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The first Saturday of the month was Rudolph’s Romp, an off road 25 miler that was completed in very cold, muddy, ice and snow conditions. This was a much better performance with my time being only 5 minutes slower than the previous year despite much worse conditions. It was also one of my highest mileage weeks in my training programme so I was happy progress was going in the right direction
.The following week a local parkrun was completed 90 seconds faster than in September, again confirming progress was being made. I am now 4 weeks from my first world record attempt of 2018, so all that remains is 2 more hard training weeks and then 2 easy weeks, where much shorter distances will be completed, so for once I should have a relaxing Christmas and New Year, but parkrun will feature in these.
2017 has been an indifferent year. My big plans at the start of the year were scuppered by issues that resulted in my gall bladder being removed. The last 6 months of the year has seen much progress in terms of speed, distance and weekly mileage.
I have some big plans for 2018. I am hoping to attempt 3 world records. The first is on 8th January and will be held at Teesside University. This will be 10 marathons in 10 days on a treadmill, starting at 11am in Olympia Building. This is a public event and all are welcome to watch the event. Technology should be in place to make this watchable on a live webcam, but that is out of my hands. While on the issue of world records, Guinness World Records have again put my 7 day treadmill record in the 2018 book, only a short snippet with other treadmill records, but surprising to see that my 833km still sits ahead of the men, 6 years after being set!
This will be training for my second world record attempt that should start on 3rd April 2018. The third world record attempt will be late summer but will require some sponsorship to help with the expense of this one. Any pledges or donations will be gratefully received (email: email@example.com). These world records will be the final chapters of my second book that I have been asked by many to write. So hopefully you will all set your goals for a happy, healthy and productive 2018!
A good, hard month of training, including a long weekly treadmill training afternoon at Teesside University. Although running tired much of the time that was the idea.
I started the month with 3 marathons in 3 days, which were the biggest medals I have ever received. The was by Ultra Running Ltd, small but well organised events that were thoroughly enjoyed, including an extra 5km evening run and barbecue and I just managed to squeeze in the Worcester parkrun at 9am before the 10am marathon start. I also ran the Wensleydale Wedge, which was not a great performance by my standards, but I had run a tough treadmill session the day after a VO2max test a few days earlier, I had also suffered a small foot issue. My VO2max test was higher than my previous one by some margin.
The first weekend of the month was the Redcar Half Marathon. A local event that was to be the last day before serious training and a 14 week training programme was to start. I set a mediocre goal of 1 hour and 45 minutes for this event and finished within a couple of minutes of that and so my fitness was round about where I expected.
The longest run this month was at the Rowbothams Round Rotherham 50 miles. My time was good enough for 3rd lady, some 8 minutes adrift from 1st lady. This was also my tenth completion of the event marking 500 miles of running around Rotherham. At this early stage in my programme I was content with my performance and recovery was swift to be able to complete a triple marathon a couple of weeks later.
This month was spent mainly doing shorter runs and putting core and weight training into my weekly schedule. Mileage was kept deliberately low but also suffered a hamstring injury that restricted training for a couple of weeks. By the end of the month I was ready to plan my next challenges.
The main aim for this month was the Ridgeway 86 at the end of the month. I resumed some off road running and it was a slow affair in the Hanging Stone Leap local event. It was one of my slowest times but as it was possibly the last event it was nice to experience the long route and not the short one and I did thoroughly enjoy my day in the North York Moors with the heather deep purple.
By the time of the Ridgeway I felt ready, but had not resumed weight training and had not been able to do any core training and it showed.
The weather was superb and underfoot conditions very dry, but a rather rutted route. I had not had the chance to recce the event so I had no idea what to expect, but had written a schedule for around 17 hours.
By the time I completed the first 26 miles in around 4 hrs 30 mins I had already tweaked my back and had to slow down somewhat. By half way I was nearly an hour off my target as darkness fell, but onwards with the plan to finish.
By 61 miles and still with another 25 to go it was decision time. Bill was waiting at the checkpoint with Baxter fast asleep at 2am. I was adamant I could continue and finish but knew it would be a slow and painful one as I could no longer stand upright due to my back. It was wiser to stop and recover rather than continue and suffer more and prolong my recovery.
I was fully aware of why I wasn’t so strong and the training components that needed adding to the programme. The decision was made to withdraw, frustrating but wisdom prevailed and the long trip back home.
It was another week after Belfast before I began training again. I had lost much fitness in those first 2 weeks, it was not like being active and not running, it really was no food for 2 days due to operation and sickness followed by 5 days of only doing the essentials and resting. But that said, all the pain and inability to eat from passing gall stones was behind me – and for those that have had this you will know what I am saying, it was time to move forward and start making plans again.
I have some big plans for the next 12 months. There will hopefully be a world record attempt later this year, yet to be revealed as the date has not yet been set, but for now it was time to regain some fitness and the best way for me to do that was to go out and run long slow miles. I found the perfect event for this to happen, the Scorcher 7 day festival of running, another inaugural event that I am sure will catch on. A choice of distances from 50km, marathon, half marathon or 5 miles every morning or 5km in the evening. www.time2runevents.co.uk organised this and I opted for the 7 marathons in 7 days and Bill even said he would run the 7 half marathons in 7 days.
We camped on the showfield between Preston and Blackpool and had the most wonderful week of running, cycling, eating and sleeping. The route was around 4.4 miles that had to be run 6 times per day by me and 3 times per day for Bill, with Baxter occasionally doing a few miles too. We tested some mountain fuel during this event, for breakfast, during the event, recovery drinks and bed time night drinks and came back strong but tired with lots of miles in our legs. Bill completed the most mileage he had ever done in a week and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, so much so he wants to do it again! Every day we received a medal that joined together to make a sundial by the time all seven were completed. I ran my slowest marathon on day 1, my fastest on day 7 and all the others between and finished 1st lady and 3rd overall, but it was a small field of runners.
Much of this month was written off after an operation to remove my gall bladder. There would never be a good time for this to happen and Friday 16th June was the date. I had no idea how long recovery would take as there were mixed opinions. My surgeon said no running for 3 weeks, to run when I felt like it and not do anything too strenuous.
I raced right up until a couple of days before the operation to keep as fit as possible, but the operation hit me hard. For the first 5 days it was laying on the settee watching tv, unheard of for me. Even the neighbour Ian had to come and walk Baxter as Bill was away. After a week I took some walks out on the moors but it was difficult to stand up straight and downhill walking hurt.
I had entered the open race of the World 24 Hours in Belfast the first weekend in July, which also doubled up as a World Vets race, but this was only 2 weeks post op and I knew I could not take part. As everything was booked we decided to go anyway to catch up with many friends from around the world and had a thoroughly wonderful weekend. I did of course manage to run around the route a good few times and experience the atmosphere on what was one of the best 24 hour loops I had ever run on. Around a mile in length, flat with no sharp corners and almost perfect weather.
The big race this month was the 250km Mauna to Mauna Ultra self-sufficiency race on Hawaii. It was quite a journey to arrive on this island and the humidity was high. The pre-race kit had stressed to bring waterproofs, pack covers and ponchos and they weren’t wrong.
I was lucky enough to have a full 3 days to acclimatise before being picked up and taken to the hotel by the beach. The poor organisers had gone through much anguish to see this inaugural race and had many battles to even stage the event. That night at the hotel I shared with Connie, who lived on a neighbouring island and who was telling me how hard permits were to achieve, so well done Tess and Colin on achieving your ambition to stage this race. That said, it was obvious that staging the race was a challenge for them and the down side was due to the permit problems the course had to change significantly with no forewarning to the participants. But they did the best with what they had and the challenge for the participants was to experience Hawaii.
Coconut island was the start line, humid with intermittent heavy showers, but it was wonderful to be set off on another adventure. With heavy packs full of the minimum 14,000 calories for the week and other essential items, day 1 had over 1,000 metres of climbing over the 43km route. Through ranches, muddy rain forest like the tangled stuff you see on tv and variety of tracks while the heat and humidity increased to being thoroughly soaked by torrential rain on a road section and then climb on a rough track to the finish line. It rained and it rained all night long.
Day 2 and it was still raining and the briefing said to expect some puddles – was that a joke? Well, the puddles were good thigh deep ones that were waded through, all part of the experience and adventure and the rain never stopped all day. Another 1,000 metres of climbing over the shorter stage of 30km, mainly tracks through trees and a small lava field. Still the rain never stopped and the campsite became a tad muddy! Spirits not dampened stage 3 was a circular route of 45km with just under 1,000 metres of climbing and descending. It was dry to start with and the lunar landscapes through amazing lava fields have to be experienced and not described, beauty in blackness. After the highest point so far around 9,000feet, the gradually descending quiet tarmac road was spectacular, but all good things come to an end and this ended by running along the wide verge of a busy road with driving rain and wind and sent me shivering into my tent.
Day 4 and the long stage awaited. The bad news about being at the front end of the female field meant the later start time and a long wait. The route was 77km with 3,345m of climbing and descent and the start was already at a high altitude. The course was out and back to a 9,200ft (2,800m) summit, which made navigation easier and also meant you could see the entire field of runners to support them and be supported. It was a tough start for my breathing at an altitude that was higher than anticipated due to the change in course and was a fast walk rather than run and I was last of the later starters, but of course I didn’t finish there. As always the long stage was my best result, but I was only good enough for second lady. The treat that lay in store at the finish was a ride down to the beach and sunshine, but it was early hours of the morning and dark at this point.
Day 5 arrived and sunshine, sea and beach was welcome after wet clothes and feet for so long. It was a rest day for me while other participants were still striding out the miles. The big treat was a can of coke and a doughnut, and the swim in the ocean was heavenly.
Day 6 and stage 5 arrived all too quickly, the fourth ultra of the week at 47km, but 1,900m of descent. The sun was out now and it was fast running at times along the rough verges of roads, not exactly scenic but all part of the challenge and was grateful that progress had been made as the off road section of rocks along the river bed was slow going, tripping and stumbling as local Connie bounded by me in full glory enjoying every step. The final section hit a golf cart track and down to the beach for another well-earned dip in the ocean.
The final stage was a hop up and down the cart track to Hapuna Beach hotel, a short 8km jog for the medal and pizza that was awaiting.
A night in the hotel with a feast of fresh food and the most gorgeous trophy carved from afzelial wood. A bit like my piece of rock from the Grand Canyon for winning the Grand to Grand Ultra, I now had a trophy from a tree that grows on Hawaii Island. My result was 37hrs 52 mins for the 252km (156 miles), 2nd lady, 12th overall, some wonderful new friends and another experience of a lifetime. I was very content with my performance as training had been difficult this year with a poor start. The event did have challenges both for the participants and the organisers. This event will go on to achieve a more refined route now that we have showcased our respect for this community and island and am sure it will be a classic for all to aspire to.
I had a wonderful month of racing, training and running along the Pennine Way this month and my fitness turned a positive corner. I had 3 weeks off work due to the Spring break and made the most of my time off. I repeated 3 races which I did in April last year, all 3 were much faster. At the start of the month was Blubberhouses 25, this had been several years since I last run it and was satisfied with my performance. The week after was the Wensleydale Wander, 3 hrs 49 mins this year compared to 4 hrs 1 min last year. Then I did 2 x 30 miles along the Pennine Way with full pack and sleeping kit, a couple of days off and then another 3 days with Bill and Baxter. Next up was the Guisborough Moors Race, a hilly race on my doorstep and 2 hrs 08 mins compared to 2 hrs 29 mins last year. Three days later was the coast 5km and my fastest 5km for 3 years. I followed this up 3 days later with the Lakeland 3 days. I did this as a slow one with Bill and Baxter and on the easier route with a full pack so as not to overdo things too close to my next event.
The next event is May 14th – 20th and is the inaugural Mauna2Mauna race on Hawaii. This is 250km with over 15,000ft of climbing, 6 stages over 7 days. It is a self-sufficient event meaning all food and kit must be carried over the remote island, camping in allocated 10 man tents set up for us. Hot and cold water is provided along with portaloos. I will not be doing updates at electronic devices and phones are banned (wonderful and totally agree!). It is a long journey to fly there and home again, but my renewed fitness is giving me more confidence that I can race this as opposed to just run it. Another experience of a lifetime awaits and whatever the results I will be delighted to say I was there and completed it. Sometimes running is a sheer luxury of exhilaration. The official website and facebook page for the event will do daily updates should you wish to follow it.
I began some longer races this month, starting with the Haweswater Half Marathon on the first weekend. This coincided with our 25th wedding anniversary and spent a wonderful 3 days in a nice hotel to celebrate. We had our honeymoon at Windermere after being married at Gretna Green (running away and dragging two witnesses of the street the traditional way), but the Mountain Ash hotel was now a block of flats.
The week after was the Spen 20, not the best of results as I was not recovering that well from the mileage completed, but six days after this was the Hardmoors 55 miles event. I felt jaded at the start and knew my quads were still feeling the effects from the previous 4 weeks of training and racing. My goal was to break 12 hours knowing I was not recovered to run, but needed a long run in the bank and as this event finished in Guisborough where I lived there was little travelling to do. I achieved my goal with 11 hours 25 minutes and was very stiff for the rest of the week, but was happy to be continuing in the right direction.
Gall stones were now diagnosed and although not good, it was better to know what the problem was to move forward. It may be some time before action is taken though and further investigation is needed. I felt content in my decision to defer my world record attempt.
My mild cold continued to effect me for well over 6 weeks. My heart rate was elevated and did not resume any heavy training until the middle of February. I ticked over with 15 miles per week including a parkrun. I was also experiencing a few stomach pains which were to take some time to diagnose with a scan and also restricted training and on occasion my eating.
All the accumulated lack of training and health issues affected my plans for the year. A date had been set for my next world record attempt on 3rd April 2017, but it was obvious I would not be in good enough shape and have the confidence to attempt this and so my plans for this were postponed for another 12 months. Instead a new event had arisen that was most appealing. A sister race to the Grand2Grand I had run in 2012, called Mauna2Mauna. This is a 250km stage race across Hawaii, a self-sufficient event carrying all kit and food required for the 7 day event. The event is planned for May and I set a new training programme to build me up for this event.
The time off from training allowed me to update my statistics for 2016. In 2016 I ran 97 events totalling 1443 miles (average of 15 miles per event). By the end of 2016 I had run over 1,500 races and over 28,000 miles.
We arrived in Phoenix on Boxing Day in a very jet lagged condition. The BA flight was full and very poor service on board. It was early hours of the morning by the time we checked into the hotel. I started Across The Years 6 day race feeling tired and it really never got any better from then on. Jet lag kicked in and by the time I had been going a mere 12 hours I took a few hours to sleep. I woke up feeling even worse but continued on slowly, sticking to the running and resting plan, but there was much more walking than planned. Some heavy showers turned the dirt track into mud for a few hours before the sun returned and the track dried out. Due to the gravel nature I had worn new gaiters, which turned out to be too tight above my ankles and created some crepitus in my tendons.
By the end of the first 24 hours it became apparent that both myself and Bill were coming down with colds, topped with the jet lag and crepitus I visited the medic on site. It was bad news and was advised to withdraw. I guess I was just seeking clarification of what I knew deep down would be the response. It was a long way to travel to run for a single day and in reality I was only 5km off my schedule, but it was futile to continue.
We pondered what to do for the next 5 days, but first off we both went back to sleep in our tent to try to clear our heads as we were so tired. We awoke to watch the runners continue to circle the track, roughly a mile loop. The weather was very hot in the sunshine during the day, but very cold at night. We had been to the area before and felt there was nothing pressing we wanted to do with our time. The venue was excellent, very supportive and good to watch and the decision was to have a day off and then walk to experience the rest of the event, with Bill walking a good few laps with me. One of the highlights of the trip was being visited by my friend Mel Berry. I had first met Mel in Phoenix several years ago and had stayed in contact. It was wonderful that she made such as effort to meet us again and even walked some laps with me.
I continued to walk and rest and enjoy the full experience of the event. The venue was absolutely superb, the course picturesque in places, the track a nice surface when it wasn’t wet and such a friendly and encouraging support staff supplying the food. We both vowed to come back again and give this another shot. Bill had been inspired by the event and with such a choice of events to do between the 1, 2, 3 and 6 day races he set a goal to achieve 100 miles in the 3 day event, watch this space!!
As for me, I set a new mediocre goal of 200 miles in the event. Belt buckles were awarded for relevant 100’s of miles, 100, 200, 300 etc. The final distance was 209.9 miles and we did have a good time in the end.