Wednesday, 30 December 2009

A marathon on a Tuesday

The Leahurst Marathon is a small event - just 19 runners this year - which takes place starting in Long Eaton, Derbyshire. Very icy in places, a pretty route with a mixture of road, fields, paths and trails. We ran it as a group (great company) at a very relaxed place (nearly 7 hours!!). Nice.My 44th and last marathon for 2009, bringing my total number of miles covered in races this year to just over 1500.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Snowy sunny marathon - phew!

On Friday, along with the snow came an email from the organiser of the 'Stansted Stagger' marathon, saying that it had been cancelled. I was disappointed, but Roger Biggs (chairman of the 100 Marathon Club) was even more keen to complete a marathon at the weekend - he was going for a marathon every week of 2009 and had managed 50 so far...

So a new event, "Roger's Stansted Snow Slog" popped onto the race calendar at very short notice. We had the route description from the stagger and arranged to meet at 9am in Stansted Mountfitchet to complete the pretty, off road course. About a dozen or so of us turned up and I ran with Heather again. It was a beautiful sunny morning and the fields of snow looked stunning. We were later joined by Neil and Simon (who took the photos) and enjoyed chatting away the hours managing not to get lost (quite a feat given that we couldn't see things like the 'wide muddy track' or the 'sandy path' as everything just looked like more white). As it mostly wasn't too deep, nor too icy, the snow actually made the terrain easier going than the mudfest it may otherwise have been.
We finished, still smiling, in 5 hours 18 minutes. It felt very special. Maybe because it was so peaceful out in the snow, maybe because we were pleased to be running after the initial cancellation. A great way to spend Sunday anyway.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Wintry weekend

Brrr it's strating to get chilly. On Saturday we went to visit my sister for a pre-xmas dinner, as she'll be away during the holidays. We had a lovely family day and I finally got to meet her horse, who is a beautiful big beast. I probably drank too much, but it was a very pleasant day.The 'Winter in Wheathampstead' on Sunday was my first 100-club-only marathon. It was great as I knew lots of the other people there, having met them at other marathons over the past few years. It was a very pleasant countryside course of three different loops back to the village hall checkpoint, with some pretty woods and not too many stiles nor too much mud. I did manage to get stung by an electric fence though. Ouch. A slow one (5:21) but a most enjoyable day out. I like wintry weekends.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

My first time in a podcast

A new podcast about running is available from iTunes, which can also be heard by scrolling down the page and pressing the play button at Running and Life (Episode 2 - December 09) and if you listen carefully, you'll hear me prattling on about my running... (I begin about 4 minutes in from the start).


my justgiving page

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Lovely Luton (?!)

On Sunday I went to Luton for the marathon. For some reason I really like this one. It's 3 laps near Luton, usually very windy and often raining too. (Last year it was canceled due to ice so I didn't mind too much what the weather did as long as the race went ahead.) But somehow it's a great event. Possibly it's the smooth organisation and enthusiastic marshals that do it.

I decided to go by train as there was heavy rain and strong wind in the morning, making riding Haku an unappealing transport option. There was a bus as rail replacement service, so I was surprised to arrive earlier than orginally planned. Not sure how that happened. Anyway, I'd had a dodgy leg all week (I hardly ran at all, which is very unusual for me) so went for a pre-race sports massage which felt fantastic. I think I might treat myself to a massage more often.

There were loads of familiar faces there so it was all very sociable. There were 3 other Vegan Runners UK runners, plus many Fetchies and 100 Club peeps. My leg was sore for the first 7 miles but then the pain eased off and I really enjoyed the run. My final time was 4:32:59 - not nearly as slow as anticipated. We got a cotton goody bag and a medal, both rather nice.
And that's number 81 done now, so the 100 by May is still looking like a good target.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Muddy mud and more mud

I thought I'd met all the varieties of mud that the UK has to offer. But it turns out I hadn't. On Sunday I was introduced to even more types of the brown stuff (as well as thigh-deep, cold floodwater (also new territory) and the many stiles I've come to expect on an LDWA event) at the Gatliff 50K in Kent.

We were fortunate with the weather, in that while it was extremely soggy underfoot, it didn't actually rain too much, nor was it excessively windy while we were out (for over 8 hours! Who'd have thought a head torch would be necessary for a mere 31 miles?). Saw a beautiful big rainbow.

Nice day out all in all: lots of familiar faces at the start and finish and I had the pleasure of Heather's company - many laughs throughout the day. Plus it was a bit of celebration as it was my first 50K, my last ultra of the year, my 80th 'marathon' and the day before my birthday. We had bubbly at the finish...

Monday, 23 November 2009

In the News again, plus Toon Moorathon

I was mentioned in an article in another local paper last week (which also has an online version). I assume the headline is some sort of pun on the fact that I'm Maths teacher?
Rather irritatingly, they misquoted me and it sounds like I think I'm going to be the first woman to complete 100 marathons, rather than hopefully the youngest. Hey ho. I don't think I'll be getting the world record officially certified with the Guinness people anyway, as apparently that's a bit of a faff. But if it leads to any additional sponsorship for Brathay then it's all good.

This weekend we headed up to Newcastle where we stayed with my parents, which made for a lovely break away. On Sunday we popped over to the Town Moor for the first Newcastle Marathon. There were loads of Fetchies and 100 club members there with a great Fetchpoint cheering us on. The 5 lap course was suprisingly not too dull and the weather was kind with a headwind that made some of it tough but other bits pleasantly easy. Only a tiny hill too. Admittedly it seemed bigger with each lap, of course. It was a well organised day out with enthusiastic marshals and a nice memento at the end that makes a change from a medal or T shirt.A 4:16:13 finish for me, with my parents there which was nice as I don't think they 'get' my running, but it was good for them to see what it's all about. Followed by a tasty meal at Wagamama. A great weekend all in all.

Monday, 16 November 2009

A pleasant jog by the seaside

No really, I mean it was just a 10K. The Brighton 10K is a lovely event and one to which I was proud to take 29 sixth form students this year. They had trained over the past few weeks as their 'enrichment activity' at college (this involved several sessions in the park where I stand around with a whistle and a stopwatch while they do some drills, intervals, hillwork, speedwork etc).

We took the train south the day after the stormy weather, which was pleasantly cool and calm. We just had time to drop our baggage before getting to the start line. The course loops back on itself a couple of times, so I took the excuse of jogging around gently, cheering on my students, as well as any other Vegan Runners and Fetchies that passed by in the opposite direction. The fastest of the students took just over 46 minutes, the slowest were just under 90. But they all finished and were pleased with their achievement. They were being sponsored to raise money for Children in Need or other charites of their choice. We all wore Pudsey-style bandanas to foster a team spirit (and to help Jim identify who to take photos of).

After the race we went our separate ways. Jim and I went for pizza, then drinks by the beach.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Running for Charity next year. A long way.

So far I've raised 9% of my target amount of £2000 for Brathay, for doing the Ten in Ten challenge next year. This month I was featured in the local paper (The Archer, which covers East Finchley). I guess it's a start. I'll have to start gearing up the fundraising efforts soon. That's actually considerably more effort than gearing up the training, as running more in the crisp fresh mornings (or the rain or snow) over the winter months is very appealing.

My training is even more meaningful as I've recently secured a place at next year's Grand Union Canal Race too. That's along the canal from Birmingham to Paddington, London. 145 miles. Can't wait!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

School on a Saturday (marathon Sunday)

As a teacher, it's not often I work on a Saturday. But once a year there is an Open Day where next year's prospective sixth form students come to look round the college. It felt very odd to be there on a Saturday, but we have next Friday off to make up for it, so I'm not complaining.
To make it feel more like a weekend then, I pretty much had to do a marathon today. The Steppingley Step is a great LDWA event. It felt very similar to last week, in that there were fields of mud, lots of stiles and some llamas. However, there was also a huge hill about a mile or so in (so steep it had steps) and some really fluffy cows that looked more like big stuffed toys than real live creatures. It felt much easier than last week though and was significantly quicker (yet still just over 5 hours).
A lovely day out in the countryside (it was a circular route, starting in the village of Barton-le-Clay, a bit north of Luton) and a chance to ride Haku (my shiny Yamaha Fazer 600) to get there. There were loads of people I knew there today which is always nice.
A weekend off next for me, which I think my legs will appreciate. (I mean no marathons or ultras - I'll be taking over 30 of my students down to Brighton to do the 10K. Makes a pleasant change from the sort of things we normally hear about teenagers doing.)

Monday, 2 November 2009

Half term rocks!

We took the Night Riviera train to St Ives on the Friday after school. By Saturday morning we had the tent pitched on the clifftop overlooking The Island and Porthmeor beach and left it to head into town for coffee, pasties, then sitting about with beverages outside The Sloop watching people, waves, the harbour... a chilled existence that set the tone for the week. We took a stroll inland one day to reach a high point where we could see the sea to both the North and the South. Pretty cool. I navigated us there with my recently well honed map reading skills (there is an extra advantage to ultra running) and only got lost once through lack of a compass. [Note to self - must get the hang of the 'reading the sun' thing.]

We both spent the week grinning like idiots. We napped a lot and generally just relaxed. We watched the RNLI launch drill one evening, always good to see. I didn't even run much as I wanted to rest my legs for a change (only 3 short runs all week - couldn't resist a bit of running along that beautiful coast).
It was over too quickly and we arrived home late Friday night. That didn't give me much time to sort out my kit for a weekend of running.

I was up before 6 on Saturday morning to head out to the Blackwater Marathon. This was a charming LDWA event near Colchester. I ran with Heather, a Fetchie I've done a few marathons with now: excellent company. I say 'ran' but we both had plans for the following day so we took it really gently. The route was flat but exceptionally muddy in parts (crossing fields where it seems that your shoes are replaced by bricks by the time you get to the other side). There were many bridges and stiles, cute llamas, petrified trees, a pretty sea wall and I got stung by an electric fence (ouch! - apparently I jumped backwards and glowed like the Ready Brek kid. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration...) We didn't get lost, which was good as the "marathon" was actually 28 miles long. There was of course good food after.Then it was a lift up to Norwich with Allan, another great Fetchie. I stayed in a nice little B&B, just a short walk from the start of the Marriott's Way Ultra. This was a 39 mile trail run on an out-and-back course along an old rail track. That meant it was pleasantly flat and there was some protection from the heavy rain and howling gales that hit the country on Sunday. I ran with more Fetchies from the start (Audrey and Carina) and one (Paul) was kind enough to stay with me (at the back of the small field) for the whole route. It was a lovely run, completed in 6 hours 48 minutes and didn't cost a penny to enter so more than a bargain. Definitely one to do next year. I felt most refreshed for the start of the new half term today. Quite a bounce in my step. ;-)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Founders' Challenge Marathon

What a nice day out. This was an LDWA event (ascend the hill, over the stile with the hedge on the left, turn right over the footbridge...) so was never going to be quick, not helped by the steep hills and rocky terrain in parts. But it was beautiful. Some fantastic views from the Surrey hilltops, not far from Guildford.
I took it steady and just enjoyed being out in the countryside. The weather was fresh and bright. It really made me look forward to more cool running through the winter months. I ran (and walked) with Helen (who I'd met previously at London to Brighton) and Matt (who I'd apparently run with a bit at the South Downs Marathon earlier in the year). Good company both. There were 3 well-stocked checkpoints en route and at the end a very welcome freshly made 3 course meal with a very tasty vegan option (carrot and coriander soup, pasta with aubergine and tomato sauce and fresh fruit salad). An absolute bargain, especially given that the entry fee was only about a fiver.

A very well organised and friendly event - definitely going on the list for next year.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

A marathon is just over a quarter of 100 miles

I wasn't sure it would be wise to try to run a marathon the week after my first 100 miler. But then, most people would say running 100 miles in the first place wasn't wise...

So I booked a place at the Leicester Marathon, just in case I felt like a nice long jog this weekend. Turns out I did (was it ever really in doubt?). By last Wednesday my legs felt fine and just my feet were still a bit sore. That's good enough for me.

I met several Fetchies at the start in park and more people I knew along the way. It's a pleasant enough course, along lots of countryish lanes and through some parks by a lake and a river. We also went past the space centre, which looks like a transparent plastic inflatable builiding with a rocket in it. Cool. I took it nice and easy, walking up some of the hills. My right leg felt a bit iffy at various points (my right foot is a bit dodgy, but it translated to a soreness in the ankle, calf, knee, thigh and butt cheek, kindly alternating which bit hurt throughout the run.) That's what ibuprofen's for, no?
I finished in 4 twentysomething. The Tshirt is women's fit and long sleeved which would be great if it wasn't white. The medal's nice though. Plus I didn't eat my finisher's banana, so I can have that at coffee break tomorrow. Who says I'm easily pleased?

Monday, 5 October 2009

100 miles, 15 200 feet of ascent, 28 and a quarter hours

So they're the vital statistics for this event. It was my first 100 miler. Only a third of the 36 starters completed the full distance. Not sure of my place but I know I wasn't last! Overall not a bad result given that I did my first ultra less than 9 months ago. I still feel like a bit of a novice at this ultra lark, but I'm starting to change my thinking now that I've done a few fairly long runs.

The 'Caesar's Camp 100 mile endurance event' takes place on MOD land near Aldershot. It's a ten lap course with a checkpoint at the start/finish area plus another at 5.6 miles. There are many hills, including some very steep and shingly ones, especially tough on the downhills as the legs get tired. It's all off road, with a mixture of surfaces of trail, often chalk tracks, sometimes grass, mud and other rootsy woodland. And one stile (that you go over ten times). Henk, the mad Dutch organiser, is very supportive in his own unique way.

There were some good views from the hilltops during the daylight hours, which seemed even better in the morning sunshine. The weather was very kind, with only an hour or so of not-too-heavy rain (with a lovely big rainbow briefly visible) and some strong headwinds on the open section for the first four laps. It wasn't sunny on the Saturday (we started at noon) but it did get very warm on Sunday.

I managed 3 laps before it started to get dark so I knew the course pretty well by then. There were glow sticks put out to mark the course overnight. There was a brilliant full moon, but it was mostly hidden in the clouds. Running with a headtorch was good, though it slowed me down as I tried to avoid all the many trip hazards underfoot. I actually only slipped over twice, both times going down the same scree slope. There were lots of cows about (with their eerie seemingly glowing eyes) and some soldiers wearing what appeared to be comedy blonde wigs, but were presumably some sort of straw camouflage. I managed to keep running (at least on the downs and flats) for the first 80 miles. I finshed the first 50 before midnight which I was pleased with. The blisters started after 80 miles, making the ninth lap very slow. Then on the tenth lap I felt very spacey like I was going to pass out. I guess I hadn't eaten enough. But how would one consume over 10 000 calories in a day? Anyway, I ended up walking the whole of the last lap at a very slow pace. That was a huge test of mental strength.

I'm told this was a very tough event to choose for my first 100 miler. Hopefully the next one will seem easier then! (Unless it happens to be Lakeland of course.) It was certainly really good mental training. And therefore good training for the ten in ten (www.justgiving/annafinn10in10)

My recovery run this morning was only 1.4 miles, at 11-minute-miling pace. This week should really test out whether my hemp protein is helping with recovery as I'm planning to do the Leicester Marathon on Sunday...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Ponies, ponies everywhere!

Well, it was a weekend in the New Forest after all. Actually, the animal count included, in order of sightings: ponies, rabbit, bats, cows, horses, pig, badger, donkeys. And all but the badger (roadkill) were frolicking about gaily. Plus there was the comedy owl hooting in the night, plus a shooting star (admittedly not an animal, but pretty cool to see all the same).
We rode down on the motorbikes straight after work on Friday and were drinking wine in the moonlight outside the tent by 8 o'clock. On Saturday we took a stroll through the trees to Brockenhurst, where there are good cafes, shops and pubs. A leisurely day out in the sunshine. And the blackberries were ripe too. Nice.
On the Sunday morning I took the small wiggly roads to New Milton for the start of the New Forest Marathon. I met up with loads of runners I know (plenty of Fetchies and 100 club members at this one) and met still more that I didn't. It was a beautiful course, mainly on country lanes and a few bits of trail, through forest, open grassland and small villages. It was too hot for me and I think I was still a bit tired from last week's run to the seaside, but finished fairly comfortably in 4:26:05.
On the way home I stopped at Fleet services and came out to find that half a dozen uber-shiny black and silver Yamaha custom bikes had rocked up. They made Haku (my Yamaha Fazer 600) look like some sort of sci-fi cousin.
This morning's recovery run was ok - I didn't feel very strong, but not too knackered either. I had more of my protein powder (£2 off by quoting 'Protein432') with my breakfast to help me recover, ready for a longer run this coming weekend...

Thursday, 24 September 2009

London to Brighton is quite a long way really

What a lovely trail run. And as my brother pointed out, 'London to Brighton' is the sort of route most people can picture and know where it is and roughly how far (supposed to be 56 miles - I clocked 57.8 on the Garmin).

Actually, the first 9 miles were not trail - we went through the deserted Bromley shopping precinct and followed roads to the first checkpoint. After that there was a mixture of trail and country lanes. The paths were generally good and there were some beautiful sections through woods (probably my favourite running). There were, oh, about sixty seven million stiles on the course. Maybe I exaggerate? Seemed more than strictly necessary anyway.

I met several runners I know either at the start or en route, which was good, as well as meeting new people. From a few miles in I ran with a runner called Helen and we stayed together right through to the finish. We actually ran most of it, with just a bit of walking up the hills (notably the big steep hill to get over the South Downs shortly before approaching Brigthon). That should have meant a reasonable finishing time, but the map reading slowed us down a lot. We didn't actually get very lost, but spent a lot of time standing around checking the map and trying to work out which of the vague tracks across the field ahead was the one we were supposed to follow. Even with the compass it was tricksy navigation.
I was looking forward to finishing on the beach in Brighton, until the reality of the pebbles confronted me on the very last weary hundred metres. It felt very good to get there though. Time? 12 hours, 36 minutes, 46 seconds.

I felt more tired than I have in ages on the Monday after. Probably because I didn't manage to eat much on the day, so expended around 5000 more calories than I consumed. But I ate plenty on Monday and Tuesday, including some protein powder to help the muscles, and felt much stronger on Tuesday's run. (You can get £2 off if you want to try some of the protein, by quoting 'Protein432' when you order. It's good vegan stuff, made from hemp.)

All in all it was a good day out - I'll definitely have to go do it again another year.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Robin Hood, Robin Hood...

...riding through the glen... That tune's been going round in my head all week. Which is silly because there was nothing Robin Hoodish about the Nottingham Marathon apart from the name and the fact that the medal has a bow and arrow design on it.Jim and I went to Nottingham on Saturday and spent a pleasant day moseying around town. On Sunday I left Jim to entertain himself with his mighty camera, while I headed to the park for the start of the marathon. There were many Fetchies and a few Vegan Runners, so lots of people to see, some of whom I hadn't met before 'in real life'. Heather and I decided to run together again after our successful pacing last week. It worked, only faster - we finished comfortably in 4:08.

The first half went through the grounds of the uni and some pretty parks, also taking in some hills, which were gentle enough not to need to walk up. The second half headed out past the water sports centre, which involved flat but windy sections and lots of doubling back where we got see other runners. It felt good to be 'running' another marathon after the summer where most of the trail runs involved a fair amount of walking. I guess the Ridgeway is just about out of my legs by now, though my feet are still a little sore.
Comfortable runs like this are great for my confidence in the build up to the ten in ten next year. Oh and I nearly forgot to mention - Robin Hood was my 70th marathon!

I donned my compression socks this morning for a very nice 9 mile recovery run. Lovely. And I'm trying some new vegan 'Hemp Natural Protein' to see if I can improve my recovery even more. If this stuff works, I may be entering into a sort of sponsorship deal with the hemp folk.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

How to Recover from an 86 Mile Run

Well, it seems like the Ridgeway was yonks ago, but it has only been a week. I wondered how well I'd recover. I wondered whether it was foolish to enter a marathon the following weekend...

I reckon 4 hours and 17 minutes says recovery is going pretty well, thank you very much!
The Kent Coastal Marathon, starting at Margate and running along the coast in both directions (and therefore half of it into a headwind), made for a lovely day out. It was possibly my most consistent run for ages. I ran with Heather, who was herself recovering from a summer plagued by injury. We took it steady and kept expecting to need to walk 'at some point soon'. But we just kept jogging along, chatting away.
Of course, I felt a bit more tired than usual, but felt rather chuffed with myself. Running on tired legs is good training too. "For what?" you ask? Well, for running around a big old lake for ten days in a row next year perhaps... see for more on what I've got lined up to challenge me next year.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Ridgeway 85 - UK Trail Running Championships

Start at noon on Saturday at Ivinghoe Beacon, about 3 miles from Tring, follow the Ridgeway National Trail for 85 miles then turn off to Avebury for the finish. 86.5 miles in total, 21 hours and 11 minutes. I came 5th (female) and have to admit I'm a bit disappointed.The first half was lovely. Some great views, quite good tracks and grass to run on and I was running well. Stocking up on water and nibbles at the checkpoints without hanging around too long. I felt great. My favourite section was Grim's Ditch, about 35 miles in, which is a rootsy trail through the trees - I didn't even fall over!I got to Goring (half way) and had a jacket potato and beans and was ready to head out into the darkness. Not trusting my sense of direction, I decided to stick with a group of 3 others through the night. They were great company and certainly ensured we went the right way, but we spent longer at the checkpoints than I'd have liked.

But my slow time was a result of my sore feet. I was wearing not-very-cusioned trail shoes and the rough ground lead to blisters on the soles of both heels, which made runnig difficult. The balls of my feet were also sore from all the sharp stones and rocks. This made every step painful and from 65 miles onwards it was a struggle to enjoy it, despite feeling otherwise pretty strong. I really felt with a wiser choice of shoe I could have put in a far better performance in the second half.
Still, it was kind of fun running with a pack and a headtorch, past bemused wildlife. I got quite tired around half past three, but felt much better once the sun came up.

My favourite checkpoint was at about 62 miles where a fellow Vegan Runner, Maria, had got some vegan treacle tart and a cup of tea (with soya milk) for me. They tasted fantastic!

This is a really well organised event and one that I'd recommend as a first long ultra. The route is signposted well but worth a recce beforehand if possible. The checkpoints were all brilliant, manned by enthusiastic volunteers from local running clubs. Sadly the medal at the finish doesn't actually say '85 miles' on it though...So, this is definitely an event I have unfinished business with. I'll go back looking for a sub-20 time hopefully. Not next year as I have something else on around then, but 2011 looks good...

Dorset Doddle

After the fantastic week away in Paris, I had no plans for the next couple of weeks. That includes no marathons. The first running-event-free weekend was nice enough, but just felt a bit wrong. So I found a short ultra to do the following weekend (23rd August).

The Dorset Doddle is not a doddle. It's 32 hilly miles along the coastal path from Weymouth to Swanage. Constantly up and down, with nasty steps on some of the rises. The hills were so steep that it was hard to walk, let alone run, up and down them.

But the views were fantastic. And it was a lovely day out in the sunshine. I had planned to take it easy, as I was supposed to be tapering before my upcoming longest ultra. So I finished in just over 8 hours, having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Monday, 17 August 2009

We really like Paris

Ah, Paris! Going to Paris with Jim is always fantastic. We spend the whole time grinning like idiots. Some may say we're just easily pleased...
We rarely use a map as we know the city well now, but still manage to find a few things each trip that we haven't done before. This time, they were 1: going to Butte Chaumont, a park in the North East of the city with a few hills in it affording great views of the city, including seeing the Sacre Coeur from a new angle. 2: A visit to the Musee des Arts et Metiers,with plenty of geeky old stuff, including some planes (Bleriot's) in an old church. Good use of the building we thought. 3: A visit to Versailles, the palace of the 'sun king'. It was very big and shiny, with a lake in the huge gardens. We hired a boat and Jim rowed me about in true gentlemanly stylee.
Of course in the mornings I took a run along the Seine (and Jim even came with me a couple of times) and we went to enjoy all our usual haunts throughout the week too. I expect we'll go back next year then, especially as we forgot to go to les egouts (for the sewers tour)...

Old Sarum

Apparently Old Sarum was the old town (now just a few ruins on a hill) that eventually became Salisbury. It was just above our campsite and made for a pleasant short run on Saturday morning, then was the first hill of the course of the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 Trail Marathon. (So called as it incorporates 5 rivers, 4 hills, 3 stately homes, 2 castles and 1 cathedral.)
Jim and I had a lovely couple of days in Salisbury, with drinks by the river in the sunshine, then on Sunday I met loads of folk I know at the start of the marathon. It was too warm for me but a pretty route. Too many roads for my liking, but the trail parts were great. A slow one at 4:45:42, but I really enjoyed it, taking it nice and easy.So that was supposed to be the last long run before Ridgeway at the end of the month, but having had one weekend off and it feeling too odd, I've found a short ultra to do next weekend.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Lakeland 50

Toughest. Race. Ever.

Actually, I was doing the lightweight 50 mile option - the folks doing the full 100 had it far harder. They started at 7:30pm on Friday and ran through the night (during which it rained heavily and persistently on them), whereas we started at noon the following day. This still involved a few hours of darkness on the fells later on, with a smattering of rain, but at least there were only 50 miles.
So, tough terrain. I thought I'd met tough terrain before, but the variety of types of tough were something to behold - ankle sucking peat bogs, cold streams, sharp and loose rocky trails, bracken obscured paths, extremely steep uphills and downhills, wet slippery stones, slidy stiles and all of this for practice in the daylight, before more of the same in the dark. It's fair to say it was the most difficult event I've done.

But there were some stunning views - the highest point was 665 metres, offering a fantastic panorama. Wished I'd taken a camera. Throughout the day we looked down on Ullswater, Haweswater and Windermere (the dark hid Coniston Water from view on the descent into the finish town). There was also the surreal nature of navigating up on the fells with only a small spot of headtorch light to see by, illuminating the sheep's eyes in an almost alarming manner.

There were 7 checkpoints, well stocked with various food and drink (the hobnobs and straawberry jam were my favourite). I ran with a fellow Fetchie, Jo, from about 27 miles onwards and it was great to have both company as distraction up the long hills, and someone to work out the correct route with. We met up with another group of four later on, which was even more reassuring for finding the course at night. We finished exhausted but happy at around half past two in the morning (final time of 14:22:13). We got a medal and a rather nice pertex gilet.
So now the 100 miler is looking tempting for next year...

Ultra #10 the Downlands Challenge

Just a little 30 miler for my tenth ultra. A lovely route along the South Downs Way (15 miles out and back, as you can see from the symmetrical elevation profile):A Fetchie (and friend from primary school as it happens) is organising a race along the entire length of the SDW next year (website here) so this was a good recce to see what it'll be like.

This was the first race I've done where we got a shopping bag for finishing.It was warm but not too bad and I was pleased to get a 30 mile PB of under 5 and a half hours.