No more nights!

I am no longer a night-shift worker!  Yay!

No more night shifts

The last few months have been tough – working full time night-shifts, trying to parent Oscar successfully during the days whilst Dan has been working (albeit from home), trying to be there for family who were struggling during difficult times and also attempting to train for the Autumn 100.

My last night shift was Saturday and this week is all change.  Dan is back in the office today (although just two days a week now going forward) and Oscar has picked up an extra morning at nursery from this term onwards to prepare him for school next year.
I’ve woken this morning feeling motivated and energised – ready to tackle the world again knowing that I haven’t got to try and fit everything into just two days before juggling fitting sleep around work and life.

I slept for maybe twenty minutes on my return from work Sunday morning and then woke up feeling dreadful – sore throat, headache, feeling sick.  Just generally run down from a lack of sleep over the previous months I think.  It’s always the way – reach a holiday or some time out and my body decides to fall apart!  But the difference is, this time I won’t be returning to night shifts so my body will hopefully be able to completely recover.

Due to the pandemic I lost a big freelance contract and there was no coursework moderation role for me over the Summer this year, as exam boards did not ask for any to be submitted for the season.  But, by working full time hours in a well paid job and being savvy with our spending Dan and I have still managed to put away the money we would have saved across the year in just six months, so I have a bit of leeway now for a little while with the time to investigate further a few projects which I currently have in the pipeline.

I’m not sure what my options would be to return to full time work anyway – basically impossible with a child I imagine?  How do full time working parents work around school?  When Oscar starts next year I will need to be able to take him to school for 9 am and pick him up at 3:15 – 37 weeks of the year.  We don’t have family in the area to help with school runs so the responsibility of school drop-off and pick-up will fall solely on me.  I don’t want to put him into before and after-school clubs for hours on end if I don’t have to (although I know this works for many) and so working for myself is the only real option I have unless I want to return to working nights again (I don’t!)

The things I’m looking forward to being able to do now that my shifts have finished include; catching up on life admin, not having to struggle to fit all of my runs in across just four consecutive days, being able to raise my sleep average above 5 hours each night, feeling alive enough to enjoy Oscar during the day, my knees no longer getting a battering from kneeling for hours on end each night, not having to break my sleep up into three naps of 1-2 hours each day, removing the duvet that has lived in my car since March, there no longer being deep cuts in my fingertips from opening boxes 8 hours every night…

I will however miss; the extra money making its way into our bank account every four weeks, the discount on my food shop, the guaranteed 15,000 steps every night and the strength work I get from lugging cages of heavy cheese off the lorries and onto the shop floor, watching the beautiful sunrises from the car park roof at leaving off time and the feeling of being able to provide for my family.

Weston Favell sunrise from the roof

I did make epic use of my last day of discounted shopping yesterday – two full trolleys filled with enough store cupboard items to last another three month lockdown!  Good job we have a big kitchen!  I was super organised, – armed with a long list Dan, Oscar and I managed to get the whole shop done and to the car within seventy minutes!  (I still need to pack most of it away in the cupboards though – a task I saved for today!)

It’s just under five weeks now until the Autumn 100 and my training is well underway.  I’m happy with how my running has been going over the past few months – I even managed a new 5k PB time of 25:46 back in July!  My running club has begun meeting for training sessions again and I am lead coach for one of the groups from this term – something I’m really looking forward to.  I have lots of ideas for the runners of Group 4.

30 minute time trial

The year is looking up!

Has your life begun to return to some kind of normality again yet following the pandemic?
Ever worked through the night before?
If you’re a working parent, how do you juggle the school run around work?

Changing tactics for attempt number 2

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

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

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

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

A couple of points:

1 – I can only ever dream of running that fast

2 – I never want to run the GUCR!

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

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

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

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

Sleep:

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

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

Food:

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

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

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

Chocolate milk and an apple

Pacing:

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

Darkness:

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

Core:

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

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

Training:

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

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

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

The EnduranceLife Gower Marathon (Pt 2)

(If you missed the first part of my recap of the 2017 Gower Marathon, you can find it here.)

Although it had been fairly windy at the start of the race, I had been able to take my jacket off a few miles in.  It wasn’t really cold, and we never had any rain actually during the race at all, although from talking to friends afterwards, both the ultra runners and the half marathoners got some light rain during their run.

I had wrapped my jacket up into a little ball, encasing my phone, and then jammed it into my bag, hoping that despite all the padding my phone would still track the miles I ran using the Strava app, although I wasn’t too worried if it didn’t.  Annoyingly, this meant that I couldn’t really take any photos out on the course during the day though, and I also never really knew at what mileage point I was on the course.  From the position of aid stations and the pace I knew I was roughly running at I could kind of work out how many miles I had run, but it’s not quite the same as having a Garmin beep to tell you each time you’ve ticked off another mile!  The EnduranceLife aid stations are also quite good in that they display a large board showing what mile the aid station is situated at and how many miles you have until you reach the next checkpoint.  I guess the marshals get these two questions a lot!  Perhaps this is an idea we could nab to add to the ultra checkpoints for Go Beyond events too?  I’ve just put my name down to marshal at Country to Capital again next year.

I had been debating whether or not to wear my new pair of trails for the run.  I say ‘new pair’, – they must have run about 100 miles or so by now – but as my feet are quite wide, I find it takes several runs in a pair of trainers before I don’t feel the pressure across the top of my foot from when my feet expand during a long run.  I paused not long after my fall to loosen the laces over the arch of my foot and tighten the laces higher up instead and this seemed to ease the pressure.

I didn’t stop at the first checkpoint.  There were a large number of people already spread out around the table and I didn’t want to waste any time getting to the cut off point at mile 19.9.  I just dibbed in, grabbed some jelly babies and left again.  I kept trying to work out at what point I was on the course by landmarks and the time of day, as I was still rather concerned about making the shortened cut off time.  We came down a very steep and muddy hill onto a blind bend section of road.  I think perhaps it was at about mile 8.  There was a marshal here – ensuring runners could stop their legs in time before hitting the road.  We turned sharply to the left, took the next right hand road turn and then climbed a stile into a field and were away again.  As I ran down the hill I asked the marshal at what mile point we were at currently.  She told me mile 12.5, with a half mile to go until the next checkpoint.  This confused me a lot.  I know that I definitely had not run 12.5 miles of a course with hills like that in under two hours!  And it then took a further hour for me to reach the next checkpoint which definitely hadn’t been only half a mile away!

EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017I paused briefly at the second checkpoint to get my water bottle topped up and to grab a couple of custard creams.  I never buy custard creams but after EnduranceLife events I always think I should probably run with them at my next race.

The second beach was much easier and shorter than I remembered and once again I managed to run steadily across the whole distance.  As you come off of the second beach you are greeted by hundreds and hundreds of uneven steps heading uphill through the woods.  They are really tough going and I had completely forgotten just how much they take it out of you at this point on the marathon.  I had not long told another runner that they worst part of this event was over now, with all of the major hills early on in the course!

Gower gully steps in the wood(Picture taken part way up the steps back in 2015.)

I ran up behind a family along the steps and heard them say “Move aside, there’s a runner coming up”, to which I responded in between rather heavy breaths… “I’m not doing much running I’m afraid!”
The journey back down is not much better as you can’t really find your stride with all of the steps being at different heights and lengths.  I was glad for that section to be over!

Soon I had made it to the third and final beach.  You need to run along a rather loose, sandy section before crossing a bridge and making it over onto the full beach.  This section seemed to go on forever.

Gower marathon scenery(Photo from the 2014 event.)

I crossed the bridge at 2:05pm, knowing that the 19.9 mile checkpoint was at the far end of the beach and that official cut off for the race was at 2:15pm.  I wanted my legs to hurry, but at the same time I didn’t want to hurry them so much that they burnt out and I had to keep stop-starting across the sand.  As I saw the time on my Vivofit get ever closer to 2:15pm I figured I could probably blag my way by 5 minutes or so.  Perhaps 10?  My watch changed to 2:16pm just as I pulled off the beach and turned towards the checkpoint.  I had made it!

I paused to top up both bottles here, and having made the one and only cut off in time I rewarded myself with a long walk and a chance to pull my pretzels from the bag on my back.  I’d devoured two Clif bars early into the race, and eaten the custard creams at the last checkpoint, but I’d been craving salty pretzels for the last few miles and daren’t waste the time stopping to rearrange my bag.  The pressure was now off though!  I could walk the rest of the way and would still be ticking off my thirteenth marathon before the day was out.  Having pushed it (although comfortably) I knew I would be in with a good chance of beating my previous time on the course as well, even if I did end up deciding to walk the rest of the way!

After quarter of a mile I was ready to run again, and so held onto my bag of pretzels and set off.  I had passed several people at the final checkpoint, – I’m guessing people who were also rewarding themselves for making the cut off in time!  We then went on to play leap frog a few times for several miles as we took it in turns to pass each other.  Although I don’t have any pictures of the course on the day, we did walk the final 7 miles of the course on the Sunday on our trip over to the pub (and back again!) so I took some pictures then, which I’ll share in a separate post.

The final checkpoint was the point at which I (along with several others due to the poor weather) was pulled last time I ran the event in 2015, and I was surprised how much of the course I remembered having not run this section since 2014.  There are several steep, slippery climbs where you need to use hands to help yourself up, but also a few longer sections of grassy trail where you can make up a little bit of time.

Annoyingly, my phone died at mile 25.3, so I couldn’t take my traditional photo of the ‘One mile to go’ sign.

Gower elevation(The grey is the elevation, and blue line my pace.)

A mile before the finish I saw a familiar shape hobbling towards me.  Kev, the guy who had persuaded me to run my first ultra back in 2013 and who has been super supportive of my running journey ever since made his way back along to track to give me a hug and fill me in on how the others had gotten on in their races.EnduranceLife Gower marathon 2017Kev and another injured runner, Sandra, had been stood on the final mile post for hours, seeing everybody through to the finish.  The other runners from our club had all had a fairly good day, with just Tracey dropping down from the marathon to the half on route as planned, and Tom dropping from the ultra down to the marathon due to an existing injury.

Official time: 7h 03m 53s
Position: 125/129

I had beaten my previous time by more than half an hour.

It absolutely tipped it down just as I crossed the finish line where I bumped into James, the other marathon finisher from our club who had been back for 25 minutes or so.  We waited the worst of it out under the comfort of the marquee before making our way back to the cottages to a cheer from the runners who had already returned back, showered and eaten!  We were the last to return, so once showers were had it was time to really start our weekend away!

Do you like to take pictures during your races?
Have you used the Strava app on your phone to record your runs?

Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?