World 24

Friday, 28 February 2014

Hoka Clifton review (Available August 2014)

Hoka have come a long way since I first clapped eyes on the super soles back in 2010.   Love them or hate them, there's no denying their huge increase in popularity and dominance in the niche market of maximalist shoes.   Even popular brands such as Brooks and New Balance and lifestyle footwear manufacture Sketchers have introduced new models which look suspiciously like Hoka to me.
(Clockwise: Conquest (top), Bondi 3 and Kailua)

Last year, the introduction of the Rapa Nui and Kailua appealed to running shoe traditionalists, looking for a more toned-down version of the plush-riders.  

This year, it's all changed again. The Conquest Tarmac,  Bondi 3 and Kailua Trail will be available from next month and I'll be first in the queue to try them out.

In meantime, I was lucky enough to receive a pair of the still-in-progress Hoka Clifton to test. Available in the UK from August, 2014.

They look nice and cushioned, don't they?

Would you believe me if I told you these size 5.5 weighed 193 grams (6.8 oz) ?  Didn't think so, so I did a photo comparison between the Hoka Clifton and the ridiculously light Adidas Adizero Adios.

Shocked?  Me too.  I know it's only one gram, but it's hard to believe that a cushioned shoe could be lighter than a racing shoe.  And they are so comfortable.  It's like wearing slippers made of fresh air.

I'll be honest, although I'm a Hoka gal, I do mix up my footwear.  Any competitive runner will know that there's no one shoe fits all when your training schedule calls for a variety of sessions and terrains.  Originally, Hoka were most suited to super distance runs and races, but the new models will change that.  The brand even have a sponsored track runner!

Watch more videos on Flotrack

Even True minimalists and lightweighters who tsk at the mere site of a chunky sole could fall head over their low-drop heels with the launch of the new Clifton.

Friday, 17 January 2014

UltraRunning magazine now available in the UK

There have been many times when I've nearly hit the "subscribe" button for the UltraRunning magazine.  I already subscribe to Runner's World, Running Fitness and Trail Running, so what's one more?  However, I've always been put off by the $100 annual subscription fee.   Even when I selflessly considered getting it for Sonic for a Birthday/Christmas gift.

But fret not, it's now available in the UK from the ULTRAmarathonRuningStore.  With no hefty upfront costs.   Click here for info

Here's the marketing bit..."Serving a loyal market of long-distance runners since 1981, UltraRunning magazine has long been established as “the voice of the sport”. Containing comprehensive and informative articles about all aspects of the sport of ultramarathoning, UltraRunning is a must-read for all who participate in the sport.  UltraRunning magazine is an invaluable resource for ultrarunners – experienced, new and aspiring endurance athletes seeking to go beyond the marathon. We provide helpful and entertaining content to ultrarunners, and measure our success by the accomplishments of our readers, and ultimately by the growth of the sport"

I received a copy this morning and I'm really impressed.  It's no flick-through read.  It's more like a book, so can safely justify the cover price.  Plus, it's completely different from my other magazine subscriptions.  

The January/February 2014 issue features: Rob Krar, Men's Ultrarunner of the Year; Are you tough enough? by Dean Karnazes ; 100-mile prep by Ian Sharman and ultra/life balance by Ellie Greenwood to name a few - as well as top race reports and product reviews. 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Gear of the year 2013

These are the products that got my seal of approval in 2013...

Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest was the best purchase of the year.  Although I previously confessed my undying love for the Salomon S-lab, I have huge issues with the clips when my hands are cold. As my jaunts don't frequent fairer climes, this is a big problem for me.  I swithered for months about buying the UD pack. Mainly because I'd already bought the Salomon, but also because the GM had the one.  It's bad enough that we look like Mary-Kate and Ashley by default, without purposely kitting out in the same gear. Anyway, I caved and it was a great decision. 

Weighing in at a teeny 212 grams and providing 9.2 litres (it's like a tardis in there!), it's perfect for long training runs and races.  As it's so light, I don't use a bottle belt for medium-distance runs any more.  It's a really well thought out product with compartments and pockets for everything you will need on a day's run. It's doesn't bounce, rustle, rub and fits like a glove.  Even on ladies who are less blessed around the chest, like me.

LED Lenser SEO7R head torch is another gem. I'm not very technical, so I'll save myself the embarrassment and just tell you how I see it.   The beam is fantastic.  It weighs next to nothing, so I'm more likely to carry it as emergency kit on training runs.   It can be used with 3xAAA batteries, but also comes with rechargeable lithium battery pack. So, you save a fortune on expensive batteries.  Especially if you're like me and replace batteries that don't need replacing just to be on the safe side.  Plus, because it's rechargeable I use it more on runs that I probably wouldn't bother with during winter nights.   And it's only priced at around £70.  Bargain!

Montane Mountain Minimus Jacket is one my favourite bits of kit.  It's ultra lightweight and packable, so perfect for a day on the trails. I also wear it quite often on my daily running commute.  With only one base layer underneath it's perfect for winter mornings.  I feel really comfortable without overheating two miles into the run.

HOKA Rapa Nui and Kailua:  I've been a Hoka fan for a couple of years now and the Rapa Nui (trail) and Kailua (road) are my favourites. My endorsement has more credibility when I can say I bought these - and raved about them - before I became a Hoka sponsored athlete though!  I'm quite excited about trying out the new Conquest Tarmac in the spring though.

Hoka and Dirty Girl Gaiters
Drymax socks: Running in the UK, I've certainly put my Drymax through the wringer.  The range includes socks for different weather and conditions.  As previously documented I went from blister-plagued to blister free on the very wet and muddy Thames Path 100, using the Lite Mess No Show  and for warmer termperatures the Drymax Hot Weather Mini Crew are fantastic.  For really wet and cold weather the Drymax Maximum Protection Running Socks are in a league of their own.  I know, it's a wonder I have time to run at all with all the dilemmas I face before even getting out of the door!

Dirty Girl GaitersI'm a gal who likes to accessorise, so the these are right up my street. Plus, there serve a pretty good purpose and stop little nasties getting into your shoes.  Double bonus.  

Lansinoh Lanolin: This is my new must-have for feet and areas prone to chaffing. Yes, it's for breastfeeding Mother's cracked nipples, but it works a treat.  The small tube is also light enough to carry on long runs and races. This one retails around £10 (available from Boots), but supermarkets do their own cheaper version. I have used one from Asda. which is only £5. Lanolin is Lanolin after all.

Engo Blister Patches:  I used these for the first time during the Lakeland 100 and didn't have any issues with my feet. Of course, this is only one part of my foot care regime.   The Engo Patches are different in that they are applied to the inside of the shoe - not too skin.   There are proven to last over 300 miles, but mine last the duration of the Rapa Nui, which was about 500 miles.  Not cheap for what they are, but worth a look.
Pulsin Protein Bars are my new favourite training snack. They are the only junk free (and tasty) protein bars that I've came across. Made with whey and pea protein isolates, Pulsin's Maple Protein Bars contain 15 grams of protein. And certainly the only one I could find without sweeteners.   Click here for ingredients.  Plus, they're vegetarian, gluten free, no added sugar, no trans fat and non GMO.  You might be a bit dubious the first time you try one, but after that it's like a nice bar of chocolate. 

Bounce's Coconut & Macadamia Protein Balls are a little bit of heaven. I see them more of a treat, that something you have to endure for energy on a run.  Although I'm not sure I could eat them during a race, as the chewing would be an endurance event in itself. Still very tasty though. 

Accelerade Energy Gels are perfect for racing.   Personally I don't use gels or sugar for training runs, but I used these for the Lakeland 100 and Glencoe Marathon. Accelerade contain 4:1 carbohydrate and protein.  They are the only running gels on the market that protein, with 5g in each pack. There are some interesting favours such as strawberry kiwi and key lime and raspberry cream.  The chocolate and expresso flavours also contain 100mg of caffeine. 

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Beaten Track

I suppose I’ve been long overdue a “sh*t happens” themed race report.  I’m always the first to tut at race excuses.  But after running a grand total of 12.5km at the Barcelona 24 hour track race - one of my A-races for the year - I better explain myself.

The reasoning: Although this a stark contrast to Sonic’s 24-hour debut in Tooting, the reason why I signed up for Barcelona 24 was because I was so inspired by the event that I wanted to have a crack at a track race.

I’ve only ever run a 24-hour with an international vest - One for Scotland and two for Great Britain.  And with that comes a whole lot of pressure and expectation.   I’ve always come away from the events with an armful of ideas and tips on how to improve.  I don’t think I’ve ever got a 24 hour right and wanted to use Barcelona test some things in an open race.  So, for those who didn’t understand why I’d want to put myself through when I have already run above the qualifying distance for the Great Britain team (twice), that was my reason. 

Plus, I had bit ambitions that I was really confident that I could back up on the day. If I could feel like I did during the Lakeland 100 or the Glencoe Marathon, then I’d be on to a sure thing.

Testing:  This was the list of new things to try during training, taper and the race. Most which, of course, remain untested.

1) I gave up caffeine for a month prior to the race.  From eight cups of two-spoons coffee per day to nothing.  This was probably the most heart-breaking aspect of the DNF.  No coffee. For a month. For nothing.

2) Two-runs-per-day.    For the last six months, I have used my easy/steady run days to run twice.  So, on a Wednesday and Friday I ran to and from work.  It’s only five miles each way, but I really think it helped build endurance.  As well as an effective use of time and saves me battling rush hour traffic.

3) Training with a heart-rate monitor.  This was new to me, but after reading Dr Maffetone’s book on Endurance Training and Racing. I followed the plan of running below my maximum aerobic heart rate for six weeks (NB, it should be eight weeks) following the Lakeland.  Not only did my pace improve within that zone, but I got my resting heart rate down to 37 (from 42) prior to the race.

4) Track training.  And I don’t mean proper track sessions, I mean just jogging around for hours and hours.  It didn’t bore or frustrate me and it really helped me get my head into it. Plus, I got through a few audiobooks too.  The best thing was that I never count the laps.  That’s usually the first to break me in looped courses.

5)  In the run up to the race, I did more hill training.  It was easier on the back of training for the Lakeland 100 and Glencoe Marathon, but I didn’t do any long road/flat run.  Plus, I ran on the hills and didn’t use them as an excuse to walk/skive.

6)  Following a five year break, I started Yoga classes.  That was a shock to the system as I didn’t realise how tight my hamstrings were.  I’m not exactly bendy, but a few months later and things are improving.  I’ve even started a Bikram yoga class in the hope that it might stop me unravelling in the heat.

7) My feet problems have been well-documented on this blog. In other 24-hour races I’ve been too nervous to try anything different, but for Barcelona I was going to use some of my steps with only Drymax socks.  It’s work during training and stopped the “burning”.

8) After reading Andy Milroy’s Trainingfor Ultra Running and taking on board some of the traditional techniques used by sport’s greatest, I binned expensive foot and chaffing cream in favour of good ol’ Lanolin.   Yep, a £5 tube of the wonder stuff – marketed to feeding Mothers as a cure for cracked for nipples – is working a treat.

9)  My nutritional plan was to take in more protein (but mixed with carbs) in the early stages.  And in the latter stages take in more gels, but with water only. No sports drink.  Tips I’d picked up from Matt Fitzgerald’s New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition to eliminate stomach issues.

So, there you have it.  There was method to my madness.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.  I started vomiting before I arrived at the airport.  The day before the race was a complete write-off.  I kept thinking it would pass, but after redecorating the hotel bathroom the night before the race, - with the GM holding my hair like a flashback from our youth -  I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  

I shouldn’t have even have got on the plane, let alone start the race.  But it’s a long way to go, not the cheapest of trips and Sonic had endured an epic journey – via London – to be there on the Saturday morning. 

I gave it a shot, but I was hanging over the railings vomiting within the first hour.  There was nothing in me. I really had to give it everything to get to 12.5km.  And do you know why?  Because I all I could think about was how much I’ve mocked the Crazy German since his 5K bail-out at the CCC in 2010!!

Once I’d mopped up the tears, I tried (probably unsuccessfully) to put the disappointed to one side to help Jen Salter and Karen Salter (1st and 2nd lady) reach the qualification for the GB 24 hour team.  They ran 217km and 210km respectively and were by far the best runners on the track. 

After the race, Karen collapsed and needed medical attention.  After seeing the same thing happen to many ultra-runners we all knew she would be fine, but the medics were adamant she went to hospital.  I volunteered to go with her, so at least I got a tour of the city – blue-light style.  It was a little concerning that the 12-year-old ambulance driver was using the sat nav on his phone to find the hospital.  And then had to circle the car park to find the entrance!

Of course, she was fine with a few hours but the hospital was a riot.  It was like a scene from a war movie with bodies lying everywhere. At one point, Karen was dozing off when a nurse came along and snapped an oxygen mask on her face.  Then after being shouted at by a doctor came along took it off Karen and put it on the patient next to her.  Who was male and about 80!

But the drama hadn’t ended.  Sonic was then spewing on the way home…Thankfully dispelling the pregnancy questions.  And I kindly passed it round the rest of my family.

Not the best end to 2013’s races, but as I’ve heard a thousand times since “better to happen in that race, than in one that matters”.

Even though we don’t know the date or the venue of the World 24 hour and cannot plan any other races, I know for sure Barcelona 24-hour in 2014 with be on my hit list.

Happy New Year J

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Supporting SuperSonic at Tooting Bec 24

After three years of supporting yours truly during 24-hour races, Sonic decided to throw down the gauntlet and go for GB qualification himself. After his phenomenal run on the West Highland Way Race, I bullied him into submitting his entry form for Tooting Bec 24-hour track race. Note: I’m only on the second sentence and already taking credit for it.

Sonic doesn’t lack confidence and self-belief, which is something that will take him further than his skinny legs.  He had a goal that some people may have quaffed at, way beyond the 235km minimum team standard qualification.  But as they say: Fortune favours the brave.

When we arrived in Tooting on Friday afternoon, I told Sonic to rest up and I would go and do all the shopping. Apparently four bananas would not suffice, he needed “at least 12”. Eight slices of caramel shortcake wouldn’t cut it.  At least three packs were required.  Yes, 24 slices of caramel shortcake. Along with 20 9-Bars, chicken breasts, a family-sized block of cheese, various snacks and a million litres of drinks. Four trips to Sainsburys – and a broken back – later I was done. And done in. 

I decided to go for a little run and check out the track location.  Tooting is crazy busy and after an afternoon of negotiating my way through the High Street – with their pound shops, halal meat counters and betting shops aplenty – I was glad to head to the leafy area of Tooting Common.

I was glad to have done the recce run – I do love a good recce – as the taxi driver in the morning would have have taken us to the wrong sports’ centre.

It was a bit surreal turning up to a race with only 45 participants and trackside packed with tents and open-boot buffet displays. 

We found some spare grass and after asking another runner, Marcus, to move his car over (I know, the cheek of it!) we pitched up next to Fionna Cameron’s pit-stop - with the lovely Keziah on duty - and Richie Cunningham’s crew of Drew Sheffield and Claire Shelley opposite.  The official Team Scotland camp!

Team Scotland. Richard Brown centre
You know you’re in a new age of social media friendship swhen you find yourself more and more having introductions that start like Nici’s:  “You don’t know me, but I follow you on Twitter” and Ali’s “I read your GUCR report”.  Supporting Stephen Woodus (aka Woody) they were an absolute riot to hang out with.  And thankfully they were around to help erect a brand-new-out-of-the-packet gazebo we had brought down for the occasion.  I kind of looked like a Punch and Judy tent, but it did the trick.

Just to put the GB pressure on, my team mates Emily Gelder and Karen Hathaway came along to help me out.  A team manager, Richard Brown was there scouting for fresh kill. 

I’m not going to write about the race.  Mainly because I didn’t run the race.  And Sonic is threatening to write his own blog post!  So, here’s the lowdown on Team Scotland.

Scottish Athletics report here

Sonic:  1st place with 248km (154miles)

For the purpose of this report, I will now refer to him as SuperSonic.  If you followed the race or happen to be one of his aforementioned “social media friends”, you will know he absolutely smashed it. The most impressive bit was he managed to keep a lid on it at the beginning.  Even when he was knocked to eighth place because of his scheduled walking breaks.  Pushing through he took the lead a few hours in and pushed a bit more to finish with a mere 20-mile lead.  

He was overly smug about beating my 100K time and I was overly restrained to tell him that I’ve only ever run one 100k and it was a piss-poor performance.  Then he hit 100 miles at 14:31 and broke through the 235km GB team qualify with an hour and a half to spare.  

I’d secretly packed a Union Jack and asked the lap counters to make an announcement so he could do a victory lap.  Then whipped the flag off him and sent him on to punch -out another 13 kilometres.  A total of 620 laps to clock 154 miles (248km)

That’s the best distance by a GB athlete this year.  Third on the all-time Scottish list – behind the records and seemingly unbreakable 166m distance set by Don Ritchie and 154 miles by Mick Francis. All in a debut 24-hour race. 

Just for the record though, he only ate four bananas and two slices of the caramel shortcake.  If you see any flightless birds around Tooting, don't blame me!

Fionna Cameron: 1st lady, 2nd overall with 216km (134 miles)  Another sterling debut performance, with 134 miles (216km). There must be something in the water at Aberdeen Asset, as Marco and Fionna work in the same office.  

Fionna is lovely, yet very determined.  Actually if you were to look up “lovely” in a Thesaurus, Fionna could be the first alternative. The 24-hour did something strange to her character though.  There was spitting, snot-rockets and tantrums.  Thank god!  Don't want her showing up the GM and I at the next GB outing.

Stephen Mason: 5th with 198kms and (123 miles)  I ran with Stephen on the Scotland team in my first 24 hour race in 2011. He went round like and train and came through a few – understandable – rough patches.  At one point I had to shout at him, as he was running around having nodding off.  I kid you not! 

Richie Cunningham: 7th with 194 kms (120 miles)

What can I say about Richie?  He showed he’s a true Scotsman by spending the vast majority of the weekend spewing and slurring his words.  I’m not sure when he starting the projectile vomiting, but it pretty much lasted the duration.  Heroic or stubborn?  Either way, there was no stopping him.  Even defying the medics.  Like a Weeble:  He just wobbled, but he didn’t fall down. I’m not sure how he did it but he clocked 120 miles on absolutely no fuel. 

The Aftermath.

This was when the fun started. Firstly, Sonic collapsed. Personally, I think he was just enjoying lapping up the attention of the female medics.  Then he proceeded to thank EVERYONE within a mile radius for their amazing support and encouragement.  Not even a single mutter to me, who had spent 24 hours on a trackside!  And, quite frankly, you should never underestimate the difference an experienced support crew can make ;-)

After leaving him in the capable hands of the professionals, I went off (in a huff) to pack up the stuff and get Sonic’s after race kit.  On return, Richard Brown accused me of “being very nonchalant” about the distress my husband was in. I would have explained, but I’d already chewed my tongue off by that point.  Then Sonic collapsed again.  When his lap counter appeared to congratulate him, he was practically crying with gratitude. I might look really tired in this picture, but I’m (shamefully!) contemplating whipping my legs out from underneath his head ;-)

All very childish in the cold light of day.  I've been there and I know how grateful you are.  Let's put it down to sleep deprivation!

The prize-giving was lovely.  It was so nice that everyone’s efforts were recognised.  Especially, Geoff Oliver who at the grand age of 80 had set SEVEN new world records during the race.  Then turned up in the prize giving in a shirt and tie and gave a wonderful heartfelt speech. It was an honour and a privilege to watch his amazing performance.  Sonic was obviously using his race tactics to take him out during the hours of darkness (see left).  I would like to know what Geoff was listening to on his ipod though. 

Then we had to get the train from Euston to Glasgow.  And we still had to get the Tube to Euston. For both of us, this could officially be the worst experience of our lives.  Sonic was broken, sick and emotional and I was carrying three duffel bags through London.  It was nothing short of a nightmare. I liken it to trying to negotiate with a bad tempered drunk. 

On the tube, Sonic decided he was going to drop down and sleep. At the door!  I couldn’t even help him, as I was trying to balance all the bags on my body.  My head was going to explode with the weight on my shoulders and I’d lost all feeling in my hands.

This picture makes me laugh so much, I have used it as the contact picture on my mobile, so pops up every time Sonic calls me.

There were works on the tube line, so we had to get three trains to Euston.  Of course, I did my best support job and accepted that everything was my fault. Of course.

I did have to giggle when I looked back to see him shuffling along, muttering expletives to himself  It was less comical though, when he decided he was too warm (also my fault) and stopped dead in the middle of an unforgiving fast-moving hoard of people to roll up his trousers.  That really set off the look.  Thankfully it was London and therefore no one bats an eyelid at neurotic behaviour.  Even when he staggered along the platform with his trousers rolled to his knees – his carrier bags of trophies in each hand – and then stopped to slide down the wall in tears.  In hindsight, it’s hilarious.  Hey, don’t judge me.  Sonic posted a video on You Tube of me after my first 24-hour race.   If had any feeling in my hands, I might have done the same.

Then we finally made it to Euston.  Of course our reserved seats on the Virgin train had to be at the opposite side. I swear it took us 15 minutes to walk the length of the train.  I’ve never been so happy to sit down - or for Sonic to pass out -  in my life. 

Even after all that, whoever says supporting is harder than running is at it. I had a great time.

Some random pictures on Flickr here

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

GB ladies' Three Peaks Challenge

Karen Hathaway, Sharon Law, Emily Gelder et moi
Since we first met at the Commonwealth 24 hour race in 2011, where we ran for our respective countries and then went on to qualify for Great Britain, we have become really good friends.  Running 24 hours together – three times – certainly fast tracked the bonding process.   Despite the inevitable despair that comes with the event, we’re a really tight team and have always had really good fun.

After the World Champs in Holland, we decided to have a wee girlie weekend without the pressure of racing.   A bit of training, some personal achievement and a few beers thrown in and The National Three Peaks Challenge seemed like the obvious solution.

An achievement, more than a race, the challenge involves climbing the highest mountains in Scotland (Ben Nevis), England (Scafell, Lake District) and Wales (Snowdon, Llanberis) within 24 hours.  Which also includes about 10 hours of driving between Fort William and Llanberis.

The ascent up Ben Nevis was amazing.  I’ve been up there about five times and have only ever once got a view.  As one of the wettest places in the UK, it’s rare for Fort William to be basking in sunshine.  Usually on Ben Nevis, you can’t see passed your feet because of the mist.   
We met the Crazy Germans 

It was Baltic freezing at the summit (1344metres) though and the GM’s signature hotpants certainly turned a few heads.

Scantily-clad and on a tight schedule, we practically barged onto the Cairn so we could get this picture and start descending quickly.

The Ben gradual gradient means it can be quite time consuming to ascent, but you can make a relatively rapid and safe descend.  

Ticked off in 3hrs 20mins.

After wasting too much time faffing about in Fort William – this is when a support driver would come in handy – we were en route to Scafell.

The torrential rain on the motorway and then fog on the minor roads made the journey quite arduous. 

On arrival at Wasdale Head we were greeted by a group of men standing in the carpark in their underpants.  Obviously another 3PC party, who looked slightly broken and soaked to the skin after completing Scafell (989).   I later learned that all decorum would go out of the window for us too.

It was after midnight and even though we weren’t overly excited about what lay ahead, we dressed quickly – with an abundance of layers and waterproofs – and headed off up the hill.   The GM had been down to recce the route the week before, but I made the stupid mistake of leaving the GPS and the GM’s map in the car.  We debated going back for it, but decided to press on.

I will skirt over this bit as not to provoke the critics of my navigational complacency.  We came off the track on the ascent, so retraced our steps and followed another route to the summit.   Longer than anticipated, but done and dusted.  We were delighted.  That would not last though,  as we got spectacularly misplaced (never lost) on the descent and ended up going back to the summit a further two times.   All I’m going to say is that it was daylight before we finally made it down.  That’s all you’re getting.  Over six and a half hours to do what can hardly be classed as a mountain!  It was epic, but we haven’t stopped laughing about it since. 

We were down, but not out though!  With the GM behind the wheel (and her own version of the highway code) we were on our way to Llanberis – on a mission.

At the carpark at the foot of the Snowdon (723 metres), the attendant said he knew we were Three Peak Challengers because of our accents.  Or maybe it was because we looked like we’d been up all night.  He then said it would take about 5/6 hours if we made good pace.  We only had 2 hours 40 to complete the challenge in under 24 hours.

To put it bluntly, we whored up and down that mountain – practically knocking women and children out of the way.  I’ve never been on a hill so busy. I suppose the fact that there’s a train to the summit helps!  There was a Rat Race going on too and we were going against the grain. 

We did it though. In just over two hours – finishing the challenge with 19:38.  We could have stopped in cafĂ© at the top after all. 

We celebrated that evening with some Indian food and few too many beers.  We had a brief chat with a couple at the table next to us who were proudly displaying their well-earned medals from the 20-mile Rat Race that day.

We overheard their conversation about the 20-mile Rat Race being the “obvious step-up from the Three Peaks Challenge”.  So we’ve decided if we train really, really hard we might be able to make the step-up next year :-) 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Centurion Running Ultramarathon Team

Centurion Running organise a series of ultra-distance events on some of the UK's best national trails. Their first race was held on the North Downs Way in August 2011 and now comprises six 50/100 mile races, a grand slam and the infamous Piece of String Race - The fun run that is billed as "The world's most pointless race".  Basically runners don't know the distance of the race. It could be 10k or 100 miles.  Or even the route.  Only the race directors know.   At the start of the race, there are five possible race configurations in envelopes.  A runner will pick the envelope and that will be the race. Only two runners finished last year.   I know, like me, the more you read into the race, the more you will want to do it?

Robbie sporting the yellow jersey
Of course, there's a very serious side to the organisation and James Elson has certainly earned his strips as a top-notch Race Director.   The races are full supported and racing and finishing are encouraged in equal measures.    Anyone who read my Thames Path 100 report from March, will know that on any other circumstance that race should/would have been cancelled, but James spent the week planning, consulting with experts and re-routing the course, so the show could go on. 

Centurion Running also provide coaching service, an online store and an Ultra Team.  I have recently joined the team as the first (and only!) female to wear the yellow jersey.   I was secretly hoping that James would ask, so was delighted when he did. 

A bit about the team "One of the many great things about our sport is the enormous range of challenges open to each of us. Each member of the team has completely different goals and ambitions, taking different paths to those ultimate aims which sometimes converge at the same or similar events throughout the year. Of course, the over-riding thing about each of these runners is their love of running and that for each of them, it doesn't always require racing to feel fulfilled"

So I join the bevy of boys which includes: Ian Sharman (needs no introduction), Robbie Britton (my GB 24 hour comrade), Craig Holgate (of ridiculously fast on flat stuff), Paul Navesey (one to watch), Neil Bryant (who just casually ran across Europe), James Elson (the main man who seems to have done everything from MdS, Badwater, Western States, UTMB, Leadville 100 and Comrades.  Oh and Ironman too) and Drew Sheffield (who knows everybody, has an impressive list of race finishes and is good for gossip) 

Looking at the list of their previous races, I was a little nervous about penning my running CV.  It seemed a little lame and parochial in comparison.  

I’m delighted to be the first female to join the boy band that is the Centurion Ultramarathon Running Team. Based in Glasgow, I have represented Scotland and Great Britain in 100K and 24 hour races   I like road, hills, towpath and trails.  Actually, I just like running. Except cross-country.  I don’t do cross-country.  The longer the better for me, so don’t ask me my 10K time. I’m married to an ultra-runner and fit training around a full-time job and our four-year-old son, Cairn.  Juggling is my forte.  I also do my own stunts and could fall over fresh air.  Skinned knees and bruised limbs is my signature look.  I like to do one thing each year that scares me. 2011 was my first 24-hour, 2012 was the GUCR and this year the Lakeland 100.  2014 is still to be decided.   
Top five:

Devil o’ the Highland 43 mile race:  This was my first ultra-distance race back in 2007 and my comeback race after having my Son in 2009.  It’s a firm favourite, not only because it’s special to me, but it takes you magical journey through Glencoe and finishes in Fort William.   This views don’t get much better than that.   I haverun the race five times and finished on the podium every time.  Took me to my 5th attempt to win it though.

GUCR 2012:  I was the outright winner of the race in 28:01.  The first female to ever win the historic event.  Although I’m not famed for the performance.  I’m known as the numpty who fell in the canal in the middle of the night.  Remember what I said about stunts?  I also managed to ruin an iPhone, iPod and Garmin en route.

IAU World 24 Hour Race:  I have represented Great Britain at the event in 2012 (Katowice, Poland) and 2013 (Steenbergen. Holland).  I was a counter in the medal-winning team both times, set a new Scottish 100mile record of 15:48 within the race and personal best of 220km for 24 hours.

West Highland Way Race:  The trail starts close to home and is the playground for many training runs.  I have run the race three times 2008, 2010 and 2011 with my best time being 19:38.

Lakeland 100 2013: Imagine taking nearly 2.5 hours off the previous women’s record, and still coming in second.  Well, that’s what happened to me. Still, I was happy to finish faster than my goal time.  And with a full set of teeth.

Past races and results

100 miles PB - 15:48
200km PB - 20:55
24 hours PB – 220km
West Highland Way Race 2008, 2010 and 2011. Best time 19:38
Devil of the Highlands 1st lady in 2012 in 6:54
Highland Fling 53 miles (2010 and 2011). Silver in the UK trail championship
Anglo Celtic Plate 100K – representing Scotland 9:03
Commonwealth ultra-distance championships North Wales 2011 –representing Scotland in the 24 hour race.
Grand Union Canal: 1st overall.  Female record holder.
IAU World 24 hour championships 2012 Katowice, Poland. Set new Scottish records for 100m, 200km and 24 hour. Bronze team for world, silver for Europeans
Thames Path 100 2013: 1st lady and 4th overall
IAU World 24 hour championships 2013 Steenbergen, Holland. PB of 220km.  Team European bronze.
Lakeland 100 2013: 28:02. 2nd lady.  13th overall