I was really excited about going to this race, not because it was Ladies only, although it’s a lovely idea to help encourage women who may be a intimidated by “normal” race to take part, not because it’s the only Brutal race to offer a medal at the end, not even because I know Brutal put on brilliant races, but because I was going to be running with one of my very best friends Viki.
When I first started getting into fitness properly, and doing my first few races, it was Viki that I did these things with. We were training partners, race buddies, and discovered a mutual love of getting muddy together, as life often does though, other commitments started getting in the way and we don’t often train together any more, although we are hoping to change that, and hadn’t actually run a race together since Back to the Trenches in 2014.
She picked me up really early and we set off to Greenham Common, about two and a half hours away, where we just about made it before their suggested 9.15am latest arrival after somehow ending up at a shooting range initially and getting a bit lost. We easily got our numbers from registration and it wasn’t long before it was time to get ready to run.
Our warm up was delivered as we were jogged down to the start line which was a short way from the finish, and once we were warmed up we counted down and set off.
As I was going to be running with Viki, I had wrapped up extra warm, with double base layers on, and so I was a comfortable temperature despite the gentle pace and cold day. The water that we were in and out of was icy, but no deeper than the tops of my thighs, but with my thermal 2xu leggings on the only part of me that ever really felt cold was my feet, and they soon warmed up again as we trotted along, at least until the next bout of cold water.
It was a beautiful place to run, and despite being a Brutal race, there was really only one properly horrible hill. There were some brilliant sections of deep mud, a deep red colour that must have been rich in iron, then I spotted a silvery patch, trod in it, and ended up sunk up to my hip! I made pretty short work of getting myself free though and laughing a lot we carried on.
Our second lap seemed to take no time at all, and pretty soon we were at the splitting point for the second time, and taking the fork to finish. This took us across a bit of the course we had not yet done, as the route was a bit like a lollypop shape, with two laps round the “lolly” part, then finishing down the “stick”. They weren’t making it as simple as a straight run to the finish though, and it was through a few more freezing sections of water, including one right up to the line, before finishing, which cleaned the shoes and leggings off nicely but left me with one really cold foot for hours later (not sure why it was only the one!). We collected our medals, got ourselves changed then treated ourselves a well earned burger before hitting the road and heading back home.
Even better than the race, which was brilliant, was the fact that Viki enjoyed being back in the mud and has already booked us up for the next one at the end of February! Thank you Brutal for another awesome race!
2nd January, New Years hangovers behind us, calves a bit tight from running Brutal 10 on New Years eve, it was time for the first race of the year.
Phil and I were heading to nearby Winchelsea to take part in We Run, They Run, I Run’s Winchelsea Chase. Back in September we had done their first event, which was the same format as this race, just starting at the other end of the course in Rye and enjoyed it, so jumped at the chance of giving it another go, while getting 2017 off to a good start.
The idea of this race is simple, a 5.35mile out and back loop at the Rye nature reserve, to complete the race you have to do one lap, but you are given a 6 hour time limit and run as many laps as you want to/are able to in that time. At the end of each lap you have your wristband marked and when you decide you’re done, you honk the hooter and have your time and laps recorded. This makes this race a mental battle as well as a physical one, as there is no set finish, and you have to decided at what point you will stop.
Last time Phil had run 4 laps, and only stopped because he had to go off and play a hockey match, and I had managed 3 laps, my body hurting too much to continue. When we signed up to do it again, I had every intention of training properly for it, I downloaded a marathon training guide, hoping for the 5 laps that would mean I had run my first marathon. Sadly I had a spate of injuries which meant that far from training properly for this race, I had in fact trained less than normal, with very few runs, and none of any significant distance. The furthest I had run in the two months before this race was actually the Brutal 10 race on New Years Eve, clocking in at 9.61miles according to my Garmin.
I set off, making a conscious effort to keep my pace down, this could literally be a marathon not a sprint, deciding that I would do two laps straight off, before stopping to check out the re-fuel station. Lap one was comfortable, I got my band marked, had a gulp of water, then set straight off for lap two. The route was pleasant, along the smooth flat path next to the sea in the nature reserve, at the top end we veered off the path onto some shingle paths, dodging puddles, then down a bank onto a section of grass, this was slippery with mud, it made me smile as I skidded about, thinking about my first couple of OCR’s in normal trainers, how had I ever managed without trail shoes? This section ended with a muddy bank to scramble up, before looping back round and onto the proper path again back down to the start. I couldn’t help but wonder how much more muddy and slippery that section would become after a few laps!
At the end of my second lap I paused my watch and went to shovel in a few jelly babies, there were some small niggly pains in my legs where I’ve had previous injuries, but I felt stronger at this point than I had last time, I was ready for a third lap which meant I would at least equal my last attempt, which was still my longest run to date. I snapped a quick sweaty selfie and shoved it on facebook, crammed my phone back into the flipbelt round my waist, unpaused the Garmin, and set off for lap 3.
Lap 3 was OK, my legs were aching more, some of those niggles feeling a bit sharper, but mentally I was doing well, this is usually my undoing, but I was determined to keep a positive mental attitude! At the end of my third lap, I grabbed some more jelly babies, chocolate buttons and jelly beans, and got ready to head out for lap 4. Another quick pic and update, I had a quick scan of my notifications, the comments telling me to keep it up were really motivating and I was glad I had decided to take the time, I felt accountable now, I had to keep going. Every step I ran now was further than I had ever run before. The nature reserve was getting busier with people taking advantage of the bank holiday sunshine, dog walkers, kids on bikes, big family groups, there were a few hasty stops and a lot of weaving around, and at one point a very narrow escape from a small child who lost control of her bike!
At the end of lap 4 I was really starting to hurt, I’d run over 21 miles already, but one more lap would make the marathon. Another quick re-fuel, another quick update, I was less sure now that I would complete the 5th lap, my legs were giving up. My 5th lap did involve some walking intervals, and every step was painful now, but I pushed on, I had got this far, I wasn’t going to quit. I was nearing the 26 mile mark, and tried my hardest to pick up the pace a little bit, so as to keep my time inside 4hours and 15mins. It was agony but I just managed it, 4h14m57s, I wasn’t quite finished yet though, there was still a bit of a way to go to get back to the finish. After another little walk, I decided I wanted to finish running, as strong as I was able, so I gave it everything I had left to run it in to the finish, and honking the horn to signal that I was done. 27.14 miles, done!
I went to find Phil, who had also completed 5 laps, and had finished before me, and gratefully received the promised hot soup for finishing. We were both ruined, and getting down the step from the hut was comical. One of the race organisers asking us who was going to cook the dinner in our house that night (The take-away guys was my answer). As a side note, it’s probably best as a couple not to run a random marathon, on the same day, when neither of you are all that well prepared for it! 😉
I’m really proud of my achievement, not least because I didn’t give up, something I’ve been doing on a regular basis while running for months now. When I finished it occurred to me that the only thing that had stopped me was the pain in my legs, a similar thing that had happened to me after my first half marathon (that I had also not trained properly for), so I’m reasonably confident that if I trained my legs properly for that kind of distance, I could knock a chunk of time off what I achieved at this race, as well as knowing if I ran an actual marathon, I probably wouldn’t have to weave around stray dogs and small children! Whether I ever will try a “proper” marathon or not I don’t know, I’m not sure marathon running is for me, but running that distance can now be checked off the bucket list and I would definitely do this race again… next time, 6 laps?
So we have arrived at the end of what has been a pretty brutal year both personally and for many of the people that I care about. I have decided to be hopeful for 2017 and good things to come, and I’m going to focus the last of this years blogs purely on the running. Two races to complete the year, and next year I’m going back to race by race blogs rather than monthly blogs. I just prefer it that way.
Downland Devil 9
My husband and I returned for a second year to take on this hilly 9 mile trail run. It was a freezing cold, but beautifully clear crisp and sunny winters morning, and as the race starts you straight up a hill you were soon warmed up from the cold.
Phil shot off determined to beat last years time, and I lost sight of him very quickly as I plodded along at a slower pace. I did want to beat my time if I could, but wasn’t going to beat myself up over it, with pain in both legs recently I wasn’t prepared to risk another more serious injury.
I soon remembered just how hilly this course was, and at 3 miles I was wondering yet again if this would be the race where I got my first DNF. I kept going, walking more of the hills than I care to admit, my head giving up long before my legs did, but as the miles ticked off my watch, I started to quite enjoy myself, especially as I was now over half way. There is a great downhill stretched followed by some flat running, past a frozen pond before its back up again for the final few hills.
The finish is my favourite part of the race, a long downhill stretch, and I love running downhill! I blasted past a couple of guys, one of whom decided to push back and chased me all the way to the line, I picked up the pace even more though to keep ahead before crossing the line. I had managed to beat last years time, taking 2 mins and 6 seconds off, and I know I could do better still with a bit more mental stamina on the hills, and (fingers crossed) less injuries allowing for better fitness both before and during the race. Hopefully I’ll be back again next year to shave a bit more time off.
The Christmas Pudding Dash
For my last race of the year I dusted off my elf costume and prepared to jingle all the way round 5 trial miles at Pett. The race venue had been moved a day or two before the race as the original venue had been deemed unsuitable at the last minute.
The course was through woods and over fields, with a few good hills thrown in, some of which beat me and reduced me to a walk (something I blaming on my bad back and niggly injuries that are still kicking about)
With the venue change came a change in the set up of the course, being one loop which came in at just under 5 miles, rather than the originally advertised two laps. As I lumbered up the final incline to the finish I was reminded how unfit I’ve been feeling lately, and how annoying it is to run in an elf dress with bells on! I was happy to be done and grab my Christmas pudding shaped medal, Christmas pudding and mince pie, but it was a really lovely run and the weather had been beautiful. I’m sure we’ll be going back again next year!
Charity for Kids 5 Mile Dash
I might have been done with races for 2016 but that didn’t stop me from getting out for a few last runs. This 5 mile run along Hastings Seafront a couple of days after Christmas was organised by Born Ready Fitness’ Chris Hawks, an unofficial event set up to raise some money for charity for kids. Turn up, chuck some money into the charity bucket, then join a bunch of other people for a 5 mile out and back run along the coast.
Another beautiful day made this a great way to burn off some of the holiday overindulgence and there was a great turn out which raised over £200 for Charity for Kids. This was the second year this run has been organised so if you are local keep an eye out and join in the next one for a good cause!
Brutal 10 Longmoor
Opps I lied, apparently I wasn’t done with races in 2016 after all, and squeezed one last run in on the last day of the year. This race had been on my radar for a while, but I had been unable to convince the hubby, who wants more than a days rest before our next race on the 2nd Jan, so I wrote it off as I had no way to get there, however a few days before the race I found out some friends were going, and were happy to give me a lift, so I decided to sign up for the full 16km after all.
I very quickly started to regret my decision to do two laps rather than just 8km, having not run that far in months since my last spate of injury, I felt sluggish, and as faster people overtook me I thought I was going so slowly. This was a terrible mindset for the whole of the first lap, as I kept telling myself I should quit after one lap, that I didn’t want to go up those hills again, at one point I had myself completely convinced I should stop, I hardly paid any attention to what was going on, the beautiful trails and technical downhills, I was missing everything in my own self destructive thoughts. As I went through the penultimate bit of cold water a marshal called out to myself and the lady in front of me that we were the 16th and 17th lady to pass through, and I was really surprised, I genuinely thought I was running so badly.
I got to end of the first lap, and kind of surprised myself as I directed my feet to carry on rather than take the fork to the finish. I literally decided at the last second to carry on and finish what I had set out to do. I think for me it was a really important decision, I’ve been far to apt to quit lately, my head convincing me that my body cant do it anymore, and had I walked off that course that may have been me done with running, confidence finally knocked down to far to come back from, but I didn’t quit, and suddenly I was enjoying myself. The running was more comfortable, I didn’t have my own stupid brain telling me to just quit this time, I actually sped up, started over taking a few people. Mentally I was much stronger and this translated to my running. I started to realise what a good course it was, hilly, tough, cold water, tricky down hills, sand. I was finally smiling and by the time I finished I was exhausted but really happy, yet again impressed by the quality of race put on by Brutal and wondering when I could get back again to do another one. A great way to finish the year.