Monday 30 December 2013

Weight Loss: There Is A Better Way

If you've been following my "weight loss" series (Why bother? and Why is it so hard?), I've now got to the point where I'm going to be even more blunt and opinionated.
When it comes to the matter of body weight/fat there are two types of people; people who have a metabolic/endocrine problem and people who don't.  I previously thought the former group was vanishingly small, but I've been reading and learning a lot and I've changed my mind.  People with genetic, pre-existing endocrine problems -are- rare; people with acquired metabolic problems are pretty common and it's usually varying degrees of insulin sensitivity from the sensitive to bordering on type II diabetes and mainly due to battering the body with high levels of (refined) carbohydrates until it starts to give up.  Some bodies are more susceptible than others to running into problems with this.  Some take a long time to show any effects.  Some never have a problem at all.

Gary Taubes, Tim Noakes, Steven Phinney, Jeff Volek, Peter Attia, Aseem Malhotra, Yoni Freedhoff and many others have researched, thought, read, and digested (pun intended) on the topic and have come to the conclusion that the modern obesity pandemic is caused by cheap, freely available, highly processed, large amounts of carbohydrates in the human diet.  Not just Western society; but increasingly across the whole of the world and as the availability of cheap, highly processed carbs increases, any given country will see an increase in obesity, diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases.

If you put on weight quite easily, are slowly gaining weight as you get older, have a high waist-to-hip ratio, struggle to lose weight or maintain healthy weight, crave foods, get hungry a lot of the time, think about food a lot (in terms of when/where is your next meal coming, or how you can justify eating X or Y, not in terms of a recipe you'd like to try 'cause it looks interesting or it's your job etc.) you are probably along the path to insulin insensitivity/resistance.  If that is the case, you would probably benefit from a low carbohydrate diet for general health reasons and a side-effect of a low carbohydrate diet could well be weight loss.  When I say "diet" here, I do not mean it in the sense of "going on a...", I mean it in the sense of what you eat for now and forever.

If you don't put on weight easily, have a relatively healthy waist-to-hip ratio, don't vary much in body weight with time, have no problem losing a few pounds (maybe for the racing season?), don't get food cravings, don't have "intrusive thoughts of food", then you're probably towards the "no problem" end of the insulin sensitivity scale.  You're quite lucky.  Also, a low carbohydrate diet will probably have little effect on your weight.  That said, there are a good few reasons why you might want to move to a higher fat (and, logically, lower carb) diet (have a read of Why We Get Fat and what to do about it and/or The Great Cholesterol Con).  I don't mean to the extent of this...

...but golly-gosh there are a lot of good things in some of them thar fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, beef fat (grass fed), salmon (wild), mackerel, herring, butter and milk (grass fed), eggs (free range, organic), macadamia nuts, brazil nuts etc.

So if you are away from the lucky end of the insulin sensitivity scale and want to change, take a look at your diet.  See how much white flour, potatoes, sugar, white rice etc. you eat, or even how much brown rice, brown flour, brown pasta, bananas, fruit juices etc. if it's more than 200g or so per day.  If you are struggling to lose weight, suffer unpleasant hunger/cravings, can't make it work on a calorie counting diet (usually low fat), CHANGE THE STRATEGY.  Swap low fat for low carb.  Eat real butter, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, fish and feel less hunger.  If you go low enough carb for a few days you'll stop getting cravings, stop the constant thinking about food, stop the horrible hunger sensations.  You'll enjoy what you're eating!  You'll start to find that things like strawberries are insanely sweet-tasting without adding sugar because you can actually taste them properly.  You'll start to find that you don't need a huge plate piled high with pasta, rice, potatoes, bread etc. to feel satisfied after a meal.

And if you think it's all too much like hard work, there are so many quick and easy things you can make/cook/grab on the go.  And if you think low carb is too restrictive and all you'll be eating is bacon and eggs... well, there's a lot of help and ideas and once you get going it's really really easy.

And it's a change for life.

Sunday 29 December 2013

So. Boring.

This up and down feeling gets really very tedious.  So goes the cycle:-

  • Yay! Enthusiasm for a training programme!
  • Following it quite well under controlled circumstances.
  • YAY! Feeling really good about it all!
  • Following it quite well under controlled circumstances.
  • Being convinced you're slower and less fit than $time_period_of_choice.  Boo!
  • Feeling really down because you thought you were doing well, but you're not (well, you probably are, but are choosing the wrong metrics at the wrong time). Booo!
  • Circumstances changing outside your control.
  • Failing to follow the training plan very well. BOO!
  • Feeling devastated as everything is clearly doomed. BOOO!
  • Shuffling the plan to fit better with new circumstances.
  • Feeling a bit better about it all. Yay!
  • Failing to follow the modified plan.
  • Feeling devastated and convinced everything will be disastrous. Boo!
  • Being 2 weeks out from a serious undertaking.
  • Frantically trying to find ways to recover any fitness/speed. Booo!
  • Knowing it's far too late for that. BOO!
  • Feeling like a total failure. BOOO!

...and back to the start again.

I'm at the final two points on the last 13 days into Country to Capital.



It's *such* a *tedious* cycle and it gets *so* *boring*.

2012 weekly training hours
It wasn't like this last year right up until I smashed up my collar bone.  I was averaging 11 hours a week from December 2011 to September 2012.  Since then, I've averaged 5-6 hours a week and it's mostly down to new job in March, then not cycling much in the last few months (which hammers my base fitness something rotten, plus chips away at my cycling handling and hill climbing/descending capability) and being in an awkward and unfamiliar location.  Depressing.  And it'd be nice to say it's on the mend in a week's time when we're properly back home again, but I can't do a whole lot that week as it'll only knacker me out for said Country to Capital and that wouldn't help the state of my brain.  And then I need a good few days easing very gently back into things as I will have toasted my leg muscles and engine a bit.  So it's more like 2-3 weeks before I can really get back into things.

2013 weekly training hours
And there's another new job.  But there could be a great up-side to that in the possibility of commuting by bike opens up (thanks also to Vulpine's marvellous merino and nice, smart clothing for cycling in).  And there's a few months before the first proper triathlon of the season... 130 days to Mallorca 70.3

Mallorca 70.3 bike route & profile

We'll see.

For now, I fight the positivity battle to get me to 11th January and through Country to Capital inside the cut-off time. (which really should be possible, given my Rotherham time for a longer, lumpier course)

Sunday 22 December 2013

Looking ahead to the New Year

I'm looking ahead to next year and it's looking quite dry after Country to Capital at the start.  In fact, there's nothing in the calendar until the spring triathlon training camp in March.  It's probably a good thing as it means I'll actually get some proper blimmin' training in rather than just poncing about between races that just smash up my body so I do nothing in between the races.

Moving back home will make a huge difference.  At the moment, the barrier to getting out on a bike for a decent ride is too high, so there's none of that going on.  And that means I'm missing out on a lot of technical handling maintenance but also on fitness that's not from running.  Running fitness comes at a higher damage cost for sure and the little turbo sessions in the gym, while then proved incredibly good for increasing FTP and sorting out cadence etc. last year, they're not all that great in isolation.  Also, I have a bike that I really want to get out on and get used to and enjoy.

So, between now and moving back home, there's a bit of running and potentially a couple of turbo sessions and then we get to get back into the proper swing of things.  And maybe my currently quite low love for triathlon will start to come back with some quality time out on the bike.  And maybe I'll get to commute by bike to my new job (yay for somewhere safe to keep my bike during the work day!).  I just need to be patient and not stress over taking things easy for a couple more weeks.  I coped with worse last year after my crash and subsequent training restrictions :o)

Monday 16 December 2013

This Ultra stuff is addictive

Yep. I've signed up for another one.  And it's on 11th January.

Country to Capital is the first UK race of the year where I can have a bit of Ultra fun; and what's better is that it's £8.80 on the train to the start and you run from there to next door to a tube station that takes me straight home in half an hour.  How cool is that?

Plus, it's practically flat:-

Thursday 12 December 2013

Still hurts

5 days on and my legs still hurt.

Post-race, days 1-3, stairs and any downwards slope however slight were "excruciatingly painful to impossible".

Day 2, I had to get myself to work via public transport.  That was "fun".  Sitting at a desk all day meant that my legs stiffened up and when I went to get up, it took a while to loosen up to be able to walk.

Day 3, I had to travel to Suffolk for work, and stay overnight on the first floor in a B&B.  That was also "fun".

Day 4, I could just about clump down stairs one at a time and I had a recovery spin on the gym bike.

Day 5, slightly better clumping down stairs now that I've had a really painful sports massage this morning.

Saturday, 7 days on, I will have a very very gentle jog around parkrun.

There are lessons in this and most of them are pre-race; training, specific skills, specific sessions.  I also need to be lighter.


Sunday 8 December 2013

Race report: CTS Dorset 2013

I really really wanted to get 2 UTMB(TM) qualifying points before the end of the 2014 qualifying period (ends 31st December 2013).  I'd wanted that since the moment I finished Rowbotham's Round Rotherham, which gave me that first precious point in the qualifying period.  I had my eye on CCC(TM) - a teensy little 100km race through the mountains from Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley in Italy and ending in Chamonix.  With, as the course organisation calls it, the "Major Difficulties" being  "Ascension of the TĂȘte de la Tronche (2584m) then Grand col Ferret (2537m) during the first third of the race. The second part leads to 3 heavy ascensions : Bovine, Tseppes and La TĂȘte au vents.".

So I decided to sign up for one of the Endurance Life Coastal Trail Series races that had a qualifying point  available before the end of the qualifying period.

This being the Dorset race starting in Lulworth Cove.  Marked as "extreme" and with the logo for the UTMB(TM) qualifying point, it seemed it would do the job.

The thing is, it was never going to be pretty, this race.  I wasn't particularly fit, I'd not done much running (or anything) since Rotherham, and I'd certainly not run any hills since Rotherham either.  I'd not put in the kind of work you really ought to put in for this sort of race if you were giving it the respect it really does need.  With a rating of "extreme", a potential UTMB(TM) qualifying point, and a reported 6085 feet of ascent over 33.6 miles, I actually had no concept of how hard that actually is.

Turns out it's really f'ing hard.

And it turned out that fitness and fuelling wasn't the problem at all,  despite the pain I was in by the end of the marathon distance, but the fact that I'm too slow on the ups from not doing any hill work to speak of.  And I'm too slow on the downs because they're insanely steep and sometimes they're crazy concrete-edged steps of varying height from "normal" to "you have to be 9 feet tall to have legs that make sense for these steps".

If you look at the course profile above (for the marathon distance), there's an awful of those sorts of hills over the route and you need to be able to get up them with the minimum of fuss and grunting.  Unlike how I got up them.  The first few made me feel extremely demoralised; I feared the entire route would be like this and there was no way that I could keep that up for almost 34 miles.

The first hill out of the town (photo above, the paved path on the left) is a nice little intro and stops people from haring off quite so insanely.  The thing is, there's another one real soon after that and it's steep; really really steep.

Within the first 2km, there's almost 200m of climbing.  Within the first 9 km, there is just under 600m of climbing.

 It's simply relentless.

But then things ease off and there's a very runnable section which is still tough, but not insane and then you come back down into the town where you started, via the steep path here.

Following that are are some hilarious hills that it was simply not possible to do anything but hike up really slowly and carefully; basically with a wall of grassy ground in front of your face with the occasional muddy step ground into it from years of feet passing this way.  Sometimes they're in a pretty fish-scale type pattern.

I learned some new techniques, including using both hands on each leg to push down to get up each step on the up (when they're the stupid really high ones) and pointing my feet slightly sideways to get down when my quads were so fried that I was squeaking (with pain) with every step.  I also learned that there are some really nice runners out there; very supportive and friendly.  And there are some really really quick up/downhill runners too.

The really low point - stopping at the 3rd water station to find... there was no water left.  I kinda stood there and stared for a while.  I really wanted to stop at that point as I felt awful anyway, really quite sick, I didn't see the point in finishing and I couldn't do the maths to work out whether I'd make the cutoffs on my current pace (actually, I was doing OK at that point and would have been fine).  It took a while to realise that where that water station was, there wasn't a sensible way to withdraw.  No road, not support staff, just one guy and a trestle table with biscuits and no water.  So, I followed the sign and carried on up the hill to the promised next check-point (and water). 6.5 miles never felt so long.

From there to the end there was another nice runnable section and a couple of pretty mean hills;  this little fella (above) with more of those delightful steps in it, then another hill after that.

I got cold as the sun dipped behind a big cloud and was unlikely to show again before the next morning.  Then came a precipitously difficult downhill to a tight turn where you could hear the cheers at the finish line, yet the route took you away from it.  I almost lost it at that point as I thought it was familiar and I'd already run that section and I must be going wrong.  I couldn't see anyone in front or behind me so I went a little bit nuts.  It was in a wooded section, and I had no mobile coverage so I couldn't call to find out if I'd ballsed-it up and had to go back up the hill again.  Soon I saw someone behind so got it together and carried on down, down the track, down some steps and to the bottom of the road where the B&B was!  I -had- run that section before, but in reverse!

Walking down the road towards me was Mr TOTKat, who confirmed I'd missed the cut-off to continue on to the Ultra.  The Ultra course runners run the marathon course, followed by the 10km course and if you get to the end of the marathon later than 3pm, you are not allowed to continue on to the 10km course mostly because it'll get dark and dangerous.  Cutoff for carrying on to the Ultra distance well and truly missed by about 25 minutes, I was ready to stop.  Mr TOTKat jogged up the road (yes, uphill again) and we chatted a bit for the final few tens of meters until someone overtook us, at which point I simply sprinted for the line as I wasn't having being overtaken right at the end.   If I hadn't missed the cut off I would have carried on, put on my arm guards and buff again to beat the cold and just slogged through it for that delicious UTMB(TM) point.  But it was not to be.

I scored myself a medal as I'd finished the "marathon" (28 miles or so!) distance course and two Builders Bars (nom!).

Now I'm making plans for how I get 2 points in 2014.

Edit (9th Dec, results are out): Official finish time for the marathon route was 07:08:36.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Never ever ever...

Never try something new on race day.

That's one of the biggest pieces of advice that athletes are given.  And it's a good one.  So, I'll likely be ignoring it spectacularly on Saturday.  Never mind this race could take 8 hours if I have a bad time of the hills so if something is not right, it's going to be a long day of not right to get through.

I'll be at the very least wearing new shoes, new socks and a new attempt to avoid the chafing I got on my back at the last long one.  I got that same chafing again on my last longish run home from work and I think I may have hit on why it's happened.  I've only ever run twice in that exact rucksack; the original one was a 2013 early model and was very tightly adjusted, this one is a late 2013 model and I think quite a bit looser when I used it.  So, I'll adjust it to be much more tight AND I'll use this magic anti-chafe lotion impregnated towelette on my back before putting on my clothes and rucksack.  Fingers crossed that will help, cause the chafing from that bag really burns quite badly and causes sharp, acute pain in multiple places across my back.

I'm undecided on the shoes at the moment and I have a bit too much choice on that front, but I have ruled out a bunch immediately and there's a short-list of 4 left.  I won't get to change them during the race so it is quite a key choice.  The socks I can carry a spare pair with me, but the plan is either thick merino Smartwool ones or the brand new Drymax ones I just bought which claim to keep wetness to a minimum compared with many others.

Everything else is tried and tested and should be fine - especially hydration which I think I have nailed now.

No parkrun for me on Saturday as my race starts at 08:15, but I'll be thinking of all those thousands of parkrunners at 9am and maybe one of them will be thinking of me.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Do I ever Learn?

11 days out from Ultra number 3 this year.

February feels like a million years ago right now.  It seems almost impossible that I ran the London Ultra (50km on road) this year. But I did.  Not only that, but Rowbotham's Round Rotherham (50 miles on trail) too.  And that was only last month!

And here I am again, a few days out from a serious undertaking and for reasons of Real Life, I'm not as prepared as I'd like.  The thing is, it probably doesn't matter that much.  As long as I finish inside the cut-offs I should be fine as all I need out of this race is a completion and to enjoy the scenery.  In theory I should be able to walk and still finish inside the cut-offs.  There's 1.8km of height gain in 33.4 miles, which could make things a bit tricky...

But a finish is all I need.

Monday 25 November 2013

The power of familiarity

My routine and access to familiar to cycle and run routes is broken at the moment.  This is, to put it bluntly, crap.

I'm naturally a cautious cyclist  (a "what if" worrier) and I've got very used to the routes I've been cycling the last 2 years.  I know them well.  I know which bits are good for what sort of training.  I know the exit points and danger points for mechanicals.  I know where the good refreshment/social stops are.  This means the barrier to getting out there and doing a ride is pretty low.  Take away those familiar routes and the barrier leaps up a long long way.

So I've not ridden a bike in, er, quite a while.  Not since 21st September!  Yes, I've been on the Wattbikes and spin bikes in the gym, but it's not the same thing at all.

Today I have to do that and from and to unfamiliar places.  On an unfamiliar bike.  (to get fitted on that same bike).


(it's a gorgeous bike, but still...)

Sunday 17 November 2013

Low Carb Recipe: Moussaka

It's been a while since I've posted any recipes, so this is long overdue.  This moussaka recipe is a firm favourite in our house now and you get a good few portions out of it which survive nicely in the fridge or freezer until you want them (defrost before re-heating otherwise it's a real pain to heat through properly).

Serves 4:-

580kcal per portion - 17g carbs, 33g protein, 43g fat, 3.3 portions fruit & veg
  • 1 medium/large aubergine (375g)
  • 500g good quality lamb mince (500g)
  • 1 can tinned tomatoes, ideally cherry tomatoes (395-400g)
  • I big pile of (dark) green leaves - spinach/kale/cavolo nero (200g)
  • 1tbps cornflour (15g)
  • 4tbsp extra virgin olive oil (60ml)
  • 1 small onion (50g)
  • 4 fat cloves of garlic (20-25g)
  • chunk of mature cheddar (60g)
  • whole milk (300ml)
  • 5tsp harissa paste (50g) - I use the delicious Belazu Rose harissa
  • Pinch of cumin seeds.

0. Turn the oven on to 175C to warm up.
1. Slice your aubergine into slices around 3-5mm thick.

2. Heat a tablespoon of oil and fry the aubergine slices in batches, adding more oil as needed until there's about 1tbsp oil left from your 60ml.  (You'll need that for the meat later.)

3. Slice the onion finely.

4. Brown the lamb mince in batches with a little oil to start off with.  Oil will come out of the meat so don't worry it's not enough at the start.

5. Add the sliced onions once the meat is browned.

6. Blend the cornflour with a little of the milk until smooth, in a milk pan, then add the rest of the milk and some cumin seeds.

7. Heat gently and stir until thickened, then take off the heat and stir a couple more times.

8. Season the meat pan with a little salt and black pepper and some herbs if you like.

9. Add the tinned tomatoes and harissa paste and simmer for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

10. Spread half of the meat on the base of a baking dish.

11. Top with half of your green leaves.

12. Layer half of your fried aubergine on top of that.

13. Repeat with the other half of the meat, leaves and aubergine, then pour the white sauce on top of the aubergine layer.  Spread out evenly to cover all of the top so there's nothing sticking out to dry out later.

14. Grate your cheddar and sprinkle on top.

15. Place into the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

16. Cut into 4 portions and serve/divide up into portions to chill for later.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Real Life

Real Life happens.  And sometimes it puts spanners in the works of training quite spectacularly.

Since Rotherham, I've been trying to take it easy, but I should be doing little/low intensity and often in order to keep things progressing and to help with recovery.  Except that there's been the house renovations making things very difficult.  We've had to be moving furniture around the house, planning things, ordering things, choosing things, visiting Ikea, researching stuff and working with the builders to move things forward.  Add all of that on top of work, cooking where possible, commuting etc. and there's very little time left for much more than a bit of sleep.

So I've really done bugger all in 2 weeks.  The first week was intentional, the second less so.  I managed to wedge in one turbo session and an accidental bit of running on Sunday while supporting Mr TOTKat at a local marathon.  Saturday's parkrun was scuppered as I had no idea where my bar-code was and I really really wanted to get some good quality sleep which I've been missing out on for a while.  This week I'll fit a few things in, but due to family birthday celebrations, the majority of my weekend is out of bounds and I won't get to go out and play on my new bike still.  I managed to get to the gym yesterday for a strength session for the first time in a very long while, but my plan is to take opportunities where they arise to do stuff here and there until things settle a bit more in a few weeks time.

It's better than this time last year, for sure!

Monday 28 October 2013

The legs still work then...

Thank you to Ashford parkrun, @abradypus, @iamkat, @n0rm & @marvellousmimi

"Congratulations on completing your 50th parkrun and your 1st at Ashford today. You finished in 37th place and were the 2nd lady out of a field of 90 parkrunners and you came 1st in your age category VW40-44. Take a look at this week's full set of results on our website. As this is your first run at this event we have set your PB."

Yay!  1 week after an 80km hilly trail ultra and my legs still work :o)  And so does my brain - a tactical run that got me the gender position I could manage under the circumstances.

Monday 21 October 2013

Race report: Rowbotham's Round Rotherham 2013 (80km trail Ultra)

[There's a 25 min audio montage of the race here which fills in more than the stuff I can remember 2 days later.]

We got up at 5am - relatively late for a race day.  The only food we had available for breakfast was salad that I'd made the day before; lettuce, baby plum tomatoes, a few cubes of cheese, a few chunks of chorizo, walnuts and olive oil.  Weird breakfast but better than nothing.  The hotel had decided to put on an early breakfast, for them, on the Saturday morning at 6am instead of the usual 7.30am, but we kinda needed to have left for the race registration venue by 06:10 in order to be confident of times and a relaxed start.  MrTOTKat eschewed the salad for breakfast in favour of a cooked breakfast after dropping me off at the start and seeing me off before he headed off to the local parkrun.

Salad and a mug of tea downed, we drove to the Dearne Valley College where race HQ was for registration and race start.  The hall had about 30-40 people milling about in it, pinning on race numbers, taping up bits of their anatomy and rubbing vaseline in various places.  I felt quite self-conscious in my "posh" Compressport shorts and Freespeed top over the top of my Compressport t-shirt, but I knew they were extremely comfortable and there was no point feeling weird about that.  Registration was pretty quick and easy, just check your name off, pick up a number, some pins, a t-shirt and race memento patch then off you go.

After a couple of trips to the loo just to be sure I really really didn't need a wee any more, it was almost time for the off and people filed out into the dark outside for race briefing.

A quick chat through a slight course detour around some construction in a new housing estate and general tips about the mud and navigation and it was time to send us on our way.

The first stage is the longest by a very long way; 17.5km.  And I wasn't going to see MrTOTKat until the second check point as he was running Rotherham parkrun.  He'd be starting parkrun when I'd already been running for 2 hours so the plan was that he'd see me first at the second check point.  Everyone set off at a very reasonable and gentle pace and as soon as there was a hint of an upwards gradient, dutifully slowed to a walk.  A really nice surprise after what happened at the start of the London Ultra where everyone shot off like whippets which was very much not my plan!

Having been quite worried about navigation, there were a couple of points in the first stage where there were moments I wasn't sure and there were quite a few bits in the woods where it wouldn't have been obvious if you'd been going the wrong way.  But I trusted the group and followed and all was fine.

It wasn't too hard to tune into the navigation markings thereafter.  Either white discs (as below, on trees sometimes, on lamp-posts or fences at other times, occasionally on dog poo bins even!) or red&white or orange tape marked turns and continuations sometimes.

CP1 came along and I didn't bother with any drinks top up as I'd not had much of my 2x 500ml bottles yet.  I'd normally lamp it through a 21km race with no water anyway and at this pace, I wouldn't be sweating that much.  The plan was to drink to thirst and I just wasn't thirsty yet.  So I checked in to the check point, had a couple of micro caramel oaty squares, a mini fairy cake and a soggy custard cream that'd been out in the rain a while.  I also went for a speculative wee "just in case" and discovered that while I'd thought my outer t-shirt had protected the inner layers from the persistent drizzle, it hadn't and I was soaked to the skin.  It wasn't uncomfortable and it wasn't making me cold at all, so I was OK with that.

There were some really weird statues along the route at this point - I managed to get a photo of one before my phone camera decided to stop playing ball.

Off for another 10.2km to the next check point and where I'd see MrTOTKat for the first time since breakfast, and after 1/3rd of the race distance and around 1/4 of the race time.  That was quite a revelation when I figured that out.  In some ways it was great, in other ways it was quite worrying as I got quite achey and tired before I got there.

Some of the way-marking has been around for a long time...

CP2 sort of crept up on me, having been far too long in coming.  A custard cream and a swig of tea and a bit of a chat about MrTOTKat's earlier parkrun and I needed to get going again as it's all too easy to spend ages at check points and not really notice.

CP3 took forever to come along and by then I was sure I wanted dry socks and a change of shoes as the ones I was in were pretty damp and I could feel a hot spot starting on the ball of my right foot.  The approach to the check point was over a muddy field, up a hill, through a gap in a hedge...

...across another muddy field and then down a grassy slope to a kids playground - perfect for action shots coming in to the check point!

MrTOTKat was ready with my Skechers Go Bionic Trail for the next section which was likely to be the muddiest by far.  Clean, dry socks and dry shoes was fantastic at this point, but it meant that I spent a really long time at the check point (again).  I had a cup of tea from the flask and a top up of water in one bottle.  The thinking from here on in was that I'd only need 1 bottle refill per stage as 500ml for 8-10km should be plenty.  And it would have been, but later on I ran into problems.

Time to fill up the water bottles and then off again for a 9.4km stage.  I'd run into a guy earlier on who seemed to be doing around the same pace as me, but he left CP3 before me and I caught him on this section so we talked briefly before running together but quietly.  I eventually pulled away from him, I think he had made the mistake of trying to keep pace with someone who was just a bit quicker and he started to tire quickly and realised it so slowed and let me go.  He caught me again though when I had a navigation fail at a major road crossing - writing this now and looking at the Wainwright strips (strip 7 with the loop bit), I realise I was reading my plot on the MotionX route on my iPhone the wrong way around - thankfully for me as he put me right where I could have got very frustrated and a bit lost for a while.

This stage was the stage of every single muddy field in the Rotherham area.  Mud, mud, mud, and more mud.

CP4 was the fabled hot food stop, but not before a secret, unofficial stop in someone's garden just before we had to cross a major railway line.  I had a quick chat with the lovely couple running the unofficial drinks stop, accepted a refill of some orange squash into one of my bottles and then headed off over the railway tracks.  From here...

...across this... here.

(BTW, I hate stiles. Quite a bit.)

I was starting to get quite hot by this point, so off came the neck funnel, into my fabulous Salomon hydration vest/rucksack (which loads of people asked about) and I even ended up unzipping my inner t-shirt to get some air in.

Not far after the railway tracks was CP4.  49km in and soon to be the furthest I'd ever run.  There was soup - thick, gloopy, gelatinous chicken soup.  In a tiny cup.  But it was exactly what I wanted at the time.  And it was the last food I had from there to  the end of the whole day.  I was sort of hungry due to having had pretty much just a few biscuits and micro bites since a weird breakfast at 5.30am and my stomach was getting empty.  That tiny cup of soup was plenty enough at the time and I felt great after it.

A final change of shoes out of these ones that didn't look it, but were actually quite heavy with mud and I was worried about going another 31km in zero drop shoes with the lightest of cushioning.  My feet ached quite badly after 40km of the London Ultra and I wanted to avoid that if at all possible, so it was on with the Asics Gel Fuji Attack shoes.  The only drawback of those for me was that they are a tin y bit too small and I could end up with mashed toenails, but I could always change out of them for something roomier later if I needed to.  I just wanted some cushioning with grip in the mud for now, so that's how it was.

There were more muddy fields to come; quite a few in fact, but I don't remember a lot from here on... I kept running into an old fella who turned out to have run Comrades 3 times and was quite the trail runner.

CP5 was physically a relatively low point.  A lot ached and I was feeling quite tired.  I certainly found it really hard to start running again afterwards, but I was quite chirpy.  Especially when I realised I was starting to make places on quite a few people who had previously been ahead of me even though I was spending too long at the check points.

As with almost all of stages 3 to 5, I spent the next stage alone and almost always not in sight of any other runners.  Stage 6 I followed a couple of chaps who were walking in the distance and slowly was catching them until I came across a ruined abbey where I took a couple of photos.

The persistent drizzle had stopped and the sun was trying to break through.  I was still wet to the skin, but as I'd not been to the loo since CP3 I didn't really notice it any more.  It was certainly not cold or windy enough to feel the wet next to my skin.

3km after the ruined abbey was CP6.  Up through some steps into a grave yard where I really didn't expect to find a check point, but someone had kindly put a sign just before the checkpoint telling us it was just ahead.

I was running again at this point, having had quite a tired patch just before-hand, so poor MrTOTKat had fun trying to photograph me as I came in to this checkpoint!

The next two stages were supposed to be 12km and 4km, so I readied myself for a long old stretch and then less than a parkrun at the end.  I was feeling OK mentally, in good shape physically with the hot spot on my foot long gone after a couple of changes of shoes to shift the positioning of cushioning on my feet, and my knees and ankles not creaking too much.

This next stage was definitely the darkest for me.  I went through a patch of feeling overwhelmingly sick.  I put it down to having been drinking flavoured isotonic sports drink (just salts and flavour, no carbs) and no plain water.  All I had with me for this stage was mixed sports drink and no plain water.  I almost lost it at one point.  I just wanted to sit down and cry until I felt better.  I wanted to throw up into the field or hedge; anything to feel less horrible.

CP7 had the same issue with me unexpectedly running in...

...however I was really very very tired by this point and spinning up running after periods of walking hills, walking to navigate or just walking because I was tired/felt sick etc., was really very difficult indeed.  All I wanted was plain water and to feel less sick.

CP7 came and not only was there fresh water and MrTOTKat but another friend was unexpectedly there too.  I squeaked an "oh! hello!" as I arrived.  What I really wanted was a loo.  I'd decided a good old dump would sort my guts out, but no... this checkpoint was just a van in a car park, a couple of chairs and some cones!

Oh well!  I chugged a couple of cups of plain water, filled a bottle with plain water and got the heck on with it.  With only 4.95km to go I just wanted to get to the end.

The old fella in blue who I'd kept meeting up with caught me yet again on this stage and we ran almost the whole of it together to the end.  Having got to CP6 and left it before 5pm - the recommendation was that if you left that one after 5pm you'd need a torch to finish - I was feeling good about finishing in under 12 hours unless disaster struck.  We chatted a bit and then ran quietly.  It started to rain properly, finally.  I pulled away from him a couple of times, but then I'd have to walk a bit because my left ankle wasn't happy.  Then the light faded really quickly and I thought we'd run into trouble before the end, but the final stretch was well-lit and we rounded a final few bends before finding the red and white tape that marked the entrance to the college ground and the finishing funnel up a grassy bank to the college.

He was ahead of me in that last few 10s of meters, but stopped and waited so we could cross the line together.  What a really nice guy!  I finally asked what his name was - thank you Bill, you really helped keep me motivated in that last few kilometers (and a few times before that too!).  I think the best thing Bill said to me was in the penultimate stage when he said I kept getting away from him and he was amazed that I just kept on going and going and going; "you should do an Ironman", he said.  *grin*

I sat outside for a bit, in the cool, just trying to take in the fact that I'd just run 80km.  Garmin said 79.91km, but Strava says 82.6km *shrug*  It's officially 80km, so I'll take that.

I had to take off my mud-encrusted shoes and change into clean ones before going into the hall where there was food, drink and finishing certificates!  What a great surprise!  I really wasn't expecting that.  (Also, I'd forgotten to turn off MotionX navigation and Garmin Fit live tracking.  Oops!)

I had a tea and a sit and a chat while I waited for the batch with my certificate to be printed.

Having finished at 18:30, I had a couple of hours before the booked dinner slot and wasn't feeling too hungry, but wanted to get clean and dry and into fresh clothes.  Onwards to the hotel!

The heart rate drift downwards tells a tale... I'm not sure of what though.  I know the first 9km were quite quick for the distance.  There were some quickish (for the distance) ones in later stages though. 68th km was quicker than quite a few in the first 25.

I'd like to thank MrTOTKat for being supportive and ready at the stations with a car-boot full of dry socks and shoes, a cuddle and a kiss, often some hot tea and encouraging words of love.  I hope to support him in a race in the same way some day.

I'd also like to thank Bill and the un-named guy in the OMM rucksack and glasses who was running this race for the first time again in 4 years after injury.  And all of the race officials, check-point teams and the unofficial drinks stop near CP4.  I was really worried about race navigation before the race but I needn't have been.

Onwards to CTS Dorset Ultra on 7th December.  Maybe.  Let's see!