Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Not just a Fair Weather runner....

My fell running friends always joke that roadrunners are really "fair weather runners", whereas they are as "hard as nails "and go out whatever the weather. That has certainly seemed to be the case on the mountain rounds that I have assisted on recently, as I've seen (or "not seen" due to the weather or the time of day) fog, rain, sleet, snow, hail, wind etc.
However, I think that the Netherhall 10 proved that road races can also be run in rather "less than perfect" conditions.

Not the flattest race profile
The night before the race, there was talk of it being cancelled due to the forecast (rain and wind), ie the presence of Storm Ewan, but luckily the organiser's decided to go ahead with it. The race does not lend itself to fast times on the best of days as it is rather "undulating" to say the least, and as it was also doubling up as the British Masters' 10 mile Championships, it was more about positions than finish times anyway.

Whilst driving down to Cumbria, I looked at the horizontal rain out of the car and rather wondered why I was going to put myself through it, but I was keen to see how I was actually running, as I felt that I might have become stronger from the hills (though maybe no faster). 

With clubmate Kelly pre-race
The race starts with a 400m stretch of road that is slightly downhill so as usual people hared off away from me, but then we turned a 90 degree bend and were faced with about 2 miles of steady uphill. Almost as soon as we started to climb, I started to pick some of the fast-starting men off.....and this trend seemed to continue right up to the summit. This did wonders for my confidence, as it is always tempting to give up in the first few miles of a race, especially if they are a hard slog.

At the top of that climb, some of the guys moved away slightly as they opened up their stride on the descent, but I made up the gap as soon as we started back uphill again. It became a game of cat and mouse for me, seeing how many I could close up on before each downhill section......though luckily nobody actually passed me on a downhill. As I caught 1 guy up, he seemed determined to run by my side, which is not something I enjoy  in a race, especially when we are running on narrow country roads that are still open to traffic. I would try to get ahead of him, and could hear him grunting as he increased his effort to stay there, so I would try to drop back, only to find him slowing down as well. It didn't feel very safe (especially as I got elbowed a few times, even when they weren't cars coming) and it also stopped me running the line I would have liked to take. 

Crossing the (wet) line
I finally broke free at about 6.5 miles when there was another steeper climb, and from then on I was alone right until the finish. The last 3 miles were along the main road, and so there were marshals kindly standing out (well, some were sitting in the boot of their cars with the door up) in the rain guiding us on and off pavements to ensure our safety. I'm told that those last few miles are generally the fastest of the race, as they are slightly downhill and often run with a tailwind, but unfortunately the direction of the gale-force gusts meant that it didn't really feel like downhill to me. 

Masters' Gold!
I was so thankful to turn the last corner and run the final short ascent into the finish as I was doing a fairly good impression of a drowned rat (though luckily I finished before the hail started)  and my legs were almost a filthy as if I'd run a cross country race. I had no idea how I'd actually run in the race, but as it turned out, I ran a decent time and finished well up the field overall, earning a nice Masters gold medal into the bargain. Never mind the results though....I just knew that the faster I ran, the sooner I'd get into the lovely hot showers, and the sooner I could get stuck into the huge buffet provided by the organising club.

Alnwick Castle
The next weekend I was talked into a cross country race (sold to me as a nice run at Alnwick Castle.....and that one didn't sound like it would be the kindest of conditions either as people were suggesting the welly boots were the footwear of choice. It was the last XC of the league and we needed 4 ladies to finish to score a team result. Only 4 of us turned up on the day so the pressure was on for us all to finish, especially as we were only 3 points ahead of our local rival ladies' team.

The DCH ladies' team
I was paranoid about the start, as I hate the different pack start times (ie about 85% of the field goes off together, then about 10% start 1min 40 later, with the final 5% a further minute and 40s afterwards). I was put in the "fast pack" for this season, which means I feel very exposed at the start. Only a handful of ladies go off then, most of whom sprint off (yup, I'm never going to be a fast starter), and so I feel that everybody watching is just feeling sorry for me and thinking "Bless her for giving it a go!"

I worked my way up to about 3rd in my pack by the time we caught some of the back runners of the other groups....maybe half a mile in, and then it got rather chaotic to try to work out what was going on. You have to try to pass some of the slower runners, and I feel rather embarrassed at doing this as you also want to encourage them and definitely don't want to knock anyone out of the way. As we were climbing up some soggy muddy slopes, I think my strength (again rather than speed) helped as I moved into second position from my start group. However, we then had a very muddy, crowded section and so I let people other people have right of way and slipped back a bit. 

Nearing the end of Lap 1
The final section of each lap was a rather steep descent, which reminded me of a fell race.....the only difference being that fell shoes have lugs on the heels whereas XC spikes are just on the forefoot. Still, I let myself go a bit on the downhill and found that most of the other ladies were rather nervous to do so. On the second lap, I concentrated on trying to avoid any of the "fast pack" overtaking me, whilst closing down some of the early starters. It was all I could do to keep pushing on that steep descent the second time as I was sure I was going to get caught. 

Into the finish - phew!
All too soon, the finish line loomed....I guess I ran out of race to move into the top 3 but I was happy enough to be second fastest on the course and 4th over the line (again I had no clue at the time so had to wait until the results came out). The biggest satisfaction was due to the fact that all 4 of us finished, and although we dropped 2 points on our rivals, we finished the league a mere point ahead of them.....a good bit of friendly rivalry and teamwork definitely spurs everyone to run to the best of their ability!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Another Paddy?

"Variety is the spice of life"?
"A change is as good as a break"?
Whatever phrase you choose, if applied to running they all imply that it's good to include different things in your life to avoid getting stuck in a rut. Although my training is mainly road-based, sometimes it's good to take a step back and do something different to keep it exciting and let your body absorb the effort that you have put in.

With this in mind, I got away from the tarmac last weekend and headed for the hills....more specifically the Welsh hills....and even more specifically Snowdonia.

Jim setting off at midnight
I described the Paddy Buckley Round briefly back in October ("If Carlsberg did weekends....") when I went down to Wales and supported my friend Jasmin on her record-breaking run, and so was eager to support another friend (Jim Mann) as he tried to break the "winter Paddy record". A winter round can be defined in various ways, but is generally taken to mean that it is completed before the end of February in winter conditions (ie reduced daylight, snow, wind and whatever else the Welsh weather has to offer).

Jasmin, Konrad (and their dog Moss) picked me up at Gretna on Friday after work and we headed down to Capel, which is where Jim had decided to start/finish and use as a base for the weekend. Arriving after 10pm, we managed to catch up with a couple of the other support runners before they headed to bed and then the three of us (sorry Moss...the 4 of us), went up to the crossroads to see Jim off at midnight. It seemed relatively warm (a balmy 3 degrees) and the air was still so Jim and Andy (his Leg 1 support crew) set off in good spirits, while we returned to seek out a few hours of sleep.

When Andy got back he reported that Jim had finished Leg 1 20mins ahead of his schedule so we decided to get to the Leg2/3 changeover almost an hour early in case he made up further time. Unluckily for us he didn' by this time it had become considerably colder and was snowing on and off. Still, when he ran in (13mins ahead of schedule) he seemed in good spirits, ate some pasta, drank some coffee and set off up the next hill. Konrad, Moss and I had turfed Jasmin out to support Jim on Leg 3, and picked up those that had finished Leg 2 with him.

The view from Llanberis castle
Back at base, I only just made some more pasta and coffee (and cooked a pizza as Jim's eyes had lit up when it had been mentioned at the 2/3 changeover) when we got a text through to say that he might finish that leg an hour up on schedule. Konrad and I scrambled to get ready and headed back out to Llanberis to be prepared 90mins prior to the planned meeting time. This meant we had time to visit the castle with Moss before spying the Leg 3 team running down the road. Jasmin carried on with us, so we just handed the car keys (and control of Moss) onto those finishing their support at this point.

Leg 4 started at Llanberis and finished at Ogwen taking in several summits en route including the Glyderau and Tryffan. The weather is often bad on this leg, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Jim was climbing well but managing to take on food too (more pasta...while Jasmin enjoyed some pizza) which is really important when you consider the length of the day out and the effort that needs to be put in. Within minutes we had lost all of the views and were ploughing upwards through snow. Jim knew the route well so was leading us up, which meant that we could all go the pace he wanted, while we tried to find the least treacherous route through the slate quarries and up onto the hillside.

Not the best visibility...
Not knowing the area that well, I left the navigation to the others and just made sure I was regularly offering Jim food and drink (whether he wished malt loaf, pizza or apple juice). My fears of being a hindrance rather than a help were unfounded as I seemed to keep up with the rest of the "Dream Team" on both the climbs and the descents - Jim was probably "slightly" tired by now as I found I was even having to slow my descending down (unheard of I know!!).

With the wind whipping the snow around
The wind was vicious but as we dropped out of it and down to the Devil's Kitchen, we were treated to a beautiful vista of a mountain lake surrounded by snow with rocky hillsides ascending away into the clouds - it was stunning! However, the respite was brief as the wind seemed to double in strength as we climbed up onto the Glyders. I wondered if I was ever going to get the feeling back into my chin, nose and cheeks. We had to make sure not to spread out too far as the visibility was rather limited to say the least. I had been trying to warm a gel up inside my gloves (and mitts) for a couple of miles, but all I seemed to have managed to do was cool my hand down to the temperature of the gel, so I have to say that I was rather glad when Jim decided he wanted to consume it! 

Yeay - a summit on the Glyderau!
The rocky summit of Glyder Fach was a good 3-dimensional puzzle - as we wanted to get as close to the very top as possible while making sure no one fell and injured themselves on all the snowy, icy rocks. Coming off the top we made a slight error of direction and nearly headed off just the wrong side of the spur. This was soon corrected, but trying to help Jim with his clothing (taking a jacket off, adding a down layer in, turning the first jacket the right way out and putting it back on him) meant I had to take my hands out of my gloves, and it took me a long time to get a decent amount of warmth back into them.

Climbing up again....
A sharp descent to the col and we were soon climbing up Tryffan (the last summit on our leg). As opposed to when I was last there (New Year's Eve), we didn't hang around to take photos, but headed straight off down the gully towards the lower slopes, though Jasmin somehow managed to record some video footage on her camera. We'd lost quite a lot of time (relatively) on this leg, but it was only to be expected with the appalling weather. I was heading the group as we got to the bottom of the valley and hit the main road so, with Jim's permission, I sprinted off to warn the next leg changeover of his imminent arrival.

Having smashed the record!
Konrad carried on for the final leg (with several others joining in), but Jasmin and I headed back to base for a shower, change, snack and then walked out with Moss to cheer him in as he finally finished 21 hours and 37minutes after he started (over an hour quicker than the previous winter round record). What an epic day.... I confess that there were a few occasions when I was rather chilly and wondered if I'd ever warm up...but overall I loved the whole thing from start to finish and was honoured to have been asked to be apart of it!!

"Dinner" at 11pm. but all smiles :-)
In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went along for a cheeky Leg 4 support run (ie with Jasmin and Konrad...but also with Moss) up another hill early the next morning, though I did realise just how tired my legs where when I was still only halfway up.....however, it just made going out for a big breakfast seem even better!!!

Monday, 6 February 2017

The odd couple of races...

I've mentioned before how difficult it can feel to get back into training, but racing early in the year can take it to a whole new level of effort. Most people feel rather slow in the winter (with notable exceptions such as Laura Muir and Callum Hawkins) but sometimes forcing yourself to get out there and put the effort in is just what you need. Team events can give you extra motivation as you do not want to let your teammates down. It may seem like I have taken this to an extreme level with 4 races run in under 2 weeks, but at least they were all relatively short and I managed to fit them in around my general training plans.

Dumfries Angels
The 2017 team
First up was the Scottish Masters Road Relay Championships which were held at Strathclyde Park. Each leg is just over 3.6miles long and, having won the trophy for the past 2 years running, we Dumfries ladies felt rather under pressure to perform.
 Lisa led us off as usual, and despite saying that she didn't feel fully fit, she covered the distance a mere 10s slower than last year.

Hazel took over in 3rd place (she was worried as it was her first year running with myself and Lisa) and although she was passed by 2 ladies, she also managed to overtake 2 others, keeping us in the running. I felt that I might let the team down if I didn't anchor us well, but Lisa told me not to worry if they had left me too much to make up. I started about 36 second behind the leaders and managed to move into second position about a mile later.

Retaining the trophy
I only caught the leading lady with under a mile to go, and realised that she looked rather younger than myself so would probably have a better sprint finish on her (never my forte!!). I passed her just before the "hill" of the lap and so tried to look strong and push on hoping she'd drop back. People were cheering me on, but when I asked them if I had a gap I don't get an answer, which rather led me to believe that I didn't. The last 3/4 mile is in full view of the finish so the pressure was really on not to let my teammates down, but thankfully a clubmate on his bike let me know that with 200m to go, I had a decent enough gap that I would hold on (as long as I didn't trip over the sleeping policeman coming into the finish). Although I felt I had had to work much harder this time, as we'd only won by 19s, my time was identical to last year's (down to the second).

My doubleheader weekend
The following weekend I managed to pack in socialising with racing. It was my first trip to the Scottish Masters' XC Championships as this year's venue of Dundee seemed slightly closer than last year's (Forres) - and I also crammed in a brief catchup with friends (for what else but cake?) in Edinburgh on the drive up, and then stayed overnight with other friends in Dunfermline. Red wine and prosecco may be everyone's pre-race drink of choice, but it helped me sleep and possibly numbed the pain of the race to come.

Race morning dawned rather wet - and the rain turned to sleet as I headed north (with snow by the side of the road in places). Still, I bravely stripped off down to my vest and shorts and donned my spikes for the race. We were doing a 2-lap course which was just shy of 4 miles, so having looked at the start lists and spotted speedy short-distance runners, I thought that 5th in my age category would be a good target to aim for.

"Settling" for 5th?
By the time we got to the top of the first hill, I must've been behind 20-30 runners with Jenny MacLean pushing the pace on out front. Letting myself go down the hill and into the mud as we exited the grass onto a narrow path through a wild field moved me up a bit, but I wondered if I would have been better sticking with my fell shoes rather than my spikes as I was still slipping a bit. A couple of sharp turns and we were climbing again, this time avoiding trees roots on a pretty path up through woodland. A bit of gravel to cross and we were back onto the grass, running the length of the park, then down, around and back along to the end of the first lap.

Lesley Chisholm (defending her title) had kept up with Jenny and they were joined by Di Lauder. There was a small gap back to another girl and myself running in 4th/5th and then a clear space behind us. The cold was causing my hands to hurt so much that it was very tempting to just drop out as I knew warm clothes were not too far away from the start/finish. I also thought about "settling" for 5th as that had been my pre-race target, but when I heard Lesley's clubmates encouraging her to work on the climbs, I thought that I might as well do the same.

Pushing on....

All of a sudden I was in third place and got a great view of the tussle going on ahead as Lesley tried to maintain a lead, while Di worked hard to close her down. As we came along the long final wet undulating grassy run in, Di seemed to be closing the gap slightly but amazingly, I was reeling them both in. In the end I ran out of race, as although Lesley toughed it out and won the race by 6 seconds, I caught up to Di (and actually crashed into her) on the line so a split second too late....but luckily she forgave me for the impact as we had a nice cool down jog together (along with Jenny who came in for 4th place just 20s back). I was over the moon to have finished anywhere near those ladies, and couldn't have asked for more!

DRC at the start
The very next day was the first race in our club's road Grand Prix - the Cross-Border 10k - which is a point to point race from Carlisle (England) to Gretna (Scotland). I knew I'd be a bit slower than usual after the XC, and I really would have preferred to just get a long run in, but thought I should support the club so decided to do the race but then loop round and run back to my car at the start. Not many souls were as hardy as me (in my shorts and club vest), but then again, they might have seen the weather the freezing rain that started after a few kms was certainly unpleasant. I was actually running along alternately sucking my thumbs and blowing onto my hands to try to get some feeling back into them.
Heading off

If not fast, I felt relatively strong, and actually completed the second half of the race slightly quicker than the first half. The less said about the race organisation the better, but after finishing I ran round to a nearby carpark where I'd left a jumper tucked onto the wheelarch of a friend's car and headed back down the road. Rather than going straight back to Carlisle, I met my friend Claire en route and ran the last mile or so with her. She had been going well, but was started to flag and doubt herself, and so needed some encouragement. Her only other 10K (run several years ago) had been completed in 62:30 so it was brilliant to be able to help her push on and finish well inside her target time (just dipping under the 60minute barrier). However, I was rather glad when I finally got back to my car to a very welcome hot flask and food!!

NE Masters' XC
This weekend I was over in the North East for the last of my 4 races, and again I felt under pressure when I arrived to register and was welcomed with "Are you here to defend your title?" It was the NE Masters XC Champs, and although I had won overall in 2016 (on my first outing as a v40), I knew that there would be new runners moving up to both the V35 and V40 categories and so who knew what would happen, especially as we didn't have our age groups on our backs this year.

The race was held in Wallsend and although some people were heard to complain that the course was "hilly", I thought that it was everything that a good "proper" XC race should be (in my limited opinion). There was grass, there was bog, there were hills, there were hidden dips, there was gravel....and there was mud!!

You'd think it was warm!!
As seem to be the norm, there were some fast starters so I made my way around through some longer grass and plants to get up to the head of the field over the first 100m. As we crossed the first hidden dip/stream there were a couple of ladies, a man and myself running abreast of each other. The marshals recommended sticking to the left side of the course as we headed up the boggy slope, but as I was stuck over on the right, I definitely did a bit of sideways sliding as my spikes tried to get traction. In order to stop this happening again further on round the course I put in a bit of effort and took the lead, with some of the others dropping back on the steady ascent.

A bit of damp and mud?
The course wound around and up and down over two laps, but there weren't many tight switchbacks to sneak a view of the gap behind you. The marshals were all lovely and supportive with lots of encouragement...and even told me off when they caught me trying to look behind me. From what they said, I gathered that I'd opened up a decent gap on the first lap, and doubled it on the second, so could relax on the last downhill into the line. This was rather a good thing as I nearly lost my shoe in a muddy/boggy patch of the run-in on each lap (you'd think I'd remember and change my line for the second lap, but it's hard to change direction when you're trying to run fast with little grip!!).

As it turns out, all the Durham girls ran well, and so we secured team Bronze as well - and as I ran on to cheer the others in and cool down, I heard the nicest thing that a marshal has ever said to me "Well run Durham - lovely to see you run; a pleasure to cheer you on" - aren't Northerners great??!!!

Not a bad series of races with some good results, but added to that was the fact that I managed to coordinate each one with socialising and catching up with friends and family life is good!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Kickstarting the engine....

Joining in a XC race
After the 100k, I knew that I needed some time off, both mentally and physically. I'm sure that a few people were surprised when I decided to take a good 6 weeks off, but I felt that in the long run it would be a good things for me to do. I didn't exactly do "nothing", taking part in a XC race, a hill race and a cheeky parkrun, but I did nothing of any distance and only ran because I really "wanted" to. It was quite nice to lie in bed, or sit indoors and hear the wind howl and the rain pour down, smugly knowing that I wasn't going to have to go out into it.

As always though, returning to training isn't the easiest thing to do......having to give yourself a kick up the backside to do it, and "knowing" that its normal for everything to feel much more of an effort, even if you're operating at a slower pace than when fit.

In recent years, I have sought some warmth and sunshine with friends at the start of January to give me the notion to get out there and exercise....and this year was no different. As well as getting back into some regular running, with a couple of actual efforts, it was an ideal opportunity to try some fun new activities while away from the pressures of work.

Attempting to SUP
Full speed ahead.....
I enjoyed trying to SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) though I found it more fun just playing around with the board and paddle myself than an actual SUP fitness class.......whoever decided it would be a good idea to try to do exercises such a squats, lunges and burpees on an unstable board floating on a cold lagoon was probably a sadist! It didn't help that I didn't realise you had to "anchor" your board onto a fixed loop on a rope, so mine kept trying to float away down the line of the rope itself. 

The running mutt goes to Pilates
As well as discovery that childhood hula hoop skills are not retained as a stored memory into adulthood (I have the foot and ankle bruises to show how often I dropped my hoop) I also tried a 6D sliding class. The best way I can think of describing this, is like a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session with beer mats under your feet or hands. It may not sound tiring but I've never been so knackered as trying to crawl around using only my hands with my feet sliding along behind on these "coasters". To be honest it reminded me of visiting Polish palaces and stately homes as a child as you had to put your feet into fabric mats to protect the floors, and my sister and I would have a great time trying to run and skid across all of the rooms! 

My attempts at Barrefit
Watching the pro, semi-pro and club athletes in the International Duathlon was an eye-opening experience, the pace that the leaders go off at......especially considering the difficulties I had in trying to run on some days due to the strong winds (I actually recorded a 10 minute mile, running downhill on tarmac, as the headwind was so strong). The wind also meant that Fitball and Barrefit classes (which also use Pilates balls) could be entertaining, but luckily my favourite class (aerial relaxation) was held indoors. This consisted of being gently rocked in a silk hammock for half an hour while imagining yourself floating on a cloud overhead......magic!!!

All too soon, it was back to cold wet Blighty with a crash.......but I must must must try to keep up the motivation for getting out and exercising regularly!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Miles including tiles in Spain

Proudly repping Team GB
Go Team GB ;-)
It looked as if the men's race at this year's World 100k championships was going to be an interesting one, as Jonas (the defending champion from Sweden) had returned to run, there were some fast Japanese men, a strong American team, and South Africa (after several years' absence) had brought over a strong group of runners, many of whom had won Comrades in recent years. 

It was tempting to skip the run myself and just watch how their race unfolded......and indeed that choice was nearly taken away from me, as things seemed to be conspiring against me racing. The championships were being held in Los Alcazares, Spain, and when I arrived it became apparent that British Athletics had got their dates muddled up and so had not booked accommodation for that night. Luckily I managed to find somewhere to stay, only to get a late night call from anti-doping as I wasn't at the hotel I'd  been told I was staying in. Some frantic running around the place by them and me, ensured I was tested at the end of my slot and all was well.
Team Zakrzewscy - the best support team!!

There were originally due to be 2 men running for GB as well as myself, but unfortunately they had to withdraw due to lack of fitness and so I felt the weight of expectation to do my country proud sitting squarely on my shoulders.

The 100k course consisted of 10 laps of 10km, of which 3.5km was on small 3x3cm tiles along the shorefront, and the rest was on tarmac, going out and back along several parallel roads in the town. I confess that I "amused" myself on one lap by counting the corners....there were 4 x 180 degree turns and 13 x 90 degrees turns to negotiate in each 10km. 

The pre-dawn start
Dawn breaks
The World Championship races (along with the regional championships, the open 100k and the open 50k) started together at 7am, ie an hour before sunrise, so it was difficult to see exactly who was who. However, I managed to find my parents beforehand for a good luck hug, and caught up with a few friends in the starting pen. The streets were rather crowded with runners on the first lap, but by the second lap the field had spread out so I had time to look up from my feet and see a beautiful sunrise over the lagoon.

Running in the sun
There were 2 official feed stations on each lap, so I had regular contact with the GB team support, and the nature of the official areas meant that I was also cheered on by many other nations who recognised me, such as the USA, Canada and Denmark. A group of local men also amused me by playing "God Save the Queen" on a gettoblaster every time I ran past. The most credit must go to my parents, who seemed to cover more ground than me. They were everywhere....taking photos, shouting encouragement, and also cheering on other people they either recognised or I had pointed out to them by name.

The storm approaches
The lap from 60-70k was the most memorable as lightening forked across the sky, thunder rumbled loudly and then the heavens opened. Although the storm was relatively short lived it changed the nature of the course as the tiles became slippy, and large deep puddles stretched the width of the roads (though it did create some interesting photo opportunities). Some officials tried to help the runners out by moving barriers and tape so that we avoided some of the deepest puddles, but this led to other dramas, such a tightening up a corner so much that every time I rounded it, I nearly ran full tilt into a lamppost.

After the rains
I did not like the tiles!!
The tiles were not my friend.....for starters, you had to run a steep short downhill to get into them (and around a 180 degree bend), and they seemed to get harder and harder every lap (by the evening of the race I had rather swollen ankles with crepitus in the ligaments from the impact). The relief at leaving the tiles to hit the road was marred slightly by an ankle deep puddle which stretched from one side of the course to the other, and was far too wide to leap across. 

One of the (least tight) 180 degree turns
I ran most of the race in second position  - initially behind a Dutch lady, and later behind an Australian lady (Kirsten). At one point early on, I overtook the Dutch girl (I never thought I would ever find myself leading a World Championship race) but that turn of speed was probably more caused by panic that I had been unable to spot the portaloos. I could feel myself tiring in the latter stages, but luckily (or unluckily) the battery on my watch had packed up and so I had no idea what pace I was actually running. 

A finisher's red carpet!

So happy to cross that line!
Kirsten seemed steady at the front but Nicolina (from Croatia) crept up on me and then powered away. The switchbacks in the final few kms of the last couple of laps meant that I could see how others were running. Nicolina looked to be by far the strongest runner in the latter stages and was closing Kirsten down, but Kirsten managed to dig deep and retain the lead. I knew that I wouldn't be able to make anything up on them but seemed to have a decent gal behind me, and I knew that I was also first in my age group, so I was very thankful to cross the line in the Bronze medal position. 

Looking slightly further back, the Japanese ladies packed well finishing within seconds of each other to ensure they had a clean win of the team competition. Unfortunately the Dutch lady's fast start caught up with her and she finished about half an hour back from me......but still ran a national record. 

Some extra medals for the collection ;-)
The ladies' podium
I was astonished to see my finishing time on the clock - 7 hrs and 41 minutes - as I've now run this exact same time for 3 of the 4 100k World Championship races that I've run in. I admit that thoughts of retiring have crossed my mind, as I've somehow managed to maintain my record of never coming home from a championship emtyhanded, which would just lead to more pressure next time!

Thursday, 1 December 2016


My 2 antidoping tests in Spain
There are many different forms of "good sportsmanship". I guess that the main thing that people think of when considering cheating or breaking rules these days is with drugs. I am not belittling the role of antidoping (in fact, even though I was only in Spain for three days for the recent World 100k championships, I was tested on 2 separate occasions - both blood and urine tests), but there are other situations when you can find yourself questioning what the "right" thing to do is.
I would like to think that I would never knowingly break a rule in a race, and would expect to be pulled up on it if I did, but what do you do if you see someone else doing this? It would be more forgiveable if it was the first time someone had raced at that level, but at a World Championships there is a technical meeting the day before the race, when rules are explained to the national support teams and runners are also aware of what can and cannot be done.
Recently, I had to make just that very decision - I heard another runner arranging to meet their support crew and pick up things outwith the regulated feed stations on the course. These feed stations are every 5km on the 100k course, so it isn't as if they are few and far between as they were in the World Trails. These feed/support points are in place to ensure that nobody is advantaged/or disadvantaged by having differing numbers of support crew available to help them in the race.
Deciding what to do...
While it upset my race at the time (as I ran faster than I had planned to run in order to make sure that I saw the arranged "out of station" support, and was so surprised by it that I dropped my own gel and hence went 20K between taking one and getting the next one ), I doubt it affected my overall result, but I did think that it might have affected others and so had to decide what to do. Do you comment at the time to the support crew/runner that is breaking the rules? Do you keep quiet and hope they keep offending and have others witness it? Do you wait until the race is over and then lodge a protest? Or do you hope that the individual does "the right thing" by holding up their hand, confessing to it, and apologising?
Bear in mind that you have to make these decisions while trying to execute your own race, and all protests must be lodged within 30mins of finishing the race - and many runners are not in a fit state to think coherently at such a time. Unlike with a "police offence", a "running offence" does not go on your record for the future, so it's something that must be dealt with at the time. What would you do? 
Team discussion and resolution ;-)
In the end, I made what I think was the "right" decision for me - I didn't protest, but spoke to my team manager and the manager of the other runner to ensure that they were aware the breach had been noticed and to get an apology for those whose result might have been affected. This was well handled and done in person, so hopefully saved any embarrassment all round - all's well that ends well and we  all had a good time celebrating post-race together!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016


If I'm asked to do something, I'll generally do it (despite occasional grumbles beforehand) and if I've promised to do something for someone, then I'll do all that I can in my power not to let them down, yet I still think that, to my chagrin, I'm an innately selfish soul. It may be that others do not have this perception of me, as I have found that I keep being asked to do things that are really not in my best interests.....whether it be to run a race because it will make others want to join in to make up a team, or to run something at a certain pace to help someone else out, or to change plans last minute to suit someone else's training or racing.

I don't think that my running is any special, but some people seem to think that once you've recorded certain times, or raced at a specific level, then results and times will just come "easily" without you having to put in the effort. I think that the opposite is sometimes the case, as you still have to train as hard for what you want to achieve, but you've the added pressure of other people's (and your own to some extent) expectations. It's very easy to suddenly find that you've not been properly focussed on your own goals, as you've been trying to do and be everything for everyone else.

A rather busy downhill start line
This weekend was the 65th Brampton to Carlisle road race. I like to run it if I can, not because it's the oldest continuously held road race in the UK, but because it keeps me firmly grounded, being the only race where I've actually DNF'd (albeit a few years ago, when I had to stop due to chest pain...caused by my haemoglobin having dropped to 7). I knew that it might have not been the most sensible thing to a 10mile race the week before the 100k, but I decided on Sunday morning that I would run it, just because I wanted to, and I'd run it at the pace I felt was right and ignore anyone else.

Post race with clubmate (and other mates behind us!)
I decided to be happy with a time of under 61 minutes, to get some good leg turnover but without going completely flat out, and so started steadily. I reeled in a lady per mile for the first few miles and then settled into third place. I knew I'd have to work hard if I was to try to chase down the second lady, and this was not my intent, so I relaxed into it. I confess to working a bit harder than planned as I spotted a clubmate up ahead (and he started coming back to me), and another friend was chasing me down (and out sprinted me for the finish position though we recorded the same time) but all in all it was a successful enjoyable run (and catchup with many friends).....and it was nice to do it just because I (selfishly) wanted to!