Coaching and delicious food

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On Sunday as soon as I returned from A&E I was looking at local running coaches in our area.  I want to be improving and getting quicker and that’s something I’ve not really seen this year.  I believe that my head power has improved (counting to 100 over and over again for 5 hours at Mablethorpe!) but I haven’t necessarily gotten any quicker and if I do at some point in the future want to run a 100miler (yes, I just said that!) I know I need to improve my speed so that I’m not pulled at mile 93 for being too slow.  (How awful would that be?!)  I have no interest at ‘racing’ any distance below half marathons but getting speedier should help my marathon training/ultra times in the long run.  Or at least, that is the idea.

A few hours later though and I was checking our club Facebook page only to see that we were getting a new coach, one who was going to implement some training specifically towards a 10k.  This had me very excited as Group 5 and 6 at our club have traditionally been for more ‘fun runners’ whereas the higher groups have always had more targeted training.  A lot of the runners in the bottom two groups run more for the social side and to keep fit, they aren’t fussed about improving too much.  But that is not the case for everybody and I have been desperate to work my way back up to Group 4 again.  I have been moved up to it twice.  The first time was just before Milton Keynes marathon in 2012, and again just before Milton Keynes marathon in 2013, but recovery from both marathons meant my speeds were not as quick as they could have been and I’ve ended up moving myself down each time again.

We’ve been told that the 10k can be extended into half marathon training sessions, which ultimately I would like to extend into my spring marathon training.

I also received a call from Joe of #ukrunchat last night.  Way back in July I won some coaching from #ukrunchat on Twitter.  Because my wedding was quickly approaching and I was concentrating on preparing for the Grim Reaper 70mile race at the start of August, we put off the training until after I returned from honeymoon.  One thing followed another and with us both being quite busy it wasn’t until last night that we finally got round to speaking properly and starting to set targets for the coming months.  I’m really excited about this.  :)

I probably wouldn’t have gone running last night had I not been keen to find out more about the training changes.  We only ran about 4.5 miles as we spent the first 15 minutes discussing the next couple of months of training but my upper legs were still a little tight from Saturday night.  We climbed a serious amount of elevation that night!

Elevation numbers

To walk I was a little jolty but to run my legs just slipped into a rhythm and even though I tried to hold myself back a lot I still found myself running sections at 9mm.  I was just enjoying it!  I shall have another rest day today though as we’re off to see our niece in Wolves who turns one next week.  Tomorrow night, provided I make it back in time our club are holding a spooky Halloween run at our local park followed by pumpkin soup and hot chocolate so that will be a nice easy fun run and then I shall probably take Friday off as well.  Although it is my birthday and I would quite like a birthday run…

Yesterday was so lovely and sunny for the end of October.  I left Bella flat out on the lounge floor, every half hour or so moving herself a little bit further round and headed out for lunch with my friend Jenny.

Bella in the sun

It was so nice and sunny we decided to sit outside at the Woodford Mill Tearooms.

Me at Woodford Mill tea rooms

I hadn’t seen Jenny since the wedding so we had lots to catch up on which meant that it took me forever to eat my chicken caesar wrap with chips.

Chicken caesar wrap with chips at Woodford tea rooms

And when she suggested cake for dessert I knew I’d struggle.  Stupidly I went for possibly the most sickly and filling cake there is…red velvet cake!

Red velvet cake

I’d never had red velvet cake before, despite ogling at plenty of pictures on Instagram.  It was alright, but so incredibly sickly.  I was glad I’d gone for a glass of water to accompany it rather than my first thought of a hot chocolate.  That would have been just a little too sweet for my liking!

Other than the cake I’ve been eating some delicious meals at home just recently.  I’ve been loving omelettes for lunchtime.  This one was red pepper and mushroom, although it’s more of an omelette hash, as I lost the bulk of the omelette just at the turning moment.  Doh!

Red pepper and mushroom omelette

And I really fancied pasta the other night (this never happens – I’m really not a pasta fan) so I made up a tomato sauce to add to some pasta, topped with some cheese for protein and produced a kind of pizzabread/flatbread on the side which I topped with garlic.  Delicious!

Tomato pasta and flatbread

Bella was a pain after club last night.  (But a sweet one!)  She has been very lovey just lately and wants to spend all her time with me.  This includes sitting on my laptop and basically making herself as in the way as possible.

Bella on the laptop

After club last night I leapt in the shower and was pretty tired so thought I would catch up on Twitter from bed.  Bella had other plans, choosing to sit on my laptop on my legs.  Two minutes later and the screen was the wrong way round!  Dan picked her off for me but everything was now sideways!

Bella on the laptop

Luckily, as an ICT teacher having worked four years in a state school you know the little keyboard shortcuts such as how to turn a screen on the side (how is this ever useful?!) as kids are forever leaving their computer screens this way to be annoying for the next class.

What should I dress as for the Halloween run?
Do you run/work out on your birthday?
Is your cat a ‘laptop cat’?!

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Dusk ’til Dawn take two and the weirdest race injury

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If I were to tell you that I spent yesterday afternoon in A&E after racing an ultra in the Peak District the night before, I’m sure not many of you would be able to guess my injury.  You would assume it would be foot or leg related right?

Injured handBut in actual fact I damaged my hand!  I quickly fell asleep in the car after the race with my arms folded.  When I awoke I could no longer feel the fingers in my right hand.  They had gone numb – I assumed from being in an awkward position over my left arm while I slept.  When we returned home yesterday morning and I had had a proper sleep in bed I woke to find them incredibly painful and unable to move them from their crooked position so we took a trip to Kettering A&E.  (Again!  -  Let’s just say it hasn’t been our first visit to A&E this year!)  We think I possibly whacked my hand against the door whilst the car was going round a corner and with my fingers in the awkward position they were in, it caused bad bruising and swelling with some tissue damage.

The swelling has gone down a lot now but at one point I had no knuckles at all!

Injured hand

The hospital strapped it up and I’m supposed to keep icing it and hold it up above my head as much as possible over the next couple of days.  At least I don’t need my fingers to go running because my legs feel great!

OK…on to the race itself…

Grim Reaper

I wasn’t nervous at all.  We’d done loads of prep work in the build up to the race and I had no fear of getting lost.  My only concern was with the tight time cut offs.  Kev had planned to pace us to 4mph.  A schedule that sounds easy to talk about.  15minute miles…easy peasy right?… But I knew just how tough the course was, especially early on and that there are a lot of miles where that would be impossible.

Dusk 'til DawnThe course started slightly differently this year as we had a new race HQ, although within a mile we were back onto the old route I recognised from last year.  I have a great memory for places I have been, even if I haven’t been there for years and I remembered the route we’d taken a year ago.

The Dusk 'til Dawn W&DAC crewWe found ourselves near the back quite early on, but we were keeping moving and probably a lot quicker than I had been on my own a year ago.  Just like last year the strategy was to run where we could, and walk all the steep bits.

Last year the course markings had been minimal, with odd reflective tape strewn at important turnings or on the edge of cliffs but this year the course was marked superbly.  There wasn’t much chance of going wrong!  You were never far away from the next bit of reflective tape.

I am strongest at the uphills but weak at the downhills although strong in the head and incredibly stubborn so as long as there weren’t too many rutted downhills I would be OK.

You hit the first incredibly steep uphill very early on.

Dusk 'til Dawn elevationYou get a tiny respite just before you hit the top of it, with a chance to run a little way down before clipping your card at the first self-clip point and heading up to the peak.  The route back down is also incredibly steep and I lost a lot of time picking my way over the muddy, slippery slabs last year whilst trying not to fall.  This year, despite still being the last of the four of us down I got down a lot quicker than last year by taking the less-used grass route and just crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t fall!

A cheer on from a road marshal outside of a pub in town and we were making the next climb up through Cave Dale.  Although I ran this last year I really didn’t take it in (or as much as I could in the pitch black night!)  There are large ridges headed up on either side of you and when your headtorch bounces off them it feels rather eerie.

Cave Dale(Image taken from the Cave Dale Wikipedia page.)

I was glad to be running with others at this point!

This year the first Grim Sweeper had his dog and it was about here he caught up with us, along with two American ladies who we’d bumped into a couple of times.  We weren’t behind on time but he was just running with the back markers and we knew we would always be towards the back of the pack.  The dog kept getting under our feet though and changing direction constantly so it did mean having to stay rather alert.  Difficult when, although only having run 7 or so miles, our legs had already put in a lot of work with the steep climbs.

It is impossible to even describe just how steep some of the climbs were.  There was one section we pulled ourselves up by tree branches and fence posts.  A lot of the time your steps are barely infront of each other but as long as you don’t stop you know you’ll get to the top.  My thighs and quads are feeling incredibly powerful after that workout today!

We stayed at the first manned checkpoint a little longer than I would have liked and the American ladies that had been behind us dropped out here.  We were now the back markers.  There’s always that added pressure when you’re running at the back of the race and you have the guy in charge of cut-off decisions right alongside you.

It was a lot easier to pick the pace up along the next section and there were several areas that we could run, with long road sections or more flat terrain through the fields.  We still ended up stopping quite a lot though.  At the time I felt like we had been running a lot more than I had when I’d been on my own the previous year but we had also stopped a lot more than I would have done had I been on my own.  When it was just me I would have stopped to eat/add layers but carry on moving whilst doing so.  It seemed in a group of four we all needed to stop at different times for various things.  As we hit the road marshal at mile 14.2 miles I asked how close we were to cut off.  Apparently 12 minutes OVER the cut off time.  Not good.  Runners could only be withdrawn from the four main checkpoints (miles 9.25, 19.2, 27.5 and 38) so we still had a chance to make up time and get to the school (19.2m) within the time limit.  As soon as Tracey had been to the loo and Tom had changed batteries we sped off.  Last year I had gotten to this point with two minutes to spare so it was a little worrying that it had taken fourteen minutes longer this time round.

Tracey was really struggling by this point.  I think the idea of the time pressure was weighing down on her and she wasn’t enjoying a challenge she felt she would not be able to complete.  She’d had a few stomach problems but with me as the slowest member of our little group I was running in the lead along with Tom along the fairly flat tracks here.  Kev was holding back with Tracey and Tom and I kept stopping to wait for them to catch up every time we reached a turning.  We weren’t sure whether or not to run ahead as we had a lot more in us still than we were showing right then.  We didn’t want to get pulled at 20 miles for not making the time limit but at the same time, we wouldn’t want to be left had it been us at the back.  About a mile from the checkpoint as we were waiting for them one last time, Kev shouted out to us to continue without them, to go on ahead.  So, decision made for us, we did, – reaching the checkpoint with three minutes to spare.  We lunged at Tom’s dropbag – I was after that chocolate milk!  As Kev and Tracey appeared a few minutes later and were told they could continue they told us that they would be pulling out.  Kev gave us his spare headtorch and loaded us with batteries, we topped up our water and headed out on our way again.  Just Tom and Me this time.

Tracey Dusk 'til Dawn statusWe still felt pretty strong but the next section was a toughy.  As soon as we were out of the pub we were into what felt like pretty much a vertical climb for the next half a mile!

Dusk 'til Dawn vertical climbI was glad I was still with Tom at this point.  despite being told to ‘stay together’ by Kev and Tracey as we left them at the school Tom and I made a pact pretty early on that if one of us could push on further then they should do so, and take the handheld Garmin with them as the Grim Sweeper would pick up whoever was struggling, so they would never be alone.  There were long rutted sections along here that made it impossible to run at any speed, or at all during some points.  So although the peaks weren’t quite as long or steep as previous ones had over been over the next couple of miles, we still were not able to gain as much time as we would have liked.  We’d lost too much time too early on.

Tom’s knee (previous injury) started playing him up a bit so we stopped so that he could remove his brace and I persuaded him to take some painkillers before it got any worse.  Other than that, we were both feeling so incredibly strong still and knew we had 50 miles in us.

There was one final long hill up to the Cat & Fiddle pub – checkpoint 5 and we knew we were close to cut-off time.  As we neared the pub some guys headed out towards us.  It didn’t look as though we were going to be there in time.  The sweeper shouted out from behind us “I’m going to carry on here mate.” and the guy replied with “You need to let us have your number so that we can tick you through the checkpoint.”  ”But I’m the sweeper!”  Maybe we would be allowed through.  Tom turned to me and said “If we can keep going shall we just carry on?”  I knew I would need water over the next ten miles so we would have to go inside to officially ‘check in’.  As we did we were told we were not allowed to continue.

We had the nice surprise of seeing Kev and Tracey inside enjoying a pint though.  Didn’t expect to see them there but they’d managed to nab a lift with someone else’s support crew (who actually turned out to be this year’s Women’s Running Project Trail Runner!  She finished at the same time as Tom and I did.)

Tracey on Dusk 'til Dawn ultraKev on Dusk 'til Dawn ultra

And we were presented with hot dogs slathered in ketchup and ushered to some couches.

Hot dog at Dusk 'til DawnI struggled to eat my hotdog but managed to force it down in the end.  As soon as I stopped and sat down though I started shivering and felt quite weak.  I pulled my foil blanket from my bag and sat convulsing in it.  It wasn’t until much later on when we had arrived back at race HQ and I had several hot chocolates inside me that I started to really warm up.

In a foil blanket at Dusk 'til Dawn

I have lots more to say about the race and I’ve had a chance to analyse it with Dan (probably sick of hearing about it by now!) and Kev this morning.  Expect more from me tomorrow!

Race splits for anyone that’s interested:

Mile 1: 10:55
Mile 2: 
11:46
Mile 3: 
22:29
Mile 4: 
20:15
Mile 5: 
15:16
Mile 6: 
18:22
Mile 7: 
20:16
Mile 8: 
17:51
Mile 9: 
15:50
Mile 10: 
15:36
Mile 11: 
12:31
Mile 12: 
12:34
Mile 13: 
17:50
Mile 14: 
24:41
Mile 15: 
20:32
Mile 16: 
13:28
Mile 17: 
13:06
Mile 18: 
12:46
Mile 19: 
18:27
Mile 20: 
20:30
Mile 21: 
19:27
Mile 22: 
17:31
Mile 23: 
13:24
Mile 24: 
14:04
Mile 25: 
18:14
Mile 26: 
18:10
Mile 27: 
22:14
Mile 28: 
15:44
Mile 29: 
16:52

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What I’m packing for 50 miles

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Tomorrow, just before 11am, I’m setting off on an adventure.  An adventure through the night up (very tall!) peaks and down (incredibly steep!) dales to cover 50 miles with friends.  …I may be a little mad.

I’m halfway through packing now with everything laid out on the table in the lounge, just desperately hunting out my handheld Garmin, some gloves and a handheld torch.  Here is how the table is currently looking…

Kit for Dusk 'til Dawn 50mile ultramarathon…Pretty jam packed full!

There will be five of us travelling in my little Rover (now that it is all fixed and returned from the garage after yesterday’s palava) so space will be tight and I need to condense this into my belt, backpack, a drop back and an overnight bag.  Here’s what’s going where…

Belt:
Half a flapjack
A gel
Mobile phone
Spare change

Backpack:
Orange
Compass (tied on)
Whistle (tied on)
Red reflective flashing light (tied on)
4x Cocoa Orange nakd bars
Half a bag of Sour cream pretzels
Spare batteries
Long sleeved top
Torch
Larger copies of the map with the course marked out
Reflective bib
Foil blanket
Lemonade nuun tablets
Portable charging device
Garmin charger
Phone charger
Vaseline

Drop bag:
Carton of chocolate milk
2x oranges
2x Cocoa Orange nakd bars
Bag of Sour cream pretzels

Kit for Dusk 'til Dawn 50mile ultramarathon

Overnight bag:
Towel
Hoodie
Underwear
Jeans
Deodorant
Converse
Hairbrush

On me:
Tights
Technical t-shirt
Waterproof jacket (with gloves in the pockets)
Trainers
Sports bra
Headtorch
Cap
Checkpoint card (pinned to my top)
Reflective wrist band
Waterbottle (in hand)
Garmin
e-Trex 30 handheld navigational device

The drop bag will be available for us to pick up at mile 20 (Checkpoint 3) and I’m looking forward to packing in the chocolate milk and oranges there.  I’ve heard rumours that Kev is dropping off a madras!

The guys at Beyond Marathon have given us an essentials kit list of items we must bring.  No kit, no start!

Kit list for Dusk 'til Dawn 50mile ultramarathon

For some of the race last year a guy ran with me that had never run off road before and was sharing two headtorches between three of them having passed them back during the kit check.  Who doesn’t bring a headtorch to an overnight race?!

Can you think of anything I am missing?!
Were you ever part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme at school?
 I’m currently viewing Dusk ’til Dawn as the adult version of DoE!

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It’s always something…

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… On Tuesday morning it was my car.  It failed to growl into any sort of life whilst I sat shivering in it at a little after 7am.  So much for catching up with loads of work before school began.
Luckily, one of the other teachers lives only a few miles from me, although by the time she had come to rescue me we hit heavy traffic and then didn’t get in to work until 9am.

It meant no run club for me that night.  Instead, I headed out on one last run yesterday evening and then planned on resting up for the rest of the week (other than a few longer walks) before completing the 50 miles on Saturday.

Turns out it’s quite inconvenient not having access to a car though. My journey home last night on the bus was interesting. Made more so when I realised I hadn’t put any cash into my bag for the bus. I tend to just keep my credit card on me when I go out with an emergency £5 note in my car. Obviously the bus wouldn’t take a credit card so for a few minutes I was left scrabbling around in the pockets of my coat hunting out spare change. Luckily, I managed to get together the £2.65 required for my fare to get to run club but for a minute I was left wondering whether or not I would have to walk the entire 20 miles home!
I’m currently sat in the Costa in the town where my new school is as I have an induction today between 12-2.

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Without a car at the moment though, Dan had to drop me off in the nearby town on his way through to Cambridge. I say ‘nearby’…. It’s ten minutes in a car, but walking it took me a little over 90 minutes. There’s that long walk done for today then! I’d hit my Vivofit goal before 9am this morning!

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I quite enjoyed my Autumnal walk. I can’t believe how quickly the leaves have changed. They look so beautiful this time of year though.

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This time of year is meant for fires, hot chocolates and playing board games on a Sunday afternoon. Dan and I sat down in front of the fire last Sunday and pulled out our Wedding Guess Who game for the first time since we’ve been married. One of my bridesmaids and I used to play what we dubbed as ‘Ultimate Guess Who’ when we were at uni – we would use the regular Guess Who game boards with the only changed rule being that you could not ask any questions relating to what the character looked like. We asked questions such as “Do they have a pet cat?”, ” Are they an only child? “..etc. Randomly, we always used to get the answers right! Clearly we know each other and the way we both think very well!
When I saw Wedding Guess Who on a wedding board on Pinterest I knew I wanted to create something similar, which included all of our immediate family and bridal party.

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It went down well and we got lots of lovely comments on the day.

My journey home is going to be a nightmare tonight. By bus it will allegedly take 4.5hrs and four buses to travel just over 20 miles. Or I could fork out £80 for a taxi. Good job buses have free WiFi… At least I should be able to crack on with a little work on the way home this afternoon!
Have you ever struggled without a car?
What’s your favourite board game?

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