Monday, 30 August 2010

New PB (85 miles) - the Ridgeway rocks!

Last year, the Ridgeway 85 was the longest race I'd ever done and was rightly a bit nervous. A year more experience makes a big difference and this time I was just really looking forward to it. My main thoughts were "oh yeah, this one has a fantastic atmosphere, Grim's Ditch which is a great bit of trail, plus it's pretty well signposted so no real navigation required. I like this event - I wonder if I can knock over an hour off last year's time to go sub 20."

I wasn't feeling 100% on Saturday, but not ill enough to consider dropping out. It was another beautiful sunny day and we were treated to the sight of three large deer running across the hill near the noon start at Ivinghoe Beacon, just North of Tring. There were about 120 starters this year: a much bigger field than before. We set off and I enjoyed the trail, remembering lots of forgotten bits as we went. I'd forgotten how hilly the route is - but they do mention that there's over 9 000 feet of ascent on the entry form. I knew lots of people there and ran with a friend (Helen) who hadn't done anything longer than London to Brighton before. It felt nice to be kind of pacing someone in such a long ultra.

I really enjoyed it, especially since I'd learnt about wearing more cushioned shoes to avoid the battered and blistered feet that could result from running on the Ridgeway's rocky and rootsy surfaces. We arrived at Goring for a hot meal in daylight, then set off as it began to get dark for the second half. I ran a lot more of the night section than last year and was pleased to find fellow Vegan Runner Maria at the 61.5 mile checkpoint. This meant I was supplied with coffee with soya milk and some tasty vegan sandwiches (hummus and golden syrup - not both at the same time as I thought when she first told me what she'd brought!).Then onwards into the dark until past Barbury Castle, where it finally got light during the final few miles of the run (it was a shame that the sunrise was behind us). We arrived at the finish just before 7am, making my time 18:49 - over two hours faster than my previous best. The race is the UK Trail Running Championships and though I only got 5th place lady (or 16th overall), Helen won the 'Vet 40 lady' category so I was really pleased. Breakfast in Avebury was most welcome, before we were taken to Swindon to catch a train home.

This a superbly well organised event and one that will continue to grow. I'll certainly be back again to enjoy this national trail.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Robin Hood didn't get a trophy did he?

For some reason I wasn't expecting much from the Nottingham ULTRArace 50K. I don't know why that was. Still, it turned out to be a brilliant day out.

I got the train up yesterday afternoon and stayed in a good hotel (mercifully cheap as booked online) though didn't get much sleep due to it being fairly central and the loud drunk types also being fairly central.

But it dawned sunny and we took a coach North to the start. The course was nearly all trail and very pretty. It was well marked and we had route maps too. So how did I manage to get lost and run over a mile extra before the first checkpoint? Let's just put it down to muppetry. Actually, I was really enjoying it, feeling fitter than I have for a while, got carried away & was going too fast to notice one of the arrows...

But in a way that was good as I kept up the pace and passed lots of people. I'm not usually a 'racer' but I felt annoyed at myself for dropping back so many places and that kept me moving - to eventually finish in 3rd place (female) where I got a shiny glass trophy. Yay!(There was also a finishers' medal and towel for everyone.)

A super day out, really well organised by the lovely Rory and Jen at ULTRArace and a great atmosphere. I'll be back next year.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

What day is it again?

I love it when, during the long summer holidays, I get to the point where I have no real idea of what day it is and that doesn't matter at all, as there are plenty more days off till it'll be time to go back to work. A very relaxing feeling.

I got that very much with having 7 days that went - 50K in Salisbury on Sunday, Monday-Friday in Paris, then a 54 miler on the Saturday. Then yesterday (a Tuesday, no less) I did another marathon. Actually, I've just checked and it was my third Tuesday marathon, so they're not quite as rare as I'd suspected.

It was the Evening Enigma Marathon, starting at 4pm, with a couple of laps around the lake in Bletchley Park and a jaunt along the Grand Union Canal. And very enjoyable it was too. I ran with Heather and we were joined by Rory for a lot of the second half. So plenty of good conversation (and admittedly we picked Rory's brains for some training tips from a top coach) and it zipped by (much quicker than expected at 4:16:29). Happy days.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Paris and, er, Hertfordshire

Another fantastic week spent in Paris. Actually only five days, but it seemed like longer as we packed a lot in.

Partly because we made good use of the Velib' (free bike) system - only €5 for a week's riding, as long as you redock your bike at one of the many stations each half hour. Many docking stations all over the place, unless you're actually looking for them that is. Then they all cunningly skulk into hiding.

We rode out to the Bois de Vincennes (which I had only previously visited during the marathon) along the Canal St Martin and also up the Champs Elysees - those Tour de France boys would find it much harder up the cobbles on hire bikes.

We went to some museums, including seeing some Monet (his lilies are much larger than I'd realised) and Rodin's Thinker and The Kiss. The Paris Plages was also on (where they close the road by the Seine and ship in some sand to make a pseudo beach by the river).

The cemetary at Montmartre was really cool, though not quite as striking as the one at Pere Lachaise. It did have a very cute chat de la cimetiere though.And of course I had some lovely runs along the Seine, round the park at the base of the Eiffel Tower and through the Tuileries. And we went on the cheesy big wheel and a big swing chair fariground ride thing near the Louvre. So, five days of being easily pleased zipped by with us both permanently grinning like idiots.

Then yesterday I did the Herts Stroller, which was an LDWA 54 miler in Hertfordshire. It was weird because it didn't feel like an ultra: it was just like any other LDWA event, only longer. All the usual elements of (8 pages of) instructions, well-stocked checkpoints, hills, mud, rain, sun, woods, fields, footbridges, stiles, kissing gates, lostness, views, great company. Heather and I sauntered round in a little under 12 hours. The only thing that made it different from other LDWA events was the last hour or so being in the dark with headtorches. A top day out.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Summer holdiays always good and still plenty more left...

We had a lovely week camping in the New Forest. Unfortunately I didn't feel too well most of the week and was struggling when I ran - but at least my runs involved spotting deer, ponies, donkeys, rabbits and cows, so I was happy enough.

Oh, before that we had a go on the new Boris Bikes in town: which I really liked, as I'd forgotten the simple pleasure of riding a bike. And we saw City of Lost Children at the NFT with a Q & A session with director Marc Caro afterwards. Not nearly as pretentious as we feared it may be, but a great evening out.

We then took a train to Salisbury yesterday and stayed in a stupidly hot (even with the fan on all night) hotel. Salisbury always seems like it should be nicer than it actually is. The Cathedral is alright and there are some good bits of old buildings dotted around, but somehow it's never quite as enjoyable as I think it should be. However, at least the pizza was great.

The 5-4-3-2-1 trail marathon has always been a pretty one though. Slightly misnamed as a lot of it is on road, but there are some good bits: my favourite being where you follow some string tied among the trees through the woods. It feels like being in a fairy tale. This year they added a 50K run to the other distances available (10, 20, 30, 40 and 42K) so I opted for the long one. I was still feeling a bit knackered, but luckily Heather was there to keep me moving cheerily at a reasonable pace, though we still did a fair amount of walking up the hills. A slow one at about 5:17, but another good day out in the countryside.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Lapping it up

The Faversham marathon yesterday was surprisingly enjoyable (it involved 40 laps around a park, so not the most exciting of courses). There were loads of 100 marathon club folk in attendance so it was extremely sociable, both before, during (as we all lapped each other many times) and after. They have a policiy of "everyone's a winner" so we all got a ridiculously big trophy at the finish (my actual position was 5th lady I think). The goody bag also contained a lotto ticket, beer and an energy drink.After Lakeland last week, then donating blood on Thursday (I think they say no strenuous exercise for 24 hours, so a marathon a day and a half later is fine, no?) I wasn't sure if I'd have any energy at all. So a sedate trot round in 4:16:49 was more than acceptable.

This morning's 10 miler was hard though - I really felt like I was running on empty. I had to have two breakfasts to feel right again.