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?

 

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?

A pacer for 35 miles and a life update

This might be a bit of a shorter race recap to my usual double posts(!) but I want to finally get something down on the blog about the Shires and Spires 35 mile race from the 20th May (six weeks ago!) before I forget all the details of the day.

The last few months have been absolutely insane when it comes to work and sleep and at times I have felt like I’m just existing and getting through the days, rather than actually living them.  Picking up 15 schools to mark coursework for an exam board and working extra night shifts unfortunately both fell at the same time that Oscar dropped his two hour daytime naps and began to kick up a fuss about going to bed.  This meant that some of his bed times dragged on for more than three hours before he was asleep and I could finally head downstairs to tidy up after the day before heading out for a nightshift/collapsing into bed myself.

We had it so easy for so long that it made it feel all the more difficult.  I wrote about Oscar’s eighteen month routine here – he used to be fast asleep by 7:45pm back then and it already seems like a lifetime ago, not just the three months that it actually is!  We’ve switched him out of his cot into a toddler bed now and this seems to have helped somewhat thankfully.

I’ve also handed my notice in at Tesco to finish at the end of the current rota (three more weeks), which is a relief (in some ways, but also a worry over the lack of guaranteed regular money coming in).  But it will allow for more family time, more me time, more running time, more relaxation time, less stress and upset and other opportunities to provide an income.  All in all, I know it’s for the best, but that extra guaranteed £1000 a month is going to be hard to do without until we settle into a new routine.

Tesco was never going to be forever though.  When Mum was very sick last year Oscar and I drove the 200 mile round trip to visit 3-4 days each week.  This is obviously something I do not regret, but our savings took a massive hit and after Mum died and I began visiting less I had to take action to try and replenish our savings again, which I have now been able to do.

Anyway, enough of the life update, more of the running…I’ve run a parkrun, 35 mile race and ran 78 miles of my first 100 mile attempt since I last blogged, so I’m hoping to have a bit of a catch-up blogging day today before my brain becomes mush and I forget all the details from the past six weeks!

The Shires & Spires 35 mile race fell the day before I returned to work following my maternity leave last year and so I never got a chance to write a proper recap of the race and still regret that now.

I love the Shires and Spires event.  35 miles of Northamptonshire countryside with lots of rolling hills and beautiful scenery.  It’s a Go Beyond event and with the start just a few miles from my running club base, checkpoints are often well stocked with W&DAC runners so it’s lovely to see so many friendly faces not only out running the event on the day, but also manning the checkpoints on route.

Shires and Spires was my first ultramarathon in 2013 and I have run it every year since apart from 2016 when I was 6 months pregnant with Oscar.  (2014 * 2015 recaps) With this being my fifth year running the event, and having run numerous training runs out on the course I know the route better than I know the back of my hand.  With my goal race (South Downs Way 100) just three weeks later, I knew I didn’t want to run Shires hard this year, and so instead offered to pace anyone who would like to complete the 35 miles in about 8 hours, as this was a time I knew I should easily be able to achieve without pushing myself too hard on the day.

One person took me up on my offer.  Somebody who regularly walks long distance events (of 100+ miles!) but who until recently has not really been doing a huge amount of running.  She had run the event the previous year with a group of runners who had just intended on getting round within the 9 hour cut-off, but knew she was capable of completing the race in a faster time than this, although not yet confident enough to navigate the race on her own.

It was a hot day (it seems like we haven’t had anything else for the last few months now!) and so I thoroughly applied a thick layer of suncream before setting off for Lamport Hall.  Although, in typical Mary fashion I rocked up just ten minutes before the pre-race briefing having still to pack my bag, collect my number and having to forfeit my pre-race trip to the loo!  After dropping my t-shirt from registration back at the car I even had to jog back to the start line in order to make it on time for the starting horn!  I was fairly relaxed with no pressure on this race – knowing the course so well and without any time expectations for the day.  Probably a little too relaxed in the morning to be honest!

The first few miles of Shires are all trail and easy running.  The first checkpoint falling about 4.5 miles in to the race.  This year for the first time alongside gels and cake, Go Beyond were also offering fruit and the cold watermelon slices went down incredibly well at each of the checkpoints in the heat of the day.

I took some nuun tablets with me.  I tend to have one bottle with just water and one with electrolytes when I run an ultra and so popped a tablet into the bottle on my right at the first checkpoint and off we ran again.  100 metres or so along the road I heard what I thought was someone making ‘shhhhh’ noises right behind me, so spun round to see nothing, only for the pressure inside my water bottle from the still-fizzing nuun tab to become too much and for liquid to shoot out of the top all over Vikki!  Haha!  It definitely made us jump!Shires and Spires 35m

The next checkpoint at 9 miles came round just as quickly and we were soon heading off on our way again.  There is a long section of road in the middle of the Shires course, and although the road is good going it is still super hilly.  I was told Northamptonshire was flat when I moved here!

Truth be told I expected Vikki to break into power-walk quite often.  She comes from a long-distance walking background and so I know she can cover the ground when she walks.  Turns out though, she can also cover the ground when she runs, and I am sure she would have quite happily have run much more of the course if it wasn’t for me walking the hills and through checkpoints, etc as per my usual game plan.

Shires and Spires 35mThe heat began to get to me after the third checkpoint and although I was still going strong I then needed to include more walk breaks in the open sections than I would have done had it been an overcast day.  We were moving at a pace much faster than the 8 hours I had intended to run which I knew I needed to rein back in anyway.

Salted up after Shires and SpiresI was replacing the salts I lost with the food I was eating and my nuun tabs but it always concerns me when I lose so much.  This is a photo of my shorts at the end of the event!Shires and Spires 35mMy legs were beginning to turn red, despite the coating of suncream I’d applied that morning and so I nicked suncream from a friend at the final checkpoint before we began the last long uphill slog to the finish and the final 10k.

By mile 31 I could tell that Vikki was capable of running much faster and more than I wanted to at that point and so I encouraged her to go ahead.  It had been a long while since we weren’t surrounded by other runners and I quickly reminded her of the directions to the finish, reassuring her that she would probably pass plenty of other runners along the way so never be far from others.  Her main concern for the day had been navigational issues.

Shires and Spires 35m

(My official finish photo from Adrian Howes)Shires and Spires 35m

Four miles later and I found myself running through the finish funnel.  Go Beyond had an announcer for the finish who was doing a fantastic job of announcing runners as they crossed the line.  Many club runners were still stood on the sidelines cheering us in, along with many others from our club who had just come to cheer at the end.  Always a lovely touch.
Shires and Spires 35m cheering Lorraine through the finish

(Photo by Adrian Howes)

I made sure to join our club members on the sidelines to see everyone else through the finish line.

Vikki rushed over to tell me that she had come in as third V45 female, so even received a trophy for her run, which was fantastic news to finish to!

Shires and Spires 35m timeI can’t believe how close my Garmin read to the 35 miles!

Official time: 7:47:47
Position: 131/164
Gender position: 28/41
Age category position: 14/17

It actually ended up being my second best Shires time, despite pulling myself back a fair bit, chatting to lots of people and not racing the event.  I’m sure I’ll be back in 2019 to see what I’m actually capable of!  😉Shires and Spires 35m medalThe medal was another lovely one detailing the route of the course through the Northamptonshire villages…Shires and Spires 35m medal on Oscar…although it was soon stolen by my child on returning home!At the end of Shires and Spires with Dan and OscarI managed to sit and chill with Dan and Oscar for a little while before heading up for a shower and pre-work hour-long nap.  Unfortunately I couldn’t book the night off, so still headed off to work that evening for a 10pm-7am night shift following running the 35 miles in the day.  All good training for the 100 mile event, right?!

Do you salt up when running in the sun?
Have you ever paced someone during a race before?
How early do you like to turn up before the start of a race?