Miscellaneous

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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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

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A Numb Bum

I sit here this morning not being sick and feeling like I can manage a cup of tea finally. I have had some sort of gastro bug which made me bed ridden for 48hrs and finally stopped me in my tracks. That may not seem so bad but 2 weeks ago I got a viral bug which took a week or so to go. The kind with the aching bones and the thick green sputum but the kind you can also still work through. Again perhaps you may say well that is just winter for you but a month before that I was ill for 2 weeks with another viral fluey bug and again worked on through it. It seems I have the immune system of a gnat! So as I lie in bed drinking the most lovely cup of tea I decide to reflect on what I’ve been up to.

Training: I have been back running after the Everest Trail Race (ETR) and was getting in some hard sessions to work on some speed. I had a long time off after the ETR to rest, recover from the infamous Nepalese chest infection and enjoy some time with friends and family. My first ultra is not until May 7th in Transvulcania so I do not need to get into ultra training just yet and so entered Bath half marathon to give me some focus in the winter. This time last year I was injured and this means running will never be taken for granted!

Exam Stress: I have revised and revised for an up and coming APPI Pilates Level 3 Instructor exam which I had in London 2 weeks ago. Every morning when I walked the dog I rehearsed the exercises in my head and then at the weekends practised them. If anyone saw me they probably wondered what I was doing when my arm occasionally shot up in the air or a leg moved out to the side as I tried to execute the moves on the move! It is nice now to be able to walk the dog and just enjoy the walk and keep my hands warm not holding revision notes!

Job Application and Interview Nerves: As you know I’m a physiotherapist and I saw advertised on the English Institute of Sports (EIS) website a post for adhoc contractors. It was work that I could potentially fit in around my MOD Military work and help those elite athletes going to Rio for the Olympics- what a fantastic opportunity and I could not resist it. Working for the EIS is a sports physio’s dream and would certainly make me proud. I spent a good few days on my covering letter and CV and then submitted it. I got called for an interview in Bath. It was great news but bad timing on the illness front. I had got the viral bug the day before and had left work early to sleep. I slept in the afternoon, 11hrs in the night and then on waking got up and walked the dog but felt so awful went back to bed for an hour before driving to the interview!

Sports Physiotherapy Masters: Last September I started this Masters course at the University of Bath. So ongoing this has been rumbling along too. I say rumbling but perhaps I should say grumbling because that’s what I’ve been doing when I try to start an assignment and really can’t get my head around it. My poor husband, Jon has to listen to me all upset and stressed and even the dog cowered at times. I have spent time at my desk resulting in an often numb bum. I am always willing to work hard but I am not in anyway an academic. As my brother once said my head is full of ‘stuff o’ nonsense’!

It takes illness to make me reflect it seems. The gastro bug descended on me after a weekend of relative relaxation which I knew I needed after the stress of the exam, the interview and the most recent Masters assignment.

I work and I run and as I get older I need time to recover too. I had taken on becoming a Pilates Instructor and passed (yes!), I am studying for a Masters, and I had applied and successfully got the EIS contractor post (an even bigger yes!). I have all this enthusiasm for doing what I love and so had taken on too much and paid the price by succumbing to being ill. This last bout of illness has to be looked on positively- I’ve taken time to read, reflect and sleep in the past 48hrs which is exactly what I needed when on the daily routine of taking on too much. I like to think I’ve learnt now not to take on too much but it’s hard to find the balance.

When you see the Bath half marathon results remember I will just be so pleased to have made it to the start line as this time last year I was injured and could not race. Remind me when I’m inevitably disappointed with my time that I have not actually fitted in the best in consistent training but have achieved some other great stuff along the way.

 

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Racing again at last

Amidst the hardest few weeks of training I am taking the time to reflect on where I have come since my injury. After overcooking it I was forced to rest for 6 months. I then took 5 months to build up to where I am now- slowly and progressively.

In the back of my mind since back running I’ve always been training for the Everest Trail Race (ETR). Jon and I had entered (Team Squirrel!) and made a sacrifice to do so by selling our VW Camper van (sad face) so I was determined to make it.

As part of the build up we did 3 days on the GR20 in Corsica which being technical and cold took me out of my comfort zone…..check out these crap descending skills!!

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However, we survived the trip running about 50miles out there.

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Cold and wet so happy to be at Refuge Bavella

We got back on the Friday and on the Sunday I was about to compete in my first race of the year- the Clarendon Way marathon. Great conditions and a beautiful off road (runnable- phew!) course and to top it all I won in 3hrs 8minutes.

Clarendon Way Marathon- in action    Clarendon Way

After that I focused firmly of getting ready for the ETR. With the help of  Sporting Edge and their simulated altitude machines I have been putting in some hours on the treadmill running at 25oo+m.

It took some getting used to and hopefully it will help. I don’t want to go all the way to Nepal only to find out I can’t acclimatise. I realise it’s very variable each and every time but I thought this might help.

Sporting Edge

To make it an interesting case study I will have been VO2max tested pre and post using the altitude equipment to see if there are any physiological changes despite not using it everyday.

Apart from running I also have been doing lots of strength training.

And although I have no proof as of yet I can actually do 5 pull ups with this puny arms!

So the ETR is 3 weeks away and we are beginning to pack. Thank you to PHD Sleeping bags and Mountaineering Clothing for the sleeping bag and I’m sure the mitts and boots purchase will make the world of difference. I’ve gone for the whole warm shebang with that and the SCOTT Insuloft Down Jacket. I now need to get some poles. The practise of them will have to be whilst racing- any hints and tips more than welcome as I’ll be a novice with them.

Training has been fully supported and in partnership with SCOTT running,  Hectic Hamster, 32 Gi Nutrition, Bounce Balls Energy and Rocktape. THANK YOU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Big Smile

A big smile because I am back to running. 6months off wasn’t so bad was it? Hell yes! but I realise now it was inevitable and non-optional. Progress back as been cautious and very sensibly gradual. As my husband, Jon raced around the UTMB I strung my first full week of training together without any problems (mind you if Jon could do such an incredibly hard event and remain in one piece the least I could was proudly support him before, during and after which definitely required remaining in one piece). I guess the beauty of running in the mountains for me is that I had no option but to run slowly and without pace/ speed I was less likely to get injured.

However, three things happened this weekend on my Saturday run to make me realise I really was back into training as these things only tend to happen when I’m running.

  1. I got caught having a quick wee in our local woods by another early morning runner.
  2. A bus accelerated past me and the puddle it went through absolutely covered me.
  3. I was enjoying the luxury of a bath and mud- face mask after the run and the door bell rung. Everyone was apparently too busy to answer it so I had to present myself in a towel with bubbles still on my feet and shoulder and a mud pack on my face to the shock of the postman!

I am now back running on consecutive days but it’s taken me 3months. My injury was because I have essentially over cooked it and as a result my body was going to find any excuse to get me to stop and so my knee pain was a bit of an anomaly and essentially just a time game but once paid my penance it should not come back….I run in fear though I must admit. Every run to be enjoyed. I have been in the position where I’ve been allowed to take my time or rather not rush the natural loading process.  All my sponsors have been really supportive and I can’t thank them enough so they definitely are worthy of a mention and a big THANK YOU- Scott Running ,Get In The Mood coffee, Bounce Balls, 32Gi Sports Nutrition and Rocktape.

My next race is the Everest Trail Race, in Nepal which I am training for with the help of Sporting Edge.

biff and training with altitude_portrait

I want to be fit and also to be ready for such an epic race. Jon and I have invested a lot into being able to go (the sale of our camper van- sad face!) and we would hate to get out there and not be prepared for such an environment. I am to be a case study for the Simulated Altitude Training Company so they can collect my training data in order to see my physiological, and my perceptional, benefits to promote their systems to other athletes. I have to do a VO2max test pre and post using the altitude system for one month. I did a VO2max last month and…well…I have zero inherent talent in me so the less said about the test the better as training required! I have to combine using the the altitude system when sleeping and also when running (obviously not at the same time!) so just working out the logistics of that now.

The next 7 weeks will be spent  steadily building miles and preparing kit…warm kit!

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Time

Has it really been 3 months since my last blog? Yep. I can’t even say time as flown by because being injured has meant I’ve noticed everyday go by…another day not able to run. Hindsight in someone with a rational outlook is a wonderful perspective and I finally have been able to look back with some clarity. I raced 10 hard races in 12 months and have paid the price….compulsory rest from running for 6months. If I had spread those races out over 18months maybe I would have got away with it. I raced about 750 miles in 10 ultra races so doesn’t even take into account the half marathons, 10kms and local league races I competed in. Unsustainable….yep! Rest was inevitable however much I fought it.

Thank goodness for work…

Back at the start of the year I was asked to be the physiotherapist for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) Race Across America (RAAM) cycle team. Defence Sport and Recreational Association (DSRA), a membership organisation based within the MOD, celebrating 25 years decided to put a team into one of cycling’s most renowned endurance events. The event, RAAM, is starting on 20th June 2015, and consists of a 3000 mile, time-trial from San Diego, California on the west coast of the USA to Annapolis, Maryland on the east coast. Almost entirely self-sufficient, teams must negotiate extremes in terrain, temperature and individual comfort and typically ‘relay’ through 50+ checkpoints, 24hrs a day to complete the course within the 9 day time limit. My team is of 8 riders and 4 crew members.

At the time of applying I wondered how I would fit it into a busy training and racing schedule but knew it was too good an opportunity to miss. Oh how I laugh now…..racing? What is that? In fact what is running? (although I have started a progressive return and so far so good!)

Time is a wonderful thing and I’ll be back to the running as soon as I can but the thing with time is it doesn’t speed up even if you really, really want it to! So in the meantime I’ll be donning my Kinabalu to fly out to America for the first time and have the honour and privilege of supporting these cyclists. A big thank you to the MOD and my Boss at work for granting me this opportunity, to help support other athletes fulfil their goals (and distract me from thinking about my own!). I wish them all the very best and I’ll certainly be doing my best in terms of driving, navigating and physio-ing to make sure they succeed.

Thank you to Rock tape for their supply I will be taking with me.

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Mad, sad and bad

That has been me for the past 3 months. After 2014 and my incredible year I had some time off running. I can only assume this was a mistake and ticking over would have been a better option because I have not been able to get back to it. Injuries are mind-blowing and I feel mind blown over and over again as I fall on raised hopes that tomorrow will be a better day (in terms of running- obviously there is more to life than running….ummm?!). My injury is not serious but it won’t settle. I have rested (yes properly) and still it persists. Being injured is tougher than any ultra race because ultimately it is an unknown entity- one doesn’t know what one has taken on- and it certainly wasn’t voluntary. I did not pay a fee and willingly sign up to this.

This blog has taken me weeks to start for two reasons. Firstly it meant acknowledging I was injured which means to all those who understand that depression instantly sets in! Secondly my arms are so tired from all the swimming I’ve been doing typing has been taxing!

Being injured certainly provides spare time. Spare time not running and racing that needs filling (but not browsing Facebook as everyone is running…or so it seems!). Cross training certainly helps but it lacks structure and does not really provide the same rhythm and routine that running does. The lack of endorphins takes its toll- moody and unsatisfied. But on the plus side my house has never been so clean and my spice jars in their rack….immaculately labelled!

This dissatisfaction strays into other aspects of my life as my identification, as a runner, has gone. It means you lose sight of the fact there is always more to life than running and racing and there really is. I mean… my poor husband for putting up with me and having to creep out of the house whenever he wanted to go of a run (thank you Jon for being such a star); our poor dog, Rufus, for enduring the extra long dog walks; and my poor liver for the extra wine consumed.

I have been awful but everyone around me has been amazing. My husband listens; my family and friends offers supportive words; Rufus offers extra licks (!); my sponsors have all let me know they will stick by me. I’m so grateful and lucky and it has certainly made the journey a lot more bearable by taking the pressure off. Talking (and putting the world to rights) helps- thanks Holly Rush.

So I’ve stopped being mad and sad and am now trying to get back on track. After knocking on a few doors I have a great Doctor (Dr Jeff Foster), Physio (Andy Walling) and sports massage therapist (Ben Cowling, Ageas Bowl) helping me out and that has been crucial.

It’s always good to share the good times and the great results but also the downs need to be acknowledged. Being injured is tough but should not be a lonely journey.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Miscellaneous | 7 Comments

2015 here I come

I start my first ever official running contract today with Scott Running which makes me excited and proud. 2014…what an incredible year for me. Reflecting now I can hardly believe how lucky I have been to race where I have, meet such great people and achieve such results. My blog illustrates all of this as I write about my races and it’s has been a great way to document such an incredible year. Thank you for the race invites, the friendships and the opportunities.

Thank you for your support

ROCK TAPE

Hectic Hamster and The House of Coffee

AMSPORT Nutrition

Bounce Balls

Ben Cowling, my sports massage therapist

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

2015 here I run…..

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