Dusk ’til Dawn marathon

My intention for the Dusk ’til Dawn event this year was to have another crack at the ultra distance (50 miles). I’ve been on the start line for this event three times already. First in 2013 when I won a place through Operation Ultra in Women’s Running Magazine. Next in 2014 when I returned with friends Kev, Tracey and Tom. Finally in 2015 when Tom and I returned to attempt the distance (with friends also running ahead). The 2016 event fell a few weeks after I first came home from hospital after having Oscar, then the event didn’t take place last year and here we are, already in 2018…

Although I knew that a half marathon and marathon event were now also on offer alongside the ultra distance, I really wanted to prove that I was able to complete the 50 mile ultra event within the time allowance.  The race is called ‘Dusk ’til Dawn’ due to it’s start time coinciding with nightfall on the Saturday night and the cut-off for the event at the point the sun rises the following morning.  As Richard, the Race Director’s Father had sadly passed away this year, the race began one hour before dusk, to be known as ‘Eddie’s hour’.  The extra hour was another reason I felt like I was meant to enter the ultra distance this year.

However, when I first entered the event months ago, Tom had also signed up for the ultra and we had planned to run it together.  I had fully intended on completing my 100 mile ultra journey at the South Downs Way 100 in June earlier in the year.  I hadn’t planned on stopping at mile 78 of the SDW, continuing to train and then eventually completing my 100 mile event three months later in the middle of September, just six weeks before the 50 mile Dusk ’til Dawn ultramarathon.

My feet hadn’t fully recovered from the 100 by the time the week of Dusk ’til Dawn arrived, and Tom also informed me that he would be pulling from the event due to injury/lack of training/a house move.  With five other runners from my club running the marathon event I decided to make the switch down to the marathon distance and knew that this was the sensible choice, although one day I will be back to prove myself at the 50 miles!

I hadn’t had the best week leading up to the marathon.  That Wednesday afternoon Oscar had been incredibly grouchy and tearful when we returned from the baby group in town.  He refused most of his tea, asked for a glass of warm milk and disappeared to bed very early in the evening.  I put it down to being overtired, but he was back up and crying for me by 9pm with bright red cheeks and a very high fever.  He wanted to do nothing but lay on my chest and cuddle.  He had a hacking cough which developed further over the next few days and despite maximum doses of Calpol that evening his temperature never stayed down for long.  Needless to say, the next few days were spent with Oscar laying across me feeling rather sorry for himself on the sofa downstairs.  By Friday afternoon I was still relying on Calpol to get his temperature down.  The bottle states that a child shouldn’t be taking maximum doses of Calpol for more than 3 days in a row, and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a doctor appointment for him over the weekend if his temperature remained high by the following day.  So I booked him a last minute appointment at the doctors in town for Friday afternoon.  Once seen by our doctor, he was referred straight to Kettering hospital with suspected pneumonia.  A quick google on my way to hospital revealed some alarming pneumonia facts, but also cleared up for me that he had most likely caught it from another child, rather than just gotten cold because I had let him run around in the garden without his coat on.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been and after being observed in hospital Oscar was sent home with a course of antibiotics to take which cleared things up really quickly.  It was rather worrying when we were first referred though.

Dan was home all day on the Saturday so could take over from me as head rest and medicine-giver for Oscar.  I needed to get out of the house after spending the last two and a half days cooped up on the sofa.  Packing for the race was done last minute and I was rather blase about the whole thing.  Meh, it’s just a marathon, right?…Turns out I ended up missing the printed instructions from the list of race essential equipment, so had to borrow a set from a friend when we arrived.

The weather was pretty rubbish the whole journey over.  The windscreen wipers were on most of the time and we knew it was due to be pretty cold that night.  Lots of layers were absolutely necessary!

The race is known for the ‘Grim Sweeper’ who runs at the back of the pack, picking off runners who don’t make the cut-offs in time.  I’ve met the sweeper once before, back in 2013 when I ran with Charlie Sharpe, the sweeper for that race, having won the event the year before.  Rather fitting that the sweeper head was covering the defibrillator as we lined up for our race briefing before setting off!

Dusk 'til Dawn Grim Sweeper head

I was in two minds whether to run alone or as part of the group, but in the end the six of us from Wellingborough ran together and I realised how much I missed being out there running long distances with friends!  Having not run the marathon course before (or read the directions for the marathon distance beforehand, initially thinking that I would be running the ultra) it was probably for the best that I stayed part of the group anyway to be honest!

Dusk 'til Dawn starting photo

We nearly missed the start, leaving it to the last possible minute to sneak back to our cars to change out of jeans, boots and oversized hoodies and into our running gear for the night.  The six of us were casually waltzing over to the start line, my phone in hand – getting ready for a pre-race club photo when we realised that the countdown to the start had already begun!  As everybody crossed the line for the start of the race I was still busy trying to zip away my phone and pull the headtorch from my bag for the run!

Even then, we had gone more than half a mile when Gary turned back, declaring that he thought he had probably left his headtorch in the boot of his car as he had just realised it wasn’t on his head!  What an organised bunch we were!

The first few miles of the course were the same as the start of the ultra route and I recognised long sections of the trail.  There are some tough, technical climbs (and descents) on the course.  I am fairly confident at picking my way up steep, rocky ascents.  I don’t have quite so much confidence with my downhill running but I have definitely improved since the first year I headed over to the Peak District for the race.

Because we had the extra hour this year, it meant we were running in daylight for the first few climbs and got a chance to appreciate our view.  As I waited for others in our little group to navigate to the top of the climbs I pulled out my camera for a few photos.

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hills

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsYou can see the extent of the climbs we were making.  The above photo is the majority of the way up the first big hill.  You can see the drop in the distance to the left of the photo.

IMG_20181027_172632Some sections were more technical than others.  This first climb wasn’t too bad, but later climbs involved more careful placing of feet on the rocks that were jutting out.  I worried that the rocks would be slippy from the rain we’d had earlier in the day but they ended up not being too bad.

Dusk 'til Dawn hillsThe sunset was a really pretty one from so high up.

Dusk 'til Dawn sunsetAfter that we just trotted around the remaining miles.  Strava tells me I ran 26.56 miles in total, so fairly accurate for a trail marathon distance!

I recognised the point where my parents and Dan had sat on the side of the road in a car at the first checkpoint (now several miles into the course) back in 2013.  I had been the last person to come into that checkpoint then, but not the last to leave and I started picking other runners off from that point back then.  It felt like so long ago!

Navigation was fairly straight forward this year.  Gary had run some of the ultra course in 2015 and Kev had run some of the ultra course back in 2014, so between us we barely needed to check directions for which way to go, although took along paper instructions with us just in case.  Gary had run the marathon course with Tom back at the 2016 event, which was held just a few weeks after I had Oscar, so Gary was fairly confident in how to navigate the marathon course once we turned off for the shorter distance.

I didn’t enjoy the race as much from the point we split off from the ultra route.  The majority of the marathon route was run along roads, whereas the ultra had been almost entirely on the trails.  The roads on the marathon course were fairly flat and long and runnable and not what I had expected having run the majority of the ultra route before. I like the challenge of technical terrain!

There was a really eerie section along an old railway line where we ran through a couple of large tunnels.  I ran in the middle of the pack here, with some runners from our group speeding off ahead and some falling behind.  Everybody’s voices were echoing all around the tunnel as we ran and it made it really hard to locate whether someone was ahead of you or behind.  I was glad to be running with the others as we ran through this section, and I was very glad when we turned off and began our next climb!

There was another really eerie section where we ran alongside a field of sheep…or the field of red eyes, as the sheep all clustered into the corner nearest to the path.  As our headtorches reflected on their eyes they glowed red like demons.

I didn’t really eat much out on the course, choosing just to pick at a couple of bits on offer at the checkpoints.  We weren’t moving particularly fast and I didn’t feel like my body needed any more to keep it going so I kept my snacks in my bag for the race.

The last mile or so was run all on road.  Gary ran ahead to beat us to the finish, but the rest of us all trotted over the line together and headed into the hall for hot drinks and pasties.  That cheese and onion pasty and hot tea at the finish were the best things I’ve been handed at a finish line for a long while!  It had been super cold out there on the hills, and at any point we had stopped we all really began to feel the chill.  We were all ready for something warm at the end!

I changed back into my boots, jeans and a hoodie fairly quickly afterwards, babywiping as much mud from my legs as I could spot in the toilets!  The medal is a nice one.

Dusk 'til Dawn marathon medal

Official time: 7h 18m 57s
Position: 13/20
Gender position: 4/7

I traveled back from the race with Gary, who has heated seats in his car.  I had those seats heated to the max for the whole journey home to warm up!

Have you run a race at night before?
What was the nicest food you received at the finish of a race?


Exploring new trails

Last weekend Dan and I headed back to Norfolk and spent the weekend with my parents.  On the Saturday we got some chips and sat in the car on top of Cromer cliffs before taking the coastal route back home again.  We passed loads of footpath signs on the return journey and I made a mental note of where each one was ready to plan some long Summer runs this year.  This week in the Ultrarunning Facebook group I spotted the Norfolk 100k, run along the Peddars Way from Castle Acre to Cromer.  This is where I spent my childhood and would love to run the course, having not been a runner when I lived in Norfolk.  Falling just six weeks before the Grim Reaper 70m it doesn’t look to be a viable option for this year though unfortunately.

Tuesday and Wednesday we had some lovely sunny weather back here in East Northamptonshire and I couldn’t resist running in the day time instead of heading to running club in the evening.  On Wednesday afternoon I headed out on my own for a 10 mile route discovered by someone I regularly run with.  It was about 95% trail and using some of the trails I’ve run before, but piecing them all together!

The first few miles were pretty tough and involved lots of boggy, rutted, ploughed fields.

Trail run through ploughed fieldsIt was really hard to make out where the footpaths went and the mud was really thick with deep ruts.  Why is it always easier to tell where the path should go once you reach the other side of the field?!

Trail run through ploughed fieldsNeedless to say, my trainers got pretty muddy pretty early on!

Muddy trail runI hate that feeling of two inches of mud on the bottom of my shoes just getting thicker and thicker the longer I run for.  It makes the going pretty tough out there!

I took my phone along with a loaded map of the route on the screen as, although I had run lots of the trails before I’d not run them all and had never run them in succession of each other so didn’t want to end up lost!  Every so often I would stop and check which direction I was meant to be headed in which broke up the run nicely, along with the plenty of bridges and stiles I crossed.  (They also gave me an aiming point for most of the field crossings.)

Bridge on a trail runWhen I headed along the few bridleways on the route these were the muddiest of all.  Lots of horses moving at speed over the wet ground has caused the ground to churn up and resulted in large ruts that did a good job of catching Monday’s rain water.

Muddy trail run

I saw a fox at one point leisurely cantering (not sure if fox gaits are the same as horses) across an open field and also a muntjac in the wooded section.  He was much closer than that small blob in the distance but by the time I’d faffed with getting my phone out of my belt and removed all sweat from my hands so that I could zoom in to take a shot he had gotten bored of watching me and lolloped off.

Trail runI also took a great video of my confused face as my sweaty fingers hit the camera reverse button by mistake whilst trying to film the fox in the field.  I won’t share that one with you!

There were several sections in the second half of the run where I could pick up some speed on a grassy track and a small bit of road work that was appreciated just before returning home again but I really enjoyed the run.  One to pencil in for another time, although probably better in the late Spring once the fields are not so freshly ploughed!

Yesterday was another productive day and I managed to sort out several things that have been bugging me for a while, such as; requesting details to transfer my mortgage, emailing Strava to work out why my Strava data is so different from Garmin Connect.  According to Strava I ran the recent South Devon coastal trail marathon in an average 9:35mm pace. (I so didn’t!)  I also got in touch with Garmin to sort out why my Vivofit is no longer showing the time on the front display (after a 45 minute phone call it is once more).

I headed to running club in the evening.  I had been tempted to run in the day but after the promise of a cake sale to raise money for charity after the session I knew running in the evening would make more sense.  Seriously, the best place to hold a cake sale is after a running club session.  Most runners run for the cake!

Six people individually last night told me that they thought I looked like I had lost a lot of weight recently.  To each one I shared with them that it had not been intentional.  In fact, I lost 7lbs the week before the South Devon marathon, which really concerned me – I was worried that I would not have enough energy for the race (I did) so tried my best to eat a lot in the few days before the event.  The week after I lost a further 3lbs and I’ve lost another 2lbs since then.  Along with the weight loss I have had what I can only really describe as what feels like a constant stitch in my right hip bone.  It’s not painful, just uncomfortable and running doesn’t seem to make it any worse.
I rang on Monday morning to try and get an appointment at the doctors, to be told to try again the following day.  On Tuesday I was told that the earliest I would be able to book an appointment for without ringing up on the day for any cancellations would be the following Wednesday – eight days later!  I’m booked in for next Wednesday evening but if I lose any more weight before then I might ring and see if anyone has made a cancellation.

How long does it take you to get an appointment at the doctors where you are?
Do you ever take your phone along on a run/walk for directions?

A fail at Juneathon by day 1

…To be fair (currently the three most overused words in my vocabulary as voted by my hens on my hen weekend) I could not lift my legs up to get into the bath after Shires and Spires 35m race on Sunday.

To all those unfamiliar with Juneathon the aim for each day of the month is twofold…1) Run every day…2) Blog every day.  If you can’t/won’t run every day, join in with a different form of exercise and if you’re out of time to blog, update everyone with a tweet instead.

Juneathon participant logo

Day 1 (Sunday): Run every day: DONE – 35.5 miles!  Blog every day: FAIL.  Sleep and bath felt much more appropriate.

Day 2 (Monday): Run every day: FAIL – My legs still felt the effect of cramp from the night before and I didn’t think it was worth the risk.  Well, unless you count the ten jogging steps I ran on the way home from the Pub Quiz to prove to Dan that I would be able to run again the following day?!  Blog every day: DONE – My Shires and Spires recap.

Day 3 (Tuesday): Run every day:  Does get pushed around in a wheelchair count as a form of exercise?!

Cannula in my arm

After some severe migraines over the past three-four weeks I had booked in a doctor’s appointment for this morning.  A doctor’s appointment where I felt too unwell to stay upright in my chair and ended up getting placed in my own room for the morning.  A doctor’s appointment where the doctor thought it was best to rule out a brain bleed so send me with a referral letter to the Ambulatory Clinic at Kettering.  (I’m sure the woman on the front desk at the hospital knows me by sight after this year for all the times I’ve been for me, Dan or friends!)  Once there, I had blood tests taken and an assessment by a doctor, who then wanted to refer me to the consultant.  They were 90% certain that my brain was just fine, but to be on the safe side, popped a cannula in and attempted to wheel me down for a CT scan.  Only for my head to flop over as soon as we reached the door as I almost passed out.  Can’t say I’m the greatest hospital or needle fan!  Take two twenty minutes later…after I’d adjusted to sitting in a more upright position on the bed before being transferred to the wheelchair.  This time I made it downstairs.  They placed a horrid colour dye in my veins which tasted metallic in my mouth and I could feel zooming all around my body from the second they shot it in.

I was discharged from the hospital ward just before 6pm.  (My doctor’s appointment had been for 9:20am this morning!…another day gone, and when I had so much work to catch up on too.)  I’ve been put onto some medication to help stop the migraines and should receive an oncology referral over the next few weeks for some further tests.  My pill has been blamed for the sever migraines and I’ve been told to come off it with immediate effect and swap onto another.

Coming home to this pretty face cheered me up after my rubbish day!
IMG_20140602_133710038_HDR IMG_20140602_133702744

Have you ever had any treatments in hospital?  Lover or hater of needles?!  I found it interesting that the doctor who inserted the cannula into my vein told me that she passes out or shrieks each time she has to have a needle herself.  I presumed doctors would become immune!

A Gore-illa run and lots of veg

So, as I mentioned yesterday I have fallen in love with the game Fetchpoint and it did dictate where I went out for a run yesterday morning!

I didn’t get out for a run whilst back at my parents, so initially intended on just heading out for a 2-3mile run yesterday morning and then going to club for speedwork in the evening.  But the weather was so nice I couldn’t bear to turn back and head home when I got to the 3 mile point!

Instead I continued and didn’t make it back until I had reached nearly seven miles.  I had no real ‘aim’ for the session (other than to pick up two Gore-illas from the Fectpoint game!) and intended on taking it easy, as long as I was sub 11:25mm pace (the pace I need to be at to get a Sub 5 marathon).

Splits as follows:
Mile 1: 10:52
Mile 2: 10:39
Mile 3: 11:20
Mile 4: 10:32
Mile 5: 11:24
Mile 6: 10:26
Nubbin (0.6): 9:15

Despite it being quite a hilly route and some off-road work, towards the end I still had a lot left in my legs so worked on quickening my pace and comfortably ran more than half a mile at 9:15 pace.

Breakfast was served on my stomach as soon as I arrived home!  Peanut butter on bread and butter x2.

Bread, butter and peanut butter

I spent some time ‘Spring cleaning’ and catching up on housework after returning from my run as I’d spent the weekend away and it never gets done when Dan’s home alone!

Then for lunch I roasted a big dish of veg – one red pepper, one parsnip, one carrot, two spring onions, four cherry tomatoes and some corn.


Then topped it off with some tomato pasta sauce and goat’s cheese.  This has to be my favourite meal of ALL TIME!



I ended up having lunch quite early so that I could get on with my day.  I had a doctor’s appointment booked in at 5pm – just for a pill check.  Usually at these I am told the same things.  That I have an excellent resting heart rate (being a runner does that!) and that I am in the obese section of the BMI chart.  Today, all that changed though when I was asked to jump onto the scales for a weight check.  I asked if I should remove my boots and big coat before getting on and the nurse told me ‘not to worry, as it was obvious I didn’t have a weight problem’, and then when she updated my weight on the system told me that I had actually lost a few kgs since my last weigh in.  Bonus that I hadn’t been expecting!

After walking back from the Doctor’s, I was ready for tea so started prepping the pizza base for a calzone I had been thinking about all day.  I used this recipe for the dough, let it rise whilst cooking sausages on the hob, then filled the calzones with marinara sauce, grated cheddar cheese, chopped sausages and mine with some sweetcorn.  I added a side of mixed leaves onto my plate as well.


This was amazing.  Dan agreed.

But there was too much of it.  I could easily have gotten away with making just one of these and halving it with Dan for tea.  That’s the plan for next time.

**How I Met Your Mother Spoiler alert** -I’ve tried to keep it as vague as possible!

Over tea we watched the Season finale of How I Met Your Mother.  Both Dan and I have been massive fans since the beginning, but have both really felt that this last season has been dragged out forever.  Plus, Robin and Barney getting married?…What?!

The finale was great though, and despite throwing a few curveballs in (divorce, death and getting together) I loved it.  I wasn’t a big fan of the last curveball right at the very end and felt it cheapened a relationship that had been built up throughout the whole show.  I also felt that I had already seen some parts in other season finales…Revealing of the name (Sex and the City), getting together right at the very end (Friends).  It definitely didn’t leave the show feeling unfinished though, and I was much more satisfied with the ending than I was with Dexter.

Did anyone else see How I Met Your Mother?  Any thoughts on the finale?