UltraVasan

Vasaloppet started in 1922 as the World longest ski race (90km). However the historical route dates back to the 15th century when a young (future King) Gustav was fleeing the Danes and King Christian. He encouraged the men from Dalarna, a central province (meaning Dales or valleys), to uprise against them to free Sweden from it’s union with Denmark. It took 2.5years of fighting before in 1523 Sweden became independent.

Since then the ski race has been joined by a cycle race and since 2014 a running race.

This history is far more interesting than my race to be honest.

I flew over to Sweden arriving late Thursday. The transfer took 5hours from the airport to Mora. I shared the journey and a room with Jo Zakrzewski so we had a good catch up. Then it was bedtime. The Friday was a day of registration and meetings and before I knew it I was up at 2am to catch the transport to the race start. 

We started at 5am. It was beginning to get light but no sunrise due to the rain clouds. And God! did it rain…torrentially. The puddles and riverlets took over the trail. I actually got cold and by the end I was shivering. I know- I should have run faster to keep warm but my lack of training miles was evident towards the end of the race. I was willing myself to pick up the pace but my legs weren’t having any of it. This was my biggest disappointment because I didn’t realise I hadn’t done enough until after the after race analysis I did. Well at least I think that was reason.  Annoyingly I also had about half a dozen pit stops as my stomach dictated. The joys of being a runner!

The race started in Salen and finished in Mora. It was 90km of runnable trails. A mix of narrow woodland trails with plenty of tree roots, some rocky single track and wooden platforms crossing marshland, and wide dirt tracks. Lakes, trees and marshland dominated the scenery and rain!

I held back at the start as Ida Nilsson and Sarah Bard took off at a cracking pace. As we journeyed into the more technical aspect of the course I overtook Sarah but was then overtaken by Johanna Bygdell who proved to be so fast traversing slippy rocks and tree roots. I stuck with her for a bit as we caught Ida who was obviously cruising. She then changed gear and was off. After 20km I was on my own and this remained so until the end.

Although I was disappointed with my performance I was delighted to hold onto 3rd.

1st Ida Nilsson 🇸🇪| 2nd Johanna Bygdell 🇸🇪| 3rd Me 🐿🇬🇧

 

The race was superbly organised from the emails sent to the course marking. The atmosphere built at the end as the rain stopped and the sun came out. We all waited until the last runner came in and then enjoyed wine, food and great company as I met new running buddies.
Thanks as always goes to my sponsors- SCOTT RUNNING, ROCKTAPE, 32Gi, LED Lenser, Bounce Balls and Coffee Buddies.

A special thank you has to go to Peter Fredricson for helping organise the event (Vasaloppet) and for hosting me.

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Lavaredo Ultra Trail

11pm, Saturday 23 June, Cortina town centre and the gun went off. It was the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120km trail race with 5800m of climbing.

It was a pleasant evening which was a relief as on the previous few nights thunder and lightening had spectacularly rolled around the valley producing hail the size of cherries.

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Jon was racing too.

We kissed goodbye and the race started. The trail climbed out of the town, head lamp after head lamp winding their way through the trees. I used the LED Lenser MH10 head lamp and it was utterly brilliant; comfortable, good strong beam of light, easy to use and no sign of fading all night.

I had anticipated that the first half of the course would be more runnable and so set a pace that would bring me in at half way in just under my target time.

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During the night the course went past the Tre Cime di Lavaredo which is the emblem of the Dolomites. It would have looked like this in the day if I’d seen it!

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Forc. Lavaredo was a peak that I did reach as dawn was breaking and the view was spectacular. There was a lower layer of cloud in the valley but above was the sun breaking.

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I journeyed on acutely aware that I had not even reached half way but wasn’t feeling great. My energy levels were fine; I had well and truly carbo loaded the 3 days before using 32Gi Endure; I had been regularly eating 32Gi gels and Bounce balls;  I was drinking very regularly; and I was sweating well. My legs felt as though they had no power. I struggled to push the pace on on the flats and this was truly noticeable as I ascended. It did not feel as though I was going through a bad patch, although a little nauseous, I just felt rubbish!

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As dawn broke I was coming up to half way, Cimabanche. I replenished my stock of energy, applied sunscreen,  swopped head lamp for sunglasses and headed off again.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy

I was overtaken at half way losing my 5th position (although at the time I did not know my position). I was asked ‘what is wrong- why are you running so slowly?’- I had no real explanation. The sun came up and the second half of the course began to test my technical skills descending and my ability to climb at any sort of competitive pace. I noticed that as I climbed I felt really nauseous and as I descended I felt better. I did not put this down to altitude at all at the time but perhaps, in hindsight, it was?

There was another trail race on and as I climbed the 10km from 80 to 90km I got stuck behind hundreds of these runners on the single track winding it’s way up the valley. It was really hot but I could make use of the river.

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The rest of the race became a battle to the end. I just kept moving forward. I was passed. I rested on my poles. I shuffled on. I was passed. I felt nauseous. I felt better. My legs dreaded the descents when they knew I would try and run but all they produced was a shuffle. I was passed.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy

It was such a long 10km to the end. I was so pleased to come into the  town. My fellow Winchester and District Athletic Club Runner, Robin Houghton, caught me up here and we ran in together.

I crossed the line and the compère asked me what happened. My reply to him was ‘the wheels fell off!’. It happens and although my pride was a little dented I was delighted to have finished.

I waited up for Jon. I knew he was on his target and I wanted to see him finish. I was so proud. He never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you to all your lovely messages of support before and afterwards. Also to my sponsors- SCOTT RUNNING, ROCKTAPE, 32Gi, LED Lenser, Bounce Balls and Coffee Buddies.

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Categories: Ultra races | 2 Comments

Lavaredo Ultra Trail

11pm, Saturday 23 June, Cortina town centre and the gun went off. It was the start of the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120km trail race with 5800m of climbing.

It was a pleasant evening which was a relief as on the previous few nights thunder and lightening had spectacularly rolled around the valley producing hail the size of cherries.

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Photo courtesy of Rachel Gorajala.

Jon was racing too.

Photo credit: Bridget Funnell. Thank you, and Roger, for your support

We kissed goodbye and the race started. The trail climbed out of the town, head lamp after head lamp winding their way through the trees. I used the LED Lenser MH10 head lamp and it was utterly brilliant; comfortable, good strong beam of light, easy to use and no sign of fading all night.

I had anticipated that the first half of the course would be more runnable and so set a pace that would bring me in at half way in just under my target time.

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During the night the course went past the Tre Cime di Lavaredo which is the emblem of the Dolomites. It would have looked like this in the day if I’d seen it!

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Photo credit: Rachel Gorajala.

Forc. Lavaredo was a peak that I did reach as dawn was breaking and the view was spectacular. There was a lower layer of cloud in the valley but above was the sun breaking.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy

I journeyed on acutely aware that I had not even reached half way but wasn’t feeling great. My energy levels were fine; I had well and truly carbo loaded the 3 days before using 32Gi Endure; I had been regularly eating 32Gi gels and Bounce balls;  I was drinking very regularly; and I was sweating well. My legs felt as though they had no power. I struggled to push the pace on on the flats and this was truly noticeable as I ascended. It did not feel as though I was going through a bad patch, although a little nauseous, I just felt rubbish!

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As dawn broke I was coming up to half way, Cimabanche. I replenished my stock of energy, applied sunscreen,  swopped head lamp for sunglasses and headed off again.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy

I was overtaken at half way losing my 5th position (although at the time I did not know my position). I was asked ‘what is wrong- why are you running so slowly?’- I had no real explanation. The sun came up and the second half of the course began to test my technical skills descending and my ability to climb at any sort of competitive pace. I noticed that as I climbed I felt really nauseous and as I descended I felt better. I did not put this down to altitude at all at the time but perhaps, in hindsight, it was?

There was another trail race on and as I climbed the 10km from 80 to 90km I got stuck behind hundreds of these runners on the single track winding it’s way up the valley. It was really hot but I could make use of the river.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy. The ‘V’ on the distant horizon was our destination.

The rest of the race became a battle to the end. I just kept moving forward. I was passed. I rested on my poles. I shuffled on. I was passed. I felt nauseous. I felt better. My legs dreaded the descents when they knew I would try and run but all they produced was a shuffle. I was passed.

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Photo credit: Kris Duffy

It was such a long 10km to the end. I was so pleased to come into the  town. My fellow Winchester and District Athletic Club Runner, Robin Houghton, caught me up here and we ran in together.

I crossed the line and the compère asked me what happened. My reply to him was ‘the wheels fell off!’. It happens and although my pride was a little dented I was delighted to have finished.

I waited up for Jon. I knew he was on his target and I wanted to see him finish. I was so proud. He never ceases to amaze me.

Thank you to all your lovely messages of support before and afterwards. Also to my sponsors- SCOTT RUNNING, ROCKTAPE, 32Gi, LED Lenser, Bounce Balls and Coffee Buddies.

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World Trail Championships 2017

Putting on the GB kit is always a honour and I was so looking forward to the privilege. I had been selected to run in the World Trail Championships which were to be held in Badia Pratalgia, Poppi, a region of Tuscany. The course was 50km through the Sacred Forests trails. Team GB (female) consisted of 6 runners with 4 to score. As usual I wanted to make my training count and do as well in the vest as possible.

We were staying about 12km outside of Badia in a place called Camoldoli. The accommodation was in an old Monastery which sat hidden about the trees. It was a very serene setting to rest the day before the race. A nice opportunity to forget all your worries for day and talk to new people, enjoy the Italian food and soak up the sunshine. The build had been fairly stressful so this was really welcome.

The opening ceremony was the night before the race and all the teams got to stroll through the Italian streets of Poppi up to the castle which dates from 1191. Music, dancing and traditional Italian costumes were on full display to mark the occasion.

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Tom Payn, Kyle Greig, Gareth Hughes, Matthew Roberts, Jo Meek, Katie Kaars Sijpesteijn, Helen Bonsor, Sally Fawcett &Joasia Zakrzeski (not in order)

Race morning was a complete contrast and very much one of focus; alarm went off, coffee (Intrepid Baboon expresso) & Bounce Ball breakfast consumed, race kit on, bus to the start, compulsory kit check, good lucks and we were off!

 

We were off with the words in my head ‘don’t go off to fast’ because despite it being an uphill start there was a real stampede.

 

As I reflect back over the course I just remember running up or down. It was held in the National Park of Forests Casentinesi.

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The first part was fairly runnable but the long climb from 33km to 44km was less so. It was relentless…although relentlessly beautiful. The course saw us run through the untouched Sasso Fratino forest which is nominated to become a World Heritage Site (UNESCO), along ridges, past ancient religious settlements like the Verna Sanctuary (where is it believed San Francis of Assisi is believed to have received the stigmata), around the huge hydraulic Ridracoli dam, descending steps and cobbled tracks and ultimately climbing and then descending 2900m.

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I ran the race alone just consistently passing other runners until the final climb where I have to say 3 runners passed me. I managed to hold out for a top 20 finish (17th) in 5hrs 31mins.

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I was first in the GB team but the others soon arrived in. We did not manage a team prize but worked hard for our position of 4th. The French, Italians and Spanish took 1st, 2nd and 3rd racing expertly over the mountainous route.

A big thank you goes to the team, the team support (Adrian, Spencer and Sam), British Athletics, my race energy gel providers 32Gi, Rocktape for saving me from too many ankle sprains, SCOTT Running #SupertracRC,  Bounce Balls and Get in the Mood Coffee. Now back to reality!

 

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Wings for Life World Run

img_2510-154km was the result of a long run down a dual carriage way/ highway in Bratislava. I could just leave it at that but the race and day was so much more than my result.

Wings for Life World Run is a charity event supporting spinal cord research. It’s organised by Red Bull and involved 24 countries around the world all starting their event at the same time. 30mins after the runners start a car starts, and gets progressively faster, and when it catches you you’re out. I got caught after 3hrs 49mins, first female in Bratislava (4th overall) but 12th female worldwide (winning woman did 68km!) and 119th overall (winning man did 92km in a regular wheelchair that was not even designed for sport: winning male runner did 88km). There were 150,000+ runners.

The race in Bratislava started by the Danube.

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The air of excitement really made it feel like a bigger event than just the race I was in. I towed the line with all 3132 Slovakian finishers and set off running through the docks and around a part of the Old Town. This part of the city contains the castle:

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The Castle. Rebuilt in 1953 after a fire. However, a castle has stood on this site for hundreds of years

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and from up there were some great views….

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The red roofs of Bratislava Old Town

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The Old Town wall

Once we had crossed this bridge we headed and off out East.


I got in pace with two Austrian men and that really helped as pounded down the empty road in the hot afternoon sun. I’ve got a great SCOTT RC vest tan!

I took a 32Gi gel every 7miles and water at every available station. Weirdly it was carbonated bottled soda water which didn’t really quench my thirst but it helped. Maybe it was the heat combined with the pace but my stomach wasn’t that happy trying to digest it all. I can’t complain- why would it be? Needless to say a lot of the water belched back up!

I struggled a bit towards 40km for some reason but at 40km I thought we were losing pace so pushed on. This lasted until it rained torrentially and then my pace got a bit less consistent. That combined with my stomach having had enough by then. Then at 50km the two Austrian chaps caught me back up and it was great to have company for the last 4km or so.

Stefan & Markus- great runners!

At the end I got returned to the start where there was a big screen showing all the runners still going.

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Incredible feats of speed endurance!

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TransLantau 100km

When I was running along I had a momentary thought about how to start this but essentially all my ideas went along the lines of ‘bloody hell fire and shit the bed!’ #ABeast! Most of the time I was concentrating or having a word with myself.

Since I’ve finished and slept the memories of the tough points fade dramatically. I am left with a disappointment in my performance especially how I faded because of my stupid error of perhaps going off a bit enthusiastically! They have not faded enough though for me to remember I did continually ask myself ‘am I going as hard as I can if not push on’ so I know I gave it my best which is all I ever ask really. The realms of my capability where less for this race so I have to remember that too.

I’d had a busy (what I mean is really stressful) few weeks before leaving home and to be honest training had been hampered by niggles which meant I had curtailed sessions. I was incredibly nervous of the race but now I know why. It was a premonition of how hard it would be and I was right to be respectfully weary of such a distance on such terrain.

The trip had lots of firsts… Visiting Asia let along Hong Kong. Starting a race so late (2330hrs). Night running for the whole night.

My journey over was great. I watched some new releases. I arrived and took a taxi to Mui Wo. I decided to stay on British time as my trip was so short so ate and was awake at random times.

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First local taste of their cuisine

Race night arrived soon enough. Everyone was so friendly at the start (I have since been delighted to read their Facebook posts to know they found it hard too- the technical terrain and wet foggy weather were their real challenges too). It was a really well organised event by Clement and Sabrina. Before I knew it we were off…

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We ran out of Mui Wo into the darkness.

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I had put the checkpoints on my arm but failed to account for the effects of the humidity- they soon dripped off me.

I know when everyone writes about trail running they mention the beauty of the course and the views and the immense feeling of joy they have in running along but there was none of that today. The views were obliterated initially by the darkness and then high up by the fog and wet weather. There  was no beautiful sunset but I was pleased when the daylight arrived. The trail took all my concentration for 15hrs. It took me out of my comfort zone whilst I descended what others (I imagined) sprang down. I ran alone so at least no one could hear my chit chat!

2.5hrs into the race and my torch died. This was my first fear confirmed. I had two and spare batteries so it was ok although quite fiddly to change batteries on route.

We then climbed Lantau peak and it was blowing a hooly up there. The visibility was less than a metre and I was unsure of where the path was leading me. It was all a bit frantic. The descent was as everyone warned me step after step which soon became a theme on the course.

I felt I was running well but in hindsight too well! I should have started a little slower.  Marie McNaughton a local lady and I were sort of together for the first half. I never saw her but our times suggest there was nothing in it. She passed me as I was having a wee (poor lady had a fright!). As the course was negatively loaded which I had not fully appreciated I got slower and slower and she just maintained the pace (although afterwards she said she was going to drop out at CP8 or 9 because she found it so hard but was persuaded to continue on. This was her 4th 100km in a local grand slam so she really wanted to finish for that accolade). I was not conditioned to run for 15hrs and considering all my hill training was done on a treadmill I was not really mountain fit but I was not going to allow such lame excuses so I kept pushing. My feet suffered with blisters which although I tried to ignore were really sore especially the one on my sole. My feet are awful at the best of times but perhaps the humidity made them slip around more in my sweat (?).

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Annoyingly painful!

After it popped I dressed it just to pad it out abit. By this stage the effects of fatigue cumulated with ever more technical descents were taking their toll. It was meant to be 103km but it was more like 108km. Knowing the route would have been a luxury as there were so many false hopes as I kept thinking we must be nearly there. As I started to write this there were runners still out there- an truly incredible effort.

I had no energy problems thanks to a 32Gi gel or a chew evey hour.I did crave savoury after 8hrs and had some cheese which went down really well. I also tried coke for the first time to settle feeling a bit sick and it worked a treat.

I came first Open female but 2nd woman. Time 15.05hrs. Distance 107km. Elevation 5100m (I think). Overall 8th. I was disappointed- my fade, my blister, my crap descending but as I grow older I’m much better at reflecting on it all and taking away the lessons.

I learnt some things during my race:

  • The importance of respecting the distance.
  • Start slow. Slower than you think.
  • Prepare your kit. Check your headlamps. Rechargeable batteries do not have a long life span.
  • It helps to ask yourself ‘have a done everything I can to look after myself’ when racing- water, salt, energy. If yes then ask ‘can I push on’. If yes then good. If no then just accept where you are.

I am so grateful to my body when it puts up with what my mind makes it do!

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Thank you Clement and Sabrina for such a well organised (tough!) race and your friendliness. A big thank you has to go to SCOTT Running for helping me get to the race and also to 32Gi UK, Rocktape UK, Bounce Balls UK, Ledlenser, Coffee Buddies for their support before, during and after. I would also like to say thanks (and well done) to all the friendly hello’s at the start and the end by the other trail runners and supporters- Ruth, Marie, Harry, Jacky, Jeremy, Henri and John who made me feel very welcome which was much appreciated after travelling such a long way. And finally to everyone for their amazingly supportive comments on social media it was and is so appreciated.

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El Cruce

El Cruce means The Crossing in Spanish but the race is not in Spain; it is in Argentina briefly crossing into Chile.

The travel time over here took over 27hrs eventually arriving in Bariloche. It’s a town next to the most enormous lake and has a back drop of mountains all around which is incredible scenic.
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We then travelled up to Villa Catedral with the awesome Cerro Catedral Mountain as the vista. It’s Argentina’s most popular ski resort. However, no snow now so the mountains were full of runners and crazy mountain bikers.

The first day was one of registration, packing, meeting new people (thanks Jorge Maravilla for your friendship and help) and a flag ceremony!

Jon with the GB flag

The race was over 3 days covering just under 100km. On Wednesday 1st February we got up at 3am to start. Thank you Intrepid Baboon for the Expresso boost to wake me up. The start was unusual. First there was a coach trip of 2.5hrs to a Argentina/ Chile border crossing point. We got of the coach all bleary eyed got our passports stamped exiting Argentina raced 3km and got our passports stamped returning.

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Then got back in the bus and transported another 1.5hrs before we raced 32km. The race took us through woodlands, rivers, up nearly 1000m and finally ending at the campsite next to a beautiful lake.

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All we had to carry was the compulsory kit. The volunteers were brilliant…tents up and great BBQ’d meat to eat.

 

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Mass BBQing

The lake was the place to wash and freshen up from all the sandy tracks and sun; it was so clear and blue.

The first day was like a time trial because as you got off the coach you started to race and with 500 runners we all arrived at different times. So the 3km and the 32km times were added together for the end of stage 1 result. I was lying in 3rd (3hrs 20mins) 7minutes behind two very strong Argentine runners (Tania Diaz Slater & Luciana Urioste).

Day 2 was a toughie. 35km and 1583m. The first 20 runners started together so I tried to keep up with the local ladies but as soon as we hit the technical single track I began to loose them. We started off along the beach, up through some woods and then a single track climb which peaked with a scree scramble to the ridge. Up and down along the ridge before an gnarly technical descent, then a sandy one and then back along another lake side. I never saw 1st & 2nd again but I raced and raced to make sure 4th could not catch me (4hrs 44mins).

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Over night it started to rain and remained on and off all morning as we raced the final stage. I stayed with the lady lying in 2nd for a good hour only again losing her on sections of rocky technical single track. My legs and breathing for the first time felt less strained. Just as well as I was fed up sounding like I was enjoying myself when I was actually hurting! I think I was finally getting used to the altitude and terrain. The race of about 27km went up and up (1582m) to Cerro Catedral and then dropped down for the last 10km (3hrs 9mins). It was much more runnable today and certainly tested the legs, heart and lungs!

Amazingly I only fell over 3 times. For all the variation in terrain I could not fault the SCOTT Kinabalu Supertrac RC. I fell because I tripped not slipped or lost my footing. I used poles on day 2 which helped my quads but, goodness, my poor non- existant triceps were taken to task! My nutrition worked well. I had a Bounce Ball for breakfast and then alternated a 32Gi gel & chew bar every hour during the race. I Rocktaped my ankles to prevent me spraining them.

Finishing is always a good feeling .

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I waited for Jon to finish so we could have a sandy sweaty- rain-damp celebratory hug. He came 5th in his age group despite really struggling with the heat and resultant cramps on day 1. He never ceases to amaze me!

 

I finished in 3rd in the end delighted to make the podium (11hrs 32mins).

Now for the long journey home. It always means so much so THANK YOU everyone for all your support and kind words on FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter.

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World Trail Championships 2016

Never mind the race getting to Portugal and back to England was ultra training in itself. 90minute delay on the way out and 2.5hrs on the way home which meant I got home at 4.30am and got up for work at 6am. Good old British Airways! However, I did not mind…the GB female team got on the podium. We got Bronze!

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Flying into Porto we travelled to Braga via bus and then ascended to Bom Jesus do Monte, a Portuguese sanctuary in Tenões. It is on a hill top and as such it was made a site of religious devotion back in time. The first chapel there dates from 1373 and in 1629 a pilgrimage church was established there. The present sanctuary was started in around 1722. There is a Baroque stairway and a water balance funicular leading up to the sanctuary.

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The race was in Peneda Geres National Park in the North of the country about 45mins from Braga. It was an A to B 85km race starting in Rio Caldo and ending in Arcos de Valdevez climbing 5000m. The course was relentlessly up and down and lots of technical bits to spice it up further. It started at 5am and I finished 10hrs 36mins later.

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I came in 7th (just under an hour behind the winner- incredible performance by Caroline Chaverot) and helped Team GB get a bronze medal with Beth Pascall, Joasia Zakrzewski, Sally Fawcett and Sophie Grant.

I’m now walking like a Labrador with their wooden legs. I think my quads got so hammered in the first 30km which was fast. I had no option but to keep pace and push but so did not want to leave it there. Leaving Geres was more technical and I naturally slowed up but determined not to get frustrated by my crapness at descending on such terrain. It was here Beth caught me and we ran together for perhaps 30km.

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There was a big climb up to Serra Amarela which saw me trying to suck the moisture of my flask straw. There was a distinct lack of water pit stops and it was hot at 27degrees and pretty muggy.

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There was a nice long descent into Lindoso and then up out to Soajo. Lindoso had sone fine examples of granaries. They are used for drying and storing maize.

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I went through up and downs throughout never feeling utterly brilliant but also aware that was probably because I pushed the whole way. I fuelled continuously on 32Gi gels, chews and energy drink I had made up for the aid stations and some homemade flapjacks.

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At the stations we were allowed assistance and we had Walter, Adrian Tarit and Helen MacVicker from Team GB and they were brilliant- flawless transitions.

Two Swiss women passed at different times but I hardly saw any other women so with 20km to go I decided to push on seeing if I could make up any places. It was worth it as I made up one place in the end catching one of the Swiss women.

The last 10km from Mezio I was hanging on in there. I had actually passed the other Swiss girl at the Mezio aid station but she caught me with 3miles to go and I could not keep with her. I crossed the line and was so pleased to lie down.

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I felt sick and my stomach was not happy at all but I could bear all of that because I had finished in the top 10 of the World Trail Running Championships and I was delighted.

 

Thanks have to go to Team GB for selecting me; SCOTT for the Kinabalu Supertrac RC that stuck me to the trail and the vest that carried everything; 32Gi for the excellent sports nutrition pre, during and post; Bounce Balls #StayUnstoppable nutritional snack pre, during and post racing; Rocktape for the support getting me through the training and the race; and LED lenser for the SEO 7R Rechargeable LED Head Torch which was faultless; and Hectic Hamster Coffee for waking me up at 0230 to catch the transport to the 0500hrs start.

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The CCC

As I sit here one week post the event it seems so long ago already. I’ve returned to the UK and Autumn is definitely on its way; the Chamonix sunshine has gone; the adrenaline has gone and I am pooped! But I only have to look at this photo and I smile…. a very big smile.

UTMB 2016 Credit: Pete Aylward www.runphoto.co.uk

Coming into the finish is always a special moment because it means you’ve finished the challenge and can stop running. However, at this finish line I did not stop I did a lap of honour and clapped everyones hands again. The adrenaline was still surging through me 24hrs later- sleep was not possible because of my legs burning up and my feet throbbing so I just kept reliving the race. I had spent 14hrs 9mins and 32seconds running alone but not alone…the voices in my head kept pushing me on. I passed by other runners and they passed me. There were the occasional chats but I did not converse much as I seemed to be permanently out of breathe.

I had used some annual leave from work to travel to Chamonix to do a recce of the race in slow time which helped prepare me for the challenge. I spent one night in a dormitory in La Fouly and the second time under the stars sleeping wild in Trient. It really helped although during the race I remember thinking ‘I’m sure the hills were not this long when I recce’d it….!’

The start was not early (0900hrs) so I had some breakfast and a coffee (thank you Hectic Hamster), I taped my ankles with Rocktape (because I have rolled them so many times I knew I needed the extra feedback to help prevent it happening again in the race) and I got dressed (SCOTT Kinabalu Supertrac RC). I was nervous but ready.

I did not start fast in fact at the first check point I was 98th I think. There were 5 major ascents which I used as goals but I was really focused on getting to Champex- Lac because I knew that was where the run would become a race  for definite. Profil_CCC_2016.png

I had slowly travelled up through the field and as I started the climb from Arnouvaz I caught the Spanish lady in second (Raquel Martinez Rodriguez) but I was with another Spanish lady (Teresa Nimes Perez). Mimmi Kotka, the leader and ultimate winner was away…she ran alone unchallenged all day…an incredible performance. Behind her, we (2nd, 3rd and 4th) all stayed roughly together climbing the Grand col Ferret and then on the descent I pulled away. Running into La Fouly….

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Credit: Guillem Casanova

I felt good but was soon caught running out along the river by Raquel and then on the climb up in Champex-Lac we were caught by Teresa. I questioned my pacing- had I run the first half too fast?

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Credit: Guillem Casanova

Teresa was incredible at climbing – no poles and no hands on thighs just this calm strong power hike. I felt like a small child trying to keep up with their mother as I tried to keep up with her intermittently running a few steps and then walking using all possible aids….poles and hands on thighs!  Living in Hampshire in the UK is not conducive to being a great climber but I was determined not to use it as an excuse.

My time at the check point in Champex-Lac was swift thanks to Jon who crewed for me. Water in, more gels in (I used 32Gi gels and chews every 45mins or so and had some Bounce balls in case I needed real food), rubbish out and vaseline under the old armpits and I was off.

However, I left the checkpoint steadily not racing to get away because it was too early for that I felt especially in the heat of the day.  I was eventually caught as I started the ascent to La Giete and Bovine by Teresa and I stuck with her but on the ascent up to Trient she got the better of me. All I could do was maintain a rhythm. Poles, feet and a lot of belching (my poor tummy had had enough of being bent over I think). I was shadowed by two guys and near the top they overtook me and said ‘thanks for pulling us up there’ but I had no breath to respond! They, however, did help me because I used them to aim for on my descent which brought me closer back to Teresa.

I needed to catch up with her because any lead she had climbing out of Vallorcine would be too much. Running out of Vallorcine I raced and raced. It was runnable and I maximised it. The day turned to night and just as I started to climb Tete aux Vents the head torch (LED Lenser SEO 7R) went on. I now imagined every head torch gaining on me was hers. I pushed all the time. It was beautifully calm up there and seeing the Chamonix valley below all lit up was an exceptional view. I raced in scared but excited. The descent off Tete aux Vents was a little technical in places so I remain careful but I it seems I’m a better descender at night or perhaps I was just running scared.

I finished 2nd and 23rd overall. I was delighted….the finish was a dream- like moment and I got the share it with Jon who helped make the result possible. BIG SMILE.

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Credit: Guillem Casanova

Categories: Miscellaneous, Ultra races | 8 Comments

Laugavegur Ultra 55km, Iceland

I raced alone and hard for 5hours burying demons; constantly imagining the 2nd woman was closing in on me; asking myself am I working as hard as I can; and running, running, running. It was a beautiful running trail. Not much vertical gain but very short sharp ascents and descents interspersed with ice, volcanic ash/ sand and mud…oh and river crossings. The sun was somewhere up there making it a warm day and then in the second half the wind blew but luckily no rain or severe cold whilst I ran.

I sit here now in our Airbnb garage/ cosy studio reflecting on such a great day.

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The lack of darkness makes it hard to sleep and of course my excitement.
The day started at 0330 for me to catch the transport at 0430. After 4hrs we arrived at the start, Landmannalaugar, to go for 0900. The race connects two nature reserves and takes you through the Southern Icelandic highlands.

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I ran past smelly sulphur geysers which produced clouds of steam making it a surreal lanscape. The terrain reminded me of a typical volcanic island combined with Marathon des Sables sand, sticky Hampshire mud, Dartmoor soft ground and then a bit of ice and some rivers thrown in.

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With 7miles to go I met Jon who had run out onto the course. It was a lovely surprise. Thank you for your ever continuing support.

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The trail was full of hikers and their cheers were well apreciated too.

The end was in Þórsmörk and it was only when I turned the corner and I heard the cheering to sprint that I knew I was close to Angela Mudge’s record #4seconds. I cried when I finished and it’s been a long time since I’ve done that after a race #tearsofoverwhelment.

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Iceland has something that draws you in. Perhaps not the forever daylight #insomnia or the summer weather where shorts are not worn #bitchilly. The fresh air and soft water makes your skin feel good. The people are really hard working, efficient, polite and friendly. The food and coffee are second to none. The traditional Icelandic meal of fish on black bread is delicious. I avoided all the options put on the menu for the tourists #whaleisnotsustainable.

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A ‘dirty’ or ‘clean’ breakfast at the laundromat cafe is highly recommended….especially after such an epic run. The visit was a flying one and with so much seen, tasted, smelt and experienced it was an amazing one. Thank you Iceland!

Thank you to all my sponsors. Scott running (Kinabalu Supertrac RC)32Gi (5gels & a protein recovery drink for this race), Bounce Balls (breakfast!), Get in the Mood Coffee (race prep boost) and Rocktape (ankle support & looked after my hip niggle).

Categories: Ultra races | 3 Comments

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