When a race doesn’t go to plan

Last Sunday was the Milton Keynes Running Festival.  An event of 20 mile, half marathon, 10k and 5k distance races all starting from the Xscape Centre in Milton Keynes.

MK half race number

I had entered the event a while back almost on a whim.  I knew I should be halfway into some serious mileage by this point in the build up to the ultras I have coming up for 2018.  I also knew that my half marathon PB is from a very long time ago (December 2013) and was in desperate need of an update.

My training had been going really well since the start of the year, but as always when I intend to race a short distance event I had a few nerves before the start of the race.  A lot of my miles in recent weeks had been treadmill miles due to childcare issues, and I was concerned about transferring my running from a flat, no bumps treadmill to the ups and downs of Milton Keynes redways.  A quick chat on Twitter with some other treadmill runners eased my nerves though, and ultimately I was feeling rather confident with my race plan when I set off for Milton Keynes on Sunday morning.

The plan was to run 9:30mm pace for the first 10 miles, and then if I could, to pick it up to 9mm for the remaining 5k, pushing for those final few miles, finishing somewhere between 2 hours and 2h 5m.  My current PB is 2h 9m 16s.  Just under 10 minute miling which, on paper is so far away from where I feel I actually am at the moment.

I rocked up on my own with a little over an hour before the start, cursing the fact that I hadn’t researched cheaper places to park beforehand as I handed over the £8.32 it cost me to park for four hours by the race start.  A positive being that I was in a car park literally right by the race start though, so there really was no chance of me getting lost trying to find my car again after the race!

I placed myself somewhere between the two hour and two hour ten minute pacer on the start line and planned to constantly check my watch during the first few miles to ensure I was running the pace I had set out to race and not get swept away with people running by too quickly or get stuck behind other runners who had set off too slow.

The gun went.  We all started pretty much on time and my first mile went by spot on as planned in 9 minutes and 30 seconds.  Lots of people from behind where I had started were rushing past me but I stuck to my guns and stayed at the pace I had set out to run.  I ran the second mile in 9m 20s.  With much of the mile either flat or at a slight downhill I struggled to slow any further without feeling like I was ‘braking’ all the time and I didn’t want to end up injured, so leant into the downhill, whilst trying to remain light on my feet.

My third mile went by in 9:41 (so still an average pace of 9:30mm).  Milton Keynes is actually a lovely area to run around.  There are lots of parks and green spaces.  You would never know that you were so close to such a large city.  (It’s not such a lovely area to drive around though.  All the MK roundabouts look the same to me!)

Mile four – 9m 29s.  I was actually feeling nervously excited by this point.  I began to pass by all those people who had raced off at the start in a hurry to get going and had already burnt out too quickly.  I was definitely going to smash my PB.  I felt so strong and the pace felt so easy.  I knew there were still nine miles to go, but I had never run a race before where the pace I started out at was so conserved and still felt so easy after four miles.

Mile five – still going strong.  The top of my left calf started to feel a little tight and I silently vowed to get the foam roller and compression socks out as soon as I got home that night, trying not to think any more about it.

Within metres of the five mile marker pain shot through the top of my calf and ground me to a complete halt.  I desperately tried to flex my leg before setting off at a jog again only to collapse back into a slump as I realised I could no longer run using that leg.  Glancing at my watch in despair, seeing the average pace creep up I hurriedly took myself to the side of the path where I fully stretched out my left leg, desperate for it to let me run the final miles of the race.

I let a few tears trickle down my face when I realised my leg wasn’t going to let me run and a few more fell as I watched my average pace creep up into the 10s.  I rang Dan, upset and angry that the race hadn’t gone to plan, and so desperate for him to give me some magic words of advice to get my leg working again.

He didn’t have any.  And neither did the running friend I chose to ring to cry to about my bodged race attempt, whilst seeing my watch now display an 11mm average pace.  But they did both calm me down and make me realise that this wasn’t my goal race, – that much better any problems rise now, before my goal race so that I could deal with them before they became an issue.

I was limping along the side of the path whilst I tried to ease the pain in my calf.  I wanted to smack every spectator who shouted in an attempt to get me to carry on running (although I do realise they thought they were probably being encouraging) but on the flip side I was so touched by the amount of runners who came past and genuinely asked me if I was OK.  One guy offered me paracetamol, another a spare layer, and several shared words of ‘Tough Luck’ or something to that effect.

By mile six I realised that I would be silly to try and hobble a further seven miles to the finish so stopped to ask a marshal the quickest way to get to the finish line.  He told me that I could either turn around and go back the way I had come, or continue the way I was going.  I figured that at least if I continued the way I was going then I would get a goodie bag containing food at the finish, so traipsed on.

Next panic: I rang Dan to fret that I wouldn’t have enough time on my parking ticket.  I had only gotten four hours from the time I arrived, and with some quick calculations I realised that I would be coming in somewhere around three hours for the half marathon that afternoon.

As Dan was calming me for the second time that morning I overheard a man wearing a 20 mile bib telling a woman that he was hoping to pull at the next marshal point and that he would not be completing the full distance that day.  I ended my conversation with Dan and joined in with the conversation the runners were having, sharing the information that had been given to me by the marshal I had spoken to.  This man (never learnt his name!) lived not too far from me and was honest in saying that he hadn’t put in the training to run 20 miles.  He was suffering with a painful stomach and had done too little, too late when it came to trying to fix it.  I fell into step beside him and having someone to chat to made miles 7-10 go by a whole lot quicker than the 45 minutes it took us to walk.

The guy I was walking with hoped to be able to run the final 5k of his race, so once we reached the 10 mile mark we thanked each other, wished each other well and I saw him run off into the distance.  My leg had begun to ease a little by now and I was able to pick up the pace to a faster walk, completing my 11th mile in just over 13 minutes.  It’s quite satisfying to know that even if it gets to the point where running is no longer an option during the later miles of my 100 in June, I still have a fairly fast walking stride so won’t lose as much time as some by dropping down to a walking pace.

I decided to try and lightly jog the final couple of miles left to the finish, stopping to walk any hills (as these were pretty much impossible without a great deal of discomfort).  (11:10, 11:02)  I passed the guy I had walked with earlier somewhere around mile 12.

The start of the thirteenth mile is on a horrible, horrible uphill slope.  I’d walked it before when traveling between the two Milton Keynes parkruns on the New Year’s Day Double.  I made a point of lightly jogging my way up this time though.  On my toes so as not to stretch my calf to breaking point.  I didn’t need to prove myself to anybody!

500 metres left until the finish after the horrible hill and my leg was feeling a fair bit loser.  I was gliding past other runners – many of whom were walking by this point.  I knew that my leg wasn’t right though and the finish line couldn’t come quick enough!

MK half marathon finish(Image from here)

The commentator shouted out my name as I approached the finish which was a nice touch and I crossed the line to collect my goodies.  Rather disappointed to be given just a banana along with my medal though – I don’t even like bananas!  (It didn’t go to waste…Oscar happily munched on it for dessert later that evening.)

MK half banana and medal

Side note: I find it rather creepy that Strava knows the exact location I took the above picture as shown below in my Strava screenshot…

Strava map of MK Running Festival half marathon

Chip time: 2:50:42
Position: 1387/1436
Gender position:
570/607
Category position (SF):
223/240

I drove home in a grumpy fed-up, feeling-sorry-for-myself state.  Sunday was Mother’s Day and the afternoon before Dan, Oscar and I had been down to the churchyard where my Mum was buried to add flowers to her grave.  She would have been the first person I rang on the way home from the race to have a whinge to and provide a guaranteed pick-me-up.

Mum's grave and Mother's Day flowers

The ground still hasn’t settled enough for us to be able to have a headstone fitted, so Mum’s grave still displays just a standard wooden name cross.

Oscar insisted on choosing a flower from the bunch I had bought for the grave which he then walked around the graveyard holding, smelling from time to time.  Mum would have loved that he wanted to be a part of it all and, as we left, he placed the flower on top of the mound of earth that marks her grave.  Almost as if he knew that’s where he should place it.Oscar at Mum's graveRunning wise, I’m OK.  I feared the worst initially, but a four day family holiday with lots of walking followed by a trip to the physio this morning has actually done me the world of good and I feel refreshed both mentally and physically.  I’ve got some exercises to work on from the physio but essentially I’ve been given the all-clear to continue running high mileage and high volume, just not to include speedwork or hills for the time being, with a follow-up physio visit scheduled for just before Easter.

Milton Keynes Marathon and South Downs Way 100 remain firmly in the calendar.  As does South Downs Way 50, which is in just 3 weeks time.

Bring it on!

Have you ever pulled from or walked a large portion of a race before?
Did you choose flowers for your Mother on Mother’s Day?

 

Bedford half marathon

Bedford half was my first half marathon back in 2011.
[Side note: HOW have I been running for six whole years now?!]

I had joined WDAC in the Summer and went on to run Bedford half along with my friend Hayley at the end of the year.Bedford half marathon 2011 - Me and HayleyI had roughly set myself the time goal of 2h 15m for the race and came in at 2h 13m 10s so was super happy with that (and very achy the following day!)  I went on to cut a further two minutes from my time at the same event the following year, but since 2012 I haven’t really run a huge amount of half marathons.  Ultras are where my heart lies, and where most of my focus has been over the past few years – ticking off the longer distances.

My times don’t really seem to line up for the mid-distance events…half marathons and marathons.  I just haven’t been able to get everything to align over that distance (yet!).  I planned on attempting to run a sub two hour half by the end of this year and when I won a place at Ealing half marathon to have help achieving a sub two hour race through Marcus’ Instagram earlier in the year, I thought that this would be my year!

Then injury struck due to lack of core work and all the extra driving I was doing and I spent a lot of my time back in Norfolk not getting as many runs in as I had wanted.  My Dad was even incorrectly told on the morning of Ealing half that my Mum had died and so I headed back to Norfolk for the day instead of to London for the race.

Entering Bedford was never going to be part of the sub two hour quest.  My Mum did die the week before Bedford half and following a week of making arrangements for the funeral and no sleep from sharing my teenage bedroom back in Norfolk with a teething baby, my body was exhausted by the time race day rolled around.  Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t had the time to run anything over 7 or 8 miles in a very long while (other than the two marathons the previous month!) it wouldn’t have been a great recipe for a good race.

But nonetheless I really wanted to run the race.  I love the Bedford course and it’s a favourite with many from our club.  Fairly large in size (for a local running club event), runners are bussed in to Wootton Upper School from the local Argos Distribution warehouses.  Busses full of runners all talking tactics and races – the best start to a day!

I had no idea what to expect from the race and just hoped to run at my best for as long as I could and hope I got round in a semi-acceptable time for the distance.  I knew my PB (2h 9m 16s) was very outdated and should be fairly easy for me to beat on a regular day, but wasn’t really sure that this was like a regular day.

As I was queuing to get through to bag drop at the start of the race I spotted one of the girls who had been in my form at the start of the school year, who waved shyly at me from the sidelines.  Whenever I race Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire way I always seem to bump into students who are out supporting their parents at races!  This particular student regularly runs for county, so she is involved in the sport herself, although at 11 years old, wasn’t running the half that day!

I randomly remembered skim-reading through the race instructions on the bus that time would be gun to chip rather than chip to chip and so I made the decision to start my watch as soon as the gun went, despite it taking me a long while to cross the start line.  Stupidly I clearly wasn’t thinking very straight, as it obviously meant that the prizes would be given out by gun-chip time.  We would still receive a chip-chip time at the finish for our official time!  Starting my watch a couple of minutes early meant that I really messed up my strategy – unable to see the pace I was running at.  My watch display shows distance, total time and overall average pace.  The fact that I’d done little more than shuffle for the first minute was taken into account and although by the end of the first mile my watch beeped to show 9:46, a lot of the running was in the 8:xxs to achieve that!  Not the best of starts!

Along the first road we ran past the ultimate Christmas house – so many decorations, and fake snow was falling down from the house all around the runners that came past!  It was about here that I bumped into Katie (and Flo!), who were out supporting Katie’s husband – spotted just in time to give them a quick wave on my way past!

The first few miles were very easy, despite the way too fast start.  I had to really pull myself back, especially when my watch beeped to indicate that I had run the second mile in just over 9 minutes.  There are several hills in the Bedford half, but they all fall fairly early into the race and the end the course is plain sailing downhill for a couple of miles (before a slight climb up to the finish, although by that point all of the other runners who have already completed the race are walking back along the road towards the busses, so you have no option to slow if you want to save face!)

Bedford half splitsLooking at my mile splits after the race there doesn’t appear to be anything too shocking, but the second half of my race was very run-walky, which it shouldn’t really have been.

I got to mile 7 thinking ‘Oh wow, I’m running much better than I thought I would, perhaps I am in with a chance of a decent time’ but not long afterwards I decided that I didn’t want to push it, and that I just wanted to go out and enjoy the run and headspace so dialled things down and just jogged along instead.

Bedford half elevationMy heart just wasn’t in it on the day.  You can see all my little walking breaks by the dips on the blue line in the chart above!

I took a Gu gel which I split into half at two of the waterstations.  It was the salted watermelon one (salted caramel still ranks as my favourite) and I ended up chucking the last little bit as I ran through a third water station as I didn’t fancy it any more.

Apparently at the pub at mile 11 there were free shots of prosecco and beer being given out to runners but somehow I missed this!

Although not a PB, I finished in a respectable 2:12:53, despite the poor consistency of my race.

The t-shirt at the end is a lovely long sleeved top which has quickly become my new favourite.  If any other Bedford half runners have their t-shirt and don’t plan on wearing it, I’ll happily take it off your hands!  It’s so comfy and fits really nicely for a change.  I love it when races give out long-sleeved technical tops at the finish.

The Bedford half was the first half marathon I ever ran, back in 2011. I ran it again the following year but hadn’t made it back since. By December I always seem to be at a point in my training where I don’t think I’ll do the half marathon distance justice so chicken out of signing up. . The past three months have been hard. I’ve driven hundreds of miles each week, rushed around and generally wound up feeling pretty exhausted. My training has suffered. In fact, until this morning’s race I hadn’t run at all this week. . My Mum died last Sunday. (In fact, three family members died in the space of six days.) Oscar has spent the end of the week housebound with a bad allergic reaction and Hand, Foot and Mouth and so today I really needed to go out and run 13.1 miles even if I didn’t do the distance justice. . But next year Bedford, – I’ll be back, fitter than ever and I will kick butt at your race, that’s a promise! . #Bedfordhalfmarathon #Bedfordhalf #halfmarathon #13point1 #timetoregainsomefitness

A post shared by Mary (@ahealthiermoo) on

As it was such a local race we had several supporters out on the course, which is always lovely to see!

Bedford half marathon mile 3(Mile 3)

Bedford half marathon(Must be fairly early on into the race, as there are still so many people around – taken from the Forge Photography page – donation given!)

Bedford half mile 6(Mile 6 – taken from the Bedford Harriers video)

Bedford half marathon mile 11(Mile 11)

Bedford half marathon mile 12(Mile 12)

Chip time: 2h 12m 53s
Gun time: 2h 14m 06s
Position: 818/955

The first half of my 2018 will be focused around training for the South Downs Way 100 in June but I will run Bedford half again in December next year, and next year it will be a crack at a sub 2!

Do you wear the t-shirts you get at races?
Have you ever decided to just jog round and enjoy a race before?

My aims for 2017

Dan has been away since Friday and should hopefully return tomorrow.  Our lives seem to be chok-a-block right now and the things I could do with a long weekend…!  Not, it seems, when you have sole responsibility for an eight-month-old baby though.
The first day was fun.  We had lots of playtime, a couple of naps, some messy food, a fun bath and bedtime cuddles.  Day two and things were pretty similar.  Day three, and the company was still silent (From words anyway.  There was plenty of screeching going on!)  I love that I am able to spend all day, every day with Oscar, but I also love having an adult to spend time with in the evenings when Oscar is in bed too!

I admit I was going a little insane by lunchtime today, so treated myself to a falafel and halloumi salad at Castello Lounge in Wellingborough in order to get out of the house and have interaction with other adults.  I probably looked a little insane, sat in the corner of the lounge with just a baby who insisted on ‘chatting’ to me the whole way through the meal!

Halloumi and falafel salad from Castello Lounge, Wellingborough

I was allowed to treat myself anyway, after saving our household from the beast of a spider that turned up on the dining room floor, just hours after Dan had left for his friend’s stag do.

Spider hoover stays outside!

I did manage to get a couple of runs in over the weekend too, although it appears I didn’t plan them out very well.  One of them ended up with me holding Oscar up in the air, whilst two strangers passed the buggy over a locked gate.  Oscar and I also stood and waited patiently for a three-way temporary set of traffic lights to turn green at one point, and annoyingly, there were several tracks which had been runnable, no longer so due to the mixture of sunshine and rain we’ve had just lately.

Overgrown paths

(This was when the path finally widened out again!)

It gave me a chance to think about my Autumn goals whilst I was out anyway.

Stanwick Lakes through the trees

It seems a bit of a funny time to be setting aims and goals for the year – almost at the end of the 5th month!  However, my main goal for 2017 was to return to running successfully following the birth of Oscar and to complete the South Downs Way 50 in April, which I managed to do.  I always planned to reassess further goals for the year following completion of the ultra, once I had a better idea of my post-baby speeds and commitments.

The two running goals I have settled on for the remainder of 2017 are as follows:

1) To complete a marathon in under 4 hours and 30 minutes.
2) To complete a half marathon in under 2 hours.

Both would be fairly big stretch-achievements for me.  My current marathon PB stands at 4:54:08, when I ran Chelmsford marathon at the end of 2015.  My current half PB is 2:09:16, from Bedford half marathon back in 2012, before I even started blogging!  (Although, the half marathons I’ve run since have mainly been on trail and have never been a PB attempt.  My half marathon PB pace doesn’t fall in line with my PB pace over other distances.)  I would prefer to aim high though and hopefully have a better chance of PBing to some extent, rather than aim to only just PB and run to the wire on the day.

The first goal was always going to feature at some point, although it took me ten attempts to break five hours for the marathon.  Fingers crossed that it doesn’t take a further ten to break 4.5!

The second goal came about when I won a competition on Marcus’ Instagram to win a place at Ealing half marathon in September.  Entrants must either be running their first half marathon at Ealing, or be aiming for their first sub 2 hour half.  I couldn’t enter as my first half marathon, but I could enter for my first crack at a sub 2 hour time, so I did…and I won, making the final decision on that second goal for me.

When I started running five years ago I had all of these ‘ideal’ times for distances fixed in my head…30 minutes for a 5k, an hour for a 10k, two hours for a half and four and a half for a marathon.  The first two were quickly ticked off, but those last two are a work in progress.  Obviously these times are not magic numbers at all, and at the end of the day 26.2 miles is still 26.2 miles, no matter how quickly or slowly it has been run.  However, I would like to be able to get these two milestones off my back.  I’m hoping that training hard for the marathon will see my half time naturally drop.

Hansons Marathon Method book

After hearing nothing but good things, I purchased the Hanson’s Marathon Method* book a little while back and have been dipping in and out of the pages ever since.  This method of marathon training calls for six days of running a week, but runs in length of no more than 16 miles.  High mileage across a number of days throughout the week is something that has always worked best for me and, with a new baby at home I have struggled to get out for the long training runs this season.  I am hoping that the shorter ‘long runs’ that are called for will also work in my favour.  The idea is to complete lots of slow running on tired legs, building cumulative fatigue to mimic race day conditions.  A big fan of the method is Sara of ‘Running Wife’, whose blog is where I first read about the concept.  She went from a 4:40 marathon time, to a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time within one training cycle!

I am under no illusions that training will be easy, or that I will magically cut hours from my time, but after having read several success stories from other Hanson’s Marathon Method runners I feel on board with the structure of the training as well as understand the reasons behind it.  I like working with structure when it comes to training plans, and I followed a specific marathon plan in the build up to my PB at Chelmsford at the end of 2015, which seemed to work for me.  The main reason I struggle to commit to plans usually is that I like my chatty, ad-hoc long weekend trail runs, organised sometimes only the night before.  They don’t fit neatly into training plans, but they are a lot of fun!  Whilst Oscar is still so small though, I cannot justify leaving for 7-8 hours at a weekend to go running and for the cake and hot chocolates which undoubtedly follow.  Now is the time to follow a training plan and stick to a structured system.  The only ‘must have’ run I’ve kept in my plan is the weekly club trail run on a Wednesday evening, so I don’t lose touch with my trail mates completely!  Wednesdays are actually the rest day on the training plan, so I’ve switched the schedule around slightly in order to suit me a little better.

I’ve also kept the remainder of the East Midlands Grand Prix races in the calendar, which I intend to run hard (2x 5 miles, 2x 10ks) and *ahem* will also be running the Shires and Spires ultra this coming Sunday.  But technically, that is actually the day before the ‘plan’ begins, so 35 miles this week should be just fine, right?!  😉

I’ve drawn up a spreadsheet with my runs and times, as well as added them to the calendar which is displayed in our dining room downstairs.  The marathon plan starts as I return to work for seven weeks.  I’m hoping (in a bizarre kind of way) that this will actually help me stick to the plan, as it will be a whole new routine for me to take on board from next week anyway.  As Dan will be dropping Oscar off at nursery on his way to work each morning the car seat will still be in his car when I go to collect O again in the evening as I return home from work.  Our plan at the moment is for me to either baby-wear Oscar the two miles home again (if the weather is nice) or run back with the buggy.  Then, I will have to head back out again later to collect my car for the following day anyway.  Might as well run rather than walk, and as I’ll already be in my kit anyway, I might as well continue on to run the mileage on my plan for that day anyway, right?

This week in prep for starting the plan is as follows:
Monday: rest day
Tuesday: easy 6
Wednesday: trail run (6-7m)
Thursday: easy 6
Friday: rest day
Saturday: easy parkrun (3.1m)
Sunday: Shires and Spires 35m

We’ll see how things go.  I’m prepared to be flexible, especially during these first few weeks until things have settled down with my return to work and Oscar’s start at nursery.  If I need to readjust targets or alter paces in the plan, I will do so.  But I’m looking forward to having a running goal to work towards again.

Do you stick to a training plan for races?
What are your target races for the rest of the year?

Do you ever eat out alone?

The Welly Trail race

It was two years ago when members of our club first started talking about organising a trail race at local venue, Castle Ashby.  The idea grew and grew and eventually became a reality.  Then, when places were released towards the end of last year, the event was a complete sell out within three weeks!

Welly Trail races banner

Although I would normally be one of the first to put my name down to help marshal at a club event, I decided that this event was one that I wanted to run and would be a good aim for a first race back following my pregnancy.  (In actual fact I ran two cross-country races first, but of distances of no more than 10k.)  Despite not being able to marshal on the day I helped in other ways before the event by setting up the website with online booking and helping to design the medal.

Of course, trail distances are never actual race distances, and the half marathon that I was entered for was an alleged 14.4 miles – more than a mile further than you expect of a road half!

As always, with Oscar it meant that a great deal of organisation was required in order to be able to get there in the first place.  It was a 9:30am race start which required a 5:30am get up for me in order to then express, feed Oscar, shower, change and have breakfast before heading over to register at the event.  I went for a breakfast porridge and blueberries.  Probably a bit stodgy for my liking had I been planning on running a fast road race, but it was spot on to fill me up ready for the trail race.

My Mum had asked earlier in the week if I planned on ‘racing’ the event.  I hadn’t really thought about it until she asked, but knew that I wanted to run it to the best of my ability on the day.  I always race better on my own than I do in a large group so the intention was not to run with anybody but to just enjoy being out and about in the countryside in the perfect race conditions that we were lucky enough to have last Sunday.

As it was a club event I knew that I would know all the marshals out on the course, which is always a lovely boost.  There were also several of our own out running the event who I saw on the way round.

As always seems to be the way at races, I seemed to manage to get into the background of several other people’s photos!

There was a hen party running the 10k event, and they were all fully dressed for the occasion!

Welly Trail Races - hen party

(Picture credit)

It’s a fast start down the Castle Ashby drive, before we immediately came upon heavily rutted ground alongside a row of trees.  People were still in the process of finding their place in the pack at this point so I did a fair bit of overtaking here.  There were quite a few non-trail runners who perhaps began to realise at this point the enormity of the event they had entered! Welly Trail races - start(Picture credit)

All of the half marathon and 10k runners set off at the same time, with the canicross entries setting off 5 minutes later so as not to trip up runners in the mad dash from the start! I ran an incredibly strong first 10k.  With it being a trail race my intention was to walk the steepest of hills from the beginning just as I would in an ultra so as not to tire myself out.  There were only two or three hills where I felt the need to walk and then, thanks to my long stride, I was still overtaking runners anyway.  There was a stile two miles in, but by the time I arrived at it there were only a couple of runners in front of me, so there wasn’t too much hanging around.  I never run in gloves, but decided to on Sunday, and it was at this point that I threw them to a marshal for me to pick up again later on. Welly Trail races There was a drink station just after the stile where quite a few runners had stopped.  I decided to carry on and make use of the next drink station instead, although regretted this decision not long after!  I had intended on running with my race bag as practise for my upcoming 50 miler but I could not find it anywhere on race morning so ended up going without extra nutrition on the way round.

The 10k was 6.7 miles and I would have finished in about 72 minutes (judging by the 10k runners heading off to the finish as I turned off into the field for a second, different loop).

The second loop was much tougher going, with thicker, more slippery mud and steeper, longer hills.  I stopped for a chat with the marshal on the checkpoint at 8.5 miles and downed a cup of pink liquid after enquiring what it was.  He asked if I was still breastfeeding, to which I replied that I was, and only thought afterwards as I headed off over the next hill that I probably should have paid more attention to what I could and could not take on board as a breastfeeding Mum.  I had a very minimal amount in my cup luckily anyway.

There was another runner from my club not far ahead of me, running with two other local runners who I kept in my eyeline for the next few miles.  They were always just heading round the next bend.  That’s the thing about trail races – you can sometimes go for miles and not see anybody at all – it’s not like a road race!  It doesn’t bother me as long as I know where I am going though and the guys from our club had done a good job of winding red and white tape along the route and adding arrows to the hedgerows at major turns.  At 12.5 miles I could see that Amy (the other runner from my club) had stopped at a crossroads along with four others and was motioning to me that she didn’t know where to go next with her arms in an exaggerated shrug.  I shouted that I didn’t know this section of the route and that if there wasn’t any tape marking to turn then I would presume we kept going.  So they did.

I caught them at the top of the hill as they realised that if we continued they would be running back into the field we had initially come out of, and we hadn’t seen any other half marathon runners heading back in that direction on our way in.  Amy, along with two guys attempted to bring up the course map on their phones whilst I headed back down the hill with another lady to check out the other options at the crossroads.  There was no tape marking any turn-off from the track so after a bit of debate we headed back up the hill to join the others once more who were still undecided as to which direction we should be going in.  There was tape just before the crossroads so we didn’t feel as though we had gone off course.  Annoyingly as I had ended up not taking my bag I hadn’t brought my phone along so couldn’t ring for help with directions.  About 10 minutes later a large group of about 8-9 others joined us, many of whom were from our running club.  One of them decided to give Gary, the Race Director a call and he directed us back up the hill the way we had initially come from and across a grassy field towards a stile.  It looks like somebody had moved the tape into the wrong place on the course!

In total I think we lost about 20 minutes of time with faffing and I ended up with 15.8 miles on my Garmin by the end of the course instead of the 14.4 miles that the course was advertised as.

Welly Trail races - finish

I had company for the final few miles of the course now though as by this point there was a massive group of us, although we had managed to space out a fair bit again by the time we reached the finish.

Welly Trail races - finishAs fast as the start had been – heading down the Castle Ashby drive – the finish was slow, as we had to run back up the drive on tired legs!  I made it though and was handed my medal, a cup of water and a raffle ticket to exchange for a jacket potato and hot drink in the cafe.  I needed that hot drink!

Welly Trail Race medal

Distance: 15.81m
Garmin time: 3h 17m 20s
Official time: 3h 17m 20s
Position: 65/81

My legs were a little stiff at the finish and so I managed to convince Laura (who had been marshaling) to order my jacket potato and drink whilst I found us some seats.  Here I spotted Katie and Lorraine who had also just finished so we had a quick chat whilst warming our insides with hot food!

I was really looking forward to feeding Oscar (was in desperate need by this point!), having a long warm bath and chilling out with my little family in the afternoon, but Dan was feeling poorly so handed Oscar over as soon as I walked in the door and headed off to bed.  I was still covered in mud and had to make do with sitting on the floor for the next few hours until Dan began to feel better!

I did finally manage a quick shower though and threw my compression socks on to ease my legs a little.

Compression socksMy legs felt fine the following morning and were still feeling strong when I headed out for 6.5 easy road miles later on the Monday evening.

I was not quick by any means on Sunday, but I was most definitely strong and following my Monday evening run I am finally feeling really confident about the upcoming 50 mile ultra.  I know there are people who think I am probably a little silly/crazy for entering the SDW50 in April but I am really looking forward to it.  I am incredibly stubborn and I know that I am still capable of completing that distance over that terrain.  If I end up having to DNF it will be due to Oscar/feeding logistics rather than my ability to complete the race.

Do you wear compression socks following tough runs?
Have you ever gotten lost during a race before?
Does your club put on any races?