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After taking part in the Newcastle Racecourse marathon at the start of the month another problem surfaced and so backed off running yet again. By the end of the month it was time for an MRI to reveal the extent of the damage and it was not good reading and would not start 2014 the way I planned. As a result of much reduced training and strengthening work over previous weeks I had lost muscle bulk in my quads which was probably now causing a knee issue.
I began running for pure enjoyment, no structured training or racing and no long distance runs. The only long event I did was towards the end of the month to see how things were holding up and that was the Wensleydale Wedge, an off road marathon. Thoroughly enjoyed the run and I seemed to be progressing in the right direction.
I did try to run the Tooting Bec 24 hour race, hoping that the Fire and Ice stage race has improved my fitness, but flat track ultras are monotonous on the body and by 8 hours was struggling with a few niggles and there was no point in battling though and so called it a day.
September had been a very busy month with lots of travelling, a new lecturing post in Edinburgh, working towards a PhD and setting up another house to live in. After much soul searching it was time to take the rest of the year off from racing, strengthen my body and prepare for a good 2014.
Just a short note to update those that didn't know that I won the Fire and Ice Ultra 250km outright. I had an easy first 3 days and then had a great run on the long stage finishing first by around 90 mins that was enough to secure the outright win. Had a great battle with the first man Haflidi who was an Icelandic sheep farmer. Had another amazing experience with many changing landscapes from glaciers to volcanoes, lava fields to little Sahara, wind swept landscapes and very changeable weather. The last couple of days were altered due to the impending blizzards predicted. My fitness improved as the week went by and my injury held up well.
Having a rather busy time with a new house and new job to give some different challenges to keep life exciting. There is every chance I will run in the Tooting Bec 24 hour race in September and will try and write a race report when I get a chance.
I have been
picking up the training again, but still not running pain free from
a proximal hamstring tendinopathy. I have managed to do short races
and only one of marathon distance and just three short runs with
a pack to prepare for the Fire and Ice Ultra 250km. Although not
fully fit I am confident of completing the event. This is a stage
race that requires entrants to carry all that is needed for the
7 days with the organisers providing water and tented accommodation.
The event is in Northern Iceland at the end of the month and included
volcanoes and glaciers. Bill is travelling as a support crew/camp
manager for the organisation so hopefully he will get to see some
of the amazing things that I witness.
These two months
have seen very little running. An MRI scan has confirmed a tendinopathy
that I have had for some time and am taking some time out to get
this fixed. There is still plenty going on to keep me busy.
I enjoyed Compendium 13 at the new Darlington campus of Teesside
University which was an overwhelming success with amazing feedback.
My talk was one of four that day with the others being from Sally
Gunnell, Chris Bostock and Judith Rasmussen.
I also have a public lecture at the Darlington campus on the evening
of 18th July 2013.
The trip to
Hungary for the EMU 6 day International did not go according to
plan. I was fit and ready for the challenge and the travelling went
pretty smoothly and were settled into our massive bungalow as the
race venue on Monday before the midday Wednesday start. The course
race ran around a section of the campsite and championchip technology
kept everyone completely up to date with progress. I had a structured
plan for running and resting and was going to attempt a different
sleeping strategy, but I never got as far as this as within hours
of starting it appears I came down with a virus. Initially I was
left feeling very sleepy tired by 10 hours of running, highly unusual
for me and so rested for a bit convincing myself this was a long
race and better to stay in good shape, but the tiredness got worse,
I felt very weak and the pace dropped significantly. After resting
some more I became sick but still tried to continue but was down
to walking now. After being pulled in by Bill it was obvious I have
been hit by illness of some kind and it was not in my best interests
to continue in this state and so frustratingly had to withdraw.
Ten days later and I
am still unwell, tired and no energy. All I can say is that it was
the right decision to withdraw, and it was just bad timing to come
down with a simple virus. This will now have an impact on my plans
for the rest of the year and am now contemplating running the British
Ultrafest 6 days, not as a world record attempt but just for experience
and to practise a new sleeping strategy. This is a track race which
was why I was not keen to run this race. Being in August will affect
other races that I had planned, but at present I will have to see
how I recover before commiting to any races.
The good news
that I must mention is a new financial sponsor at last, and someone
that can help in the best way possible, so many thanks to Northwest
Investment Management (HK) Ltd. The CEO is an ultra-distance runner
himself and so understood the training and financial commitment
that goes into breaking world records and running extreme races.
This will make a difference to our travel arrangements and build
up races and can afford to travel a little earlier to my next race
which is now very close. In 2011 I finished my first 6 day race
with a new British road record of 750km. I am going to attempt the
world record for the 6 days from 8th – 14th May 2013 in the
EMU international 6 day race in Hungary. This event had a live webcam
so you can watch me run around the 900m road loop and champion-chip
technology should keep you updated with my progress.
I am travelling with Bill, but I suspect there will be little time
for updating facebook and twitter while I am running and suggest
that the official website will be the best source for tracking my
performance as my webmaster may also be away. The world record stands
at 825km and is my goal.
The race website is http://www.unixsport.hu/hatnaposfutoverseny
Training so far this month has gone exceptionally well. I am pleased
with my performances and my 5km times are showing that my speed
is currently improving and I have delivered my fastest times for
over a year – and that is with running marathons distances
every week too! So I will leave you to watch and enjoy, I receive
so many emails from you and know you love watching, so keep sending
the messages of support and I will keep performing!
Sharon running the Marathon of the North in Sunderland - April 2013
(Photo credit: Alan Musgrove)
This was a long hard training month, working hard on my speed that
was lacking last year. The weather didn’t help with snow covering
the North York Moors for much of the month and the bitterly cold
conditions hampering some training sessions, but I can say my goals
in training were achieved. At the end of the month I had to choose
an ultra to see how I was progressing and I chose the one that was
furthest away but the one that I knew I would enjoy the most –
De Zestig van Texel. A 120km race anti-clockwise and then clockwise
around the island in Holland, I loved the varied nature of this
race along the coastline of the island.
We used the Hull – Rotterdam ferry in our newly converted
VW transporter van (all done by me I might add) as we were keen
to see how the smaller van worked out. Somehow the design with the
captain seat that turns 180 degrees gave us much more space and
the bed was certainly much more comfy and the gas hob soon heated
up the small space on the freezing cold mornings. Conditions were
not good for this Easter weekend when the clocks went forward and
the 4:35am start was more like 2:35am for me. We had to scrape the
ice off the inside of the windscreen to arrive at the start although
we were warm and cosy inside, it was -6 degrees C outside. The darkness
was with us much longer than two years ago when it was the hottest
race on record – this was probably the coldest race on record
and Bill was to cycle with me. The wind was raw and despite many
top layers I only had one long pair of tights and some cycling length
shorts on top and by 30km my buttocks and hamstrings were suffering
with cold and stiffness. I stopped several times to stretch and
hoped the heat of the sun would warm me when it came out. After
turning at 60km the wind grew even stronger and Bill had to keep
the drinks under his jacket to stop them from freezing. He could
barely feel his fingers and toes on the bike. But I battled on aware
that I was in second place in the ladies race for most of the time.
Last time I finished in 12 hours 24 minutes and this time I just
missed the cut-off time with 13 hours 10 minutes, but it was a relief
Although I was disappointed with my performance, I hate the cold
and I had not tapered for this race at all. I had raced the Mermaid
10km on the Friday, a parkrun 5km on Saturday and this race was
on the Monday. The good news was that I recovered well and was back
racing the very next weekend and training continued, although I
have been left with a little niggle in my right glute (buttock).
Well what can
I say about the Ocean Floor Race? An absolutely magical place, a
privilege to be a runner who can experience such places and 50 hours
of non-stop running and walking for 160 miles. A thoroughly wonderful
time with another luxurious campsite, a small field of runners that
only served to get to know all the competitors by first name and
a stunning result with only one sweet Italian man Pasquale finishing
ahead. We were the only two to avoid the sandstorm that hit the
night after we finished. I have written a race report for those
that like reading my journey.
Photo: Finishing the Ocean Floor race and greeted by Pasquale, the
only person to finish ahead of me.
I ran my first parkrun just hours after returning home from the
desert and after a week of easy running the program for the serious
running started. I have many "more minor" ultras to contemplate
to make up the rest of the year. Fire and Ice (or volcanoes and
glaciers) in Iceland sounds fascinating and must be added to this
year's list. There is a race at the end of March, but with four
on the same weekend I have to choose wisely, but I know the prettiest
and one that I will enjoy the most but that is the one a ferry crossing
away. The world record attempt will be for 6 days on the road in
Hungary in the Unixsport 6 day international challenge starting
on 8th May 2013.
I updated all my races in January but forgot to post them. So the
stats for my racing career to the end of 2012 are: 1140 races, 23,822
miles of racing (over 24,000 mile now!) that makes an average of
20.9 miles per race. 243 race wins and 438 top 3 places for female
(not vet places). I have run 134 races over 30 miles and 235 races
between 21 and 30 miles - well over 300 marathons! For 2012 I ran
83 races and 1400 miles of races, that's an average of 16.9 miles
per race compared to 2011 where I ran 87 races and 2117 miles of
racing, that's is a staggering average of 24 miles per race. When
averaged per week, for 2012 I raced an average of 27 miles per week
and in 2011 the weekly average was 40.7 miles of racing a week.
None of these include training miles which I dare not add (but I
have them all logged!).
The rest in
December did me good. I had a wonderful time over Christmas visiting
family with no running and finally got out on 29th December for
the second run of the month. My parkrun times were very poor to
start with but within a couple of weeks trimmed them down by 4 minutes
and was heading in the right direction when the bad weather called
a halt to decent training. Slow snow running when possible and treadmill
running in the garage at other times. I then had a late chance to
enter the Ocean Floor Race with barely 3 weeks until kick off and
that got the enthusiasm back. This race is 160 miles non-stop across
the Sahara – I call it warm weather training and can’t wait for
the sunshine. So the start date is 3rd February at 5pm in Egypt
for a run in a different “White Desert”. This one will be a slow
one to enjoy and experience and soak in some great weather that
I miss. Hopefully by the time I return and have a brief rest I can
get back to serious training as the next world record attempt should
be early May.