Deadwater . . . . unfinished business!!

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I write this blog the day after it all finished. A massive congrats to the 12 finishers of Deadwater! Gutted I could not be amongst you.

What is Deadwater?

Run by the company Beyond Marathon – Deadwater by race director Richard, this is a 6 day, multi-stage event.  You begin by running from a place called Deadwater, yep it exists on the Scottish/English border, it is an old dis-used railway station, to 1.5 miles shy of the Welsh border in Chester.  It is all of 225 miles, each day is an A to B route,  all of which are ultra-marathons. Relatively self-sufficient, you carry the majority of your kit with hot water, drinking water and tents all supplied, as are maps (GPX as well).

Copied from Beyond Marathon website

It is a race description that draws in any runner that thrives on challenge, adventure, seeing the English countryside and being surrounded by like-minded individuals who get it! We get why we put ourselves at what can be described as misery at times, you question yourself, you question whether your mind and body can take anymore and then you keep going.  Who on earth does that?  Ultra-runners!

My Experience – Albeit a brief one:
Could I be less Prepared?

Registration was on Friday 28th July 2017 in Keilder Forest at the campsite. I headed down from sunny Dundee, relatively lovely morning to get me started and I thought, “yasss this is a great start”. Easy train rides got me all the way to Hexham train station and there the comfort stopped. Enroute to Hexham train station I realised I had left practically all my rations for the week at home!!! I mean how stupid could you get?! I would normally panic in this situation but I stayed calm, how could I rectify this, what options were available to me right now?IMG_2869

Hexham was probably too small to be off any use

Google maps outdoor stores

I needed dehydrated food for 6 days and snacks for daytime.

Back to Newcastle it was, so I basically walked straight over to the other side of the station and jumped on the next train to Newcastle. I would have been in dire straights if we had not been approximately 20 mins out.  But I knew that I had until 7pm (last pick-up to the campsite) and I was there in plenty time for first pick-up.

Go Outdoors was the main store in the town centre, straight there and practically cleared them out of specific dehydrated foods, unfortunately it was a make I had never used before but it was the only viable one I had from their store. Next up I needed a Tesco or supermarket to get the rest of my snacks/food. Luckily I had brought my food lists with me and used this to whiz around the store picking up a second batch of food, I only needed minimal adjustments due to specific items being unavailable.

Can you believe I made it back to Hexham in time for the first pick-up? No me either! Owen, Patrick (a fellow OCR racer) and Ivan shared the taxi to the registration campsite.

Registration

This was the most impressive kit-check I have ever had! Is that because I haven’t done enough races of this size? I don’t know but nevertheless, Tom and Darren were thorough and checked EVERY item on the mandatory kit list and informed us waterproof trousers,

due to conditions, had been changed from optional to mandatory, as well as a second long-sleeved layer. This would prove essential in the conditions we were facing.

Then into the hut, we met Janet, we registered our names, received our trackers, ordered food for the meal at the end and received a map protector and Day 1 map.

We were the first few to arrive and register, others started to trickle in. At this point I found out that only 18 people were making the start line if they all arrived! OMG! That was scary, I love the smaller races but this scared me as it reinforced that I was likely to be on my own a lot and I am not the most confident at navigation.  I need to sort this out! But I felt better that we had trackers on constantly and would be contacted if we went off route or we could phone Rich if needed to get us back on track.

(From 45 possible entries down to what I thought was 28 in the final few weeks and is small enough as it was, it had apparently fallen further.)

I was relatively quiet at this point, just observing, taking it all in.

Again, that fear that everyone is more experienced than I, that they all sound like they’ve managed to recce the route, they have prepped better than me.  All these are simply magnified concerns and based on fear, not reality.

Jo and I headed for the females tent, getting in was like the Krypton factor, this did not change and would prove to be a huge source of amusement (it’s the small things).

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Pre-run Feast

The weather we received on this day was to prove an indicator of things to come, wet, wet, wet, winds, did I say wet? As evening came in the sun did emerge and we managed to enjoy a sliver of sunshine and a break in the clouds around mealtime.

 

 

 

Day 1 – The Forest20641397_10210530313962204_1939068621_o

Expected: 29 miles

Actual: 33.7 miles

Time taken: 7 hours 08 mins

We were ferried to the start area, where we could take the obligatory photos of the border. We then moved to the actual start line a short walk away. We had to run back along a trail that was the old Deadwater railway line to the campsite we had just left. It’s always good to hear some cheers, these came from other campers and of course the old cow bell is just brilliant!

We were following a trail sign posted by bananas – yes you really did read that correctly. How awesome and novel haha.  I was pretty pleased each time I came upon a banana excitedly announcing “there’s the banana”. (It’s definitely the small things)

We followed the lakeside for several miles, viewing some pretty awesome views to be honest but it was just too wet to pull out my mobile or my camera. They are forever consigned to my memory.

It was at a point alongside the reservoir, I saw some of the other runners going over a road crossing which seemed to contradict my direction of movement.  I backtracked until I bumped into Charl and a few others who said that I was in fact on the correct path.  Together we carried on and got directly onto the right track, each key point brought back a recollection from the race briefing. It was nice moving forward with others, I tended to be with Charl for a lot of the next section before breaking off a little.

This section was mainly track up to checkpoint 2 at 19 miles before it turned into road. We had a route change due to forestry works, which meant a long section on road, it hurt the feet and the legs.  These roads were incredibly quiet but had water running down a lot of them with the rain we were getting.  I thought I’d had my fill of weather at the West Highland Way race. Heading into Gilsland, we were getting a lift 6 miles along Hadrian Wall to the point we would have come out on the original track to cover the last 1 mile to camp. It was not far.

My aches and pains were in full flow when I reached Gilsland, it really was affecting how I was feeling about my capabilities in the race. I questioned myself and whether I had been stupid to start this race. I ached from head to toe, a lot of it featured around the niggles I had had in the West Highland Way. The pack was heavy as day 1 was fullest it was going to be and Day 4.  I was warm enough but definitely soaked through. On reflection I don’t know if this is just a rite of passage I have to endure on multi-stage events – day one aches/ adjustments to the pack, it has been the same on others.

Something to consider both from a mental and physical perspective. My lower back was covered in welts, from my bag we think – the medics were great: Jono and Sue from Trailmed.  Not just looking at what was bothering us but how to reduce the impact moving forwards for the week.

The campsite had a great drying room, this was brilliant to get our kit dried of for Day 2. I was shattered, not hungry, this could be a problem for my energy levels but I had a

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Day 1 Camp

quick kip which was miraculous in its powers! I woke up after my kip and was able to move, deep squat, move around camp = I felt great. . . .  well nearly haha.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2 – The Pennine Way

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Day 2 – Partial Recording

Expected: 36 miles

Actual: 37 miles

Time Taken: 11hours 28 mins

This was a tough day at the office, we knew we would be hitting the highest point of the course, the previous evening we had been told there may be a route change due to weather conditions. There was predicted thunder and lightening for the top of Cross Fell, fortunately this changed and we could stay on the designated route. It just seemed like “oh more rain – fabulous”.

We started in sunshine, it was so nice, we headed across the the fields, we hit the dreaded ‘field of cows’. After the first half of the group crossed the fields, the cows decided to thunder straight across between us. They got to the other side, great we started nervously forward but then they decided to head back, none of us wanted to get 20629991_10210530328282562_1807931261_oin the way. We got a teeny tiny bit lost but not lost haha.  Anyway, we got out of that situation, always good to be with others in this scenario. We were quickly on track, but not before I got my first warning – rolled that right ankle slightly in the field but easily ran this off.  But as in the MDS it set my nerve off for the next 15 miles or so.  It was in these stages that I realised Jo was really struggling with her knee, it looked really sore.

We were then on the cycle path all the way to Alston, we met the first checkpoint along the cycle path.  It was flat and surrounded by lovely scenery, great for distracting you.  I spoke to a lot of people along this way which was really nice after not really meeting anyone the previous day.  I was around a couple of other lads at this point but we separated into individuals as we were moving.  My nerve was still firing on all cylinders, nerve pain travelling up and down my right leg, my little ones were lumps in my shoe, I was aware they were there but that was it.  The muscles were stiffening up as I progressed but I was trying my best to stay loose. At Alston we crossed the railway line and I was again stopped and asked what wee were up to, randomly the fella had family in Glasgow, Glenrothes and the surrounding area – small world!

We were now on the Pennine Way all the way to Garrigil, this again was a lovely scenery.  The aim was to get as far as possible on this day before the weather came in. At one point I thought I had come off track, so back-tracked to the last acorn (Pennine Way symbol) but met Charl and Gaz.  I hadn’t actually gone of track, I was in the right area but with all the sheep tracks it was a case of picking the correct track to carry on.  It was nice being with the. Guys again, it always boosts the spirits. Charl can move at a cracking pace with his poles, my wee short legs had to work hard to keep up!

A good check in at checkpoint 2 for the day with Janet, Sue (medic) checking in with us all. My collarbones had started to get really sore and uncomfortable with the bag weight so I stretched off.  The medics were really good at getting you to think about what we had done previously for issues and what had worked which is important when you are tired and possibly not thinking clearly.  Charl and I headed off for the climb with Janet wishing us well and hopefully little weather on Cross Fell.

100 yards or so down the road and the rain started, that was quick.  But we had done well in terms of our progress for the day. I was keen to see Gregs Hut, Charl had described it to me the previous day and I was keen to see this fantastic place shelter from the elements. Before we even got to the shelter the weather was really coming in, we both had full waterproofs on. We were quite exposed throughout, it was windy and wet but still relatively warm.  I had my shorts on for most of this part leading up to Gregs Hut until the last little bit. We took shelter here for 5-10 mins to get out of the elements and eat something, I added another layer at this point as we were going to become more and more exposed.

If it were not for Charl I would have struggled, the path was virtually nonexistent, it was boggy and quickly your feet were soaked through, I was glad for my trail shoes choice today.  The cloud cover had come in and took away our visibility, the advice of following the cairns was impossible as you could not see the next one from the one you were at. I drove on following the shadowing of Charl disappearing in the cloud. We quickly moved over the boggy top and started heading down the other side and this is where I came a cropper – my right ankle rolled on a tuft of grass. I knew instantly this was diffferent from most of those ankle rolls that you can run off.  It hurt instantly, a sharp pain over the lateral part of my ankle.  After an instant I just kept moving, limping from one clump to another but kept having to pause due to the pain. I knew this was different but I was also aware there really wasn’t any way of the hill except on my own feet.  Charl had noticed I was struggling and stopped to wait, I have to say he was brilliant, he got me to put my ankle/ foot under a running stream and any water deep enough to cover my ankle on the way down to help keep swelling down and allow me to keep going.

As we were heading for the the masts where Richard had said he would try to get to to meet us if we needed any spare water. As we moved across Little Dun Fell and up to Great Dun Fell the cloud had periods of clearing.  It was truly amazing to be up there and see it, stunning.  20641454_10210530322642421_443257698_oWe could literally lean into the wind and not fall over, it was strong and I was struggling to walk in a straight line. Since I rolled my ankle we still had approximately 7 or so miles to go to camp, I really believe getting my ankle in the stream, and having company made the difference. I had to walk the majority of the remainder miles but we got there eventually.

I was shattered and in pain but made it which is what matters, the medics apparently thought I was looking a bit grey but I think I was just tired and sore. Everyone rallied round to help, Hayley (my tent mate) got my sleeping bag out and sorted things, Jono helped me with my pack and food and Sue had a look at my ankle. Remarkably I walked into camp not too badly despite my ankle.  I had an awful nights sleep, in fact I’m not sure you could call it sleep – I was sore, both my knee and my ankle disturbing me every time I tried to turn. The rain was hammering of the tents all night.

I woke on day 3 struggling to walk properly, Anna did her best to convince me to start the day and see.  I also met Sue and realised she was right , it wasn’t going to get any better. I didn’t want to break my body down doing this race, I was risking the rest of my year. It was the right decision, but it’s not an easy decision, it seems like giving up and I don’t give up.

I have unfinished business with Deadwater and in true Arnie style, Ill be back! This was my first race with Richard at Beyond Marathin and I would not hesitate to recommend his events based on this very short experience. The marshalls, medics and attention to detail by Richard made this race. A thought has to go to the marshalls who have the raw end of the deal with the weather, they have to stand out there while we at least are moving. Yet they never fail to stay positive, cheer you on, give you tips, ask the right questions. It makes the difference.

I feel a bit of a con even writing a blog on a def but it was truly an experience as wanted others to hear about and highly recommend. As I say at the start of this blog, it is the people you meet, like-minded people are incredibly energising by their very nature. You spend perhaps part of day, a run with these guys but they nevertheless impact on you, you have a shared experience and it is always interesting.  I always come away from these races so chuffed with who I meet, the memories created and experience.  More and more it reinforces the importance of appreciating the journey.

 

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Finish Line on Day 2 Photo Credit: Jonny Davies

6 years in the Making

Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

It is quite surreal sitting here being able to write this blog.  I wasn’t sure I would ever get here (that may be a wee lie, I’ve learnt never to doubt my conviction and determination – maybe the question was when?):

How did I get here?  

Six years ago I injured my leg playing rugby, a completely random injury – a tackle directly to the nerve in my lower leg.   I was in a lot of pain (approximately on scale of 7-8 out of 10 daily) this impacted on my ability to be active.  For a period I questioned whether I would be able to continue being active.  Think of it like:  shooting pains down my leg, pins and needle sensations repeatedly, electric shocks, numbness – these would repeat every hour, multiple times within the hour.

This was a devastating consideration when activity and exercise are  my work and my stress management tool.  I eliminated lots of sports, the list was getting very short, unfortunately running became my sport hahaha.  I say unfortunately, it has been a lifesaver. Irnoically my first blog was named – ‘I hate running . . . ‘.

To help me stick with running, I knew I would need a BIG goal.  Well, I heard about the West Highland Way Race and immediately knew this was it – my goal –

Complete the West Highland Way in 23 hours ie finish on the same day I start.

West Highland Way Effort 2017

Fast forward 6 years and here we are, two weeks on . . .

The day after, I was ecstatic that I could get off the toilet without having to hold on and pull myself up while making noises (you know so no faces!!!)

There were so many considerations leading up to the 1am start, it throws the newbie that

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

this is not a normal time to start a race, but then there is nothing normal about this epic race.  I was pretty nervous heading to registration, it’s always the same with new events, it seems like everyone knows everyone but I spotted some familiar faces (Sharon, Jeni and crew).  Registration itself was very smooth and easy to follow, blown away with the jacket in my goodie bag . . . karen threatening to steal it while Im out on the course (it had to be purple hahaha).  We headed to the car for some last minute relaxation and just closing my eyes for quiet time. But not before Captain Coo also received his band, weigh-in prepped for his race also.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

(Just in case you’re wondering, Captain Coo is Munro Primary Schools newest recruit #schoolmascot )

The nerves ramped up at the race briefing and the guys left me to get a good spot to try to see me run through.  Before you knew it we were running through the tunnel, it was pretty awesome, the cheers, cowbells, support along the high street.  Then it was all about settling in, I thought it would take ages for us all to thin out but it happened within 1 – 1.5 miles.  This first section to Drymen was great just being able to check off the points I remembered from my recce. It felt like each memory was being ticked off quicker than I had anticipated but I wasn’t going any quicker than I should have been.  I felt good, it was great seeing people spotted throughout the course encouraging us on, I hadn’t expected this, the time of night and because of the surrounding built up areas.

I stuck to my nutrition plan, eating every hour, even though the temptation was to just push on because I was feeling so fresh.  I met my crew for the first time at Drymen in the field, big G spotted me, giving me a wee shout.  They told me they would be wearing flashing bunny ears (G) and the other would be a walking rave (Karen), I was. Little disappointed that there was only fluorescent flashing lights. We took the time to top up my water, exchange snacks for the next stage that I might need and ate some more food as well.  We had agreed in advance that I would be given an update on my timing and where we were relative to my where I needed to be to hit my target of 23 hours.  I’d also leave with the next sections distance to help me stay focused on the here and now, I had learnt from previous big races that I find it overwhelming to keep the full distance in my head at all times.

Despite the moody weather, the big black clouds hovering as the light came in, the scenery was stunning!  As I rounded the corner behind Conic Hill, looking out on Loch Lomond, I was again, despite the poor light, blown away by its beauty.  The small islands look like the humps of what could be the Loch Ness Monster  . . .  and no I wasnt hallucinating haha.

Just before Conic Hill I was able to take off my headtorch, it certainly was not as bad as the first time I took on the hill in a recce.  It passed quickly due to the memories I had from that day:

‘I remember pushing up the hill on a stunner of a day, glorius sunshine, not a cloud in the sky.  There were lots of folks out that day, I caught up with some young-ish kids who were out with their mums.  They were playing rock-paper-scissors, I was amused by this and it distracted me from my sore quads.  The young lad just kept playing the same hand everytime, this went on for ages.  I asked what the score was – it was a draw 😉  I think it remained a draw no matter what.  I got speaking to them, the wee man wanted to chuck himself off the hill into the water, you know, the hill was THAT bad, they had been walking for aaaaages!! Hahaha he was very dramatic but clearly having a good time and being distracted by his sister.  With words of encouragement, I pushed on that day exchanging jokes with the mums as I passed’.

I tempered my pace coming down the other side of Conic Hill, I didn’t want to burn out my quads this early in the race.  I was happy to meet G as I was coming down the last wee section, we came down to the car park and I was shocked to see everyone standing at the checkpoint.  I must have looked so ungrateful for the cheering/ support.  I dibbed in, I couldn’t get my head around, in that moment, why people were cheering for me as I came in.  Of course, I would do the same for anyone on a race, so I dont know why I was suprised, I think the early hour was still throwing my expectations for this race.

G guided me to the car which was really helpful, I grabbed a seat, changed my tops, on went my RAW Dryrobe, this let me dry of my sweaty jacket.  Karen drilled me with multiple questions about what I needed and then supplied in quick order.  G became a french chef, and apparently had also developed a spanish accent – who knew! Scrambled eggs became the order of the morning – they tasted awesome. It was funny looking around, seeing what everyone else was doing, some were in and out in minutes, these types of things make me question my own strategy even though I should know better than to compare myself to others. I was obviously sleepy, trying to drink my cuppa through my midgie net, this was the only section I was aware of midgie but know the crew had it worse with more standing around.

Balmaha to Rowerdennan

This was my awful section, I left the Oak Tree Inn car park feeling great, Karen ran me down to the road, she was chief photographer as well. #everyoneneedsakaren #multipleroles

I was hit with waves of tiredness, not in the sense that my body felt tired but purely from a ‘I should be sleeping’ feeling.  They just kept coming, I didnt know how to deal with these – definitely something to work on for the future.  I started having stomach issues, from feeling nausea to cramps, sometimes I could run through it but most of the time I couldn’t. Then the waves of tiredness would kick in again.  I think part of this was the low light due to the clouds and dull day, which made it harder to feel like it was daytime.

I’ve never been so grateful for seeing my support crew, it was here that they made the first of their massive impacts on my race.  G’s constant check-ins so that he could update Karen and then asking ‘how can we fix this’ really helped to focus on the solutions rather than the problem.  A real cup of tea, a ton of jaffa cakes, maybe a few other things I cant remember.  This little blip also didnt stop them from getting the right information to me. Because of my stomach I hadnt managed to eat much on this section, so they sorted my water (this was at least going well) and drilled me about my food.

I left with ‘get a couple of good sections in and EAT!’  It wasnt ideal that I wouldnt be seeing these guys for 3.5 hours.

Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm

Rowardennan to Inversnaid along the lower section next to the Loch was great.  I accepted that you wouldn’t maintain the same pace as on the trails but this brought me alive.  This section had a bit of everything in it, each time I came out of a technical section where I had to concentrate, onto the trail I would be hit with the waves of tiredness.  I got into Inversnaid, the marshalls were once again fab.  Always cheery, always with a wee joke and checking that you are alright on the other hand (clearly a lover of the hula hoop variety).

Did the essentials: emptied stones out of shoes, tied alittle tighter, Packed the food from my drop bag into my pockets, topped up the water, deep breaths and of I went.  I was looking forward to this section, the only part I had not recce’d.

This section did not let me down. I absolutely loved this part, which appears contrary to most other reports.  Again, this brings me alive, I love pushing on on these sections. Very stony section, some clambering involved, I think I was more careful than normal as I wanted to save my ankle for the rest of the race and not do myself some damage. I still had a wee hop, skip and a jump in my step on this section.  It felt good to be actually moving, to feel like I was moving.  I caught up with a young man and we stayed together for a bit.  I can’t believe I never caught anyones name during this event – tut tut, but he was telling of his fantastic progress from knee injury to the race.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

This was a great confidence boost section for me, it was a nice feeling to come out at the end of the loch. Beinglas Farm checkpoint was a good one, I was feeling tired still but definitely more awake.  G once again, told me the script with where I needed to go to dib in and then where they were based.  At this point Karen and G tried to get some more solid food and energy into me . . good ole swig of coke aparently brought colour to my cheeks.  This is where I had started to feel my IT band in and around my hip.

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

Thankfully I brought my trusty spiky ball with me, Karen sorted out my comfort and a good bit of easing this off helped.  Great banter going on between the crews which distracted me.

Beinglas through Auchtertyre to Bridge of Orchy

With a change of shoes, full top half change, I set off on my way to the ‘half way point’.  I like this next section it is beautiful, lots of waterfalls and just flowing rivers, its beautiful.  Again I felt like I was checking off the memories I’d created on my recce, it seemed to pass all too quickly.  It is a lovely downhill through the forest toward Auchtertyre, again I enjoy this section, this was affected by my increasing problem with my IT band which had now shift into my knee.

G met me again and ran me in, guiding me to where I needed to be.  First up was my weigh-in, where I was told I had dropped to my allowance already.  I couldnt believe it

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

because I didnt feel I could have done anything else to improve this situation.  Well G took away the ‘feed me’ with gusto haha.  Some TLC for my IT band, heard about a mishap with the gas cooker the crew had had, this was enough to distract me.

G and I were soon off for the next phase, what a massive difference it makes having someone run with you. I was super glad to have company, I definitely ran further than I would have on my own with my sore knee becoming an increasing problem.

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Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

We met Lucja at Tyndrum with salty chips, hell yeah, they were immense and it was real nice to see her before we properly got underway.  This section was one of changeable weather, rain, increasingly stronger winds and sunshine.  G did a great job of keeping me going, I took over the lead on the downhill section because I tend to be faster and only had to slow up when the pain in my knee just took over. We kept crossing places with a couple of lads but had to let them go on as I was in agony and struggling to walk never mind anything else.  G came to the rescue with his massage skills, right on that spot! I’d highly recommend his skills.

Many will recognise the pain of It band problems, it was frustrating as I was sure this is what it was.  The pain you feel just doesn’t seem to represent the seriousness of the injury/ problem in the relativity scale which is frustrating in and of itself.  The pain laterally piercing me knee repeatedly brought me to a halt, I would stumble through as much as possible, G was working real hard to keep me going, no way I was stopping if I could make the next point.

We broke the route up into sections that I would run – walk, G took the hit on the wind where he could but the closer we got to Bridge of Orchy the more the wind began swirling.  Absolute superstar, always positive, pushing me just enough to get the most from me in achievable bursts.

Bridge of Orchy (BoO) to Glencoe Ski Resort

At BoO I dibbed in again to the cheery words of the marshalls. I didn’t do much at BoO, it was quite an exposed checkpoint with the weather coming in but also with the car being parked away from where we met.  G did a handover with Lucja in terms of where I was at, Karen sorted me out in terms of food and fluids and checked if there was anything I needed.

We didn’t stop long, Lucja took me off up the hill with the promise of Jelly Baby hill, now as a first-timer, it’s all a bit confusing.  What on earth?!

We marched, Lucja may disagree with this word haha, up the hill, moving at a pace I could sustain.  I was pretty much feeling pain in my knee uphill and downhill but with adjustments in pace I could keep going.  Lucja was great at speaking away keeping me distracted, I had known I wouldn’t be running out of BoO when I did my recce, I kept trying to push my pace so as not to feel I was too slow, I have to confess to many a time worrying I was going to slow and letting my support crew down.  Do others feel this way? Or do you just accept that they are there for you?

I met Murdo (I really hope I quoted the right name???)  on Jelly Baby hill, now I knew. What a glorious sight at the top of the hill, jelly babies, smiles, flags and naturally he checked I was being looked after.  We ploughed on, into the wind, I was feeling a little hesitant for the downhill coming, the complete opposite of my normal downhill reaction (normally I’d be doing a wee dance). We started downhill, I think you would call my run more of a hobble, a skip and step over and around the stones/ corners. We made it to the bottom, I’d earned a walk period again. I’d hoped being on the tarmac would be a bit of a relief, we broke it up with walk- runs and caught up on runs, future runs and of course Gobi.

We arrived at the entrance to Rannoch Moor, with the trail on the left to Loch Etive.  This’ll give you a chuckle and I think I laugh myself every time I arrive at this point:

‘During my recce, which I was doing back to front ie Glencoe Ski Resort to BoO, the signage is a shocker going in the opposite direction for a ‘well-marked’ path.  Anyway, obviously my fault but I ended up waaaaaay too far down that track, but with beautiful scenery and wildlife.’

‘The second time I recce’d this section, in the correct direction I might add, at this point on the left in the forest there was a young deer munching away, completely oblivious to the fact we were all awestruck with his beauty.’

This is the straw that  .  .  .  .  . almost broke the camels back ie my leg. How so much can change in such a short time!

I knew my leg was becoming more and more of a problem, I hated the ground underfoot in this section, I was never comfortable on it and I also found it difficult to gauge how far along we were after a while but that could be tiredness more than anything.  We kept trying the walk – run method but that quickly became impossible with the pain it was causing.  It was affecting my ability to bend my knee to lift my foot high enough over the embedded stones, I kept trying to find the smoothest section to walk on but often these were so narrower I’d be tripping over the edges and that in itself affected my movement and knee.  I couldn’t win.

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Photo credit: Lucja Leonard

The weather was in, rain, wind, yes there was even moments of sunshine.  Sideways rain, battering our left hand side, I swear my right hand side was pretty dry until closer to Glencoe. Putting one foot in front of the other – I could do that! Finally we spotted G waiting for us, he took us to dib in, they kindly asked how we were doing. Actually, at the very point, I felt not too bad. But that very quickly changed. Karen, Lucja and I headed for the toilets to get changed were told about the drying room – OMG what an invention! This was fantastic, Karen pretty much stripped me and dressed me while Lucja dried herself under the hand dryer. But I started to feel sick and actually thought I was going to be sick, we hurried over to the toilets but I wasn’t actually sick.

We went to find G who had started to worry about where we had gotten lost, apparently it took 40mins for all of the above to take place and he was feeling like a weirdo holding seats for people who never seemed to appear hahaha.

The guys were buying me food, encouraging me to eat, I managed to get down most of my soup in the cafe but struggled with anything else.  I was feeling ridiculously nauseous and sick, it just wouldn’t settle. I know they were worried – I could tell by the looks on their faces. We knew my time goal was out, I was a bit of a mess and now know I probably can’t really grasp how I looked or the impact this was having on them.  We went through a list if possible ways to move forwards, this included going for a 30 minute kip, with my time goal out, I had time to do this without having to pull out completely.  It also meant even if I didn’t feel better I could pull out at that stage having tried the options.

I slept, I ached to start with, felt sick and couldn’t switch off to sleep at first despite being knackered. Then I was out, then I was awake the next second – or so it seemed. G woke me up  and we headed back to the cafe, it was very busy, full of walkers and runners. My RAW dryrobe was amazing during this period keeping me warm.  I was informed by hawk eye G that I must eat a decent meal to carry on, then I was told I needed to layer up more.  The guys were still worried and I’m super sorry to have put them through that worry. I dutifully did as I was told and to be honest I felt much better, my knee was sore but it felt slightly better since my sleep.

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Photo credit: Graeme Maxwell

They agreed I could go on, we had decided pre-race that I needed to let my crew make some decisions for me when or if I I was deemed not able. This was one of those scenarios.  I trusted them wholeheartedly to make the right decision based on the information in front of them. It was my constant worry that I was placing too much pressure on them and asking too much of my crew.

Glencoe Ski Resort to Kinlochleven

We decided I could go on with multiple layers, I believe everyone was being told to put waterproofs on anyway.  So I left Glencoe with a vest, running t-shirt, running long-sleeved top, my new running jacket, my normal running jacket and G’s amazing tent waterproof haha, plus hat, buff, gloves and multiple hoods.  We were good to go, we had also accepted I probably couldn’t run much, if at all with all the pain in my knee.  It had developed into pain on two areas at the back of my knee and laterally on the knee. But walking down the entrance drive to the ski resort and I felt my knee wasn’t as bad as when I had stopped.

I told G we could try running a bit along the tarmaced sections to Kingshouse hotel – it worked! Get IN!! I was pleased as I knew when we went off road again it was likely I wouldn’t be able to. At the back of the hotel G pointed out a deer crossing the river, pretty amazing to see, then another deer popped out behind the bridge, simply stunning to see these guys in the area.  We also spotted a small herd over by some trees, I love this, it make being in nature, the trails worth all the runs.  We overtook some folks as we headed along the bottom to the Devils Staircase, we were walking at a decent pace.  Head down, one foot in front of the other, this was again a confidence boost, small as that may be but I’ll take that as a small win along the way. Karen and Lucja met us at the bottom of the staircase just to do a last check to make sure I was okay.   Thumbs up!

We headed up the staircase, I felt bad for G, this wasn’t how we had recce’d this section. G was a master on the hills, he had tenacity and just plots on, exactly why I knew he was the best guy for me on this section. We were walking, G leading so that all I had to do was follow.  Apparently, I didn’t do that very well either, oops!

500 m from the top there was a sign for a cafe at the top, surely a joke right? Apparently not, we had a laugh at this, over the top I ate, G regularly checked I was drinking and eating. I think we had a wee jog down the other side, it was hard. We had slipped into our usual patter when running/ walking together, calling out any obstacles, points to note, this is how we roll and we generally extend this same courtesy to anyone beside us as well.  It work S for us, good communication helps each of us to take the best path to our goal.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t take advantage of the great downhill into Kinlochleven, I was also feeling that I could literally fall asleep on my feet, insert the ‘alphabet game’, great distraction. We had agreed I needed to be open and upfront when I wasn’t feeling great so that the guys could help me rather than trying to bang on quietly.  It was fantastic to reach Kinlochleven with an indoor checkpoint, weigh-in – my weight was back up – superb!

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Photo credit: Karen Brown

I sat down and caught up with Karen, G did a hand over again, I got 10 mins nap while the others had a laugh at my expense. I woken with some amazing noodles!

Kinlochleven to Lundavra

Lucja was up next, it was a long climb out of Kinlochleven, we climbed and climbed, got a little lost but managed to get quickly on track again.  It was over to the Larig Mor, I thought we had seen the worst of the weather but no, at points we were literally stopped dead in our tracks by the wind, most the tracks had turned into mini streams with the rainfall. Thankfully I had worked out if the weather was bad that this section would be a wet one – trail shoes were a good bet. We had given up talking because it was impossible to hear each other. So it was heids down and just keep going. It just seemed to go on and on for ever, we were over the weather and that section.

19727067_10210233917832486_1644814496_oLundavra to Lochaber Sports Centre (Finish)

Karen had the final shift, she was very positive and full of energy despite having also been up for hours within only small amounts of sleep.  As we walked along every so often I’d catch my foot and she would turn to ensure I was still standing.  When I look back, it feels like we got through the last section well but I know it didnt feel like that at the time.  When we arrived at the final downhill section in Fort William I was keen to try a little run – walking – what a waste not to run downhill.

I couldn’t do it, it was simply too painful, with the pain now coming in at the back of my knee. So, to the finish line it was to be a hobble – to experience crossing the finish line, I was happy with that.

Not how I wantedt but theres time for that . . .

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Photo credit: taken by finish line photographer on mobile.

Run Rabbit Run

Once again, I am excited to introduce you all to a good friend of mine, Jeni, I am always blown away by her running exploits.  They put me to shame, I love hearing about her upcoming goals and dreams.  We first met a few years ago through a mutual friend and from there I have followed Jeni’s journey through trail running.

Get a wee squiz on Jeni’s fab achievements and learning her why . . . 19619751_10155397983105775_2051904924_o

1. When did you first get involved in sport/ exercise/ physical activity?

In 2005 I found myself in front of a mirror and saw myself for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t like what I saw.  Many struggles of life had occurred before that point but the truth was I was unfit, lumpy, grey, dull and needing to lose some weight.  I changed my lifesty19650506_10155397982840775_64886262_oe for the better and along with some gym stuff I found running was most convenient for my life.  So I ran a few 10k races, they were tough.  I completed a half marathon in Glasgow and I was destroyed, it wasn’t good, I ran other in Aviemore a few weeks later and had to walk half the way due to pain.  I gave up running that day.  In 2011 I found myself in-front of a mirror again, I was 14 stone, I had a 6 month old baby and a 2 yr old.  My youngest had a bad start in this world and we struggled through 6 months of hospital visits and zero rest.  I was tired, fed up, depressed, and lacking in energy.  A couple of pals (Donna; who introduced me to the inspiration behind these questions; Louise) encouraged me to hit the gym and join JogScotland.  So I did…. In 8 months I had lost 5 stone and had completed my jog leader qualification and was back to work, happy, and running….

2. I know you through your fantastic and inspirational running exploits, can you tell us more about your journey through running?  

I have a passion for mountains and big days out, I wanted to have the strength to run further to make hill days count for more, fell running was my goal and I knew ultra-distance would be good for me.  In 2014 I ran my first Ultra (D33).  I ran 2 ultra-marathons that year and to be honest I found it tough and mentally awful.  The following year I ran a few more; I visited some beautiful places through events such as the Highland Fling race,19692191_10155397983125775_47539126_n Speyside way, Jedburgh 3 peaks and Glenmore 24; many many lessons were learned that year as I found I loved running further, I absolutely loved the ultra-family who adopted me with little bribery.  I loved the events but I felt I could be using my running for a greater cause.  Then 2016 happened.  It was never the plan to run as much as I did and I properly do not condone it as it nearly broke me, but in a mission to complete a charity challenge I had the goal of running 70 miles a week.  On paper, ultra races would help to cover those miles, I absolutely would not race, I would have company (I was already feeling isolated in my village), it would be fun, there would be bling and I get to check out awesome places…. so it was a no brainer at the time; enter loads of events throughout the year till my 5000km year was filled; BOOM.  I finished my challenge and ran the distance as well as raising £7000 for MNDScotland, I am still so grateful to all those that helped me and although I was mentally and physically broken I felt at peace.  Oh and I won the Scottish UltraMarathon Series for the lassies…

I now focus my charity work towards mental health charities as I have struggled myself over the years and running has helped me to work through some of my issues.  Makes sense to support others.

3. Do you have anymore running goals in the coming months and years?

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My goals this year are to heal my mind and soul, I need a year to get a normal life back and let my body recover properly.  I have started to prepare for mountain marathons and completed the L

one Alpine Mountain Marathon a few weeks ago.  We tackled the top head on and entered the A class, probably a bad idea for your first one but I loved it.  I am also having a shot at the Salomon skyraces in the Lake district which again could be a complete disaster but I know I will enjoy the adventure whatever happens!  It is after all only running.  Next year my goals are to complete a 100 mile race and have a bash at actually racing it.  Then its all about the mountain rounds for me, starting with the Ramsey round, then Bob Graham and if I survive then its the Paddy Buckley!

4. What would you say to women/ anyone wanting to get started in running but is thinking ‘I’d never be able to do that’ or they fear being last?

I have started and stopped a few times now, every-time I gave up was due to being under trained and lacking knowledge of what I was taking on.  Since training properly and taking as much advice as possible I find I can run distances more comfortably.  So don’t give up, you can do it but you need to put the work in.  Every runner starts the same, we all start struggling that first mile and some days its as hard to run that first mile as it was all those years ago.  As for being last, I’ve been last plenty, and you know what its not that bad.  I read a great article once and will never forget the lesson.  It was about putting more value on a PW (personal worst) than a PB (personal best) performance.  When your oranges are down (an orange represents a reason not to run, if you have 3 or more reasons not to venture out then don’t… could be tiredness, an over run meeting, a cold… anything) and your race/run is terrible and you achieve a PW then actually you have gained more, so be proud that you did it.  You got out and battled against all odds.  Always remember those who actually can’t run, do it for them!  Do it for your heart; mentally and physically.

5.  What does running give you?

Mentally running is very very important to me, any exercise in fact has been a blessing.  It helps me process my day, mostly I’m quite happy and I like to think through my endless ‘to do’ lists and plan my next adventures while running.  Some days I don’t cope with being on planet Earth very well and if I go for a run in the woods or up a hill its all sorted and I find I’m able to give myself a good talking to.  Life is always better after a reality check in the hills.

Physically I’m now fitter than I have ever been, I turned 40 this year and I’m delight19686267_10155397982950775_294395409_oed to feel that I’m improving my running and I hope that by the time I’m 60 I’m still gunning for big adventures and gaining personal bests.

Socially, I am grateful to running, I currently partake in long distance events that are as off road as possible.  Through this I have made some amazing lifelong friends.  Adventures and shared experience give us a connection that is very special and I do whole heartily admire, respect and love those who take time to get to know me and hang out while on the trails.  I’ve been lucky to have fallen in with a crazy bunch who enjoy meeting up regularly and am lucky to have many chums across the country.  I must add in that marshaling at these events also helps my socialization on the planet and I encourage anyone wishing to run far to try marshaling first to gain insight to our ultra world; this is my only regret and wish I’d helped sooner.

Thank you to Jeni for bring my ‘Women In Sport Week’ blog series to a close (ahem, albeit Im late on this).

The primary aim was always to celebrate the successes and amazing feats of those who are around us every day.  I think sometimes we can forget just how much inspiration can be taken from our friends, our families or our colleagues.

Thank you everyone, I hope you enjoyed this little series as much as I did.

Sponsor Profile:Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

Gas Technology Partnership Ltd

As with many of my corporate sponsors Sarah has chosen to write about the why of getting involved in sponsoring myself for the Marathon des Sables.  Few of them have taken the opportunity to showcase their business.  BUT, I think the way they have written their profiles says alot about them as business owners and how they want you, potential clients, to see what they value.  I am delighted that these businesses have gotten involved, that they value mental health and, it always astounds me, but their belief in my abilities.  Anyway, enough rambling on my part, here is Sarah’s words:-

You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘why is a Specialist Gas Consultant sponsoring Louise for the MDS Event?’

Actually, there’s more common ground here than meets the eye. Read on…

 

Louise and I first met during the 2014 Spartan Sprint just south of Edinburgh. Well when I say we met, what I mean is we didn’t have a clue who each other was but I decided to embark on a silent competition between us during the 5k obstacle race. Ridiculous I know, I had no chance against Louise.

I went away always wondering who my nemesis was.

The 2nd time we met was at an OCR training day that Louise was coaching in Ayrshire last year. I remember smiling to myself when I saw her stomping around and I thought ‘at last I get to meet the wee powerhouse herself’. (Sarah is on the left, conquering the high wall at the muddyraces OCR training day at Scottish Assault Courses Ayrshire).

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I knew right away we’d get along like we’d known each other for years. Louise is passionate about her sports and her goals. That comes across right away. It’s an attractive trait and you can see that people really warm to her.

We’ve been in touch ever since with the conversation always about racing and our personal physical goals, including the inevitable ups and downs that this always entails, but Louise always sees the positive and she’s a total inspiration for me.

I was so excited to hear that Louise had been selected to take part in the Marathon des Sables – ‘The toughest footrace on Earth’. 5 ½ marathons in 5 or 6 days – across the Sahara Desert!

Without a 2nd thought I wanted to support her in this epic dream.

This is where the commonality is between Louise’s goal and my company – Gas Technology Partnership Ltd. My dream was to always run my own company. After years of being constantly let down by employers I decided ‘ENOUGH!’ I can do better for myself.

I knew what my goal was; I could see the end game. I just needed to make it happen. 2 and half years later and I’m now running a very successful business, in fact it’s surpassed even my own expectations.

It takes hard work, determination, tenacity, positivity – especially when things get tough – which they do. And you have to keep that end game clear in your head – never lose sight of what your goal is.

But I gotta say, you do need a strong support network behind you. For me it was my friends and family who simply just believed in me.

Louise has all those traits in abundance and I know she’ll achieve her goal and it’ll be the experience of a lifetime. I also know what it means to just need some support along the way. It feels like perfect Karma to be able to give something back to help Louise live her dream.

 

Good luck my friend!

So again, thank you to all who take the time to read these blogs, please pop over to Sarah’s website/ facebook page and give her a ‘like’ and share the love as they say.

Website:  www.gtp-gas.co.uk

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/gastechnologypartnership/?fref=ts

 

 

Spartan Sprint Scotland

Relaxation – Post race

I have just hauled myself out of my bath, that is the most unrelaxing bath I have ever had, my neighbours must have been scared by the howling as I scrubbed my nettle stings and scrapes from this weekends adventures – OCR kisses – Hell Yeah!

Spartan Sprint

I was facing this weekend with trepidation, I didn’t really know if my body was going to let me down after having to cancel 4 races since returning from holiday with an injury.  Karen and I drove through to the Edinburgh venue wondering what faced us.  We were welcomed with rolling hills and good old Scottish summer, howling winds and a downpour, lovely!

Registration was a nightmare, again the Trumin booking system causing me issues but with that all sorted and nowhere to stand in the awful weather everyone gathered in the registration tent.  Unfortunately, the first heat was delayed for 45 minutes as the hills and race village were battered by the winds.  Thankfully, once this passed, in true Scottish tradition we were led to the start with a piper, we weren’t held here for too long which was good after all the hanging about.

We were into our first obstacle fairly quick, up and over some hay bales coated in spartan plastic – made for a bit of a slippy ascent and descent.  Then it started the long auld climbs of the magical Pentland hills.  It was still possible to run at this point, onwards and upwards, I was running with a friend today for the sprint, Jen, we kept each other in our sights.  This went on for what seemed an age and gave us a pretty good idea of how the race was going to pan out, The A-frame high on the hill was great, if alittle scary with the wind really hitting you at the top of the frame.  A fantastic down-hill, I think everyone let go alittle at this first down section.

Then a long, long, long crawl under barbed wire, this did need to be wider but was great with it being partially over a stream.  No-one else was going up the middle, so what you gonna do?  If you are wee like myself, go up the middle.  First introduction to getting wet!   Our second climb was a straight up affair, I could only run at the bottom quarter, which I berated myself for but everyone else was doing it, so as they same when in Rome. . . .

Unfortunately, a number of the obstacles had to be cancelled due to the weather as they were on top of the massive hills at the mercy of the driving rain and brutal winds.  One of the obstacles on Saturday was definitely the wind, it just pushed and pulled you in different directions constantly and when you were trying (I emphasise ‘trying’) to run downhill it was like trying to run into a wall – of wind.  One of these obstacles unfortunately, was the rope climbs, love these, a quick drink of water instead and onto another downhill section.  Do you think I could see anything, nope, the wind was watering my eyes, this did not bode well!

But I made it down in one piece, in and out of streams with varying depths, slipping and sliding on the banks of the streams, crawling under barbed wire and netting in the streams and under wooden fences, this was all about getting us wet.

It worked!!

The hercules hoist was great, 20kg for the women and 40kg kettlebells for the men, quick water stop then onto the next downhill section, which was really, waaaaay to brief.  The next uphill section was one breat big slog, of water, mud and what should have been grassy mounds.  We climbed, we climbed and we climbed, then we had to climb over a fence, now sounds simple and after all the climbing, do you know how hard it is to get your leg over?  More climbing on more solid ground before we hit the top and started another descent, oh it was heaven.  We still had a torturous sandbell carry (1 x 20lb for women, 2 x 20lbs for men) up a short but steep section, a quick pose for the camera and onwards again.

The next section was the water dip of the day, not too bad for the most part but then you hit the end and given I m a dwarf, everything disappears under your feet but thank god for the rope to pull on and your out.  Now if you know me you know I HATE water, I mean hate it, and very terrified of it haha so if I am saying it wasnt too bad, it probably isnt, onto a mud fest to get to the next 4 ditches which varied in depth and size, actually not too bad to get in and out of.

We went onto a few more obstacles, the traverse wall with a few corners thrown in to change it up which was great, I enjoyed this one, we could hear the event village, it always sounds tantilisingly close and yet it is so far.  We headed through a wooded section, in and out of a river, ducking and diving to get over and under all the tree branches and roots.  Then you emerged to the spear throw.  This has to be one of the dreaded obstacles, a burpee fest if ever there was going to be.  But I did it, with an arm pump to celebrate, given the conditions, very chuffed with myself but Jen’s spear didn’t quite make it – burpees, all 30 of them.  An 8 foot wall and a 10 footer, phew, and over the fire jump we went to finish in the top ten.  Really chuffed  with that given how tough the course was, my complete lack of  training due to injury and, and no sign of my hip injury anywhere – roaring success.  Btw the medals are epic, first piece of the pie!  Karen as always a great supporter and ready with the camera to capture some moments for myself and Jen.  I had another run through to conquer so preparation was next

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No-one gets left behind!

A few of my clients (Kimberly and Carol with my PT business, Louise’s PT 4 U) were running in the final heat of the day, I was running in support (Karen and Graeme).  OMG I was blown away!  Their determination, their approach and attitude made the day for me, as well as that of my support runners who were helping.  Carols calfs unfortunately gave her some problems from the very first hill but we broke it up and made our way to the A-frame, a quick stretch and re-group of the thoughts and we headed up what was a decidedly windy affair.  Graeme and I up either side with Carol, not one ‘can’t left her mouth – brilliant, just focus and concentration.  Kimberly zoomed up and over, it was like just another day in the hills 😉  nae bather!  Carol had just overcome something massive, our fears can truly hold us back, but with a little belief it is amazing what we can do.

Onto the barbed wire crawls, when Carol heard there was a photographer at the end, well that was it, a pause to sort the top out and make sure, you know, everything was in teh right place, nothing escaping the tops or showing too much 😉  The volunteers were awesome – giving us loads of encouragement, never really stopping just constant high spirits and encouragement.  We attacked the next hill in sections, Graeme or I would move back and forth to keep our heat levels up and we picked up someone else who was stuggling and supported them as much as we could.  Carol did great, deep breath at each pause and onwards to the next flat . . . . ish section.  The rope section had come back in play, so Graeme and I attacked them with great gusto, BOOM!  Walk in the park, Graeme flew up the rope like a true monkey, we were blown about a bit in the wind but nonethless made it.  Unfortunately the other guys didnt so we got stuck in to help with the burpees, its about team support, ‘no-one gets left behind!’.

We had more descending and climbing of the hills, then our Hercules hoist, Carol attacked this, I had no worries that she would manage this given the strength work she had been doing.  We stopped here and were supplied  with a few biscuits to get Carols energy levels back up and some water to share.

I’ve already gone through the majority of obstacles in my own account of the race above, I wanted to mention doing this run through with the guys because, you know what – this, right here is what it is all about!  Yes there are placings and those who are competitive are racing for them BUT I really believe and wholeheartedly support those who take on these races as challenges and step outside of their comfort zones.  I really think it is when we step outside of our comfort zones that we really know what we are made of, what we are capable of when things get tough.  This might be an old feeling or it may be a very new one, embrace the courage and sense of achievement it gives you!  I really love supporting and helping people around these courses or over an obstacle.  By helping others, those who struggle see that they don’t need to know someone to be helped that the true nature of spartan and these OCR races is a community, if you choose to to get involved, everyone helps one another.

Carol and Kimberly both did amazing and were able to work to their own abilities and still achieve massive goals in their own ways.  Despite wanting to hold back and stay with Carol, Kimberly was encouraged to push on to stay warm, equally important in these situations, especially given she hadnt felt great leading up to the race.

The next obstacle Carol took on was again, her own body, I think many will share her pain, the knees on the downhill sections, she winced and growled at the pain as she chose to push on, at her own pace, with determination we made progress.  At every obstacle the guys (event staff/ volunteers) were amazing, so supportive and upbeat which is just what you needed when you were tored, able to have a bit of banter to help raise spirits.  Although, Carol was doing remarkably well, at the sandbell carry, this is where we heard it, ‘I can’t’, well you can imagine my response 😉  those who know me.  With encouragement, I said, ‘sorry I think I misheard you there . .. ‘ and I had, she was simply having a tough moment.  Carol pushed on a few more steps, Karen led our way and kept feeding back how far to go and what was coming up.  The pain on the next section of the sandbell carry that Carol popped down on her backside and bumped down this steep section.  Get down anyway you can I say – great choice!

It takes true spirit, true determination and courage to keep on going, knowing how long you have been out on the course, in pain, knowing youa re the last people out on the course!  This is spartan spirit – the never give up attitude!  I’d like to say a massive thank you to Karen and Graeme, without their support and help this would have been even harder, Graeme was on true form giving loads of banter, if only some of the other runners would take him on, and Karen quietly supported with her patience and own determination, knowing what its like to find these courses hard.

In the final sections of the course, the volunteers took their support to a whole new level, cheering, encouraging, clapping and never ever allowing Carol to feel negative!  I nailed my spear throw for the second time on the day and then joined in to support the girls doing their burpees due to missing – damn those spears!  With a line of volunteers leading us to the walls, we high fived and were whooped as we headed to the last obstacle.  How immense is that – truly amazing is what I call it.  Rich, Spartan ambassador trailed us the whole way round, holding back alittle so that we didnt feel pressurised and just checking on us when he thought we were maybe having issues.

True displays of Spartan teamwork and spirit today!!  Well done everyone who raced!!  How did you get on?!

Muddyrace Scottish Training Day – Ayrshire/ Kilmarnock

I had the priviledge of once again leading a Muddyracce (http://www.muddyrace.co.uk/) training day at the original Scottish Assault Courses ( http://www.scottishassaultcourses.com/ ) over at Craufurdland Castle, Ayrshire.  I was looking forward to this one for different reasons, firstly I hadn’t been on this course before AND we were sold out.  It really is fantastic to see so many people, of differing levels wanting to come along and learn techniques to help make their OCR races even more enjoyable, achieveable and to conquer them.  I can understand the sense of achievement, its amazing and get it every time I cross a finish line.

Fraser and I had a few run throughs over the course and I, of course needed a few wee practices to ensure I was up to scratch for everyone, unfortunately my practice attempts did not fill me with confidence – I was not having a good day at the office, or so I thought, haha.

We got everyone started of with a dynamic warm-up and some games, a bit of shin-tig always gets everyone going and I am glad to say this occasion was no different, shrieks galore during the game!  IMG_1720A warm-up prior to racing events is important to ensure your muscles are fully warmed up, heart rate has risen.  The shorter the race, the more intense the effort and the more important I find the warm-up.  The harder you want to work during that race, the better and more vigorous the warm-up needs to be.  Remember, for most, an OCR race is not using the typical movements that you have been doing in training and being unprepared can leave you more open to the injuries, warm-up.

It was time for the obstacles, demo’s went much better than my practice attempts.  Everyone warmed me up on the monkey bars to get going, it is definitely mind over matter when you were facing that water pit below.  We covered different ways of conquering these for those of differing abilities to attempt.  Including just hanging from the bar, some may laugh this attemot of but if this is a big step for you – the ability to hang and support your own bodyweight is important – then that is your big win for the day.  Strength even in this position can develop and lead to movement.  You do what is the next step for you and not compared to someone else.  A definite ‘chuffed moment was getting up the 11 foot wall using the rope, clearly needed an audience for that one.IMG_1733

The guys that attended were fantastic, everyone got stuck in at each of the obstacles, the monkey bars were a biggie, this is what drew the attention of everyone, watching those trying to conquer the bars with their slight twist without getting ditched into the water pit below.  I thought everyone did an amazing job on the 6 foot wall and we had a few who tried and CONQUERED the 11 foot wall.
IMG_1808We also covered how to work as a team to conquer walls safely without injuring/ hurting your fellow teammates or racers.

We had saved the best for last, a full run through of the course, we were the first to try out new sections of the course which had been changed just last week.  Again, we ran through the whole course with the key principles of overcoming personal obstacles, practicing what had just been learnt and embracing the very nature of OCR races – to support and help each other!

We started of with the walk the plank/ tree, surprisingly challenging, lulled into a false sense of security of staying dry with planks over more water-logged areas, it was time!  Time to to get filthy wet, in they went and up onto the island, this relief was momentary as they were then back in the water to duck under the planks.  This needed a big breath as it was a full submersion, ideal practice for those races that require you to get right under the water, such as Tough Mudder and Tough Guy.  The guys worked their way around the island and then we were quickly into a bogged down, supremely muddy area.

Running the path to the next obstacle, a vertical up and down cargo net with challenging spaces between the ropes.  But to get there you had to get straight through the mud puddles, these were NO normal puddles!  IMG_1868You virtually disappeared into this muddy puddle!IMG_1862

Everyone attacked the next muddy section with gusto, keeping those legs moving quickly and again offered support to those trying to escape at the other end, we went onto an obstacle that challenged those with claustraphobia issues.  Into a tunnel which was partially submerged.  IMG_1971 The team then had to weave through a web of string, before getting back into the mud.  The amount of mud on this course is epic!  Everyone then had to try out the skills and techniques they had learnt during the practice periods with the real life feeling of being wet and muddy!

Well done everyone, it really is great to meet fellow OCR racers of all levels who share the same enthusiasm for getting MUDDY! (See what I did there 😉 )

Hope to see you all at races around Scotland and at more muddyrace training events!  Definitely come over and say hi!

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Muddyrace Scottish Training Day – Dundee

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I was priviledged to run a muddyrace training day up here in bonny Scotland, we ran our event at the Scottish Assault Courses at the Errol Airfield, Dundee.  I was nervous and excited, despite having run my own OCR (Obstacle Race Training) training sessions with great feedback, the thought of having to run them for muddyrace, a very respected company in the OCR world and would be representing them.

The guys and gals began to appear and we had an amazing 22 folks taking part of all levels, beginners, intermediate through to those who have taken part in races, for example Tough Mudder and The Beast.  The warm-up, I believe set the tone for our sessions, based on dynamic movements and games.

The first period was used to cover key technique points for monkey bars, spear throws – those who have run a spartan race will know that feeling of having missed and subjected to the horrific burpee – press-ups, tyre flips/ throws and the first 2 walls.

Everyone did an amazing job of attacking the obstacles, trying to put in place the technique points covered, overcoming personal challenges and obstacles.  Each of the groups, despite not knowing everyone in their group came together to support, encourage and motivate to try to the best of their abilities.  There was definitely a buzz around the assault course!  We also found out that several of the group had soft hands which were affected by the monkey bars and the walls.  Key point:  ensure you practice leading up to an obstacle race, this will help harden your hands and prepare them for the activities approaching, alternatively, you may choose to wear gloves.  This is a personal choice and I have found that from one person to the next in races that each person needs to find what works for them.

The second batch of obstacles included the 8 foot wall, ditch jumps, the ‘slatted’ wall and the ‘mime wall’.  The 8 foot wall was overcome for the first time EVER for some of the guys – amazing achievement to do on your own.  Incredibly empowering feeling for women particularly, mainly from a perspective of this is commonly looked upon and ‘Ill never get over that’!  I heard many a shreek from across the field.  We also covered alot of the obstacle racing etiquette, I am proud to say I would stop and help anyone, I will always check on someone if it looks like they have stopped, just to ensure that there isn’t a problem.

We finished the day with a full run through, simply to make sure my guests were muddy, wet and smiling come the end!  All the things you would expect to be at the end of a day of obstacle racing!  🙂  A massive thank you must also be extended to Fraser for his assistance and Carole for her excellent photography skills.

Looking forward to my next training session at Scottish Assault Courses in Kilmarnock!  Hope to see you all there!1509865_1384399018549876_7589586864218194459_n (1) 1524384_1384397798549998_9007702273473012902_o 10172687_1384397675216677_3817941035020361720_n 10172711_1384391458550632_6530714138849097328_n 10271400_1384391375217307_5625974136790644671_o 10271447_1384399201883191_577918294043982959_o 10308945_1384394771883634_3524783658851714000_n 10314751_1384397008550077_5725759706640440806_n 10325671_1384397145216730_6204478393279184997_n 10329227_1384396548550123_1454698073852389843_n 10370955_1384392385217206_7250953629860696430_n (1) 10403148_1384391215217323_1310610769726397894_n 10407413_1384394375217007_1186268524915523334_n 10407618_1384399641883147_7801087697228283181_n 10407988_1384396878550090_8203872372641410795_n 10408962_1384399325216512_5172547136574807768_n 10418395_1384397991883312_968002868617794511_n 10428494_1384392621883849_1810011397830428860_n 10429260_1384392245217220_6213888960953107066_n  10499446_1384392528550525_339165829148016283_o 10501966_1384400045216440_6289017121103650528_n 10559858_1384394828550295_2273064334621295474_n 10686663_1384391441883967_7953875303994885308_n 10688261_1384398121883299_6993441544375815281_o 10881477_1384394615216983_6412669246488200556_n 10881525_1384391288550649_3611939091824522686_n 10906054_1384394185217026_149627501436396455_n (1) 10914842_1384391611883950_2086041529052707566_o 11013510_1384391678550610_8452671593504278084_o 11031135_1384391838550594_8647950454678265091_n