Find the joy, and the cake

Yesterday was the Seagrave Wolds challenge, one of my favourite events. I’ve been using Seagrave as my excuse for training on the trails so I’m going to need to find a new excuse now. It’s an approximately 16 mile route through the Leicestershire countryside with a couple of cake stops en route. The phrase “what’s not to like?” is overused but in this case it’s apt. The scenery is beautiful, rolling hills, pretty villages and general countryside loveliness. The refreshment stations are like a full afternoon tea, manned by ever cheerful volunteers. It’s a tough run, it’s 16 miles of trails so it’s not supposed to be easy but it’s joyous. I ran it with Anna, we haven’t done a long run together for ages so we had a proper catch up as the miles just ticked over. This is why I run. It’s not just about road race times for me, it’s being able to have days like this.

I had vaguely planned a short run today, under the guise of a recovery run but I decided to have a lie in instead! It’s not lack of commitment, more that my sleep has been awful recently and sometimes a bit of recovery is in order. I’m a little worried that I can’t get any more back to back weekends in this month but there’s real life to fit in too. I’ll do a couple of club runs this week and as many miles as I’ve time for on Saturday. No back to back on Sunday as it’s horn club, not a euphemism (nor even a euphonium).

A few people now know that I’m doing this event, none have them have collapsed in a heap of laughter at the notion. Maybe this means they might think I’m fit enough to do it. Some days I think I’m going to be up to it, other days I panic about what I’ve got myself into.

We’re back

This blog seems to have had a lengthy hiatus, that’s the problem with being all secret- there’s nobody to remind me to do it! This may be long as it’s been almost a month since my last thrilling update.

A few weeks ago I had a lower mileage weekend and did a 10 mile road race. It’s been 7 years since I’ve raced that distance so I was aiming for a PB. The York 10 mile race was brilliant. The weather was absolutely appalling, in my top 3 of bad weather races. Rain aside we had a great day

This is the after photo, the smiles are sheer relief at being inside. The boys looked after me very well but Guy (Mr Ultra, on the right) may now have started to realise how much I stress about running events. On the positive side we all did the times we wanted.

The weekend after York I didn’t run due to an all important holiday. A week of all inclusive gin and Turkish delight is an unconventional approach to training. Don’t knock it.

Last weekend Scott and I headed to the hills for 11 miles of fun. In reality it was 11 miles of “have i actually run before? Maybe I overdid it on holiday. Why am I doing this?”. Nice route though and good company. One cow based diversion, in the words of Scott “I don’t think they’re girls, they’ve got some sort of undercarriage”. Better safe than sorry. The second cow based incident was at barking dog wall where we saw some other runners, I asked them if the cows were in the field “no, definitely not”. You know what’s coming next….cows running round the corner straight at us, Laura and Scott sprinting towards the road.

Finally, this weekend. As I didn’t have too much else on I planned another back to back, running on tired legs is a good thing. Yesterday Louise and I ran to Beeston parkrun, parkran and then ran back, a touch under 9 miles in total. It was a gorgeous morning and a good chance to catch up with parkrunning friends. I didn’t find it easy but I did it.

Today I met up with Guy for a 12 mile trail odyssey. Nothing’s ever certain when I’m in charge of navigation but I was hoping my semi planned route would work. We managed to cover every hill in the area, him powering up them and me lagging behind and having a few walk breaks. We came to the same herd of cows that caused last weeks diversion but today’s route meant we had to go through them. Even with an experienced cow wrestler it was scary, but then I’m scared of everything. Overall it was a good run and my legs felt a lot better than they did yesterday. That brings the weekly mileage up to 32.

I’m wondering if I’m a bit easily swayed when it comes to events. I’ve now entered a 20 mile trail race with my friend Eve, that will be a training run for a trail marathon (or possibly ultra) with Guy, that will be a training run for the Pilgrim challenge. After that there’s the Belvoir challenge marathon with half of LERC as training for the Manchester marathon. I make that 5 marathons in a 3 month period. Argh! An unconventional approach to marathon training but it’ll solve the problem of finding people to do 20 mile runs with. Place your bets on how many of these events I’ll finish or even start.

Surround yourself with good people

I love a training plan, genuinely love it. I don’t actually have a plan for this ultra thing though. It’s more a vague “run lots and do enough strength work not to fall apart”.

This week has been back to business after last weekend’s weekend of seaside and gin. Tuesday’s run was probably still heavily influenced by said gin, the less said about it the better. Thursday was better, I even felt like I’d actually run before.

I’ve done my standard two strength/cross training sessions with Jake Wood’s bootcamp. These are definitely the people to be surrounded by. Monday night bootcamp is fun and based on teamwork. Friday morning caveman bootcamp is more individual and tough but increased strength makes for better running. The 5.20am wake up call is never welcome but it’s worth it.

I’ve done a back to back weekend again. Saturday was 11 miles in the unrelenting rain, it’s like marathon training all over again. Despite the hideous weather I still had two lovely friends who were “happy” to come out and train with me. Poor wardrobe choices made me worry about the potential for hypothermia on the day. Rationally it was more a matter of no such thing as bad weather etc etc.

Today couldn’t have been more different, it was joyous from start to finish. Hello again runners high. The aim was 10 miles of trails, a little navigational inaccuracy made it 11. Today was my first run with my ultra companion, so a test of running compatibility. As the three of us set off we warned him about the likely hazards, namely cows. When asked how he is with cows we weren’t expecting the answer “I used to wrestle cows”. I’ve never felt so safe heading across the fields. The cow wrestling claims are actually true.

Unlike yesterday, the weather was perfect, the views were sublime and the company was fun. Running with boys means less talk of recipes and Emma Bridgewater and a bit more emphasis on technical running stuff and gadgets. VO2 max anyone? Nope, me neither.

My secret squirrel approach to this doesn’t seem to be as bombproof as I thought. Two people have asked me what’s going on this week. I’d make a rubbish undercover agent. Obviously I’ve denied everything.

The Journey Begins

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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The title and the motivational quote aren’t mine, wordpress suggested them and they seem apt.

This is a blog that may never see the light of day which makes it strangely difficult to write. I’d love it to be published because that would mean that I’m actually doing the thing. My natural caution (which may seem lacking as you read on) is making me hold back from a grand announcement of intent. What if I shout my plans from the rooftops and then get injured? Or come to my senses? Or weather stops play?

So how did this project begin? In a nutshell, I’m daft enough to say “yes”. In slightly more detail….I have a friend at bootcamp who has signed up for a very ultra ultra marathon and I selflessly offered to accompany him on his long training runs if he needed company. I mean, I’ve run four marathons, I can do long runs. One day he said “I’ve entered this great event as part of my training, you should have a look at it”. I had a look and my initial reaction wasn’t “are you insane? That’s a ridiculous distance”. It was more “hmmm, maybe. I mean other normal people do this stuff. I have been looking for a challenge and I’d like to do a spot of fundraising”.

Before I really know what’s happening I’ve somehow signed up for a two day ultra marathon. That’s 33 miles a day. In February. As it turns out, our team is so far a mighty two. As I said, I’m the only person daft enough to say yes.

What follows will be either a crash course in how to become an ultra runner or a lengthy catalogue of injuries. It’s like a 1980s choose your own adventure book but with a lot more DOMS, deep heat and barely concealed panic.