Again?

I had 1st of September 9am in my calendar since July 26th this year.  I knew without a doubt that I wanted another shot at Lakeland 50.  I even had the day off work.  Nothing was going to stand in my way of getting one of the coveted places.  It almost didn’t happen though.

Standing in Sharons kitchen after a fabulously relaxing bank holiday weekend thinking I had plenty of time to spare I glanced at the time.  9:02!!!  What the actual fuck!  Oh god.  Laptop hurry up and fire up.  3G dongle don’t let me down now.  Firefox don’t crash.  Oh god, where’s my bank card?  What if the site crashes?  What if there are payment issues like folks had last year?  I am not the most tech savy person in the world.  At all.  Yet somehow in the space of 3 minutes I have my entry for 2016 sorted. *and breathe*.  Unofficial rumour is that the 50 sold out 6 minutes!

So here begins another 10 months of training updates, recce days, YHA’s, poo stops, watching John Kynsaton video clips and panicking over kit/weight.  Most importantly here begins 10 months of proper planning and preparation.

It’s going to mean shuffling/cancelling some other race plans but in fairness to Country to Capital and KRR they were booked in case I didn’t get LL50.  It’s also going to mean making sure I do not neglect other things, very important things, in my life.  Luckily I have a fabulous support network who understand me (even if they don’t understand this crazy need).

First though I need to get my shoulder sorted.  I am sat on a train from Brighton back home to London as I type this and first stop is to see consultant to go over my MRI results.  It seems that I have a severe torn rotator cuff and surgery is what we are discussing today.  As super-star coach Eddie said though, best time of the race calender to get it sorted is now.

This year it was about getting around.  Next year it’s about sub 16 hours.

Watch this space because I won’t be making some of the training and race day mistakes that I did the first time around.

Nici x

“The definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different outcome” ~ Albert Einstein

Christ … the blog that is longer than the race!!

* Short Version *

I started.  It hurt. I finished.

* Long Version *

I really thought this would be the easiest of all blog posts to write.  As you all know I can ramble on for days and certainly have no issue with saying exactly what’s on my mind.  Why is this one so bloody hard then?

It took me 10 months to get to the Dalemain Estate in Cumbria.  10 months of fun, pain, fear, poo stops, recce runs, laughter, lessons learned about me, lessons learned about others but most of all it took me 10 months of doubt.  I signed up for Lakeland 50 on the back of getting caught up in the amazing atmosphere up there last year when I was part of the team crewing James (Elson) on one of his BGR attempts and round 2 of that battle happened on Lakeland weekend. (he won that battle on round 3 … #proudcrew).

Lakeland weekend is kind of like the annual get together for the UK ultra scene and this became ever more apparent to me in the months leading up to race day when I started seeing the buzz on social media building.  I think it’s this buzz that started making me feel some doubt.  I put all kinds of hours into my training but could have done more on the quality side.  I could sit here and have a list of excuses such as crazy long hours, love life issues, blah blah but at the end of the day these are exactly that .. excuses.  I took on this challenge.  Me.  Nobody forced me to enter this so it was time to step up against my worst enemy and prove her wrong.  Me.

Way back on September 1st 2014 when entries opened I somehow not only managed to get myself a place but also signed my friend Kat up to run too.  Those of you who know how quick this races sells out will know what a total score that is (I think it sold out in 19 minutes or something close to that).  I am sure at the time we might have said something about doing some training together but in the end we never did a single run together.  This was going to be interesting.  Poor woman.

The plan for the weekend was for Kat to spend the night at mine on Thursday and we would head off at about 6am to get up to Coniston with time to set up, wander around etc before the start of the 100 (they go off at 6pm on the Friday).  KAt was a tad late but that’s not a shocker with the trains out of Brighton.  We managed to get to bed at a decent time of about 11pm after having a quick drink and a catch up natter.  I felt quite sorry for her though … I’m not convinced my sofa bed is too comfortable and that’s twice now she’s had to endure it.  Not sorry enough to give up my comfy bed.  Obviously ;)

We set off about 6:15 and after a couple of coffee stops we made it to Coniston about 11:30 so I was quite happy with that.  We quickly pitched the tent as the sky looked a bit gray.  It was the tents first outing since I’d used it during the aforementioned BGR attempt the previous year.  I was surprised it didn’t fall to pieces when I took it out of the bag as I seem to recall I put it away wet.  Slight musty smells just add to the atmosphere of the weekend though yes?

We plodded off to the school hall to register.  Kat took her credit card with her as she had not brought a spare base layer (I won’t tell anyone you didn’t actually read any of the race instructions Kat, honest I won’t tell a soul).  It’s really hard as a race organiser to not cast an eye over what other events do and take some mental notes.  In fact on the Sunday I was chatting with one of the Lakeland directors, Terry Gilpin about this and he agreed that it can only make the sport stronger if good practice is followed (note : I am not endorsing blatant nicking of race ideas and passing them off as your own).  So walking into the school hall it was like heaven for me.  Anyone who has attended a Centurion event in that last couple of years will know we have become a fan of what I like to call the ‘Ikea effect’.  Give a person a logical route to follow and it makes things run like clockwork.  This applies to most things not just running out on the trails.  So it was …. kit check (and boy are they tough – Kat who is a doctor failed her first-aid kit check!), number allocation, pack collection, dibber wristband and then the dreaded weigh-in.  I asked the young lady weighing me to just write #FatChicksCan on my wristband in homage to the #thisgirlcan campaign.  She declined.  I had managed to lose just under a stone in the 5 weeks leading up to race day but the fact is I just didn’t take seriously how my weight gain would affect me on the day and when she wrote those numbers on the wrist band I could have cried.  Why oh why did I not do more to get back to where I needed to be.  There began the weekend of doubt folks.  I looked around the school and canteen and suddenly all I could see were people who looked so bloody prepared and fit.  What was I doing here?  Why did I have the audacity to think that I deserved to be here when I know for a fact that there were many 100s of runners who would’ve killed for my race number.  Well, not killed but you know what I mean (although my mate Jacqui might have killed me if she thought she could get my coveted place).

We headed back to the camping area to get our kit ready.  I had taken my stuff to registration in a box as I had been warned they would make me take it all out of my pack anyway so there was little point in properly packing before hand.  So as we sat there on the grass both sorting out our kit, putting race numbers on packs, attaching trackers (thanks to James from Open Tracking), discussions on shoe choice, and chat about clothing etc.  I then noticed the two guys who were camped up next to us looking really relaxed and enjoying a beer.  Again, more internal panic.  Then when they commented that we were amusing them I almost cried.  Good job I have the ability to put that ‘laugh at myself’ shield up.  Christ, what was wrong with me.  I am the most self-assured person I know and this race now had me in bits.  In fact let’s be clear here on the word ‘race’.  I am under no illusions that I would be racing anyone.  I was here for a speed hike interspersed with some jogging.  It was at this point that I again let Kat know that I would not be offended if she wanted to go off ahead rather than stick with me.  She’s a much better runner than I and as we have not so much as run a a mile together I really didn’t want it to turn into an uncomfortable weekend for either of us.  What if she started resenting me for being slow?  What if I started resenting her for resenting me.  Oh, I can do this for days.  The ‘what if game’ as I like to call it.

After we had got our stuff sorted we walked back up to the hall and it really surprised me how many people I knew and even more so how many had been reading my blog.  Scary.  Must learn to write better.  Found James, Drew and Debs (Marco was sleeping) and we headed for some food.  I absolutely love hanging out with Debs.  She has such a wicked sense of humour and between the two of us I think we put fear in James.  Debs ran (and won the ladies race) the 100 last year and this year was running the 50 due to having UTMB coming up so she agreed to meet up just before 6pm and walk up the hill towards Coniston Copper Mines so we could see the 100 runners coming up the hill.  That was so much fun sitting there watching the 300 runners coming up and again I was so surprised by how many I knew.  Lots of hellos and good lucks shouted out then it was back down the hill where Debs had to go off and chase a fox (don’t ask) and Kat and I decided to grab some dinner and a drink before getting an early night.  Thank god Kat had some spare earplugs as some guys didn’t seem to think being quiet was the thing to do.  Although the shouts of ‘Shut Up’ from fellow campers may have eventually done the trick.

I’d like to say I had a good nights sleep but that would be a lie.  I think I managed about 3 hours before finally giving up.  The plan was to grab some food from the school canteen and being the typical Londoner that I am I had no cash and only a credit card.  I’m like the queen and rarely carry cash.  D’oh.  Good job Kat had some money and she fronted me some tea and toast.  I was still wandering around in my PJ’s at 8am chatting to folks.  I honestly think I was putting off getting dressed so as to avoid the reality of what I was there to do.  However race briefing at 8.30 would probably not be best attended in my old UT football shirt so get dressed I did.  My plan to wear shorts probably shocked a few who know me as I absolutely hate my legs.  However, I planned to try to even out my weird runners tan a little.  Of course, as I applied rock tape to my right knee it occurred to me I was in store for a donut tan on my knee.  Oh well.

The start for the 100 mile race takes place at the school in Coniston and does a massive 100 mile loop finishing back at the school in Coniston.  The 50 mile race starts out on the loop at the Dalemain Estate.  The Lakeland organiser arranges a fleet of coaches to take the 50 runners out to the 50 start but no matter how some might feel this is all part of the event I was happy to skip this and get a ride out there with the wonderful Bev (Navesey) whose husband Steve was also running the 50.  So myself, Kat and Debs jumped in the back and listened to Steve chatter away.  I have to be honest and say I can’t remember much from that journey except for Debs telling me quietly that she was nervous.  That totally floored me.  This woman is tough as nails and she was nervous?  I suspect she might have been lying to make me feel better because quite honestly I was crapping myself.  We get to Dalemain and the bloody amazing Bev has made some wraps for us (as I totally fell in love with her wraps on one of our recces a month earlier).  As I was standing staring around at the other runners and also at the 100 mile runners who were coming into their checkpoint I started to feel quite sick.  Bev looked at me and asked if I was ok.  I got a bit teary and when she hugged me I told her I didn’t feel I should be there.  Debs saw this and bless her she too gave me a hug and whispered something motivational that’s not repeatable.  I bloody love her.

At 11.15 we got herded into the start pen.  We all had to ‘dib in’ so we could be accounted for and then we had to make sure we did the same thing at each checkpoint (and one unmanned dib point) on the course.  Kat at this point said it was my last chance to tell her if I wanted run alone.  I assured her that I really wanted her to run with me (but in my head I was convinced she had been hoping I would tell her to run off … seriously, I really am my own worst enemy).  Some good luck hugs with Chris Mills and Steve Navesey and a start line selfie and we were off.

Start Dalemain to Howtown : 11.2 miles

We started out with an annoying 4 mile loop of the estate.  I hate running in fields.  Once that was over though we headed to Pooley Bridge and it was really quite lovely running through and people were clapping and cheering us.  Also saw the lovely Bev, Nikki Mills and Co.

I don’t really remember much about the run to Howtown checkpoint apart from really struggling to get my breathing sorted.  I can’t explain it but I just couldn’t seem to properly catch my breath and relax.  When we got to the checkpoint (which was using a cowtown theme) we literally filled up bottles and grabbed some snacks.  Kat made me laugh as it was here she settled into her role of Drill Sergent (Eddie would be proud).  She got us in and out.

Planned time 2:20 – actual time 2:37:55 (Bollocks, already 17 minutes behind plan)

Howtown to Mardale Head : 9.4 miles

This is probably the hardest section for me as it has both Fuesdale which is a tough old climb and then Haweswater which is an uncomfortable lake side slog.  The climb up Fusedale is deceptive as it’s at an angle so you think it’ll be easy but it just seems to go on forever.  I hate this hill the most.  The view at the top is just totally spectacular though.  The only saving grace of this section is the run between Fuesdale and Haweswater being the fabulous stretch across the top.  I simply love this bit and I actually ran here.  I also love the run down to Haweswater.  Now that I get it right that is.  My famous loop-de-loop on the other side of the stream here is now well-known.  Once getting to Haweswater though it’s a long stretch to get to the next checkpoint.  It was funny as through this section I kept remembering the many funny things that happen to Jacqui and I when running.  The conversation had on out training runs should never be repeated to children or the police.  This is the stretch where the most interesting wall in the world is and where someone planted a bloody low hanging tree over a footpath (only makes sense if you’ve read this blog through the last 10 months).  We get to Mardale Head checkpoint and I had quite simply the best cup of soup I have ever had.  Oh and a jam and crisp sandwich thanks to the suggestion of another runner there.  I was trying to procrastinate a little here as I knew what was coming.  I get the glare from Kat so off we go.

Planned time 3:15 – actual time 3:49:23 (this really is not going well, 52 minutes behind plan)

Mardale Head to Kentmere : 6.5 miles

This is where I get to show Kat my ‘true toys out the pram’ personality.  Gatesgarth never ends with its bastard switchbacks, rocks and cheery bloody runners skipping past me.  I genuinely wanted to cry.  This hill breaks me every time I go up it and this time I didn’t have Jacqui agreeing to stop and check the view every 500 steps.  I hate this hill the most.  Yes, this one not the last one.  Normally when you get to the top of a hill you at least get that fabulous joy of knowing you get to run down the other side.  Well bollocks to that theory.  The run down the other side of Gatesgarth is like the trail gods got together and had a little smoke of the funny weed and threw some rocks down haphazardly and then onto a downhill road that seemed to go on forever.  It is a painful descent only brightened by more of those cheery runners coming by me.  It was during this descent I had to make a pit stop behind a wall because I was lucky enough to start my period 12 hours before this race started (oh don’t roll your eyes boys, you’re not 12).  It was at this point that the lovely Sharon Sullivan came skipping by and for some reason I felt the need to tell her I had to change my tampon.  What the actual fuck is wrong with me?  Sorry Sharon but thanks for the tip although I think as a gay woman it’s going to be hard to get my GP to write me a prescription for the pill.  Anyway, everything sorted and onwards we go.  Up through Sadgill Woods which is quite a nice bit of track and then out on the road for a short few steps before having to drag my already broken knee over the stone wall stiles.  You know the ones I mean.  Yes, the ones with the scary wobbly rocks that you go to grab hold of and scare yourself silly when they move.  Finally we get to the checkpoint at Kentmere where I got a hug from the lovely Justin Horrocks.  I asked how his fiance Jackie was doing and have no idea what he said but I do remember he got me a nice bowl of pasta and a beautiful cup of tea.  A lovely lady came over dressed as a Bon Jovi fan and my request for a G&T was refused but she assured me that I could get one from the team at Tiberthwaite.

Planned time 2:35 – actual time 2:39:34 (considering that bastard hill not too bad but still 56 minutes behind plan)

Kentmere to Ambleside : 7.3 miles

When we left the checkpoint it had gotten quite cold or rather the checkpoint was so warm that we felt the cold more.  Kat put her jacket on and I couldn’t be arsed as frankly I was getting a bit cranky.  I hadn’t actually said the C word out loud once and I think I was having internal Tourette’s.  I can’t remember too much about this section except that Kat started singing to me.  Well, not to me.  To anyone who would listen.  Sheep, birds, exhausted 100 mile runners we happened across.  It was quite sweet.  I was so tired I thought she actually knew all the words to various show tunes but turns out she was just singing the same lines over and over again.  I also started seeing little animals here.  When I say little I mean like little miniature versions.  I didn’t want to tell Kat as I was already feeling a bit dizzy and slightly nauseous and think if she knew I was seeing miniature giraffes she might declare me dead.  Although I guess that’s ok as I just now remembered that Chris Mills did ask me if I was running with a doctor so she could sign my death certificate out on the course.  When we got to the post office in Troutbeck I had to sit on the bench for a minute, for a teeny split second I wondered if I could get phone signal and if the broom wagon would pick me up here.  Yes folks this is where I actually considered I was sick of looking at a radius of about 3 feet around my own bloody feet  and this is where I fell in love with Colin.  When we stopped in the services on the way up Kat bought some Colin the Caterpillar sweets and it was here that she broke them out.  I fell in love.  Folks if you ever need a race saving treat this is it.  I remember getting quite disheartened here as in my plan we would be coming into Ambleside about 10.30pm ish.  I wanted to get some moral support from the folks outside the pubs.  I remember last year coming through here with Drew when we were crewing James on his BGR and we witnessed the local support of the race.  I wanted some of that and it looked like I wasn’t getting any so why bother trying to make up time now.  Instead we hit Ambleside checkpoint about midnight.  In fairness though we still got some subdued cheers from folks standing around in Ambleside who were obviously waiting for runners.  Either that or there are just strange folks who stand around in the dark doorways … like being back in London really.  At the checkpoint there was then the added insult of steps up.  Inside it was too warm so the lovely Laura grabbed my sandwich bag and filled it for me as I couldn’t find the food (even though it was on a table in front of me).  I got a cup of tea, used the toilet and we headed back out.  Changed headtorch batteries outside and off we go.

Planned time 2:40 – actual time 3:07:23 (oh FFS this is getting worse now 1 hour 23 minutes behind plan)

Ambleside to Chapel Stile : 5.6 miles

I cannot tell you how much I had been looking forward to leaving Ambleside as for me this signified I had ‘broken the back’ of this thing.  16 miles left and they are my favourite 16 miles.  Well except for the first climb up and up and up Loughrigg (spelling?).  I hate this hill.  Not the other two  This one.  How can you not love this section.  My only regret is that Kat didn’t get to see this in daylight.  Simply beautiful.  When we got down to the Skelwith Bridge Hotel I was back on a high.  Came along the river, past the bridge where I was meant to do some stretches (sorry Jacqui I was on a mission), through the most boring stretch with the man-made path through the park type area, through the wooded bit, along more path, on the road up to the mine entrance, along the river some more, past Wainrights Inn and on to the houses with swing outside.  No cats there today.  Coming through the Baysbrown Campsite I actually started to get a bit worried as I couldn’t see any checkpoint lights and I guess being dark I just assumed I would see them as soon as we turned into the campsite.  We kept going along the path and I was starting to consider maybe I had missed something at race briefing about the checkpoint not being there and would we have enough water to get us through and then suddenly out of nowhere this amazing oasis of a checkpoint appeared.  I can’t describe it and I didn’t take a picture.  A massive outside fireplace, music, gazebos, soup, tea and the dreaded sofa of doom.  I stayed well clear of the sofa.  Kat got me some soup and informed me I had until the end of the song (oh how I prayed it was some club song with at least a 15 minute instrumental).

Planned time 2:15 – actual time 2:08:05 (What?  We picked up the pace?  No way! 1 hour 16 minutes behind plan)

Chapel Stile to Tiberthwaite : 6.5 miles

It is here dear readers that I am about to fail you as I am wracking my brain trying to remember anything significant from this section and all I have is that I now know why the lead runners go so fast.  It has nothing to do with winning.  It’s so they don’t have to climb those big fuck off wooden wall ladder stiles and put their hands on the sheep shit left there by 700 runners ahead of them.  Seriously.  I am sending a mail to the trail gods asking for door mats there.  Oh and I remember falling in the boggy bit before the unmanned dibber on this section.  It didn’t look deep and suddenly … well … suddenly it was.  The absolute best bit here though was coming down through Mardy Farm (I can’t remember its real name but it got renamed that months back when I had to ask the farmer for water and you would’ve thought I had kicked her favourite child).  Mardy Farm it is.  Getting here you can see the checkpoint at the bottom of Tiberthwaite steps.  What a beautiful sight.  As we rounded the corner I was suddenly overtaken with the urge to be sick.  I tried to breathe properly to stop it.  No doing.  Sorry to Kat for having to turn back and see me bent over double.  Got into the checkpoint.  Got handed a sweet tea and sat outside.  I suddenly remembered what the lady at Kentmere had said but still no bloody G&T!!  Kat stands over me and informs me to get off my arse.  Lovely.

Planned time 2:45 – actual time 2:50:43 (I love how my times on this section are close to my plan but still 1 hour 21 minutes behind plan)

Tiberthwaite to Finish Coniston : 3.5 miles

At the bottom of the Tiberthwaite steps I look up to see that Kat has only bloody well run up them.  I had a fleeting thought that I could throw my pole up in a javelin style and spear her.  Oh well.  Going up the scramble bit I had to relent and let Kat take my poles for me as I simply didn’t trust myself to be able to do it and hold them too.  Then I had the ledge along the wall of death (ask Jacqui) to deal with.  It’s hard when you think you are walking normal but your knees and feet are doing the opposite.  My right knee has been screaming at me for about 6 hours now and each step feels like a hot poker is being shoved under the kneecap.  Funnily enough while I had thought this section would be hard (and it was) it was my most enjoyable.  I was quite internally emotional.  I had done it.  The only thing that could stop me now would be to fall on the hideous downside to the copper mines that would come once we had gone over the top.  Speaking of that downside … did it get steeper?  I swear it did.  I have never been so glad to get to a tarmac road in my life.  Yet even that offered no respite.  Slowly, agonisingly slowly we made our way down.  Then out of nowhere, there at the side of the miners road sat Debs Martin-Consani.  That wonderful, wonderful woman who had placed 2nd woman in the 50 race (11 hours earlier!) had sat there waiting for us for an hour.  I love my friends.  I really do.  Debs … that meant the world, thank you.  I couldn’t stop as Kat said I had to keep shuffling as she wanted us in before 7am (I won’t share why).  We shuffled onwards.  Coming into Coniston, turn right and coming past the petrol station.  I wanted to walk but my legs said ‘Fuck off, we’re almost done’.  Turned left, down the hill towards the school and there at the side of the road was the best recce crew ever.  Bev Navesey is the best support a gang of crazy runners can have.  Taxi, wrap maker, shoulder to cry on, laughs, and a stern word … she delivers it all.  I was crying.  I came under that gantry and just couldn’t stop smiling.  I did it.  I only fucking did it.

Planned time 18:00 – actual time 19:08 … so I didn’t hit plan but I simply don’t care!

I am fully aware of just how many of you got me here.  The words of encouragement all through this journey, the laughs, the banter, the messages before, during and after have meant so much to me.  Sometimes I struggle to let my walls down but you lot have climbed in.  You all know who you are.  My oscar thank you speech could go on for days but I hope you all will understand if I limit it to just 3 people here.

Kat – I really can’t say enough about how awesome it was to run this with you.  Your quiet way of encouraging me, your way of talking at the right time but simply not talking too was great.  I know how much better you could have done without me but yet you stayed with me every step of the way.  If you EVER need crew … you don’t have to ask twice.

Eddie – How do I say thank you to the most amazing coach a girl could have?  Seriously.  You get me.  We had a plan.  We had to tweak the plan.  We got to the finish.  Big plans for 2016.  I know I’m at the opposite end of the scale of your other clients but I love you for having faith in me.

Jacqui – I am actually getting teary just thinking of how you have shared this journey with me.  Running with you simply works.  Our friendship simply works.  You actually stayed awake all night long watching a dot on a map and sent me text messages as I came past certain parts.  When I got to a signal and turned my phone on that totally made me cry.  I’ll get you back for that.

Right, I have 400 cals of emergency food to eat while I try to decide what to do next.  Thanks everyone for following along for the last 10 months.

Nici x

In a weeks time …..

That title has just made me feel 14 again.

I still have a very clear memory of my first real kiss with a beautiful stunning girl.  She set my life on it’s path and even though I took a few detours early on I landed right where I was meant to be.  My clear lasting memory from that time is how terribly inadequate I felt.  How excited I was at the very thought of her.  How I couldn’t speak when she was around.

I feel that way all over again.

It’s been a funny old 10 months getting to this point.  Lots of mistakes and life simply getting in the way.

As some of you know it all started really well.  Remember the heady days where I got a marathon PB, where my training was exciting me, where I could taste my podium place at LL50 (ok … that bit was in a dream but who cares).

Well, all the momentum screeched to a sliding stop when I picked up a contract that while great for my CV it threw a massive fuck off spanner in the LL50 plan.  Then on top of that my little heart fell in love, got deliciously distracted and then broken.  So for about 5 months it was really hit and miss.  The training was still happening but progress was not.

The saving grace for both my sanity and for my confidence that I can even finish has been the recce trips up to the Lakes.  I feel like I know every blade of grass, every rock, every sheep on the route.  The only part I haven’t done is the part around Dalemain estate but if I get lost there then I should probably get pulled from the race at the point.

I’m not going to rehash the recces but will say that when I get to Ambleside I am going to be like an excited puppy as there begins my favourite section albeit that it will be done in the dark so a bit slow.

I am going to have a tracker on for no other reason than I have had so many lovely folks ask if they can track me.  I am telling myself it’s not because they want to witness some of my infamous extra miles while sat on their comfy sofas at home.  No, that’s not it at all.  I’ll post the link for the tracker on Facebook later at some point.

So, back to a weeks time.  I’ll be sat at the Dalemain estate with my lovely friend Kat.  She will be no doubt rolling her eyes at my nerves and I shall no doubt be so nervous I might be just a bit silent (it happens).  The start is at 11.30am and I don’t anticipate finishing anytime before 6.30am on the Sunday.  Yes, minimum of 17 hours for 50 Lake District miles … slow for some of you but realistic for me based on my recces.  I am not going to be pressured into thinking of going faster as I will not be dropping anywhere except at Coniston.

The next week will consist of some easy little jogs and staring at my kit that is currently looking just as nervous as me.

I am under no illusions that this is going to be easy but I am quite clear that I have not felt about something so strongly in a long time.  I hope I still think of this race in 28 years the way I still think of that moment at 14.

Nici x

Insert fancy title here to mean …… I can even DNF a blog title …..

In 19 days I will stop looking at training plans, stop looking at my shoe options, stop changing my mind on kit, stop staring at maps and elevation profiles, stop hating my coach and most importantly I will stop crossing the days off the calendar.  In 19 days I will be getting ready for the 11.30am start to what is my biggest personal challenge to date.  Obvious exceptions apply before anyone questions how I could consider a run more challenging than parenthood.  Trust me I made that up as I went along too (love you Cody).

I know I said I would write this blog each week and I really did try at the beginning.  It was a goal destined for a DNF to be honest.  I just felt like it got bit same old same old though.  There’s only so much you can read about intervals, hills, poo stops and hating my coach*.  And to be honest there’s only so much I can write about it.

The short version of the last month is that I shuffled round the Shires to Spires 35 mile ultra with 7 minutes to spare at cut-off, I shuffled round the South Downs Way marathon and I DNF’d Coombe Abbey marathon.  Yep, I DNF’d a marathon.  Why?  My knees were shot.  Think searing hot pain under the kneecap and you might be close.  Plus, and here is the honest raw bit … I got bored.  I have never been so bored on a run.  I don’t listen to music by choice and I am happy in my own company.  You don’t want to know the stuff I think about for hours on end but I actually even got bored with me (and I think I’m bloody lovely!!).  So, there you have it, pathetic excuse for my first ever DNF.  I genuinely always thought I’d have some great tale to tell the day it happened.  Getting attacked by mountain lions halfway up Kilimanjaro was my preferred story that I was starting to build.  Boredome near Coventry I didn’t see coming.

How has training gone.  Meh.  It’s been there.  I think this work project has finally drained me.  6 months of 70 hour weeks has taken every last drop of my life.  Eddie has been super patient with me but it’s helped that she’s been focused on bringing the beautiful baby Evie into the world so I was a small blip on her radar.  Although I have to admit a bit of fear when she gave birth and 6 hours later was asking me if I’d been out for my run!!

This project ends this week though and next week it’s back into the corporate world for a while covering a maternity contract.  Guaranteed max 35 hour week.  I can’t bloody wait.  I will feel like a part timer.  Of course it has come too late for my Lakeland 50 race plan.  Or has it?

I went up to the Lakes this past weekend and surprised myself.  On Saturday we did Howtown to Kentmere.  I remembered every step of the route so no need to get the road book out.  Then on Sunday we did Ambleside to Coniston.  I bloody love that part of the route.  Seriously.  I smiled with every step (aside from the ones where I was swearing).  I did it an hour overall faster than last time and then when I looked at the geeky Strava stuff my moving time rocked.  I just need to cut that stoppage time down massively.

Oh, the knee.  I took some advice from the amazing Mimi Anderson and have learned how to tape my knee (even had physio check it over and he said I got it right for my issue).  Wore the tape on Sunday and had nearly 6 hours pain free.  I mean zero pain.  It was amazing and I felt like I was flying on the downhills!

And … this is the best bit … I didn’t have any emergency poo stops!

So, there you have it, 19 days to go.

* I do NOT hate my coach.  Without Eddie I would have given up long ago.  Fact.

Week 30 of 38 : It might just work out …

Right.  I’m not going to catch you up on the in’s and out’s of the last two weeks training sessions.  I have done them all but I just neglected to take my normal daily notes so I can’t remember any specifics.

I do want to share a quick thought as a result of the recce weekend in the Lakes.  Now as you all know I’ve not been feeling it lately.  This whole running malarkey had lost it’s sparkle.

The only reason I even bothered going on the recce is because Bev (Navesey) had so kindly offered to pick me up and let me tag along with her and Steve as they were also going up for the recce.  It certainly wasn’t because I’d lose any money as the recce weekends are so incredibly cheap.  I am not sure how they are even financially viable for the Lakeland organisers.

So on Friday morning I was hanging around outside Heathrow in the rain awaiting my chariot.  It was a great journey up with lots of banter.  Mike (Churchyard) was also with us.  Mike also was going to have the joy of sharing my room with me as he waited until the last minute to start looking at accommodation and it was all booked.  I gleefully informed he that he was getting the top bunk.

Saturday came nice and early and while the boys were off running the Ambleside to Coniston section I took a little jog out to Skelwith Bridge and back.  It was lovely.  I still hate that hill out of Ambleside (Loughrigg) and I still hate how every bloody gate has a different opening mechanism.  That’s going to be fun when I’m knackered and unable to think!!

I didn’t make the recce talks on Saturday night.  Instead we went to a great little Italian and had a lovely dinner with Bev, Steve and also Nikki and Chris Mills.  Lots of banter and laughter but I admit I started getting nervous about the recce and how long Bev and Steve would have to sit around waiting for me to be done.  They kept assuring me that it was not an issue and that they would find cake to eat.  Still, I was quite relived when Mike (who did go to the talk) said they had offered the option to start at Howtown instead of Pooley Bridge for those who wanted it.

I am purposely NOT going to share details of the recce run itself as that’s for when I do the race in 8 weeks time.  8 bloody weeks!!!

All I will say is that without even realising it my pacing was spot on for my plan A race time!!

That dear friends, is how Nici got her groove back …..

Week 28 of 38 (not 48) : Narcissism and Swan Lake

I hate writing my weekly blog.  No really.  I started this so I could have a way of looking back at the end of the 100 miler and see my journey.  This was for me and none else.  Let’s face it though if that were the case I would have just written it in a note book.  Blogs are narcissistic and anyone who says otherwise is lying.  We get excited by that little notice telling us people are reading our drivel.  We post links to it on social media especially to get people to read.  So why do I hate it?  I hate it because it highlights more to me about myself than I am comfortable with, although I have been reliably (and professionally) informed that actually that’s a good thing.

Anyway, lets get on with this …

Monday : Rest day …. always a good start to the week I say :o)

Tuesday : On a split shift so meant to get up about 9am and get a run done before heading into site about midday.  This just won’t happen.  I am not a morning running person no matter when that ‘morning’ happens.  I really, really want to be but no matter how I try I cannot make it stick.  This then meant that for safety reasons my 5 mile run happened in the gym, staring at that concrete wall.  It happened though.  Slower than Eddie would have liked but regardless, it happened.

Wednesday : Intervals on the afore mentioned ‘mill.  I seem to have a gym buddy.  He gets on the one next to me whenever he is there at the same time (no matter there are 4,000 empty ones) and then tries to race me.  I’m not much competition for him and I love how this winds him up.  He always gives up after about 15 minutes and mutters something unintelligible before stomping off.

Thursday : 5 miles.  Nothing exciting here.  In fact just read Tuesdays paragraph again.

Friday : 3 miles and by this point I am tired of the gym.  I think my limit is 3 days in a row.

Saturday : No running for me today but got to again be humbled by 232 runners who started the NDW50.  I love these guys and gals and even more so love the volunteers.  When they say ‘thank you’ before going home you have to wonder about the sanity of it all.  It is us who should (and do) always thanking them both runners and volunteers alike.  They truly make me smile like they will never understand.  Even when I’m pulling my hair out.  Biggest shout out though goes to Rachel L. and also to Mike C.  Love you both.  Really.

Sunday : Spent last night at Fi McNelis’ house and have to say had the best night sleep I have had in a long time.  She is such a lovely person and I am determined to fix her up with someone.  Before going to bed I was so wired so she sat chatting and made me cup after cup of tea (and force fed me the best cookies in the world).  Anyway, up at 10am and after a great breakfast (thanks for the eggs Rachel S.) we headed out for a run on the canal in Aldershot.  The canal is about a mile away from her flat and on the way down there I had a flashback.  We ran by a cemetery and I remember spending a whole day in there when I was about 15 looking desperately for a certain headstone.  I never did find it.  I’m glad now but it was quite a memory jolt.  So we get down to the canal and things were not looking great for me.  Stomach issues meant an early dive behind a bush.  Great!  So at just after 3 miles I said to Fi to go on ahead and then turn around at 5 miles and I would meet up with her for the run back.  My plan was walk/jog and try to catch her back up by 4.5 miles which would still with the run back give me 9 miles.  (That makes more sense in my head than it does when I type it).  Anyway, as she trotted off she passed by a kayak (the kind that Hiawatha bobbed about in) and it’s two elderly occupants were being aggressively approached by a swan.  In fairness to Fi she was at a differentnt angle than me and could probably not appreciate what was happening and she kept going along the canal.  Having been attacked by a swan before I knew right away.  They were in his patch and he was having none of it.  They are horrid and mean when they do not want you around.  The two in the kayak were panicking and trying to fight him off with the oars which off course was in the swans mind them flapping their wings at him.  Never a good thing.  He was all puffed up, neck massive, wings going and he was diving at them.  I managed to talk them down and help them understand that they needed to keep facing him, keep their oars pointed at him but NOT wave them or try to hit him with them. Slowly they managed to get over to the bank where I took one of the oars and held the boat and the swan at bay while they scrambled out.  The lady was quite shaken up and the man doing his best to not show it.  The swan kept approaching so as I had the height advantage on him I basically ‘swanned’ back at him … having a white jacket on helped lol.  He backed of a bit and kept going in circles.  Making it very clear they were not getting back in right there.  We got the kayak out of the water and I advised them on what they needed to do to safely pass him via the path until they were past his patch.  The woman was lovely and thanked me profusely bless her.  The man couldn’t speak but gave me a big squishy hug.  I offered to walk with them but they insisted I not.  I think he needed to cry.  So I pretended to adjust my shoes and make a phone call while I watched them move along and pass him.  I then continued on my way and warned a woman in a canoe of the swan up ahead.  I had a lovely walk/jog for a bit and met up with Fi at about 4.25 miles.  We then headed back towards home.  I told her about the swan situation but in my mind I was convinced she would either not believe me or think I was being dramatic but lo and behold we get to the swan patch again and there he is absolutely terrifying the woman who I had warned.  She was pinned in the reeds with a guy on a bike on the path looking a bit helpless and she was beating the crap out of the water with her oar.  I took off running to stop her doing this.  At this point you can just read back to the first incident as it pretty much repeated.  I talked her through what to do, we got her out, we carried he canoe along with her and then put her back in the water and set her on her way.  I think Fi was a little shocked by how calm I was but it was all selfish … I didn’t want to have to actually dive in the canal and rescue a capsized kayak or canoe.

Ended with about 8.5 miles (guesstimate as my watch died) and then Fi then took me for cake as a treat.

I’m now awaiting my summons from the queen for annoying one of her swans.

Week 27 : No Puppies Were Killed …..

Right, so the last post was quite open about my simply getting fed up.

That’s not entirely changed but I’m not bloody giving up without a fight.

We went back to basics and my having to ensure I recorded my sessions properly.

Last weekend was the 2015 edition of the Thames Path 100.  Now, most of you who know me will realise that Centurion duties are very high on my priority list.  This is not to say my training is not important but it is an unfortunate clash right now.  I had assured Eddie I would be able to find time over the weekend to get a 90 minute jog in.  All was looking good after we set the runners off at 10am on Saturday and then suddenly before I knew it I was pulled over in a lay-by at 5pm on Sunday so desperate for some sleep.  I finally made it home and just couldn’t face a run.  I could hardly spell my name let alone tie my laces up.

So begins the log of the weeks training :

Monday : As always after one of the 100 milers we put on I spend the Monday feeling thoroughly hungover.  Seemed sensible then that I went into work too right.  Not.  I spent all day feeling sick.  The planned 5 miler did not happen.  This fresh start is going well.

Tuesday : Messaged Eddie and fessed up that that the weekend and Mondays sessions didn’t happen.  I was promptly informed that I could have NO MORE missed sessions and that every time I miss a session a puppy dies.  I pulled on my shoes and crawled out the door for an interval session. 10 w/u 1,2,3,4,3,2,1 @9mm (2m r) 10 c/d.  Ouch.  Really ouch.  Sooooo windy – felt like I was running into a tornado no matter which way I went.

Wednesday : Rest glorious rest.  I’m good at these sessions.

Thursday : Election Day.  What a fucking disappointment that was.  Anyway, I voted and toddled off for a 3 mile run.  The first 2 were ok but the last 1 was an absolute struggle.  Felt like my legs were made of concrete.  I just don’t understand this.  I know I’m heavier all over and I’m working on that but this is ridiculous.  It’s like every step is a struggle.  How the hell am I going to cope over bloody LL50?!?

Friday : Rest *does a tap dance of the likes Riverdance would be proud of*

Saturday : (switched this with Sundays session) An easy run of between 30 and 45 minutes.  Dodgy belly came back to visit on this one so it was quite an unsettled run with lots of enforced walk breaks.

Sunday :  15 miles was the plan and in lieu of making an effort to get out of London for this I decided a jog up to Hyde Park and 3 laps and then jog home would suffice.  I didn’t factor in the sun and the tourist combo.  I certainly got some side stepping and emergency diversion practice in.  More importantly though, how do I find the only fekking tree root in Hyde Park?!?  It was quite a stylish face plant and then roll into a sitting position.  Looked like I meant to do it.  One passerby out of zillions asked me if I was ok and I snapped “my pride isn’t”.  I didn’t actually mean to snap at the poor fella … it’s not like he tripped me.  This was at 2.5 miles in … seriously I had literally only just got to the park!  I managed 2 laps after this and was over come with ‘fed-up ness’.  I hadn’t planned this well at all.  No food or water with me.  My arm and knee were now stinging, my shoulder ached and my boobs were protesting the house keys jabbing them every second step.  Luckily I had a £10 in my pocket so I bought some water and a slice of lemon cake and threw myself down in the grass and felt quite bloody sorry for myself.  I jogged home for a total of just 11 miles.  Eddie is not impressed and neither am I.

So while no puppies were killed in the making of this blog there were a few that were sadly maimed ……

Cake

Week 25.5 of 48 : Quitting?

Nothing is working right now. So there is no point posting lasts weeks training blog.

Quite simply I am fed up.  I’m not enjoying this anymore and because of that I am not putting proper effort into the sessions and then I’m enjoying it even less and so then putting even less effort in …..spiral downwards basically.  I’m finding it quite easy to skip sessions with little guilt.

I’ve gotten to where my fitness has gone backwards so it’s even easier to skip them and I’m so miserable with this weight gain.  I mean really miserable.  I’m eating because I’m miserable and I’m miserable because I’m eating.

I realise all of the above is nobody’s fault but mine and that’s what makes it worse.  I could cry

That ^ is what I said in a message to Eddie.  I didn’t want to quit but I just couldn’t go on letting her waste her time on me.  I had been dreading the conversation and have been putting it off for at least two weeks.

Her response was the following :

Well, that all makes sense and of course no surprise.  You have reached a point now where we need to make some decisions and ask some questions.  We have all been there.  We will have a good chin wag later.  Don’t worry, we will make you a happy runner again – it’s my specialty

So I sat with dread waiting for that phone call but I really shouldn’t have done.  We spent a good 45 minutes going through the past few months and finding where I shifted from enthusiasm to drudgery.  We discussed what do I really want.  We talked about managing my goals and my expectations of myself.

We stripped my schedule right back to basics and with a strict structure.  We made some decisions.

  1. I will not be doing the St Oswalds Way 100 in September.  I am not excited about it as an event and as sad as this sounds I have been dreading it as the key folks who I wanted to crew me are not all available and that is a lonely 100 miles so far from home with no crew or local support.  I don’t really care to hear how others can do it without a soul to help them … I will need support and it was mentally upsetting me to think I would have none.  I am not backing out of doing the 100 so I’ll thank none of you to think that.  I am being sensible and making sure I find one I am excited about.  I want to be as excited as I am about Lakeland 50.
  2. I will not be doing the Kent Road Runner marathon even though it’s absolutely my favourite marathon.  I was going to try and do that on the Saturday and then head up to the Lakes for a recce but I need to be realistic.  It is more important for me to put my all into LL50 training as I have never been so excited about anything (except gin).
  3. I will not go on some stupid crash diet but I will be aware of my eating habits and my mood.  I will work on managing that aspect of things.
  4. I will follow to the letter the instructions on my plan.  Apparently if someone gets seriously hurt on site that is no excuse and if someone actually dares to die then we will discuss the possibility of being flexible but no guarantees.
  5. I will be my number 1 fan.  Yes, I rolled my eyes too-  she even told me to put that on my fridge.

So there you have it.  Warts and all.  I am on a tightrope right now but I feel a little lighter with the 100 issue discussed.  Sometimes when we (I) let things rattle around in my head for too long without sounding them out to anyone they can become a bigger monster than they need to be.  I am not someone who shares my internal raging battles.  I’ll share with all the world the Nici’isms that make up my ever amusing daily life but tell you when I’m falling apart and that depression is rearing its head?  Not likely.

Anyway, enough of all that.  I now have to plan my run home.  I have instructions to recce a route and put markers up.  I’m hoping she’s joking on the marking bit … City of London may not smile.

As a reward for making you read all that tosh up there … have a picture of me dressed as a cow for a marathon last week.

Cow

Nici x

Week 24 of 48 : Clappy Boobs

This is the week where I gave myself a good talking to about consistency, confidence, conviction and compliance!  Now anyone who truly knows me will know I battle each and every one of those items on an almost daily basis.  Don’t be fooled by the confident exterior … inside theres a screaming lunatic begging to be let out.  I get bored easy (consistency), I am convinced one day everyone will see I am faking life (confidence), I question my decisions (conviction) and I very rarely enjoy being told what to do (compliance).  Yet on the flip side I am full of contradictions because I also love routine, am convinced I am bloody amazing, know that I am successful for a reason and love nothing better than a good bit of instruction.  Get out of the gutter … there’s no 50 shades here.  That’s another blog ;)

Monday – so after the horrendous half marathon the day before I had 6 miles on todays plan.  Nothing more than that … just 6 miles.  My pace, my way … so I decided to kick the mugging fear in the tail by going for a jog around the local streets.  It felt like I was running through treacle and bloody hell I was slow.  6 miles in 68 minutes.  I walked 5 times.  It wasn’t pretty but it was mine.

Tuesday – Rest day which is bloody ace as for the next 3 months Tuesday will be lonnnnnggggg site day.

Wednesday – Really annoyed at this day.  I was working a split shift on site so not going in until about noon and then my plan was to go by the gym after work about 11pm and do this fab treadmill session the Sgt devised.  I kid you not I was genuinely looking forward to it.  So off I toddle all changed out of hiviz into lycra (why are women not lined up at my door with that description?) and I get to the gym to find a note taped to the door … “Sorry, we take your money religiously but won’t email you to say there’s been a flood and we are closed for the foreseeable future you sucker!!”.

Really pissed me off as if I had known I would have tried to get an outside hill session in early in the day before site rather than enjoying a rare laze in bed.
Thursday – Rest day (and no I didn’t do missed gym session as wasn’t possible for other reasons)
Friday – 5 miles easy she said.  Well, I did it so easy that it never actually happened.  What the fuck is wrong with me?  Why is my motivation slipping out the door?  Why am I allowing roadblocks to pop up and take the excuse so easy?  Grrrrrrr
Saturday – Up early and meet Jacqui at Victoria for a fun but oh so fucking windy 22 miles on the South Downs.  Seriously my ears are still ringing from the constant wind rushing through my head.  It did pep me up though and even though I lost my house keys out there somewhere it was a good day all in all.
Sunday – On veryyyyyyy tired legs I managed just under 5 miles around the flat.  Not literally around the flat as that would take an age and make me very bloody dizzy.  Obviously.  I did however wear the wrong sports bra and my boobs literally clapped in time with my pace for the whole run.  I alternated between mortification and insane giggling.  It’s London.  I blend.
So this week I have learned I need to grab my lazy alter ego by the throat and kick it’s arse.  Thank you Eddie for sticking with me.  You bloody saint.  I’ve also started back on sensible eating as 2 stone weight gain is not helping my confidence when out running nor is it helping my knees.  Poor site canteen may go out of business.  Limited carbs, lots of fresh fruit and veg, lots of water, and zero chocolate!!  Loss this week of 4 lbs.
Nici x

Weeks 20 thru 23 of 48 : The ones that became a blur ….

As I got a bit nagged this weekend by three of you about the fact that I have not updated on my progress for  weeks I am here to do a quick update.  Don’t panic though you’re not going to now get over a months worth of days individually logged.  You will lose the will to live and quite frankly I will start pounding my head against the table and drooling.

So quick round-up of what has happened in the last 5 weeks.

Pissed off about bruised foot, ate too much food, DNS’d a marathon, ate too much food, went to the Lakes to do a slow recce, ate too much food, cheered up a little bit, ate too much food, got mugged, got angry, ate too much food, continued training, ate too much food, lack lustre training at best, ate too much food, Centurion Running season opener cheered me up immensely ….. for the 5 weeks  only have 145 miles total.  Sorry.

And then to top all that off an increasing pain in my arm finally side-lined me this week when I went to pick up a cup of tea and my arm simply couldn’t cope with the weight …. Turns out I have damaged a nerve in my neck!!  FFS.

Anyway, onwards and upwards and all that bullshit.  I am meant to be running Hillingdon half on Sunday but that’s a little up in the air right now.

Eddie has been lovely through all this and even sent me a picture of her gorgeous pregnant self running on a treadmill to cheer me up.  Seriously, she rocks a baby bump.

So does this mean my LL50 training is over.  Not a fucking chance!  I am more determined than ever now.  Am going to try and get a visit in up there this month and then I have another official recce next month.  I have never felt more confirdent and prepared for something and I’ll be dammned if the fact I have to now do some ‘walk like an egyptian’ exercises deter me.  It’ll be nice to fully extend my arm without pain at some point too.

Right that’s it.  Now, I’m off to find a way to eat food without gaining weight … there must be a way.  Standing on my head maybe?