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?

Milton Keynes Marathon 2018 – finish lines not finish times

I had initially planned for Milton Keynes Marathon to be my target race for the 2018 Spring running season before I signed up to the South Downs Way 100.  When the weather forecasters predicted the hottest May Bank Holiday on record though, I was glad that this marathon wasn’t my sole goal for the Spring and I changed my plans for the race.

Milton Keynes Marathon medal 2018

I say I changed my plans, but I really wasn’t sure what to change them to!
I’d had a great run a week before race day.  I’d set out to run eight miles at tempo pace with a mile warm up and a mile cool down.  I found the run easy and could have quite happily turned this run into 10 or 12 miles at tempo pace, had I not needed to come home and get ready for work that evening.8 mile tempo runIt gave me a real confidence boost going into marathon week, although Oscar then became ill at the start of the week and very clingy.  He passed whatever it was onto me and we both ended up feeling rather rubbish for the rest of the week, resulting in Oscar missing two of the groups he usually attends and me missing a large batch of my training runs.

Added onto this I would be working nightshifts the weekend of the marathon.  I had decided that I am best off saving my holiday allowance for target long distance races over the year, and as Milton Keynes Marathon was no longer a target race and wasn’t one of the longer events planned for this year I ended up not booking the weekend off.  As luck would have it though, my manager messed up my shifts the previous weekend, calling me in on a day when I was not needed, so I managed to convince him to let me have the Sunday night before the marathon off in exchange.

It did mean though that I worked through the night until 7am on Friday (with no pre-work nap as Oscar was poorly) and then through the night again on Saturday with a two hour nap in the morning before traveling over to Norfolk for a friend’s baby’s Christening.

Oscar and I at Oliver's Christening

Back home by 6pm to pack my bag and get an early night, only Oscar (who was still feeling poorly, teething and was definitely feeling the heat from the day) had other ideas.  I might as well have gone to work and earnt some money for all the sleep I got that night!

Despite poor sleep and having felt poorly that week, I did still manage to get an amazing night-before-the-race pizza in.

Pre-race pizza

So, no sleep, on the back of being poorly and on a day which turned out to be 28 degree heat…very glad I’d struck Milton Keynes Marathon as my goal race!  I was sweating before I even got into my car that morning!

Heading out to Milton Keynes Marathon

As an ambassador for this year’s marathon I was given a priority parking pass and invite to the VIP room where there was cake, drinks and nibbles laid on.  Best of all though, – no queues for the toilet as we had our own(!)  I nervously stood by a table in the room having only met one of the other ambassadors before the weekend.  I needn’t have worried though and I was soon busy chatting away to the other runners about training, race plans and shoe choices.

MK Marathon VIP area

A little after 9am we headed downstairs along with the pacers for the race to have our photograph taken on the pitch.

MK Marathon ambassadors

(I’m in the bottom left of the shot.  Picture by Tim Bullard)

Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors and pacers

(I’m third from the right, wearing sunglasses.  Picture by Walker McCabe Photography)

It probably wasn’t the best idea to have the pacers knelt down in front of everyone as their balloons kept bobbing up everywhere!

Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors and pacers

(I’m third from the right.  Picture by Walker McCabe Photography)

When we returned back to the VIP suite ‘good lucks’ were said as we all dispersed to find friends and family before the race and to carry out any pre-race rituals.  I made my way back over to the spot by the entrance where WDAC runners always seem to congregate before the start of the MK event each year.  There were several of our runners there and I happily chatted away sizing up who was running which distance and who would be in my start pen for the event.

I nipped back to add some more vaseline to my arms before the start.  I knew that I would be pouring a lot of water over my head in order to keep cool and didn’t want the top of my arms to rub as a result.  Luckily, we were allowed to leave our bags in the VIP area during the day, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about the bag drop and could check my phone/make changes to my kit until the last minute.

The start was just outside.  Slightly different to previous years when I have run it, – this time the snake of runners waiting to start curved back onto themselves.  I was in the blue start, the one before the last pen and so found where I needed to go and located the 4:45 pacer I had decided to start alongside.

Although I didn’t enter the pen until 9:50am (with a 10am start time) it took a fair while before we crossed the line.  I began to feel a little queasy and ‘penned in’ despite not really being packed into the pens and so located a van parked to the side which several runners had already made a bee-line for and were leaning against in the shade.  I felt much better after a few minutes of time out in the cool and then made my way back to the starting pen where I bumped into Kev from my club.  He had been out crewing another club member at the Thames Path 100 that weekend and is coming down to crew a different member when I run the SDW100 next month, so we spent 20 minutes catching up and talking tactics before we crossed the startline ourselves.  It was nice to take my mind off how hot things were and how poorly I had felt whilst stood still in the heat that morning.

I ran with Kev for the first couple of miles before he disappeared behind a bush.  Kev never wears a watch but had planned to run somewhere around 5 hours that day (5h 00m 19s!) as it was his longest run in quite a while following injury.  Just before two miles he asked me what pacer had the balloon bobbing away just in front of us.  I told him that it was the 4:45 pacer, but that I thought he was probably going a bit quickly.  (My first two miles were 10:20 and 10:30 and the 4:45 pacer was a fair way ahead of us, despite crossing the start line alongside me.)  Someone turned around to say that he was just catching up with the runners he was pacing as she had just seen him nip into the hedge, but even so, he was going too quickly.  I had heard him mention that he intended on running the flatter bits faster so that the group may slow down on the uphills.  It’s a tactic used by lots, but I personally prefer to run fairly evenly if possible.

I made the decision to run my own race, without pacer and aim for 10:30mm – up hills, along the flat and also on the downhills (were there any of those?!) keeping an eye on my heart rate as I went.  I have really enjoyed my tempo runs lately working towards a set pace for each mile and find that it gives me a mini focus all the way through a session, breaking a run up into manageable chunks.  Dan was planning to bring Oscar out to come and watch the race and would be at mile 12.5 and mile 15.5, both shaded areas and fairly close together so that Oscar wouldn’t be out for too long in the heat.  The plan was to hold onto 10:30mm pace for as long as I was able, but to reassess at mile 11, just before seeing Dan and Oscar.

It felt easy.  Really easy.  I had to keep slowing myself down.

As a race ambassador (and also due to not wanting to rub in the heat!) I had decided not to wear my club vest for the race, but instead wore my MK t-shirt and found it super comfy and cooling with it’s light colour.  One of my favourite things about the switch backs at the start of the MK marathon/half route is that you can easily see other club vests coming back in the other direction and cheer other runners from our club.  I knew that I wouldn’t be spotted by any club runners this year though without my club vest on and almost felt a little like I was secretly spying on them all running by!

Miles 1-6: 10:20, 10:30, 10:30, 10:24, 10:22, 10:21.

I had been told that a group from WDAC were biking over to the six mile point to cheer the runners on so kept a good look out for them from the 6 mile marker but saw no signs of anyone.  There was a lot going on at this section as we ran through a little park, passed the section for the first relay runners to handover to their teammates and crossed the first block of timing mats, so there were lots of people around and I hoped I hadn’t missed our cyclists.

Heading towards mile 7 though I remembered there was a pub on the side of the road and knew they would be fairly close.  Sure enough I spotted them cheering directly opposite and madly waved to get their attention, almost running into them before they spotted me out of club uniform!

It had started to heat up now.  I’d been passing occasional walkers from about 3 miles in, but now many had adopted a run-walk technique, especially up the small ‘hills’ that cropped up.  I was still feeling good, my heart rate was still fine (160ish) but I was feeling rather hot.

Miles 7-11:  10:23, 10:29, 10:26, 10:27, 11:01.

I dropped my gel at the start of the 11th mile and loudly swore twice as it had interrupted my stride whilst running an uphill which I then decided to walk.  I shouldn’t have walked as the sweat then poured out of me and I could feel myself heat up further.  It was at this point, looking around me and seeing not another single person running up that hill that I decided to just enjoy the rest of the race and make the most of the day.  SDW100 is my main aim for this season, not MK Marathon and I wanted to be able to continue running the rest of the week, not have to take a week off after running a hard road race where I might shave a few minutes from my time.  There would be time for that later in the year instead.

So, from that point I did not care about my time at all and thoroughly enjoyed the race experience in a way I feel you only can if time does not remain a factor.

I sat down with Oscar on the floor for a minute at 12.5 miles who was busy munching on his picnic and excitedly shouting at me “Law Law – run, run, run!” as he had just seen Laura run past.  Dan told me that Laura was only a little way ahead of me, despite initially aiming for a sub 4 marathon that day.  She had unfortunately fallen early into the race and had ripped open her knee.  Dan had loaded her with wet wipes to try and help stop the bleeding when he saw her, but her run had changed to walk now as her knee began to stiffen.

I ran on.  The people of Milton Keynes were AMAZING on Monday.  They came out in their hoards to support the runners.  I ran under more sprinklers than I could count.  Dipped my hat in at least four buckets of water to cool my head down, enjoyed jelly babies, orange segments, watermelon and a couple of slices of frozen melon.  <<  This was the best thing ever.  I’m already putting a request in for frozen melon on the SDW100!  There were so many kids (and adults!) out with water guns on the course and it was so refreshing even when the squirts came to the face!  I took water from every water station, high fived hundreds of kids, thanked all the volunteers and even had a little dance to the band on route.  I passed local residents kindly letting runners sit down on their garden chairs and one even nip in for the loo!  I always thought London Marathon had a great atmosphere, but London was NOTHING on the buzz that was Milton Keynes on Monday.

I plucked up the courage to start a conversation with a runner wearing a Run Mummy Run top, chatted to several runners about how we had been training in ice and snow for a marathon in 28 degree heat and let one woman know that her belt had ridden up her back, potentially causing nasty sores for her later on.

One of my favourite photos from the race is one which Dan took as I was running towards Oscar at mile 15.5.

Milton Keynes Marathon - spotting OscarI stopped for a little while here to reapply some suncream, hand back the nakd bar I knew I wouldn’t eat and collect some ‘Free hugs’ from Oscar.

Milton Keynes Marathon - stopping with Oscar at mile 15Milton Keynes Marathon - stopping with Oscar at mile 15Dan said that Oscar had been enjoying cheering runners on that morning and had been busy clapping away and shouting “Run, run, run!” at everyone that passed.  (He’ll make a great coach!)

I bumped into Laura just after 18 miles and walked with her for the following mile before jogging off so that my legs didn’t stiffen up.  We saw a couple of members from our club here where I nabbed some watermelon slices and another bottle of water. Mile 19 of the Milton Keynes Marathon with LauraI was a little confused that I hadn’t seen any other pacers pass me, but it turns out many had struggled on the day, despite running times often an hour slower than their own PB and pulled from pacing duties.  I have never seen so many people walk during a marathon before and there were a couple of miles where I could probably have counted on my hands how many runners I saw!

I had taken a bottle of nuun water from Dan when I had seen him at mile 12.5 but to be honest my body was telling me that I had probably drunk too much water and not enough electrolytes/other stuff.  I was struggling a little with my right ear, which sounds ridiculous, but it’s usually the first telltale sign for me that I need to slow down on the water intake. I walked a little way with two other ladies for a couple of miles from mile 22, deciding to lay down on the verge to cheer some runners past by mile 25 for a little while.  I had salted up a fair bit by this point and felt like I was beginning to get heat stroke, so decided to take it fairly easy and took maybe five minutes to myself in the shade on the side of the path before continuing on.

Salted up post marathonI obviously had to run the finish though.  Milton Keynes Marathon has a fabulous finish – running down into the stadium and then 3/4s of a lap round the pitch before heading under the finish gantry.  I looked up to hear cheers from other runners in my club shouting me round, and then also saw a runner in a giant rhino costume not far behind. MK Marathon finish in the stadium with a giant rhino costume (Picture by Tim Bullard)

Erm wow.  Just take a moment to think about how incredibly impressive that woman was.  She ran a Rhino PB that day – a little under 5h 30m in that insane heat whilst wearing a ridiculously hot costume.  Legend! MK Marathon finish in the stadium with a giant rhino costume (Picture by Tim Bullard)

I crossed the finish line and immediately turned to congratulate her.

My slowest road marathon by far…

Official time: 5:32:01
Position:
1625/2028
Gender position:
375/557
Category position: 100/150

…but for the first time I genuinely didn’t care.  I had thoroughly enjoyed myself that day.

The layout following the finish was slightly different this year.  Normally runners head back out through the underpass and down into the underground section to collect medals and goody bags.  This year though, runners had to walk up the steps inside the stadium collecting their medals and goodies as they went.  I heard a few people moaning about this, but one of the benefits to taking the race easy was that I could jog up the steps at the finish and by Tuesday my legs even seemed to have forgotten that they had covered 26.2 miles the day before!

Milton Keynes Marathon collection of medalsAnother benefit was that my official photographs look great!  This almost never happens to me in a race.  I’m usually the beetroot-red, top-ridden-up runner with her eyes closed!

Milton Keynes Marathon official photosI’m very tempted to buy them, despite the result of the race being so poor.

A post-race family trip to the pub for dinner was definitely in order on Monday night!

Dan, Oscar and I heading to the pub

I’m just waiting for the date for a Decathlon brand trip in September before booking an Autumn marathon to target this year, but after the 100 I’m looking forward to running a few marathon distances again, so will be booking up more soon!

Did you run out in the heat on Monday?
Do you suffer from running in the heat?
Have you run a marathon ‘just for fun’ before?
Photos: to buy or not to buy?