Sunday 3 December 2017

Might Contain Nuts 40 miler

Today I woke up with a very bruised and fat knee, grazed chest, cuts on my hands and the most sore triceps, I assume from where I'd caught myself. I felt like I'd been hit by a bus.....

I entered this race with some friends a couple of months ago. I've not really been training specifically for it, I'd expected it to be more of a social trip. Since Zermatt I've not run further than half a marathon but I've been getting out regularly in the local hills with friends for short - medium trail runs so have been ticking over.

Fresh from a 2 week break in Thailand I had been keen to get some fitness back and what better way than a 40 mile hilly race in South Wales!

The week running up to the event, I'd had a cold and even up to the day before felt pretty run down and hadn't decided whether to start the race or not. My friends had since pulled out for various injuries etc so I had no real pressure to go along. I'd already planned to be in Swindon on the Friday to see dentist and my family so I was half way to Wales if I did decide to go.

I decided that I'd set my alarm in order to do the race and see how I felt in the morning. Best case, I could do the original plan, there were other options - drop to a shorter race, or just stay in bed.

I found myself at the start line of the 40, map tucked in my race vest, lemsip dosed up.... so you know how that decision at 4am went.

The weather forecast looked good, fairly mild, low chance of rain, ice in places and generally no wind. I had opted to wear shorts but was carrying all the mandatory kit in case the weather turned.

My original target before I'd been poorly was to get in sub 9 hours and before having to use my head torch. This felt like a tough target on a good day looking at the results from previous years so I had to be realistic about what I could achieve in my current state, a finish would be a big achievement.

The race started really well. A little too well. With a few flat miles to start, I found myself trotting along at a good clip, trying to hold back a little, thinking I had gone off too quickly. Yet, I felt surprisingly good. Still it was a long way to go and 2700meters of ascent to get through.

Before long we hit the hills, I ran them to begin with, until they got too long, then I hiked as hard as I could. I just couldn't get any air into me, I was making sex noises as I climbed the hills and chugging down a gel. Safely up and over the first hill we got an awesome descent down the other side into the valley and first check point. I was feeling better off the top, getting my breath back. The CP marshals told me here I was the first lady through (which, I knew anyway as I'd left the other ladies behind in the first kilometre). I didn't take anything here, just scanned through and jogged on.

Nothing much exciting happened for a while, until mile 10 while I was on a nice piece of easy fire road, slightly downhill, simultaneously looking for somewhere to take a pee. Whether I lost focus for a second or what I don't know. My toe caught the only rock on the entire path and I took a swan dive straight into the floor. I remember as I hit the floor thinking "not my teeth, not my teeth" I can only assume from the injuries and pains sustained, I took on the form of a sky diver mid flight as both knees impacted the ground hard, my thigh skidded along the floor, followed my tits and hands.

I laid there face down for a few seconds, slightly winded. I crawled up assessing what hurt. I couldn't stand up straight, my knees were trembling, part in pain, part in shock. Blood trickled down my knees. My thighs were stinging, my ribs hurt. Ouch my boobs. Urgh, there's gravel stuck in that hand.

I brushed myself down, and hobbled on a little way. My legs not quite working yet. I was 2 or 3 miles from the next CP, if I had to hobble there I thought I could, so I wobbled on whilst the trembling and shock disappeared. A few minutes later 2 guys appeared and asked if I was OK when they saw my bleeding knees and I tried to jog on with them. I managed a slow jog for a while, whilst I loosened back up.

Reaching the CP, I was feeling OK. Sore, but OK. I decided it was probably better to keep moving rather than stop and seize up, on the plus side, my cold seemed to have improved somewhat! The CP staff asked if I was OK, I said yes, grabbed some coke and walked on out, stumbling around the icy rocks.

The next section took us up the biggest climbs, the Brecon horseshoe, the climbing was hard but I put in a strong hike, the stretch along the ridge is amazing, it was quite windy and icy in places, and the fog was down so I nearly missed the turning at the top. I set off on the descent, sticking to the grass beside the path to avoid the slippery icy rocks. The descent was great. Or it would have been had every single step not sent hideous pains shooting through my kneecaps. I gritted my teeth and pushed on as hard as was comfortable. I was a bit sad as I love this sort of descent now - it's taken some practice and bravery to get to this point but the pain was not fun.

I reached the CP at 20 miles thinking that perhaps I should pull out. I wasn't in the best state, what if I made things worse?

Clearly, I was looking for excuses. I was offered more excuses at the CP. "Are you OK? Do you want to stop? Can we clean you up"

"No, I'll just keep moving" - part of me thinking that it would probably take as long to get back in the sweeper truck as to carry on.

I had been thinking of what I'd tell my friends and family. I had some legit excuses. What I'd title my strava post. Stop being a wanker Anna was the overarching message to myself. What's the point in coming to do these events if you're going to shy away when things get a bit hard?

The next 5 miles or so were the hardest. The ground was a bit crap, slippy, muddy, icy, camber pushing me off my feet. I could hardly stand up. Texting my friends as I went helped keep me going. As I couldn't run at the moment, it helped motivate me. Their positive messages and knowing that I was over half way. I could hike back in 5 hours if I had to.

15 miles to go...

Nothing much exciting to report except following a couple of guys and descending the wrong hill, a really fucking horrible one which I had to sit on my map and slide down. I got my map out for the first time and correcting myself, kept it out so as not to make any more irritating errors.

The last 10 miles were fantastic. I was running more consistently, some road miles meant I got through some miles a bit quicker, I was walking the hills now, any hills, anyone who runs long knows the score when it comes to any incline in the latter stages of a race! Finally finding another human to run with was great too! A guy Tim, caught up with me around this time and we chatted and ran the last 6 miles or so together - he'd also taken a tumble and hurt his knee but we both enjoyed the company and agreed to stay together unless either of us fell over, in which case we'd leave the other to rot ;-)

It was quite clear we would get in around 8hr 30 so we were both pushing each other to keep going to achieve this.

We crossed the finish line, me in bang on 8:30 and Tim a few seconds before.

I was thrilled to a) finish, b) finish well within my target time and c) win the ladies race! I managed to beat most of the men too which was a good feeling. Even if I'd been last in that time, I think I'd have been happy. It's a tough but incredible route and mostly I enjoyed it. There were points when I was looking for a way out and other times I would have accepted them.

My knee immediately swelled up and I began the painful hobble around to get changed and find some food - I was starving!

Thanks to my friends back home for keeping me motivated, although I might have shaved off a few minutes if I'd not been taking pics and chatting ;-)

The Social Media friendly Injury Book:

Thursday 2 November 2017

A bit of an update

I've been struggling lately. My running has been ticking over, I have been making time for it as best as I can. Work has been all consuming for several months now and it recently reached a point where I just couldn't cope anymore. My way of dealing with this was to erupt in an explosion of stress and emotion that has been building up since I'd say April time, with threats to quit and tantrums. Those who know me, know I love my job, I love the company I work for, have a great boss but lately the load has gotten too much, too many times in recent months I've hidden in the toilets crying, spent nights awake worrying how I will ever get through the ever increasing pile of work landing in my inbox constantly and as a result and the work life balance has become way off kilter and I've had to make a promise to myself to do something pro-active about this, which is easier said than done.

I've also been hyper aware of the effect it has been having on my mental state and as such have been trying to ensure that I get out running even if for 20 - 30 mins, I try to meditate daily, read a bit more, avoid negative situations. I'm not really doing any quality sessions at the moment, I'm just ticking over but I feel as though it is keeping me from sliding in to the abyss I know that I'm capable of, for those who read my blog on depression a while back, no fear. I'm still in control of things. Though, I won't lie, I have been a bit concerned and have been forced to revisit the tools I have in my toolbox, however the units of alcohol and cigarettes has reached a bit of a peak which needs addressing separately.

I recently set up a Wednesday evening trail running group round some incredible woodlands not too far from where I live which has turned out to be pretty popular and has created a firm commitment in my diary to 1) look forward to and 2) tell my boss (and myself) that I need to leave on time that one day of the week.
Every week, I look forward to this, Conrad is generally taking charge of planning the routes and each week we've been treated to something different. There have been castles (apparently - it was dark, no castle was seen), windmills, canals, spooky woods, doggers, naked hikers and lots of fun. What's more, I've met some really nice new people to share this with who also seem genuinely happy to have a group of people to run round the woods in the dark with!

The weekend just gone, Doug and I took a trip to the Lakes for this years' OMM. We had entered the Short Score course this year as there was no D course. The day before, we had incredible weather. Crisp and Sunny and bright. We had to wait a few hours for our bus to the camp site so we took a walk and had a few beers.

We had the big tent for the night before which was much more comfortable than the little one man lightweight one we run with. We had a pretty decent sleep, improved more so by the late start time we'd been lucky to have.

We woke up the next day to high winds, and low cloud with lots of rain in. We packed up our stuff, packed up everything we'd need for the next 36 hours and headed to the start.

Taking our map and being released into the Lakeland hills we took a few minutes to make a vague plan. On paper the terrain looked not too bad - lots of accessible trails, lots of controls to choose from. We made a small error on the first one, overshooting the stream and searching around the wrong one for a time. We then climbed up a big fucking hill. The wind was whipping up as we climbed, and the clag was down, reaching the top a couple were coming towards us. They'd decided to retire as the wind was knocking them off their feet. Once over the top, I could see why. I was getting blown around all over the place but as we descended the other side the wind dropped as we were protected more by the high hills around us.

We had 5 hours to get as many check points as possible and managed to get a couple of high scoring ones. We took a risk on a 40 pointer, knowing it would probably make us late back (you lose 2 points per minute) but hoping that the net gain would be worth it.

The terrain was much harder than anticipated. The wet rocks made it technical, the winds made it cold the rain made our clothes heavy.

We made it back 13 minutes late and surprisingly in 31st place out of 137 and 6th mixed pair - for us, this was a very good result. We searched for a patch of grass that wasn't an inch deep in water, but the rain had stopped now and it was still light putting up our tent, in the water logged field.

We made some dinner and had a couple of cans of G&T and got our heads down for an early night - there's not much to do once it's got dark in a tiny tent barely big enough for one. The clocks also go back on OMM weekend so it's actually the one night of the year I get more than 12 hours sleep!

During the night, the rain and wind shook our tent, I was praying it would stay up so we didn't have to get out and fight the wind to peg it down. Fortunately it stayed put and we woke up around 7.30 to some noise outside (no bagpipes this year), made some coffee and breakfast, re-packed and headed to the start once more.

The weather today was entirely different! Beautiful clear skies, but bloody freezing.

The map didn't really offer much interest for me, we could either go back over the side we'd explored yesterday, which I wasn't keen on, or stay east and adventure a new area.

Doug wanted to go west, I wanted to go east. East won. However, immediately we found ourselves wrong, in a bit of an argument and wasting 25 mins trying to get to a relatively simple control. We bagged one more after traipsing across wide high fells into some crags.

The next control, looked fairly easy. However, taking for granted the trail, or was it a sheep track, or was it rain water run off? We spent the next 2 hours searching for a control in a crag. We only had 4 hours today and had only managed to get 50 points. If we got back in time, we'd retain them at least but then we thought we found the right crag. Alas, another wasted 30 minutes and a hurried return to the finish, saw us with 28 penalty points and dropping down the results table to 73rd!

Still, we had a lovely day, made it back in time for the coach, a beer and some dinner in the pub and a nice train journey home.

What's next? 2 weeks in Thailand, a 40 miler in Brecon and Doug has apparently put an entry in for Marmot Dark Mountains which is going to certainly test our nav and patience with one another! Then I'm going to have a good crack at a good London Marathon time.

Sunday 8 October 2017

Bournemouth Half Marathon

It's not often that a race plan goes so well.

It was a Plan B of sorts mind.

I've been pretty under the weather the last few months, what I had thought was a "bit tired and run down" through excessive hours at work, limited sleep and general life stress had rung alarm bells with Robbie who sent me to the quack to get some blood tests.

I'd not lost my Mojo, not by any stretch. When I managed to find time to get out running I had a great time and had been getting out with lots of friends and loving it all. Just that I'd lost my get up and go, and anything more than an hour left me dragging myself along the floor with a sad face.

I got my blood test results back to find that my Ferritin level (which is some kind of precursor to Iron) was off the bottom of the scale. The doctor suggested this was why I've been feeling so shitty. She prescribed some Iron tablets and a recall blood test in 3 months to check my progress.

That was about a month ago now and already I'm feeling much better. I'm also making a conscious effort to  love myself a bit more, get more sleep, spend less time in the office, spend more time with the people that matter, pay better attention to my diet and lifestyle. You know. Grown up shit.

Swennyway. I'd entered this race only because Doug had entered the Marathon distance, I didn't really fancy a Marathon after the busy summer of mountain races and feeling quite crap. Having done Lakeland 50 at the end of July, followed by Ultraks Matterhorn at end of August, this hadn't really left much time to recover, do any kind of speed work and get "race fit" i.e. get a chance of a PB. At best it was going to be a nice weekend at the seaside.

We had a nice little mooch about Bournemouth on Saturday and watched the 10k race, then met an old friend Kris Duffy for Pizza and a catch up. He was doing the Marathon too.

We got an early night, although I took ages to get to sleep and had weird dreams. Probably from watching Stephen King films whilst going to sleep.

My race was starting at 8 and the others at 10. So unlucky for Doug he came to my start with me.

Earlier this week, Robbie and I had had a chat about goal setting for next year and discussed this race. Knowing that a PB was out of the question, he suggested that I aim or a negative split. I suggested that I do a progression run. (Meaning I would get faster over the course of the race.) Negative splits are the dream for any road runner. I've never achieved it. I've been crap at pacing forever. The closest I came was at Milton Keynes marathon where I ran an almost even split. So that was the goal. Of course, it can be achieved by walking for the first half but I still had some general time in mind (sub 1hr 40 would be awesome)

I hadn't fully decided what pace I'd set off at but that I'd increase my pace by 10 sec per km every half hour. I'd see what felt right on the morning.

Once I was at the start and nervous belly had settled I bounced around a bit and did some mobility stretches, the weather conditions were spot on and wind was low so I had no worries on that.

Soon we were off and I settled in to a 4:50 min/k pace. It felt really comfortable so I decided to stick to that. My legs kept trying to go a bit quicker but I kept an eye on my average pace to keep it at 4:50. Knowing that the next step would be 4:40, then entering the hurt locker at 4:30 and hanging on as best I could to the end.

As I hit the lap button and picked up to 4:40min/k pace it still felt *fairly* comfortable. I  let myself relax on any declines and tried not to knacker myself on the small inclines. I was overtaking people all the time now, the people who had set off too quick (how I normally do) and felt pretty smug!

Coming up to the hour mark I was around 8 miles in and knew there was a bit of a bastard hill coming up. I'd picked up the pace to 4:30, it felt fine on the flat but almost immediately it was time for the hill. Fuck me. It was a bastard. It wasn't that long - a few hundred metres but it near broke me. My pace dropped right off. I was gagging up over the top hoping that I'd be rewarded with a nice descent but it was a long flat/slight climb still so I continued to suffer and try to drag my average lap pace back to where I wanted it. It was dropping back gradually from 4:50 to 4:44 where it stayed. Damn it.

Finally I reached the descent. I let myself go, I'm pretty good at descending now after the mountain running I've been doing the last few years, took a few more places and managed to get my average pace back to around 4:32min/k and hold it there when I got back on the flat. But it wasn't entirely flat, it was about 1.5 miles of really slightly up. But it was an out and back so I was relying on it being a slightly down back. I only had a park run to go now, but it was hurting. Hurting hard. I tried to keep the pace on. I reached the first Pier and started down it, I  had dropped back to 4:33 pace, I relaxed a bit knowing that it was a slight descent to the next pier, come on, less than 2 miles.

Somehow I missed the last mile marker and was thinking that it was going to be a long half, I missed hitting the last 30 min lap split. It didn't really matter. I was trying to keep my form, trying not to piss myself, keeping my arms and legs pumping and focusing on getting to the end. I was struggling to keep the pace on but only had 0.6miles to go. I knew if I held on I could get in under 1hr 40. I rounded the end of the 2nd Pier and pushed hard for the last few hundred meters. I could see the clock time getting near to 1:40 and urged myself forward to get in under it. Knowing that my chip time would be a good minute or so better due to the delay at the start.

I got over the line, with sub1:40 on the clock and sub 1:39 on the chip. A decent negative split and almost the progression run I'd set out to do. The last split was 4:34 average pace.

I am over the moon. I've never run such a controlled and sensible half marathon. I normally do a massive positive split and hate myself for the last 10 miles.

I collected my bags, got changed and made my way to the beach to support Kris and Doug. Whilst I waited I took a little dip in the sea and enjoyed some amazing Autumn warm sunshine.

Doug and Kris both did amazing and we're all pretty happy with ourselves.

Next event for me is The OMM then a lovely 2 week trip to Thailand (naturally with a little adventure in it) to recharge my batteries after a crazy year.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

It's OK not to be Ok.

I saw this on a running vest yesterday.

This post is a bit different to anything I'd normally write. It's the most personal thing I've ever written and first time possibly spoken about in depth.

I've thought long and hard about sharing this post and it's taken a long time and a lot of, not courage, something a bit more personal than that to write this.

Those close to me, know me well. They know my past and some of the personal experiences I've been through, I'm not writing it for attention or sympathy or anything of that ilk, just that I want to share some of my personal experiences and hopefully give others hope and perhaps a little agenda behind my love of running and of being free.

Mostly, it's to highlight that no matter what people see, they don't really see what is behind the self indulgence or dare I say bragging (yes, I know how my posts tend to come across). Self deprecation is something I'm pretty good at but not that good. My close friends see through that of course. I don't generally analyse things, maybe I should, maybe not doing so keeps me sane. Who knows.

Often people say, "how do you run for so long? Why do you do this? I don't understand how you can spend your spare time doing this."

Truth is... mainly, because I can. I have the fortune that I have the means and capability to do so, and for the best part I genuinely enjoy it.

Sometimes I think I hate it. But deep down, I know it's the thing that has kept me happy and "sane". It's lead me to many amazing friendships that without which, I don't know if I'd be around today. It's the one place that I literally have no thoughts. Some people find that strange. Some people run to be alone with their thoughts. I enjoy the emptiness I get in my head when I run. The purity of just being alive, on my own or enjoying the company of others.

News flash.
I've not always been 100% happy, but hey, who has?  For me, running and fitness in general has been a therapy through some tough times and I imagine it will for as long as I can put one foot in front of another.

Depression is something that generally people don't like to talk about. Thankfully it's become less taboo to talk about, which for those suffering is a life line. Depression is a word that people have become afraid of. Quite rightly, it's a terrifying illness. For those engulfed in it, from their own illness or from watching a loved one suffer from it. I have been in both camps at various points of my life.

For me, running was a remedy for some dark times. I'm sure it still helps me from dipping into the grey. It adds sun and rainbows and hope to the days when I feel utterly despairing of the apparent crappy days. It adds perspective. It gives me endorphins that I crave.

Rewind to several years ago. I had an amazing family, living with a great guy, a promising career ahead of me, wonderful friends, a zest for life, a natural ability for running.

Yet that was the view from the outside. What you couldn't see was the crippling sadness. There was no one thing responsible. There never is. I didn't even know why I was so sad.  There's probably one tiny insignificant thing that tipped me over the edge, maybe I missed the bus one day, or burnt my toast?

All that I really know was that life got too much for a time. Even now I can't pinpoint one thing. Not even a group of things, which maybe makes it difficult to explain. I was just "down in the dumps" (yes, there I said it. I'd punch me if I could) Lots of those months/years are still a bit of a blur. Some of the incidents are blurry, maybe because I choose to keep them that way.

Aside from a few occasions when I was at College and pretty unsatisfied with life and a few incidents of what people would label as "cries for help". The time I really remember anything of significance was a few years later, that looking back should have rung alarm bells to my mental health was sitting in a meeting staring and picking at a cut on my arm. Not really thinking (or caring) what the other people in the meeting must have thought. Vaguely remembering that I did it to myself some days previously. Staring at it made me feel somehow better. Somehow in control. Somehow satisfied that I was doing something to control my feelings of being out of control.

Some months later and after several other isolated and mostly hidden incidents, after taking an overdose of various OTC and stolen substances, I was sat in occupational health with the nurse, who to this day, I sincerely feel I owe my life to. She advised me to take some time off work, they would give me time to heal. To take some time to rebuild my serotonin. Go and do some yoga, go and run she said. That's right. She encouraged me to be active. Not to go home and waste away in bed, go and see a councillor, see if medication will help, spend time with people who care about me.

Something I'll always remember her explaining what serotonin is (our natural happy pill) was it is like a tap, constantly dripping, keeping your levels topped up. But if the plug starts to leak, or comes right out, it can't keep up. It just leaks right out again, and the elements that are eating away at the plug are taking it too low to manage any kind of hope or positivity. Of course I couldn't have refilled them without some help. I had a short period on medication. For me, it actually made me feel worse. It made me numb. I felt a sense of nothing. I preferred "feeling" something. Not to say for those months it didn't help, as 100% it did. Counselling for me didn't really help either, mainly because I didn't know what was "wrong" - sadly there's no magic formula of X + Y = Z.

What worked for me was running, cycling, fresh air. Of course there were days, I didn't open the curtains. There were days, I did nothing but cry. Not knowing why I was crying. "What's wrong with me?" I'd wail at no-one, cuddle my cat until he was soaking with tears. But only having that to deal with for a time really helped.

Of course, this didn't end the cycle of self harm. Various ways I found of controlling what I thought was my "problem". I had tried on occasion reasonably successfully methods to prevent self harming, using plastic bottles rather than my person. If you're reading this and struggling - it does help with the emotional release.

"I'm fat." That's the problem. I'd tell myself. Which of course lead to an eating disorder and ultimately the end of a relationship and not engaging in social events for probably years.

There are two stand out occasions which to this day both haunt me and remind me of the depth of this illness but also are why I know that I'll never let myself get to that place again.

1) Whilst in the grips of eating disorders and depression - my then boyfriend who I'd made a life with. His father had been suffering from lung cancer. The day of his death. I'm still ashamed, whether I should be, is neither here nor there and perhaps it highlights how this illness can be very lonely. Instead of racing home to be there for him, I was concerned that I'd not burned off enough calories that day so cycled an extra couple of miles. Then after the wake. Rather than be there to comfort him, I was concerned that I'd eaten one too many sandwiches and logging them in my calorie counter.

2) I shan't go into too much detail, but what was intended as nothing more than a small cut to give me the release I knew it would, ended up grappling a knife with my sister who was trying to stop me hurting myself. Instead I hurt her slightly and gave myself a deep wound that would stop me running for a significant period of time and for a long time, locking all sharp objects in the shed.

That for me was the turning point. Laid in hospital being sewn up by a pretty pissed off doctor, my sister and mum sobbing next to me. That was enough. I'd hurt people close to me. Literally. It scared me. I hadn't intended on any of it. It wasn't easy coming out the other side but fortunately I did.

Of course, the relationship ended, he moved out. I decided to make a clean start, change jobs, create new opportunities. I took up cycling, and triathlon (arguably a new obsession of control).

Looking back, aside from hurting my loved ones, the thing that had the biggest impact, selfishly, was not being able to run. That's what hurt the most. I had lost my freedom. My outlet. Of course, it was good to learn new outlets, I re-engaged with lost friends, I spent time helping others volunteering, other things that would improve my wellbeing and mental health. This in hindsight was a good thing and I'm fortunate compared to others. It meant that whilst running has become a huge part of my life, I have other things that I can focus on. So even if now that is taken away, I have the ability to exist without that crutch.

I was lucky. I had an incredible support network, OK they didn't understand - why would they? It's difficult to explain why you're self destructing. The tendon healed and I was soon back to jogging slowly. I could cycle again. The scar and damaged nerves is a permanent reminder for me though. If I'm ever feeling like I could be slipping again, I just need to touch that visible memory and I remember how far I've come and where I never want to be again.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still susceptible to negative thoughts and have had relapses some years ago but generally I know how to take care of my mental health. I'm hyper aware of the things that could impact it. I know what situations to avoid. Maybe I can't hide forever. Maybe I don't need to?

Why am I sharing this now? Today is National Suicide Awareness day.

It's shouldn't be taboo anymore. There are people in my extended friendship groups who I know are battling depression. I'm not trying to glorify it. I'm hoping that I can reach out to someone who is struggling to see there is light at the end of the tunnel. Particularly with social media, generally speaking I don't care what people think of me, unless I'm being a bad person, then, tell me. I think sometimes people assume I'm very "normal". We all have histories, and skeletons. I honestly think I've never been more emotionally stable, clearly to be able to share this - whatever that is!  Running isn't the answer for everyone. It's my therapy. After a long day. After a break up. After a fatty meal! Just to be alone with nothing to think about.  There's no magic potion. We are all very different. I was provided with various tools to deal with my illness. I learned to use those tools. Sometimes the tools need oiling.

Sadly, depression is something that is here. It's real. For you maybe. For someone you love. For someone you don't know is suffering. Let's talk about it. Someone may not appear to be suffering, it doesn't mean they aren't. We are all guilty of painting a pretty picture of the outside. No-one wants to hear the sad tales, we tend to turn a blind eye to that.

If there's one piece of advice I could give, is, find what makes you happy. Not what society thinks should make you happy. That's the superficial stuff that ultimately makes you sad. Cliché as it is - life is short. Find something that makes you happy.

I hope this helps at least one person. I'll be back to blabbing about my latest adventures soon :)

Thursday 6 July 2017

Forgive me, for I have sinned......

It's been nearly a year since my last report.

That's not to say that I've been sat on my laurels. More that;

a) I'm not sure anyone really reads this bilge,
b) I've been pretty busy
3) Nothing spectacular has occurred.

A brief update of the last year in the world of my escapades.

After dining out on the Lakeland result for a good few days.... some recovery and plenty of downtime and frolicking. The next stop took me to on my first trip to Italy (if you exclude the detoured flight via Milan airport the previous year for my best friends Hen Do in Barcelona) and the brief trot through during the CCC.

At work a colleague had decided that TUI needed a running club (which was his way of getting some training in around a demanding job and having young children) and word reached him that I was fond of running so I and 2 others were engaged in completing a Leadership in Running Fitness (LIRF) course so that we could start our own running group and we would each be leaders. This meant that 2 days a week there was an option to run during lunch guilt free and block out an hour or so in our diaries to selflessly get others to love running! (this needs a blog of it's own)

Along with Doug and JZ, I'd entered UTMR a 110k very mountainous stage race in northern Italy. It was placed over 3 days over high altitude (for a southern lass) - there was an option to do it in one day, but if I'm honest, the 3 day option looked lovely. It was the 2nd year this event was run, and split into sociable chunks with actual hotels to stay in rather than camp sites it was luxurious! Doug and I had planned a holiday prior, where we started in Naples, and Sorrento and took an incredible stay/drive up to the Alps over a week, eating pizza, drinking Prosecco, visiting the most picturesque coastal towns I've ever seen, including the Almalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre (both of which I cannot ever unsee for their incredible beauty).

To be entirely honest, I can't recall all the events of the race, just that the three of us had the most incredible time. Generally we stuck together as a threesome, rooming together, enjoying banter and japes. The route was by far the most technical terrain over the distance and also the most beautiful, the mountains that just kept on giving, 1500m climbs topping out at 3000m and the longest most technical descents I've had to tackle. I've done the CCC round Mt Blanc previously and in comparison that is a race track of smooth trails this was rugged and challenging in new ways but also breathtaking and romantic....views of the snow topped mountains all around, the incredible weather we were blessed with, the wonderful company and finishers medals after 3 days were all that really matter. Also meeting the most incredible couple I've ever met, Russ and Delena from Canada, who were the most inspiring, honest and engaging people I think I've ever come across who were taking a sabbatical from their life in Canada to experience several months travelling around Europe running, cycling and generally loving life. I sincerely hope our paths cross again one day.

Whilst we were racing in Italy, the Lakeland 50 and 100 entries went live, and I think I mentioned before this event is like getting Glastonbury tickets so would sell out pretty quick (in under 30 minutes it turned out) and Doug and I had decided we'd do the mixed pairs if we could get a place. Sadly, as we were mid race we wouldn't be able to enter but our incredible support crew Issy and Ellen were on hand and there with auto-refresh and managed to blag us our slots for the following year! Hurrah!

Following UTMR Doug and I took our annual pilgrimage to The OMM, finally picking the right course for us - the D course where we got ourselves round with plenty of time to spare and placing 3rd mixed pair. We've come a long way from that first year we thought the B course would be a "piece of piss"!

A fairly quiet winter lead to a month of sickness, so the first race I'd planned in January (the rough and tumble back in my homelands) was sacked off. The next "A Race" was London Marathon.

I'd said to Robbie before Christmas that this year I needed to focus on my career so the plan was to focus on short good quality training so it didn't take up too much of my life. We met Robbie in Feb/Mar time for a 10k race in Goring where he joked that basically I was doing a 10k race plan (because I had to keep dropping runs short or doing more interval training than normal) - this seemed not to be too terrible after claiming 6th lady in a large field at Goring 10k. Some solid 5k times, a 7th place at a local 10k trail race and generally much more consistency than we've seen in a long while.

Early March saw the first official "TUI Trotters" outing at Milton Keynes Festival of running - there was a 5k, 10k, half marathon and 20 mile event which was great because it meant that it was inclusive for all of the gang in the running club. I took on the 20 miler and had a prettty decent day out, a nasty hill over the last couple of miles nearly broke me but running most of the race with Doug, Lyndon and Andrew set me up for a PB and a good target for London (2hr 39 and some change)

Mid March - and a month out from London Marathon and my 2nd longest run this year - I treated myself to a birthday 16 mile trail race near where I live - it was, let's say.... insightful! I text Robbie after to say how badly it went - but he called me up and gave me a pep talk - it was equivalent of the 20 mile road run that would normally be in a Marathon plan but without the hard tarmac impact and plenty of hills to add. Naturally I'd set out too hard, turned up hungover and underfed (getting my excuses in there)

Now, a few weeks out from London and about to embark on the taper... my friend at work who was also running London as about my start time - as I'd secured a good for age place from the previous year I'd seen lots of spam emails coming in to my inbox and being too busy left them to read at a later date.

Issy and Ellen were coming up to watch so I decided I should check start times etc. so I did a search in my inbox for London marathon details.... I found lots of info, about training about this and that.... i found my GFA acceptance - unread because I didn't need to read that, right??


My heart skipped a beat.

I opened the email to check the email from last June.

"Congratulations. You have been successful, click this link to complete your entry."


A phone call to London marathon confirmed my fears. I hadn't finalised my entry, I'd not paid. I was not in.

I text Robbie.

Pragmatic as ever.

Milton Keynes marathon is two weeks after.

A quick check of my diary. Hmmm.... Doug and I were entered for The OMM Lite.

"Doug..... how do you fancy doing MK Mara instead of The OMM?"


Long and short, we entered MK, The OMM transferred our entry to The OMM in October.

MK Marathon, went like a dream for me. The extra two weeks training clearly paid off. I smashed my target of getting a sub 3:30 and placed 7th lady.

Since MK, there has been park runs, a few track races (5000m, 3000m) some 10k races and a 10 miler where I've placed well.

However, now that Lakeland is coming round, there is a distinct lack of hill aptitude compared with last year. Work has become increasingly challenging and a Desk to 5k course with the TUI Trotters has meant that the lunch time running hasn't been as useful as I'd have liked.

So, with budgets due, a lot of long nights in the office, a few overeas trips this month - Snowdon race next weekend and Lakeland 2 weeks later, who knows what is going to happen! It might end up being a couple of nice weekends away hiking in the hills. Which in itself, isn't a terrible thing.

P.S I have DEFINITELY got my GFA place sorted for next year!

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This latest blog will be hopefully following my transwales experience. Enjoy with me :-)