knowing that if I didn't toe that line and smash myself over the course, those surrendering words would live with me. I would have hidden from something I knew had the potential to break me. I had ran with some of the best runners in our sport, they were normal people, but held inner strength that most would never have the courage to call upon. And so, I realised,  its not the course I am scared of, its myself. Its my potential to push myself to the absolute limit. Its my ability to dig deep and then dig even further. Ive been there before, I know I can do it again. And this is exactly what this course needs. The profile may not suit my running completely, but it will suit my mental strength and competitive nature.

From the start of this running adventure I have had to constantly face my fears, coming back from baby one, purely running again not hiding behind a bike split, having another baby again, putting myself back on the start line. A body pretty battered from two babies, fear it wouldn't hold up to long distance running, it holding up. Every race, every session, diminishing that fear, shouting down that voice telling me I couldn't do this, I shouldn't do this.

And so every race, every result the fear isn't getting any smaller, but I  am learning to cope with him.  I am learning to talk to fear, to negotiate and to use my huge doubts to build my inner strength.

When race day comes, when I am up there all alone in the hills, legs burning, heart pumping, calves straining, Ill listen to that fear, Ill let it tell me I cant do this. 'You should be at home with the kids!' I'll show fear the hills, Ill show fear the air, the purity of running over trails and Ill use the fear to make me into the runner that fear does not want me to become.

So I wrote James another a said 'Thanks for a great weekend. I cant wait to smash that course.'

Me and Fear we will do it together.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Wings for Life Run Race Report

Funny enough as I go on enough about not drinking me drinking water!!

"The scale was global, the ambition truly great and the party one to remember, as more than 35,000 people in 32 countries took part in the inaugural Wings for Life World Run in pursuit of a cure for spinal cord injury. " 

Final Global Results: Women’s race

1. Elise Molvik (NOR)/ ran in Norway 54.79km
2. Nathalie Vasseur (FRA) France 51.26
3. Svetlana Shepuleva (MD)/Turkey 48.29
4. Mfunzi Ntombesintu (RSA)/ South Africa 47.57
5. Lea Bäuscher (GER)/Germany 46.23
6. Haley Chura (USA)/USA 45.61
7. Joanna Zakrzewski (GBR)/UK 45.39
8. Edwina Sutton (GBR)/UK 45.38
9. Maria Lundgren (SWE)/Sweden 45.24
10. Daniela Ryf (SUI)/Switzerland 44.44

What a day! I had no idea of the global scale or the magnitude of this run, really until I had finished and friends were texting and calling saying we have been watching you running over the live feed it was so exciting!

I had been invited to this race by Simon Freeman of Freestak ( I was a little unsure about 'racing' as only a month after SDW50 and I like to have at least 10 days rest and then get back into training slowly after a race and let my family have some mum energy! But as my good buddies Robbie and Paul were going to be running and there was the offer of a hotel room the night before (like a pro, into room at 9pm, asleep by 9.01pm, up at 7.30am. BEST night of sleep for almost 4 years!) I couldn't resist. I replied to Simon that I would run and just see how far I got.

So I had a really solid week of training, 2 big hill sets and lots of good miles, so on Saturday when I volunteered to check the marking along the start of the Thames Path 100 I thought it would be great to stretch my legs out for 7-8 miles. I felt AWFUL, my legs were heavy, I couldnt get even near a 7min mile. Oh dear, this is going to be a disaster tomorrow, but just focus on the hotel room Eddie all will be ok. Paul very kindly drove us round the country whilst we checked the markings at various point of the Thames path and we eventually got to Silverstone around 7pm. Paul and Robbie instantly started channelling their  inner Jenson Button and Mark Webber whilst I gripped the back seat shouting 'I need a wee, Ive had 2 children, please stop swerving!!' We met up with Tracey Dean and Joasia Zakrzewski neither who I have met before, but Tracey is British Ultra Champion and Jo has finished 4th at Comrades (TWICE!) and 4th at the World Trail Championships last year, so illustrious company. We had a meagre buffet, the lady serving refusing to give us more than I would serve my 3 year old and then not allow us pudding as we had had a bowl of soup...I tried not to cry and went back to my room and gorged myself on a Torq energy bar.

The next morning we met up with Simon and Jules who looked after us so well and got us numbers, showed us where to go and took us for 'media' interviews. Us girls were very coy, both Tracey and Jo claiming they werent here to race, which truthfully they werent, I wasnt really, but I wasnt here for a jog either! We had to be at the start 30 mins before the race, it was cold, I suddenly realised there were 900 people behind us, a camera crew and a lot of motorbikes. This 'easy' long run just got serious. 

At 11am with the rest of the world we set off. I felt ok, in fact I felt pretty good. we completed a 5km lap of Silverstone, someone offered me a banana and red bull, I refused and oh how I dreamed of that snack at mile 23...I was running quite comfortably with 'Dennis' a motorbike rider. After 6 miles I asked Dennis if all the roads were closed. Yes he replied, its just you and me I'll look after you! I would have liked to have taken Dennis home. Every so often a camera crew would appear and film me for what felt like hours. A fun experience and I tried to look like a pro, till I had to ask them to go so I could go for a wee. 

The course was very undulating, hills were short, but sharp, but I felt ok. I had set myself a goal of getting to a marathon in 3hrs ish then seeing how I felt. All was fine till after 20km (when they predicted about 90% of the field would drop out) and though the roads were all closed there were no more water stops. It was a hot day. I asked where the next girl was, she is about half a mile behind, has she got a grey top on I asked? Thinking if it was Jo I would slow down and we could run together. Dennis duly went and looked and it was! I was delighted as I hadnt faniced another 15miles plus on my own and I had a feeling Jo could be coerced into running further than she had planned! So I jogged for a little and waited for Jo. Dennis was a bit put out that we were now going to chat the whole way round, but it was so brilliant to run with another girl and one with such a fine pedrigree. She taught me a lot, I quizzed her about her training (full time GP, managed the qualifying marathon time for the Commonwealth Games and had won the Scottish Ultra Championships the weekend before!). Due to the incessant chatting I didnt really notice that we hadnt had any water till I began to feel thirsty, really thirsty. At this point we started to see Robbie jogging ahead (big race next week, Ill only run for 90 mins, yeah, yeah , yeah ) He had covered quite a few decent miles with Paul. Robbie was onto it straight away stealing Dennis's packed lunch, asking everyone watching for water, water , water. He, being THE Robbie Britton, seemed to be able to source nourishment pretty quickly and we were able to quench some thirst and eat some crisps. But I feel the damage had been done, we had got to the marathon, I had covered 95 miles this week and I was done. i would have happily jogged it in from then, but Jo was keen to get the 3rd placed man ahead so we pushed on, with her and Robbie screaming at me to run harder. I have never wanted to punch two people more. But we overtook him and as we did the outriders for the car caught us. 'Its coming!' They were shouting, 1 mile away, ok I can do this, I can run for another mile, its 2km away, WTF?  You just said 1 mile, pleeeeeeease I want water, I want food, I want to lie down. Then we hit a hill. Jo literally became a woman possessed and skipped up it, I could hardly get my legs to bend. I worked super hard on the descent to catch her again and as we rounded the corner, the car, the DJs, the ambulances (yes please) caught us! As you can see from the video, I just wanted to lie in the hedge. Jo could have run on more I am sure.

(click on GB link)

We did some super fun interviews and I felt like Paula Radcliffe for about 1 minute, till they all drove off and we were left to crawl into a minibus (not before an emotional goodbye to Dennis), drenched in sweat, exhausted and NO water. Fortunately, again, THE Robbie Britton pulled some water out of nowhere (I think it was the bus drivers lunch this time) and we followed the car to pick up the 2nd place male. After about 30 mins, the bus driver shouted 2nd place male has just been caught. Robbie and I lept out of the bus and embraced the sweatiest, saltiest Paul Navesey I have ever seen. He too was the most dehydrated man near Milton Keynes and we gathered him onto the fun bus and went back to Silverstone.

We met up with Tracey, Julie and Simon all who were super pleased with how far they had run. Julie looked after me so well getting some warm clothes and food. After a while we had the prize giving ceremony and I enjoyed getting over excited and spraying champagne mainly over myself not the boys and then getting paid back with spending the next 24hrs smelling like a brewery.  

Driving home and arriving back to my sleeping babies and a very tired husband felt quite surreal. What an AMAZING experience, to be able to run, far, for the greater good was such a thrill and something I would definitely like to do more of. Red Bull and the Wings for Life charity made Jo and I feel like superstars and we truly felt honoured that they appreciated how hard we had worked! 

Bit of a come down the next morning to be woken up being hit over the head with a car (toy not chaser, my kids arent that strong-yet) and having pancakes demanded at 6am. But thats what makes this part of my running journey so fantastic. I can go out and be the athlete and come home and be the mum. Just plain awesome.

Thanks to Simon, Jules, Jo, Tracey, Paul and Robbie for making the weekend so much fun. I couldnt ask to be in a better team than Centurion. Onwards to Lakeland 50 now. I wonder if Dennis will come and support?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Believing in my Body

I am just about to embark on 'serious' training for the Lakeland 50 at the end of July. This is the British Ultra Championships. Its a serious race with an elite field and over 9,000ft of climbing over 50 miles. I have spent the last few days creating horrendous training ideas to improve my strength both in ascending and descending. I am excited to get back in hard core, cant get legs to go upstairs, will just sleep on the sofa, kind of training. I learnt a lot from the SDW and am also really pleased that with my manic life I recovered quite quickly and am now back running fairly fluidly, just lacking a bit of bounce. You forget how fit you get in the few weeks leading up to a race and also how much damage and recovery time you need after smashing yourself for 50 miles. I ha vent pushed myself to run or train hard at all. I tend to use my energy/patience levels with the kids as a gauge, if I want to lock myself in the downstairs cupboard and hide by 7am I still need more rest!

So I want to get faster and I want to get stronger. I am a qualified running coach, triathlon coach and personal trainer. I have a sports degree, 12 years of teaching experience. I coach lots of people of different ages, abilities and dreams.  But, when it comes to coaching myself, I am too often unrealistic, unrespectful of my own personal life and asking the absolute maximum of myself. One of the things I began to think about was my power to weight ratio, whether if I lost half a stone the uphills would be slightly easier and running faster off the top even quicker? I mentioned it to my husband who immediately scorned the idea. Your weight is not the issue. Your power and strength is your talent. You need to look at fuelling your machine better, rather than how you are going to deprive it. (Those were not his words, his reply was far too rude to type, but it was along those lines!). Over the SDW I took a total of 4 gels, a packet of shot bloks and a piece of fruit loaf. That is not enough to fuel any machine. I know that. But it does show that my body and mind has an amazing capacity to work on fumes, but that's because I have trained it to work on fumes. This is going to be no use to me half way round the 50. I need to become in the words of James Elson 'a human dustbin.' So I'm working on it. Stuffing down more food when training, before training, after training. Teaching my gut to run whilst also digesting, rather than running till my gut cramps because it is hungry and empty.

I have had a love/hate relationship with my body all my life. My body has enabled me to do so many wonderful things, but so many times I have punished it for 'failing' me when things have not gone according to plan. At school I starved myself down to 6 stone from 9 stone in 4 months. I literally stopped eating when the pressure of being a high performing pupil and the demands placed upon me were too much. I was a shadow both physically and mentally of myself and it was only the distress I saw in my family that pulled me from the brink of what could have been life threatening. The determination I showed to make myself thin I then challenged into making myself better. I was appalled with the person I had become and didn't want the rest of my life to be governed by food. I went to university, became a small fish in a big pond and had a blissful three years surrounded by like minded sporty people, drank a lot of beer, probably put on 8 stone, but I was truly happy both inside and out and that I realised was what mattered. It took me a long time to feel 'normal' again and to see food as fuel and something to be enjoyed not avoided. So why think of this now 15 years down the line? Because after what I classed as a bit of a disappointing race at SDW 50 the first thing I thought about doing was losing some weight before my next race. OF COURSE I know this is not the answer. The first thing I should have thought was how am I going to get stronger (and beat Paul). But our modern minds seem to be channelled into thinking that thin is strong, that womens body's should show no ounce of muscle or fat. This is crazy, I know I should be proud of what my body is able to achieve. It has given me two wonderful (ahem) boys, endured hours and hours of training and racing. It rarely breaks down and asks for nothing. Yet I feel that I am somehow embarrassed by it shapes and wrinkles. That the scars from childbirth and nursing are somehow to be ashamed of. That the fact I cant fit my calves into any normal trousers or have any need for a bra should be hidden. So my first step to becoming a stronger and faster runner is to embrace my strength. Use my strengths to make me a more confident runner rather than someone who doubts their own ability.

So with my next 12 weeks of training my plan is based around lots of strength and power training. Running hills up and down, running slow, running fast, running technical terrain whilst simultaneously stuffing my mouth with cookies. Not listening to anyone or that little voice inside that tells me I am not good enough, but embracing what I have been given and loving running with a strong body and confident mind because no one must belief in yourself more than yourself.

Monday, 7 April 2014

10 Things I Learnt by Running 50 miles (or my SDW 50 mile race report)

1. Tapers can mean no running and that is OK. I didn't run for 2 weeks before the race. I was injured and sad, I was freaking out inside my head. But I tried to trust my training. I sent panic messages to my Centurion buddies. I cant walk let alone run! I visited the wonderful Simon Lamb ( Everyone said the same thing, calm down dear. I spoke to James Elson the day before the race, who said I know it will all be fine and it was. And as I collected my trophy from James he whispered to me, see 2 week no running tapers work! They do, but you have to be very strong mentally, not my forte, but a huge test for me and one I am pleased to have got through!

2. Pressure is a good and bad thing. A lot of were people talking about the race on twitter and facebook. I got nervous especially knowing that I had been sitting at home the last two weeks and was going to be running carrying a niggle. So I turned off Facebook and Twitter and felt much better. I made a plan. Life is always better with a plan. 1. Finish the race. 2. Win the race 3. Break the course record. 4. Enjoy the race, its what you love doing with the added bonus that every so often people appear, who you don't even know cheering your name and offering you snacks. 

Centurions biggest fan (after Rich)
3. Don't stress about the little things you cant change. If you have kids you aren't going to get the rest you need the days leading up to the race. I know this now and just don't get stressed over the fact that I haven't sat down for 48hrs (slight exaggeration) and am being woken up 4-10 times every night (no exaggeration). The night before the race I was battling with a 3 year old to get back into his bed at 2am and then up at 5am giving breakfast to the 1 year old. This could have stressed me out, but its my normal life and I remind myself that if it wasn't for these two little darlings I may not have the drive to be where I am today.

4. I love my great support team. My long suffering husband, who is my number one support in this campaign of mine to ruin myself over longer and harder distances. We spent the evenings before the race practising water fill ups at speed (hilarious for the neighbours) he was at every check point and he has picked up the pieces in the 48hrs post race apocalypse.  My big sister who had the kids on her own for 13 hrs. My wonderful neighbours and running club friends who came to Alfiriston where I knew I was going to struggle and then drove on to the finish to all cheer me on. The wonderful Centurion Team and volunteers who run such brilliant races and really do help ordinary people complete amazing feats. 
Very fast boys and me

5. Have a Kenyan Training pack (words of my Hero Paul Navesey or just train with people who are way better than you so you spend all the time sweating and swearing behind them. If you can put up with the pain, it does make you faster. I love training hard, it was perhaps to my detriment that I trained too hard on the long runs running harder than I needed, but it was a lot of fun and many happy memories of laughing over the South Downs,  mainly at Rich Ashton (who finished a very impressive 2nd place and is the funniest person I know

6.  Know the course. I had run every inch of that course a number of times, Steyning Stinger marathon, Three Forts Marathon and three times with different combinations of really fast boys. I had even gone as far as to replicate the inclines and distance of the hills on treadmill sessions during school lunch breaks. You cant fault my drive. I knew where all the 'hard' sections were. perhaps this was to my detriment, I knew what was coming and spent the miles before  dreading it rather than concentrating on what I was actually doing. Lesson learnt.

Photo courtesy of Simon Hayward
7. When you feel rubbish after 15 miles don't be scared to keep your sunglasses on even though it may be slightly raining and foggy . I felt sluggish, my quads were already like blocks of wood, I couldn't maintain my target pace without trying too hard. So I put on my sunglasses. My sunglasses and I have been through a lot. We have trained and raced around the world together, they have collected more sweat than my lucky running knickers. They are my go to when I need to concentrate. I needed to concentrate on Saturday. My mind was full of, ow my foot hurts, I'm not going to finish this again, everyone is going to be so disappointed if I don't perform. I put the sunglasses on and went back to the plan. 1. Finish, 2. Win, 3. Break the course record. 4. Enjoy it and repeat

8. If I don't eat I lose my head. I didn't eat enough.  4 gels, 1 bar and 2-3 bottles of electrolyte. Once my blood glucose drops I lose the ability to rationalise the importance of eating and start to believe I am invincible. This is the time when I also drop off pace, start plodding, lose all competitive drive and want to lie down and die. My stomach kept cramping and I had to keep stopping, I thought if I didn't eat I could just hold it together for the last 10 miles, I feared if I put anything into my stomach I would end up in a bush for a long time. Instead I ended up throwing up for the next 12hrs and not drinking or eating anything till lunchtime the next day. Crash and burn. Not pretty and wont be repeated. 

9. Eddie when things really hurt and you really cant wait to see that blue banner, remember why you are doing this. Because you love running. Because you love the people you meet when running. Because it inspires other to go out and challenge their horizons. Because at home are two little boys who are waiting for your medal and to put their arms around you and say 'Well done Mummy, can we watch cartoons now?' Because by reaching to the depths of your reserves you realise you are not even touching your limits of endurance.
10. Belief. Believe and you will achieve. James, Paul and Bryn kept telling me to belief in my training not only in the lead up to the race, but during the race too. Belief, I had written on my hand. And during the race I did nothing but doubt myself, doubt my body and doubt my mind. I am disappointed that I let all the fear of failure and pressure seep into my strength. But on reflection I can and will learn so much from this race. 

Courtesy of Drew Sheffield, who I have never been so happy to see,!
And now it is all done I'll sit back, reflect, enjoy and plan to come back again, stronger, tougher, faster and definitely wiser. I learnt a lot about myself over those 50 miles. Mostly I learnt that when things don't go right in the lead up to the race, in the race and post race always go back to why you started the journey in the first place. Always go back to the reason you run and above all always believe in yourself.

Monday, 31 March 2014

The 50 mile Question

'Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it'

My husband sent me this quote last week. Its apt for this week. As I face my biggest ultra challenge so far over the South Downs.(/ 

I have a couple of confessions to make. Firstly I have never actually run 50 miles, 45 a couple of times, 48 in training once, but not 50. The furthest I have 'raced' is 43 and a bit. Secondly I am scared. 

I am scared of the pain post 30miles, of the final couple of climbs, of going off too hard and blowing up like an idiot. I am scared of feeling crap at mile 11 and knowing what is ahead. I'm scared of letting people down, of having a bad day, or something just going wrong. I am scared of the not knowing. 

Many times this week I will ask myself why am I going to do this and so many times during the race I know I will ask myself why am I doing this? This hurts too much, I could just stop now, I never want to run another step, that's it I'm quitting. 

This time last year I quit just after Southease. No excuses I was just hating it. I was freezing, knackered and could see no point in taking another step.  I just took my number off and starting walking to meet my husband. I cried all the way home, I cried the next day and I sulked for a long time. I was so annoyed and disappointed in myself. Why had I really stopped? Yes I was super tired, blah blah blah, but I wasn't about to die or be eaten by wolves or anything nearly that exciting. I just didn't have a plan. I hadn't thought it through and had underestimated the challenge. And the quitting hurt a lot more than carrying on for another 17 miles. But perhaps, just perhaps if I hadn't quit it wouldn't have ignited the dreams I have now. 

I will stand on that start line for round 2 of SDW50. Its me, myself and I against those 50 miles. I couldn't care less the time I do it in, to win would be nice, but most of all I want to run strong and well. I want the hard hard training Ive done to reflect my performance and the believe others have put in me. I want to embrace the pain, deal with it and carry on. I want to push my body harder than most 'normal' peoples limitations. And why? Because I don't want to lie on my death bed knowing I  hid from a challenge because I was scared of failure. Life would be so much easier if I just stayed at home looking after the kids, going from soft play to coffee shop to garden centre. But I wouldn't be me and that is not a quality I want my children to learn. I want them to always push their boundaries and question their limits. And so Im not really scared because there is nothing to be scared of. Believe in yourself, like others do, will be written on my hands. 

So whatever happens on Saturday, I've dreamt it, I've committed to it and now I just need a little of magic. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Balance

An awkward question... when asked by a long lost friend over tea and cake last Saturday when she asked what our plans were for the next day. 'I'm going off running all morning,' is the answer. All eyes turned expectantly to Husband McDreamy - 'you let her do this?' 'What do you get in return?' 'Oh I'm supposed to get something in return?' he laughed as we brushed over the moment, but the comment stayed with me for quite a while. When I mentioned it to my husband when we got home, he laughed it off. Why do I need something in return? This is not a bank transaction, this is our lives and we balance the responsibilities, its not about you get this and I get that, its all about how can we make this work?

Someone get that man an award.

We have been together a long time and been married for a few years now. We have been through some tough times, job losses, job gains, house moves, commuting, serving in war zones, hard pregnancies, even harder childbirths, 2 kids in 18 months, and now busy jobs and two mad kids, but we have come through it all, together. The one thing being consistent in our relationship is that we support each other. When you have two children who can together create the noise and havoc of a small country you must stick together, never let them tear you apart!

I am absolutely blessed with my choice of husband. We are the ultimate team, he is my total confidence. He knows me, he gets me. We don't speak in full sentences, we know each others train of thought, we know how to rile each other up with just a comment and how to calm each other down with just a touch. He is my backbone and I often feel inadequate to his kindness and sharing spirit. I am a selfish athlete, we all are. I want to do my training. I want to fit that in round everything else. I WILL make everything else work.  You have to make sacrifices that make your heart ache to get to be the athlete you aspire to be. And so when people say, especially at the moment, as my training has taken over family life for the past few months, what does he get in return, it riles me a little. We balance this relationship, he supports me, he holds my dreams right now, they are his dreams too. Soon enough this time in my life will be over and we will be onto a different chapter, the boys are growing fast, time will become focused on their hobbies and the balance will shift. With this shift we will move again along the scale, making sacrifices, changing outlooks and realigning our expectations of ourselves and each other.

With this balance and this total support of my personal aspirations I do have a huge fear of failure. Having put so much effort into a goal and knowing how much everyone sacrifices to let me  run fuels both my training and aspirations, but it also makes me grip my trainers with terror.  I so want to make sure my racing reflects not only my hard work, but also my gratitude to my loved ones. I know the result in the end wont matter in the least to him or to the boys, its the getting to the start line together that matters.

So the next person that asks what my long suffering husband gets in return. He gets me. He gets us.We are the balance, we are this scale of weights, trying to get everything to stay in place. We are a unit and he is running next to me even when I seem all alone.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Slog

Beach reps with a 1 year old
I am slogging it out in training and life at the moment. Everything is tiring, everything is taking such an effort to get done, standards are slipping, the hoover is being pushed around with less and less frequency and shares are being taken out in Pampers wet wipes as I use these for every household chore from snot wiping to basin cleaning. This is the hardest part of training. You are in the middle of a big block of work, you are still a few weeks from your goal, you still have some big sessions to do. The focus on the race or goal is starting to eat into more and more of your conscious, but the race doesnt seem to be getting any closer. Sessions are hard work, its cold, its dark, my only constant companion for training is the sound of my foot fall and hard breathing.

I expect with the more training I do the fitter I become, but without the rest and recovery you can train all you like you wont get any faster or stronger. You must rest, you must eat and put your feet up. But how and when can I do this and still maintain everything else going on in my life? I have made a real effort to sit down at some points in the day, to try and eat (constantly) and really well. There are some days when I am woken at 5.30am and I literally cannot let my self admit how tired I feel or else I wont get out of bed let alone start the big day I have ahead. Always, always though with a cup of tea in hand and hobble downstairs I feel better and I do find the energy for the day ahead and training.

The last few weeks has definitely been the hardest I have worked post kids. As well as training like a monster Ive been flat out busy building up my client base for coaching and personal training whilst still teaching and looking after the kids. The week before half term saw both husband and I flat out busy, so much so that when he went abroad for work I wasn't entirely sure where he had gone or how long for (he has now come home, so that was a relief!). The kids have been so good, being dragged around various fields, hills, gyms, living off sandwiches and blueberries. They think nothing of watching people running up and down for hours on end and are very good at entertaining themselves which I think is a very important life skill to learn!

The Dream Team and me!
This weekend I did my first back to back really long runs. I have been building into this really since I started ultra training post baby. Slowly increasing the length of the second long run till I can comfortably run 20 plus miles one day and then 10-15 the next day without too much pain. So this weekend, I took it to a whole new level with just under 3hrs of chasing boys over the first half of the South Downs Way. I was a bit shattered already having had a week of solo childcare, driving back and forth from Wales, plus fitting in some seriously hard hill sessions and it was hard work. On the flat and descents no problem trotting along nicely, but BAM, slight incline and I was out the back door. Legs and breathing all over the place, no power, no strength and frankly just no energy to do anything but grind. Watching the boys lollop up every hill whilst I struggled was hard. I felt horrible, I wanted to lie down and cry a little bit and just give up. This is all too hard I just cant manage all this and still try to pull hard sessions out the bag. My mental strength is shot as well as my physical strength. But that's not me. Ive been here before. Ive chased boys up mountains on my bike, been dropped like a sack of spuds, but every single step, every single grind, makes you stronger. You have to do these sessions to get better, you have to test yourself to your limits in training, if come race day you want to lollop like the Brittons and Naveseys over the Downs. The Sunday run was a slightly slower affair, but running for 3hrs plus in ankle deep mud is hard going and it was still an old slog though with lovely company of a very experienced ultra runner who I never fail to learn from, with his positivity and pure love of running.

So happy to be home after huge weekend
Social media and Facebook makes training all look so glossy and rosy, people are all too quick to post about their amazing race results, run splits, weekly mileage and how fantastic they are feeling. No one ever posts that they feel like crap, ran like a donkey and finding training and life balance hard hard work. So here it is, this is bloody hard work, I am tired, I am having to focus totally on my family and training to the detriment of other areas in my life. But there is just this little chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Mornings and evenings are getting lighter. The winter hard miles are nearly done. I only have 3 more weeks of hard training for SDW 50. And I am managing, I am getting through the training and life. And you know what? For moaning pretty much constantly in my head about how tired I am- I still absolutely love it. I love the grind and the hard graft. Its what makes me feel alive. I love the time I am getting out on the Downs with such inspirational running pals and I am loving coming home to the best family a girl could ask for.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Why do you do it?

'Miss?'  Said a girl at school yesterday. 'Is it true you can run 30 miles?' 'Yes I said, I can.' 'Why?' She said. 'Ummmmmm', I answered in that inspirational and awe inspiring way. 'Well because really its the only thing I am good at;  running a long way in a straight line, its takes a certain sort of person...' I then launched into my full athletic history, which by then she had lost interest and wondered off to talk to boys.

So why am I doing this? I know during races, funnily enough normally during the early phases I question why am I doing this? I don't enjoy this, its too hard, its too cold, I am already tired and I am so hungry I cant possibly run another mile let alone another 40. But the moment passes, like all moments and 5, 6, 7 miles will go past where I am in my element, outside, running hard, gel, snot flying and I wouldn't be anyway else.

 Why do I this, how can I answer that question both to those who ask, but also in my head?

My second home
I recently wrote out my rough plan leading into my next big race South Downs Way 50. Looking at all the running I had to do made me feel slightly sick. The effort it is going to take to get out the door, the energy of then coming back and looking after the kids, plus the house all the cooking, cleaning, washing and working made me question, just for a second whether I can really do this. Of course, its the training and training harder than you are ever going to race that makes the races easy (well sort of), but for me its managing that fine balance of very nearly training as much as a professional athlete whilst holding down a job and a young family.

No one is making me do this, I could stop running tomorrow and no one would die. But a part of me would. Running is a part of  me and it is what enables me to do what I do, to the best I can be. Running inspires me to be a better person, to push my boundaries both physically and mentally and it inspires others around to question their boundaries too. Maybe to get up off the sofa and see what they can do with a pair of trainers and a strong dose of Eddie motivation.

So this is why I run, not for prize or glory or money or kit (well that's nice). I run for those around me who inspire me, who have come into my life through running and who I have inspired to take up running. No names mentioned, but...

My family who think nothing of their mum going out running everyday and to my dearest 3 year old who now can run a mile home with me after a session. To my husband who never gets a chance to go running himself, apart from during his lunch hour. To one of my lovely marathoner to be, who this week ran 18 miles at the same pace she used to run 5kms at and then messages me straight after with her delight. To the 'Friday ladies,' who after just a few weeks are out sprinting and out planking each other, having found a new lease of life in running quicker. To all those at my local running club who have smashed PBs in the last 6 months and turn out week in week out to run in the dark and rain and never question the crazy lady with the head torch. To the kids I have taught, those I took from non runners to national title holders, those who I encouraged to keep doing sport when they left school and still send me messages of their athletic feats. And most of all for a few friends who have had a tough time in life, but who still encourage me, message me with luck and congratulations, this next 8 week block of hard core training is for you. If you can do what you are doing, I can put on trainers and go for a jog. Check out this very special lady (

So that is the answer for the school girl, who quickly lost interest in her dull PE teacher, I run to inspire others, I run because I feel it is what I am good at and I believe if you have a talent you should use it, not just for your own personal gain, but to help others achieve their dreams. I am never going to make a living out of running, I am never going to achieve world peace, but I hope by just inspiring a handful of people to run, their lives might too be improved like mine and that is all I can ever ask.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Country to Capital 45

Race to the Gate....I didn't contend, Im on it next year
There is nothing like a plan coming together. There is nothing like the weather gods having peed all over you for every single training session, turning their spouts off and letting the sun shine on the beauty of a hard earnt effort. There is nothing like joining a team who look after you, encourage you and will sacrifice their own races to help you achieve their goals and there is nothing like working so hard and bloody achieving what you set out to do. How often does that happen in life? Once or twice? When you can sit back and say, I did everything I could and everything I did was rewarded. And I wont lie to you it feels so fantastic!
Some of the Team....

I had a week taper leading up to the race, but was still mad busy, going back to school, organsing the kids, coaching, writing training plans, plus making sure everyone was fed and had the right pants (or at least clean) on. I did one sneaky speed session of 6 x 400m on the Wednesday and I was flying- I didn't even tell my husband, not wanting to jinx how great my legs felt or how quick they were going. Of course I did a little jog on Friday and felt like a complete slug so there goes my smugness.

James Elson and I had swapped a few e mails with my race plan on. I live in the countryside so running knee deep in mud is what I do most days, but I knew I could easily go out too hard and pay for it by crawling along the canal. I ran well at Downslink in October by running the first 20 miles super easy and then building from there. I then had a shocker at Beachy Head Marathon, so I was a little scared about my ability to run well over a period of time. I also had not run over 19 miles since Gatliff in November. Rather spending all my energy and time getting my speed back, which had never really returned between babies. I was turning out some pretty fast sessions, they hurt really bad andrelearning how to hold onto pace and dig deep when it hurts, hurts real bad. So I am living proof you don't need to run a long way to run fast in ultras, you just need to be really stupid and enjoy immense pain.

So back to the plan, the aim was to get to the canal in the best shape not spending even an extra ounce of energy worrying about anything apart from running well, tall and strong. I was very fortunate that Tim Adams very kindly ran the first part with me, he knew the way back to front and was great company, we were joined by Alfie, they knew each other through BMF,  and they enjoyed flexing their biceps at each other as we went through gates. Through the first check point in bang on an hour. Tim was a bit nervous saying I normally go through this in 1hr 15, but the pace felt good and we were ahead of the rest of the pack which is where we wanted to be so as least we stood some chance through the knee deep mud.

Tim the Train- look at the view (and the mud)
By the second check point we had been over taken by another female and a few other runners, who then continued to keep disappearing in the distance only to reappear behind us after going the wrong way. Eventually they gave up and joined the Tim Train. I was feeling good, though aware that we were just slightly pushing the pace, but I sat at the back of the group, trying to just focus on eating, relaxing and not falling over. I had a chat with Bonnie, I try to be friendly, but I am really sorry during a race I am just too competitive to start exchanging anything but a pleasant greeting.

So we reached the canal in just under 3hrs. After a quick pee stop and a hug with Tim (the train), Alfie and I ran on. 8 mins miles was the advised pace, we dialled this in and started the long slog home. We were  in 8th and 9th place. I took one sneaky look behind and couldnt see Bonnie. I vowed not to look again. It was my race to lose now.

Yes I am crying.
After a few miles, 8 mins miles felt good, easy if I can say that and we were gradually increasing the pace and reeling in 7th place, 6th place, 5th place... 7mins 15 mile pace and I felt good. Legs were hurting, hammys were tight, quads were burning, but really nothing too bad and nothing that I wasnt secretly quite enjoying. I was totally absorbed in the task of getting to Paddington, I dont think I looked up at the canal once, I did not let myself have one negative thought. My strength in Ironman was always the relentless pace on the bike, I could sit for hours grinding out a hard pace and I feel I have found that momentum in ultra running now. So we got to 39 miles, Alfie was beginning to suffer. He had been such a fab new friend, but he shouted for me to go on and I ran with all my heart over those last few miles, overtaking one more boy to finish 4th overall. Weeping as I rounded the corner to see my husband, knowing that all my hard work had paid off will perhaps be one of the best moments of my life. Not only had I won and broken the course record, but I had proved to myself that me, the athlete me, was still capable of some exciting achievements and having kids hadn't spelt the end of my dreams. 4th overall, 1st woman, 5hrs 42 mins, 25 mins off the course record.

Sitting down, mumbling incoherently, downing sugared tea and cake and then being wrapped in a blanket all felt a bit surreal. Husband is unbelievably proud, which touches me hugely as he has seen all my athletic achievements, we left the kids down the road with Grandma and Grandad knowing that when I finish they instantly want attention and right now I am not able to even stand up. We both savour the moment, chatting to new and old friends, Alfie finishes strong-he is one to watch, Tim comes in pleased, but having tired a little. We have a little trophy presentation sitting on chairs (love it!) and then I start shaking and needing warmth so we head off to the car. Back to the kids, chaos and real life. And its all over.

I dont feel too bad, legs are stiff and I am tired, but we manage to drive home without a 'nappy bag' incident (see previous blog posts), force kids into bed for 6.20pm (paid for that on Sunday morning!) and lay on the sofa for the next 4hrs coming off a post gel and cake high and eating my own body weight in chips. But I dont mind the pain, I dont mind the chaffing. I would do it all again tomorrow. There is something about this long distance running that has me hooked.

I cant thank Tim and Alfie enough for being such fun running buddies and to Team Centurion for all their support. This is just the beginning.