Apparently I like to poo ….

Right. It appears it’s time for a bit of an update.

It’s been quite a busy few weeks since my last post and I’m going to sum them up in my usual haphazard style.

I’ve spent a tough weekend in the Lakes with my good friend Jacqui having a recce of the Ambleside to Coniston leg of LL50. We encountered what is now known as the ‘Wall of Death’, a mardy famers wife who begrudgingly gave me water, trail side emergency poo (is there a non emergency kind that happens trail side?), cows that made a beeline for us and more sheep than I can shake a stick at. I then spent a weekend in the Peak District visiting with Liz and Simon. I would say friends but after Simon took us on a 13 mile slog on the Saturday where we were actually scrambling up hills at points, I have re-evaluated that friendship. I think he was getting his own back for the fact that on the Friday night he took us on a little 7 mile jog around his local area and I had to poo in the bushes. Hey, what can I say … I am a classy one.

Best fun run lately has been the head torch jog around Hampstead Heath. Frogs and drug dealers made it interesting. Didn’t know Jacqui could squeal quite so loudly. Oh, another trail poo happened (not related to the squeal).

I have committed myself to manning the mobile HQ for the incredibly tough Spine event in January. A week living in a bubble it is then. Somehow I managed to assemble a fantastic crew for this. Shocking that anyone would willingly spend that long in my company isn’t it?

Centurion Running has gone from strength to strength and I could not be prouder to be a small part of it. We had the final official race of the 2014 season last weekend, the Winter 100 and it was the most satisfying event for me as I was able to relax a bit more than I normally do and actually see the results of the hard work we have put in. Bring on 2015 as it’s only going to get better.

I have a revisit of the Stort30 this coming weekend where I try to put to bed the pitiful ‘coming out’ performance. I’d like to get 6:30 and have had some offers of folks to run with me who are looking for about the same time so hopefully it won’t be like last year where I spent the second half alone (until the sweepers caught me).

I am honoured to also have Edwina Sutton now as my official coach. How scary – I have a real life coach!!

Work has been crazy busy almost to the point of it not being fun. It’s a good job I love what I do. However I’d like to have more clients but smaller ones rather than a few big ones. Too scary thinking all it takes is dropping one client for me to then struggle financially.

My personal life … well … it’s personal ;o)

Then there is ‘The Bet’ to talk about but as that’s so monumentally horrific I’ll save the details for another day.

Nici x

Catching Up and Getting Excited

As much as the title of this post sounds like my teenage dating life I’m afraid it’s less torturous and definitely less x-rated.

Last post (after a quick tidy up) is from October last year where I gushed about my first ultra.

What have I been up to? Nothing incredibly exciting (to you) but to me it’s all onwards and upwards.

Short version ….. current haul of shiny medals (13 marathons, 1 ultra and 2 interesting 24 hours events of 65 and 70 miles respectively). I’m finally my own boss. I’ve had some flattering requests from certain RD’s to work their events and a smart decision to not spread myself in too many directions (don’t be a whore is my motto). My primary loyalty will always be Centurion followed by Dick Kearn and The Spine (in that order). I’ve moved into a lovely flat and quite often sit in my knickers for no particular reason other than I can.

Where am I now?

I am content. As fluffy and tree-huggy as that sounds it’s the really the best way I can put it. I am finally happy putting me first.

Why am I back on my poor excuse of a blog?

I am excited. Not just about ice cream either. I have found a race that is under my skin in a realistic, tangible way (unlike Comrades which I still have doubts about).

I have entered the 2015 Montane Lakeland 50. This is going to test me and with my current approach to training has quite a possibility of teaching me what a DNF is all about. Hence why I am going to throw myself into the next 10 months with respect. I’m getting that to that finish line.

Blogs are quite shallow and I am no different. I’d like to think someone, anyone will read my drivel over the next 10 months. More than that though I’m going to enjoy documenting this.

I don’t even have an actual training plan yet but I will.

Watch this space.

Endure 24 …. The Mudbath

Before I begin this race report I need to give you a teeny bit of background info on my running history. It won’t take long. Back in 2008 I was in a long term relationship with a runner so in my desire to impress her I thought it would be easy enough to give it a go too. I trained by myself as she wasn’t happy to train with a slow plodder like me. I completed a half marathon in a disgusting 3 hours and 10 minutes, crossed the finish line and threw my shoes in the nearest bin. I hated it. I hated my girlfriend for mocking me. I hated runners. Evil people making it look easy. For various reasons that relationship didn’t work out and during the messy separation I was informed that I could never be a runner so don’t even bother trying again. Top tip : ladies never buy a house with another woman … it gets messy deciding who gets the cats.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am in a completely different place. I love running. I am still slow (not as slow as 2008 – you’ll be happy to know I have taken an hour off that half marathon time). I have somehow managed to complete 13 marathons and a 30 mile ultra in the last year. I realise this is nothing compared to 99% of you reading this but the key to my happiness with running is not giving a crap about what you’ve done in comparison to what I’ve done. I am proud to be a part of the main organising team at Centurion Running and will always have my loyalty with James Elson for all he has done for me. He has made me feel like my goals and dreams are no less important than the yellow shirted wonders that represent Centurion.

I’m not quite sure what I was thinking when I signed up for Endure24 though. I’m fairly certainly a glass of gin might have been involved. Run for 24 hours, in 5 mile circles and see how far I can get? Madness, utter madness. When I told James he asked if I had a goal and I think I said 70 miles and his quiet response of “Really? Wow?” made me re-evaluate. So, over the next few months in our back and forth Centurion work emails he’d occasionally ask me my plans, and if I was excited and how it was going etc. I realise now in his own quiet way he was putting seeds of sensibility in there. I came away with three instructions. No distance goal, no changing of shoes and no coming off the course for breaks.

Race day kept getting closer and I suddenly realised that with all the other stuff I had going on (Centurion, GUCR event crew, starting my own company, moving home) I had not actually put any thought into the logistics of the weekend. Some last minute arrangements and I knew I was sorted. I would be setting up camp with Lisa Hewitt (fellow Endure runner) and her lovely partner Ellen Cottom (an accomplished ultra runner herself ) who would be in the role of crew. As I knew Lisa and I would be running different paces I thought it would be unfair to expect Ellen to crew us both alone as it could potentially mean no sleep for her and I was quite grateful when my non-running friend, Morag, offered to help. As she had never crewed in any sort of way before it did put quite a bit of pressure on me worrying about her and putting everything together. To be fair though I did give her long shopping list of camping stuff to beg, borrow or steal and she came up trumps!

We arrived at Wasing Park just outside Aldermaston on Friday afternoon to find loads of campers already there which concerned me that we wouldn’t get to camp near Lisa and Ellen as they were seeing to more important things such as getting pizza! (I got over my jealously when they gave me a slice). All was good though as we found a prime spot right next to the course and made sure to save a space for them too. What was really lovely is that already I had been hugged by three Centurions (folks who have come and run one of our events not an actual Centurion. That would just be weird). In fact the whole weekend was quite humbling to me by how much support I had from those who I normally support. Way too many names to mention everyone individually so do not make a voodoo doll of me for not mentioning you. Just know that I will be forever grateful.

Once we were all sorted and were just sitting around chatting enjoying the evening sun the lovely Paul Ali came over to say Hi. Wearing THAT hat! Those of you who know Paul know he has this black hat that brings with it a black cloud of rain to any race he is in. I shared a few choice words about his hat and he then promised me that if he ever podiums on a Centurion event then I can have the hat. This is not relevant to Endure24, I just want
this down in print as a matter of record. I will try not to sabotage anyone’s race just for the sake of a hat. Honest.

Race morning. I can’t lie and say I wasn’t a tad nervous. I was totally falling apart inside and this manifested itself in my talking 100 miles an hour and repeating myself constantly. Standing at the start line somehow started to calm me as it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one a bit daunted by what lay ahead then something strange happened. I relaxed. I can’t describe it. It was like a warm wave came over me (no, I had not wet myself ). Off we went. Pretty much right from the start I was by myself and I was happy with this. Lisa and I had planned to try and hook up for a night lap as she knew my utter fear of running in woods at night but other than that we had agreed to do our own thing.

The problem I have now with this race report is that it’s all a blur. Don’t get me wrong I remember everything. But it’s hard to describe it all in logical sequence. There was mud, thick black shoe sucking mud. Clay mud that reminded me of military training grounds, tree roots that aimed for my shins, soupy mud that made me think of McDonalds milkshakes, puddles that were a blast to run through as avoiding them was futile, trees that jumped out in front of me at 3am, nettles that swiped my hands, mud and more bloody mud. Seriously, I honestly think if the mud had not been such an issue I might have gotten a couple more laps in. I have tried to describe it to people who weren’t there and I honestly don’t think they quite get how bad it was. Yet, I bloody loved it.

Massive thanks to Chris Edmonds for doing two of the night laps with me – you are my hero. I wouldn’t let Lisa do a lap with me as she was on such a roll with her race that I refused to slow her up. Sorry to the guy who said hello to me when he thought I was peeing behind that bush – my grunted reply probably let on I was doing more than peeing. My guts almost put paid to my race as I had to stop no less than 4 times on lap. I need to figure this out as it’s just no fun being in that kind of pain.

The marshals out on the course were lovely. I always make a point to thank volunteers and without fail every time I got a cheery response back. There was a bar out in the middle of
nowhere. Of course the sign on the beer taps said beer delivery was next week! Typical. I vaguely remember a fairy in a wig and thick make-up. Too much like a clown for my liking so I avoided at all costs.

The support around base camp rocked. Total strangers who started recognising me after each lap were cheering me on. I got given pizza. Sips of hot tea. Offers of red wine. Updates on a book that was being read. All these strangers have no idea how much I looked forward to seeing them each lap. Mostly though I looked forward to seeing my crew who totally looked after me. Ellen even washed my face at one point! I have to be honest though I didn’t do well with being asked questions (sorry for snapping Morag). I couldn’t think. I just needed to have the thinking done for me.

The thing that is the strangest is that at no point was I intimidated by the distance I had done. I was literally only thinking about it in 5 mile chunks. Then towards the end in sections of those 5 miles. Get to the top of the road leading into the woods. Get to 2k marker. Get to the black mud section just past 4k. Get to Als bar. The turn at 6k. The fabulously fun long downhill section just before 7k… I loved that and free wheeled down it 11 times. Biggest grin on my face each time. Then when I came in after doing 60 miles I decided I was done as I was only able to walk/jog down the hill on this lap. I declared to the team that I was finished. I had now gone double the distance I had ever done before. No shame in stopping. Ellen and Morag both just quietly looked at me. I left for another lap. This final lap was so painful and draining. I gave it everything I had and when I came into base camp I honestly could go no further. I cried the entire way to the finish. Paul Ali even said I could have his hat if I did another lap. I just had nothing left in me. I crossed the line, held on to the side rails and sobbed.

One thing I am blanking on is what did I think about for 24 hours? I didn’t use music or audio books (even though I had them at base camp as back up). I do remember occupying myself with alphabet games a few times (Sambuca does not start with a Z no matter how tired you are) I also had a chat with the cows at the top of the tarmac bit and wondered what they thought of us lot. Other than that though, no memory of my thoughts at all.

Did I learn anything? Get a better head torch, grab food and eat on the go – don’t stay talking to crew while I eat it (sorry James, you did tell me this), don’t have a non-running friend crew as it’s too much stress (no fault of theirs), and put my phone in a waterproof pouch. Not changing shoes was genius. My feet look better than after a marathon. Most importantly I learned that I have made quite an impression on some runners in their previous events. The support I got really, really stunned me. To have so many people willing me on was quite
humbling and I only hope I did them all proud. Will I do it again? No question about it. In fact less than 26 hours after the race ended I signed up for another 24 hour event at the end of August. I am hooked. Not hooked enough for a 100 miler Mr Rumbles so quit asking).

The folks at Endure24 have a little gem here and with a few tweaks (hey, I can’t help it – it’s what I do) then this will be a staple in quite a few folks annual calendars. I know it will be in mine.

One final thing. To that girl from the past who said I would never be a runner. SIXTY FIVE MILES!!!

Closure is a beautiful thing.

First Ultra? Things NOT To Do.

Well, it’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged and right now even my brain is too sore for a catch up. Short version is ~ 7 marathons, job change, crewing, marshalling, new runner friendships, weight gain, too much work travel, loss of motivation and a partridge in a pear tree.

The reason for finally popping in here to write something? I did my first ultra! The fabulous Stort 30. Note I have not used the word ‘ran’. Now this is where I could write a step by step, check point by check point, pebble by pebble, duck by duck account of the 30 miles but I have neither the energy nor inclination and let’s face it, if you want that you’ll go read something a whole lot more entertaining like a Caesars Camp or Spartathlon write up. What I will do though is give a few pointers to anyone facing their first ultra. After all, I’m an expert now ;)

How Not To Train

Do not mistakenly think knocking out 7 marathons in 3 months means you can do sod all training for the next three months. 3 ten mile runs is going to fool nobody.

Do not buy a bike 6 weeks before the race and decide that cycling over 300 miles will be training enough. (Note: do get a bike though …. fun playing chicken with the tourists stepping off kerbs)

How Not To Behave On Race Morning

Do not be so nervous you forget to say hello to people you know. (Note: I seriously had tunnel vision. Sorry)

Do not convince yourself everyone there is such a hardened expert that they will laugh if you sit pre race putting Vaseline on your toes. (My toes are nicely blistered as punishment for that one)

Do not convince yourself people are looking at you thinking “Whats this fat heifer doing? It must be a bet”.

How Not To Get Yourself Mentioned On A Podcast

Do not after running the initial two laps of the field wave at the Race Director as you dive back into the hut for the toilet. He WILL ensure the whole world knows. (Although the good folks of Bishop Stortford probably appreciated not seeing my big pale bum out at the side of the river)

How Not To Endear Yourself To The Lovely Friend Who Sacrificed Having A Decent Run Just To Keep You Bloody Company

Do not spend the first 10 miles chattering away and then going dead silent for the next 10. Doing that only causes her to worry and start talking where you can only manage a grunt for a reply. (Note: I did insist she leave me at mile 20 so she could at least rescue her own run)

How Not To Look Like You Need Locking Up

Do not jog along counting out loud it scares the locals. (Note: it bloody helped give me something to concentrate on though. Jog 400 full right foot paces and walk 100 – was a half mile in the bank each set)

Do not keep looking over your shoulder when doing the above. It only adds to the weirdness. As long as the sweepers don’t pass you it’s all good.

How Not To Look A Bit Crazy To The Checkpoint Crew

Do not get excited that at the age of 41 you have been stung by a bee for the first time and jog into the checkpoint proudly showing them the stinger (Note: how can a teeny sting proceed to feel like your big brother has punched you in your thigh?)

How Not To Hear The Worst Jokes EVER

Do not let the sweepers catch you. They tell you bad jokes, they sing, they wear hideous shorts and they try to give you gels they found on the ground. (Note: they also appreciate your determination to finish and allow you to swear like a sailor at your uncooperative legs)

How Not To Ruin Your Finish Line Picture

Do not be so overcome with emotion (and hunger because you couldn’t eat properly for 30 bloody miles) that you grab the lovely finish line crew and start sobbing. (Ok, the fact she had a G&T in her hand might have had something to do with that)

So, there you have it. Some things not to do.

In all seriousness though. Massive lesson learned on the training front but I enjoyed every painful step. I am not even going to begin trying to thank each of you by name who have played your part in my last year as quite frankly the list is way too long. Suffice to say I bloody love my ultra family. All of you.

I will say though, thank you to all of you at the race who encouraged me, laughed at me, and simply made my day. Thanks to all of my ultra family who over the last year have planted this seed of insanity.

Thank you for all the messages afterwards on Facebook and Twitter. Made me sniffle a bit.

Thank you to the inventor of Gin.

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Catch-Up

Right, quick catch up for my millions of faithful followers. Delusional. Possibly.

Apologies to any Fetchies for the lazy copy of my write ups there.

Herts Hobble Marathon – 23rd June

I like balance. Light and dark. Left and right. Yin and Yang.

Yes, I like balance.

So therefore to balance out the fact that it took me just over 8 hours to go 27 miles I shall keep the write up about it short.

Dark – Route instructions that were more of a suggestion at times. Nettles that seemed to jump out at me. Holes in the ground that tried to kill me. Tree roots that wanted to help the holes in their mission. Stiles that seemed to get higher. Kissing gates that well … I didn’t want to kiss.

Light – Beautiful scenery. Great company. Lemon drizzle cake, ham sandwiches, scones and jam and hot tea. Checkpoint with a bit of cricket – oh utterly English. Cider in the pub after.

In short – I have a whole new respect for trail running. I will get better at it. I need new hips.

Coombe Abbey Marathon – 30th June

I really hesitated over even bothering to write about yesterday’s marathon.

Coombe Abbey. Lovely course in that I couldn’t possibly get lost and that it was quite pretty. Awful in that there was no escape from the extreme heat. Can’t hold anyone responsible for that after all hardly something you’d expect in England in the summer.

I struggled through my own self inflicted fault. Hungover, dehydrated, hungry, miserable, poorly prepared, tired legs etc etc etc

I was not bloody DNFing though. I came second from last with a hideous time of 6:23 which made me so angry. At myself.

Can’t hide from it though. Just need to deal with it, learn from it and move on.

Thanks sooooo much to Anna for doing the last three laps with me. I invented a new running word. Slightly faster than a walk but not even a shuffle is now ‘Waffling’. Thanks also to Anna for her advice on the journey home on a plan for the next three weeks before Fairlands Valley.

Thanks to Els for the cheery encouragement each time you bloody lapped me

Thanks so much to Go Beyond. You could have taken down the finish gantry yet you didn’t. That meant so much!

Finally thanks to the lovely course marshals. Every lap without fail you gave me encouragement even when some laps all I could do was give a thumbs up.

Upcoming for July and some lessons learned

So what have the above two races taught me? That off road running is significantly harder than I thought it would be. It’s hard on the body and without a doubt for me it is hard on my mind.

I have learned that right now I simply can’t drink G&T’s the day before haha.

I have also had a wake up call. Train, train, train.

My A race this year is my first Ultra in October and I am determined to do it with my head held high! Too many people are behind me for me to let my mind win in its attempt to make me quit. I am not a failure. I am a runner no matter what.

I did have a good thought today though that made me smile. In theory all this off road running should make my next road marathon feel a bit easier. Hopefully anyway.

So, July will involve three more marathons including my first set of back to back marathons.

:o)

GUCR crew side

How do you begin a race report that’s not really a race report? After all I wasn’t an entrant. I’m not a race director. I’m not a sports reporter for Sky Sports. I’m not even an Ultra runner myself. Yet.

So, you may as well move along now if you were hoping for a dazzling report from any of the above angles. If however you don’t mind losing 20 minutes of your life to the thoughts of a crew person then I’m your gal.

When Lindley Chambers (@firemannotsam) asked if I would like to be a part of his crew for the GUCR I literally bit his hand off. What a compliment! I have spent the last year devouring race reports, blogs, twitter feeds, volunteering at aid stations etc. trying to get my head around if I have what it takes to join this absolute bunch of nutters. There is no other way to describe them

My housemate has crewed someone quite a few times at some tough ones (Badwater, Spartathlon, Comrades) so I picked her brains on what to expect, what to do, what not to do etc. although to be fair I don’t think she realised I was picking her brains!

However, I needn’t have worried as Lindley made sure I had some very detailed crew instructions. What to say to him, what not to say to him and even instructions to not get myself stabbed by chavs as I would be no use to him then. Lovely. My fellow crew were to be the wonderful Sue and Becki so I knew they would take care of me if I got lost in the biblical length instructions as they have obviously crewed Lindley many times.

The plan was to meet in Birmingham at about 6ish, check into hotel, head to registration and then head into O’Neill’s where I would hopefully get to meet other crew and some of the runners who I have been reading about (and of course say Hi to people I have had the pleasure of providing tea and cake to at the Centurion races over the past year).

Well, if the start of the weekend was going to be anything to go by then this would be an interesting weekend. It appears traffic was horrendous for most and I was lucky enough to get there when I did. Lindley, Sue and Becki got stuck in some seriously slow moving traffic and were not going to make it to the hotel so called me to tell me to head down to registration and they would meet me there. I then got a bit worried about Lindleys navigation skills as he told me registration was in a Premier Inn about 100 yards up the road from O’Neill’s. Turns out it was in the Travel lodge right bloody next door to O’Neill’s! I did have a lovely stroll up and down the high street while I figured this out. Thanks mate! Then after more calls it appeared they would not get there in time to register so I chatted to the lovely folks at the registration (I am so sorry but you will notice through this report that I am bit crap with remembering names – I shall suggest name tags going forward. No?) who said if I could guarantee that Lindley was taking part they would be happy to register him on my word and let me take away the crew shirts. I took possession of the fabulous shirts (anyone who knows me will confirm I will pretty much volunteer for anything that involves a free shirt) and headed next door to O’Neill’s. I recognised quite a few folks in there but suddenly went into shy mode and didn’t want to approach people who were engrossed in conversations. So I had an orange juice and headed back to the hotel.

Finally at 10.15 Lindley, Sue and Becki arrived with fish and chips in hand and more instructions. By now I was very sleepy and also was aware that Lindley would be needing to get settled so I scoffed my food, glanced at the maps and headed off to my room. I knew this would be my last chance of some decent sleep for the next two days so I snuggled down in bed at about 11pm, turned out the lights and then spent the next three hours listening to the loudest (and most fake sounding ) sex noises ever. The people in the next room obviously did not need to be up early!

Totally made me sleep through my alarm and I was awoken by Sue calling me from the car park asking if I was on my way. F*&$!!! I told them to go ahead to the start and I would be right there. I have never dressed and checked out of a hotel so quick. I still made it to the start with enough time to say some hellos and apologise to Lindley for my being late. Christ – at this rate he’ll not ask me to crew again!

I really want to list off everyone I saw and spoke to at the start (and over the weekend) but it would end up with me having to describe half of them and to say ‘the runner in lycra, with bandy legs and a goofy grin’ might just cause confusion as there were quite a few like that. Notably though was when I chatted briefly to James (Elson) and had to ask him if he was running or crewing because he looked so bloody casual and didn’t look dressed to run. I even told him that he looked incredibly relaxed and he said maybe that’s a good sign (or something like that). Then I remember seeing the ever smiling Paul (Ali) and thought a similar thing. I commented that he looked much better than the last time I saw him (Thames Path 100 – where he couldn’t even form words at the aid station just a tired grin) and he laughed and said that may change. It should be noted both of these guys had absolutely cracking runs coming in 1st and 4th respectively so going forward I’m just going to walk up to every runner and say something along the lines of “You normally look shit” so that way they’ll have a good run. No?

Anyway, the start time was getting incredibly close so we headed down to the canal-side. I got chills as I was finally getting to witness what I have watched so many times on various You-Tube clips. Nearly 100 runners (88 it turns out started) head off on a 145 mile nonstop slog to London. Nutters, I say … absolute nutters. Dick gave a little speech beforehand but it seemed to get cut short when he realised the time (I like a race director who is a stickler for starting bang on time). And they were away.

Then this is where the next 45 hours just became a long blur of rushing to cars, rushing to checkpoints, waiting patiently on runners, refuelling said runners and repeat over and over and over. Rather than go through each individual stop I will just give some brief points that I noted down on a scrap of paper over the weekend (yes, I am a geek) before I get to the amazing final few miles. I’m also not going to go too much into Lindleys actual race as I will leave that to him in what will be an absolutely fantastic blog (he had a hell of a journey is all I will say). This write up is really about the crewing perspective and what happened for me on that side of the GUCR.

At the first checkpoint I desperately needed a wee. Badly. So of course there was nowhere to go. Lindley came through in quick time close to the front but I think we expected that as he had said he was going to try and do the first 50 miles in Spartathlon cut-off times in preparation for his trip out there later in the year. After we sorted him out we headed back to cars by now all three of us needing to wee. It was on the way back to the cars where we ran into Allan (Rumbles) and we had a pleasant early morning chat about favourite curse words. As you do. The poor local lady out walking her dog who passed right when Allan said my favourite one rather loudly will forever hate runners!

The next stop was fantastic. For us. Becki became my hero right then. She set up a mini kitchen on the lock and proceeded to make tea, coffee and sausage sandwiches!! How utterly fabulous! Met Mimi Andersons crew here who were crewing in style by laying on the lock arm (does that have a name?). I should also say here that we ran into them quite a bit over the weekend and they were great. I even found out from Tim what HWMBO means. You will never believe what I really thought it was (something quite rude). I got a great picture of Lindley coming through here. Or at least I thought it was but then it looked a bit fuzzy.

Things went a bit wrong here and a combination of Lindley running fast, poor traffic and a possible wrong turn by the lead car (cough) we missed him at the next checkpoint. I had quite a chat with myself in the car (thankfully I was alone) as this really bothered me. For our runner to do well he needs to not have to worry about us and already I had gotten us off to a poor start. It turns out though that missing that checkpoint might have been a blessing as it’s a very busy layby at the side of the road and there is also a farmers entrance right there and apparently the farmer backed out and did some very bad damage to one of the crew vehicles parked there. Sue was lovely when we finally got to the next checkpoint and told me not to worry. Paul Stout however was another story and found it all very funny. Git! Lindley came through – again looking very strong.

At the next stop (Birdingly I think – yes, I’m as crap at remembering checkpoint names as I am runners names) Lindley was feeling a bit sick (possibly to do with his fast pace, but I’m no expert). It was at this stop that we could not hold off and had to water the plants in a local field. Oh how I laughed when Sue shouted out that she had just wee’d on her foot. Until I stumbled while weeing myself and did the same bloody thing! Classy! I have decided though that I will claim there was a jellyfish in the field and I had to do it!

The next stop enabled us to have a fabulous pub lunch (sorry Lindley) but unfortunately Becki had a headache and didn’t feel like eating. My nose had started to burn a bit by this point too. I have to say I’m shocked by the sun. I thought it was an Ultra rule that it had to be raining for the event to go ahead. When Lindley got to us he was much perkier and the sickness had passed. He even cracked a few jokes and then asked how I was doing. That really threw me. All he was going through and he thought to ask how the crew were!

I’ve just stopped myself as I’m writing this realising no-one wants to read a checkpoint by checkpoint account of the crew weekend so I’m going to summarise the rest like this :

Sue got a bit special when trying to get the toilet key off the ring in the folder.

Made the mistake of showing Henk the crew instruction sheet. Henk abused Lindley.

My homemade cheese scones were awful.

Chav lads under bridge went from leering to being interested in what the runners were doing. Don’t stereotype teens – just talk to them like they are normal and 9 out of 10 will appreciate it!

Stumbling around Aldi in a delirious state looking for water, pasta and a tin opener.

Then the night section. This is where I lost my fear of running in strange places at night. I was running out to Lindley to then run a bit with him (in the right direction obviously). Now, if you know Leighton Buzzard you will know that the canal path at night can have some fun characters on it. My favourite was the rather large, intimidating looking guy who squealed like a girl when I ran up behind him. It was really eerie and I kept seeing things in the shadows that just weren’t there so goodness knows what the sleep deprived and body knackered minds of the runners see. When I finally met up with Lindley he was so bloody cheery and chatty. I loved it. He was in pain and we were doing a shuffle with one attempt at a run. He told me all about the history of the GUCR. Told me about his last two runs at it (one complete, one DNF). I felt a bit bad as I felt like it should be me chatting to him and not the other way round but he was on a roll.

I shuffled two sections with Lindley through the first night and I have never been so humbled or in awe in my life. The chatting on this second session was not so evident. He was in levels of pain that I can’t imagine. He picked up a hip injury around mile 40 and any efforts to even slow jog just were not happening. It became what I now understand as a death march. I was more worried here about him falling in the canal as there was no defined edge to it. One second it would be grass then suddenly it would be reeds. He did make me laugh when he said “don’t worry – you’ll hear a splash”. I told him it wasn’t happening on my watch as I was not going to explain that Sue!

This is where unfortunately my scribbled notes end. In all honesty the next 20 hours are a blur. I have never been so incredibly tired in my life. Even when you’re waiting you can’t relax because you have to keep an eye out for your runner, you’re worrying about them, what do they need, are they ok …. constant worry.

So I am sure I am now skipping many funny things that happened in our crew and in our interactions with the other runners and crews and I hate that. Sorry.

I do have a strange recollection of Paul Ali doing some Mo-Bot impressions at some point and of seeing Firemen walking along the canal like they were in a calendar shoot or something.

At Alperton (hey – I can remember some names) after being awake now for about 38 hours I ran out to meet up with Lindley again and we were now down to a painful 2 miles an hour John Wayne shuffle. I got offered drugs on this section. Not from Lindley I should add. Got him up to Alperton and then headed to the finish in my car while he continued to shuffle along. At the finish I ran back out and met up with him one final time. I should also point out I was not the only one shuffling. Sue and Becki were doing the same thing we just all did it in different bits obviously.

The last few miles showed me a side to Ultra running that I guess I knew was there but didn’t fully comprehend it. To watch someone go through that level of pain and with a bitter determination slog it out totally leaves me stuck for words (yes, me).

I still think you’re nutters though. Each and every last one of you. Remind me I said that when I finish my first one later this year.

I think I have lost my aim here. All I really wanted to say is that if you ever get the chance to crew someone. Jump at it. You will learn a lot about yourself if nothing else.

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A little jog around London ….

I honestly don’t know where to start.  I’m still on a bit of an emotional high to be honest.  This may be a bit disjointed and rambling but I want to get it down while it’s still in my head.  I am a bit like a goldfish after all.

As most of you know, due to my boring you to death, on Sunday 21st April I was set to run the 2013 London Marathon.  It’s all part of my ‘In my 40th year campaign ….’

The prep for this race was a bit messy due to chest infections and winding down at my job.  Also let’s be honest … I had a mojo issue a couple of times.  In fact two weeks ago I actually started preparing my excuse blog … the one where I explain why I didn’t make it to the start line.  But if I did that I would just do what I have done too many times to count in my life … start something and then quit.  I am not that person anymore.  I have a really good support network who I knew would love me regardless but who I felt I kinda owed it to to at least give it a go.  Then Boston happened.  It wasn’t the runners in the firing line … it was the supporters and if there were people still willing to come cheer me on then I needed to shut the fuck up and get out there.

So as nervous as a mouse near a trap the night before I laid all my gear out.  What I was wearing, what was going in my drop bag and what was going in bag to be sent over to friends house, where I was planning to recover that night.  Then I panicked and went over and over it all about a zillion times.  Nothing more to do so I sat back on the sofa eating ice cream and silently freaking out.  Got to bed nice and early and quite surprised myself by getting about 5 hours sleep.

Woke up at 5am to start a slow prep to getting out the door at 6.30am.  Nothing dramatic about the journey to Blackheath but it was cool not having to pay for travel due to being a runner and the nods of recognition from others carrying the red drop bags was really kinda lifting.  Like secret handshakes for runners :)  Walking up to the start had a nice chat with some lady from London and we both laughed about how we were nervous more because of so many friends coming out to support … what if it all goes wrong?  Got to the red start, dropped my bag right away and immediately regretted it as I still had an hour to kill.  Found some fellow Fetchies in the guise of Iron Mum, Redeel, Max, Hari and I am ashamed to say two others who the names escape me (remember … goldfish).  We stood around chatting for awhile and I was slightly in awe of Max and Hari who were literally getting ready last minute with numbers on shirts etc and yet seemed so blase about it all.  I would have had about 12 kittens by that point. When it was getting close to time we all said our good lucks and made our way to our respective start pens.  John and I were in pen 9 of red start.  So, yes, we were hanging out with the Rhinos (who I grew to hate as the day went on).  Lots of chatter all around but all I could do was keep looking at John and giggling.  He was fab though and kept me calm.  Then there was a loud whistle and the most deafening 30 second silence you have ever heard.  The expression ‘could have heard a pin drop’ could not have been truer.  I got a bit emotional.

Then we were off.  To a slow 26 minute walk.  Seriously .. that is how long it took us to get to the start line.  Off we went.  John had a plan and I was going to stick with him as it matched what I wanted too.  Except guess what …yes, I needed a pee.  So I ran into a working mans club and wasted 5 minutes.  The temptation to just stay was strong as they were having a great time already at 10.30 in the morning!  John had said he would stay steady and I was going to catch him up.  I ran 9 minute miles for the next 3 miles yet couldn’t find him and I honestly think this was my undoing.  I am not a 9 minute mile girl.  Happy at 10 thank you.

I can’t remember every mile to give you a play by play but will jot down the key parts for me.  Running through Greenwich and past the Cutty Sark was cool even if it was a tight corner and got a bit crowded.  The kids high-fiving and handing out sticky jelly babies.  I made an effort to high-five every kid I could.  The smile in return was worth it.  Some girl offered me a drink at mile 7.  Tempting but sorry hun I have to be somewhere.  Was feeling pain in my hip and I knew that my toes were not going to speak to me for sometime as they were already burning.  Tough it out and run.  Then around mile 9 I heard the most welcome screeching.  My little crowd of mobile supporters were there!  Morag, Klein, Patrica, Gill, Ellie and Rebecca you have no idea how my heart almost burst when I saw you.  My second emotion was fear that Ellie and Rebecca might fall off the wall they were on.  They even had crew t-shirts on.  God, I love you lot!

Off I plod and before I know it I am at the turn for Tower Bridge.  I have never smiled so big. Looking up at her and running across is a moment I will remember for a long time.  I just don’t have the words.

Then I knew I had Fetchpoint coming up soon so I picked up the pace … wanted to look strong as I came by.  I was worried I would miss them as they were going to be on the other side of the road but how silly of such a thought.  Those guys think of everything.  How in the world they got into the middle and put up a ‘Fetch 200m ahead’ sign I will never know.  Then I saw it.  The yellow and red sea.  I started running sideways and doing star jumps and screaming “FETCHIES” at the top of my lungs.  The noise I got back was outstanding.  Seriously I felt like I was the only runner out there.  You guys totally rock!!!  The sideways running did nothing for my little toe though but bollocks .. it was worth it.  What a boost!  Some guy running next to me jokingly said “Friends of yours?” I grinned and nodded like an idiot.

Things went downhill now.  Miles 13 to 16 were hard.  Loved running onto the Isle of Dogs.  My first London home.  Which meant Sam and Nigel would be waiting for me.  I came past the end of my old road where I was expecting them (and secretly hoping Larissa would be waiting with a cup of tea).  They weren’t there.  You will not understand the deflation I felt.  I plodded on and then I saw Sams hair.  Gorgeous curls …. like heaven.  Sweaty hugs for her and Nigel and did my best not to cry as Sam is probably one of what I consider to be my true friends.  Loves me warts and all.  Knows things about me that would make others walk away and yet she still loves me.  Yes, I am a bit emotional but you were warned at the beginning.

Right I had to crack on and get to mile 19 where the best roving support crew in the world were waiting and bless them I was taking forever.  This time I saw them first and it was fab to watch them go from faces searching the crowd of runners to jumping up and down screaming.  I couldn’t seem to stop apologising for how long it was taking to which I got a stern telling off for … love you Rebecca.  Then as I passed the group photographer Gill, she kindly pointed out the cute bum in front of me and said “Follow that”.

I don’t remember much about 19 to 23 except it was a hard slog.  I was pretty much at a slow jog now but determined to keep moving.  I knew I had Fetchies again at about 22 but was really worried they would have packed up and gone.  I gave myself a talking to (but apparently it was out loud as the woman next to me answered me) and said it’s ok if they’re not there as I saw them at 13.  Then I saw the balloons.  I stood in front of MillieB and sobbed and asked for a hug and got the best hug ever.  Then the lovely SpeedyMel gave me the nectar of the gods .. a Gin and Tonic.  The laughs from those at the support stand next door made me smile.  Yep, that’s the way to do it.  There were others there but I am so sorry for not remembering who.  I got the loveliest cheer as I took off again.

It then became a shuffle run from here.  I have to say … the crowd support even this late in the day was amazing.  One man even ducked under the tape and ran a few feet with me feeding me pretzels.  I was now aiming for mile 24ish as I knew my lovely mother and Auntie Gill would be there.  I couldn’t see them and then suddenly I saw four nutters running down the Embankment pavement screaming my name.  My Nike Covent Garden crew!!!  There was Harry looking dapper, Andy grinning like the village idiot waving a sign at me, Karen running along like a proper paparazzi and then Fran screaming at me through a bullhorn!  Amazing!  Totally unexpected and will never be forgotten.

Then the moment came that almost broke me.  I heard my Auntie Gill!  That hug from my mom said so much.  I knew she was proud of me.  She looked at me and told me I was almost there but I could’ve stopped right then and would have been a winner.

Right, 2 more miles.  No biggie?  Holy Cow … what a 2 miles.  The noise did not lessen.  Every one of those supporters has my love.  No matter what I do in my life running wise (and I have goals) nothing and I mean nothing will replace the pride I felt in those last miles.  I had been leapfrogging with a girl named Laura the whole way and we ran the last little bit together until she told me to go ahead as somehow I found some energy.  When I turned that last corner to come down the Mall I looked back over my shoulder at Queen Victorias statue with Buck House in the background and just giggled.  I punched the air.  This moment was mine.  I ran that last 200m with the biggest grin and when I placed my hand over my heart for Boston crossing the finish line I knew things would never be the same for me again.

I wasn’t fast (6.07).  I didn’t beat all the Rhinos (bastards).  I didn’t hit my charity fundraising goal ( http://www.justgiving.com/shelternichola ).  I didn’t get my name screamed much as I chose to have Boston on the front of my shirt.

None of that matters right this minute as I type this.

I am a marathon runner.

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Hello ……. hello ……..

*tumbleweed*
 
Forgive me blog for I have sinned. It has been many days since my last post and now I can’t remember all that I have done.
 
Attempted roundup below :
 
Quit my job for a fantastic global role.  Last day at soul destroying place is April 17th, taking a few days off, doing VLM and then start at shiny new place April 23rd. Excited beyond measure. 
 
Ran a beautiful 10k pb at Regents Park race – 58.37 :) Yes, I know, not exactly a land speed record but that’s 4 minutes off my pb from October.
 
Training for VLM was going great until I got knocked sideways with chest infection a few weeks back. I feel slightly derailed and have adjusted my goal.  Last long run this weekend. 
 
Volunteered at Thames Path 100 and absolutely loved it and totally inspired yet again.  Have South Downs 50 next weekend (not running obviously).  Have a tentative training plan ready for Stort 30 and am perversely looking forward to getting my teeth into it. 
 
Oh in May I am helping to crew someone doing Grand Union Canal Run.  145 miles of insanity. Am strangely looking forward to the night section and pacing as I want to get my night running virginity broken.
 
Am realising more and more that I probably need to join a running club. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Nike night but that’s more of a casual thing. I want some regular running buddies and closer to home would be great too.  I guess i just want a balance as I do totally enjoy solo running but not every single time.  Anyway, I’ll look into that after VLM is bagged.
 
Oh oh oh ……. just realised. Next week will be 1 year since I laced back up and struggled to the traffic light and back. That was the most important mile of my life.  Happy early running anniversary to me. Where’s the cake?

Vroom Vroom and away we go ….

The idea of running around a formula one race track sounds great on paper but I’m sorry to say the reality is that it’s very boring.

I was freezing cold even though I was dressed for winter.

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I had to stop for a toilet break at about mile 4 which totally annoyed me as I lost 3 minutes according to Mr Garmin.

I got overtaken by a shark ….

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I did however managed a sprint to the finish and clocked 2.16 (my goal was 2.15 still a PB though)

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In other news. I talked with my ultra friend Anna and she’s agreed to come along on my first ultra with me. It will be the Stort 30 in October which I’m looking forward to as I manned a checkpoint at its first running last year. She says I should do another full marathon about late summer time so I signed up for the Thames Meander which annoyingly goes pretty much past my front door at mile 12!

All Roads Lead to Durban

I really did mean to come back and blog weekly. Not sure what happened though.

Anyway so here I am almost a month after end of Janathon. So, did I get stuck into my marathon training? Did I continue with the weight loss crusade? Did I get my head back in the law books? Yes, yes and yes.

Did I cease having a life? That’s a resounding YES.

I could try and give a day by day account of the different runs, challenges and funny moments but to be honest they’ve all kind of blended into one mass of blisters and snotty noses.

I have so far for February put 119 miles on my little feet.

I have started to (finally) incorporate some hill work into my training and have to say that I can actually feel a positive difference. Quite simply the flats don’t seem so hard now.

After seeing it somewhere on Warrior Woman’s blog I decided to challenge my run club to Run the Tube. It’s been fun … so much fun that we have extended it another month until the end of March. I stupidly picked District Line … idiot. I still have a few bits to go but have gotten the worst bits (Essex) done with the help of a fabulous crew person. Nothing encourages you more than knowing there’ll be someone ready to throw Haribo at you around the next corner.

It has to be said though that yesterday I mentally turned a corner. I ran with two of the guys from run club and even though I had to let them go at 4 ½ miles I still managed to knock out just under 13 miles in 2.07 which really showed me how far (literally) I have come. I feel totally excited about Silverstone next weekend and certainly feel prepared for the next painful 8 weeks pre London Marathon.

One of the guys at work is doing Paris a few weeks before I do London and when I see the level of training he is doing and how tough he’s being I have to remind myself that I am not racing him … I only have myself to beat.

Oh – weight loss … that’ll be 1 stone gone. I have averaged 2lbs a week off my lardy hips since the beginning of the year so that’s nice and steady. I am aiming for another stone by April and then the final stone by July.

Someone asked me yesterday if I plan on hanging the shoes up for a while after London. I thought about it for a millisecond. Nope.

I have a few bits and pieces on the radar. Looking way off on the horizon I have committed myself to comfortably qualifying for Comrades 2015. A nice little 56 mile (!!!!) road race in South Africa. More details on that in a separate blog once VLM is out of the way.

Right – I reckon that’s me all up to date from the running side of life.

How have you lot been?

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