Archive | December, 2011

Page 5 of today’s Chronicle!

29 Dec

I’ll try and link the article when it’s on-line, but I can’t find it just at the moment.

Je Ne Regrette Rien

28 Dec

Well, it’s safe to say that I’ve eaten and drunk a fair bit in the last 4 days, but only this evening have I finally stopped feeling ravenous almost all the time! My legs are definitely improving and although there are still a few tight spots, I’m able to move up and down stairs pretty much ok and walking on the flat is fine. I’m still going to stick to my plan of not attempting a run until next year, though, because if there’s one thing that racing marathons has taught me, it’s that your legs can feel fine to walk but still feel like lead when you try to run, and I’m pretty sure that running 95 miles in 3 days, albeit slowly, is at least as taxing on the body as racing one marathon flat out.

So, a few days on, what are my thoughts?

First of all, an attempt at thanking everyone. In no particular order:
– my parents, especially mum (my factotum and baggage lady over the 3 days);
– everyone who sponsored me;
– everyone from the training threads I post on, who have all put up with a lot of me blathering on about my pet project over the past 5 months;
– Dan and Mr. Anonymous for their company on days 1 and 3;
– everyone from MNDA and English Martyrs who came out to support me on day 3, whether on the towpath or at mum and dad’s; it was humbling that people gave up time at such a busy time of year;
– Kelvin for getting my legs into a shape where the project could continue; at the moments when even walking was painful, I began to worry that I might have to postpone everything;
– MNDA Reading & West Berks Branch, especially Jane, for their help with publicity;
– Chris, for the beautiful mince pies; I couldn’t think of a better way of re-fuelling on Christmas Eve.

And what have I learnt from all of this?

– It’s sensible to recce the sections of your route which are within striking distance of home (that’s 2 miles I could have saved myself on day 1 right there…);
– never underestimate what a difference conditions can have on your pace;
– running slowly for a long time is hard;
– I’m not very good at re-fuelling after very long runs and the nausea continues until the next morning…;
– it’s sensible to check any relevant websites for information about closures/diversions (that’s peace of mind on day 3 which I missed out on right there!).

And so my mind turns to my next challenge. I’m going back to my road running and aiming for under 3 hours at the London Marathon. A change is, after all, as good as a rest.

Finally, I’m collating photos from various sources to put together, but this is close to the last blog post. So my very final thank you is (hopefully not conceitedly) to everyone who has read this blog. I expected it to be one man and his dog, but with over 3,000 views, including 248 on 23rd December, that has proved far from the case. Thank you.


All I Want For Christmas Is A New Pair Of Legs

25 Dec

Dear Santa,

I didn’t really do much Christmas planning, and generally just asked for sponsorship as a present, which is fine. However, on reflection, can I have a new pair of legs in time for Russian Christmas?

Merry Christmas!

Hugs and kisses,

Julia xx

#walkingdownstairsbackwards 😉

Home for Christmas

24 Dec

This morning, stairs were not pretty. Both of my Achilles tendons were distinctly unhappy. It was definitely a day for run-walking and I duly set off on the same strategy as before. I had company joining me at Thatcham (about 16 miles in) and so I plodded along, taking a walk break religiously at the start of every mile. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but the main thing was I was moving forwards, inching towards Reading.

It was great to have company for the last 14 miles. My anonymous companion runs Dan a close second for positivity and really helped pull me through those last, painful miles.  He was also very good at opening gates.

Edit: for a long time I’ve been meaning to include this, and somehow didn’t get around to editing the blog entry.  Anyway, as I ran through Hungerford there was a choir near the canal singing Christmas carols; in particular, Silent Night (which is one of my favourites).  From Hungerford until Mr. A. joined me, I had Silent Night running through my head.  At some point I mentioned this to Mr. A., and because we were both brought up on an excess of Radio 4, we amused ourselves by seeing if Mr. A. could guess which bit I had stuck in my head at any one time.  What can I say?  There was time to fill 😉

Things did begin to really hurt at about 22 miles. However, my spirits were really lifted once I reached the parts of the canal which are familiar training territory when I stay at my parents’ house. And then the close to home sights came into view: the Cunning Man pub, the Tilehurst water tower and the ‘Welcome to Reading’ sign. I can safely say that I have never been so relieved to see Southcote Mill bridge and although it was pretty hard work getting over the bridge (!) it meant I was only 1.25 miles to go. Then it was under the railway bridge, which meant I had only 1 mile to go.

Like many runners, I use visualisations in training.  I’d visualised finishing the run many times, imagining how strong I would feel as I turned left after the pedestrian crossing and ran up to my parents’ house.  Every time my eyes would well up.  What I’d not visualised was saying quietly Mr. A. at the railway bridge was that there was one mile to go, and Mr. A. pointing out that this meant I was going to do it; I was going to be home for Christmas.  That was when I welled up.


And suddenly, Prospect Park and half a mile. And then, I could see my parents’ house and my welcome home party, including a beautiful banner in MNDA colours.

Chris was there in my welcoming party and it was great to share a hug with her. It really made me realise how much this means to her.  Having thought I would well up, I felt a sort of tired euphoria (when I was running up the hill it was like I was floating, even though my legs had been aching all day, and I’d barely been able to get over the bridge).  I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s the best I can do.  Chris cried, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry before.

Thanks to both B&Bs (Priory Steps in Bradford-on-Avon and The White House in Little Bedwyn) who each reduced their rate and asked for the difference to go to MNDA. Both went above and beyond the call of duty in tending to a tired ultra runner at a busy time of year.

Thanks also to Anwen and Dan (different Dan!) for taking me out for curry last night. It was definitely good for the soul and great to have company to distract me from what lay ahead today.

I’ll probably do something a bit more considered in a few days’ time but for now that’s my thoughts.

Oh, and I ache 🙂

Through The Rude Wind’s Wild Lament and the ****** Weather!

23 Dec

Day 2
Dan suggested that I adopt a run/walk strategy because it tends to yield a similar finishing time in an ultra but isn’t quite so tiring. Seeing as 33 miles was going to be completely unchartered territory, that sounded very sensible to me. I set my GPS to bleep each mile and adopted a strategy of walking for about a minute at the start of each mile. The first 14 or so miles may not have flown by, but things were feeling remarkably comfortable and towpath conditions were blissfully sure under foot. I even stormed up the Caen Hill flight!
However, not that further along the towpath started to deteriorate and although it wasn’t quite shoe-stealing mud, it was certainly keep-your-wits-about-you-awfully-slippy mud. About mile 22 (or frankly it could have been mile 21 or mile 23; I’m always in awe of people who can be precise about these things in race reports!) the rain began. A few miles later, the real rain began. I duly donned my gilet, hat and gloves but within a few miles I couldn’t really feel the benefits. I definitely needed the walk breaks at this stage as it was making things physically and psychologically bearable but they were also making me very cold. Just to cap things off, the towpath was closed. At first I simply ignored the signs (as some other people clearly had, judging by the state of the fence) but within a mile, at the next junction, it was impossible to do this. Reluctantly, I joined the road, following signs to Great Bedwyn, and trying to ignore the fact that I had now run over 33 miles, had no spare food with me and little idea of how much this diversion was going to add. Eventually I saw the railway line on my right and just beyond that what I thought was the canal. I carefully (and legitimately!) crossed the railway line and, to my relief, saw the canal. I rejoined it and within another 1.5 miles saw my mum on the towpath, guiding me into the guest house. Bless her – I’ve no idea how long she had spent there in the cold and rain! The Garmin tipped onto 35.00 miles as I got the door.
Tonight’s B&B is lovely – they have provided plentiful tea and cake and have a gorgeous spaniel and cat who are charming me. Still, tomorrow, however long, however wet and however painful, is the final day. Truly unchartered territory, but I shall be Homeward Bound.

One More Step Along The Canal I Go or Mud Glorious Mud

22 Dec

With a hint of trepidation, I set off at 11am and met up with Dan who kindly agreed to run with me today. Things went well until we hit the more rural parts of the river. That meant about 10 miles of glutinous mud. At times the mud was pretty keen to hold onto my trainers, so it was hard work. We didn’t help oursevles with 2 navigational errors. The first probably cost us about a quarter of a mile (and was on a short road section); the second probably cost us about a mile and was on some of the most uneven terrain we faced all day. But then again the terrain was uneven because we weren’t on a public footpath, so you gets what you pays for… Thankfully once we hit the canal proper the quality of the surface improved and we were able to forge on. We ended the day with nearly 30.5 miles covered, appearing through the smoke of the narrow boats’ fires as darkness fell. I think it was a little Only Fools and Horses! We were both extremely muddy. My B&B looked a little horrified at the trainers I was brandishing in my hand, and I suspect that Dan got at least a seat and quite possibly a whole carriage to himself on the train.

I’ve no qualms whatsoever about singling out Dan for thanks today. It was really helpful having someone experienced at ultra running and level headed when navigating. I owe you a massive favour. Best of luck with GUCR!

‘Twas The Night Before (Running Home For) Christmas

21 Dec

Well. How time flies when your first ultra is coming up. Suddenly, here I am, with about 14 hours to go (planning on leaving about 11am tomorrow). The kit is lined up and packed away (with a little bit of creative redistribution between my rucksack and my mum’s suitcase – it all felt rather Three Men In A Boat at one point, except no lemons…). I’ve eaten. I’ve eaten some more. There’s nothing more I can do except try and get some sleep.

Apparently I’m one of MNDA’s top 3 fundraisers for this week, which isn’t surprising, because things are going brilliantly there. Well past £4,000, and so including the £500 pledged at English Martyrs, I should hit £5,000. That fundraising target has been well and truly smashed: it’s pretty pleasing, for a perfectionist, to get 200% 🙂

I’ll be blogging each day (my lucky mother will carry my laptop from place to place) and so hopefully there’ll be good news tomorrow evening.

2 days out. Gulp.

20 Dec

Yesterday was my last working day and I’m about to head out for a gentle 3-4 mile jog just to keep the legs loose.  I’ve got my final sports massage with Kelvin this evening but otherwise the day is my own.

I dropped all of my Christmas presents and clothes at mum and dad’s yesterday, including the last-minute present I bought for the latest (and unexpectedly early) addition to the extended family.  The next time I’m at my parents’ house I’ll be tired and emotional, I should think.  I’m also intrigued to know what it was that was hidden in the wardrobe that I wasn’t allowed to see.  I’m sure all will be revealed on Christmas Eve.

It’s about as certain as anything can be that I have company on day 1 and for the second half of day 3, which is brilliant news.  Day 1 to try and slow me down (biggest mistake I could make would be to run too fast on day 1 when my legs feel nice and fresh) and day 3 to pull me through the painful final section, psychologically (although physically would be great!).

Excluding pledges fundraising is now at £3,925.50 (plus giftaid) which is brilliant. Having spoken to her last night, I can safely say that both Chris and I are really touched by the generosity so many people, including virtual strangers, have shown.

Oh, Christmas Tree :)

18 Dec

It’s one of those contradictions: the closer I’m getting to The Big Running Event, the less running there is for me to talk about.  This week I’ve only run 4 times and each run has been under 10 miles.  Still, the legs and lungs are starting to feel the benefits, apart from the usual psychosomatic taper niggles.

Yesterday’s run was great fun, though, because it was the parkrun Christmas run.  OK, it’s not quite a santa run (although we had quite a few santas and several elves, as well as some tinsel-bedecked dogs) but watching all the costumes go past as I marshalled was great fun.  It took my mind off the fact I couldn’t feel my toes!  Many thanks to event director, Geoff, for the plug on the Ashton Court parkrun website – it was lovely to get so many ‘good lucks’ as runners puffed their way past me (the Ashton Court course is tough: up hill for ~2k, flat for about 500m, then turn around and experience everything in reverse; people said more on the way back!).

I also bought my Christmas tree yesterday.  I’ve never bothered before, on the basis I don’t usually spend Christmas here, but I’ve decided to make the effort, and after nightfall yesterday I was very pleased with my little tree.  I think it needs a few more baubles, because it is definitely too tasteful just at the moment.

And finally, a story I saved up on the basis that eventually people would get bored of blog entries which said “I’ve been running”.  And that’s a quick summary of quite how the girl who hated PE at school ended up loving running enough to want to run 90 miles at all:

I grew up in Reading and the Reading half marathon used to go past my parents’ house.  On some level I was able to appreciate the effort and achievement involved and in the summer of 2001 began to mutter vaguely about doing the race the following year.  Somehow or another, Chris was one of the people to whom I first muttered.  And somehow, once the idea was out there and more and more people knew, I couldn’t really go back on my word.  Fear of failure is a pretty big motivator for me, so I laced up my trainers, headed out of the door and ran.  Initially it was just for 1 minute at a time, with a minute’s walking in between.  But gradually, week by week, the running bits got longer and the walking bits got shorter.  7 months later, I ran the Reading Half marathon.  By that stage, I was fit enough that not only did I not mind running, I loved it.  And I’ve not looked back since.   Sensible, really, because if you look back while you’re running, it’ll end in tears or injury.

One Week to Go!

15 Dec

In 7 days’ time it all starts! I’ll be hitting the road and then the towpath to run to Bath and Bradford-on-Avon. According to metcheck, the weather is going to be pretty vile: it’ll feel cold (wind chill making it feel -1 or -2), it’ll be windy (up to 30mph) and it’ll be raining. Can’t wait!

Fingers crossed they’re wrong….