Monday, 4 October 2021

Patella tendinosis and the Delham Kiln Marathon

Back in March, I developed some really significant pain in my knees - typically, I carried on running on them, until I got to the stage where I could barely get around the block and I was in pain everyday. It was so frustrating, as I'd been having coaching from Lindley Chambers, at Challenge Running since October, my fitness and pace had been improving well, I was really pleased with my progress - but the time came where I realised I just had to stop, rest and get some help. 

I saw the physio, and got my diagnosis - in both knees, the cartilage was degrading behind my kneecap and the tendon degrading in the front - patella tendinosis. The cartilage issue wasn't causing the pain though, it was the tendons. 

The physio was confident I could get back to running pain free, and although I did still take part in a marathon a couple of weeks after first seeing him (which was a LOT of walking, finishing in 6:10) I then started a recovery programme. Exercises, lots of rest, collagen supplements, more rest, more exercises. 

Fast forward 6 months. 

I started coaching with the legendary Mimi Anderson, who has been gradually helping me build back some base fitness after the time out I needed for my knees, and helping me through a block of training to prepare me for the virtual London marathon, that I planned to run at Suffolk Running Centre's Delham Kiln marathon. Mimi convinced me to cancel all my other race plans, and just aim for this one. 

Yesterday, I ran it. 
In the wider scheme of things, it wasn't that fast - my race result for Delham Kiln is 5:14 (and a couple of minutes longer for London as the app didn't think I'd quite run far enough and I had to go back out). However, it's the fastest marathon I've run since Windermere back in May 2018 and i'm really pleased! At one point, about 19 miles, I really thought I might manage an even split and come in under 5 hours, but it wasn't to be! Also, my knees, although still always in my mind and occasionally twinging, were essentially fine, and didn't cause me any issues. So, overall, it was a very successful day out. 

It's a really lovely course - 2 laps of mostly road, but with a short section through the woods along some very slippery mud, and it's hilly - but in the best way. Long winding downhills, along with some sharp, steep climbs. I couldn't run up those bits and had to walk, but the downhills were perfect. I had the virtual London app playing, with the recorded cheering every few miles, but my run couldn't have been more different to "THE" marathon. Not one supporter out on the quiet little Suffolk lanes (except for the RDs vehicle driving past checking on us), CPs were a water container on a lonely table every 6 miles, and I spent 90% of the run on my own, although the loop ended at the start/finish so there was some cheering as I arrived there. 

Thoroughly enjoyed myself though, although very frustratingly I had left my packed race vest at home (sat by the front door, waiting to be collected) which had my water bottles and all my snacks in. It meant that I had to run carrying a large bike water bottle that I'd found in the car, and I didn't have any food with me - I definitely started to notice the lack of nutrition in the last few miles and even got a bit lightheaded. A lesson learned in organisation I guess, but it doesn't beat the time I went to a marathon and forgot my trainers! 

I'm always going to have to manage my knees, particularly with the cartilage problems that are still to really appear, but for now at least, it seems I can start seriously planning for a return to ultras.

Monday, 23 November 2020

Realising that just because i'm a mum, i'm still me

It's funny how "inspiration" works.

I've been really struggling recently, with so much, unable to work out what was wrong or how to pull myself out of the funk that I've found myself in for months, well, years.

Last night I watched coverage of the @VendeeGlobeENG a round the world sailing race which is currently underway.  I watched these intrepid sailors, taking on this enormous challenge, in their huge boats out in the storms, and racing across the ocean. I saw their emotions - the pride, the excitement, the reality of failure, the exuberance of achieving success against the odds. 

It made me feel really emotional - not on the same scale of course, but I remembered that I used to set myself seemingly ridiculous goals that I could never have thought possible, and then just worked out how to achieve them. I used to have those sort of emotions about things I was doing.

I realised something.

I am not made for sitting on the sofa being miserable, feeling sorry for myself, binge eating on biscuits I don't even like, and lamenting days past, before children changed my priorities. Just because I'm a busy mum, I still need a big challenge in my life to keep me moving forward, to keep me happy.

I first started running in 2007 when I was 25, coming from no exercise at all - my only hobbies were drinking and clubbing. I had a goal of a marathon. It was a big goal for me, a really big goal! I achieved it the following year in 2008, but then I realised I needed to try and do it again, only better. And then again, and again. 

I got my marathon PB in 2012, and then started running ultras, with my first 50 miler as a celebration for my 30th birthday. I thought about the 10in10, completed it in 2013, then a 100 miler, done in 2014, then GUCR in 2015. I was all ready to run Viking Way in 2016 but that didn't happen because I fell pregnant. Then I pretty much stopped running, and although I've kept things ticking over with a few races over the last few years, falling pregnant again in 2018 meant that I never got back to fitness. However, I then met my longest held goal in August 2019, full membership of the 100 Marathon Club - getting that coveted shirt! DONE!

But then what? I just set myself some "repeat" goals - GUCR again, more marathons, more ultras, get back to being fit, get back to my PB, get back, get back, get back. Everything over the last 4 years has been about trying to relive my past, rediscover the "me" before children. All the while, not really running, binge eating, feeling miserable and depressed. 

Now, I know I can't spend three months sailing round the world - I suffer from terrible sea sickness and I have three small children who need me - but once upon a time I did seriously think about taking part in a Pacific ocean row in a boat of four! I used to really believe I could do anything. I think the reason I've been so very miserable is because I totally forgot who I am (not who I was...but who I still am). 

I need a goal, and bigger than just keeping mind, body and soul together at home and at work. Looking after my kids, working full time's exhausting and time consuming, and really hard, but that doesn't mean I should limit myself to that being it. I think that believing this is all there is now, is what is making me miserable.

So, a new goal? What could I set my sights on? I have to be realistic - for instance, maybe an Ironman would fit the bill perfectly, but I don't think I have enough time available to train across three sports 

I don't know, but it's got to be something different to scare me, to excite me, to make me wonder if I can really achieve it, and to really feel that I'm heading for something special. I'm 40 in 2022 - maybe I should do something to celebrate. So what am I going to aim for? 

I feel so much better for finally coming to this conclusion. I am still the person that I was before children. It sounds so obvious, but for me it's a bit of a revelation. I can still achieve new things, I just need to be a bit more organised and dedicated to fitting everything in. 

Now comes the time for some serious event searching - if I'm going to be the best mum I can be for the children, I also need to make sure I can be me. 


Monday, 5 October 2020

Virtual London and the real life Clover marathon

I ran a marathon yesterday (no.106) but my first "official" 26.2 event since August 2019! I have run an ultra in the year in between, at the brilliant Country to Capital back in January, and have also taken part in a couple of virtual events during lockdown with Centurion which I really enjoyed, as well as two 20 mile races so I haven't been totally away from things...but this was the first in person, real life MARATHON. 

I had signed up for the virtual London Marathon (an unexpected chance to be involved in my 5th London, even in these very strange covid circumstances, and originally to help a friend do the virtual event) but when that plan fell though, and as events had started again, I decided to find a real event on the same day. I love the courses that the Sussex Running Centre devise, whether they're trail or road they're always lovely (and hilly!) and so was really pleased to find they were putting on an event over both days of the weekend.

So, at 6am on Sunday morning, I found myself rushing out of the door to drive the 90 minutes up to SRC to run their Clover Marathon, a single lap road course. The weather was diabolic. SO MUCH RAIN as I drove along...but I saw a couple of people out in the streets who had started their virtual London marathons and it lifted my spirits a bit.

Once I arrived (with about 2 minutes to go as usual) there was a covid-safe set up and a staggered start, and all of a sudden off we went, with the London app tracking me, and my garmin as a back up. 

It was still raining, a lot. 

Within a mile I was starting to hurt and feeling so stupid for not having done any proper training, and for having allowed myself to have got quite as fat as I have. I'm nearly 4 stone heavier than I'd like to be, and it makes running so much harder, trying to drag the extra weight around! But, I was there, I had miles to go, so I just had to get on with it. 

So, it was appalling weather, with puddles everywhere, and along the few main roads we were on, the risk of getting splashed by passing cars. Soaked through. But, it was really well signed, generally on quieter country lanes through some of the prettiest villages (with the biggest houses!) and it was just a case of getting my head down, and ticking off the miles. The London app came with cheering every mile, and I had either Paula Radcliffe or Steve Cram in my headphones giving me encouragement and advice. I though it was really annoying to start with, but as the time wore on, I actually looked forward to them appearing each mile. Made me laugh when at 21 miles Paula Radcliffe said it was important to keep fuelling, and suggested we should have a gel or some jelly babies - I'd just polished off a flapjack. Guess I'll always be more of an ultra runner than a marathon runner! 

I saw very few people during the race, as with the staggered starts, there just wasn't much cross over at all and it was pretty much like doing a solo run. Even the checkpoints, where usually you'd have marshals, someone crossing your name off a list, filling your bottles and providing lots of food, were now reduced in the Covid world to an unmanned table, and a tank a water to fill your bottle every 6 miles or so. 

The weather was still awful. 

The course was pretty hilly and I walked a lot, but before I started, in my mind I knew I'd be happy with a sub 5:30 run - with very little training, and all the weight I'm carrying, that seemed reasonable. The last few miles seemed to take absolutely forever though, and when I ended up running down a muddy, slip sliding track in my road shoes, I was a little worried I'd gone the wrong way, and that I'd miss my target. However, it was a very brief section, and my goal pace had been pretty much spot on the whole way round, so I ended up finishing in 5:24. Happy days! 

Drenched, aching, but pleased with myself - I collected my medal (no one can hang it round your neck anymore) and discovered loads of welcome snacks in the race goody bag. I'd enjoyed being out in the countryside for all that time, away from the chaos of home - just such a shame it hadn't been a bit dryer! But all in all a positive day and it was lovely seeing more London runners on my way home, who I beeped and cheered out of the car window. 

I'm hopeful though that my experience yesterday is the wake up call I need. I love marathon and ultra running...but when you're fat and unfit it is much less fun and much harder than it needs to be. I really have to start training more consistently and try and get back to some sort of normal weight! 

So, my London finish times now read: 

2008 - 5:00

2009 - 5:41

2010 - 4:55

2013 - 4:06

2020 - 5:24

Monday, 14 October 2019

Three under three and that coveted shirt

I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted -it's just been such an incredibly busy time. Our wonderful son, Alexander, was born in February 2019, and he's the loveliest baby. Happy, smiley and sociable - I feel very lucky. Looking after him, and our fabulous twins, leaves me with my hands full though, and there's not been much time for running and certainly not much time for blogging!

Three children under three is a challenge especially as we have problems with their sleep, and so I frequently get just three or four very broken hours a night, leaving me pretty exhausted.

However, I've been able to fit a few miles in now and then, and since Xander was born 8 months ago, I've run the Southend half marathon, two marathons and the Stour Valley Path 50km.

I've loved taking part in all of those events, but was particularly pleased to take part in the Saxons, Vikings & Normans marathon which was my official 100th, earning me full membership of the 100 Marathon Club so I'm now entitled to wear full club colours and am the very proud owner of the coveted 100 Marathon Club shirt.

It was a really great day and it was very special to be presented with my shirt by Traviss Wilcox who has been a mainstay of my running journey since I met him at my first ultra in 2012. I'm so proud of my achievement - I sometimes thought I'd never get there - and am so happy to be part of the club. The only sadness is that the 100 Marathon Club isn't, for me, what it was a few years ago, where I seemed to know so many more people and really felt part of things. There have been a lot of "politics" and people have fallen out, and it's all been a bit unpleasant, added to the fact that I've really not been part of the regular running scene for a few years, but I'm hopeful that things will be improve and I can really enjoy wearing the shirt and the recognition it will bring from other club members at races.

Monday, 16 July 2018

My 100 marathons & my next challenge

When Francis and I first got together in 2006, I didn’t run, in fact, I didn’t do any exercise at all. I didn’t own a bike, had never run, I was not the outdoors type – I liked a pub or a club, dancing and drinking.

After being utterly inspired by watching the 2007 London Marathon (not on TV but out on the course for the first time) I got a charity place, started running for the first time ever, and ran London myself the following year in April 2008. I enjoyed it but I thought I had achieved as much as I wanted and stopped running. 18 months later I decided I should have another go. My second marathon was in April 2010 and I haven’t looked back.

Since then, life has changed immeasurably – we’re now married, with our awesome toddler twins, and our crazy spaniel. I watch sport on TV, love cycling and walking, don’t really drink, and I have now run 100 "unofficial" marathons or ultra events, completing the 100th on Saturday at XNRG’s Chiltern Challenge 50km event, a glorious, gorgeous event up and down the Chiltern Hills. 

I’ve had some amazing experiences along the way.

Finishing as third lady (behind my hero, first placed Mimi Anderson) at GUCR, a 145 mile non-stop race between Birmingham and London is absolutely my highlight. My first 100 miler, finishing in 22:20 and having a near perfect race comes close. But there have been lots of others. Brathay Trust's 10 marathons in 10 days event in the Lake District was incredibly special and I have loved all the multi-day events I’ve done where you’re in an insular, protected running world the whole time you’re there. The five times I've run St Peter's Way 45 mile race. I ran a 50km trail race at 3 months pregnant. There’s been a mixture of glorious trail and focused road runs. Single lap races, many laps, A-B, even 40 miles on a treadmill (although I didn’t enjoy that at the time!). The beyond beautiful Larmer Tree marathon and the stunning Cotsworld Challenge. The overnight Saffron Trail 70 miler was a great adventure. I’ve run abroad in the sunshine, up and down a pier for 26.2 miles, along a beach in a hurricane, and I've run a marathon with my own crew car as part of  record breaking relay around Great Britain. I managed to get a Good for Age place in London back in 2013…I used to be a lot faster (although we could only take a week's honeymoon after we got married as I had to get back for the race). I’ve been on the podium a few times, won a couple of races – I’ve got some trophies and a magnificent medal collection. I even have a running tattoo. With the very generous support of my friends and family, I’ve managed to raise over £15,500 for various charities.

I have met some great friends, had lots of laughs, and become part of an incredibly supportive, wonderful community.  Blood, sweat and tears is true too though - I’ve been injured, I've endured, cried tears of pain and frustration, got frighteningly lost and I’ve had two races that I didn’t complete - the dreaded DNFs. 

I’ve crewed at races, supporting runners and manning checkpoints – a very special experience that all runners should do at least a few times! Without a doubt I would not have made it this far without the support of the RDs, race officials, check point teams and marshals at these races - they are the lifeblood of events and absolutely make dreams come true for runners. Particular thanks to Lindley & Maxine of Challenge Running, Traviss & Rachel from SVN, Foxy from Enigma, Karen from all the races(!) Nici at Centurion, and Aly at Brathay, who have each made a world of difference to my running successes.

I have discovered that I am a stronger, more resilient and more dedicated person than I could have imagined – a different person to that party girl that my husband first knew. I have to thank him too for the absolute support he has shown me through the years - always believing in me, and never challenging my  most far fetched plans. I know it's not always been easy to have me away training or racing so much, especially when he's had to get up ridiculously early as a result, but I  do hugely appreciate it. 

There are more goals for the future, a faster GUCR, some more 100 milers, a sub 3:30 marathon, maybe revive a plan I had a few years ago about completing an Ironman.

But my immediate goal, after my actual 100th, had been to complete my "official" 100th later this year at Centurion's Autumn 100 mile race, which would earn me full membership of the 100 Marathon Club - unfortunately 3 of my events don't count for the Club so I need to get to 103 by my total. As part of that event, I was also going to raise money in memory of our much loved, much missed family member Catherine, who passed away at the beginning of the year.

However, I am having to put this event on hold, and although this is still absolutely planned for the future, it may be a few years down the line. 

"Why?" I hear you ask. Well, that 50km I ran while I was pregnant? That was this weekend…Yes, that's right. I'm pregnant again, and although naturally nervous about adding to our brood, we're very excited about it.

I'm keeping my sponsorship page open though, so if anyone would like to donate to the Brain Tumour Charity in celebration of my "unofficial" 100 marathons achievement, that would be fantastic. Please take a look:

So, we have a new baby on the way, due early 2019, and he or she is my new focus. I’ll do a bit of running over the next few months to keep me sane but the very long distances are an unnecessary risk so all other plans are on hold during the rest of my pregnancy. 

Looking after three children under three will be my next big challenge and my official 100 will have to wait just a little bit longer...