I ran 100 miles! (Part 1)

If you don’t follow me on StravaInstagramTwitter or Facebook, then you might not yet know that I completed my big A goal for the year…I completed the Robin Hood 100 mile race last weekend.

Robin Hood 100 medal and t-shirt

I wasn’t as confident going into this event as I was at my first attempt of 100 miles back in June.  My training hadn’t been as regular or of as high quality as at the start of the year, I hadn’t completed as many long runs in the build up to race day and I was still struggling to stay on top of everything at home.  (Nothing new!)

But I wanted it.  I really wanted to complete it.  By the time race week rolled around I was just itching for it to be race day so that I could just get started and have an idea of how the race was going to go.  So much can happen on race day but I had a lot of people going out of their way to help and support me at this event.  I had no intentions on letting anybody down if I could help it.

Two weeks before race day I had signed up for a last minute place at Dunstable marathon so that I may run my final long run before race day with company, receive a medal at the end of the day and tick off another marathon towards my 100.  Only, the day before the marathon I didn’t feel 100%, and by mile two of the marathon I had grown a really bad stitch and was having to walk flat sections of the course.  I knew I wasn’t 100% and so ended up pulling after 12 miles of the marathon, initially rather disappointed in myself.  But when I struggled to drive home after my race attempt without falling asleep and then didn’t even have the energy to get up from the sofa for a glass of drink later that afternoon I absolutely knew that I’d made the right decision in choosing to withdraw from the race.

Following my failed marathon attempt I tapered sharply until the 100.  I didn’t run at all the week of the 100 in fact, which is very unlike me.  I usually like to get a couple of leg stretcher miles in a few days before a big event, but this time it felt right resting up completely in the days before.  My brother had his first baby on the Tuesday morning and so I spent a few days in Norfolk with my family and it was quite relaxing not struggling to fit running in around Oscar and traveling for a change.

Robin Hood 100 was the event I had chosen for my second attempt at 100 miles.  When I found myself pulling after 78 miles at the South Downs Way back in June I already knew that I would be continuing my training and looking for another suitable 100 mile race that I could work towards sooner rather than later in order to capitalise on all of the training I had completed that year.  Somebody who had helped to crew me at SDW dropped me a message the day after suggesting that Robin Hood would be a good race to have a second shot at the distance.  After chatting to several people, checking my calendar and weighing a few things up, it wasn’t long before I found myself filling in the registration form.  Before I even realised what was happening my one week of recovery was up and I was 13 weeks away from giving 100 miles another go!

In the build up to South Downs I had completed a marathon, a 35 mile race and a 50 mile race as well as a large number of long training runs.  In the build up to Robin Hood I had lost my drive to run long.  I’d had enough of training by then.  I was happy heading out for 6 runs a week, but apart from the runs where James (who had agreed to pace a section of the RH100 with me) came out on an early morning run with me, I didn’t get a huge amount of longer runs in.  Perhaps I lost my drive because so much of my time is already spent on my own during the week.  I’m with Oscar, but otherwise alone and when Dan comes home to take over in the evening I am either training (also usually alone) or tidying away in the areas Oscar last was!  Then when I’m working at the weekend it’s also on my own, accompanied by a podcast (definitely in need of some new material at the moment.  I’ve back-listened to all of the series I listen to and have a minimum of a nine hour shift to fill with podcasts each week!)

Having less long runs under my belt meant that I was less confident going in to the race, although I know that when it comes to ultras, often having previous experience and a strong head accounts for a lot and I very much have a strong head during long distance events.

Dan, Oscar and I had arranged to stay at a friends’ house for the weekend.  John and Lynn are two of Oscar’s Godparents and all week he had eagerly been telling everybody how he was going to stay with Mabel and Martha (Lynn’s rabbits) for the weekend!  Dan arranged to work from home on the Friday the day before the race and as Oscar is in nursery all day on a Friday I was able to pack up a suitcase for the three of us for the weekend and then also load up my kit and crew bags for the race.  Once I had collected Oscar from nursery and Dan had finished work at 5:30pm we made the drive over to Nottingham where John and Lynn had put on a ginormous spread of pizza and garlic bread for us to tuck into.  Oscar had already eaten at nursery but he also enjoyed a second tea for the evening!

All the pre-race pizza at John's house

The aim was to be in bed asleep by 9pm but that didn’t happen as we got chatting and instead I headed up to bed with Oscar about 9:30ish who luckily fell asleep fairly quickly in my arms.  Dan and I were sharing a bed with Oscar for the night but he wasn’t too wriggly, so it worked out alright!  He woke once, – around 4am when he announced he was going for a walk, scrambled down to the bottom of the bed onto the floor, then clambered back up and promptly fell asleep on the pillow again.  It wasn’t too disruptive!

My alarm went at 5:30am, as we aimed to be out of the house and on the road by 6am for the hour long journey to registration.  The race started at 8.

I nibbled on a bagel dipped in peanut butter during the journey and when we arrived I hopped out and headed straight over to registration whilst Dan fed Oscar his breakfast.  We had parked just in front of the hall where registration took place which was handy as I still had to tweak the contents of my kit and crew bags.  Registration didn’t take long at all and I was surprised not to have to participate in a kit check.  Although I guess the course isn’t one of the tougher ones and you are never that far from an aid or crew station.

100 race number

Another runner from my club, Mike, had already registered by the time I arrived.  He had also been at the South Downs in June but had taken a bad fall out on the course and damaged his ribs.  He was back to give the distance a second shot, like me.  Laura arrived not long before the briefing started, having driven over to help crew for the day.

100 Start lineI hate wearing glasses to run in but knowing that the race would take me somewhere in the region of 28+ hours contact lenses wouldn’t be an option for the day.

Dan was under instruction to transfer my crew bag and a large box of cakes I’d had made for my crew into the back of another crew member’s car once the race began, and then together we all made our way along a short walk down the road to the start line for the race.

The start of the race was like any other and after waving at Dan, Laura and Oscar on my way past I found myself following everyone else along the road, up a short hill and into the fields in the direction of Nottingham.  Knowing that the elevation was going to be fairly flat I walked all of the hills on the course, no matter how small and even ended up overtaking some people jogging in some sections!

The plan was to slow things down from the very beginning and to make sure that I forced myself to eat much more than I ever had done in a race before.  I know how hard it can be in the later stages of a race to get food down, especially when working with a body that hasn’t taken enough on board along the way.  I was not about to lose my hearing, feel weak and dizzy or be able to resort only to chocolate milk for nutrition by halfway.

There were a couple of small bottlenecks early on as we had a couple of stiles to cross and kissing gates to manoeuvre, but on the whole the start was fairly seamless.  I had forgotten my cap, but luckily the sun didn’t really appear on the Saturday and I knew things would be fairly sheltered once we reached Clumber Park anyway later on in the day.  There was a horrible ploughed field at mile 5 that I chose to walk across.  The ground wasn’t hard enough to be rutted, but it made for uneven going and I didn’t want to risk going down on my ankle so early into the race.  Everybody running around me made the same decision it seemed, but it was nice to be back out onto the harder off-road track again after that field.  There was a bit of a hill after this and we saw a marshal at the top who told us we weren’t far from the first aid station.  It was all downhill to the aid station which was quite nice, although I ended up working up a bit of a sweat by the time I got there.

100 miles first aid station

(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

I’d already eaten a nakd bar whilst crossing the ploughed field and grabbed a couple of sandwich bits and biscuits at this first aid station before heading off along the section of towpath out from the aid station.

The first part of the towpath wasn’t too bad, but it did get rather monotonous after a while.  Around mile 7 or 8 a woman sacrificed her Hobnob biscuits so that a small group of us could get past a hissing swan stood near to her grown up cygnets on the narrow track.  I’m not sure how we would have gotten past otherwise…she was pretty angry!  Perhaps the Race Director needs to add ‘Swan bribes’ to the essential kit list for 2019?!

Mile 10 was the first time I saw some of the WDAC crew out on the course.  Mike’s partner Val, Helen (who had paced some of SDW with me earlier in the year) and Grant (who was pacing another runner) all cheered as they saw me approaching and it was lovely to have a burst as I ran past, not needing anything at this crew section.

Robin Hood 100 miles

Not only did the towpath get rather monotonous after a while, but it also became narrow and ‘tufty’ with clumps of uneven grass sticking up on the sections without tarmac.  I ran where I could but remained sensible, knowing that I still had plenty of time to get round the course as long as I didn’t break anything!

Towpath on the Robin Hood 100 miles

It was a relief to finally come off the towpath just before 19 miles and along a short section of road to reach the third aid station and to see the WDAC crew for the second time.  I stopped for less than a minute here to pick up some chocolate milk, add a nuun tab to my water and grab a bag of salt and vinegar crisps.

Robin Hood 100 miles

There was a slight climb after this aid station so I used it to drink my milk and munch on my crisps.  I knew that Dan would be making his way to the next aid station/crew point at mile 22.  He was hoping to meet me here along with Oscar, John, Lynn and Laura, who had all run the Clumber Park parkrun that morning.  I stopped for a few minutes to chat, but was soon eager to get moving again so chivied the gang along in the direction I needed to go, walking several hundred metres with them before jogging off into the distance once more.

I took a picture at 25 miles, and it was satisfying knowing that I had completed a quarter of the race already.  I never really pictured the event as a full 100 miles on the day though, as I was only ever a few miles away from either an aid station or crew point and this really helped to mentally break the miles up as I went along.

Mile 25 of the Robin Hood 100 milesThere were a couple of fields where we needed to push our way through past massive sunflowers.

Sunflowers on the Robin Hood 100 milesI never grew sunflowers as a child and so had no idea of the real enormity of the flowers and just how heavy their fully grown heads were.  On the sections that I ran of the sunflower-edged fields I still have bruises on my legs from where the sunflower heads bashed into the tops of my legs!

Happy sunflower on the Mile 25 of the Robin Hood 100 miles

Just Laura saw me at the next crew point at 27 miles.  Despite several people having tried to wake him when I had run in to mile 22, Oscar had slept through my arrival and Dan had been struggling with a grumpy toddler ever since.  Oscar had refused to get in the car, had a melt down over a teacake which had been cut into two and was just generally being hard work, so Dan made the decision to skip out this aid station in favour of the next instead.  There were quite a few aid/crew stations within quick succession and at the next point when I did see Dan and Oscar (somewhere around 30ish miles, it was just me and them with no-one else from my crew party.

Hi fiving Oscar at the Robin Hood 100

(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

Oscar had apparently been cheering everyone through the aid station for a while.  He kept peering down the path and going “AND another runner!” every time he saw someone come running along.  He accompanied this with lots of clapping of course!

Oscar playing with my drink on the 100

(Picture shared on the Hobo Facebook page)

Once at the aid station I took a few minutes to sit down and chat with Dan and Oscar (who really only wanted to play with my water bottles!)  From this station onwards I made a point of sitting for a few minutes to refuel and rest my legs before getting up and moving on again.  It seemed to work well and I could trick my legs into getting going again fairly easily.

Part two of my recap to follow over the weekend…

Balancing toddler, runner and wife life

Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary.

Fourth anniversary roses

Some beautiful roses turned up for me during the day.  In fact I was out when they arrived so I had to nip next door and collect them from my neighbour.
They’re beautiful.  Got myself a good one!

Four years in anniversaries is fruit and flowers.  Dan doesn’t like any fruits…at all.  And flowers aren’t really his thing either, but for a while now we’ve been on about getting a plant for our lounge to complete the look.  I managed to sneakily collect and hide a massive plant in our office on Wednesday.  Dan never goes into our office apart from the rare occasion when he works from home.  But when I returned from my run on Wednesday evening I spotted the light on in the office.  Apparently he had been returning wrapping paper and scissors to the desk.  (Neither of which belong in our office…does anyone else have a partner who still doesn’t know where half the stuff belongs in your house?!)  When questioned he earnestly told me that he hadn’t spotted anything out of the ordinary in the office at all to the point that I believed him.

Although I’m rather concerned about how unobservant he is…

Hidden plant for our anniversary

He was rather pleased with it when he came down and found it in the lounge yesterday morning and it seems to suit our room.

Indoor plant for the loungeThe picture we have on our wall is from our Babymoon back in 2016.  The rain absolutely hammered down across that bridge on one of the days we were in Prague and we got caught out crossing without an umbrella, although there were hundreds of others dashing by with brightly coloured umbrellas up.  The print is very similar to a black, white and red print we purchased on our honeymoon in 2014 which we have displayed on the other long wall in our lounge to match.

We went out for a family meal last night to celebrate.  Oscar really enjoyed his hummus dipping pot!

This time four years ago I had only run four marathons and a couple of ultras.  Now my marathon total sits at thirteen with almost as many ultras.

Lots has happened over the course of the last four years, but our biggest change has obviously been having Oscar.  Thinking back I really wish Dan and I had taken full advantage of the time we had to ourselves before having Oscar, but at the same time I’m so glad we had him when we did.  (Although I absolutely wouldn’t have been ready for the responsibility any sooner!)

If you’ve read my blog for a while now you’ll know that I often struggle with taking too much on, and it’s usually me that ends up losing out.  Be it through sleep or stress.

I'll sleep when I'm dead

Despite getting very limited sleep each week I’m actually doing OK at the moment, but I can feel the pressure bubbling up again.  I dream of having lazy weekends or evenings sitting in front of the TV as a family but in all honesty, if I spot a free day I instantly fill it with an activity or housework and I’m not even sure how to turn our TV on!

Because of the age Oscar is at, it seems that just as we settle into a routine, it changes again and since the start of the Summer I haven’t been able to count on him being asleep in bed by a certain time.  Luckily, Dan has taken over the bedtime routine and it’s given me a chance to crack on with housework, or get out for a quick 10k if my body was feeling too tired for an early morning run that morning.

Late night runningI much prefer running in the morning just lately.  Even though the 5am alarms are a killer on a couple of hours sleep it’s so nice to have gotten my run in and be showered by the time Dan leaves for work at 7:50am.  It doesn’t always go to plan though…I’d scheduled a long run in for Tuesday morning of this week, but Oscar woke minutes after I did and called out for me to go to him.  He didn’t settle and ended up getting up for the day, meaning not only had I only had four hours sleep that night, but I wouldn’t be able to get to bed early that evening as I would still need to slot in a run of some description when it got dark.  I switched out my long run for a 10k instead though.

Although I might perhaps come across as shy to some people who don’t know me very well I actually really like to have people around most of the time.  Something which isn’t really talked about is just how isolating staying home with a child can feel at times.  I absolutely love being home with Oscar and getting to spend these days with him, but being so far away from family and close friends, Dan working late five days a week and having a season ticket for Wolverhampton Wanderers again this year, with the new season starting this weekend (meaning he will spend the day away most Saturdays too), my week can sometimes feel very samey and lonely.

I am really enjoying running at the moment and my base fitness is probably near to the best it’s ever been – with lots of regular running, walking carrying a toddler and strength work.  But I’m really struggling mentally with getting out to run my long runs.  I’ve always completed the majority of my long training runs with friends in the build up to events, but that’s become a lot harder to do this year as I am so specific about when I can get out to run.  I haven’t been able to run at the weekends as I’ve been working throughout the night so would be running long on no sleep, when I really need to be catching up on a little sleep ready for the following night-shift.  I’ve been able to get a couple of early morning slightly longer runs in with another runner from my club who was attempting the Centurion Grand Slam of 4x 100 milers this year (although unfortunately DNFd at the third event – the North Downs Way 100 – last weekend) but other than that the majority of my runs have been between 5-10 miles in length, with a few closer to 15 miles.  I really need to book a marathon or longer distance in for the end of the Summer, but once again it’s hard to organise around work/life events now that we have Oscar and I work weekends.

I used to be able to whack in my earphones and listen to a few podcasts to get me round a long run if I was running it alone, but now that nearly all of my runs in the week are run alone and I also work one or two nine hour nightshifts each weekend in an aisle on my own listening to back-to-back episodes of a podcast, listening to a podcast and spending a few more hours on my own doesn’t have quite the same appeal anymore!  I now spend most of my runs feeling that I should be back with my family (if running during the daytime) or all the things I should be catching up on back at home!

I’m currently putting off this morning’s long run.  I just need to man up and get out there I guess.  Just wish I had someone to run out with me!

Do you prefer running on your own or with others?
Any podcast recommendations?  I’ve listened to a lot and am running out!
Are you a morning or evening runner?

Ten Things Tuesday

A while back I used to post Five Things Friday posts on Fridays.

Well, today isn’t Friday, – it’s Tuesday and I feel like I probably have more than 5 things to share, so I’m going to try for a Ten Things Tuesday post instead…

  1. We’re still working on our house…I fear it will never be complete!

    We’ve actually been living in our house for three years now, which is insane!  Although our house felt almost instantly like home there is still so much that needs doing to it.  The work on our last property was completed much quicker as it was a much smaller property and we completed the majority of the larger projects before we moved in.
    This house came with challenges though.  A major update required – new bathrooms and a new kitchen, new boiler, new carpets, new radiators and skirting.  It seems like we’re taking forever to get through the list which we made, and whenever we do manage to cross something off, we always spot something else that needs improving/updating/changing.  I’m not sure that we’re in our forever home, but it is definitely the perfect home for our little family right now.  Dan and I upsized from a two-bed to a four-bed house in 2015, but had to compromise on a smaller garden in order to do so.  Having focused mainly on projects in the inside of the house over the past couple of years, our focus has now shifted to the garden ever since Oscar took his first steps and wants to be outside all day every day!

    Our back garden(Starting pic)

    I really, really wanted our garden done ready for Dan’s birthday next month but it’s unlikely to be complete in time.  We dedicated one solid weekend to trying to make some headway on clearing everything, but because of the heat it was impossible to work for too long in one go and one of us always had to keep near to Oscar as the garden has an open pond.  We also had help in the form of Dan’s Dad for a few hours that weekend and friends for a few hours the following one.  I can’t wait for the garden to be finished now – it will be so nice to be able to let Oscar out to play without having to spend two hours sat holding his hand by the pond as he stirs the water with a stick!
    So far we’ve cut down the giant monkey puzzle tree that was at the back of the garden, removed several walls and mini hedges, cleared the patio area and flattened the ground out ready for grass.  It’s definitely getting there but I’m looking forward to the day when I feel like I can finally sit down on a chair in the garden and get out a book and a cold drink to oversee Oscar playing on the lawn.
    Our back garden(Our garden in it’s current state)
    The plan is to turn the entire right side of the garden to lawn, pop a bench on the far left-hand side of the garden overlooking the pond and then fence this whole area off, then remove the wall and shrubs on that same side.  At this top end we’ll keep Oscar’s outdoor toys.
    It’s still very much a (slow) work in progress.

  2. I’ve totally had enough of this heatwave.

    We all like a bit of sun but this is getting ridiculous now.  It would be nice not to feel like I need to change my outfit every two hours during the day and to be able to go outside without having to cake Oscar and myself in gallons of suncream first.
    The one saving grace?  There is no way that this heatwave can last until mid-September when I attempt my next 100 miler…right?…

  3. I had such a good day out with the Decathlon Blogger’s Team on Saturday.

    …Like, the best day.

    Decathlon blogger meetup

    Other than when I’m out running (which I usually try to schedule for early in the morning before Oscar wakes) it’s rare that I have any me-time at all these days unless I also have a child in tow and it was so, so lovely to head out to the Decathlon Blogger event in London on Saturday.  I hadn’t met any of the other bloggers before in person, although have followed and chatted to several of them online now for a number of years.
    I’m waiting for the pictures to come through from the event before writing my recap post in full but will just say that we played some friendly team sports on the roof of the Decathlon building, headed over to the park for interviews and volleyball and stopped for a gorgeous lunch too.  Outside activities and good food – the makings of a perfect day!

    I had a bit of a nightmare getting down to London though.
    My brother arrived late the night before to babysit Oscar for me. He came with his girlfriend and two stepkids who Oscar adores…resulting in lots of bed jumping and excited chatter until I finally managed to get Oscar to bed just after midnight.
    Oscar then woke again at 3am and stayed awake on my bed until 5:10am when he fell back asleep – giving me just 5 minutes sleep before my alarm went off! 😭  A quick rush round to get ready, but one of the kids had moved my purse the night before and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Luckily I had an emergency £30 stashed away upstairs which came in useful! It then took my step-niece and I ten minutes to wake my brother, by which point I was cutting it really fine to get to the train station on time.
    I made it to Bedford, missed the car park turning so had to turn around. Rushed over to the ticket machine. The machine I’d entered my registration number in only took cards as payment…then it wouldn’t cancel my registration number so I couldn’t use another machine! Finally I managed to select my car registration on another machine only to discover that the machines didn’t take notes, only coins!  I rushed inside, queued in Starbucks for change only to be told that they didn’t have any, but the lady on the ticket booth did, handing over a selection of pound coins in exchange for my fiver. I rushed back outside, got my ticket and rushed back in agaom. From my place in the queue (of two) I asked the woman on the turnstile if I would be able to buy my ticket whilst on the train. She started asking me questions about which train I was traveling on. Turns out I did have to buy my ticket from the ticket booth, so I turned around to re-enter the queue at the same time a group of about 12-13 other people all joined on at the back. 😭  I did have a little cry – literally everything was going wrong for me!
    With my train sat on the platform and just one minute left before it was due to leave, I forlornly turned around and headed back to my car, resigning myself to the drive.  How hard could it be?…!
    Turns out London isn’t the easiest place to drive and I was definitely feeling rather stressed out by the time I pulled up in a local Tesco carpark a while later.  Even more stressed out when I realised that I would only be allowed to park there for four hours, – at least an hour less than our meet up was due to last.  I started to spill out my tale of woe to the lady on the checkout at Tescos and she quickly reassured me that the Customer Services Manager would be able to add my car registration to the list which would have access to unlimited parking that day.  Luckily, after slightly more persuasion on my part, the CSM agreed!
    Coming home was a further nightmare as my phone died a death in the middle of an upgrade on my walk back from lunch.  I had my car charger with me so wasn’t overly concerned until 20 minutes of charging had happened and my phone still wouldn’t turn on.  I suddenly realised that I was in the largest city in the country in complete unknown territory with no satnav to direct me home, no phone to call for help and no money to pay my way out either!
    I made my way to the nearest phone fixer-upper shop I could find and spilled out my tale of woe once more.  Luckily after 30 minutes or so of poking, prodding and testing, the amazing guy behind the counter wished me a better weekend and returned my (now-working) phone free of charge!  My hero!

  4. I miss reading blogs.

    I try and keep up with social media and can usually catch Youtube videos when I’m doing the washing up so know roughly what most of the people I follow online are getting up to, but I’m rather particular when it comes to reading blog posts.  I like to sit upstairs at my desk in the office uninterrupted so that I can easily type a comment on a blog after I’ve finished reading it.  There’s nothing more faffy than writing a really long blog comment out on my phone!  There just doesn’t seem to be enough time in my day at the moment though, especially since Oscar has been much later going to bed since the start of this heatwave.  Hopefully, now that I’m cutting two nights from my working week I’ll be able to slot a few hours of blog reading back in again.  Fingers crossed.

  5. We’ve been spending lots of time with family just lately.

    …Which has been nice.  Oscar has four cousins (the eldest is six), four step cousins (the eldest is ten) and another baby cousin due at the start of September.
    Dan’s brother and sister joined us for a day out at West Lodge Farm Park a couple of weeks back with their four children.

    The Pearsons at West Lodge Farm Park

    It’s Oscar’s favourite place at the moment.  It’s still free for him to go until September when he turns two, and I got a season ticket a few weeks back so we intend to visit a lot over the next few months.
    Me, Dan and Oscar at West Lodge Farm ParkWe had a look around to see all the animals before spending time in the playpark, grabbing a barrel ride, eating our picnics and watching the pig racing.  Then we decided it was time to try the walk to the Witch’s House.  Dan decided to tell the kids that a real witch lived in the house and would cast spells on them if they were naughty that day, so they needed to behave.  An OK tactic in principle, but as the kids nervously talked about whether the witch would be in when we arrived, he didn’t retract his statement and continued with the pretence.  Dan’s brother had been left behind with his youngest child in their buggy when we reached a steep set of steps a few minutes away from the Witch’s House.  The other three children and Oscar eagerly followed Dan towards the house when we arrived.  Now in full character though, Dan told them all to wait back and that he would check to see if the witch was in first of all before letting them come forward.  They waited nervously in anticipation as Dan earnestly knocked on the door then peered into the window, updating them all the time.  When he peered into the window, his back was to the kids so Dan thought it would be funny to let out a loud cackle as if he was the witch.  Oscar and Isla remained stood where they were but Jenson and Georgia ran as fast as they could towards the spot where I stood with Dan’s sister.  Dan hadn’t realised that he’d frightened them and so let out a second cackle at this point and Georgia took off – shooting through the nettles and brambles, desperate to get back to where her Dad was in the wood, with me desperately trying to chase after her!  Dan got a severe telling off from me afterwards!
    Jenson, Oscar and Sarah at West Lodge Farm Park

  6. I am really enjoying running right now.

    I need to bring speedwork back into my weekly training schedule, but this should hopefully be easier now that I have dropped a couple of shifts at work.
    I was a little nervous about attending running club after my first 100 mile attempt last month.  My 10k time means that I sit just inside the qualifying time to run with Group 4, but I worried about having lost speed whilst ultra training.  In the end, on my first night back the club was a coach short and so Groups 5 and 6 were running together that evening.  I had been half tempted to run with Group 5 when I turned up to the club meeting point, but wasn’t so keen on running at the much slower Group 6 pace, so did run with Group 4 after all.  Turned out that I had to turn back and collect runners during the run – I wasn’t near the back at all!
    For about a year I was rarely able to attend club sessions.  Dan didn’t get home from work until 6:20pm and with club runs held 8 miles away unless I dragged Oscar out to club every week so that Dan could meet me in the car park and take O home, I just couldn’t get there in time.  When I gave up my position on the club committee in April though, Dan agreed to speak to his boss to see if they could work something out and he now starts and finishes work half an hour early on a Thursday so that I can run out with club and feel more part of things again.

  7. I don’t think I’ve processed the death of my Mum yet.

    I’m not really sure what to write about this other than just that.  I’m not sure if it’s because my life is so busy that I haven’t really allowed myself to stop and think about it but I’ve never really gotten upset and I feel like life just carried on when perhaps time should have stood still for a little while first.
    It’s already been eight months but I think because it was such a long, drawn-out process it feels like much longer.  I still visit my Dad in Norfolk every couple of weeks and speak to him most days on the phone.  I will be more concerned for him when Winter rolls around than now though.  He’s really thrown himself into the garden this Summer.Oscar and Grandad deheading the flowersIt’s absolutely beautiful and consumes a lot of time, but that’s a Summer activity and I think he might notice that Mum has gone more when Winter rolls around.
    IMG_20180718_181309

  8. I’m really excited about our upcoming holidays.

    Dan’s Mum bought a holiday place (I think a cabin/static home type place?) in the Isle of Wight at the start of the Summer.  She’s been down most weeks since, and Dan’s sister has visited several times but we’re yet to test it out.  We’re hoping to spend three days down in the Isle of Wight at the end of August.  We’re also planning on staying with my Dad in Norfolk for a further four days the following week.  There is always so much to do in Norfolk and growing up here myself, I know all the attractions to take Oscar to.  I am really looking forward to having a proper little break back in my home county.

  9. I seriously underestimated quite how hard life as a stay-at-home-parent would be.

    Oscar has just hit the ‘Terrible Twos’ and seems to be having a meltdown over absolutely anything at the moment.  Quite often it’s a food related meltdowns and it seems to have tied in with him dropping his daytime nap.  One super-tired, super-hungry one year old can often be found screaming at me or trying to headbutt me when he gets really frustrated.  His meltdowns are always over something completely unreasonable.

    Oscar: Oscar wants falafel.
    Me: Wait one minute while I put this away and then I’ll get you one…OK, here you go.
    Oscar: NO FALAFEL!  NO FALAFEL!
    Me: Alright, I’ll put the falafel back in the fridge again.
    Oscar: OSCAR WANT FALAFEL!  Banana!  Milk!  OSCAR FALAFEL!

    It gets quite draining.  It ends up being more draining staying at home and being frustrated at not being able to get on with anything (or have everything undone as you tick jobs off!) than it does heading out for a few hours though, so we do go out for the day quite a lot at the moment to take his mind off of things.

    No-one articulates quite how much hard work and how lonely bringing up a child can be, and without family living nearby I’ve found this even more so at times.

  10. Why did I not make the most of Norfolk when I lived there?

    I miss my friends and family, the beach, I miss how laid back Norfolk life is compared to life in the Midlands and I miss the memories of my childhood.
    Oscar is loving outside life at the moment and whenever we visit my Dad he eagerly helps dig up potatoes…
    Oscar digging up potatoes…test the raspberry crop…
    Oscar eating a raspberry…or just spends time watering the flowers…
    Oscar in the flowersMy Dad is known for making en epic salad.  Here’s the one he greeted me with at lunchtime today.
    Epic salad at Dad's houseDan doesn’t eat any salad items so we have it much less frequently as a meal choice than I would like.  Especially at this time of year.  Oscar eats a much better variety when we stay at my Dad’s, and he helps to collect the food from the garden – something my Mum would have been so chuffed to have seen him do.
    Oscar adores taking my Dad’s dog out for walks and insists on walking the whole way himself, even if it does take him an hour as he stops to look at every single plant and creature on the walk!
    Oscar walking with a flowerI took Oscar down to the beach for the first time last week and it is probably his new favourite thing.  He had so much fun running around with the children of two of my best friends and constantly wanted to be paddling in the water or digging sandcastles.  I can’t wait to take him to the beach with Dan when we both come to stay in August.
    Oscar at the beach

Any suggestions for places to visit/things to do on the Isle of Wight?
How are you finding this heat?
When do you tend to read/write blog posts?

Changing tactics for attempt number 2

I recapped my South Downs Way 100 mile attempt in my last post.  Frustratingly I didn’t complete the distance but I have already entered another 100 mile race in order to have another shot at it.  I will complete 100 miles!

Interestingly I posted a poll on Twitter at the end of last week.  Results below:

So I’m not alone in not completing 100 miles the first time round.

I recently read a quote from Cat Simpson on the Centurion Running website where she spoke about having the confidence to run the Grand Union Canal Race after knowing her body could continue moving past the length of a day, having completed her first 100 mile event in 25 hours.  (She has since gone on to complete 100 milers in a mere 17 hours.  Insane!)

A couple of points:

1 – I can only ever dream of running that fast

2 – I never want to run the GUCR!

3 – Whilst on the Centurion website just now I spotted Robbie Britton’s 100 mile winning time of 15h 47m at the SDW in 2013.  The pro ultra runners don’t have to deal with sleep deprivation at all!

I have bit the bullet and entered the Robin Hood 100 mile race in September.  (64 days away.)  It has very similar rules to SDW in terms of pacing/crew, the same time limit (30 hours) and is a much flatter course on more runnable terrain.  Dan and I have friends living nearby who have agreed to put Dan and Oscar up for the weekend so that they can come out to support me.  (Although I do fear for their two rabbits who Oscar is currently obsessed with.  Not sure the pair of them could put up with a very excitable toddler in love with ‘hop hop bunnies’ for a whole weekend!)
There will be live tracking at the event and I’ll share the link closer to race day.

I also have an amazing team of friends who have offered their services to pace and crew for the day.  I really would not be able to even think about completing this kind of distance without the help I have been offered and it really means so much to me that friends have such high faith in my abilities.  I promise to do my best not to let anyone down.

It would be silly for me to have run 78 miles of the South Downs Way, decide to pull from the event and then rock up to the next one having not taken anything away from the day, so below I’ve tried to pull everything I could from my first experience and commented realistically as to if it worked or if I could have improved things in that area.

Sleep:

This has to come first on my list because I feel like it was my biggest downfall in the build up to the race.  So often sleep or diet are the forgotten ingredients when training and this has very much been the case with me this year.  My sleep has been shocking and I genuinely do not know how I have existed most weeks.  In the build up to race day I was working three night shifts a week – 10pm-7am, followed by one hour of sleep before acting as sole parent in charge of an active and needy toddler the following day.  The only exception to this has been on Sundays when I would usually manage three hours of sleep followed by shared parental responsibility for the day.  Some evenings I would also manage to cram an extra hour of sleep in before my night shift began and towards the end I discovered that I could also fit in a 35 minute nap in the back of my car during my 1am ‘lunchbreak’ on a shift.  But it’s been far from ideal.
Going forward I have since handed my notice in at my night shift job (although have also now retracted it to work just one night a week when Dan and I weighed up the benefits.  One night a week should hopefully be sustainable going forward whilst also providing us some extra money to add to our savings pot.

The night before my first attempt at the distance I had planned on getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep, but a late meal out and early bird call resulted in not getting to bed until 11am and waking by 4am the day of the race.  Again, far from ideal.

Food:

I didn’t take enough food with me in my bag for the start of the race so, other than a nakd bar after a couple of miles, and a couple of grabbed sandwiches at the 10 mile checkpoint I had no other food with me until I met with my crew at mile 22.  I need to sit down and properly study the crewpoints for the next race and work out how much food I need to be taking on board between each checkpoint and ensure my bag always remains topped up.

When I first started working nightshifts I struggled with my appetite and eating.  Most of the other people I work with have a cooked meal during our lunchbreak (1am).  I decided against this as I love breakfast too much, and I like Oscar to have somebody to eat his lunch and dinner with each day, rather than have him eat on his own when he is still so young.  However, it would often result in me grabbing a large bar of chocolate/slice of cake midshift to perk me up and get me through when I was feeling exhausted.  I realised that I wasn’t doing myself any favours and having toyed with the idea for a while I switched to a more vegetarian/vegan lifestyle which is suiting me much better.  I’ll write more about my choices and decisions in another post at some point, but basically I’m not strictly vegan, I never choose meat dishes and have substituted a lot of dairy products with alternatives in recent months.  I don’t like the idea of consuming so much processed food.  If I wouldn’t be happy with Oscar consuming it, then I shouldn’t be either.  I’m much happier with my results since the change and have discovered so many great alternative meals as a result.

However, on race day, I knew that chocolate milk works for me and so kept this in as part of my plan.

Chocolate milk and an apple

Pacing:

I actually think that I paced SDW fairly well.  The going was much easier in the first half than I knew it would be in the second half, and in terms of when to run/walk, this is very much dictated for you with the hills and rough terrain.  I think I will have more problems when it comes to pacing when it comes to the Robin Hood event as it is a much, much flatter course.  I think I may need to stick to some kind of regular run/walk method in order to prevent running too hard too early on in the race.  When I ran the Grim 70m a few years ago I tried to stick to running no faster than 12 minute miles and no walking slower than 15 minute miles and that worked well for me, but it was a very different event – 10 mile loops.  The Robin Hood is three loops.  Two of 30 miles and one of 40 miles.

Darkness:

I have no concerns about running in the dark as I’ve always run trail through the night during the Winter months and so this wasn’t an issue on the SDW.  However, there were only 7 hours and 31 minutes of darkness in June compared to the 11 hours and 11 minutes I will have in September.  Although again, this could help prevent me from travelling too fast during the later miles and burning out before the end.

Core:

I worked religiously on my core at the start of the year but as life took over it was something that I neglected.  However, my core was still fairly strong due to the manual nature of my part time job.  Lugging full supermarket cages around a massive store is not for the faint-hearted and for several weeks I was placed on the juice aisle – one of the heaviest sets of cages of all and often working 8-10 cages in a night.  I ensure I walk a minimum of 10,000 steps each day, including a daily walk with Oscar, who I carry when he gets too tired.  We weighed him the other week and he’s two stone now!  I vividly remember my arms aching from carrying him at just a few weeks old when he was less than 7lbs!

Dan, Oscar and I(When Dan carries him, he takes the easy option of carrying him on his shoulders!)

Training:

I ran around 50ish miles a week in the months leading up to SDW100, although often didn’t record all of my treadmill runs on Strava.  I’m planning to run all of my runs outside in the build up to Robin Hood so as to remain accountable and analyse my pace/training a little better.  I took a full week off from training after SDW, and had a couple of easy training weeks before jumping back in with training again but I’m hoping to get back on it again now.  I’ve been out running with others a fair bit over the last couple of weeks and that always makes me feel more enthusiastic about getting out there for extra miles.
I have to be very organised with when I’m planning on running as I have Oscar at home all week.  I have to get up at 5:15am or run late at night around bedtime/Dan’s work or other activities.  I’ll be honest, on the days when I was super exhausted and struggled to get out of bed in the morning I did roll over and go back to sleep.  It’s something I rarely do as I’m such a morning person, but with so little opportunity to sleep this year I’ve really had to grab any chance I could get.  I need to ensure I slot any missed miles back in later in the day/week though as I want to ensure I give myself the absolute best chance of making it round on race day.
I didn’t complete as many speedwork sessions as I would have liked this year, and feel that I could increase my speed further, therefore completing the race sooner and helping to prevent tiredness setting in too early into the race.

My weakness will definitely be my tiredness on race day.  I thought that I would sail through on no sleep with all the experience I have of sleepless nights, but even though my work is very manual it is NOT the same as covering 100 miles on no sleep at all.

What are your stumbling blocks when it comes to training?
Do you analyse events after you have run them?