I need more rest – there I said it ;)

Have you ever done that thing where you go on to Strava or some other form of social media and wondered how your running friends can run so much more frequently, so much harder and recover so much more quickly that you?  I do.  All the time.  It’s a bit daft, I know that, but I’m going to take a guess and reckon many runners can relate to this.

I feel like I’m surrounded by people who run every day, sometimes twice (or more!) a day and those who are back out training a few days after completing massive races, I’m talking 100 mile races.  It blows my mind!  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but I’m learning to accept that my body just doesn’t work that way.  And that’s ok.

As ultra runners, we expect a lot from our bodies but must also respect that they need rest and time to recover.  And the key to this is accepting that as with running pace, recovery ‘pace’ is different for us all.  My last race at UT4M 100k was just over 3 weeks ago now.  I had a full week off from running and then decided it was time to get back out.  My plan was a much reduced weekly mileage and then build myself back up in time for my next race (50k) at the end of September.  Now this was silly.  Before the race I had a niggly knee.  I survived the race but I knew the knee was suffering a bit so I should have taken longer before returning to running and maybe tried some cycling or something (I hate cycling – I’m rubbish at it!).  But that’s another thing about us ultra runners, we’re stubborn.  I tried a few more runs, thinking I could push through but it wasn’t getting any better.

After a few days of moping about and a bit of moaning on social media, I had a serious word with myself! I had just done a big race, I ran hard, I did well and this was my body’s way of telling me to chill out for a bit!  I want to continue to run for as long as possible – at last year’s UTMB I met a 73 year old Swiss man who had just completed the race in 40 hours!  I hope I can be 73 years old and still running epic races!  But that will not happen if I don’t listen to my body.

So for now I’m enjoying hiking and appreciating the beautiful autumn colours in all their glory.  I’m trying to focus on eating well and sleeping well and will make a slow return to running with no focus on pace, ascent or distance.  With that in mind I will not start my next race.  I’m disappointed, of course I am but deep down I know it’s too much for me at the moment.  There will be other races.

So for anyone who has ever felt like this, don’t be so hard on yourself. Chill and enjoy some downtime.

Bye for now xx

 

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UT4M Masters 100k

The UT4M Masters is one of the 12 races which takes place in Grenoble (UT4M)  The Masters 100km (5500m) is actually more like 95km with over 6000m of ascent and takes in two mountain ranges – The Belledonne and Chartreuse.  The race starts just outside Grenoble in Uriage Park and ends in the centre of Grenoble.  Although I completed Lavaredo and OCC last year I still feel a bit out of my depth when I turn up to mountain races, this one was no exception.

Let’s start with the day before when we drove around in Vinnie sussing out where the race started and where we could park for the night.  It all seemed pretty straight forward and we’d found a campsite not too far away.  So of course then it was pizza time.  Now on any other day I’m always hungry and could probably devour a pizza at any given moment.  However, the day before a race my stomach is always in knots and eating is a bit of a chore!  Despite that, I munched down on some pizza and made sure I kept myself well hydrated.  It had been absolutely boiling hot in Grenoble so I feared it might be a suffer fest for me on race day… I really struggle in the heat!

Then it was time to start faffing with kit… although the weather had been roasting, we had been warned it would be cooler on race day (thank god!) and in fact there was a risk of snow fall above 2000m so there was a very long mandatory kit list.  Once the kit had been selected, we were off to Race HQ for bib collection and kit check.  Now anyone who had done a mountain ultra will know, kit checks are serious (and quite rightly so)! No number will be issued unless you have the correct kit.  After waiting in line clutching my belongings, my kit passed the checks and I felt like there was no going back now.

It really is amazing how much stuff you can fit into these packs!

I’m very lucky to be supported by Beta Outdoor Sports who provide me with the most fantastic kit including the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta, Ultimate Direction Waterproof Women’s Ultra Jacket V2, Ultimate Direction Waterproof Women’s Ultra Pant V2 and Injinji Toe Socks.  All absolute essentials when running long in the mountains.

In addition to this I wore my favourite Lululemon skort (the power of the skort!), Montane Snap zip t-shirt, Salomon Impact Sports Bra, La Sportiva Akasha trainers and of course my trusty Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Sapphire.

About half way looking stylish 😉

After a bit more faffing, it was time for some sleep.  The alarm was set for 4am…. oh how I love these early starts!!!!

I woke at about 3.30am after an average nights sleep.  My first thought was coffee, I need coffee.  Trying to do things quietly so not to wake Ryan and Bernard didn’t go so well… In fact I failed miserably!!!  When I’m awake EVERYONE is awake! Oops! Necked a coffee, forced down some breakfast, got dressed, made several pre-race visits to the loo and it was time to make the short drive to the start!  It was 4.30am, Ryan was alert and on fine form (he’s one of those annoying morning people), Bernard was still snoring in bed and I was a bag of nerves!  We arrived at Uriage Park with loads of time to spare so I made a few more trips to the loo.  Ryan gave me a pep talk, told me not to faff about in the checkpoints, confirmed which checkpoints he would see me at and sent me on my way. I wedged myself into the starting area, probably in the middle-ish of the field.  It was poles and compression as far as the eye could see!!

We had our race briefing (in French) at 5.45am and were off at 6am on the dot!  It was a strange start as we looped around the start area.  It was like doing a lap of honour at the wrong end of the race!  In any case I lapped up the cheers and applause with lots of smiles and high 5’s!  I expected Ryan would have gone straight back to bed but to my surprise he was there just before we set off into the darkness of the first big climb.  He told me I was 8th lady… it just went in one ear and out the other.

Having spent hours looking at the race profile, I knew the first part of this race was mainly uphill and would probably mean lots of hiking, however I was pleasantly surprised by how many runnable sections there were. The trails were beautiful, a real good mixture in terms of terrain but on the whole not too technical which suited me perfectly. I hiked / ran uphill well, and didn’t seem to have too many people pass me.  I kept a good consistent pace on the flatter sections,  however, as always it felt like everyone in the race passed me on the downhill!

As we climbed higher the temperature dropped, everyone around me was wrapped up like it was the middle of winter.  I felt ok for a while but as the wind picked up I thought it would be sensible to put on my jacket and actually ended up needing gloves too!  I was in my element… the weather conditions were perfect for a ginge!  I did feel for the poor volunteers though, they looked freezing.

Profile

Don’t be fooled by those little spikes…. they are still MASSIVE hills!!!!

After 21k and over 2000m of ascent we reached Croix de Chamrousse, the first big checkpoint.  My plan was in and out as quickly as possible.  I knew from past experience I always waste too much time faffing in checkpoints!  This wasn’t quite as easy as anticipated.  The French seem to love a good checkpoint, everyone has a nice sit down and scoffs loads of meat and cheese… all very civilised.  I just wanted some water to top up my Tailwind!!  After waiting patiently in line (very British, I know!) , watching everyone else push in the lovely volunteer chatted away to me in French whilst topping up my water bottles.  He seemed quite concerned about the fact I hadn’t eaten and I tried to explain in my best french that my magic powder gave me everything I needed!  Eventually out of the checkpoint and a few cheers from a lovely family I’d met at the campsite the day before.  It then occurred to me I hadn’t seen Ryan.  I was sure he’d said he would meet me here but assumed I had got ultra brain and forgotten!  Turns out he and Bernard were waiting for 90 minutes in completely the wrong place!!!!

        

We then had a lovely section of downhill before the climb up to the highest point on the race – Grand Colon (2394m).  The last section of this climb was a bit of a beast, very steep with lots loose rock.  It was so worth it though, at the top we were in for a treat.  We were above the clouds and the view was fantastic !  After a brief moment to admire the view and catch my breath, it was time for the longggg descent!  After reaching nearly 2400m, we were working our way down to Saint Nazaire Les Eymes at 290m.  All I’m going to say is ouch!  There was a checkpoint in between this and what a lovely surprise to see Ryan and Bernard heading towards me.  Bernard came bounding towards me as if he hadn’t seen me in months.  Ryan was telling me that I’d been between 3rd and 4th position for the majority of the race.  I couldn’t believe it.  I hadn’t really noticed passing any other ladies and felt sure some had passed me but he was adamant.  I still wasn’t sure to be honest.  As I headed into the checkpoint Bernard was almost pulling Ryan’s arm off to follow me, much to everyone’s amusement!

Bernard waiting patiently

I was pleased to arrive at Saint Nazaire Les Eymes (53k) quicker than I had expected.  This was the main checkpoint where we had drop bags.  It was also the finishing point for the UT4M Challenge runners.  It was beyond busy.  I walked in and couldn’t wait to get back out!  I grabbed my drop bag which contained the rest of my Tailwind stash, which would see me to the end of the race. I quickly topped up my bottles and then wandered around trying to find the exit!  Ryan and Bernard were waiting for me at the exit of the checkpoint, along with Marcus Scotney, who was taking part (and smashing) the UT4M Challenge.  Ryan was VERY excited about my position in the race.  I had been in 4th at this point but apparently there wasn’t much in it!  Of course I wanted to do well and to be in a podium position would have been amazing but I couldn’t quite believe that would be possible.  There was still a long way to go.

As I started the next big climb out of the checkpoint I had my first and only real bad patch in the race.  Normally I can really push on the uphill but I felt like I had no power and a few guys who I’d been back and forth with all day passed me.  They were all trying to push me on, which was lovely.  I decided some music would help.  As I picked my tunes from Spotify I noticed a text from Ryan telling me I had made up 27 places when leaving the last checkpoint and had only been 2 minutes behind 3rd lady which gave me a little boost.  I tried to focus on the tunes and moving forward as quickly as possible.  My tunes were awesome… I mean who doesn’t still love Clubland and Alex K remixes?!  6 days (On The Run) playing as loud as my iPhone would allow and I was finally feeling better.  Even having a little sing along.. which I’m sure my fellow runners loved!  At last we reached Habert de Chamechaude (1570m), it was here I saw Paula, who I now realised was the lady I had been back and forth with all day.  She still look very sprightly and relaxed.  I topped up my Tailwind and left quickly in 3rd place.

The next climb up to Chamechaude was tough, again lots of loose rock which kept falling down the trail as other runners passed above me.  As I climbed I saw runners coming the other way, there were lots of ‘allez allez’ and ‘bonne courage’ but I was a bit confused and then the penny dropped… I had to come back down this way too!  That would be interesting…

I was dreadful, I mean worse than dreadful, I let so many people pass me.  They looked effortless and fearless.  I took my time putting all my concentration into where I placed my feet and was desperately trying not to fall over.  It was at this point Paula came flying past me, she made it look so easy!  As she flew past, she gave me an encouraging ‘allez Emma’.  At that point I accepted Paula was much quicker then me on the downhill and if I had any chance of a podium finish I needed to push hard on the uphill and flatter sections knowing that the race ended with a massive stretch of downhill.  Having said that we were now on a 1000m downhill section into Le Sappy En Chartreuse.  I was delighted to discover that it wasn’t all technical rocky downhill and I managed to get up to the dizzy heights of 10 minute miles!  My dodgy knee was really starting to scream at this point but I ignored it and focussed on getting to the checkpoint where I knew Ryan and Bernard would be waiting.  As I approached the checkpoint Ryan was waiting and jogged in with me.  He was allowed into the checkpoint and was definitely rushing me.  Shoving pre-made bottles of Tailwind in my pack and practically pushing me back out on to the trail.  Then I realised why.  Paula was still in the checkpoint.  I needed to change into a long-sleeved top as it had become noticeably cooler.  I changed quickly and left the checkpoint.  Ryan told me there was one small climb left and then all downhill to the finish.  I’m not sure if this was good news or bad news.  Ryan had run on this part of the course and reassured me it was an ‘easy’ climb and no worse than anything in Hamsterley Forest (our local training ground in the UK).  HE LIED!!!!!!

I finally arrived Fort du Saint Eynard, the sun was setting and the views over Grenoble were incredible.  It seemed soooo far away.  I knew it was going to be a very long descent, another 1000m+ of downhill.  I hadn’t yet been overtaken by Paula and started to wonder if I could actually finish in a podium spot in a mountain ultra?!  It was around 3k until the next checkpoint and the last point at which I’d see Ryan before the finish.  It was here I needed to have a word with myself.  Yes I was hurting, yes I was tired but so what, everyone feels that way at this stage of the race.  With that thought in mind I started the descent and ran as fast as my little legs would take me.

I arrived at the checkpoint and quickly topped up one bottle to get me to the finish.  Another pep talk from Ryan who looked quite irritated as I stood having a little chat in the checkpoint (oops) and I was on my way back towards the trail.  Ryan told me to get a move on and ‘get this shit done’.  I left before Paula arrived but knew I needed to keep moving at a good pace otherwise she would definitely catch me!  The headtorch was back on by this point so it was head down and music on for the last 10k.

I didn’t see anyone else for ages!  You can see headtorches from miles away and I didn’t see anything.  I started to panic I’d gone the wrong way and kept going back on myself to make sure I was going the right way.  In hindsight this was totally stupid, there was really no other way I could have gone! Stupid ultra brain!  Just before I got to Bastille I noticed a headtorch behind me, closing the gap between us VERY quickly.  Damn, she caught me.  Oh well, I tried my best and 4th place was still better than I could have imagined pre-race!  Except, as they got a little closer I could hear a little voice calling out to me ‘don’t worry Emma, it’s just me’… Kurt a lovely guy from Belgium who I’d seen / ran with a few times throughout the day.  Kurt knew the course and told me what to expect until the end.  I was thankful he had pre-warned me about the steps we encountered, there were bloody loads of them and they hurt ALOT!  That had given me the final boost I needed.  With 5km to go I was in 3rd place, I just needed to hold on a bit longer.

We finally stopped descending as I arrived into Grenoble.  It is a huge and wonderful city and arriving at almost 10pm on a Saturday night meant lots of drunken support and cheers, which was amazing.  I always find that as a female in ultra running, you get so much support from onlookers and this was on another level.  Bars and restaurants erupted as I went past and the atmosphere was brilliant.  I was so tired and desperate to stop running but how could I? There were so many people around and it was flat?!  No excuses – I kept running, carefully following the yellow line which guided me to the finish and there it was the finishing arch, finally in sight.  I’d been able to hear the noise from the finish area for about 10k but now I could actually see it.  With one last glance behind me, I ran as fast as I could down the finishing stretch to finish in 16 hours and 5 minutes.  I couldn’t believe it. There were lots of hugs and a few tears from me as I sat down smiling from ear to ear.  I’d actually done it, finished in a podium position.  Ecstatic doesn’t even come close.

Finish Line 🙂

THE STATS:- 527 STARTERS, 474 FINISHERS, 50 FEMALE FINISHERS, FINISHED 65TH OVERALL, 3RD FEMALE AND 2ND SENIOR FEMALE.  Full results here.

Prize Ceremony

Huge thanks as always to Ryan for supporting me and believing in me and of course the wonderful folks as Beta Outdoors Sports for their support.

I highly recommend this race, the organisation is exceptional and there were so many voluteers who couldn’t do enough for you.  The course is beautiful and well marked.  Grenoble is an amazing city to visit and you really can enjoy the best of both worlds – city fun and gorgeous mountain trails.!  If anyone fancies giving it a go next year, give me a shout, I’m happy to tell you more about it 🙂

 

 

 

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New Beginings

Hello again!  It’s been a while… years in fact!

As much as I loved writing my blog, it was one of those things I struggled to make time for.  Juggling a busy job, home life and trying to get out running didnt leave much spare time.

Since then, so much has changed.

I remember coming home from work one day, after a partciularly awful day and I cried for hours.  My job was stressful and emotive.  (I managed an early intervention service within local authority children’s services).  Over the last 10 years I worked hard in my career which meant working more and more hours and ultimately I never really switched off from work.  It’s not really the kind of work you can just ‘switch off’ from and forget about.  Of course my wonderful family, friends and running helped but I started to realise something wasn’t quite right.  That work / life balance thing people talk about didn’t really exist for me.  My work phone was permenantly glued to my hand.  The job was hard enough but the with local authority funding cuts, it felt impossible to do a good job and the right thing by the families we worked with.  Enough was enough.

So long story short, my husband Ryan and I thought long and hard about life and what we really wanted out of it.  Yes, we had good jobs, were financially stable, had a lovely home, 2 cars, holidays etc etc but that really isn’t everything.  Life is for living.

We shared our passion for trail running and the great outdoors and dreamed of jobs that could allow us more of what we loved. Enter Mike Julien from Tailwind Nutrition.  Those of you who know me, know I love Tailwind and have used it for many years. The brand is huge in th USA, UK and Asia but it occured to us there was a potential gap in the market in Europe, primarily France.  And there we have it Tailwind France was born.

From this initial idea and chat with Mike, we spent 18 months preparing for what was to come.  We both quit our jobs and put our house up for sale.  We were going all in.  And keeping everything crossed that this wasn’t the biggest mistake we’d ever make.  It was a bumpy ride, even to this point.  Our house sale has fallen through so many times it’s ridiculous.  Despite all that in July we packed up Vinnie the Vee Dub and we were off.  The plan was to travel in Vinnie for a few months before finding somewhere to live.

As I ‘m writing this blog, I’m looking out of our newly rented apartment at the Bossons Glacier and Mont Blanc and feel like the luckiest person in the world.  I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy.  I know you’re probably laughing thinking yeah right but seriously there are lots of uncertainties and we have no idea what the future holds! Financially it’s tough but my view is that if you really want something, you’ll do everything you can to make it work.

In between work and promoting Tailwind Nutrition France Ryan, Bernard the Beagle and I are exploring the absolutely stunning mountain trails, which are on our doorstep.  Running has never been such as pleasure as it is at the moment (well apart from my old granny knees since my recent race!  More about that later – I love to bang on about my races 🙂

Dream big and make things happen! Bye for now xx

 

 

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West Highland Way Race 2016

TIME: 24 Hours 55 Minutes

OVERALL : 81/159 finishers (40 DNF)

GENDER: 12/30 females

I reckon it’s true what people say that making it to the start line of any race is an achievement in itself and I felt that way more than usual when I finally found myself at the start line of the epic West Highland Way Race.

It has been quite a journey, even to this point. After entering the ballot I was disappointed when I didn’t get a place.  However, I was quite high on the reserve list and just managed to sneak into the start list. I considered myself incredibly lucky and was excited and nervous to be a part of this iconic race.  Training started well, 2 good months of training at the beginning of the year.  Then it went downhill!  Injury struck… bloody achilles!  I couldn’t do anything at all for a fews weeks and didn’t run for almost 6 weeks… which really worried me.

Anyway fast forward a few months and here I was. I had arrived in Milgavie late afternoon and checked straight into the hotel for some sleep.  Sleep that never came.  Unbelievable considering I can sleep anywhere at any time normally!  I laid around for as long as I could stand before heading some some food at around 7.30pm.  I managed to force something down, but had no appetite at all.  I then made the short journey to registration. I was handed my race number, timing chip and goodie bag.  I was also issued with the all important weigh in card and my start weight was recorded.  I then went back to the hotel to try and calm myself down, sort my pack and get into my kit.  After far too much faffing around I applied plenty of sport shield everywhere and covered myself in smidge. Got dressed and then Ryan drove me to the start.  I arrived at around 12.15am ready for the 1am start time.  Absolutely full of nerves.  I met a few familiar faces who all seemed just as nervous and excited as me.  I tried to soak up the atmosphere and quietly contemplated the journey ahead of me.

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Me and Ryan at the start

After several toilet stops and the race briefing, we were lined up and ready to go.  I was waved off by OH Ryan and friend Sinead who were 2/3 of my amazing support crew.  Glenn was the third member of the gang and due to join me at mile 51.  They wished me luck and I said I’d try my best not to let them down. I couldn’t believe I was here and what I was about it do.  I couldn’t run around the block five years ago and would have never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be standing here.  At the start I stood with Iona Mackay, who I’d met at the Fling and knew through Twitter.  It was her first time at the distance too.  We chatted and waited for the countdown and then we were off.  It was 1am and a steady stream of headtorches ran under the railway bridge and along Milngavie high street to the official start of the West Highland Way.  This was it.. a little over 95 miles between me and the finish line.  Iona and I stuck together and continued chatting as we followed the runners in front.  And then less than 2 miles into the race… we’d gone the wrong way!!!!!!!  On the VERY well signed posted WHW… not the best start!  This meant we were now practically at the back of the field!  As I started chatted to everyone around I noticed Iona had ran ahead.  She went on to have an absolutely amazing race.  I chatted to Karen Wallace for a while, who I’d also met at the Fling.  Karen is to date the most glamorous ultra runner I’ve ever met and an all round lovely lady!

Milngavie – CP1 Balmaha (19 miles – 3 hours 33 minutes – 104th position)

The start of the race is very runnable, good tracks and reasonably flat.  However, I needed to keep a sensible pace.  I ran a lot of this section alone.  I chatted to people along the way but wanted to keep to my own pace, my own plan.  5-6 miles into race I didn’t feel great.  I concluded my body probably wondered what the hell was going on.  I had awful pins and needles and felt sick.  I stopped to loosen my trainers which seemed to help with the pins and needles but the sickness just kept getting worse.  I was still managing to drink my tailwind and snacked on a few things.  By mile 1o this had all made a reappearance!!!  This was not good, not so early on.  I tried to focus on getting to the CP and seeing Ryan and Sinead. As I ran through Drymen, there were lots of supporters which lifted my spirits. I got my first sight of Loch Lomond as the sun was coming up.  A beautiful moment.  As I approached Conic Hill I felt a bit better and had managed to eat some flapjack which for now had stayed put.  I passed lots of people up Conic, knowing they’d probably fly past me on the down hill!  I took my time and was careful with footing on the downhill.  I caught back up with Karen, she’d also been feeling quite sick.  We ran smiling and chatting into the CP together where Ryan and Sinead greeted me with a huge smile and a hug.  They told me I was right on schedule with the plan / times I’d given them.  It was great to see them, a real boost.  They fed me and filled my bladder, I had a wee stop and then sent on my way with only 8 miles to go until I’d see them again.

Balmaha – Rowardennan (27 miles – 5 hours 12 minutes – 93rd position)

After leaving the CP, I felt good and food was staying down.  After a few lovely miles… the midges started to appear and then they go worse and worse and WORSE!  I have never experienced anything like it!  When I arrived at the CP Ryan and Sinead were covered head to toe with their midgey head nets on on.  I couldn’t even think about spending time in the CP, it was just horrendous.  Ryan checked my bladder, shouted at me for not drinking enough and then tried to offer me food. I could’t stand it… the midges were EVERYWHERE! They sprayed more smidge and I had to get going.  As a result I realised a mile down the road I hadn’t picked up my head net or any food!  I had a mini meltdown and the tears came.  At this point Karen appeared, she gave me a hug, put some of her energy gels in my pack and told me everything would be fine and I’d feel better soon.  As I said lovely lady.  I though the only option was to get the music on and try to power through the next section…. although probably easier said than done as I knew what was coming!

Rowardennan – Beinglas Farm (41 miles – 9 hours 1 minute – 90th position)

I knew this was going to be a long section, not only because I had 14 miles until I’d see my crew again but this section also included the dreaded scrambling bit on the loch side after Iversnaid. The first few miles of this section were awful, I had midges in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears and covering every section of my body, including in my underwear, god knows how they got in there!  My mind started to play tricks on me, this in the grand scheme of things was a minor issue but in my mind it felt horrendous!  All the midges in Scotland were conspiring against me! I still not sure why I felt so rough so early on but I guess thats ultras for you.  Anyway, music on, head down and off I went.  I was glad to arrive at Iversnaid to be met by Trossachs Search and Rescue Team who had brought a massive fan…. genius as I could escape the midges for a while!  Which by the way were still awful!  I remember asking one of the search and rescue team if they midges would stop soon, he just smiled and patted my arm.  I took that as a no.  I met up with Karen again at the checkpoint and we ran together through most of the next section, both agreeing that we hated this bit.  It was nice to have the company and the tricky section was over in no time!  By the time I got towards Beinglas, I was feeling good and on the final few miles before the checkpoint, the midges has finally started to subside.  The sun was shining, music was on and I was happy.  I sang my way into the checkpoint to be welcomed by Ryan and Sinead who’d set up a comfy seat and prepared some tomato soup!  They both agreed I seemed much happier.  I decided to tend to my feet here, I’d been feeling a hot spot for quite some time now.  Sure enough as I took off my beloved hoka’s I had a juicy blister on my big toe.  Other than that feet were in good shape.  I decided to pop the blister…. which accidentally popped all over Ryan oops!  Made me and most other people laugh… Ryan not so much.  Fresh socks, refuelled, pack topped up and I was ready to take on the next 10 miles.

 

Beinglas Farm – Auchtertyre (51 miles – 11 hours 33 minutes – 89th position)

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Beinglas Farm Checkpoint – complete with stylish midge net!

Having ran this section in the Fling twice before, it’s normally the final stretch!  And I did have a mild panic at the fact I wasn’t even half way in to today’s adventure!!!!!  STOP IT Emma…. checkpoint to checkpoint, that’s all!  The section is all fairly runable, just a bit up and down.  I managed to keep a reasonable pace as I sang along to my music.  I started seeing lots of walkers who gave cheers and encouragement.  The sun was beaming down on me and I was starting to feel the heat.  I’m a ginge – sunshine doesn’t like me! I passed the infamous ‘cow poo alley’ which was the driest I had ever seen it!  I was quite glad to get to the shade of the trees before Crainlarich.  I know this section as ‘the rollercoaster’ as many refer to it in the Fling, quite simply because it’s very up and down, descents can be quite steep and my goodness me didn’t I know it.  This is the first time I started to feel real pain.  My hips and knees were agony on the downhill and I had slowed down significantly.  I knew I was slightly behind my plan by now.  Eventually the welcome sight of the A82 meaning not far to go!  I should have been excited by now as I knew I’d be seeing Glenn for the first time at this checkpoint and I could also have a pacer from this point.  However, I was hot and I hurt and just wanted to sit down.  As I approached the checkpoint, I almost missed poor Glenn who was cheering me in.  I think my face told a story.  I was grumpy.  Sorry crew.

I was ushered in, got weighed and then taken over to the car to sit down.  Sinead covered me in sun lotion whilst Glenn and Ryan sorted my pack.  They were offering me a massive variety of food… none of which I wanted.  Sinead put her foot down and insisted I eat something.  I reluctantly accepted a pot of jelly, which I actually really enjoyed.  I also managed a flapjack… go me!

I was getting far to comfy and had spent quite a lot of time here, so it was time to get shifting.  Quick loo stop and we were away.  Both Ryan and Glenn were running with me.  Ryan just to Tyndrum and Glenn would now run the remainder of the race with me.

Auchtertyre – Bridge of Orchy (61 miles – 14 hours 13 minutes – 86th position)

After a mile of running with the boys my mood had improved and I was delighted to have them with me!  I knew this section was fairly flat and runable so no excuses.  As we passed through Tyndrum, I thought back to the Fling – the sound of the pipers and the sight of that red carpet.  Not today, just loads of lovely people cheering us on.  Ryan left us shortly after that and we pushed on.  Lots of chit chat meant the miles and time passed quickly and I noticed we passed a few people.  I felt a bit tired but on the whole good.  It was at this point I passed the furthest distance I’d ever ran before… 65 miles.  That was also a huge boost and in no time at all we arrived in Bridge of Orchy.  I LOVE the next section of the race.  Sinead and Ryan were once again amazing, everything was set up in the shade waiting for me.  They also told me I’d made good time and back on plan! I managed to stuff down some food and they filled my pack full of things to munch.  To my delight I finally felt a little hungry and was managing to eat a few bits.  Again Ryan ran out of the checkpoint with us and then back to Sinead to meet us at the next checkpoint.

Bridge of Orchy – Glencoe (71 miles – 16 hours 55 minutes – 80th position)

As we left the checkpoint, we started to climb up towards Jelly Baby Hill and I really love this section of the race.  The views at the top are just stunning.  By now I was really feeling the heat.  Thank god mammy Sinead had applied more sunscreen.  The guys at the top of Jelly Baby Hill were just amazing and gave me a real boost.  I took my jelly baby and off we went.  Glenn ran ahead to get a few snaps and we both soaked up the beautiful views.  We steadily made our way along, running most of the way.  Glenn really helped push me along and to my surprise we passed a few people.  I felt pretty good.  I was drinking and eating well as we ran across Rannoch Moor.  I started to feel really quite hungry and was fantasising about chips.  Glenn tried to call ahead to the crew and put in my order.  However, no signal.  I was willing Ryan to read my mind and get me chips!  I just wanted CHIPS!!!  I could see a red dot in the distance running towards us… it was Ryan, he’d come to meet us!  But he didn;t bring chips! ‘t course I was chuffed to see him but what about MY CHIPS?!

Ryan said he’d been surprised to see us at this point so soon!  He felt we’d made good time and I still looked to be moving well.  I did feel surprisingly ok.  Very slow but definitely still jogging.  I think the first thing I said to Ryan when I saw him was I NEED CHIPS.  He was pleased I actually wanted food rather than been force fed.  He rang ahead to Sinead to place my order for chips with salt and LOADS of vinegar.  Now if that didn’t push me on, nothing would.  Trying to forget the heat, I focussed on my chips.  And then we were there and so were my chips!  I can honestly say these were the best thing I have ever tasted.  I sat in my comfy blue chair, scoffing them like someone was going to steal them from me.  My crew gently reminded me I still needed to run 25 miles and not to get too comfy!  I didn’t care I was happy!  After eating, I decided I also needed a change of outfit!  It was a tough choice as it was still hot but I knew over the next section it would start to cool down.  I decided on a cool long sleeve top, clean skort and my old hokas, which are soooooo comfy! It’s amazing what a bit of food and change of clothes can do for a girl.  On this section, Glenn was going to get some rest and Ryan was going to run with me.  He’d never run Devils staircase and his excitement and enthusiasm was quite infectious!

Glencoe – Kinlochleven (81 miles – 20 hours 14 minutes – 86th position)

With a full belly I decided I’d walk a little bit and plus I’d been at the checkpoint for AGES so needed to get my legs moving again.  We walked along and Ryan told me how proud he was of me.  I felt quite emotional.  When I met Ryan three and a half years ago, I had never run a marathon and honestly didn’t believe I could.  Ryan has always believed in me and encouraged me to push myself and see what’s possible. Sorry for the mushy stuff !  Just to balance things out I also think he’s a bit of a shit for contributing to the loss of my toenails!

We chatted away for a while and then Ryan told me it was time to get running again.  As we made our way towards Devils Staircase, I was still managing to jog but was  walking bits too.  I was hurting and to be honest a little anxious about what was to come.  Getting up Devils Staircase was one thing… it was getting down that worried me.  As we approached the bottom of the staircase Ryan went ahead and I powered through.  We made it to the top in quite good time and again were spoilt with amazing views.  My legs really were feeling dead.  They were beyond heavy and my hips and knees were sore.  I really struggled on the descent into Kinlochleven.  It’s tricky and I was tripping over everything, including my own feet.  For the first time I felt really tired, as in sleepy tired.  My eyes started to feel blurry making it even more difficult to deal with the rough terrain.  I guess not altogether surprising given that I hadn’t slept since Thursday night and it was now well into Saturday evening! Downhill should have been easy but I actually think it was harder than uphill!  As for the final section of the descent into Kinlochleven… it’s just cruel and feels like it’s never going to end.

Eventually we arrived at the checkpoint to be welcomed by my amazing crew and a couple of other familiar faces. The lovely Lucja (@Runningdutchie ) and  Rhianon (@rhianonruns) who gave big hugs and smiles.  I apologised for the smelly, sweaty hug but had been glad to see them.  They took a few photos and agreed Ryan looked more tired that I did (although I think they were probably just been nice and trying to make me feel better).  The checkpoint was indoor and I managed to get a toilet stop and a hot drink.  Sinead topped up my pack and made sure I had everything I needed for the final section.  As I’d been stood still for a while and been inside I started to feel the cold and put my jacket on.  I was also well prepared with my midge net as I’d been warned by midges, although thankfully they stayed away!  Probably still full from snacking on me earlier!

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KLL CP

Kinlochleven – Fort William (96 miles – 24 hours 55 minutes – 81st position)

This was it the final stretch!  I was back with Glenn and Ryan was going to drive to FW and then jog along to meet us.  The climb back out of KLL was tough but I knew once this climb was done, it was relatively runnable from here to the finish.  Well relatively runnable on any other day that it.  As I reached the top of the climb, I could see the endless undulating path that stood between me and FW.  The section is rocky but nothing too tricky, however today I was continuously tripping over and kicking rocks.  Glenn chatted away to me and I’m sure my replies probably made no sense.  By now I was mostly walking with as much jogging as I could.  We passed a few people along the way, who were all hurting as much as me.  It was at this point I realised yes it hurt but no matter what I would finish the West Highland Way Race.

The dark started to creep in so the head torch was back out.  I kept looking down at my watch and was convinced we should be at Lundavra by now.  I saw some light ahead and assumed we’d made it.  Instead just a lovely couple handing out drinks.  They’d lit up the whole path and had every kind of drink you could imagine.  Glenn and I drank some orange fanta and then started hobbling down the path.  Before long, there was a head torch in the distance coming towards us, Ryan had arrived to run the last section with me.  He assured me that it wasn’t far to Lundavra now.  I asked that he and Glenn run ahead to sort out my pack as I didn’t want to stop.  I knew I needed to keep going as getting started again was becoming almost impossible.  As I ran through there was loud music and lots a cheers, a real boost.  I got a hug from Sinead, thanked the marshals and away we were.  I munched on salt and vinegar crisps which went down surprisingly well.  Ryan and Glenn went ahead and I followed, jogging whenever I could.  It was nice to listen to them chat… I really was too tired to talk but just listening was a nice distraction.  After a few more inclines, we were at the point where the descent into FW started.  I remember the path, a longggggg downhill, but a fire road, so nothing to trip over.  I told them I would run this bit and sure enough I did, almost all of it actually.  It hurt like hell and every time my foot hit the ground, I winced but I didn’t care.  I was almost there.

As we made our way through Braveheart Car Park I could have literally burst with excitement.  We were on the tarmac and the lights of FW were just ahead.  I told Glenn and Ryan to run ahead and get some photos of me finishing which they duly did.  There were a few people about congratulating me as I ran along the tarmac.  I started to well up, I couldn’t believe I was doing this and then I ran as quick as I could over the finished line with the biggest smile ever.  The tears came, the emotion was overwhelming.  I hugged everyone and saved the biggest hugs of all for my crew. They were amazing and I can’t thank them enough for helping get me through.

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Sprint finish – kind of!

My plan before the race had been to finish between 24 and 26 hours.  I secretly hoped for sub 24 but knew this would be a hard reach.  So to finish right in the middle of my planned time on my first race at this distance I am incredibly proud of myself.  It’s took a while to write about my journey and had I done so a few weeks ago, I would have said NEVER AGAIN!  However…. I’m now planning a return and trying for sub 24!  I’ve learnt lots along the way and the things that I’ll remember for next time are 1) don’t faff about the checkpoints, I reckon I lost several hours sitting around for too long! 2) don’t set off quite so conservatively – everything will hurt eventually anyway so run as you feel.  The main thing that will be different next time is experience, a great thing to have onside.

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Yep I just ran all that way!  No wonder I look wrecked!!!!!

For anyone thinking about doing it – GO FOR IT!  It is a fantastic, well organised event.  A life changing experience in my opinion 🙂

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When things don’t go to plan

After a great block of training I was feeling confident about the races I had coming up.  I had done everything right, built the mileage slowly, followed a plan, taken plenty of rest days, eaten well and listened to my body.

And then things started to unravel.  First of all a chesty cold I couldn’t seem to shift meant over a week with no training at all and then another week with very little. Then a good week before a nasty niggle started in my achilles tendon.  So again I stopped running, thinking a few days off would do the trick.  I tried again and the niggle was still there and becoming more of a pain.  Another week off and a trip to the see Kev (genius sports therapist) confirmed achilles tendinopathy.  After seeing him on Monday, I told him I had a 50k race on Sunday and was desperate to race. Now Kev is a runner and understands the need to train / race so he will always give advice to try and make this happen.  After some treatment, he prescribed me some exercises and told me try a short jog the next day.  The next day came and it still felt sore, so I sensibly decided to wait another day.

The run went well, I could feel an ache in the achilles but nothing too bad.  I was on a high! Within a few hours, the pain return, maybe worse then before and I struggled to walk properly.  Kev warned this might happen.  The achilles was still VERY reactive to load.  Not good news.  New advice, definitely no racing and worse still no running AGAIN.

This month’s training has been an inconsistent mess and I have absolutely no confidence that I can achieve my goals for this year. How can I possibly go into my first 95 mile race feeling undertrained and underprepared?

So what to do when things don’t go to plan?  I started out in denial and refused to acknowledge the ‘i’ word but have now moved on a stage. I’m in the depressed, I might as well pull out of everything stage.

I’ve had lots of advice and words of wisdom from far better, more experience runners than me.  But that nagging doubt is still there and one thing I know about ultra’s is that training is only half the battle.  You must be mentally strong.  At the moment I’m not.  But I am trying my best to see this as an opportunity and having read a great blog by Mary Wilkinson ‘Cross-Training: top tips for injured runners‘ I think I can work on this to become mentally and physically stronger.

I started by making a list of pro’s for not running:-

  1. My toenails might grow back
  2. I’ll have less washing to do
  3. I won’t have to wash and dry my hair everyday
  4. I might have a hidden skill for a sport I never knew about
  5. My legs might find out what proper rest feels like
  6. It will force me to do strength and conditioning
  7. I can fill my spare time shopping for skorts for my return to running
  8. I can get out of household chores ‘because I’m injured’

 

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Triple Crown Training – February

For me, February is always the start of ‘proper training’ again. December is always a reduced mileage month after a tough year and January is all about starting to re-build a decent base for the year ahead.

As with last month, I’ve continued to run 4-5 times a week and have a least 1 but usually two full rest days per week.  This month I’ve noticed it’s definitely getting lighter in the morning and the evening which is fantastic!  I’ve managed some double run days and even some evening runs, which has meant a few well earned ‘sleep ins’.

So, last month I was talking about CrossFit and how well it had been going.  I think I spoke too soon….  After a spectacular fall at the beginning of the month I really hurt my shoulder.  The pain became quite intense and my OH insisted on taking me to the walk in centre, where they seemed convinced I had dislocated my shoulder!!!!!  Shit!  Anyhow, several hours, x-ray’s and examinations later medical staff were satisfied nothing was broken and everything was now where it was meant to be.  However they warned me the soft tissue damage would continue to cause me some pain for a while.  That put a stop to my plans to take take over the CrossFit world.  CrossFit is kind of impossible with a dodgy shoulder!  It also meant running, well any exercise was off the cards for a few days.  However, as soon as I could move again, I dosed up on painkillers and kept pounding out the miles, forgetting the medical advice to take at least a week off.  But we’re a hardy bunch us runners, it’s amazing how we can adapt around dodgy injured bits.  But of course when the very helpful nurse practitioner asked me if I’d rest, I smiled sweetly and said of course I would… only a white lie though surely?!

I’m a bit of a believer that pain is inevitable at some point in an ultra.  I think there are different kinds of pain.  The pain you would expect to feel when running a really long way and the pain which means something is very wrong.  I think you learn to understand what kind of pain you’re experiencing and deal with the first kind of pain when training for and running ultras.  So I thought it was absolutely fine to continue running.  I will always listen to advice but I think we know our own bodies.  They are clever and can tell us when they are tired, hungry and in the kind of pain which requires us to stop what we’re doing.  Like the time I had a minor disagreement with a moving car whilst running.  The car won.  I felt the second kind of pain… for a long time.

Training this month has been mostly local around the North Pennines and Hamsterly Forest, trying to get in some decent climb, as well as decent mileage.  The month was meant to finish with a jaunt around the Yorkshire 3 Peaks with some ultra running legends, the accomplishments between them are pretty impressive!  However, OH and I decided on a last minute trip to Tenerife!  5 days staying in a the beautiful village of Vilaflor, 14oom above sea level and on route to Mount Teide.  The running was stunning and the absolute highlight of the month and year so far. Some of the trails were quite technical and climbs relentless.  I did moan a bit.  OH ignored me.  In the end I loved it all and am convinced the training has made be stronger.

So next month see’s my first (and second!) race of the year.  I’m returning to Haworth Hobble.  It’s 32 miles, 1300m+ ascent and I remember lots of mud!  I had a terrible race last year, fell over a lot, lost my shoe, had serious stomach cramps and was just generally crap! My OH is forcing me to return, part of me is dreading it but part of my wants to put last years demons to rest.  Hopefully, this year, with a bit of help from Tailwind I’ll have a better day! I’ve also decided to enter Canalathon and have a bash at a 50k PB.  Busy month ahead.

Stats

20 Runs

203 Miles

26,500ft ascent

0 CrossFit Sessions

At least 6 Falls (probably more!)

Happy Running Everyone – Bye for now 🙂

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Triple Crown Training – January

Well it’s official, I’m in all three races which make up the ‘Triple Crown’ – Highland Fling, West Highland Way Race and Devil O the Highlands.

January is always a tough month, the excitement of Christmas is over and its’s back to work.  I leave home in the morning – it’s dark, I come home at night – it’s dark and this year it has been chucking it down pretty much every day.  This combined with the fact I usually have a lower mileage month in December makes it so difficult to keep motivated – so thank god for the Triple Crown!  95 miles will not run itself!  And after all this fuss, failing is not an option…

So this month has been all about getting back to regular running and slowly building the miles back up.  I’ve been running 4 – 5 times which is usual for me in ultra training. I’ve always worried about not training enough and compared myself to others but I think I’ve finally learnt, it’s about what works for me.  I really value rest days and my body really thanks me for it.

As you may have seen from my last blog, I’ve taken up CrossFit and one month in am still going – woohoo!  I’m actually really enjoying it, even though I’m a bit crap I enjoy it and already feel stronger.  There were so many things I couldn’t do when I started, I didn’t dare do the box jumps and looked ridiculous trying to lift but I’m definitely getting better and feeling more confident – I can box jump like a pro now 🙂  I have experienced DOMS like never before… One hour of CrossFit caused me more pain in the following days than running 65 miles!

Through the week, I tend to get up stupid early and run first thing.  Work and a long commute means getting out at night can be tricky.  I tend to run Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  Weekends are my favourite running times as I get to go out with OH Ryan and beagle Bernard and we always find a new and exciting route to run.  This has been made much easier since we moved house in December, we are literally spoilt for choice. Highlight for this month was the run up to High Cup Nick in the snow!

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All in all January has been a decent month of training, next month will see the return to the big miles and a trip to the Yorkshire 3 Peaks with a bunch of North East ultra running legends!  But for now it looks like this:-

20 Runs

156 Miles

9 CrossFit Sessions

2 Falls

Happy Running Everyone – Bye for now 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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