Monday, May 9, 2016

3 more

They're coming thick and fast at the moment as marathons 73, 74 & 75 were ticked off last week. All quite different, 2 I've done before and 1 new one thrown into the mix. I'll have to make these updates as short as possible or I'll never catch up with everything. There's craft stuff too but that will have to wait!

Marathon 73, the Three Forts Challenge & 74, another Cakeathon Challenge

Although this was my 5th running of what is one of my favourite trail marathons it was only the second time that I had run it in good weather. It was cool early on but soon became very warm and I'd already made the decision to take it easy for 2 reasons; I had the Cakeathon the next day and my asthma had been bad for a couple of weeks as the pollen count was really high.

I met up with Bryan, Kirsty and Liz beforehand which was nice and I chatted with a few people I knew en-route too.

My target time was to get round in 6 hours (my fastest time is 5:40) or thereabouts which allowed me to walk up the steeper hills and soak up the views and also to take my time on some of the tricksy downhill sections (I've taken a tumble there before!) . I also made the decision not to take any more photos en-route as I've taken all the beautiful views last time, which you can see here, which allowed me to just soak up the glorious view without stopping.

It's interesting how different the experience is when you take away all pressure of achieving a certain time and I thoroughly enjoyed it, feeling strong all the way through. Although I didn't take any photos I felt completely immersed in the landscape. The sky was the brightest azure blue and on some sections the sea glinted white almost like a mirror against it.

As we ran along some of the tracks I thought about the writings of Robert Macfarlane and his explorations of the wild places around the British Isles. He is an excellent writer about walking in all kinds of weather and in all kinds of terrain and I tried to imagine how he would write about some of the holloway's which we we ran through. The name 'holloway' is derived from the Anglo-Saxon hol weg and is used to describe a sunken path that has been carved out of the land by the passage of feet (human and animal), farm traffic and/or the weather. Some of them had a narrow channel down their middle where the surface rainwater had tumbled down the hillside, washing with it flints so that it resembled an installation by Andy Goldsworthy! At least all the tracks were dry, although that meant that the chalk was harder on your feet so I was glad of my new HOKA trail shoes which are now broken in and didn't give me any more blisters.

I was delighted that the pigs were still there and were lovely to watch. On one side of the track the sows were lying on their sides sunbathing whilst on the other side were the piglets doing what piglets do best - playing. They were climbing on eachother, playing tag, jumping in muddy bits and then squealing with delight. I couldn't help myself and had to stop and watch them for 5 minutes. Pure joy.

As I ran towards Chanctonbury Ring I recalled the weather conditions when I ran it in 2010 - vile! This time it was absolutely perfect and the views were outstanding as you could see for miles. Chanctonbury Ring is an interesting place. The ring itself is a circle of beech trees, planted by a local man in the 18th century, at the top of a very exposed hill where there had been a Roman Temple and Bronze/Iron age fortifications. In Sussex folklore it is known as one of the most haunted places of the Downs so probably not the best place to visit at nighttime if you're of a nervous disposition!

As I headed down the final hill to the finish I still felt strong with plenty of energy left for the next day's challenge. I finished in 5:57:16 and was presented with my medal by the Major, which was a nice touch.

The next day I was up at silly o'clock again to head off to Betteshanger for another of Traviss and Rachael's Cakeathons. These challenge' events are so popular with people who want to increase their distance in a safe and supportive environment and having done it twice before I wouldn't have entered again had I not needed a replacement for my no-show on St. George's Day. I baked my usual banana and walnut cake plus my gluton-free vegan chocolate cake, both of which always go down well.

As always there were many wonderful cake creations and these 2 were my favourites:

Plus there was a cake to celebrate Nick reaching his 100 marathon milestone.

There were a few of the usual suspects there but nowhere near as many as usual. There was a group of lady runners and their children running dressed as 'Where's Wally' (red and white stripes with bobble hats) which I ascertained was because they had worn the outfit for a parkrun and decided to give them another outing just for 1 or 2 laps.

The other larger group was a hen party which also included some men, all wearing purple tutus. They all seemed to be doing different distances and they didn't really look very happy about it either!

Kirsty's bright attire always makes me smile!

I'd told Mike that I was just going to run however I felt and I'd probably just complete enough laps to finish marathon distance around the 6 hour mark. As it happened I felt great when I started running and was heading for a sub 5 hour finish when disaster struck 3 miles from the finish.

I was running along a gravel track and went past a lady who was walking. We exchanged pleasantries, as you do, and as I turned to continue the next thing I knew I was heading for the ground - SPLAT!

My right side took my whole weight with my shoulder, forearm, elbow, hip, upper leg and knee thudding into the ground. Both my hands were scraped and bloodied with bits of gravel in them. Ouch and double ouch. The lady I'd just passed came to check I was OK and told me to count to 10 before I set off again which was good advice because the shock doesn't always hit you immediately. I mopped up as much blood as I could with my hanky and then wrapped it around the area with the biggest chunk missing on my left hand. I took a walk break for about 300 metres and then started a gentle jog and thankfully felt OK and finished in 5:07:24.

After I'd cleaned myself up as best I could and had a bit of a cry (shock probably), I phoned Mike and told him what had happened. When I got home he said he had been really worried 'cos I tend to play down anything bad and he half expected me to have a bit of hand hanging off which required a trip to the hospital (he knows me too well!!!).

After a good soak in the bath (OUCH) and a large glass of wine, I dressed all the open wounds and they've healed really quickly which was a relief. The next day I developed bruises all up my right leg but they're all faded now too. Shaken but not stirred.

Marathon 75 - Marafun, Orpington

This is not the sort of event I would enter ordinarily but I thought I'd have a bit of a change. It was an event organised for a charity named Footsteps International which cares for street children and orphans in Kenya and it was all run on pavements (we don't have pavements where we live) and very uneven pavements at that. After kissing the ground a few days earlier at the Cakeathon I was ├╝ber cautious and spent most of my time looking downwards to avoid any more oopsy-daisy moments!

I gave extra time for my journey as the roads and motorway I used are notorious for delays but of course I arrived way too early and the officials were just setting everything up. Race HQ was situated in a school and the good thing was that I got a parking space really near to the start/finish area.

I was aware that there were a few people I knew doing it but there were even more than expected which was nice.

I loved Dee's bright poppy dress and she looked so elegant amongst us horrid sweaty runners! She's the ever-present support crew for Philip (below) and takes loads of photos of us all in various stages of disarray, handing out hugs as and when required.

Maryanne gives Philip advice on race tactics whilst Davo looks on

Philip very gallantly gives the game away as someone tries to dodge the camera!

Some of us were paying more attention than others (put it away Maryanne!) during the race briefing - Bryan and I look mildly interested anyway.

Here we are, some of the Usual Suspects some of whom you see all the time on the marathon circuit. I can't even hazard a guess how many marathons we've run between us as there are some really inspirational runners in that group.

It was a 2 lap route which started with a proper HILL which I walked up each time and then there were uPdulations all the way round.

There were lots of lovely marshalls handing out water and sweeties all the way round and the route was very well marked. We got lots of cheers and waves from people in passing cars although I can't say I really enjoyed running alongside some of the busier roads, especially those with a cycle path adjacent to the footpath (one minute it was on your right and the next it was on your left - I've forgotten what suburbia is like!).

I shared quite a few miles with Tiernan (apologies of I've spelt your name incorrectly) who was training for a Triple Ironman in the New Forest in a few weeks - he'd done a 300 mile bike ride in training the day before and was taking it easy at the marafun. Oh my goodness. It was lovely chatting with him and I hope he has a great race. I chatted with several other people en-route and it was nice to finally meet Davo who I've heard a lot about. I was concerned to see the lovely Bryan walking at one point as he was having trouble with his fluid levels (he finished OK though) and I found I was overtaking quite a lot of people on the second lap as the heat took its toll.

As it was so warm I'd targeted 6 hours to allow for the heat but was surprised to find that I ran the 2nd lap faster than the first lap and seemed to have loads of energy left.

Heading towards the finish

My time? A respectable 5:27:47. Happy with that thank you. Marathon 75 done and dusted.

Cute medal

I was sorry to hear later that my young friend James was cheated out of his win - he's been in the lead all the way round but someone, who cut the course short at mile 24, finished ahead of him. This was reported to a race official but he didn't seem interested as it wasn't really classed as a serious race. Very disappointing for James though, especially as he finished in about 3:15 which was an excellent time for that route in such hot conditions.

Next up, another double marathon weekend, one trail and one road. I'm hoping it won't be quite as warm but don't want any rain please.

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