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.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Chasing Time

The biggest shock in my life came after I had my first child. Bam! There you go Mum-yes that's you now, here's the child, oh yes that's Daddy, but he is about to go back to work, to his job, his friends, his routine, here you are, this is you now. Sorry-did you want to go out, no the baby needs feeding, sorry did you want to go to the loo? No you must take me with you. A shower? You are joking? And now you want to go running? Are you having a laugh?

But I really want to. And anything I really want to do  I do (ask my sisters!)!

Hang on you are you just getting the gist of me? I know lets have another one! Woooooohooo, now you really don't have time to change your pants lets alone get out the door without 2 small helpers.  But slowly, like everything in life you learn to cope, you learn to adapt, you see life as changed not ruined. Your inner self isn't changed, it just is seen by others in a different form. Most of my Mum friends don't even know I run-why should they? Its what I do as my hobby, the fact it dictates my everyday living is my choice, its an addiction which feeds the Mum side of me, enabling me to cope with the demands of kids with strength, power and courage.

So now my children are still wee, but we are coming out of the baby stage. Huge milestones like not needing a pram all the time, a highchair or endless food options makes life so much easier (and palming them off on grandparents way easier!). And in return I really feel like am finally back to my pre baby self both physically and mentally. Its been really hard. Ive fought, mainly against myself, to get out the door and get fit again. Feeling guilty and sad leaving them, but knowing if I don't I will be dragged down with the endless chores and  the monotony of staying at home.

Running wise I think I am in the best shape I have perhaps ever been in. I am putting together some great training, but just don't get the important rest I need to really make the training count. But, that's my choice, I know in two years time the kids will be at school and I will get some more time to rest, to develop my personal training business and tidy the house! I am not a patient person, I want everything now, I want to be the best I can be now, but this form of me is the best I can be at the moment. As I tell the athletes I coach you can only be the best you can be at the moment in time and that is me now. Ive done every session I have set myself through a pretty rough few months with endless sick kids and no sleep. Ive eaten the best I could and been to bed ridiculously early.

So the start of 2014 season is upon me. This Saturday I race Country to Capital which I did last year as my first ultra; then I was still feeding the baby, had just done about 3 months running and was keen to just get round. My goals now couldn't be more different. What a change a year makes. So, though I am impatient to get my life back. to achieve all my dreams, I know and am learning to wait a little longer, time flies and we will never get back these precious baby moments. This Saturday, whatever the result, I am a different person to the one who lined up last year. I am proud of what I have achieved and as always immensely grateful to those who support me.

Chase your dreams in 2014,
don't accept anything but your best. Saviour every moment, even those which are hard, for its these that make us strong. Enjoy the good times, call friends, sit and listen to silence. I'm learning life is too short to wish away.