Sunday, 22 July 2018

One Year + on...

Oh Dear, more than a year since my last blog when i promised myself i would blog more.

After SDW race i was more than a bit broken. Luckily i hadn't entered any races for rest of year as you just don't know how these things will pan out. Wise decision on my part.  I had issues with hip and huge piriformis pain, which is quite literally a pain in the bum. Nothing seemed to be fixing it. Rest, i did the whole no running at all thing. Physio. More Rest. Nothing changed so i just started running again but decided to cut back on mileage & do gym work to help strengthen things up again. Didn't work.

Frustrating times but hey, i was still running, cant complain too much. And Ian was having huge problems and was in such pain with his back i felt like i was lucky to not be in that kind of pain. Mine was manageable and i didnt need drugs. I did limp quite a lot especially if i'd been at my desk for more than half an hour. Was fine when got moving again though hence i carried on my run commute.

I did end up doing few races. Couple Half Marathons - Dumfries (much improved but still bloody tough course)  and Loch Rannoch - again tough course, stunning though. was good 11 mins slower than previously there when i got 2nd F place. Hey ho, its where i was and i was sill running, still racing, albeit a lot slower. We also went and did Jedburgh 10k - ooft. another toughie. short distances are so not my forte. Hopefully looking to change that as this year progresses, more on that later.

We had few changes at work, the company i worked for lost contract & the Dean of Business School begged me to stay telling me it was opportunity to do the 4 day wk i had been asking for, so i switched companies and secured my 4 day week i'd been long asking for - happy days.

As so many race open online entries at least 6 months ahead and being aware of still carrying niggles i was unwilling to enter any Ultras on the off chance i may or not be able to run so i made to decision to take a year off. I've done this before and enjoyed doing lots of Half Marathons & races i'd had eye on but never managed cause i was Ultra training, tapering, recovering - the whole cycle.

And of course it gives the body a break. I see so many people bang out Ultra after Ultra then moan about not getting times they were after. Hey, wake up. Listen to your body. Have an A race, if that doesn't go to plan then go to plan B. or C   nothing in life is guaranteed, look after your body, it will thank you.

I went off for weeks proper break with my friend Jemima. She's currently working a full time job managing a team and studying for BSc and we both just needed a week of chilling , reading lots of books and lying by the pool drinking lots of cava. I do love all inclusive and properly love Cava much more than prosecco. Its made exactly same as my beloved Champagne, just not trademarked like the clever people of Reims did. Only did one run that week. Perfect.

December was massive cut back month of just doing weights and short runs. Like i said earlier it didnt make much of difference so by mid January i was back to *normal*  ie- running the full 8 miles to work instead of bussing halfway . January also incorporates WHW training weekend. I wasn't sure if i was up to running the full 30 miles, and why did i need to..So because of my 4 day wk i took the Friday off and decided to get train to Milngavie & run to Oak tree. I had a glorious day, so lucky.

I felt like a long distance runner again that day,even though it was only 19 miles. But the WHW just gives you "that feeling. And boy was i lucky to have weather like that in January. Stunning.

Next day i just did to Rowardennan and back,weather wasn't quite as kind but it was just fabulous to be out there again & doing back to back runs. Great weekend as ever. I was in lot less pain, only getting random pain and feeling much more like a runner again.

February was building back mileage although still very slow but building the base levels back. March threw up a surprise
My clubmate Lucy put out a call to say she was ill so couldn't take her place in John Muir Relay (17m)so was looking for stand in, race transfer all approved by Race Director obviously.   . I was first to put hand up & volunteer as i know route fairly well - Edinburgh to North Berwick is one of my go to long runs. I was teamed up with fast runner Phil, i was doing first leg. Weather was nothing short of atrocious. I took bit of tumble with about  miles to go and was damn pleased i wasn't doing whole Ultra at that point.

Was so cold when i finished but thankfully John & Helen were marshaling a wee bit down the beach & had camper van. They put kettle & heater on & i got changed & warmed up,once last runners trough we headed down to finish -was astounded to find out we had won 2nd mixed team! My goodness. Mainly due to Phil but hey, i will take a podium place due to any circumstances.

Again, it made me feel a bit more like a runner again, trails, bad weather,blood, sweat but no tears.

We had wee break in Majorca early April, we knew next holiday would be proper full on and not so much of break. We ran most days, just social short runs and found some lovely trails & hidden gems

April .well wow.

We spent nearly all of April in Australia. We went for Commonwealth games. What an amazing experience. Although the 10 days of the Athletics was actually quite stressful. We were in official Team Scotland Hotel and it was also base to BBC & many other journalists. This in itself put Ian under bit of pressure as everyday we had Scottish Athletes competing the pressure was right there.fabulous.
Scottish Athletics had a medal target to hit & it was pressure all way to last day which was an utterly mad day full of mixed emotions. Callum Hawkins leading that Marathon all the way to collapse in last 1.5 miles, the concern we had for Callum, the crushing feeling of that gold medal being almost in his hand, it was almost like we were in a horrible dream. Then suddenly Robbie Simpson appears over the last (only) hill to claim a Bronze medal.

Hugely emotional day. Mark (Scottish Athletics CEO) went off to hospital to check on Callum & we went back to hotel to deal with all the press. Great to see Robbie come in with his medal later on. Phew, we were put through wringer and back that day. It was such an honour to meet the Medalists.feel privileged to be in that position, they were all just wonderful.

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 It was bit of relief to fly up to Cairns next day & spend week up there with Alastair, Ian's middle boy who lives there. We did Great barrier Reef, Rain forest tours, helicopter rides and much more. Just brilliant. Oh and we did Parkrun, as usual they asked if anyone was visiting, we of course put hands up. Girl next to us told us she lived in Aberdeen! We asked why she was there. " oh my boyfriend was competing in CWG" she said. Only happened to be Robbie Simpson! haha small world

I adored Australia. We ran every day bar one. we were out between 6am & 7 every morning, now  even a bit later than i normally run but my goodness it was like Piccadilly circus every morning. Runners, power walkers, surfers, skateboards, cyclists, you name it, very young through to very old. Loved it.

 Came back enthused, energized and pining for Australia. I totally adapted to Australian way of life, the heat, everything. Mileage started going up, pace coming down a bit. All good. We packed the sunshine so you can thank us for the run of good weather since we got back. You're welcome.

June- WHW month. Always a busy one for Ian (and me) We managed to bag a couple of places for Killearn trail 10k, what a great race, beautiful trails & views and a proper local community feel to it. Great to catch up with my lovely friends too. Will go back for sure,

 Also did Corstorphine 5, i was bit disappointed not to beat my previous time (about secs off) but hey, no speed training will do that!  We also did"roon the toon" 10k. Ian had been asked to be official starter which was nice. Again i was nowhere near PB but feeling good to be racing again. another great race totally supported by local community. Another one i'd return to,hopefully in better shape as i reckon its a PB  course.

WHW weekend. Well as per usual it clashed with my Graduations. I had 700 people attending our first day, champagne & Canapes. It didn't start till 5.30 so it was long day on feet, next day was *only* 200 and i was leaving straight from work to go and set up Whwrace registration. Phew. Not much sleep was had over entire weekend but it was as ever, exhausting, exhilarating, inspirational  and utterly fabulous

We topped off that weekend with a run up & down Ben Nevis in the most glorious weather.

How lucky we are.

The whole year we had been chatting about a new local race that appeared a mere mile away.6 hr, 12 hr or 24 hrs round and round Arthurs seat which we have nice view of from our window.  It would be silly not to enter surely. Ian had been holding off entering to see how he felt after WHW weekend, it can take a while to get over that but he felt good so decided to enter the 24hr race- I entered the 6 hr race on premise that its not an ultra until i have run 26 miles so i can justify the no Ultra running this year i reckon.. ;)  Karen Wallace had also entered 24 hr race so we met up couple times to do laps in training and one of my days off was really hot so i did 4 laps in training to get used towhat was predicted to be a hot day. Karen sadly broke her foot so didnt make it :(

Ian's race started 9am and mine 12 so George & Karen, his fabulous crew (both fellow race directors and great friends) picked him up around 7am and i stayed until Susan ( half of team santababy) arrived for me. We arrived & Ian was doing great, it was as predicted super sunny and super hot. My race was going grwat for first 3 hrs them i started to feel awful. Id never normally stop during race but i had to go into K & G's camper van to get bit of respite, felt so nauseous and was weaving all place. Karen gave me salt tablets & ginger beer & off i went. Nothing changed. i felt worse as day went on and got slower & slower.

Mileage targets were soon forgotten and i concentrated on just finishing. Ive got friends going through some tough times right now & that was forefront of my mind. I CAN be out there running, i choose to, i knew it was something that would fix itself once i stopped, and it did.Nothing was stopping me completing it though, i had to get Susan to join me for last lap as i was all over place but i made it. I ended up winning race surprisingly (not huge field but you can only race who there i guess!)

I nipped back to house for baath & to pick up more home made chicken soup for Ian & we headed back down. Ian was in 2 nd place by then and kept that placing right till end. I managed to grab hour & half sleep in Karen & Georges van and did 2 laps with Ian as sun rose, he did penultimate one on his own and i ran last lap wit him before he went on to smaller laps for last half hour.

 So proud of him given what hes been through with back problems and how busy he is generally.

 Great event from folks at Breaking Strain who also do run the blades. Next year will be significantly busier i am certain.

So there is catch up. Next blog will be about cook school!

watch this space

Wednesday, 14 June 2017


This could be a long blog, but 100 miles is a long way.

I've always had a pull to this race for various reasons. I've heard many great plaudits about Centurion events and how well they're organised. I did my first ever Ultra on the South Downs back in 2009 I was persuaded by Jen Jackson to come do the Downlands challenge, it was a 30 miler out & back so I'd experienced  15 miles of the downs & that was my only *recce*  So I thought I knew what lay ahead. Jen went on to create the SDW100 & was RD for 2 years before handing it over to James who's certainly ran with it since & created a whole host of new races.

When I told Nick & Susan I'd entered they immediately said they were coming to crew for me. I'd been quite prepared to go solo as I knew the race was well supported with no less than 14 aid stations which are supremely stocked by marvellous volunteers. But I wasn't complaining- Team Santababy goes South. Nick also did that same Ultra in 2009 & Susan had marshaled on the 100 when Jen was RD  so again it had a pull for both them too. Ian is always busy organising WHWrace at this time of year as well as his real job keeping him busy so he was staying home to watch from afar

I had no time to get down to recce it due to commitments most weekends- Marshalling at D33, Fling & Cateran, running London Marathon & occasionally seeing friends & family to remind them I do more than just run. I had to plan my long runs carefully to fit in between all that. I kept checking back on my last training plan for WHWrace and decided that my target for SDW would be same -sub22

I definitely trained harder than I have done for any race. Pushed myself harder, sorted my nutrition out, lost weight & did strength training. After London I was feeling strong & ready and eager for June10th and to get on those South Downs. So given my only recce was 8 years earlier I sought advice from Debs M-C -supermum, super athlete, super Centurion winner. She gave me her plan and I sent it onto my crew to peruse so we could make some plans & ETA for checkpoints. I'll quote Debbie in saying " its a beautiful course, think of it as a long run in a big English garden "

I also read endless blogs from last years race, I perused over pictures of the course and studied the elevation profile. I was ready & excited.

Friday 9th June-6.55am
Ian took me to train station & I was on my way to Lincoln where Nick lives & we were all leaving from there to drive down Winchester.
 I had pretty much whole first class carriage to myself so I moved from my solo seat to a 4 seater and spread myself out a bit and settle down for my breakfast

Had a lovely relaxed journey and Nick was waiting on me when I arrived. We drove to his house and Susan arrived about an hour later. Quick bite to eat  & Team Santa headed south. Journey passed fairly quickly & soon enough we were checking into hotel.

It was a glorious day so after organising my race stuff and going through couple things me & Susan headed down to beer garden for a bottle of wine in the sun. We'd decided to head down to registration for 6 and get number and had made plans to meet up with Steve who'd recently moved to Winchester all way from Oban and with Lorna & Gavin. We were so busy enjoying the sun the wine and the chat we suddenly realised it was after 6! oops. Grabbed a coffee to take upstairs to Nick and we set off for registration a wee bit later than expected. We quickly found Steve, Lorna & Gavin. There was lovely excited atmosphere and I joined queue to get my number.

James was going up & down queue apologising for the wait (it wasn't that long!) and it was after a quick hello to him that I realised I was supposed to bring my kit with me for kit check. Oh my god, I was so embarrassed. I'd read all the instructions twice and somehow managed to miss that. Given that my husband is a Race Director & at least 10 of my friends are I was more than bit mortified. James just laughed & told me I had plenty time to register & kit check in morning. Lorna was much amused by this and took to facebook to let the world know!

We left to go get some dinner at a wee pub that Lorna & Gavin had passed on way - after driving down endless roads we eventually found it.  After ordering food and getting nice bottle red we had bit of wait for our food. Certainly wasn't best meal I've ever eaten, maybe I was unlucky but it has to be worst lasagne I've ever encountered. Thank god the wine was good.

Cant remember name of place so cant warn off- beautiful location though and lovely big beer garden.
We bade Farewell to Lorna & Gav and headed back to hotel to get some sleep. We were all asleep pretty quickly and soon enough the alarm was going off at 4.15 am. tea & porridge downed we headed off to race start. Got my kit checked, number on and was raring to go.
Wandered over to start around 5.30 and caught up with Giacomo who I'd last seen at WHWrace he'd never recced course either but had downloaded route to his garmin. We were all excited & soon enough James & Nici did race briefing before setting us all of on loop round field

Once we were out field we were on South Downs way and on our journey to Eastbourne. The sun soon came out & it was very warm even though it was early.

Debs had advised me to pick up drinks at first aid station at Beachonhill so I made sure I'd drank most of my first bottle by time I got there and duly got it filled up. They had tailwind and although I'd never tried it before I decided to go with that and stuck with that for rest of race.

First big CP is QECP at 22.5 miles (3.47 - 71st) it was very busy arriving here as parkrun had just finished. Saw Nick & Susan here and told them my feet were already hurting, not great so early into race. We took off my shoes and socks to find lots of sand, think it must've been stuck under the insole- no wonder my feet were sore, being rubbed with sandpaper for 22 miles. change of socks and good clear out of shoes and it felt so much better. my crew are ace.

There was a long climb through the woods out of there and this theme would go on for rest of day. The course was rock solid, I'd anticipated lots of lovely grassy hills to run on and nice soft landings. Reality was somewhat different. If there were any loose rocks my feet seemed to find them and bashing my poor wee toes. It was however very pretty, I loved all the little villages and the houses on route made me envious of them living in such a delightful area.

As the day went on it got warmer and I made sure I was hydrating well and refilling at every aid station. I stuck to tailwind in my bottle and drank water & coke at each station, ate couple grapes and bit of pineapple at few places too. I'm not big on eating during races but I do try. I was struggling with a pain in my right groin but it wasn't stopping me running & I was making good progress. My feet were hurting too but hey, its an ultra, its hot- things are going to hurt. After a pretty gruelling hard on feet downhill into Cocking (35miles in- 6.26 68th))I arrived in big field to get big hug from my crew, Lorna was still there too & I enquired after Gavin who seemed be not too far ahead.

I saw my crew at around mile 47 where I surprised by Jon & his daughter Sophie, I haven't seen Jon for years so it was lovely to catch up and meet Soph who was toddling around with wet wipes & then tried to run with me as I ran out.

Next big aid station is Washington (54 m - 10.23 61st)just as I arrived in village my phone rang and it was Ian, it was great to hear his voice, I told him I had been struggling with groin pain and e told me it would probably ease off and not to stress about it. that something will always hurt at this stage. I knew he was right about that! he also told me he was very proud of me and that half of Scotland was watching my progress and willing me on.
 I knew that hard it was for him to be watching the race unfold from over 400 miles away but he was getting regular updates from Susan & Nick which eased his mind somewhat- he knows I'm in safe hands with those two looking after me

I was directed down a hill towards the village hall (yes, that pattern continued!) Jon & Soph were also here as was Lorna, her sis & nephews who showed my a big Saltire they'd came with.  my crew plonked me in seat outside and tended to my every need. I swapped bags here as my back was feeling bit raw with chafing and I thought a dry one might help. Nick offered me all sorts of stuff and I only said yes to Irn Bru which made a group of supporters standing behind laugh out loud. "well she is Scottish" Nick said. My goodness it was good, and chilled too!

I didn't go into village hall, Susan topped up my tailwind and off I went after bading farewell to Jon & Sophie.

I got to Botolphs aid station at bottom of yet another hill which was beside a busy road to find Gavin lurking around so left there together after being shown safely across road my lovely smiley marshall. I said to Gavin " oh yay look, another hill"  he laughed & said "it gets worse" He'd done the 50 so knew what lay ahead. He apologised for having not much chat & I said I was in same boat, he remarked wryly "thats was a bit of a change from normal"
Given we were both in bit of slump I reminded him that running a 100 mile race on your birthday is pretty stupid way to celebrate. I told him i'd been going through the miles & ticking off Scottish races as I did so- then I started thinking about where i'd be on WHW at any given point. It took my mind of things working it all out. Gavin laughed and said "glad its not just me"
The climb went on forever and went on to tarmac road at top where Gav pulled away, I could se him for a bit ahead  but I seemed to loose him.  I was bit confused that I couldn't see him ahead as I went up a big hill and sure enough when I saw my crew next, Lorna said "did you pass Gavin" I hadn't so presumed he had dived somewhere off course for loo.

I was still running pretty well here & quite often swapped places with these two guys, and another couple of runners all doing run-walk sections on route to Saddlescombe farm

I remember looking out to the coastline & seeing the sea here, views were glorious, the smell from the pigs less so!

The hills just kept on giving but i still felt pretty good. Next aid station was Devils Dyke (66.6miles) my crew weren't allowed here but had parked nearby as Nick wanted to say hello to Brigitte Groves  and I was looking forward to getting there & meeting her. Nick frst met Brigitte through UKnet runners & he'd asked her if she knew anyone who could pace me for last section when it was dark. She'd came up trumps & hooked us up with Brian Friend.

This is what makes the Ultra running community so special, people going out their way to help complete strangers. The crew there were superb, thanks so much to  them all for their cheerfulness and support.

My garmin was on low power by then and so was my phone so I went into bag to  get chargers but couldn't find the cables. quick message to crew and they realised with horror they had cables with them.
Wasn't to fussed about garmin but phone is essential part of kit so needed that charged up. Susan messaged to say Nick was heading out to meet me. This was around ditchling (mile 72)

As you can see I'm still in happy wee place. Its always great to see your crew, they put so much time & effort  to looking after me & I'd never take that for granted or be grumpy with them. I could see the sun was starting to get low &stopped to look back and reflect on my journey so far. It was around 9pm by now & I knew I had around another hour before darkness fell

I met up with Brian coming down hill just before Housedean farm, He'd ran out to meet me. we'd never met before & had only conversed through messenger but he  came bounding up hill with smile on his face asking if I was ok. I Gave him a hug and said "you must be Brian!"  how many complete strangers would give up at Saturday night to come running through the darkness on South Downs way. Brilliant. Tried not to hang around Housedean farm & as I was leaving  someone shouted my name out, I turned back to find Mike Churchyard who I got great hug off. Lovely to catch up with FB friends in middle of nowhere!
We got into Southease Aid station (84m 17.31 -43rd)and got bottles refilled. Brian encouraged me to eat something, cant recall if I did or not. I  was eager to get moving

Brian was great company & was telling me many stories of all the races he has done over SDW, his enthusiasm for route is wonderful.  It was great not having to think about navigation in the darkness knowing I was in safe hands. I'd managed to keep on bumping into Gavin at checkpoints but he usually left before I did. At one point we were altogether up a hill and it was pitch black and we all sang Happy Birthday to him, I think that's when he ran away from us :o)
We had picked up another companion by here, I think his name was Bart and was originally from Holland but now lives in Brighton. He decided to stick with us as he reckoned he'd have got lost on his own. We were on a nice downhill trot around mile 88 when suddenly I got shooting pain in my left thigh which brought me to a complete standstill. I tried to gave it a rub and it was like i'd been injected with cement, It was very painful to touch and I tried to start running again but it was painful.  I'd went from feeling pretty strong & still running when I could to painfully hobbling very slowly. Normally I can march pretty quickly but I certainly didn't feel like I was now.

12 miles is a very long way to slowly hobble. We had 2 aid stations left to go through, at 2nd last one (alfriston) was in a church hall, we weaved trough graveyard and entered into a cocoon of loveliness. I sat down for bit of rest, took couple paracetamol and had best cup tea i'd ever had. I had been feeling pretty sick since pulling muscle in thigh and as I stood up to leave there I had to rush to toilet thinking I was going to throw up but nothing came up.  We left thanking the fabulous crew there & get head down to tackle yet another hill. I lost many places here as people marched up hill past us.

I'd broken this section into aid stations and next one was Jevington, I didn't need or want anything here, not even sure why we went in but it was ever so pretty. The guys there told us we'd broken back of t and we could walk backwards and still be comfortably under 24hrs- this was pleasing news to Bart wh was still with us here. One more climb to go. Brian assured us it was easier & shorter than climb out of Alfriston (phew!) he did keep on telling us how glorious the views were too and that we were missing out n the darkness. Maybe he wanted us to jog up there next day to see them ;)  

We did indeed reach trig point quicker than expected and the cheery marshalls pointed out the finish line to us and warned us of the tricky descent. Again I was passed by fair few runners, it was ere we also lost Bart as he could still run and he hooked onto guys in front. Tricky indeed it was, I slipped a few times on the rocks which made for more waves of pain & nausea. I just kept plodding on knowing end was in sight. Brian had called Nick to let him know we were close by. Our head torches were off by now and the dawn chorus was in full voice.

I managed a few short jogs here and there & our hearts were lifted by the glorious sunrise and the birds singing us into that last mile.

I'm pretty sure I drove poor Brian mad saying "where is this bloody sports track" We arrived at the hospital & he assured me we just had to run round there and it was round the corner. I was again passed by a few folk here as I still unable to run more than few metres at a time.

As we spotted the Sports centre (at last!) Susan & Nick appeared, I hadn't seen them for ages and was delighted to see them. Nick & Brian ran round track with me, Nick peeling off to run across & get me finishing. Brian stayed with me and encouraged me to run to end which I did. Lorna ran over with the aforementioned Saltire provided by her nephews and handed it to me to finish with

Finally- 22hours and 37 minutes after I left Chilcombe sports centre I went under the finishing line. Still smiling. 11th lady 74th overall out of 220 finishers.

Reflections- the thigh trouble meant I didn't get finish I wanted nor the time, I was passed by 31 people in those last 12 miles but I'm still delighted I kept going & finished in fairly decent time.

I think I went into this a  bit blasé- yes I'd trained well and was fit as could have been. But I didn't have the full respect for the course- I thought I'd have lots of rolling meadows to skip along, and even though I knew the profile, the elevation and had studied many a blog - I wasn't prepared for the toughness of it all underfoot. The hills, they just kept on giving...
lessons- Respect the course, Respect the distance. I know left nothing out there and gave it my all knowing how many had so generously donated to the two good causes I am fundraising for

my fundraising page - click here

I am as ever indebted to Team Santababy - I know Ians' mind was at rest knowing I was in very capable hands of Nick & Susan and adopted crew member in form of Brian- what a lovely man. He spent most of his pacing duties trying to persuade me back before I'd even finished. That man loves SDW with his heart & soul. Brian, thank you. Nick & Susan- I'm so happy you insisted you were coming along for the ride, and what a ride it was.

James, Nici and the whole of Centurion crew- you didn't disappoint. Beautiful route, superbly organised- nothing you could improve on from what I could see-well done.

Will I be back.....

One Year + on...

Oh Dear, more than a year since my last blog when i promised myself i would blog more. After SDW race i was more than a bit broken. Luckil...