Monday, 29 July 2013

Adidas Thunder Run 2013: Support Crew Version

I decided a guest blog on the behalf on my support crew would pay a nice tribute to the great work they did in getting me through this years Thunder Run. The conditions were truly terrible at points and there was little chance I would have done so well without them. They fed me, changed me and supported me... kind of like a baby! 

Prior to the event I had prepared a hugely geeky briefing note, it had advised of my moods, what I might eat if I could rest and for how long but also a sheet for comments, timings and to record my food and drink. Funniest for me was the comment made at 8 laps (surely by Sue) and it said 'up for it'!!

As myself and hubby were unable to arrive until the Saturday morning following a wedding (congratulations once again to Hannah & Nick) my Dad and Sue had arrived on Friday along with their dog Beau and set up the tents for us in the solo area. On arrival at the camp site we were soon in our ready made home for the next day and offered cups of tea and bacon sarnies!

We once again reviewed the briefing note, discussed what a crazy challenge and got me ready to run.

Cake and ribena!
The posts (via twitter and facebook): 

At the start, ready to go. See you in 24 hours! TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬ 

Keep going Liz, only 23 hours and 40 minutes left! 

Liz Romano 1st lap in 1.11, looking good so far...

Lap 2 completed in 2:24:12 TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬ 

Lap 4 done in 5:23:28. A food stop on lap 5 and here comes the rain! 

TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬. Over 1/4 of the way through now @romanoliz. 40kms done. Keep going

As the thunder, lightening and torrential downpour arrives, time for some food and a power nap, ready for the night running TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬ — 

The rain hasn't stopped, so nor has Liz. Carrying on in the dark and the rain with lap 6. Onward and upwards! TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬

Well over half way now. Liz is about 3km into lap 7 after a break, so anything more is a bonus after this as she'll have equalled her total from last year. It's still raining and very dark but all the people doing this are amazing and still going TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬

Liz is back in the dry after completing lap 7. Alarm set for 5.30 to be back out at 6 for final 3 laps hopefully... TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬

Up for it!
Back out at 6 as planned, it's stopped raining for now, fingers crossed it stays that way. Lap 8 completed in 1:35 approximately, total time 19:35. Roll in lap 9. Keep going Liz!

End of lap 9 and straight on to lap 10 - 90km done, what have you got left Liz, still just over 2 hours left.

10 laps - 100km in just under 24 hours. Congratulations @romanoliz , a magnificent result TR24 ‪#‎allin24‬

These updates will be familiar to many of you but to some may be new, I was amazed when I turned on my phone after the race and saw how many messages of support, confusion and encouragement had been coming in throughout my journey. Hubby had told me everyone was rooting for me when I saw him at food breaks and it meant so such knowing everyone was behind me and supporting me in yet another crazy running endeavour. 

Yes, I did all the running but without the help and support from everyone else it would not have been possible. So thank you with all my heart and aching body! 

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Adidas Thunder Run 2013: Race Report

As told through the eyes of a first time solo runner

Last year as we prepared to start the Thunder Run 2012 I saw two of my team members from Womens Running magazine team (my first Thunder Run in 2011) who were going solo. I knew at that moment I would be back the following year and giving it a go myself. How could I not?

Support Crew Briefing

Job one for part of the support crew was to arrive on Friday, secure a good pitch, get the tents up. I got the text on Friday evening to confirm Phase 1 was complete. Dad, Sue and Beau (the dog) had arrived safely and were set up ready for us in the morning. Myself and Hubby arrived just after 9am (a little later than planned following a late night and slow morning following our good friends wedding on the Friday!). We had been hosted by good pals Kate and Paddy who had provided a comfortable bed and good carb loading for the previous two nights. 

On arrival we located the camp and got unpacked and had a catch up for a little whole  then I went through my briefing note as the micky was quite rightly taken! It was full of useful tips including now to put blankets round me when I stop, not to argue and not to worry about mood swings but most importantly make sure I eat and drink every time I pass! 

And so it begins (Lap 1)

I had not managed to find any Petts Wood Runners prior to the start and was scouting around looking at them as we waited to begin the race. In this time I remembered although I had put on suncream, I had been wearing leggings and last minute changed to shorts... noooooo.... my knees would surely burn! Luckily I saw a bag near some spectators, there were people around it but it wasn't theirs. I could see the suncream, they agreed as a solo runner the owner wouldn't mind and I could have as much as I liked. Creaming my knees I felt much better and then from the crowds emerged Ray. Before long the race had begun and we stuck together for a while soon coming to a bottle neck (this only happens on the first lap but as the runners spread the course it never happens again thorough 24 hours).

Lovin it lovin it lovin it!
Our camp was located about 2.5km into the course which worked out great. Myself and ray waved to the family and continued on out way as we reached the first hill (at about 3km) I held back and wished Ray good luck. If I was going to make this I needed to walk hills so I could run all else for as long as my legs would take me. I felt comfortable, I was able to talk (so I did, to pretty much anyone and everyone) so my pacing was good. As I reached the end of the first lap I was through in 1:11 this had to be a good sign, my number was 111.

Feeling hot hot hot (Laps 2 and 3)

It was a really hot day, the sun blasting down and my fingers were swelling - sadly unlike Mont Blanc there were no snow drifts for me to grab handfuls of snow from to cool them! Luckily at the half way point and water station there were also buckets filled with cold water and wet sponges. holding my hands in there for a few minutes did help ease the swelling and help me pick up cups again. The best part of this station was the lady, then children who sprayed us runners on request with a hose. So so good! 

As a team (the support crew and myself) we got a great system in place where Hubby would see me cross the start/finish line, I would then call out an order if hot food was required or anything else special then I would carry on for the next 2.5km. By this time, the order was in place and they were on the course to hand me whatever I fancied. 

Around this point I also saw Anne-Marie on the sidelines which was another great boost for me, at that point it was still warm and I think she was wishing to be a solo runner as well... the change that would ensure later in weather soon had her relieved I am sure!

During these laps I saw Emma and ran with her for a while, less than a km but great to see a familiar face on the course. I also high five our youngest PWR supporter as Ray and Michelle shouted out their encouragement to me. Writing this the laps are blurring, I know I saw all the team, although Matt was the only one I didn't see on the course.

The curious incident of the frog in the bushes (Laps 4 and 5)

Sadly as happens to runners from time to time I started to get some bad stomach pains and dubious rumblings  Hmm I may need to had a comfort break but there was not another one for at least 6km, I need to find somewhere and soon. I was clearly looking muddles and another solo runner (No. 47) helped direct me to a 'safe' spot. I made my way into the bushes and proceeded to do the necessary, then to my horror a tiny frog leaped up... what a very near miss he had!!! Poor thing, that really would have been a crap way to go.

The bacon butty handed to me at the start of lap 5 was pure amazingness, I am sure there was a whole pack of bacon in there - Sue certainly does not scrimp on fillings!!! It was good fuel and prepared me for the next lap, part of which was the Continental Challenge (running 100m up a hill and being timed). I spotted the PWR emblem, and Karien speeding up the hill past me, she has clearly been training hard as she flew up the hill overtaking several others (me included hard as I tried!). I shouted out to here and she held off at the top for me and wished me luck then I bid her farewell! The heat and the time on my feet were beginning to take their toll and I was not sure how much more was left in me without a little break. I signed the T sign to Hubby as I passed the start line, I had meant Tea but when I arrived I saw steak and potatoes were nearly done... this was far superior! 

So it was dinner time for sure by now, about 7:30pm and I needed some snap (as my dad would say), on the menu tonight, steak and potatoes... yum! Although I had decided to stop for the food now, I wanted to get another lap in before the sun went down completely. After eating some rather lovely medium-rare steak... so good. I quickly popped into the tent to get some fresh clothes on as it was cooling and I was very sweaty. No sooner had I changed then the heavens opened and thunder/lightning and torrential rains ensued. 
Muddy times = still good times

We don't need another hero

Now comes the Thunder - oh and how delighted the commentator was about this... well sure he was the namesake of the race but he didn't have to run in it did he!! I feel he may also have tempted it an hour previously when he was saying everywhere around had storms but we had escaped, escaped indeed. I changed into fresh dry clothes, settled down on my camp bed and slept for about a 90 minutes, Hubby was left with instructions to wake me again when the Thunder had ceased. 

Once more into the fray (Laps 6 and 7)

It was late night now, the camp site was pretty quiet and the rain was still falling but the thunder and lightning had passed us by. Ready to go, I got my pack sorted, stuck on my head torch and once again took to the trails. Before long I was pretty wet and the formerly dry trails had turned into rivers of mud, grateful for my trail shoes I kept going but it was tough and grip was fleeting. Through the darkness I saw a familiar running gait, it was Ray, again! I shouted out to the mud covered Ray who then stuck with me for a little while as we negotiated the muddy tracks together. I was was tough but fresh from my nap I was glad to be out but even more grateful for the company. Ray seemed to have his destiny written in the mud as he was toppling over every few steps, nearly taking me down at least once! I showed him the brick I thought that looked like a chocolate bar and he said he hoped not to find me later chomping on rocks. He kept me going as we laughed and joked then he headed off worrying about the next team member having to wait in the rain for him. It was much tougher in these conditions than may had anticipated, mud is one thing, but mud, darkness, torrential rain and hundreds of feet churning the ground made it night on impossible. I really must bring my mud claw next time!! 

As the 7th lap started I knew I was at least able to match my laps from last year, my first target. I came across a lady from the Triumph team (I know her number not her name 1331), she too was struggling in the rain and wanted to go back but we palled up. We were a good match, as I reached my crew she waited while I necked a cuppa then we decided we would get each other round. It was really tough going and alone I would have started to flake but with my new friend we laughed and chatted, neither of us fell, we helped each other negotiate tough parts, her torch was stronger so made seeing the way better. I felt a little sad as she passed to her next team member as she was heaven sent to get me round. 

By now, I was tired though, and the wet was creeping through, although I had company we had walked and I had now been outside for about 3.5 hours. I was getting chilled. I decided to come off course and change and rest. the conditions were so tough I felt grateful to be a solo runner as it gave me the option not to be out in it, nor to force another team member out. As I reached the tent, another cuppa was handed to me, and I started to peel off the muddy layers, this whole process to dry and change me took the best part of 45 minutes. Finally fully changed, wrapped in two sleeping bags, two blankets and a towel I fell asleep for a little over an hour, my teeth chattering with the cold... I think I made the right decision.

Getting down to business (Laps 8 and 9)

don't look back - next year ???
I had had two breaks, not in the plan but weather and the risk of getting hypothermia were playing on my mind so I had stopped. I had made it round twice during the night taking me to the same distance I had done last year. As I had said in my briefing note, anything more than this was a bonus, I could get up and just do what I could in the morning. 

I woke around 5.15am and began getting ready to run, a bacon sarnie and a cuppa were soon thrust into my hands by dad and Sue who had not realised I had been out again during the night. Once again they had the look in the eyes of people talking to a crazy person and that crazy person was me! 

Not long into lap 9 and I saw Eleanor from the PWR team as she waited for the next runner to give her the baton. A huge cheer was coming from the handover area as us solo runners - a real good booster! Before long Eleanor had caught up with me and we ran together for a while before I detoured for some more food. 

I know I chatted to a good deal of people, one of whom was last years winner who encouraged me to run down the hill. She too had found it tough conditions but was a good 5 laps ahead of me, a true ultra running machine I feel! 

Desist with this number obsession (Lap 10)

As I ended lap 9 I was very concerned about my placement for some reason, I shouted at the commentator to find out where I was and announce it, I did this running backwards - maybe not the greatest idea at this stage. I was in 13th place, I had previously dropped to 15th but now moved back up. I was later to discover that Emma had heard the announcement from about 4km in. I reached the support crew and realised how tired I was, I knew I would finish lap 10 but didn't want the decision to run the 11th  so I decided to sit for a while, they went to work on my legs and gave me food and drink. I set off again, mostly walking not wanting to get in before 24 hours so I didn't let that competitive spirit kick in and make me keep going for 11. 

I saw Ray for the 3rd time on the course, this was the shortest of our encounters, a wave and from me, a 'get going you can make it back for one more lap!'. I was tempted once again to leap in a red wheelie bin full of ice that one of the teams had brought but decline as I didn't want to run with wet bottoms!

I made a buddy again on this lap, after a while some of his story seemed familiar, it was... he was in a pair and I had had a good old chat with his brother earlier in the race although I do not now know when. We stuck together from about 5km I think till very near the end where he was joined by his brother their children to finish together. 

To run or not to run 

The plan to finish just after 24 hours did not work as I neared the end I started to hear the crowds and begun to run (probably a slow jog in reality  I crossed the line with just over 1 minute to spare. The crowds shouting 'one more, one more' I shook my head and they laughed! Cheering again for me I crossed the line to the supporting and smiling faces of my crew. I was done. I had to stop now, one more would be amazing but I really couldn't say if I had it in me or not.

In Summary

  • Frogs with near death experiences - 1
  • Bricks that looked like chocolate - 1
  • Mosquito bites - 2
  • Fingers that looked like sausages - 10
  • Sticks I stopped and stared at because I though it was a snake - 1
  • Pairs of muddy trainers - 2
  • Favourite thing I saw - A wheelie bin full of ice... mobile ice bath!
  • Laps completed - 10
  • Distance covered - 100km (62miles)
  • Will I be back to do it all again - yeah I reckon so! 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Horse Apples and Sandy Trails

I had wanted to run yesterday morning but a multitude of excuses an through my mind before eventually falling back asleep which provided me with the new excuse of it then being too hot. So yesterday officially being reclassified as a rest day today I would be going out for my 8 miler. Scheduled as part of the preparation/taper for the Adidas Thunder Run 24 next Saturday.

I set off feeling good, a light drizzle in the air and cooler than it has been for at least two weeks. My pace was steady and comfortable and looking at my watch faster than I had expected... all good signs to me. I was going a new route including both roads and trails and for a bit of a change. Taking a small turning onto a gravel road I passed a large stable and several horses in their fields all watching me as I passed by and rabbits scattered at the sound of my footsteps. Soon I came across a strange little village in the woods, full of permanent caravan type homes surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens. I was soon surrounded and unable to find the path out but luckily an old fella was out tending to his blooms pointed me in the right direction to get into the woods. along bridal paths which were mostly sandy and not the easiest to run on I made my way through the quiet woods before coming across another stables where with direction I made my way back out onto the roads and towards Bexley. 

The route did alter a little on route due to some wrong turnings in Joydens Woods but only added an extra mile which happily I felt comfortable enough to do. I decided to go once again off road and into Footscray Meadows for the return journey where I nodded my hellos to a multitude of dog walkers, some friendly and others not so. It was a fairly uneventful run but it felt good, I ran a steady pace and finished strong. Only a couple more shorter runs and then its the big one... better start planning my food list for the event!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

One Foot, 2 Feet... all the way to London!

So by now (2 weeks post Mont Blanc) my legs are recovering well as I more into the last bit of preparation for the Thunder Run 24hour event. I'd been feeling good and ready to get in a decent distance so I called upon the ever reliable and route savvy Jerry. Knowing this was penned to be the hottest weekend of the year thus far a 7am meet was determined and we were to run from Petts Wood to London Bridge and catch the train home. A route that Jerry has done many times in reverse and one I have never tackled in either direction.

We caught up on what we had both been up to and the n the usual running jibber jabber that makes the miles seem to disappear unnoticed. For once I was able to give Jerry a little of my local knowledge, this did only extend to showing him the church where I married and the church hall where I used to attend Slimming World. We contemplated the change in me from fat Fighter to street pounder and runner of marathons. Who'd have thought it!

Soon enough we were crossed Blackheath and heading towards Greenwich Park. Stopping briefly at the observatory we had some good photos ops before heading down the hill into Greenwich itself and to join the Thames path. The morning was quiet, unusually so but as we reached the Thames Path we spotted numerous weekend warriors, donning their lycra and getting in an early Saturday morning run. As time ticked by the sun started to get hotter (as is to be expected), taking shelter in the shaded areas when we could we kept up a decent pace - with the exception of my photo stops!

 Another such opportunity arose as I saw the shard in the distance and thought it would be a good idea to make myself into a shard topped garden knome.... you can get the idea!
Shard Hat (sort of)

Seeing the many anchors along the path and then many many cannons, Jerry told me of how bollards were actually created from disused cannons and hence the shape. They are now of course cast for the purpose but I challenge you to not see an upright cannon next time you pass a bollard!

At around 14 miles we had reached our destination, Starbucks! So very good and my trainer would be proud, I had an iced green tea before we made our way - after impressing the other customers with how far we had run - to London Bridge station for the journey home. 

Before heading home I was invited to meet Maisy, the latest edition to Jerry's family, a very sweet little kitten who is pretty knowledgeable when it comes to running advice. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

PWR Beginners Group - Week 2 (Summer 2013)

As the summer sun finally reaches us, many people are starting to think about their beach bodies and also running out of the excuses to not go out and start running! The beginners group caters for complete novices, those returning to running and many levels in between. The numbers were at 23 this week, almost double week one, it just goes to show how easily people can use a bit of drizzle to avoid going out!! 
I used to be just the same, the change will become apparent though in weeks to come, as they build in stamina and confidence that a little bit of rain will mean nothing to them and they won't think twice about heading out in a cool summer shower.
For now, I would just say I am very impressed with the beginners, plenty of willing minds ready to start their running journey. I hope they get as much out of it as I do and that I can, along with the other coaches, help them to discover the running that I know and love.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Netball.... I've changed!

This weekend was the annual netball reunion and rather than in the past where we go out and live it up in towns all over the UK we went down to leafy Surrey for a home-based BBQ and afternoon of Pimms drinking and baby shower activities.

When I awoke this morning, early doors as ever I tried and failed to re-enter the land of nod but they would not have me so I decided this would be a great opportunity to don my kit and try my legs out for the first time since Mont Blanc.

Shortly into the run, I came across a small black dog running around in the road  I put on my best Dr Doolittle voice and called the dog, narrowly saving it from a life crushing car collision. Soon after the owners appeared from the house from which it had escaped. With barely a thanks they scooped up the dog and headed shamefaced away! You are most welcome (sarcastic tone).

Even at the early hour it was roasting and I was bright red and sweaty within minutes, hard to say I the quantities of Pimms consumed yesterday had an effect on this. The first mile or two my legs were complaining then soon they gave in and decided to work with rather than against me. 

I completed a leisurely 5km and returned bright red and beetroot looking to the house where I was met with head shakes and exclamations of 'Liz, you''ve changed!'.