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Friday 15 May 2015

DNF TP100: Why I Didn't Finish My 100 Mile Race

The Day The Bottom Fell Out Of My World or The Day The World Fell Out Of My Bottom 

I had no injuries, my training had gone really well and I had spent hours and hours preparing my drop bags and choosing the right kit. I taped my toes up and had lubed everywhere so thoroughly that when I went to use the portaloo before the start of the race, I’d almost slid into the hole.

Before the race with Jilly, me and Tinu
So my excuse for dropping out of the Thames Path 100 at checkpoint 1, 12 miles into the race? 

My complete inability to keep any food or water in my body. Despite already eating 6 (my complete stock for the TP100) Imodium tablets, bad things were happening. Every time I took a sip of water, I had to run and find a loo. I couldn’t get food down. This wasn’t just an upset tummy, this was a furious tummy.

I was having visions of shrivelling up like a raisin from dehydration. The face of mother Teresa, the vision of Scott Jurek but the toilet habits of a 10 week old puppy.

Mother Teresa (Source)
All that preparation and training unravelled in a moment. I couldn’t push and bully myself through 100 miles of not being able to eat or drink. But it made it an easy decision. No agonising over what to do. 

But gutted. I felt truly gutted. I knew that there was the possibility of a Did Not Finish at a race of this length but didn’t expect it to apply to me. Not arrogance, just optimism and high expectations. I didn’t expect to come into work the week after NOT having achieved a belt buckle. I run. It’s what I do. Not this day. 

To drop was an easy choice, but not an easy reconciliation. I’m going over it and over it. Could I have gone on? Yes, but not for long without being able fuel. Should I have started knowing I wasn’t well? Probably not, but sometimes it’s just nerves.

It wasn’t all bad though. I met up with old friends, made new friends and met online friends. I ran a few miles with Naomi who had done so brilliantly in the race last year and saw her as she came through CP2 and I was waiting for my lift home. She was very sympathetic at my plight and went to hug me, then remembered I’d dropped out because I was sick. So patted me on the head instead. It made me laugh and made me like her more. 

Me and Tony Bowe of Northbrook
I met Justin who had a great race ... up to mile 95 and who had to drop when his knee just refused to move like a knee should. Tinu, the inspiring and brave lady who is moving towards the 100 marathon club. Rodrigo on his way to the Grand Slam – 4 x 100 milers this year. Louise, the ultra runner and parkrun tourist extraordinaire. Tony from Northbrook who had an amazing race and who has just discovered His Distance. Ultraboy owner of the most garish footwear and singer of West End musicals. Jilly the RMR ultra runner. Cat ultra legend. Rhianon who I always seem to see part way through races and Susie and Shaun, the MdS superstars and adventurers. Leila of Aid Station 1 who has made me look forward to Giants head Marathon more through her cider tales and Donna of Centurion who – despite the risk to upholstery and vehicle – gave me a lift to CP2. I hope your shin fractures heals quickly. And of course to Boo and Ash for putting me up for 3 days and being amazing. Thank you all. It would have been a lot worse without you.

And thank you to Simon, my crew who wasn’t and Anna, my pacer who wasn’t. And Lily my 5 year old who told me she knew what was wrong: “You're just tired and need some kisses and cuddles.” 

This post has turned into a babble. The positives, I have no injury and the only damage from the TP100 was to my pride. And my arse.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Runner: I Label Myself

I saw a post recently that made me sad. It was labelling runners. A friend had said she wasn’t a marathon runner because she hadn’t run the whole way in a marathon. I don’t like labelling people. It judges them, puts them in a little box and it’s unfair. Everyone’s story is different and we don’t all fit the little boxes.

Labelling excludes people more than it includes them and running is the opposite of that. I’m not sure why it should be but it is. If you run, you’re automatically included in the community, in the pack.  

I train alone most of the time but I know that despite this, if I see a runner on the street, they’ll probably nod or wave whether they know me or not. I know that my running friends will listen to my training woes and offer helpful suggestions to problems, I know that when I fail in a race, they’ll be there to offer support. We may never all get together, we may be miles, even countries apart but we’re a community. A group. A collective of lycra clad, trainer-obsessed runners. And we’re all in it together. 

We may run for different reasons, for a new personal best time, to win a race, to do something we’ve never done before or for peace of mind or to keep the sadness away or to feel the burn of effort in our lung, our legs, our hearts ... but we’re in it together. And we all know the satisfaction of our footfalls on the paths.

Most of us in this pic hadn't met before Equinox 24

It never ceases to amaze me that we can come from such different starting points, have such different aims but be able to talk so freely. The 12 minute miler and the 6 minute miler sharing their tales of their latest parkrun personal best or the ultra runner and the club runner discussing nutrition race strategies. Even the solitary runner feels this bond, knows that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

The Boston Marathon Bombings showed the solidarity of runners. We all mourned the hurt and the felt the horror of it. Miles away, countries away, we were all shaken by what happened to normal people, running people, OUR people. And again it demonstrated our community, our inclusiveness. 

So please don’t label us. If we have finished a marathon, whether we ran the whole way, stopped for a few steps at the water station or had to walk for a mile we’re entitled to call ourselves marathon runners if we want to. Please don’t try and take our achievements away with your words. Your opinion may not matter, but why would you want to hurt someone for their amazing achievement?

So let’s agree just to give ourselves one label: runner. 

Friday 8 May 2015

Finally Comfortable in Lycra

I feel quite comfortable in my lycra now. I feel at home. I don’t really care when people stare. I’ll be past them soon anyway. 

But I remember caring. I remember getting my first pair of capris. Pulling them down a bit so they covered a bit more. Are they meant to be this short? This tight? People can practically see my pants.

I didn’t start running until I was 30. It was scary. How do all these people know what to wear? Where to buy shoes? Are there running rules? And HOW does a person actually snot rocket?

It helped when I realised I have a finite number of f**ks to give. Caring about what an unimportant someone else thinks about my running is not important to me. What someone else thinks is none of my business. Me, my look, my running is none of theirs. 

But we remember the negatives, the cheap insults and forget the positives so easily. How is this right? We fight so hard to snatch an hour for a run, we worry about our goals and we struggle to take the first step towards these. 

When I’m struggling on a run, I try to remember running when I was a child. Effortless freedom. This is my chance to recapture this. To run through the puddles, to smile just for the chance to be out in the rain. I’m a runner, these things are allowed. My lycra, my license for lunacy. No limitations.

I see people running when I’m driving and I wish I could be running instead. And then I realised. When I’m running, people are envying me too. They don’t care about the red face, the jiggly bits, my unmatched kit. They see the freedom, the effort, the sweat. They see my footfalls on the trails and pavements and wish they were taking these footsteps. But they’re mine. 

Source unknown

Set the goals that scare you, that you will need every ounce of effort to achieve. Stretch and soar and you will do things you never thought you would. Or could. 

Don’t hesitate, don’t stop. My Mum always says “Look confident in what you’re doing even if you’re not and other people will assume you are!” She was right. Don’t stop, don’t falter. Don’t let the sarcastic applause the catcalls, the insults get you down. 

These people would do what you’re doing if they could. They can’t. 

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Pretty Kit: Jimmy Design Kit Review

One of my friends, Jo made a good point recently when I was admiring her pretty kit after the Wattbike test. "I spend a lot of my time in my training kit", she said, "so I wear something pretty that makes me feel good as well".

I thought this was a great point. 

I don’t mean you have to pick pick prettiness over function, but when you get the chance of kit that offers both? Go for it. 

This picture isn't me. Wish it was. I'd be showing EVERYONE this six pack.
So when Jimmy Design contacted me to ask whether I’d like to review one of their Sports Bras. I had a quick peek and immediately said “yes please”. While women’s running kit has come a long way and now comes in a multitude of colours, MY running kit (except for my socks of course!) tends to be mainly black. It’s like I’ve regressed back to school PE kit. Except for the daps. 

I’m not harbouring a secret desire to go back to school days. I don’t want to ‘Go Emo' (I simply haven’t got the time to apply THAT much black eyeliner) and I certainly don't intend to look as though I wish to double as a pallbearer at a lycra fetishist’s funeral. (Although I DO have a secret desire to be a ninja) My kit tends to be picked mainly for function. 

So I picked the prettiest top I could see. This top is described as a yoga bra and while not being a yogi? yoga-er? it looked PERFECT for hot evenings on the turbo trainer and for running in the hot sunshine on the marathons and ultra runs I’ve got planned this Summer.

When it turned up it was softer than I’d expected which was a good thing and the colours were printed on rather than being inherent to the fabric. It has two inserts that can be removed so if you wanted to wear it as a low impact sports bra you would be able to without worrying about the thickness of the fabric. 

The fit was comfortable and flattering and it wasn’t too restrictive. Best of all I enjoyed wearing it for the warm up on the turbo and when the session got tough I FORGOT I was wearing it. Which is how tops should be for turbo sessions. 

It’s pretty, it’s comfortable, it’s flattering, it’s cheap. Thank you for the free top to review Jimmy Design ... I shall shortly be buying another as for £15 they're a bit of a bargain! And if you’d like one too they’re available from Amazon here

I feel feminine wearing it and it's a far cry from the monotone black kit I’m used to wearing. You wouldn’t confuse this with my usual PE-esque running kit. 

And as such it brings back none of the old fear of school and the terrifying Physical Education lessons. I was having a bit of a discussion with friends on twitter recently and how I was pretty sure I’d probably still get picked last for PE. Unless there was a team for running in straight lines in which case I am all over that. 

Coordination is just not one of my strengths. I like running because it’s not complicated. Which is another reason for wearing pretty kit. Anything that draws attention away from my flailing legs and what I’m actually doing is all good in my book. If I can get people to say “Ooh I like her pretty top” instead of “Huh? Is that supposed to be step aerobics? And has she just fallen off the step and knocked that woman off her step too?*” then I count it as a good thing.

*This has actually happened to me. And one of the twitter girls @Lilbeeloo67 actually got kicked out of step class for this sort of thing. Wonder if she got put on the Naughty Step. Fnar fnar. 

Tuesday 5 May 2015

Coventry Way 40 Miler: Flouting the 5 Second Rule

This race was made up of:

Flouting the 5 second rule. 
If you shout “FIVE SECOND RULE!” really loudly after you’ve dropped food, it is absolutely impossible for any germs, dirt, poo or otherwise vile things to attach themselves to it. The louder you shout it, the longer you have to retrieve your food. I suspect people could hear me picking up my jellybabies from Northampton. 

Yes I KNOW it looks like the photographer is drinking a beer ...

Kicking tree stumps.
If you don’t donate at least one toenail during an ultra then you’ve jinxed yourself for the rest of the season. It’s like a disposable bodypart offering to the Running Gods. Therefore it was entirely on purpose *cough* that I kicked that hidden tree stump at 32 miles. The swearing after kicking said tree stump was like a prayer to said Running Gods. Honest. They like it better when you use really imaginative words. 

*mutter “cockwomble” grump “badgerbollocks” whimper “stripy strumpet” mumble* 

Navigating without using the map book
The joys of actually knowing a run route! Having run the Coventry Way in the pitch black and bitter cold in December and nearly losing all the interesting parts of my body to frostbite and crying when I found the pub closed was totally worth it. Almost worth it. Worth it except for the closed pub bit. 

Also thanks to running with Mike, we didn’t get lost ONCE. Except for at the start when I took the wrong junction off the M6 and ended up in Birmingham instead of Coventry. Note: I live SIX miles from Coventry. Shhh don’t tell anyone or they’ll realise how shit my navigation is. 

Mike ran the WHOLE way like this. On one leg. 

Actually RUNNING Most of the Route
It really helped knowing the way as didn’t have to stand still bickering about which stile to climb or field of cows to brave.  Although we did stick strictly to Ultra Rules shouting “Ultra Rules!” whenever we came to a hill and refusing to run up it if gradient was steeper than a speed bump. If a marble would roll down it we were walking it. And probably eating snacks at the same time. It’s sensible planning, right? No point tiring legs out on mole hills and speed bumps. Climbing those is EXHAUSTING. *cough*

Doing Aid Stations Like Pros
Basically this consisted of a slow motion version of supermarket sweep but with picnic tables and my grubby, grabby little hands instead of a supermarket trolley. And with eating as I went along for maximum food intake. 

You know how people say they don’t lose weight during marathon training? Well in ultra marathons you can actually put on weight. 

Shortest Ultra 
Coventry Way 40 was due to be my shortest ultra marathon. I was a bit concerned about this as my legs tend to get a 2nd wind at about 50 miles ... and this race was 40 miles long. It wouldn’t be much good if my legs whisked me out of the shower about an hour after I finished and insisted on a trot down the road. And the neighbours would probably complain at soap suds on their roses. 

Overtaking the Husband
This is guaranteed to cheer me up. Saw The Mister at about mile 22 on the canal path section. I felt a bit mean about waving and leaving him behind but not ‘mean’ enough that I would slow down and run slowly with him. There’s ‘feeling mean’ and then there’s ‘cocking your race up’. I blew him a kiss as I left though. (I didn’t think shouting “Na na na na na” would have gone down very well.)

Seeing Friends On Route
There’s a lot to be said for a local race. We saw family. We saw friends. We even saw the man who I waved at in the car park thinking he was Dave. He saw me too and I couldn’t have been running fast enough as he had time to ask “Aren’t you the person who waved at me in the car park? Do I know you?” We ran behind Monika for ages although I didn’t even realise it was her until I saw a photo on Facebook. We saw Amy and Dave from Northbrook, lots of Kenilworth Runners and we made a new friend who was 72 and who did the Coventry Way every year. 

Amazing Support Crew
The aim was to stroll through the CPs doing our Food Hoover Strategy but without hanging around as we had The Amazing Sheela as Support Crew and she very kindly agreed to cart around food, kit and be Vaseline Angel. (Proffer the tub not application of said Vaseline – she’s kind not insane). Richie ran with us for the last 3 miles despite having raced an insanely hilly 7 miler and nursing an injury and Steff and Simon and Sally of Kenilworth Runners did LOUD CHEERING. 

Cider & Glory
Was very surprisingly 2nd lady! Woo!! Very pleased with that! No cup or prize, instead a massive dose of smug. And a pint of cider at the end. 

The Coventry Way is a 40 mile race which is a loop around Coventry ... but you’d never know it. It’s about 90% trails and footpaths and it’s full of stiles, pedlars bridges, farm tracks and hidden ways. You cross through the edges of villages occasionally but it feels very rural. It’s flat but interesting. You can find out a bit more about it here.