So its less than two weeks since the Eddum 50 miler and I think I got away kind of lightly. I had a few aches and pains but they faded pretty fast and within a week I could jog gently again. Today I was able to knock out a happy 8 miles in the sun and cool breeze, We took it easy – I always need to make sure Murph doesn’t overheat and although we went up over Witches Point i didnt run all of it. The legs still feel a little dead on the uphills.
I have that “so what next” feeling at the moment. I swore that before the race I would just be happy running the beach again. The preperation (or lack of) for the race, the injury worries, the sponsorship stress all added up and I’ll be honest I didn’t enjoy the build-up to it. I was happy once the gun went and we were off but the rest was stress.
But I do like having a purpose to my running as well. I already know what I’ll do though because it will be fell running. I enjoyed the one short race I did back in january but after than injury and prep for ultrarunning took over. So maybe just stick to the shorter hills for a while. For a while…..
Firstly I apologise – I havent been here for months. Then again I havent really run properly for months. As some of you know when you cant run its easier to not be involved in running things at all, so thats where I’ve been – its nothing personal! I had the Eddum 50 miler planned for August the 3rd and I also had this niggling butt injury that wouldnt go away. So all I’ve done over the past few months in preperation is a lot of walking with murph and the odd jog here and there. Hardly ideal for my first 50 miler.
But as I was doing it for charity and had already raised money not starting the race wasn’t an option so last friday my friend Claire, the two dogs Murph and Tilly and I packed up the car and went on a camping/ultrarunning trip! Yes the leg still hurt but there was absolutely nothing I could do at that point it was to be sink or swim.
The campsite was perfect, just a quiet farm with few people to freak murph out. Didn’t have the greatest nights sleep before the race but we were up at 5 to get ready and drive to the start.
The usual registration stuff, kit checks (thankfully we didnt have to take waterproof trousers, I need a lightweight pair) and lots of nerves, But eventually at 7AM we were underway. The Epynt way runs around the edge of the Sennybridge MOD training area so were were warned about gunfire and explosions and told not to touch any ordanance left lying around. We were also given the MOD number as they were aware we were out there and would be able to reach us in event of an emergency much faster than the race organisers. A nice touch from the MOD really. Its a permissive route that they have created by placing yellow topped posts every few hundred metres or so for the whole 50 miles.
The first few miles were the usual adrenaline fuelled thing, probably going a little too fast but not as bad as usual. I knew I was injured and probably relying on base fitness from the last few years and so I had decided that my best chance of finishing was to have a plan and stick to it. I was going to walk everything uphill apart from smaller inclines and run from aid station to aid station and take them one at a time. Experience told me I had to do better with hydration and so I was planning to drink both bottles between each station and eat something between too. I stuck to that all day until I couldnt eat the last 6 or so.
The injury hurt after a few miles and I could feel the rising panic that it was going to go south and I was going to be done much sooner than even I thought. The trick was to just run through it, fight the mental side of it off and simply ignore it until other things started hurting too. It’s something I’m learning – pain isnt necessarily catastrophic, every niggle , every ache doesnt mean that the race is done. They come and go, and come back … and go again. After a while you stop noticing them so much and the panic subsides. I cramped around 12 or 13 miles in which was early but again managed to calm the panic, accept it and limped on for a while until it cleared.
I was lucky and fell into a group of 5 runners and we all seemed to have a similar plan and pace. And I was grateful for that as the navigation at times was hard, it was like it all day, although the route is marked by the yellow posts and some signs they can be very hard to spot and I was thankful for the extra eyes. Although i usually like to run alone the company in this case was nice as we clicked off miles slowly and steadily.
The course itself is a brute – as described by the race director (who it turns out has run Badwater) Its got 8000 feet of ascent and descent but it feels like so much more, apparently this this the 3 peaks total. Or so someone told me halfway around. As it turns out for much of the route there is no path at all, just the marker posts to navigate to, one to another and picking the best route. It means that on the climbs and descents youre beating your own path through the grass which adds to the …. fun? We didnt pass a single walker all day in either direction – It really does seem barely used which is amazing as its so beautiful but also understandable as the terrain is such a bitch.
But I love running the hard stuff as its always more interesting than the gravel paths and I was enjoying myself despite the growing heat and aches and pains. I was growing in confidence and that was helped knowing I had a crew out there. For the first time I had an official crew! I was so so so lucky to have Claire following me around all day with the dogs in the car, she would stop, walk them and chill with them until I reappeared and I could pick up whatever I needed from them (I also had a dropbag at mile 28) so I changed shoes and socks at halfway and that felt great! I also had a few blisters but they neve got much worse and im grateful for that.
We were down to three of us now, one guy had gone ahead and one had dropped behind. I know we all felt bad about him dropping off the back but it’s just one of those things in ultras I guess, he wasnt keeping up on the hills and stopped catching us on the downhills and so we had to stop waiting for him. That felt odd as it almost felt like we were letting him down but he knew the game well enough and it’s one of those things.
I hadnt run more than 32 miles before so this was new territory, we were still running well on flats and downhills but it was so attritional. The hill going up to the 5th aid station was utterly brutal. But claire and the dogs were at the top and with 10 miles to go there was no way she was letting me drop. As I ran from that station I could hear Murph crying (the only time he did it) which broke my heart and almost broke me but I managed to not turna around and just ran on.
That last 10 miles will stay with me a while. It was hard, physically I was pretty shot, climbing was just an intense effort which just went on and on, my quads were blown out so downhills were incredibly painful but we still found we could run whatever flats we could find – simply because somehow it was less painful than walking. Mentally I was very low by this point, looking back its easy to say I should have tried to be more positive but all I could think of was the end and why weren’t the miles going by quick enough. 10 miles sounds nothing, Ive knocked it off in training so many times. But when at the end of a race you realise 10 miles is pretty much 3 hours more of suffering its hard to take in.
But as dusk fell we climbed a final fence (literally had to haul ourselves over it) and hit the road which would lead to the end. 4 of us finished together as we had caught and passed a few people in the final miles including the guy who dropped us 30 miles before.
As we rounded the corner to the finish it was such a fantastic feeling, mainly so the pain would stop, I passed claire and the dogs and finally finished in 14.09 in 29th place. I’m not usually emotional at the end of races but this one felt like it had meant a lot to me.
It had also meant a lot to others. Claire had crewed me and been up supporting me from 5 that morning – 16 hours plus and she still had to drive me to the campsite. I had turned live tracking on my phone and the village back home had been watching my progress all day in the local pub as had my mum and dad at home (keep getting well dad!)
And as we drove back I had the news from the pub that I had topped £1000 in my charity fundraising for the dog sanctuary I adopted Murph from.
So although the racing between start and finish was I guess all about me, the day taken as a whole was more about a lot of people who got me there one way or another. I couldnt have done it without them.
The race itself is superbly organised, I cant recommend the races run by Pegasus Ultrarunning enough. Rhys the race direction is a lovely guy and the whole thing is so professional. The aid stations were amazing and the volunteers manning them were so supportive. They really made for a great day.
The next day we walked the dogs a lot, I was sore and stiff but it did me good to keep moving, looks like I didnt even aggravate the injury – So who knows whats going on there but its not worrying me anymore lets put it that way.
So thats the story of my first 50 miler. It’s a bit of a long report but I wanted to get it written down as memories inevitably fade. Everytime I run an ultra I learn something new. I learned a hell of a lot from this one. I learned not to give up even before you start. I learned that not all pain is significant (I stole that line from somewhere) I learned that fitness is great but a plan and executing that plan is just as important. I learned that I have the mental strength to overcome my physical weaknesses.
But most of all I learned that with belief and the help of your friends you can achieve things you’d never have thought possible. Summer 4 years ago I couldnt run 200 yards. This summer I ran 50 miles.
Trainings picking up very slowly but very surely which is a good thing because on the 3rd August I’m running my first 50 miler! Been planning it a while and it’s one of the reasons I didnt start the Preseli Ultra last month. The injury has been a knockback on the trianing front but I’ve still been walking Murph 30 odd miles a week and now back to running.
The raace is around the Epynt Way in Mid Wales and as I say is 50 miels with around 8000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Its a big challenge for me but one to look forward to. There will be plenty of walking the ups no doubt! Link to race details is here https://www.pegasusultrarunning.com/the-eddum/
Plus here is the good bit there is extra motivation – I’m doing it to raise money for charity – specifically the dog sanctuary I got Murph from. Its a really special place that homes dogs no-one else will take, sometimes for life – they call these “the forgotten ones” which breaks my heart. They rehome dogs like Murph that people generally don’t want because they are emotionally scarred – Murph is still very scared of people (but improving slowly with lots of love). They always need funds as it’s privately run and recently they’ve suffered terrible flooding so need money to repair and strengthen flood defences.
Any donation is appreciated, much of my fundraising will be done in the local village and in all my schools that i work in but with the kindness of everyone off and online I hope to raise £500. It’ll actually be odd not running purely for myself, Im expecting to feel some sort of extra pressure to finish but I’m also expecting it to act as an extra spur to get to that finish line no matter how long it takes. If I have to walk it I will. Luckily I have a friend coming to crew me and she will also be bringing Murph and his little pal Tilly so I’m sure seeing them at aid stations will be a great boost.
So for now I’ll leave you with some pictures of the reason i’m doing this… If it wasnt for lizzies Barn this little monster wouldn’t have a life like this
Moving on slowly in fact. A couple of runs this week which is progress and to be honest running and walking don’t seem to harm the leg at all, it’s sitting and especially driving thats still the issue. I can feel it improving though and I’m sure the exercise is doing it good rather than harm so as long as I keep the intensity low things should be good … right?
So around 4 miles on monday and 6 on thursday and a few days rest now. The temptation of course id to go back at it full on nuts again like I always do but i’m trying to show restraint I really am!
Last saturday was the first “proper” run for a while, it was still a test run in essence although the leg has been feeling better lately. oddly enough the saturday morning when i should have been running in preseli the leg seemed to be better and has improved from that day onwards. Which makes me wonder – Its quite the coincidence that once I’d resigned myself to not being able to run the race and had informed the organiser that the leg started to really improve. The mind and the body are so closely intwined was the bodys constant reproduction of pain a warning to the mind that no it wasn’t ready to run that race and once the decision was made then it simply stopped generating so much pain as it no longer needed it’s self defence mechanism.
Who knows. All i know is that I can feel it improving little at a time and on saturday I ran seven miles to Witches and back without the “its gonna go” feeling of the previous weeks test run. Don’t get me wrong it ached but not in a “you’re screwing this worse way”
Then that afternoon I walked with some friends to the next village for another 7 miles and yesterday it was a little sore but not much – and what do you expect when you cover 14 miles the day before no matter the speed.
I shall wantonly use my blog to say a big happy mothers day to my mum (of course) cos she’s the best! I wouldnt be where I am and who I am if it wasn’t for her. She is also one of teh few people Murph actually likes and is honoured to be able to get him to sit (even if it does a require a treat)
Speaking of Murph I of course couldnt not post some photos. Things have been fairly quiet on the running front, just taking it easy and praying everything fixes up in time for Preseli … My usual theory prevails. Im either in the process of getting injured, recovering from injury or wondering if ive recovred from injury yet. Goes with the territory I guess. We have been however doing 3 or 4 miles of walking before work and the same after each day so thats time on feet and so im not that worried about any race specific training ..yet
Well if they’re going to name a storm after you then it would be rude not to go and run in it. I do love running when theres a breeze but when its a full on gale it aint so easy …. for half the run at least. At least we’ve avoided the rain so far, wind fine and rain fine just not together please. Just ticking along at the moment as the mind turns to the first ultra in may. As usual theres paranoia over every niggle but they all go away (he says fingers crossed) eventually. And it’s always better to be out than not. If not for my sake for this ones ….
Half term came and went and finished with a 13 mile training run as I knew the tides were gonna be suck this week back in work and had already decided to take a rest week – no running at all! Walking Murph a lot of course rain or shine so its never total rest and the aches and pains dont seem to change whether I run or not. In fact I probably feel better when I do run. Theres so much information about training plans out there, do this many miles, do x amount of speedwork, do this do that but I really am feeling the “fuck it do what you love and it’ll come together” works better for me and to be honest that usually translates into 50 mile weeks anyway which is plenty.
I stumbled across a poem this week also – I dont usually do poetry but this one spoke to me especially the second half.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Every time I feel like im getting into a groove something like flu kicks in. This week has been mainly a writeoff, to be fair the flu didnt properly kick in until later in the week but last weekend saturdays run was around 10 miles and I felt amazing. Then on sunday everything was broke. Just felt bleuuurgh from the off. So you know what, I walked a lot of it, we did 6 miles or so but half run half walk and normally I cant get away from that “cheating” feeling when I walk but I figure its better to be out there doing something than nothing at all. I know Murph would prefer it!
So with 3 months to the first ultra and with a few fell races in between I feel like I cant get a solid training block started … and then i realise I havent really stopped and the fitness is there anyway so whats the worry.
Technically I shouldnt go out and run today but y’know…. techincally we’re all dead one day so im gonna seize this one