Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Race | Seville Marathon

11 marathons in. 4th attempt at achieving a 'Good For Age' time - the time needed to run the London marathon. On paper that means sub-3:45 but in reality this year 3:40:45.

First two times they were more fleeting thoughts rather than hard work plans (Copenhagen 2018 - destroyed in the heat and Chicago 2018 - PB of 3:52:58). The last time in Stockholm I'd worked super hard and it didn't come to plan but thanks to the amazing Speedster pacing me round the hilly course I lowered my PB to 3:45:39.

In the last 10 weeks I've worked harder than I've ever worked in a marathon training cycle. I've achieved a new 10km PB, run virtually my half marathon PB after a 10km warm up and clocked paces I've never seen before.

I was ready.

But this was not the blog I was hoping to write.

Seville was the most wonderful course. Beautiful, flat and early on in the year - perfect for the ultramarathon lover in me to race then get back to the trails.

I've also been struggling with lots of other stuff recently including high levels of stress and little sleep and going in to marathon week I wasn't my usual self but by recognising it properly early on in the week by the weekend I was feeling ready to attack the marathon. I clocked a little shake out on the Saturday and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little shocked at quite how warm I found it. After training in long, cold, wet English winters, and being known for my love of shorts and t-shirts regardless of the weather, I was shocked at quite how warm it felt in Seville.

I made a panic trip to Decathlon and bought a great emergency vest for just €15 to wear on race day. Nothing new before race day slightly out the window but it was definitely the right decision.

On the day itself I felt great. The Speedster had wonderfully offered to pace me and as we set off I felt amazing. I was so ready. Congestion at the start made the first km slow but that felt useful to get us in a groove. We went through 10km in 51:15, on track for 3:35. The next 5km flew past but 17-19km were a bit tough but I still went through the half marathon in 1:48:55, on track for a 3:37 finish. 20km-24km I was back on it but as I got to 25km my chin started repeatedly popping up and I realised I was started to get really uncomfortably warm.

Between 25km-30km I managed to hold my pace for some kms and others started to slip but I was still well on track for a GFA time. But then around 31km something just snapped in a way I've never experienced before. My heart rate soared over 190bpm and I was convinced I was going to pass out/throw up. The heat got to me. And then my calves started cramping horribly (again something I've never had before). I desperately poured cup after cup of water over my head desperately trying to cool myself down but the damage was done.

My brain was screaming to stop. I'd lost all my goals. I felt so unwell. I just desperately wanted to stop.

But somehow I kept moving forward. I walked through the water stations for 10-20 seconds every time to try and give myself the chance to get in fluids. It was agony to keep moving especially as around 35km my by now wet and salty feet were causing me agony (3 blood blisters under toenails and a massive blister on my arch would explain that later) and I felt like I was barely moving.

When the 3:45 pacers passed about 39km it really hurt me mentally. I desperately tried to go with them but my legs were screaming with cramp.

Looking at my splits now for the last 12km I actually see I was still holding a decent pace. But it's hard to come to terms with goals versus paces you formally ran.

I convinced myself for the final 3km I wouldn't walk a single step. Finish well. Flipping heck it hurt. The Speedster was amazing and stuck with me through all of my meltdown. As we approached the finish line it was so overwhelming to not be running towards at least a PB.

Crossing the line I cried. And cried. And cried.

I don't think I've 'deserved' a PB more. But it was not to be.

I'm taking some time this week to regroup and come to terms with how I'm feeling. Next up I've got a trail ultramarathon so I'm excited to next week head off to the trails for mentally a bit of a break from the roads.


Total time: 3:48:19
Average pace: 5:25/km

Finishing position: 5454 (out of 10,299)
Finishing position (gender): 404 (out of 1488)
Percentage of finishers: 88%

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Race | Endurance Life Dorset Ultra+

We're driving down to Dorset on the Friday evening after work before racing on the Saturday and I can think of no good reason as to why I've entered the Ultra+ over a shorter distance.

I'm fortunate enough to be an Ambassador for the brilliant Runderwear and when they suggested over the summer a team outing to their neck of the woods and a chance to explore the Jurassic Coast I thought: Brilliant! Endurancelife is a race series that aims to cater for all abilities and as such their events start at 10km and go up to UTMB qualifying races. I've got, as I keep joking, too many UTMB points so that was no factor in my decision making process. The race is also a series of laps for anything beyond the marathon so by going longer I wasn't getting a better view or route.

Simply: I was pretty stubborn about a woman needing to sign up for the hardest event. I waited for one of the other girls to sign up. I thought at one point I might have persuaded Jordan AKA Project Marathon Girl before she instead took on Ultra X's Jordan race.

So it was left down to me, in my head, to represent the girls.

The Ultra+ is run along the beautiful Jurassic coast which, while not particularly high, is continually undulating along the cliffs. This means the 73km race manages to sneak in an impressive 3,250m elevation gain.

The race day itself was utterly beautiful: clear blue skies and incredible views. I spent most the day in just a t-shirt which given it is run on 30 November was remarkable. The course is pretty technical in places and it's definitely one to take poles on. It was brilliantly marked and bar one HORRENDOUS churned mud-bath of a farmers field where I saw someone loose both his shoes to the mud, it felt so well chosen as a route. We even passed a trig point on route!

It's slightly demoralising to be on a route that picks up and drops off those running shorter distances but it was actually really nice to be, for the first 50km or so, with the shorter 'Ultra' runners as I got chatting to some great girls on course.

The highlight of the day was my amazing friends being there to cheer me on: my friends Claudi and Matt drove all the way from London and back on the day to cheer and the legendary Speedster clocked up 30km through running around cheering and taking pictures.

Personally, I really enjoyed the loops. I didn't expect to say that but I've not run with a headtorch for longer than about an hour so the three hours I ended up in the dark was made much better by the fact I'd essentially recced the race route during the race.

As far as ultras go, it was a great day out. I personally think the aid stations could do with some proper nutrition and it seems a little unfair if you are UTMB points hunting that the race is worth the same points as Country to Capital after the Ultra+ was downgraded this year from 4 points to 3 but in terms of fantastic season closers I'd really recommend it.

Thanks to Runderwear for the place and kit.

Total time: 11:14:30
Strava link:

Finishing position: 48 (out of 73)
Finishing position (gender): 6 (out of 24 starters, 10 finishers)
Percentage of finishers: 70%*
*Plus high numbers dropped down to shorter distances on the day

To find out more about how to enter the 2020 race go to: