Sunday, 6 November 2016


It has been a wee while since my last post. Well, technically the definition of 'wee' is "little; very small; tiny; minuscule" so if 18 months is your definition of wee, then we are all good to proceed! (If not, just go with it!) The timing of my last post was to herald the countdown to one of the biggest adventures of my life, climbing the 'roof of Africa' Mount Kilimanjaro. It was all about the prep, the packing, what to take, what not to take, advice, training and all the other key things you would expect to follow on the lead up to this awesome challenge. Don't fret reader, this isn't a doom & gloom post, I did make it to the roof of Africa and I am incredibly proud that, along with my two best friends, we made it there and back in one piece with very little drama - but lots of tears, laughter, memories, newly forged friendships and an abundance of pride! But life got in the way of keeping a blog up to date with all of the training, the purchases, the packing, what I decided to take, what I left behind and all that jazz. Everyday life continues during this time of preparation and one of the casualties of this was blogging. It's a shame, as I found it a great outlet to share my random ramblings, babble and general witterings that crowd my grey matter throughout the day. It's a bit like therapy. Without the expensive therapist and leather chaise lounge. And you dear reader, don't charge me. Awesome! 

Everyday life often does get in the way of things that you were once passionate about. Somethings we can control, other things we can't. We can try to hang onto these 'things', be they habits or hobbies, but sometimes we lose our grip and let it go. With all the will in the world, you want to hold onto it but it slips from your grasp. Some may say that if you were truly passionate about it then you would hold on with both hands, tie a brick to it, wrap a rope around it, do all you can to make sure that it wouldn't slip away from you but it's not always that easy. I have been the culprit of having a slightly weak grip on a few things that I haven't been able to maintain my grasp on and, unbeknown to me, they have had a concertina effect on other things that have subsequently been let go of. It's snowballed and gathered momentum but I feel it's now time to put the brakes on the momentum, chuck it in reverse and re-establish a mighty grip on a few 'things'. 

A lot of the posts on my blog have been running related. I started running properly i.e. Frequently training & entering races, a few years back, and it was awesome! It became a huge part of my life and I'm sure I bored everyone around me to tears with my constant chitchat about training runs, miles I had run, events I had entered, my thresholds or hill sessions, how my Garmin wouldn't get satellite signal until a few minutes into my run. Damn, I'm yawning just writing this! But I didn't care because I LOVED running. I loved how it made me feel, physically and mentally and I couldn't wait to don my trainers and head out the door for another run pretty much as soon as got back from one. I took on some brilliant challenges and was very proud of all my achievements. It culminated with me completing my first ultra in January of his year, Country to Capital - 45 miles from Wendover to Paddington. It was a hard slog, both the training and on the day itself, but again, I was so proud of my achievement of completing it, and thankful for all the amazing support from family & friends on the run up to and on the day itself (spare a thought for Sam & Lucy having to take public transport to meet me at a checkpoint #BusWankers, my Mum who 2weeks before had a transplant but still came to meet me at the finish line and also for poor @UltraBoyRuns for having to listen to me moan & waffle on for 10 hours; you guys deserve a special medal for that alone!) The post event pride and sense of achievement remained for a while but I soon found that I had floundered with my running. Whether I took too much  time off to recover or the post event blues got a tighter grip on me than I realised or if for another reason I can't pinpoint was to blame I don't know but I found I literally couldn't be arsed to run. Nothing seemed to make me want to get the ol' trusty trainers back on and    clock up some miles. Not even my expanding waistline was motivation. Nor was thinking back to how good running made me feel. Those once addictive endorphins or skinny jeans were not a big enough dangled carrot to tempt me out to pound the pavements or trails. This 'thing' had slipped from my grasp. 

In the months that followed, I had a fleeting return to running & exercise and a brief resurgence of the buzz of endorphins. I signed up to a 90 day online diet & exercise plan in an attempt to give me focus and reinvigorate the discipline I once had. But again, I allowed my grip on these things to loosen and my enthusiasm waned. Work got incredibly busy. Family illness. My heart got broken (as did my toe in a totally unrelated incident!!) Did I mention that work got busy!? Excuses? Probably. People going through worse things? Absolutely. But we all cope differently under pressure and something has to give. Turns out, I gave up a few things. The things that I previously prioritised high up the list slipped down the rankings and pretty much off the page. I tried on various occasions to reestablish a few good habits but they never lasted long.  This isn't a woe is me post and please don't think that I've been a miserable mardy arse since January wallowing & skulking about in my own self pity with my face tripping me. I haven't. I've been active, I've done some awesome fun things, got outside, climbed some mountains, binged watched Netflix, been on a family holiday of a lifetime, met awesome people, laughed until I cried and made some brilliant memories. But all with my spark shining a little duller than before. So, "great", I hear you say (if you're still with me & haven't stopped reading) "you've told us that you used to love running, your hand strength has been a bit shoddy and you've lost your grip on some 'things';  you ran an ultra, you stopped liking running, you put on weight and some good & not so good stuff about your year. So what, EmLa, what's the post actually about?" Well, I'll tell you, just bear with me a wee while longer, I promise it won't be 18 months before I get to the answer! 

During the year, I have read many, many social media posts, blogs and listened to many a podcast in the search of reigniting my spark. Many of these have reiterated things you and I already know help to inspire and encourage us to have a 'happy and contented' life, from a good balanced diet to exercise to planning fun thing so to do, keeping a thankful journal and daily affirmations to name a few. I am not mocking, knocking or criticising these methods or lifestyle choices, they are around as proven methods that help people in various ways. Each to their own and what works for one won't work for another, you have to do what you believe in and what suits you. What I do find challenging is that in a quest to find my spark, I found myself overwhelmed with advice, tips (this is the correct word, 'hacks' makes me a little bit angry!) and suggestions on how I can be happier and content in my life. Some offered tips  that were/are useful, others I felt would take up my entire day writing post it note reminders of what I should be doing/feeling at a particular time of the day. In essence, I found the volume of advice, tips and tricks to be a tad overwhelming and all a bit much! Yes, I sought out these posts and podcasts, so may have brought it on myself but I realised that in a quest to find the magic solution of regaining a bit my missing flare, that there was no such thing. It  doesn't exist. It can't be found on a blog or IG post or amongst the mele of podcasts out   there. Advice is there to be taken if you want it and we are all guilty of being drawn into a rabbit hole of posts, videos and episodes looking fir the answer. But what I have found to be the common denominator in all of the social media posts is that it can make you feel shit. Totally shit about your life, about how you feel and look. You unwittingly compare yourself to others and bench yourself against their posted achievements, such as their ability to balance a busy life with the same challenges you have to deal with but they are coping MUCH better than you; how they manage to have a good hair day every goddam day despite having curly hair and it's raining and their lives are just brimming with happiness and yours feels like a bit of a mess. Clearly leaving the reader or listener with this feeling is not the intention of those who post, well I hope it's not! But in this age where we have constant access to sharing every aspect of our lives online comes the inevitable feeling of not being good enough. I'm not talking about everyone here - there is nothing wrong with celebrating your own awesome achievements, whatever they may be. Damn it, celebrate that shit & shout it from the roof tops. I guess the 'watch out' is to the reader of said post; be happy, genuinely pleased for that person and their achievement but remember it's their journey, a snapshot of their life that they have chosen to share. It's not a 100% reflection of their daily life. And it's not to be compared to you and yours. But you know that, right? I do but on occasions it slips from my mind. Especially when I'm finding it hard to keep a grasp on 'things'. What I've learned is, the main 'thing' is to strip back everything to the basics; I am me, unique, annoying, quirks and all. I don't need to follow a plan or programme to make me happy (or should I say happier). The only way to get my spark back is to stop comparing myself to others,  trust in myself, stop worrying what others think about me and do what I enjoy, for the sheer enjoyment of it and that should be enough. I'll find my spark along the way. (And I'll work on my grip strength too). 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Kilimanjaro - and so it begins

In case you have missed it, I am attempting to summit Kilimanjaro in September with my two best friends. We booked our ‘holiday’ last October and the momentum of the big departure day approaching is gathering pace (I know I am stating the obvious that time ticks by and that is how life works but you get what I mean!) It seemed a long way away when we booked it. Plenty of time to read up on it all over the next 11 months - what I need to take, what I don’t need to take, training tips, hints for tackling AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), training plans, medical advice, getting fit, will I need that ‘toilet shovel’, the right down jacket, the right base layer, socks, walking boots, really is a minefield! All of a sudden, when you realise that there is only three more paydays until the off, you wonder if the 32 articles and blogs you have read, most with differing suggestions and advice, have helped prepare you at all for what lies ahead. In short, the answer is yes. And also no. In reality, when looking at it with a calmed mind and being rational about it, we are probably more ready for it than we think. In essence, it’s.....”all about the base, about the base, base layer” (a la Megan Traynor & that annoying song of hers!) Layer it up with the bases, top it off with a softshell jacket, a down jacket, hat & gloves, chuck on a daypack and pole pole away we go! Obviously, not as simple as that but trying to adopt the approach of ‘I’ve got this, it will all be fine’ regarding the kit makes for a calmer me! Obviously look out for future posts when I am panicked beyond belief at having purchased ALL the wrong base layers, socks, jackets etc!

The kit is having an outing this weekend. We’ve done a few local training walks (blog to follow as the routes have been gorgeous) breaking in the boots, trying out the merino layers, socks, all important snacks and rain jackets but this is the first biggie. And the one that makes it all seem a bit more real! The trekking trio (not an official nickname, just came to me. Not the most original. I’ll work on it!) are heading up to Snowdonia to attend a Kilimanjaro specific training weekend with Action Challenge. It will be a weekend of firsts; first time staying in a Youth Hostel, first time trying all the kit out in one go, first time walking with poles and the first time climbing Snowdon at 1am on Sunday morning! What?! Yes, the weekend is specifically designed for those of us who are planning on reaching the summit of the highest mountain in Africa and is intended to replicate the final day on Kilimanjaro, the toughest day of the trip with a stupid number of hours of walking at high altitude with minimal sleep in the dark to reach the summit for sunrise. Thinking about that final night fills me with excitement, dread, terror and apprehension in equal measures! The training weekend will see us trekking through Snowdonia during the day on Saturday for approximately four hours, back to the YHA late afternoon for a bite to eat and rest, head to bed and then be rudely awoken at midnight to start another trek at 1am and eventually head to the summit of Mount Snowdon at around 5am. 1am?! 5am?! Seriously?! Obviously, there is the small matter of not being able to replicate the altitude but it will certainly test us with time on our feet and lack of sleep with back to back trekking. Not to mention the testing out of the kit. Even with the packing list provided, it’s been a real challenge to keep the afore mentioned calmed mind to make sure I only take what  I really need and not carry any excess clothes or equipment. My bedroom and spare room have been littered with piles of clothes, sorted into definitely, maybe, no and possibly piles, multitudes of water bottles, instructions on how to use my bite-valve on my water bladder and an abundance of snacks. I've even optimistically packed some sun cream.  And I think I have managed it, even with the weather being an arse and playing silly buggers! But I guess I won’t really know if I have managed it until we return in one piece on Sunday night.

So with my trusty daypack, overnight bag, mini bag of snacks (Hello a box of Naked Flapjacks!) all packed, this trekking trio are heading to Snowdonia. We’ll see you on the other side!

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Taking a break

We all need a rest from certain things to reinvigorate our passion for it, to remind ourselves why we do what we do, be that a work project or a hobby. I, took this taking a break thing, fairly literally and decided that the best way to take a rest was to break my ribs, thus forcing me into a self imposed period of rest & reflection. The positive is that I had a lot of fun prior to and after the breakage with my friend’s husband and his friend. C’mon now! Not like that, tsk! We were taking part in the 10k Monster Race obstacle event in the wonderfully (painfully!) hilly grounds of Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire on 18th April. It was mudtastically, swamptastically challenging and sadistically, highly enjoyable right up until I tried to haul myself out of the water and allowed my ribs to meet the edge of the plastic pontoon with some force. I knew I had ‘knackered’ my ribs (pretty sure I used another word though!) but as we were so close to the end, I kept on keeping on. I had race bling to claim. And a water slide to lob myself down to get it. Long story short; slid down slide, got through the ‘meat crusher’ tyre thing, climbed stupidly high wall, claimed medal, used a tonne of baby wipes, put on foil blanket, went into shock, visited hospital, got high on industrial strength codeine for 10 days & kept nodding off, pain subsided and here we are four and a bit weeks later.

Now, some may say this period of ‘rest & reflection’ was more akin to ‘grumpiness & general tetchiness’ – and they would be right! I have not coped well with not being able to do something when I have really, really wanted to. I mean, yes, it has made me think things through, assess what I really get out of running and exercise, what happens when I don’t do it, what goals I want to set myself when I am back being able to put one foot in front of the other at an acceptable speed that represents ‘running’. But maaaan, it has been a mental struggle during this enforced down time. I have always known that I have run for two main reasons – to keep me fit and keep the weight I worked so hard to lose off and most importantly, to keep me sane. Frustration levels have reached an all time high during this rest period, especially when I had to miss out on a 20 mile training walk (I’m climbing Kilimanjaro in September with my two best friends) I mean, not even being able to walk?! Gggrrr! I have also been incredibly envious of my Twitter feed with all of the fab training, racing & general miles of enjoyment that the people I follow have been able to do. In actual fact, there has been pretty much radio silence from me over the past month on Twitter (Oi, you, no cheering please!) bar the odd sporadic tweet. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about my followers or those I follow, I just feel that I wasn’t in the right place to contribute. It’s funny because Twitter is *the* most supportive & encouraging place to be when you need it the most, i.e. at times like this! With this in mind, you can see how it’s become a struggle for me. I know it sounds dramatic, and boy, I can be such a drama queen at times, and this is not a ‘woe is me’ post but it really has been an interesting/challenging time, for sure!
NB: Just to note, Maltesers are lovely an’ all, but they are not supportive or encouraging, other than they encourage your weeble-while-you-can’t-run-status to grow. This is taken from firsthand experience and is a warning to you all!

Things have started to improve this week and although not 100% in the rib & surrounding area, I took myself off to the gym for a wee trot on the dreadmill to test out how I coped with a run. I was nervous. One, of being back in the gym after 4 weeks out after spending the time I would normally be training (at the gym or running) stuffing my face with non-supportive Maltesers and two, if my ribs weren’t healed enough, of doing more damage and putting me out for longer. Nobody wants that, believe me! I chose the dreadmill rather than the road for cushioning purposes. Believe me, it’s not my first choice for running, as the name suggests! Long and short, it went OK; a gentle 5k plod and minimal pain during running. My ribs and surrounding chest & back muscles ached like billio the next day but not enough to put me off going back on Tuesday for another 20 minute trot and some leg work. The aches and pains on Wednesday prevented me from even considering giving it another go though. Slowly, slowly, catchy whatsitsface and all that!

I had drawn the line in the sand a good few weeks back (see previous blog entry) and although I had adopted the carefree non-pressured approach to running,  I feel that this (enforced) break has done me so much good. I had lost my way a little with running after doing so many events last year and I had left my sense of enjoyment and ‘runners high’ somewhere on one of my running routes. But now, although I am taking it very slowly for the next few weeks and must remind myself not to get carried away, I’m ready to start getting out of running & exercise the very things I forgot I loved so much about it all. The goals have been set and will be worked towards – getting back to being fit & healthy, successfully climbing Kilimanjaro in September and completing Country to Capital 45 mile Ultra in January 2016. And any breaks will be planned ones only!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Drawing a line in the sand

Sadly, this is not a literal post. I am not on a beach somewhere wildly exotic, a local lethal cocktail next to me and a punkawhallah with palm leaves in hand, cooling me down. I’m in good ol’ Blighty in my little home writing this but don’t let that detract from the topic!

My first post of 2015 had a lovely response. On publishing it, I was slightly concerned that it had unintentionally come across as a bit ‘woe is me’ but thankfully it was not read that way and the comments on the blog, via FB, text and email were nothing but supportive and encouraging. This is one of the reasons I love blogging and social media in general – like minded people, supporting and encouraging like minded people! Keep that shit up likeminded people, its ace – and so are you!!

The week after ‘the blog post’ I ran my first no-pressured run of the year and I had promised myself that I would run with my heart and not my head. No time pressures, try not to look at my damn Garmin every 5 mins, don’t try and keep up with others as they are all running their own race/event, and last but most importantly, ENJOY it! The event was the Chilly 10k, a multi-lap run at Castle Combe race circuit. Urgh. I am not a fan of multi-laps as it psychologically messes with my tiny brain but I was trying to adopt, embrace, and put to the test, this new mindset. I met up with my running buddy Lorain and her sister Ragin who were also running and we met just as the race briefing was hollered at us through the loudspeaker. Then it was a short walk from the paddock onto the race track and we were soon lined up and ready for the off. Repeating calm, soothing thoughts to myself and trying to listen to my music more than my laboured breathing was a real challenge. It’s a race, people compete. It’s what we hooomins do. There are people there to prove many different things to themselves or others, on their own journey, completing their own challenges and doing their own thing. And this was what I had to remind myself as I plodded around. Everyone is doing their own thing. And I should only concentrate on my own I tried to keep myself in check and just run. The results were interesting. My splits were erratic, as the nature of me is to try and pick people off as the miles tick by and I started to do just this, and then checked myself to just run it, hence a wibbly-wobbly pace. That said, I did have my eyes set on a chap a few hundred metres in front of me who I used as a pacemaker; if I kept him in my sights, I would be happy. My mind was a tad numb from the lack of inspirational or stimulating scenery and it wandered, contributing to the erratic splits. I think there was even a jazz-hands-sing-out-loud moment to try and break the monotony (I’m painting a bit of a bleak picture, it wasn’t that bad, as race tracks go; not sure I’ve mentioned it but multi-lap races are just not my thing!) Back to the chap running a bit in front of me. I caught him up with about ¼ mile to go. And I was hot on his heels as we entered the slightly winding, funnelled finishing bit. I managed to tell him, in a slightly breathy-gasping manner that he was my pacemaker and he had to get me to finish. The race was on and he challenged me hard to the finish line, the bugger! Garmin stopped, high five to my unofficial pacemaker (there’s a bit of footage of this and it makes me smile when I watch it!) and a time check. Only 14 seconds slower than my 10k PB. I officially ran happy!

And since then, I’ve made a concerted effort to ‘switch off’ from pacing my runs. Work has been manic and it’s hard to fit in structured training at times. It’s therefore been pleasantly surprising to find that taking the pressures off of myself has resulted in some really enjoyable runs and most surprisingly, some pretty speedy times too. Just last week, I knocked out a 3 mile run with splits of 09:26, 08:17 and 07:03. An almost 7 minute mile!! HELL YEEEAAAH!! And this I love. I don’t care if I don’t ever repeat that time as I know I did it and can do it – even if my legs felt like they didn’t actually belong to me. (Doing it for more than one mile may be a challenge but hey ho, I’ve done it!) Yes, I have a few running events to train for in the coming weeks and months but I aim to enjoy them rather than ‘smash’ them and I’m looking forward it. No pressure other than to finish.

It is early days but I definitely feel that I am getting back to rediscovering my love of running and once again enjoying the benefits of running for me. So, I may not be sat on a beach with a spade in hand physically drawing my line in the sand, but believe me, the line is drawn!

Friday, 20 February 2015

I give up!

Let’s just gloss over the fact that I haven’t blogged in a HEEEEELLUVA long time, shall we?! I mean, you don’t want to know all the mundane details on why my creative juices have had an absence of leave and my wish and want to impart my inane thoughts, drivel and blatant garbled ramblings on you has waned. If you do, drop me a line and I’ll send you a very lengthy email J

The reason for the return is many-fold; partly to remain an outlet for said inane drivel & ramblings, but mainly to get back to doing what I enjoy and enjoying what I do.

As many of you will know, I undertook a personal challenge to raise awareness, and funds, for the Ovarian Cancer charity, Ovacome, following the passing of a friend from this awful disease. I partook in 14 running events in 12 months and proudly wore my Ovacome running vest at every one, and raised over £1200 for this great cause. I’m very pleased and proud that I completed my own challenge and will forever be grateful for the unwavering support of my family, friends and total strangers in helping me exceed all of my targets.

But as with most highs, there comes a low. There was indeed a downside to the most active 12 months of my life. Aside from boring the living daylights out of every person I came into contact with (“yes, I’m running my Xth  race of the year on Sunday”, “yes, I’m going training tonight”, “would you like to sponsor me?”, “Have you seen my medal from last week’s run?”), after completing the last event, my enthusiasm, love and enjoyment of running was pretty much left at the finish line alongside my foil blanket and luke warm burger-van cuppa.  There was the natural ‘I’ll give myself a week or so off’ plan and then I had hoped to get right back to it. And I did. Half heartedly. To be fair, not even half heartedly. I had pretty much given up on running and pretty much given up on myself. And that spread into other areas too. Not eating quite as well as I used to, letting old habits creep back in. But it was OK because, you know, I’d just completed 14....yeah, yeah, you know! How many weeks can you go on with that excuse though? (answer....quite a few, actually!) Some weeks were good and positive, others not so. Even with a half marathon looming in Feb of this year, working with a running coach to reach an achievable time goal and reviewing, revisiting, reigniting good food habits it still wasn’t enough to get me ‘back to me & back on track’. Working with a coach was really good  as it proved to me that I do have the ability to improve my speed, my form and my overall confidence with running. And all these things I did over the few months of training. Unfortunately, work and illness put the kibosh on realising my half marathon goal time but I know I have it in me to do it. It’s just a case of time. Time. Commitment. Accountability. Planning. Other buzz-like words that are all real, relevant and work. All these things I know, and you know, but they have been buried in the landfill with that darn foil blanket and polystyrene cup from my last event! Until now. [Stage note: This is probably when the phoenix should rise from the ashes, in a plume of stage smoke, lights (not strobe. It hurts my eyes), some inspiring music blaring, the crowd cheers & whoops etc]

I have had a firm but fair word with myself. I’ve accepted that I have some work to do on me and understand where I want to get to. And I’ve accepted that if I want to get there, I’m gonna have to put in the work, cos no other bugger is going to do it for me! Yes, there are a hundred million memes out there on Instagram, Twitter, FB and all the others, that say the same with sparkly writing over a wonderfully inspiring  image and yes, I am one of the readers & retweeters of some of them. But you can read these a million times over, and we all do, but sometimes it’s not enough, is it? Sometimes it is as simple as taking some time to stop and think about how to get from A to B. And that’s what I have done this week. I don’t have a huge, complicated plan. I’m a Virgo so there is a list but nothing more than that. I did ponder a spreadsheet. I love a spreadsheet. Sometimes you just need some cell format-conditioning in your life. Just me then?! Oh. OK. *cough* Right, where was I.....oh yeah, how I’m getting from A to B? Well, I’m simply giving up on giving up. See, told you it was simple.

How do you reinvigorate your passion for something when it wanes? Time out? A break away or plough on through? Leave me a comment below & let me know!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013? Thank you! 2014? I am so ready for you!

I promise this won't be a 'This is your life' length blog, as so many of my entries tend to be (I just can't help myself, sorry!) but it's been a helluva year and I need to take stock of what I have done & what I can do more of in 2014. 

I originally started off with a plan to review the races and events I had taken part in this year, how the event went, what I learnt, what went right or wrong etc etc but you know, I've covered most of it my previous blog entries so where's the fun in that for you guys? (I'm all heart, I know) so I'll try and keep it brief. 

On reflection, 2013 has been a good year for running and I have learnt a hell of a lot about myself and what I can achieve physically and mentally - and I know there is more I can do to continue to improve on both those fronts. Compared to 2012, I have made great gains on my fitness, aided by over 3 stone of weight loss (amazing how much lighter I feel on my feet, literally!) and completing so many events with great times, all of which I am proud of (if a little frustrated when it didn't quite go my way!) I said no long reviews so here's my 2013 achievements in brief:

Reading Half Marathon, March - 2:10 PB (by 21 minutes!)
Zest 10K Obstacle Trail, June - 1:40 (with an injured ankle!)
Runners Knees Virtual 10 Miler, June - 1:42
Dublin Rock & Roll Half Marathon, August - 2:14
Costwold Classic 10 miler, September - 1:37 PB (by 3 minutes!)
Swallowfield 10K, September - 57:21 PB (by 3 minutes!)
Blenheim Palace BHF 10K, October - 58:00
Oxford Half Marathon, October - 2:03 PB (by 7 minutes!)
Crazy Christmas Cracker Run 10K Trail - 1:18
Gut Buster 10K Trail - 58:57 (technically a trail 10K!)

Writing it all down makes me incredibly, incredibly pleased and proud of my achievements, both on the day and the training miles & hours that I put in to get there. Mid-summer I had decided to take part in as many events as I could for Ovacome, the ovarian cancer charity, to do something supportive for my friend Teresa who was battling this disease & make other women aware of the cancer and the symptoms. And for me, chucking on a pair of trainers and my Ovacome vest and challenging myself to certain events was a way in which I could help to get the message out there about ovarian cancer. The flip side is that the happy side of completing these events is tinged with a sad side as, at the end of September my lovely friend Teresa lost her brave and courageous battle against ovarian cancer. As you can imagine and would expect, it was an incredibly sad time, and continues to be so, for her family, close friends and all who knew her. But the strength that Teresa showed all the way throughout her treatment has done nothing but strengthen my resolve to do more for the charity and continue to raise money and awareness for them. The new year holds a lot of miles, challenges and the odd blister and aching muscles but with that comes a huge sense of pride that I am able to indulge in my new found passion of running whilst doing something for others. 

The new year brings huge challenges for me - 5K, 10K and half marathon PBs are definitely targets. Hell Down South is the first on the list in 4 days time (dear God, what am I doing?!), followed  by Wokingham Half Marathon in February and Reading Half Marathon in March. But all of these, big challenges in their own right, are building towards the big one - Brighton Marathon on April 6th. A marathon remains the ultimate challenge for me after pulling out of London at mile 8 a few years ago. But I am 100% committed to completing the 26.2 miles and crossing that line, however long it takes me. Of course I have a target time in mind but I'm not willing to share that with anyone yet, if at all; that's between the three of us - me, myself and I. 

It's been an incredible year of running, physically and emotionally, all of which I would not have been able to do without the support and encouragement of Teresa's partner, Richard, my family, great friends, all at Ovacome and the people of Twitter. Your fantastically generous support is greatly appreciated and has been invaluable to me, keeping me going when the going has gotten tough. I hope you will continue to be there for me and keep me going through 2014 as I take on and tackle more events throughout the year. And blog about them when I remember to!

To everyone who has supported me with calls, texts, Facebook messages, Tweets, being there at races and those fantastic donations, I can't thank you enough but hope these go a little of the way to showing you my gratitude - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

2014? I am so ready for you! 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Busting a gut!

Today saw me complete my last event of 2013 and my 8th race for Ovacome, the 10K Gut Buster in Mortimer. And what a great way to end the year! The event was well organised, well turned out (sold out in fact) and a fab turn out of a friendly bunch of runners, organisers and marshalls.

I originally signed up for the race to help as part of my training for the first event of 2014, Hell Down South on Jan 4th, and it would be my second trail event having only completed my first two weeks ago ( The reviews online for Gut Buster were good and it is fairly local to me so why not! There were two courses on offer, 10K or 10mile, but will Hell only a week away, I thought that the 10K would be the better choice (note I didn't say easier choice!) 

Now, I am not a fair weather runner by any means - I am a fan of running in the rain afterall - but the forecast looked a tad chilly which posed the question of running attire. Layers yes, but how many? Hat or not to hat? Gloves? Headband? Long or short tights? The only certainty was that my trusty Ovacome vest would be worn but the rest, well, that was a tougher choice. The weather didn't improve and as I set off early-doors, layered up to the hilt, it was a nippy -2 with a hard frost. On arriving at Butlers Lands Farm, it was a balmy 0. Positively tropical. I was lucky enough to have a low run number and be able to park on the farm site itself whilst later numbers used the nearby Wokefield Park Hotel where a shuttle bus was provided for the 5 min journey to the start. Run number & timing chip collection was easy enough (I did feel for the volunteers looking rather blue despite the numerous layers!) and the area also doubled as the baggage store. After retreating to the car for a much needed pre-start heat, and final running attire choice (long tights, long sleeved top, vest, jacket and gloves; jacket discarded half a mile in!), it wasn't long before I was back in the farm's courtyard to join the loo queue & hear the pre-race brief. The brief was clear and littered with cheers, laughs & claps at the appropriate moments - everyone was in good spirits & ready for the off. The start is a few mins walk from the courtyard and thankfully, we weren't held for long before the countdown was over & the starter hooter blared. I say thankfully as I couldn't actually feel my toes so I was glad to be moving!

The initial stretch was tarmac and a tad on the icy side as we approached the first bend to take us onto a muddy track.....and onto the first hill. Gut Buster? More like like Lung Buster! No sooner had my toes started to warm up during the first 1.5 miles then we hit upon the ford. Earlier in the week, it was a metre high due to the atrocious weather but thankfully it had subsided to a manageable foot or so high today. There is the option to go around it via a path but with Hell next week going to throw chest-height muddy swamps at me, I thought it best to go through it. It was somewhat refreshing, that's for sure! The rest of the course remained a mixture of somewhat slippy roads, hills, and muddy off road routes, with the odd fallen tree as a hurdle and there was a smattering of welcome-cheerers en route too - encouragement and support is always good to see & hear. There were times when I felt like my legs were filled with the monstrous amount of pastry & mincemeat that has been consumed over the past week or so but encouragement from fellow Busters, and number 84 in particular (thank you, Natasha!), I kept on keeping on. The last 2-3K is very much off road and across fields which was hard on the feet & ankles due to the hard frost, making tractor tyre tracks quite a feat to overcome! With one last push, it was up an incline to the approaching finish line, where you were greeted with claps & cheers of 'well done', a cracking medal and directions to your cup of mulled wine & mince pie; well worth crossing the finish line for, let me tell you! (It was soon followed by a very welcome cuppa & bacon roll too, courtesy of The Coffee Hub). 

Number 84 was right behind me and without Natasha's support, I wouldn't have gotten around those last stages of the course in a very-nearly-almost-10K-PB of 58:57 (10K Road PB is 57:21) Thank you Natasha - and hopefully see you at Brighton in April!

And then it was time for a 'tweet up' as the birthday boy @Runnersknees crossed the line a few mins later! I had taken part on the 'Virtual 10 miler' set up by Darren earlier in the year, so it was nice to put a face to the name and tweets - great to meet you!

Yes, it was cold. Yes, it was icy & slippy. Yes, it was muddy. Yes, it was tough going and yes, above all, it was fun. It was good to get out in the lovely countryside (it really was lovely and a nice place to run) with like minded people and shake off some of the Christmas excess. For me, it was another opportunity to do more to raise awareness and funds for Ovacome, in memory of Teresa, and proudly cross another finishing line as I did so. 

The Gut Buster is an event I would definitely recommend partaking in but you best be quick as entries are already open for the 4th staging of this in December 2014 and if this year's numbers are anything to go by, it will fill up quick! Me? I 'm busting a gut to try the 10 miler next year!