Month: October 2012

The right kind of support …

During September’s High Peaks 40-mile ultra marathon I had the amazing fortune to run alongside an inspirational lady called Kelly T (I’ll keep the surname back just in case). Kelly left me in total awe as I watched her battle valiantly with shin splints for most of the race while she simultaneously regaled me with her training plan stories in readiness for the Himalayan 100 mile stage race ( a mere six weeks later. It only took about ten miles, though, to realise that here was a lady who had a headspace much akin to my own; in other words nothing short of a broken leg would permit the letters D, N and F (in that order) to creep into our running alphabet, mind or body. Yes, we were both slow, back of the pack, just about the furthest from ‘elite’ (or even ‘good’ – haha) that it’s possible to get, but we were on a journey and that was all that mattered.

Perhaps I’ll run into Kelly again sometime in the future? Perhaps not. As is normal in these ‘one-off’ meetings, we’ve had no contact since. That said, the running bond is still in place and yesterday morning I felt I just had to text her and wish her well on her incredible Himalayan multi-day challenge (in case you don’t click on the link I’ll just add here that the Everest Marathon is on Day 3!!). The text was simple: Amanda here from HP40. Thinking of you embarking on an amazing journey. Wanted to wish you success.Take care, stay safe, run well. Don’t stop when you’re tired; stop when you’re done!

The text I got back? OMG thank you so much for remembering and thank you for being the only person who understands! Everybody’s advice has been the other way round, but I’m going to smash it!

I wonder is it an ultrarunner’s nemesis to be surrounded by what I think is not so much a ‘lack’ of support but rather unintentionally misdirected support? Non-runners don’t care too much whether you’re running 5k or 50k, but whereas your 10k running buddy will tell you to go for it and push to the limit at the next race, this all changes as soon as the distance increases. Marathons? Yup, you’re already pushing boundaries running a marathon but marathons are so common nowadays – and more and more people are starting to realise that if you can walk then you can actually run a marathon if you want to, so supportive comments tend to be along the lines of ‘Yeah, go for it, Nutter’ or ‘Don’t forget to pace yourself’ – but nothing more than that.

Utter the word ‘ultra’, though – or talk in terms of anything over 26 miles – and suddenly, to the non-runner you’re a weirdo and they don’t want anything more to do with you, or they simply don’t know how to respond. ‘Standard-distance’ runners (as I’m going to call them) are suddenly at a bit of a loss, too – and the end result seems to be a bit of an impasse where everyone just gets on with what they’re doing and no-one really speaks about it at all. It’s funny. The subject of ultrarunning becomes the elephant in the room and there doesn’t seem to be any way of explaining that that step from marathon to ultra (in my super-limited and exceedingly subjective experience) becomes so much less about the running and so much more about the journey, about discovery, about learning.

This leads me back to Kelly’s reply to my text and the obvious misguided support for her incredible adventure, because it’s ultimately incomprehensible to the majority that endurance events aren’t about the run, the injuries (variable lol) or the pain (inevitable). They are all about learning – and the last thing an ultrarunner wants to hear before hitting that start line is the voice of concern (difficult as that may be for close family). ‘Be careful’, ‘Don’t push too hard’, ‘It’s not worth the suffering’, ‘When it gets too hard, don’t be afraid to stop’ or ‘I’m worried about you, why are you doing this?’ … Grrrrr – all voices of concern and of course they have their time and place, but leading up to an endurance event isn’t either the time OR the place! Hmmmmm. The more I write the more I’m realising just how crazy that sounds. However, during the 40m High Peaks Kelly slowed down massively for several miles and moaned about her stomach, how ill she was feeling, how everything was going tits up. Cruelly (or not?), I refused to express any kind of concern. The last thing you want when you hit the wall and are ready to sniffle and curl up and die – is for your running buddy to curl up and die with you. I offered water and confirmation that it was only X km to the next checkpoint. An hour later I was in the same position. Kelly’s words of comfort were ‘I know how that feels. Just keep going. It’ll pass.’ Perfect.

So, you get the idea? Crazy as it is, ultrarunners need the same ‘support’ as you’d give to someone going out for their first 5k! I’m incredibly and unbelievably lucky. I seem to be surrounded by people who just ‘get’ this – but most people, including Kelly it appears, are not.

So Kelly? GO SMASH IT – just as you’ve planned!! I read an article the other day which said that ‘having fun isn’t always fun’. They were talking about ultras, of course, and I think it’s the perfect description of ultrarunning – fun without fun LOL With that in mind, Kelly Thorne, I hope you have a LOT of fun on Everest.

But what do I know? I know nothing! I’m building on my philosophy here and loving the new outlook on life that even ‘training’ for an ultra has given me. It’s very special. It’s new, it’s exciting, I aspire simply to just not come last … and I think I love it most of all because it’s so far out of my comfort zone and there is SO much to learn. Now … I wonder if I can afford a bus to the Himalayas …


PARAS’ 10 Colchester – 21 October 2012 – P-Company Challenge … 10 miles in military kit with 35lb bergen

Been, done it, got the tee-shirt (literally). Actually I’ve now ended up with THREE tee-shirts – bit of an overload. One, I bought for training, the second arrived courtesy of along with a collection box … and the third one has a big ‘FINISHER’ emblazoned on the front. Well, one can never have too many tee-shirts, I suppose.

Erm … you’ll notice there’s been a gap since my previous negative posting and this one. That’s because there was simply no point blogging limited training and slightly exaggerated tapering. What can I say only that I flipped the positivity switched, sucked it up and got on with it. Pre-race, I managed a couple of 10k runs – just in trainers – and an 8-mile and a 5k tabbing. Ten days before the race, though, my feet were just destroyed from those boots. They are comfortable, surprisingly, so no blisters or anything like that. It was just the Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot particularly – Ouch!! I seriously couldn’t walk on it. Early morning is one thing, but I knew I had to be careful when I found my foot was throbbing all through the day, whether it was weight-bearing or not. I decided to err on the side of caution. Fitness was not going to be a problem so my ‘tapering’ was on the extreme side, i.e. nothing at all! Thankfully, I wasn’t trying to break any records and I hadn’t managed to do any training on trails so I kept my expectations low. My original goal was simply to keep ahead of the Death Truck, which was sweeping at the 3-hour mark. By race day, my goal was to stick like glue to 15-minute-miles and come in at 2:30.


The comrades in arms: Nicki Edwards, Daryl Lee Chard, Mark Ahlin and Alistair Pizzey
The Incredible Supporters: Caitriona Hyatt, Hannah Tull

Early start for daughter Caitriona and myself. Left the house at 5.45 a.m. and arrived in Fairyland a.k.a. where Daryl lives (a whole other story lol) around 7.30 a.m. Finally found the army base, registered and hilariously, at the age of 50, picked up my PARAS’ 10 PASSPORT  They don’t dish them out to ‘every’ 50-year-old, y’know haha

It was drizzly and grey but not cold. I got some very odd looks when I tried to weigh my bergan – could’ve been my age – or the fact that I almost fell over trying to lift it onto the hook. Turned out it was one pound overweight, but it was easier to leave it at that than start trying to remove stuff for the sake of 1 lb. The bemused expressions of the paras, though, changed to absolute horror when they pointed out that the water I’d be carrying would add on yet another 2 lbs or so. ‘Water?’ I said. ‘What water?’ They were shocked to the core that I wasn’t intending on carrying multiple bottles of water. I guess they thought I was actually going to be sprinting this race lol I didn’t dare tell them that it never occurs to me to carry water for anything less than a half-marathon. Besides, there was water available on the course, so what was the problem? Who knows?

Over an hour to wait, no cover and at the hot drinks stall my veganism soaked quickly into the mud underneath my feet and hot chocolate was the order of the day. Nicki, Mark and Hannah joined us and we amused ourselves mostly watching Mark’s heart rate monitor climb to ludicrously high levels as start time approached.

It was in the starting pen at warm-up time that Nicki and I realised we were somewhat in the minority here. The warm-up made me laugh a lot. No Jane Fonda step-touches, side bends or gentle toe-tapping here – all the sound of Cher. Nope! The gentle warm-up was good old army style knees-up, sprinting on the spot, pumping arms with a random partner, push-ups and plyo-star jumps. Fantastic.

The starting pistol turned out to be a cannon so no excuses for missing it! Nicki and I headed out at a good pace and I threw away thoughts of keeping to a certain pace and decided to ignore my watch completely and just do what I could. I’m always fearful of going out too fast (although in terms of ‘my’ pacing, this is all terribly relative haha). The previous night, however, I’d been reading a fabulous ultra runner’s views on this. His belief was that the majority of ultra runners slowed down in the latter part of any race (elites excepted) so in terms of racing you could either start fast and inevitably slow down or start slow and, yes, inevitably slow down anyway! It made me laugh a lot. It’s so true and 10 miles is by no means a ‘long’ distance so I decided to go with that philosophy and just ‘go’. Of course, it helped a lot having Bootcamp Machine Nicki running with me. I surprised myself and loved myself and felt extremely proud of myself that by the 5-mile marker we hadn’t walked and our pace – whatever that happened to be – hadn’t dropped. It was a great feeling – particularly for someone like me who will finish no matter what but never quite manages to leave everything on the trail. Yup – that still needs doing!!

The reaction of the paras at the weigh-in as regards my hydration worried me slightly and I started doubting myself. Stupidly, I subsequently grabbed the Lucozade they were handing out at the first of the two stations. Mistake. I gulped some down out of guilt and my body immediately screamed at me for being such an idiot. Yuk! Sugar, sweet, sickly … and all I wanted was water to wash it down! I grabbed water at the next stop and shouldn’t have bothered. I took a few sips and then spent the next 3 miles worrying about the damn bottle haha My environmentally-friendly head refused to let me chuck the plastic bottle into the woodland. I debated throwing it politely at one of the paras marshalling the route but every time I passed I just thought it’d be really rude so ended up carrying it. I know, I know, no big deal, but these little things take over and I HATE CARRYING BOTTLES!!!

Actually, I think the constant whining about that water bottle was merely a way to distract myself from the fact that I’d lost all sensation in my right leg. Damned ITB kicked in quite quick but I was determined to ignore it and it was desperately trying to make sure I didn’t, resulting in my leg literally giving way underneath me every now and again. That is all I’m going to say on the matter because for every darn race I seem to have some excuse why I couldn’t go further, go faster, blah blah blah. Bit fed up with myself for doing that. Yes, I’m injured. No, I can’t finish this race the way I want to and yes, I’m going to take time off and rebuild my knees after this until I’m back to running injury and pain-free again, ready for 2013. Done it before and I’ll do it again. Enough said. So yes the second half of the course had its ‘down’ moments. The ‘ups’ were the mud, which was hilarious, tough, mad, slippery and also made for some guilt-free walking (lol) – and of course the water, which I personally loved.

Three miles to go and Nicki was still keeping up that unbroken jogging stride. Head was down and nothing short of a 20 ft wall was going to stop her. My ITB was really inhibiting my running so I was down to Run 10 Stride 10 rhythm which I kept up relentlessly all the way to the end. If there was a downside to this day, then it was the finish. That last mile, I wanted to finish strong, instead of which as much as my head kept saying ‘Go’, my leg resolutely refused. I tried and tried and bloody tried and it just wouldn’t happen.

But what can I say? I crossed the line upright and at a run … and crossed it a whole 18 minutes ahead of target. That means … well, that’s a whole lot better than 15-minute miles. That’s a few 14s and a number of 13s – and I never thought that was going to happen so WOO HOOOOOOOOOO!!

Nicki steamed home a good 4 minutes ahead of me. Incredible effort. Mark had also been tabbing and stormed through in some ridiculous time – 1:33, I believe! Totally smashed the paras’ entrance cut-off of 1:50. I forgot to ask what his heart rate was at the end. I think his HRM had probably burnt out at that point!

Daryl – that crazy kid is an amazing runner and definitely one to watch out for!! He wasn’t tabbing but smashed through the finish in 1:07. Extraordinary and inspirational. Daryl, you focus that training and you’re going to be gracing many podiums (should that be podia?? Haha) before long.

Hannah and Caitriona – huge thanks for the support, the photos, the entertainment. Between the pair of you, lunch was hilarious. Shame it couldn’t have lasted longer but the gnomes needed to be deposited back to Fairyland before it all disappeared in a puff of smoke …

FINAL RESULTS: Gun time: 2:12:09 Chip time: 2:11:31

But Hey! What’s the use of age grading if you’re not going to use it, eh??? LOL

I knew I was going to enjoy being 50 PAHAHAHAHAHA

WWVD: Week 2 and beyond …

Just over two weeks has passed of my dedicated vegan adventure (foodwise, at least!). 10 lbs gone without a single thought – so that’d be 10 lbs that my body simply didn’t want or need. I can’t believe the scales but my knees, my waistline, my energy levels, sleep patterns, general strength and yes, even my ring fingers say they’re telling the truth! It’s just fab and I feel fantastic.  I’m just not sure what I’ve done to deserve this buzz. I started out simply trying to renew my interest in food. I was stuck in a rut, eating rubbish, feeling horrible inside, starting to look horrible outside – and it was back to the old spiral of eat-feel rubbish-comfort eat-feel even more rubbish-eat more anyway … Sound familiar?

Calorie-counting, points-counting, call it what you will … just don’t work on a long-term basis. Yes, of course it’s a case of calories in v. calories out – but you can eat three Mars bars daily and stay within your calories. You can also eat nothing but fruit and vegetables all day and stay within your calories. Neither diet is healthy and neither will lead to long-term sustainable weight loss. The only reason people lose weight with these ‘counting’ systems is because subconsciously they’re becoming more aware of what they’re eating, they cut down portion sizes and cut out some of the rubbish. Of course, that’s also a good thing – but ‘subconscious’ acts mean people are unaware of the real reasons they are losing weight and will therefore not be able to keep it off long-term or, indeed, know what on earth to do when the weight stops coming off. And that kind of demotivation and disappointment is the fastest way back to that eating spiral (see above) that I can think of.

Of course, I am in no way saying that vegan is the way to go LOL  Absolutely not – particularly for a family, unless everyone is vegan to begin with. I’m very fortunate that I have a very supportive family who think my vegan adventure is nothing short of hilarious. Frankly, I think I have them to thank for my weight loss. It helps when the simple things like asking for a cup of tea remain simple – neither kids nor husband think twice about using soya milk for my tea and dairy for their own. Besides, this has turned out quite educational for the kids, too – they’re constantly asking why I can’t eat such-and-such and learning about carbs, proteins, fat and their role in keeping health at its maximum. Who can say that’s a bad thing, eh? They may not be eating vegan but they’re certainly learning from it, so another brownie point (dairy-free, of course) goes to my WWVD journey.

I said I’d only do this for two weeks – enough time to learn about it and get my eating back to something close to nutritional (yes, it really was that bad for a while!). Well, my two weeks is up … and I’M STILL GOING!! The first week was tough and I missed lots of my favourites (fish, eggs and milk were the most difficult) – but once I’d had a good talk with myself and reminded myself that instead of wasting time moaning about stuff I was missing my time might be better spent discovering new tastes, my vegan adventure soared to new heights and I am LOVING IT!  Am I going to be ‘difficult’ and resort to beans and chips every time I go out to eat? That’d be an absolute NO! I’ll eat whatever’s available (that’ll be an extra treat!) – but neither will I forget how much energy I’ve gleaned from a new perspective on food, and surely that’s what eating should be about, isn’t it? Finding ways of extracting maximum taste but not at the expense of maximum nutrition?  When did nutrition stop being about taste? Hmmmm. Personally, I blame the casual warping of the word ‘diet’ to its current meaning: hunger, boring food, fat free (responsible for more weight gain than anything else), sacrifice, a chore, dread, …).

My vegan adventure taught me lots about nutrition, introduced me to new tastes that I simply would never have touched before – and gave me a new and wonderful energy to do what I love to do: train and support my clients and train myself to the best of my ability. I’m loving life right now. If you’re struggling, then you know what to do: contact me and arrange your own 1-to-1 nutrition consultation (no, don’t be silly, I’m not going to suggest you go vegan LOL). Details on my website:


Some very basic vegan days …

Favourite breakfasts:

Porridge with blueberries, chopped nuts and pumpkin seeds

Smoothie: frozen berries, banana, homemade juice, topped with granola

Lemon and buckwheat pancakes


Favourite lunches:

Spicy Moroccan chickpea soup w/ soya and linseed bread

Watermelon, avocado and mixed beans and shoots salad with chilli flakes

Baked potato w/ homemade tofu-veggie burgers


Favourite dinners:

Homemade falafel with mixed roast veg

Nut roast w/ quinoa

Lentil and aubergine curry w/ brown rice


Favourite snacks/treats:

Homemade peanut flapjacks

Orange sponge cake (just kidding: this was HORRIBLE but highly entertaining!!)

Spelt crackers w/ vegan cheese (OMG the salt/sodium content of that cheese is frightening!)

Homemade coconut ice cream

Dairy-free chocolate (yum yum yum)

Trek/Cliff bars (for long runs)


Pain, Frustration, Physio, Decisions

Tuesday training

Oh, hellooooooooooooooooo negativity! Grrrrr it’s not often I sink under the pressure of negative thoughts but by the end of today’s planned 8 mile walk – first time with 35 lb Bergen – I’m feeling pretty beaten.  I even found myself admitting that I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this!

That didn’t last for long, of course. I’m not one to be kept down for long – but I’ve had to reassess. Yes, I will do this damned challenge and I WILL cross the finish line – just not in the style that I’d originally hoped. I’d hoped I might be able to chase a time (that’s a ‘me’ time, not the paratroopers’ time lol). My goal now is simply to not be picked up on that bloomin’ truck!! The weight is a whole lot heavier than I originally thought – but more than that I just can’t face the thought of going into yet another challenge already injured. I need time off to re-group and re-build my knees and correct my IT-band problem and get them back to injury-free mode.  I’m already planning my re-construction training (lol) for after the 21st October and that’s not a good thing to be doing. The challenge isn’t coming first. Uh-Oh.

So the weight I can deal with. Surprisingly, although the pack is seriously heavier than I’d anticipated, my back is recovering quickly afterwards without residual effect and that’s a big positive because that was my biggest worry.  My IT-band problem, though, is frustrating, demoralising, painful and debilitating. And it’ll be the main cause of my slow finish on the 21st because I can’t run! How can I train to run any distance with the Bergen when I can’t run more than 100 metres without my ITB kicking up a racket? Grrrr. Double grrrr.

So the reassessment says that it’s not the result that matters but what I do to get there. I’ve got a training plan. I planned it as though I was 100% fit and I’m still going to follow it. It’s just going to take longer. I thought the 8 miles the other day was going to take me forever. I looked at my watch afterwards. I was right. It did. 10 miles is going to take longer, and the added challenge on race day of doing it with God knows what obstacles? Well, all I can say is that I’ll know I’ve done my best. Now, negative thoughts be gone!


Today’s training was, I thought, going to be easy on my knees. A simple 5k in my military boots – just to get used to running in them. No extra weight. I might as well have had the weight. My ITB is unforgiving this time round. Just gotta suck it up. I can do that for 10 miles, can’t I? Run 100m, walk 100 … something like that? Still means I can maybe run at least 50% of the course – enough to avoid being swept up by the truck? We’ll see.


No boots, no Bergen. Just a run – 10 miles. Couldn’t wait. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After 4 miles I was walking and by the end I couldn’t actually ‘run’ more than 3 steps without pain kicking in. I did say I’d keep to the plan even if I had to walk it, though, so I did. Mucho frustrating-oh!


Supposed to be doing intervals today. That’s a joke. Instead of being gut-busting fast/slow intervals they ended up being jog/walk ones. This is no fun. Need another assessment, I think. Should I pull out of this one, take time off and start rebuilding, ready for next year?? What should I do?

Sunday p.m.

Saw the physio today – what a breath of fresh air that was. I went in ready for battle, awaiting all the usual ‘well, if you insist on running stupid distances blah blah blah …’ Instead, I got ‘I’m a great fan of ultra-running’ and a ‘pain does not necessarily mean damage’!! I thought I’d been transported to an alternative universe. I’d been expecting advice to rest, ice, etc. Instead I got … ‘Take a day or two off, then run and see how you do!’ He also told me to stop trying to correct my form – that I should let my body decide how it wants to run!

I’m now scared to go running because I’m expecting a miracle which won’t of course be there!!  Mr Physio did think military boots and 35lbs was a little on the extreme (‘cause 100k isn’t??? haha) but suggested I continue training, if conservatively, and resist pulling out until I next see him.





WWVD – Week One Round-Up

Day 2

Hello detox headache. No real complaints. Good to be off the chocolate diet!! Granola and fruit for breakfast. I need the fibre. I also need to watch my protein intake. There wasn’t too much of that yesterday. It was soup and bread again for lunch. That suits me fine. I love soup and the weather’s certainly conducive to hot lunch these days. Interestingly, mid-afternoon I was hungry but I was actually craving fruit. Hmmmm – usually it’s chocolate, cake or, well, anything sweet.

I’m already getting tired of green tea. I miss my cuppas! Dinner was fab – falafels and a salad of tomatoes, beans, lentils, pea shoots, rocket, grated carrot … protein definitely not lacking. It was delicious, too. I came across some vegan chocolate today and thought I’d feed my after-dinner habit with it. It was actually delicious but I ate too much. It was definitely a case of wanting it but not needing it. I was pleasantly surprised at the taste of soya milk but it does taste different in tea. I still miss my tea 

Day 3
Variety is the key. This morning I had porridge, made with soya milk of course. This soya milk ‘thing’ that I have going on is definitely psychological. I keep imagining it’s going to taste horrible, but it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. I loved my porridge. Yay.

I’m finding it really hard, though. I can tell this is not going to be sustainable for me for more than a couple of weeks. I love my dairy and meat and fish too much. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I open the fridge in an effort to make lunch. I keep coming up with ideas, then have to re-check them against the WWVD rules and most of the time my ideas have to be binned. I can’t believe the amount of meat and dairy I eat. I’m fascinated by the effect the lack of these foods is going to have on my body, though – if any. I have to admit that during today’s 5k I was not exactly bursting with energy, but I’m willing to accept that this is probably more to do with my radical change of diet rather than anything to do with the ‘type’ of diet. Got to give my body at least a week to start getting accustomed to the new regime and, I suppose, time to reassess the fuel it’s getting and how it’s going to use it. I hope it works it out quickly.

Body’s adapted, mind adapted … this is GREAT! Loving the challenge. Used to the taste of soya milk now and not missing out on tea any more, though I’m worried that I am now actually craving green tea and find myself regularly taking this option rather than my usual PG Tips with milk!! It’s not so much a chore now, rather than an adventure. Erm … eating out has been a challenge. In London with Caitriona (well, Sidcup of all places) and ended up having beans and chips as I couldn’t find anything else lol Warwick University last Saturday was even worse … best I could do was a packet of crisps, for God’s sake!! Good job I’d chucked a banana and a Nak’d bar in my bag!

I’m finding it hard to get loads of variety, that’s my only real complaint. Variety that is practical, at least. I don’t have hours at lunchtime to cook so bread and soup it is! Miso soup with tofu is a new favourite. I never thought I’d ever type the word ‘tofu’ in a positive manner!!! Breakfasts are easy to vary. Dinner’s a bit limiting, too – but I’m going to work on that this week. Falafels and quinoa have been my saviours. Still struggling to keep protein levels up. I have now bought tofu and am going to venture in that world of the unknown (I’m not counting the miso soup stuff) this week. I think the tofu thing is psychological – a bit like soya milk – so I’m hoping I’ll end up enjoying it.

Summary? Rocky start to the week but well settled into the vegan thing now and my family have been great. They think it’s hilarious but are all going along with it and are only happy to shout ‘WWVD’ at me when they see me peering at a packet ingredients or into the fridge with a confused look on my face! It’s all good. I never thought I’d say that but it’s all good haha

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