South Coast Challenge – 54K

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After months of training, I finally completed The South Coast Challenge 54K from Eastbourne to Hove. This wasn’t my longest race, but given the heat and the hills, I can honestly say that this has been the toughest one so far.

I arrived in Eastbourne on Friday evening and booked in to a nice ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotel on the seafront. Although I had only booked a single room, they gave me a free upgrade to a double with a nice view of the sea.

As I arrived early, I popped down to the the race area to get myself registered. My start time wasn’t until 8:40 on Saturday morning, but I figured it would be one less thing to worry about, so I collected my race number and other bits and pieces and enjoyed a nice stroll along the seafront before heading back to the hotel.

The Start Area
The Start Area

I slept well and got myself up in plenty of time so decided to go and watch some of the other waves of runners head off. There was a safety briefing followed by a zumba warm up to get us in the mood for the hike ahead, and then we were off!

Eastbourne Seafront
Eastbourne Seafront

The weather was warm and it was only going to get warmer as the day went on, so I refrained from running along the seafront in order to preserve some energy for the hills. And boy were there hills!

The first 11k before Birling Gap involved a climb of 232 metres, but it wasn’t too bad as it meant that there was the same again in descent. Running downhill on this section was a lot of fun and helped me to get a good pace going to the first rest stop. Not that I stopped for long. Just enough time to grab some more water and an energy bar, and reapply some sun cream before heading off again.

A Long Climb
A Long Climb

The next section wasn’t so much fun though. While the cliffs of the Seven Sisters may look very pretty, the climbing was brutal at times and I was glad that I’d remembered to order a walking pole from Amazon the weekend before. I’m not sure how I would have coped otherwise!

Some of The Seven Sisters
Some of The Seven Sisters

I had hoped to have been able to enjoy some more downhill running at this point, but the gradient was just too steep and I would probably have gone arse over tit had I attempted anything other than a quick sideways shuffle down the slopes.

Needless to say, the pace slowed down quite a bit and it was 1:00 pm by the time I reached the next rest stop, but I was still feeling pretty good. I took a bit more time at this stop to have some food, check the old feet and change into a fresh pair of socks. No blisters to report, so all good for now.

The next section started with another massive climb that just seemed to go on and on. By this point my back was starting to ache a bit, so I applied a Deep Freeze patch, which helped a lot. There was a nice breeze at times, but the temperature was rising and really slowed me down. Luckily,not too far into the downhill section, we could see the next rest stop, which gave me a bit of a lift and spurred me on a bit more.

Again, I didn’t stop for too long. I ate a little, drank a little and set off again for the final stage. This, I knew, was going to be tough as we had 20K to go without a proper rest stop. There was a flattish section to start with and although the heat from the sun was getting stronger ground underfoot was not pleasant (a hard chalky surface with lots of loose stones) it wasn’t too bad.

The hill that came next, however, almost did me in. I wasn’t even that far into it when I just had to stop. It was a combination of heat and back pain, so I took a couple of pain killers and some water before pushing myself forward a few steps at a time, stopping and starting as needed. To be honest, I really thought about giving up at this point, but knowing that so many people had sponsored me to do this, there was no way I was going to let them down. That and the kind words and encouragement from others kept me going.

One of the things that I like so much about these challenges is the camaraderie. Everyone hits low points along the way, but whether walking alone or in a group, we all help each other through it, whether it’s with a bit of chat along the way, some words of encouragement, offers of help or just holding the gate open with a smile for the next person, even the smallest gesture goes a long way.

Another nice view before Brighton

Luckily there was a water station at around 44K, so again I took a few minutes to sit down and air the old feet before continuing on down to Brighton. This part of the route wasn’t bad at all but by that point I’d probably had more than enough heat as I was starting to feel a bit nauseous. Still, I was encouraged by more conversation, some bottles of ‘water for the walkers’ that some kind person had left on a wall and some ‘well dones’ from some random people on Hove seafront.

Finally, just after 9:20 pm, I reached the finish line at Hove Park, where I collected my medal, t-shirt and glass of fizz before throwing up outside the medical tent! Again, I was touched by the kindness of strangers as someone went and got me some water while another took me into the tent to make sure I was ok. Thankfully, it was just a case of too much sun as the paramedic took my blood pressure and checked my blood glucose levels (all of which were fine). The doctor gave me an energy gel and a sickness tablet and I was soon on my way home, happy to have completed the challenge in one piece.

SCC Result

So, the verdict? Well, I can honestly say that this is the toughest challenge that I have done. Even though it was the heat that finished me off in the end, the relentless ups and downs of the hills are not my thing – so I won’t be back for another go. However, if you like hills and want to take part in a brilliantly organised ultra event as either a walker or a runner, then I wouldn’t want to put anyone off. The camaraderie on route, support at the rest stops, the stunning views and the sense of accomplishment when finished make it all worth while in the end.

As for me, I think I’ll go for something a bit less hilly next time.

How’s your running going? What gets you through the low points in a race? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

The Return of the Mojo

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 19.17.34It’s amazing the difference a bit of sunshine can make. I had planned to run on the treadmill this evening but when I got home form work I realised that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to run outside instead.

Without evening thinking about it, I headed straight to the bedroom, got changed into my running gear and headed to the seafront for my first outdoor run in over two months. And it was awesome!

Ok, so I only managed 3K and my pace was very slow, but it was just wonderful to be outside, running my favourite route on a cool, breezy evening.

Welcome back Mojo – I’ve missed this!

Jump to Week 5

What is it going to take to get me motivated this year?

Up until now, I’d assumed that my procrastination with running had been down to the recent bouts of bad weather – wind, rain and more winds that were so strong that the weather people even started naming them. But that didn’t really make sense. I mean, this time last year I was running along the seafront for over two hours at a time, with wind, rain and waves crashing on the promenade and it didn’t bother me at all.

Still, I am getting older (aren’t we all) so I put my sudden dislike of bad weather down to old age and bought myself a treadmill to try to combat the problem. But almost three weeks after buying the treadmill, I’ve hardly used it. So what’s going on?

It took me a while to figure it out, but I think that the problem is that I’m too impatient. I just can’t be bothered starting over with Couch to 5K again and again and again. So, this morning I decided to try something different. I decided that I would just run on the treadmill (very slowly) until I didn’t feel like running any more.

I started with a couple of minutes walking, just to warm up, before upping the speed to 6.5 km/h. I know, that’s not much faster than walking pace, but the idea was to go slowly to see how long I could keep running for. This is another good thing about the treadmill, as there’s no temptation to engage in secret races with other runners while training, so staying slow is not a problem.

To my surprise, I managed to run for about 20 minutes, which is what you have to do in Week 5, Day 3 of C25K. This gave me a huge lift as it means that if I want to follow C25K, I only have to do another three weeks! In total I covered 2.4K in 25 minutes (including about 5 mins of walking) which is ridiculously slow, but I don’t really care. The important thing is to get running and keep running, no matter what the pace.

In terms of a training plan though, I’ve decided not to have one for the time being. I need to get back to running because I want to, not because the training plan is telling me to. Once I’m back up to speed mentally as well as physically, I’ll think about it, but for now I just want to have some fun with it.

How’s your running and training going? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Unscheduled Rest Week

Circle HopI didn’t manage to get a run in at last week. A couple of extra long working days at the beginning of the week combined with a sudden drop in temperature left me feeling pretty tired, so I decided to take it easy, skip the final run of Week 2 and launch into Week 3 this morning so that I would have something to contribute to this week’s Virtual Running UK Blog Hop.

Today’s session should have been fairly easy – 2 reps of 1:30 run, 1:30 walk, 3:00 run and 3:00 walk, but I have to admit that I did find the second 3:00 run more challenging than I had expected. I still managed it, but for a bit of a confidence boost at the end, I decided to split the final walk in half so that I could finish strongly on a 1:30 run.

My running pace definitely slowed down on this run and I didn’t manage to stay under 6:00 minutes per kilometre for the duration of each section, but I think it probably averaged out ok.

pace

I’m planning on doing another Week 3 run tomorrow (all being well), so hopefully I’ll be able to improve the pacing a bit more on that one.

On the whole though, repeating Couch to 5K seems to be working. I haven’t quite nailed the routine yet this time around, but the program is working and I am definitely seeing and feeling the improvements each time, so it’s all good.

How’s your training going? How are you coping with running in the colder weather? Please share you thoughts in the comments.

3K – No Walking!

I’ve not been doing too well this week with my resolve to run three times a week. I keep thinking about it, putting it off and promising to go later, but later never comes. The root of the problem, it seems, is thinking about it.

Take this morning for example. I woke up and my brain said ‘you’re awake nice and early – go for a run!’; but then I started thinking about it, which made me think of other things and I ended up checking my email instead. And, as generally happens when I start the day by checking email, the day was gone in a flash.

I felt pretty bad about it, to be honest. I really want to get back to running without walk breaks, but to do that I need to practise and get into a regular routine, otherwise I’ll just keep going backwards, which isn’t much fun.

So, this evening, once I’d finished work for the day, I decided that I had to go for a run if I was going to get three in this week. I didn’t think about it either. I just got changed and got myself out the door. Simple as that!

It wasn’t until I was half way to the seafront that I started to plan my run. This week, I’d hoped to be running 3.5K without walk breaks, but as I’d only managed 2.3 last week (should have been 3) I decided that I would be happy with anything more than that, and run/walk the rest to make the 3K or maybe 3.5 if I felt like it. We’d see – this is me not thinking about it!

The breeze was pretty warm down on the promenade, but it was comfortable enough to run nice and slowly. I wasn’t worried at all about picking up the pace; if anything I made myself back off to make sure that I could beat last week’s distance.

Surprisingly, as I approached 2.3, I felt pretty good. Yes, it was hot. Yes, I was sweating like crazy. And yes, I did almost choke on my water while I was running. But I felt ok. As I passed 2.5, I even considered the possibility of going for 3.5; but when I reached 3K I knew I’d had enough and decided to stop there.

Even though it was after 6:30 in the evening, the sun was still pretty strong, so I headed for some nice shaded side streets and made my way back home.

I realise that if I’m going to get my three runs in this week, I’m going to have to do two days back to back. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll make it out of bed and out the door before my brain kicks in? Here’s hoping!

How’s your training going? What strategies do you use to get yourself out the door. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Sun, Sea, BBQs and Buskers…

This weekend I had planned to either go to parkrun on Saturday or get out early for a 5K this morning, but it didn’t happen. This was partly due to being a bit tired after launching myself back into training this week, and partly due to the fact that it’s getting a bit too hot to run after 9:00 am.

However, I did manage to get out this evening once the temperature dropped a little bit. My plan was to run/walk the 5K to try to get used to the distance again, but also to up the ratio to 4:1 instead of 3:1, which went much better than I’d expected.

Although it was still very sunny down on the promenade, the temperature felt just about right and there was a bit of a breeze to keep things comfortable. As soon as I hit the seafront though, I realised why I prefer running in the morning to running in the evening – fewer people around!

Don’t get me wrong, I like seeing a people out and about while I’m running, but it can get busy down there in the summer which can be a bit annoying when you have to negotiate other pedestrians and small children with wheels. And don’t get me started on running through the smoke from the BBQ bins!

This evening though, it wasn’t too bad. In fact, the atmosphere was kind of fun. There were plenty of runners out as usual, but it was also nice to see a small group of adults learning to roller blade and a even a grown woman learning how to ride a bike.

The best part though, was at the end of the first kilometre when I had to run past some buskers. It was really nice hearing music that wasn’t coming through headphones and, for a brief moment, it reminded me of the live music at the Brighton Marathon.

Just a brief moment though. I’m not ready to sign up for another race just yet!

How’s your training going? How does the change in weather affect your favourite running routes? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Two Down…

I managed to get another run in this evening. That’s two down and one to go for this week if I’m going to get my three runs in, so I’m feeling pretty good about getting back into training.

Of course, it was only 3K and I took a bit of a walk break at 2.3, mostly for water but also because I’m just not as fit as I was. Still, I only walked for about 100 metres and then ran the rest, so it’s a bit of an improvement on the last one.

I’m really not putting any pressure on myself at the moment though as far as running is concerned. Yes, I want to run faster and without stopping like I used to, but I know it will come as long as I get out three times a week and do a little bit more each time. Patience!

I’ve also decided to start taking exercise other than running to try to help with my general fitness. I got an exercise bike before Christmas, which I really ought to start using more, but I also need to do something for my core and upper body strength.

So, the other night when I was procrastinating on You Tube (as we do!) I came across ‘Insanity Max 30’. As far as I can tell, it’s basically just an exercise program that you can buy, but they also have some free videos that you can use on You Tube. There’s a playlist with a few different videos on there, so I just chose one at random and decided to have a go.

To be fair, I wasn’t jumping around half as much as the people on the video and some of the moves they were doing were completely beyond me, but I gave it a go nonetheless. If you watch the video below, there’s a woman on the right of the screen who adapts the workout to make it a bit easier for those of us who aren’t quite there yet… or in my case, nowhere near there yet!

Anyway, I gave it my best shot and was absolutely drenched and exhausted by the end of it, but I felt great! Definitely much more fun than yoga (which I just don’ t have the patience for) and something that I would be happy to do a couple of times a week – although I might watch more of the videos first and choose one that has some easier moves than this!

How’s your training going? Have you tried Insanity or other workout videos? Do you find they help you with your running? Please share your thoughts in the comments.