Week 4 of 48 : And so begins the long game …

Remember last week and my abysmal attitude to my training plan when I had gorgeous company come to stay? I confessed all to Eddie both here in blog but also privately. She did not nag, chide, berate or anything. She simply used one word.


Ouch. A well deserved ouch.

Never again (on missing training). Better planning is needed. When I’m struggling at mile 80 it will not be because I didn’t prepare!

Monday was another one of those funny ‘Rest Day with Strength Training’ (yeah I don’t get the contradiction either but I’m sure as hell not going to argue with her). Anyway this was good as I had some serious sleep to catch up on.

Tuesday was an easy 4 miles and I decided I wanted to jog out and find a local hill that will be needed for Wednesdays session. So I plodded up to the Abbey Lane studios. Have you seen the Beatles fan graffiti? They’re never getting their deposit back. Yep, there’s a nice hill just before there that will work. Anyway, I was actually quite enjoying myself when like fucking clockwork I get hit with stomach cramps. FFS. Had to walk for about 5 minutes to calm it down. I then decided that I didn’t give a shit (bad pun) what happened I was not walking 2 miles home so I picked the run back up and picked up the pace to make up for the walk. Made it home in 41:40 so just over 10:28 mile pace and a true learning what the phrase ‘turtle head’ means.

Decipher this : 15EWJ, (45FU, ED) x 6, 15ECJ. That was Wednesdays hill session. For the love of God why didn’t I fall in love with Jelly Bean counting as a hobby. I am broken. Basically I jogged to the hill I had checked out the night before. Now Sgt had said it didn’t matter how steep just as long as there was some incline. This had a 5% incline and I’m not sure if that’s considered steep or not but it certainly felt like a vertical wall to my poor legs. I had to sprint up this fucker for about 45 seconds then jog easy back down and then repeat this 5 more times to the great amusement of the locals who were enjoying their smokes out on their balcony. Then an easy jog home. I think crawling on my hands and knees through Liverpool Street Station at 3am would have held more dignity than what I was able to muster on that ‘easy jog’ home. This session really, really hurt but I’m quite happy as I kind of felt some improvement.

Due to some planned drinking on Friday the Sgt let me swap my Rest Day and do Fridays easy 5 mile session on Thursday (I love how she always calls them ‘easy’ hahaha). I have to say though if you had told me 4 weeks ago I would have had such a good run I would have laughed at you. I have never, ever been able to figure out how to pace myself. Yet miles 2, 3 and 4 were the exact same pace down to the second at 10:17 each. I’m not sure if it helped but I tried a Paula Radcliffe thing of counting calmly to myself. Now granted she knocks out a mile in the count of 300 and that was never going to be in my plan but the calm counting of paces gave me something to think about, became a bit of a game and actually stopped me thinking of the distance. I messed up in mile 5 though as I got a tad lost so that was a minute longer for that one. Anyway point to this is I am feeling really encouraged by things and did 5 miles in 54 minutes flat. I will say though that I was very grateful for the slow moving tourist coming up the Southwark tube steps on Friday morning though. Normally I would be a typical Londoner and tut, glare and dramatically overtake making it clear they had no business being out of their hotel so early in the day. No, I appreciated the slow walk up.

My legs are aching a bit and Saturdays lie in cannot come soon enough.

Saturday was the first day in a long time where I had absolutely nothing social planned. I didn’t get out of bed until 9:30, plodded around the flat for a few hours and then got ready for my long run. Now I realise that ‘long run’ is different for everyone so I’ll take no sniggering here when I tell you the plan stated 90 minutes. Eddie gave me a little plan for how she wanted me to tackle this and I did my best to follow her guide but towards the end I struggled a bit due to canal boat tow ropes and tired legs. However I managed 7.7 miles (yes, I am proudly claiming the .7). Oh, guess what was in the notes for todays session “Lakeland 50 training starts here”. What the hell have I been doing for 4 weeks. Twiddling my thumbs?

Had a brief messenger chat with Sgt Eddie which was nice. I honestly can’t stress enough how having to be accountable to someone is a massive help for me. It also helps when you have oodles of respect for the person you are reporting in to. Even though I think she’s a secret sadist.

I must shamefully confess that Sundays session was brought to you courtesy of a treadmill at a rather posh hotel. It was only meant to be a 20 minute session but I gave it a penance for being a piece of witchcraft and did 4.4 miles. Of course no week is complete without another strength session. I’m going to be honest and say I still don’t like the strength part of this training and its causing me pain in my hip and my upper arms (accident related?) but I will persevere. It was fun watching the other spa users faces trying to figure out what on earth I was doing.

Have I learned anything major this week? Hmmmm, nothing earth shattering but I have learned that I must be patient because foundations are important and that I’m actually quite obedient when I want to be (contradiction?).

Can’t wait to see what’s on next weeks plan and how she’s going to incorporate a trip to Kiltville.

See you next week x

Ps. Check out the little booties I had to put on my feet to access the gym via the pool area. Stylish no?


Week 3 of 48 : No Sex Before Fight Day.

Well here we are at week 3. I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that once you’ve stuck with something for 3 weeks it’s easier to keep going. That might have been when I quit smoking but pretty sure the theory is still the same. 2 1/2 years without smoking by the way.

On the train back from the Lakes on Monday I managed to get internet signal long enough to check out the schedule for the week and I could have hugged Eddie when I saw that I could just get home and collapse. A proper Rest Day. Wooohoooo.

The niceness v meanness balance was redressed on Tuesday though when I had 30 mins run AND strength training. The run was meant to be ‘easy’ but I’m struggling to understand what my different paces are and knocked out 3 miles in the 30 minutes. The strength training was still hard but I coped better than last week. Popeyes maybe not such a bastard.

Tuesdays interval training didn’t happen due to a bit of a scare with some man when I got off the bus. I’m considering some type of self defence classes as my plan to stab him in the face with my house key was the only plan I had. I replaced the planned run with strength training and as I was whimpering through I thought of that man and how being stronger can be a good thing for more than just my running. Popeye didn’t seem so bad when I thought about it that way.

Now don’t start thinking that my missing the session is the slippery slope to me giving up. Wednesday was meant to be a blissful rest day but I got up at stupid o’clock to do it. Unfortunately it went horribly wrong. I really need to figure out my stomach issues. I had to abort this with a pitiful jog/walk at 1.9 miles due to the very real likelihood of me crapping myself. Not something the good early morning folks of W10 should be subjected to! Repeat attempt in the evening went a bit better. Intervals sessions with some wired timings that kept me distracted trying to remember them. I had considered writing it down on my hand but god knows what the paramedics would think when rescuing me from the canal. 15W/J, 3/3, 2/2, 1/1, 15J became 3.6 miles :o)

Had a lovely phone call from my big brother on Thursday night and he mentioned he’d been keeping up with my running stuff. Given we’re not super close and don’t chat often this was lovely to hear and gave me quite a little boost.

Fridays plan was 4 miles easy. This was quite uneventful thanks to taking Imodium before going to bed and once more when I woke up at 5:30 although I did spend the rest of the day feeling quite bloated. Need to figure that issue out. Anyway the run itself felt a bit sluggish yet surprising when I looked at my time at the end I had averaged 10:40 per mile. I won’t bore you (further) with the breakdown but I also was quite surprised to see each mile got progressively quicker. Incidentally it was absolutely pissing it down and I loved it. Have also seen the same early morning street sweeper 3 times now and we say hello each time. In London!!!

Sadly this is where the week went downhill (training wise). I should have run 3 miles on Saturday plus a strength training session and then Sunday was to be a 90 minute run (distance not set).

Well, instead I had a fabulous visitor (none of your business) for the weekend and I finally managed to drag myself out on Sunday for a 3 mile run. I think Eddie must have had a spy in my flat and knows I was bad as before even confessing to her my sins she has sent this next weeks plan and there is hill work in there. Hill Work!!! WTF? I consider speed bumps an excuse to walk!

I’m sure I read somewhere that sex is bad for you when in training. That might be just boxers though.

So my learning for this week is that I need to let Eddie know all of my social stuff ahead of time so she can adjust the plan around it. I do not want to start that slippery slope of thinking “Oh, I’ll do that run tomorrow”. Also as mentioned up there ^ I need to sort this poo issue out as I suspect there are longer runs coming up in my near furture and I’m already tired of them getting ruined by cramps and fear. I have been dealing (poorly) with this issue for nearly 2 years. Not sure this is a learning but I did note that my legs have felt very ache-y (spelling?) at night when trying to sleep. I know that makes no sense and is probably not connected to the heavy weekend in the Lakes.

Anyhoo …. that’s enough boredom for this week. Thanks for tagging along on my journey. Only 39 weeks to go *sigh*.

Nici x

Week 2 of 48 : Popeye is the devil …..

I’m just going to say this now. I hate Popeye and Sgt Edwina Sutton*. Both in equal measure.

Sunday night I get the weeks plan and my assumption that Mondays will always be a rest day are dashed. Strength training apparently. That should be fun considering I have the strength of wet lettuce. So, along with my run training plan I get sent a well put together strength plan with pictures and clear descriptions. I calm down a bit as to be honest it looks bloody simple. Longest on any one item was 30 seconds, only 6 tricep dips and only 2 circuits of the whole list. Piece of piss. Easy day.

Monday at lunchtime I am face first on my living room floor in a pool of sweat plotting ways to kill Eddie. I whimpered through the tricep dips. I counted how many rocks I’d throw at her with each mountain climber move. Popeye planks are nowhere close to as fun as they sound. Easy day my arse!!

Tuesday had ‘very easy 3 miles’ on the menu. Define ‘very easy’. Can I use the bus? However I totally shocked the shit out of myself and ran my fastest 3 miles in 18 months. Even got faster with each mile to average just over 10 minute miles. Baby steps but right now that’s massive!! Speaking of shocking the shit out of myself …. there might be a reason I got faster. I consumed my body weight in sugar free sweets all day. Why is this an issue I hear you ask (I’m clairvoyant)? Try it and report back to me how many toilet dashes you had to make. I’ll take a vindaloo curry over sugar free sweets from now on ta very much.

Wednesday had the conflicting instruction of ‘Rest AND strength training’. Personally I think the Sgt’s a stand up comic. I’m not laughing though. I now have a chair in my living room dedicated to the tricep dips. I sit on the sofa glaring at it while eating grapes. When doing the Popeye Plank I tried to name all the characters to pass the time. I got as far as Popeye and Brutus then just stared at my forearms praying for the doorbell to ring. Seriously though, I totally get why strength training is important. After all how can I expect my core to support me for 100 miles if I don’t prepare it? I’ll keep doing it but I don’t have to like it. *childish flounce out of room*

Thursday was to be the fabulous training highlight of the week. I’d been looking forward to this with childish delight. Intervals!! Sadly I messed it all up though. Firstly I went too fast on my warm up section (9 minute miles!!) and then the speed sections were shorter so I felt like I was having to sprint each time to get to the set speed and then once I got there it was time to walk/jog again. I have dropped hints that I’d like longer speed sections. Cross your fingers and toes for me. I did all 6 sections though as they are still way more fun than bloody strength sets.

Friday is the only total rest day on the plan and I found myself up in the Lake District with my running buddy Jacqui and we accidentally jogged 2 miles to get supplies for the weekend. Sorry coach. We couldn’t help ourselves!

Saturday and Sunday are just too awesome and should probably have their own blog post (but I’m knackered so they won’t). We spent Saturday doing another recce of Ambleside to Conniston as part of my LL50 prep and then Sunday doing the Fairfields Horseshoe loop which was incredibly hard. So about 28 miles for the weekend including a little jog up to Ambleside and back for supplies on Friday night. I am quite in love with the Lakes.

I’d like to add that I really intended to do the Tuesday run in the morning but getting to sleep at gone midnight did not lend well to me being cooperative when the alarm went off at 5am. Must remember that sleep is massively important in this whole plan. Going forward I’m going to make every effort to get myself in bed at 10pm if I plan on an early session.

*I don’t hate her – she’s making me love this malarky again.


Week 1 of 48 : So this is what following a plan is like …..

I’ve been reliably informed that regular documenting of the next year will be something worth looking back on after I cross that finish line.  I guess I could just jot stuff down in a notebook for my eyes only but then how would I satisfy my need to bore everyone to tears quite so well?  So prepare yourselves.  There will be a weekly update of what Drill Sergeant Edwina Sutton is doing to my poor legs, body and brain.

I was actually quite excited to get my first weeks plan.  It not only had the daily task but also had some little tips and words of advice.  I was actually quite upset that day 1, Monday, was a rest day.  Boooo.

I’m sure it’s quite normal for most 100 miler training plans to start the first actual activity day with a 30 minute walk right?  I’m also sure it’s normal to get fully kitted out in running gear to go for said walk.  One of the key things Eddie is trying to start me out on is making sure I change my mindset for every training session regardless of what’s on the agenda.  Part of her theory is if I’m dressed to train then I’ll do it properly. Needless to say I crawled out of bed at the insane early hour of 5:45am on Tuesday for this potential mocking session as the locals here take no prisoners so I wanted the least number of witnesses.  ‘All the gear and no idea’ was my chant as I walked 1.7 miles on that first day of the next 48 weeks.

Wednesday popped up and I really, really wanted to go for a little jog but the plan had ‘Rest’. It’s weird because it’s been a long time since I felt that keen to go run.  I even got as far as sitting on stairs putting on my running shoes and then I stopped myself.  The reason I have failed so many times (at so many things) is that I think I know better and I stop following the plan.  This time I am giving myself every chance of success and the first step there (for me) is to be structured.

Thursday was a 60 minute walk with bits of jogging if my legs felt ok for it. I ended up feeling really good in my legs and did a slow 4.8 miles. My lungs however really struggled. Not sure what that was about.

Friday was meant to be a rest day which was then to be followed by a 4 mile run on Saturday. I let Eddie know I had Piece of String duty on the Saturday and this might be problematic so she swapped the days around. As I was going to be out at the Like The Wind event on Friday night I knew it was going to be another early start. 5:30am this time. Managed to forget my Garmin (it’s going to take a while for wearing it to be habit), suffered my typical 2 mile poo cramps and then got splashed by a bus. Fabulous. Managed, barely, the 4 miles. Just an out and back up the Harrow Road. I’m taking mace next time.

Sunday is the day I had been looking forward to all week.  My first ever interval session.  I have never done such a thing and when I would hear others talk about them I would shy away from the conversation as if they were talking about something holy and sacred that I wanted no part of. On Saturday I was so excited about it that I told some fellow Piece of String crew that I was doing 1 mile repeats for my first ever interval session.  They were so sweet and didn’t even question me … glad I double checked the schedule as it was 60 second repeats.  Quite a difference!  Anyway, this session was the best of all this week.  The warm up felt good (but more like part of the actual session as I don’t yet have a different pace).  The 60 second repeats were fun because I knew they wouldn’t last forever.  I listened to Eddies advice and was sure to be careful not to kill myself in the first 30 seconds.  I am proud to say I managed an average 7 minute mile pace.  Don’t mock – that’s massive for me.  I didn’t know I could go that fast!  The only issue is they weren’t consistent.  The last one was hell.  I’ll get better though.

Diet wise – I am a fekking mess.  Eating everything again so all the hard work getting 21lbs off may go down the drain.  I’m going to have to cut out bread and chocolate as I apparently sold my will power to the devil.  I am determined to hit target weight (10 1/2 stone in case you care) by end of January.

Just to quickly add a tiny bit about the Like The Wind pop-up shop in Shoreditch (twice). Really good. Saw the Desert Runners movie on the Wednesday (Samantha Gash is amazing) and on the Friday I was fully in awe of 7 amazing speakers. Who knew our very own Robbie Britton could be so entertaining yet thought provoking. I came away from it with some advice from Steve Way ….. get the following items in order and I’m heading in the direction to being my best.

  • Healthy living
  • Sleep
  • Core and Strength
  • Consistency and Mileage
I’m currently falling at the first hurdle as my living is far from healthy.
See you next week :o)

Stort 30 – Round 2

Wow, three blog posts in a month!

This one is not going to be long, or witty, or insightful though (not that my posts usually are). This is for me to look back on and realise what a bloody numpty I am!!

Last year you may remember that it was my first ultra and I didn’t make cut-off (soft cut off meant I still got a medal). 2013 time was 7hrs 17mins so I set my sights on a time of 6hrs 30mins for this year. Now most folks would train and be 100% ready on race day. Let’s be honest though, we all know that in the last year I have totally lost motivation for training so have literally just been showing up to events and slogging my way through them. Occasionally I would go out and jog a few miles but that was it!

However, recently I have found myself excited about running again (due to my entry into Lakeland 50). Still not remotely excited about that pesky 100 miler though.

Nice start to race day was getting in the rental car to find a present from them (gels, bars etc) and a good luck note. Seriously good PR – they basically had picked up chatter on Twitter (I assume via a key word fishing programme) and saw that I was planning on using a Zipcar to get to the race.

I show up to race HQ for registration, get my number and say hello to lots of familiar faces.
Fiona McNelis and Ian Brazier had offered to run with me which I hoped would force me to not walk so much (I am the queen of walking). My hip seemed ok and I haven’t suffered much with it in the last few months so I thought all would be good.

After doing my customary dash to the toilets after the initial two laps of the field I caught back up with Fi and Ian who were laughing at me. Then we set off at a nice pace but Ian had to keep reminding us we were going to fast for our plan. It’s annoying to slow down when you feel good but I really do get the logic behind it.
We spent the first half having an absolute blast. We settled into a good walk/jog combo (I am refusing to use the word ‘run’). I kept at the back of our threesome as I do better when following instead of having someone on my heels. We met the lead runner (Craig Holgate) at the 10 mile checkpoint. It was great seeing the runners who had got to the turnaround all coming back the other way. We gave hi-fives, words of encouragement etc. However we got bored with “Well Done” so tried to throw some variety in there. Fi wins for originality by saying “You’re looking comfortable” although I like to think my telling someone “Nice legs” was winner! I have to also say there were some impressive looking beards in the race.

We got to halfway (15 miles) in 3 hrs 28 mins. I got a bit disheartened here as I knew there was no way I was going to now beat the 7 hour cut-off. I was in pain, my hip was on fire and I had drank so much that my belly was literally sloshing and this made me feel a bit uncomfortable and sick. Also I just couldn’t eat anything. I struggle to eat if I’m not hungry and then by the time I’m hungry it’s too late.

After sitting for a few minutes we set off for the return leg. Ian was honest with me and said he didn’t think we’d make it so we now set our sights on getting me in before last years’ finish time. At least get me 50k PB. I don’t remember too much of the second half except Fi and Ian were like relentless drill sergeants. I walked way more than I should have. I slowed right down. There were a few good spurts were I managed to pick up the pace but these were few and far between. Simply I had just given up. Ian hadn’t though. He kept on screaming from his spot at the front that I could do it, that I didn’t want to miss it by a few seconds, get a move on, no walking etc .

I hated them both. In fact at one point I think I screamed at them to “Please just shut the fuck up”. I immediately felt utterly horrified and apologised. I just couldn’t see the sense in now killing myself over a time that was already past cut off. I totally refused to even attempt a jog once we hit the road section right at the end.

We finally, finally made it to the field for the last lap and one of the marshals told me I’d missed cut off by 3 minutes. What!!! I thought they were bullying me over last years’ time. I didn’t realise we had actually managed to have an almost near even second half of the race and they were working to get that cut off. It honestly felt like we had gone so much slower. I was a bit gutted at that point and a bit teary that I had totally let my own childishness win. So I walked the lap composing myself, telling Fi and Ian how grateful I was to them, and apologising for being so annoying. We ended the race at 7 hrs 7 mins (unofficial).

The day ended on a good note though as I had an email waiting for me with my first weeks training plan from Eddie. I am going to follow it to the letter and just be honest with her and most importantly myself.

2015 is going to be the year that I see what I can do.

The Bet

I’m not a superstitious person. I’ve never rubbed a rabbits foot (they’re hard to catch), I don’t ‘knock on wood’ and I smash mirrors for fun.  I am under no illusions that The Hat has any special weather powers. Let’s face it, it’s England – it rains.

However I love a bit of banter and I love our Paul Ali. So it just seemed natural that him and I would fall into friendly back and forth banter/insults/threats about the hat.

If you’ve read my pitiful blog you may remember that at Endure 24 he even tried to bribe with said hat if I completed another lap but at 65 miles I was broken and I hated him, his hat and all things ultra. I got over that in 26 hours and signed up for another 24 hour race though.

In the lead up to the Winter 100 I wanted to, in my own silly way, give Paul something fun to think about. He’s had an incredibly busy year and quite shockingly his first ever DNF at the T184. I hadn’t spoken to him in person so wasn’t sure if this had ‘messed with his head’ but I just wanted the last big one for 2014 to have a bit of fun attached.

So I joking said “Bet you can’t run a sub 20 at W100″ and goaded him that if he didn’t manage it then I was going to get The Hat.

He countered with “If I do then you run a 100 miler in 2015″

Anyone who knows me will attest that I have ZERO desire for 100 miles.  Zero. It’s ok though. It was a sure bet.

But this was a sure bet for me. Paul’s best 100 time is 19:36 at this years Thames Path 100. Perfect conditions. Not the predicted deluge that was on for this years Winter 100. He’d never do it.  He’s had an event filled year. Tired legs and shit weather were in my favour.

So it was with ease I said “Sure, whatever”.

Then before I knew it there was a bit of a social media flurry on it. I was getting lots of messages of support and offers to pace/crew me.

Excuse me? I’m not losing!! It was a sure bet.

I won’t go into the details of Pauls race (note the aforementioned bored factor) but will tell you that it was a great day from start to finish. Although I do think he dealt some low blows. The first being that when he arrived for registration he informed me his little girl had asked him to not lose the hat! Low blow Ali, low blow. So I of course was very mature and countered by telling him that we had already purchased the petrol and the hat would be burned in the middle of the road outside HQ.

Now for those who don’t know the format of the W100 is 4 out and back legs of 25 miles so I knew I would get to see Paul 4 times (including the anticipated 22 hour finish). Before they even set off on leg 1 I had total strangers asking me how I felt about a 100 miles, had I picked a race yet, what was I thinking etc.

Whatever. It was a sure bet.

I wish I could say that once the race was under way I had put it out of my mind due to being so busy at HQ but it was here that the first major blow to my confidence happened. I started recalling conversations at dinner the night before with the event crew and some friends. James Elson looked at me and said “He’ll do it you know” and then the whole table gleefully started making suggestions for my 100 miler.

Fabulous! It was maybe a sure bet.

I have never been so frustrated in my life when the race leaders Marco Consani and Ed Catmur came flying into the hall at the end of leg 1. First thing Marco said was … “The hat looks good”.

So when Paul comes skipping in I just stared at him. I was not chanting in my head about him tripping up. Honest. I did love though that so many runners at both the sharp end and the back of the pack were joining in the fun (or rather my misery).

I was still quietly confident that the weather and night time would send things in my favour. Bloody wish I’d taken Paul Stout up on the bribery offer though as he was going to be pacing him on leg 3. It was not a good sign when Stouty got there early for his duties because he had noted on the tracker that the bloody hat was rocking along ahead of schedule.

My stomach dropped when Paul came breezing into the hall looking like he was out for a Sunday jog and announced he has just made a 50 mile PB. I tried to persuade Gary (Kit Check Captain) to perform an hour long details mandatory kit check and evaluation. He was too busy confirming the mileage for the West Highland Way to hear me.

That’s ok. It was a kind of sure bet.

By now I am genuinely worried and start praying (thanks for capturing that Gary). The ever supportive HQ crew were doing their best to console me by gleefully researching on the HQ laptop what races I could do!!! Every time I went back to it there was one left up on the screen. I was even now being drawn into conversations of what kind would I like to do, why I can’t do a Centurion one, who would be on the crew ….. thanks so much for the solid support! Although on the bright side I did hear one runner say he had fallen almost taking the hat out with him! That cheered me.

End of leg 3 that stupid hat and its bloody owner came into the hall and my heart softened just a little bit (don’t tell anyone) as he looked a bit pained. As he sat there I couldn’t help but give him a massive hug and tell him that I wanted to be angry but I couldn’t as I was so bloody proud of him. He was absolutely on for getting a PB and ending his year in the right way. On a high. It seems the HQ team were too busy to console me as they were deciding between West Highland Way (with Elson offering to run an extra 4 mile loop with me to make up the distance), Hardmoors 110 and St Oswalds Way for me. How kind of them. What happened to team Nici?

It’s still ok. I could deny the bet right? After all I would never encourage gambling. No?

Stupid bet.

I will be honest and say it was at this point I resigned myself to the fact I would be taking on a 100 miler in 2015. Now anyone who knows me will agree that I love every one of our runners from the folks at front on fire, to the ones playing with cutoffs and to the ones who end their day early. Each and every one of them is part of my extended family whether they like it or not. Yet now I hated them as they came in the hall in differing stages of pain, joy, tears etc … it scared me. What have I done?

Oh well. It was a bet.

When Paul came in at the end of his 4th leg I was standing waiting for him. What an amazing time. 18:56 !! I hugged him and quietly told him that I could not be prouder of him. I was not going to cry. Nope not me – I’m made of ice water.

I then felt a bit sick.

There is no such thing as ‘A sure bet’. I must be the last person to realize that little gem.

Now I know there are many who are thinking that surely Paul would not hold me to the bet. After all 100 miles is a crazy thing to have to do for the sake of a silly friendly bet. Small problem is that I would have absolutely taken the hat and burned it if I had won. A bet is a bet.

I have now officially taken on a coach. I have entered a race. I have made out my will.

I will continue to hate that hat.

SOW Entry

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.