Tag Archives: ndw50

NDW50 2017

I hadn’t slept well all week in the run up to the event, my mind had been racing with a million thoughts about the race. After another restless night in the Premier Inn I headed the short way to the start at Farnham, where I showed how half asleep I was by queuing in the T-Z group for my race bib (my surname begins with an R!). After catching up with a few people and meeting a few faces from Twitter, we headed off to the trailhead and were underway promptly at 8am.

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The first few miles were fairly congested, we had some lengthy pauses for queues for stiles and gates, but after a few miles it started to spread out a bit more. I have never run the first half of the course before, and it was really beautiful, especially from around mile 12 onwards. There were a few changes in terrain, most notably a few sandy sections thanks to all the dry weather we’ve been having.

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It was drizzling at the start, but other than a few tiny spots of drizzle, the weather was good all the way, 17 degrees and sunny, although the humidity was tough, and I was really struggling with it for the first half of the run, I was sweating a lot and felt like I had a headache due to the humidity right from the start.

The first section to Puttenham aid station is fairly flat and runnable, I was feeling strong and moving through at a decent pace. I filled up my 250ml Ultimate Direction hard flask and grabbed a handful of raisins and nuts and was on my way, trying not to linger too long at the early stations.

The first real challenging climbs came around 12-13 miles in, at some point on this section I went offtrack and lost the course marking, luckily a man followed me and asked if we were going the right way, which we definitely weren’t, and we managed to cut across a path and found our way back onto the trail. I ran with Su for a few miles, and actually most of the race we seemed to be very close together, it was nice to have some company and hear all about his running.

The second aid station was at nearly 15 miles at Newlands corner, I was going to go to the toilet here but completely forgot once I got there. My brain was totally not working on the day. I refilled my flask with water again, and grabbed some more trail mix and headed straight off. I was still making good pace up to this point. I knew the first half was a lot flatter and runnable than the second so I wanted to try and bank some time, and then cling on in the second “half”.

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The next stretch was a long one, and the longest between aid stations all day, but I knew my brother was going to be at Box Hill to cheer me on, so it gave me something to target. I wanted to get to the stepping stones which were at 24 miles within 4hr 30, as I thought the second half would take me around 2 hours longer than this. I was still moving OK during this stretch, though slowing a little, and getting tired of long straight flat sections, I definitely started to walk a lot more from here on out on anything that resembled a slight incline.

At mile 23/24 I ran with a lovely lady called Tania, and these were actually 2 of my quickest miles of the day, including that horrible out and back bit under the A24 to get to the stepping stones carpark. I love meeting people during ultras, and hearing all about their lives, running, past races and future goals. We got to the Boxhill aid station together, around 4.22 and after I quickly filled up with some tailwind in my flask, and grabbed a bit of watermelon I was on my way up the steps to find my brother.

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This section of the course I was familiar with having run it 3 weeks ago on my recce run. The steps were even tougher than I remember, with the legs already battered and it hurt like hell going up. After a quick stop, chat and hugs at the top, I was on my way on what felt like a very long way to go, especially as I knew what was to come.

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My pace started to slow dramatically over the next few miles as the hills just kept on coming. Colley hill I found even harder than Boxhill, it is so steep, and goes on forever. The section from Boxhill to Reigate aid station is only 7ish miles, but it took me almost 2 hours, it’s so punishing, brutal climbs, horrid descents and just really not nice terrain to run on at all. This I think is where my real lack of training on this terrain started to show.

It was lovely to see familiar faces at Reigate, and the aid station was really busy at the time. I had a quick chat with Steph, grabbed some cherry tomatoes, and a massive strawberry jam filled vegan flapjack, which was all I managed to eat for the rest of the race, nibbling a bit every few miles.

I didn’t manage to eat a lot during the race, and ended up with most of the food I had taken with me still in my pack. I also had hydration issues from here on out, I was so distracted in the buzz of the station I forgot to fill up my flask, and realised shortly after leaving that my camelbak which had 1.2litres in at the start was almost empty. Luckily it was only 5 miles to the next aid station so it wasn’t catastrophic. I was getting a bit fed up of running, and my head just didn’t seem in the zone, the thought of still having 20 miles to go at mile 31, was not encouragingIMG_9029

I ran a lot of this section with another lady called Sydnee, we would stop/start in-sync, kind of motivating each other to keep pushing on. I think at this point we were both starting to count down the miles, and growing tired of running, there was a really long concrete section and we just couldn’t motivate ourselves to run it at all.

There was another big climb heading into the aid station at Caterham which couldn’t come soon enough at mile 38. I had quite a lengthy stop here as I needed to refill my camelbak bladder, once I had got it out of my pack and had it filled with a litre of tailwind, I did it up and went to put it back in my pack to realise I had done the opening up incorrectly and the liquid was pouring out of it everywhere. When I went to undo the opening, it was completely jammed, and several people at the aid station couldn’t undo it, so I had to abandon it and leave it there- luckily I had a 250ml soft-flask as well as my harder flask, so I could fill both of these up, I felt like I had stopped for a very long time here, much longer than I had wanted to. I grabbed some grapes and a few other bits of fruit and headed off.

As the miles ticked down I could start to think about the finish, though 10 miles still seemed like a long way. I didn’t want to run anymore, and my mind was trying to convince me not to- working out that if I walked from there I could still make it under the cut off. I would say in general I felt pretty low for a lot of the second half, I don’t know if it was the humidity, having run the first half quite quickly or just the brutality of the second half of the course, but I did find it really hard going mentally, which is something I’ve not really struggled with in an ultra before.

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I started to feel quite nauseous with about 12 miles to go, so I ate a few ginger chews and had to walk quite a bit to settle my stomach, and wait for the nausea to pass. I also really needed the toilet but there was no sheltered areas, as it’s quite open in the section on the way to Botley hill.

I think Botley is the worst hill of the lot, so I was glad to reach the aid station at the top.  I had a friend Sarah volunteering here and it was lovely to see her. They had peanut butter and jam sandwiches so I grabbed 2 triangles which gave me a real boost for the next section and the home stretch.

We were counting down the miles, and every step was taking me closer to home.  I found the last section really hard going, running round dry, hard, rutted fields is really monotonous and draining. I finally found a sheltered spot so stopped to go to the toilet, and not long after this I had a very lengthy stop as I had an extremely sharp pain in my little toe which left me unable to walk. I took my shoe off and couldn’t see anything wrong so I put it back on, but I couldn’t run, so I took it off again, took my socks off and put a plaster on it, unfortunately it was a really gravelly section, and my sock and shoe filled up with bits of stick and stones so I took ages sorting this out, all a bit annoying as I was feeling quite decent before that happened. The toe was still hurting, but it took my mind off other things that were hurting like a heel blister, and really bad chafe. At this point Su caught up with me again, and we kind of shuffled along together.

The last 3 miles of the course were unknown to me, and it was hillier than I thought it would be. I also wasn’t sure how far the finish was as I thought it was going to be closer to 51 miles than 50. At one point we went through a fields of cows, I walked past skirting the edge of the field as there were loads of calves and bulls, and one of the calves tried to follow me which was a bit scary. I was trying to motivate myself to run, but the need to walk was overwhelming at this point and the miles were passing so slowly.

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Suddenly we passed a sign that said Knockholt Pound 1 1/4 miles, I wasn’t sure if this was exactly where the finish was, but not long after we could see the finish gantry, and you have to do this horrible out and back for a mile or so with the finish in sight the whole way. I realised at this point I had 15 mins left to get in under 11 hours, so if I ran the last mile I could dip under this barrier. I think I managed my first mile beginning with a 10 since before Boxhill at mile 24, and finally crossed the finish line after 10 hours 55 minutes and 17 seconds.

Another Centurion run done, and 35 minutes knocked off my time from the SDW50 which is a shorter and in my opinion easier course (I really struggled with the mud last year). I was really considering one of the 100’s for next year, but this has put me off entirely. It was the hardest race I’ve ever done (even though Race to the Stones was 13 miles longer), the second half is savage, and I just struggled to hang on. I felt a bit broken physically and mentally at the end, and need a good break to recover.

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I met some amazing people along the way, the volunteers and everyone at Centurion were amazing as always, and these are definitely the events to go for if you want to do an ultra.

Ultra Training Done: Ready to Race…

I had some pretty good runs at the start of week 17 of training, my legs felt good, and I felt like fitness was coming back, but by the long runs towards the end of that week I was feeling really tired. I was going to focus on one more high mileage week, and another couple of really long runs, but my body was just saying no and that it was time to start winding the mileage down.

I think I wanted to do an extra few miles to make up for the missed training due to illness. I ending up cutting the planned 20 miler to 13 miles, which was just a constant mental and physical battle the whole way, my body felt heavy and niggly and I couldn’t push through one more time. Despite this I had a really good 10 mile run the next day which included a course PB at Hilly fields parkrun, so it seems like the hill training has been paying off.

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I haven’t done any super hilly runs since the NDW recce 3 weeks ago, as I felt like my legs took a while to recover from that, and I wanted them to feel fresh rather than battered on race day. In week 17 I managed nearly 40 miles, it was a drop from the 50-60 mile weeks I had been peaking at, but just a gentle way to ease into the taper, and still a decent amount of mileage.

In week 18 I slashed the mileage even further and dropped down to 4 runs a week from 5, and just scraped over 20 miles for the week. At the end of week 17 and beginning of week 18 I just fell into a right funk, I didn’t want to train, my motivation and mojo had totally gone. I had three rest days of moping and feeling sorry for myself, before getting my butt in gear and getting back out there. Week 18 was mostly made up of shorter runs, and I had to take it pretty easy as I had a bit of a niggly left calf which I think was stemming from my hip/ITB. I have a stretching/rolling/strength routine I put in place whenever I feel an injury coming on and this seemed to do the trick. My longest run of the week was 7 miles which freed up a lot of time! I also did a 6.5m run with my other half which was his longest run ever- super proud.

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This week is all about staying fresh, so I’ve just done two short three mile runs- I can’t remember the last time I ran 3 miles!- and I’ve stopped going to the gym too. I was still lifting three times a week up until last week, but last week I dropped the weights slightly and focused on higher reps, and I also dropped big compound moves like deadlifts and squats too. My legs certainly feel fresher this week for stopping the weight training.

I can’t believe how cold it’s been in London lately, it’s felt like January and been utterly miserable and grey, at least it’s been dry though. I’ve been obsessively checking the weather forecast for the weekend, it keeps changing daily between rain, and sun. The ground is going to be very very dry though- I hear it’s quite sandy in places too as it’s been so dry, if I had been training in more supportive road shoes I would probably race in them, but I’m n0t risking wearing ultra boosts for 50 miles so will still to my Inov-8 trail shoes.

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My nutrition was a bit crap when I drifted into the funk at the end of week 17, just eating too much packaged stuff and not enough freshness, so I’ve had a big overhaul over the last 10 days or so, reintroduced juicing into my diet, and have been loving having ginger shots and loads of green smoothies and beet filled juices. I’ve tried to focus on eating as many veggies as possible, and I am feeling really good at the minute. I would have liked to have been a little lighter going into the run, but I’ve lived off bagels, oats and energy bars for most of training which explains a lot!

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So that’s it, 690 miles run, 5 months of training in the bag, time to run 50 miles!

Week 17: 39m
Week 18: 22m
Week 19: 6m (plus race day!)

Race Ready?

With under two weeks until my goal race for spring the NDW50, I am fluctuating between feeling better prepared for a race than ever before and woefully under prepared- taper crazies have started already.

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I’ve never trained harder or more consistently for a race, I’ve looked through training logs for previous ultras/marathons and realised I’ve always missed significant chunks of training with injury. This time around I’ve managed to stay injury free- thanks strength training- but I have been ill twice, missing two entire weeks of training which I do feel has set me back a bit, although I did build in 2 spare weeks to my plan for this kind of eventuality. I’ll be close to 700 miles for the year by race day, and all those miles have brought me to this point.

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I was going to start my taper this week, but I kind of checked out during my long run last week. I had planned 20 miles, but was mentally and physically struggling the whole way, so I called it a day at 13.5, and decided to start my taper and wind down to race day early. I was already starting to feel pretty drained and tired and had not wanted to go out for a few sessions last week, I thought it better to go in a little fresher then feeling battered and not recovered.

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My NDW recce run a few weeks ago filled me with many doubts, and I realised my training hasn’t been as specific as it could be. I know that training in South East London is never going to replicate being on the trails, and I wish I had been able to get out for more recce runs, but I just haven’t had the time or motivation to spend hours traveling somewhere before running. I realised on my recce that the NDW is very very different to the SDW, it felt a lot more closed in with all the woodland sections, I also found the trail and terrain a little more challenging too, a lot of narrower rutted paths, and the amount of times I tripped over indicated I hadn’t spent enough time running this terrain, or trails in general. The steps are also a killer, and it’s tough when you are looking forward to a downhill and it turns out to be horrendously steep set of steps that are arguably harder than the ups! I haven’t spent enough time walking/hiking, which really showed as I struggled to even walk up some of the hills on my recce, god knows what state I will be in trying to attempt them after 20+ miles.

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Is it normal to feel both over and under-prepared at the same time, because right now that is how I’m feeling. Prepared in terms of miles run, time on feet, nutrition and gear practiced with, but not prepared in terms of terrain or elevation profile. For the SDW50 last year, I did less mileage, I didn’t do a recce or any trail running before, and I went into the race blind and that went OK, so maybe I will be fine. I feel like in some ways having done the recce I am slightly terrified of what to expect, and almost dreading the second half before I have even started, but I just need to put it out of my head until I get to that point on race day.

The next 2 weeks will be spent winding down my runs and strength training, dialing in my nutrition which has been bloody awful lately, and trying to stay healthy to make the start line on May 13th. I’m already thinking about future goals and races so I’ve maintained some form of passion towards running which has usually petered out at this point in training. I feel like I could have run more, and my running and strength work could have been more specific. I could have eaten and looked after myself better, but when you are running 50-60 miles per week, you are so tired and in a permanent state of hunger so you will kind of settle for anything. The decisions I’ve made have made up my journey over the last few months, yes I could be better prepared, but I could also be less prepared too. I just hope that everything comes together on race day, and it makes for an enjoyable day out on the North Downs Way.

Ultra Training Month 4: Dealing with Sickness

The positivity and high mileage of March sadly didn’t continue into April, as I got struck down with a terrible chest cold. I was feeling really ropey on a 27 mile run after flying back from Amsterdam and a couple of days later I came down with a sore throat and chesty cough which lasted about a week before turning into an awful cold. All I could do was rest and be sensible about my training, but it came at the worst possible timing around peak week, and was annoying having already missed a week earlier in the training cycle due to a stomach bug. It has taken me a while to recover and feel normal again, but towards the end of this month I have managed to get some more solid training in, though I am feeling that week has set me back a bit.

Week 13 was where I came down with the cold, at first I thought it was really terrible hayfever, as I was really struggling with the pollen on a hill session, but then it just went full blown and all I could do was rest up. I wasn’t risking running too soon especially as the cold was on my chest, so I ended up taking 9 days off running or any exercise completely.

I started running again towards the back end of week 14, and rather than cram in my scheduled long runs, I decided to continue where I had left off with week 13’s drop week miles and then get back onto plan the following week. I think it’s easy to get carried away, and push too hard too soon after illness, worried about missing sessions, but I just wanted to ease back in and not risk making it worse. I was still struggling with my chest, and also a constant running nose on those first few runs back, so I have taken quite a chunk of time to feel half decent on runs again.

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During week 15 I got back to my training plan, and aimed to complete my peak week- and I think possible my highest mileage week ever. I was suffering with heavy legs and quite a lot of fatigue after being ill, so I just focused on taking it easy, and avoiding any hard sessions like speed/hills. I did a back to back 25/20 mile run that week, those kind of miles are always going to feel tough, but it felt really difficult coming back from illness and having had a bit of break from the longer stuff. It was nice to do them in Cardiff over Easter though, always good to long run somewhere different as it gets a bit dull and monotonous doing the same routes at this point in training.

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Week 16 was another decent mileage week, and the first time I got out to the NDW to recce some of the route. In hindsight I’m thinking maybe going into the race blind might have been better as I now know how horrendous that second half will be, and I don’t want to be dreading it on race day. I did 25 miles starting in Dorking and finishing about 3 miles from Knockholt- I couldn’t continue as the police had closed off part of the route and wouldn’t let me go that way, I then had to walk up a treacherous country lane to get to the nearest bus stop and head home. The hills were great training, but I did find it incredibly tough going. The thought of doing that after 25 miles, is not that enticing! I’ve learnt that the NDW and SDW are very very different, and I found the terrain and ascents of the NDW far more challenging than the SDW, it’s also nowhere near as pretty! I followed the run with 11 miles the next day, and my legs felt surprisingly OK, which has continued into this week too.

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I’ve still been continuing with my 3 gym sessions a week other than the time off for illness, but I will probably drop these from next week heading into the taper, as I want to feel as fresh as can be on race day. I have been terrible at going to yoga again but might try and get some sessions in during the taper. Overall my body is feeling OK right now, and it’s just about keeping it fit, healthy and injury and illness free before race day. Kind of frustrating that I’ve managed to stay injury free but have been sick on two occasions which has set me back a bit, I’m glad I built a spare 2 weeks into my training plan for this kind of thing.

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My nutrition has been pretty good over the last few weeks. We were on holiday in Amsterdam in March and we had my family visit then we had Easter where we were in Wales, so there was quite a lot of eating out, but since then I’ve really focused on nutrient density, with big smoothies, salads and going with my appetite and whatever my body wants or doesn’t want after long runs.

The focus for the final few weeks is a final higher mileage week and then 2 weeks of taper. I can’t believe the race is only 2 and a half weeks away now- it has really come around so soon. My biggest fear is that my period is due right around the time of the race, and after having to pull out of the marathon in March with period pain, I know that if that happens it is unlikely I will be able to run, so I just have to keep everything crossed that it either comes early, or very late and doesn’t ruin my race!

Week 13: 14m (Drop week and illness)
Week 14: 22m (Illness and finishing drop week)
Week 15: 62m
Week 16: 51m

 

Ultra Training Month 3: Going Long

February was a really solid training month for me, and this thankfully continued into March. My mileage has been hitting near it’s peak for the training plan and the long runs and back to back long runs have been getting longer.
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I started the third month of training with a drop week, where I lowered my mileage from 50+ down to 30ish for the week. I like to do this after every 3 weeks of harder training, as I just find it most effective for recovery and progress, and not burning out.

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The last 3 weeks have all been big mileage weeks. I’ve been getting in a hill session each week, and will continue to increase these and try and do some sessions on steps in the run up to the race. I’ve also tried to run off road as much as possible although I know it’s not really equivalent to running on the NDW.

I had a really good 12 mile run during week 10 of training but unfortunately that week ended badly with me having to drop out of the Thames Meander Marathon after 17m due to severe period pains. Thankfully it didn’t affect my training too much other than the race and a shorter run the day after, and I still managed to hit my mileage goal for the week.

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I had a really good 24m run in week 11 of training, with a parkrun at Mile End during the run. I haven’t done that parkrun before, and it was a lovely route, albeit undulating. That run was a massive confidence booster, I felt really strong, and comfortable throughout, and didn’t feel too bad later on, or the next day when I ran the Salomon Richmond half and was only 18s off my PB.

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I think that week probably took quite a bit out of my body and it has taken a while to recover from it, which explains the fatigue in week 12. I spent most of week 12 in Amsterdam, but managed to get all my training in, I had two lovely 5m runs in the Vondelpark, and a beautiful 15m run along the river Amstel which I am quite amazed I managed to navigate without getting lost. I just followed the river once I found it, it was a lovely route, and so peaceful.

Last Sunday I did my longest run of training yet at 27m, and it couldn’t have felt more different to the 24m the week before. I had flown back really early from Amsterdam that morning, and lacking sleep due to the clock change and time difference, I was pretty tired from the off. I also set off much later than usual, and it was 17 degrees in Cardiff which was unusual. After about 4 miles I was really struggling with heavy legs, and just nothing in the tank physically or mentally- I knew this run was really important in terms of going through these feelings and emotions for race day, so I just pushed on, shuffling with one foot in front of the other. I felt battered by the end, incredibly sore and drained. It was great to get the mileage in, but it was confidence knocking for it to be feel as bad as that. Thankfully it’s another drop week this week, so time to recoup and recover, ready for the last push.

I’ve been struggling for the last week with incredibly bad hayfever which I think played a role in the terrible run too. I get really bad fatigue, headaches and chest tightness during hayfever season, and these symptoms coincided with running out of Reishi mushroom capsules over the last week, which I had been taking for a few weeks- time to restock!

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I need to really nail my nutrition for the next 6-7 weeks, because I basically ate/drank everything that Amsterdam had to offer, and I need to tighten this up, to focus on maximising recovery and getting the most out of my training too.

I’ve continued with my three gym sessions a week, and I’m still training pretty hard in the gym. I did drop my leg session on the week of the marathon, but other than that, I’ve kept going in the gym and will continue until the taper. I did get to a yoga class finally too, and I am hoping to keep going this month, it’s just the thing that gets dropped when I’m struggling to fit everything else in. I’ve continue with my rolling/strength/stretching a couple of times a week, and fingers crossed that is working for now. Hoping the drop week recharges me, and ready to hit some big mileage in the coming weeks.

Week 9: 32m
Week 10: 56m
Week 11: 53m
Week 12: 58m