Saturday, 1 June 2019

It's never easy

I meant to write a lovely post about Eco Trail Florence. I started it but just couldn't seem to capture what that race meant to me. All I'll say is that it is a fantastic event, lovely route, well-organised, good aid stations and a joy to take part in. I didn't race it, just bimbled round and took in the sunshine and scenery.

Here's the Eco Trail in no particular order:

Since then a lot has been going on. I've struggled to recover from recurring tonsillitis, left my job and  discovered that osteoporosis makes me unemployable. I do have casual work to do until the end of the exams season but something regular needs to turn up soon.

Training hasn't gone to plan at all. Motivation and focus seem to have disappeared and although I'm keeping things ticking over I'm not in great shape. That's despite an intensive 6 week block of strength work. OCC is preying on my mind- it's looking like I'll be going into it somewhat under-cooked- and compared to how I prepared for A100 last year, I'm just not in the the zone at all for it. Mileage is well down compared to last year, and other than the 50 miles of the Eco Trail race I've run nothing really over 10 miles this year. Although it's nice once I get out on the trails, running more than about 6 miles feels much harder than it should.

I increased my strength work and tweaked my diet to try to shift the extra fat that's accumulated since A100 but it doesn't seem to have worked so I might as well try upping the mileage again and see what that does. A bit of me is thinking that it's a losing battle against age and hormonal changes. Women younger than me complain about how bad periods really affect their training; this is far worse because it's all the time. I'm tired, unfocused, struggling to maintain fitness; I don't recognise this new body or feel like it's me at all.

I don't know how things are going to turn out for the rest of the year. Watch this space.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

A leap into the unknown

Quite a bit has been going on since the last post. So here's a quick catch-up:

I quit my job.

Work has been a struggle for a long time. If I'm honest, from the very first day I started working in secondary school. I moved into secondary as I had made a poor choice with a primary school job and needed to move on and start afresh before the wheels came off. Anyway, I've stuck at secondary for three and a half years. In all that time I have never come home feeling like it's been a good day at work. That is not a sustainable way of living, especially when the salary as a TA is way under what even a single person can live off let alone me bringing up 2 kids. So after an awful lot of soul-searching I've jumped. With no job to go to. Which is, quite frankly, terrifying.

I have several ideas of what to do next so I'm applying for jobs as well as deciding on some courses that might allow me to turn doing things I love into things that will earn me some money too. At least it's exam season coming up and there will be invigilating which should see us through until July if nothing else works out.


As far as running goes, the roller coaster continues but I suspect it's been like that due to the enormous stresses caused by the work situation. My weight has been all over the place, I haven't been eating well or recovering well from training sessions, I've developed a few slightly concerning niggles and now ended up 6 days out from the first big race of the year very run down and with viral tonsillitis. This week I've run twice, 8 miles in total.

The lesson there is that you absolutely MUST include the 'bad' stresses from life, work etc with the 'good' stress from training. Both raise cortisol and both need adequate recovery. If you're using one form of stress to mitigate the other load of stress then eventually it's all going to go wrong. And so it has with me. Lesson learned.


I'm also facing the stark reality of having to completely rethink how I train in order to be as fit and healthy as I can whilst the inevitable changes of age begin to make a significant impact. The really tricky bit is how to find that balance between staving off the midlife fat and weight gain (which you do by shorter, sharper, harder workouts) and maintaining/ improving endurance so that I can continue to enjoy running ultras without losing lots of muscle and becoming fat and slow. I may need to dump the goal of a sub 24 100 miler this year and instead just focus on a new plan of attack for training.


My fella has spent the start of this year injured. Whilst it's been understandably miserable for him I've also found it really hard. We don't run a lot together but being unable to run together at all has really affected me and taken away some of the enjoyment of a long Sunday run. Usually I have no problem training alone, often I prefer it, but without his company to look forward to some of my longer weekend runs have been very hard going. He's just back on his feet now and we're supposed to be running a 50 miler together this coming weekend. With the state we're both in it could be an interesting race...

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Times they are a changin'

I'm not especially a Bob Dylan fan but right now times are most certainly changing in the Runningstitsch household.

Something isn't right with my training- I was really enjoying doing lots of strength work and getting some muscles but the last couple of weeks I've struggled to train at all and have just been generally exhausted. Even my appetite has gone wrong and I'm not managing to eat enough. So despite the fact- or perhaps because of the fact- that I have a 50 miler in less than three weeks, I've decided to ditch any semblance of a training plan and just take it easy. No pressure to run or lift, just do it if I can and not worry if I can't. Let's see what happens at the Eco Trail and then reassess in April.

This year has also begun with several DNS. One down to logistics, another because I'd had such an awful week at work I simply couldn't face the preparation, three hour drive, then running 50k in a storm the three hours driving home again. That's not like me- usually a race is an escape, a chance to get away from all the stresses and enjoy being outside with no distractions.

So I've reached a point where I find myself taking stock and looking for a new way forward. I think I have found one but it's a big risk and it could all go horribly wrong. But life is too short to be this unhappy and dealing with so much stress, all for an income that doesn't quite pay the bills. Being poor doesn't scare me- I've never had loads of spare money- and I'd rather be poor but happier with what I'm doing than where I'm at right now.

In many respects I look at my life so far and see failure after failure, never living up to expectations or potential. There have been so many mistakes. But one thing I've got right is that I've always kept trying. If something doesn't work then I'll see if I can change it or if not try something else. I guess a bit like running ultras- stuff happens and you just have to find a way of managing so that you can get to the finish.

But it's spring and even though March has definitely come in like a lion, there are flowers in the garden, seedlings on my window sill and there's still a pair of stinky muddy trail shoes by the door, so all is not lost.
(You really don't want a photo of my trail shoes 😁)

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Decision Time

I slept on it (sort of slept), then nearly slept on it again. Then I just thought like Archy the cockroach and said to myself 'wotthehell' and took up my place for OCC. It will be my third time in Chamonix, but my first as a competitor there. I use the term 'competitor' very loosely- I really will just be aiming to get round safely within the cutoff!

So although I haven't even started this year's training it's already time for a bit of a rethink although it won't really affect what I've planned for to take me up to Eco Trail Florence. After then I think I need a decent recovery and then aim to be getting a serious climb session in once a month May-July plus whatever hill-reps I can manage here. I'd still like to do some decent back to back runs but I didn't manage a lot of those in August last year so hopefully the fact that I won't get many this August either won't be a problem for A100.

Mileage this year is likely to be lower but that doesn't matter- I think it will be good to have more of a focus on higher quality stuff and hopefully the climb work will benefit me in A100 just in terms of being stronger and more efficient. The lumps and bumps of the Ridgeway and TP will seem very small in comparison!

Motto for the year is onwards and upwards, one day at a time.

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Grumpy New Year

Not the best of starts to a new year. I pretty much had to write off the day as random fireworks into the small hours plus DOMS from a workout meant sleep didn't really happen and I've been too tired, unfocused, and growly to achieve anything.

Last year was pretty darn good, running-wise. It was also damn hard work. I got strong, gained and kept on weight (with a couple of blips along the way), and ran a 100 mile race. Even snuck in a little bit of sewing over the last few days of the year!

This year the plan is to get stronger still, keep the weight on, and run some more. Hopefully get going with a little sewing project I have in mind too.

The first main target I'm aiming for is the Eco Trail in Florence. I've never run a 50 miler before, and neither have I raced abroad so it's doubly exciting. It's got more ascent than I've done in a while so the focus for the next three months is some quality hill reps, strength work and also a speed session of some kind each week as the biggest goal of this year is to get under 24 hours for 100 miles.

I am still contemplating revisiting the 100k distance looking to go a bit quicker. It would be interesting to see how what I've learned, and the fitness I've gained, over the last 18 months impacts on my ability to complete that distance a bit quicker.

The only thing niggling at me is the fact I have a place for the OCC race in August- as long as I sign up by 3rd January. I haven't signed up. Yet. Maybe won't. It seems silly to throw away a place as likely it would be another 3 year wait before I could have another go (all depending on how the UTMB ballot process evolves) but it's not a cheap trip to make and I'm shit at going down mountains. If it's a nice day I'd be ok and get round, but if the weather was wet and cold I think there would be no certainty that I'd finish. My fella says it all depends on how much the race means to me, but that's where we differ. No race has ever meant that much to me. Not the way UTMB was to him. It's just another race. Sure it would be great to say I've run it, just like it's great to say you've done any other race. But no race has ever been everything to me.

So I guess I'll be sleeping on that decision yet another night...

Whatever you do this year I hope it's fun!

Eco Trail races


Saturday, 17 November 2018

Storm after the calm

Five weeks after the 100 and now the dust has settled I can say definitively that recovery is a long and complicated process.

A few niggles have settled in despite gentle but regular moving. I'm borrowing the concept of 'moving' from Emily Forsberg as I'm definitely not training, just using short easy runs, walks and strength work to keep mobile, promote blood flow and stop me going mad. Unusually for me it was 4 weeks before I got a post-race massage. The massage was as unpleasant as I expected and although it helped, there is still something not right about my left ankle/base of Achilles. My back is bothering me more than usual too but I suspect that might be down to doing more, and more varied, strength work so hamstrings and glutes are working harder than they've needed to for a while. Hopefully things will settle down over the next few weeks.

Mentally I'm a bit all over the place. It sounds silly maybe, but running 100 miles has given me a quiet confidence that even when at work people are rude or belittle me or show no respect, I just think to myself that I ran 100 miles and they never could dream of attempting it, and it makes me feel better about myself. On the other hand for some reason it's been really hard remembering what day it is and when I have to go to work. It must be a remnant of that wonderful timeless bubble running the 100, where nothing existed other than movement. Work isn't easy at the moment either and it feels jarring to be stuck inside stinky classrooms all day. It's odd too not having that drive of having to get the miles in and I actually miss those stupid o'clock journeys to Goring for recce runs! But I think my mind is recovering more quickly than my body though as this week the idea of running a bit longer than 5 or 6 miles and for more than an hour feels like something I want to do. My body isn't so sure however, and still seems to want to stop after about 60 minutes.

With time on my hands I've been thinking about next year's running and wondering what to do. I know I want to run more 100 milers but the last couple of weeks have made me wary of running more than 1 in a year although I suppose the more I do the better my body will get at recovering. So far the plan is to return to A100 and aim for a decent sub-24 hour time and also go for a much improved 100k time. Having said all that though, I don't want to do loads of races as what I did this year seemed to work very well in terms of fitness and getting 100 mile ready.

Next year may also have a couple of surprises- one is dependent on ridiculous odds in a ballot, the other is a step into a new venture (or possibly steps into two new ventures). More on those if and when...

I am beginning to realise that nothing is will be the same after running 100 miles. It has been a genuinely life-changing experience.

Saturday, 3 November 2018


In this strange recovery period I've started to take at least one walk every day. Nothing long, often just 10- 20 minutes simply to get some fresh air and stretch my legs. It feels so odd to not run every day and to feel tired when I do run, but the need and desire to move every day is still there.

A little chat with Phil today about recovery and training ended with what ought to be a very welcome piece of advice:
decondition and get a bit fat

But that's probably the thing I find hardest to do even though I completely understand why it's necessary. I don't have a great figure at the best of times and when I lose condition and gain a little weight all that happens is I get a wobbly belly and can't fit into any of my clothes comfortably. I hate it!

So I'm trying to find a balance between letting my body really recover, getting good nutrition in every day and moving regularly. Hence the walking. And sometimes a walk is great because just a few minutes from my house this evening I saw this: