Marathon Nice Cannes 2018 - We did it!

I’ve finally found time to sit down and write my race report and to let you know how the Marathon des Alpes Maritime went. Bill left today so I’ve been to and fro from the airport and then been getting laundry sorted, lots of smelly running clothes etc.

So….it sort of didn’t quite go to plan, but we still had a great weekend. 

Breakfast on the Terrace
Collecting our Bib Numbers
We rented an Air BnB apartment in Nice and it was perfect as it had a little terrace and was in a quiet area near the old town but only a 20-minute walk from the start of the race. We collected our bibs the day before and then spent the afternoon slouching in front of the TV so as not to tire ourselves out.   We drank loads of water as we had been doing all week and then made ourselves a steak and veg dinner and had typical pre-race nerves but all in all felt ready.

Early Morning Start
The morning of the marathon we were up at 5:30am and down by the sea front by 7am. Everything was really well organized. There were lots of toilets (clean too), orderly queues and they even had enough toilet paper to go around. I had put myself down for the 3:45 pen (wishful thinking but hoped to get in close to 4 hours) and Bill for the 3:30 but at the last minute he decided to join me. I sort of felt quite calm but then about 5 minutes before the start, the nerves started and I also started to feel hot. I thought it was because we were rather squashed in. I had decided to carry 2x300ml water bottles, with the plan that I would skip the first couple of water stations and just sip from my bottles.

All of a sudden we were off and within 10 secs Bill had disappeared. 

I had planned to split the marathon into 3 chunks of 14km with the idea of getting faster with each one (hahaha). The first half we knew was pretty flat but the second half supposedly had continual ups and downs and then 2 big hills, with the last one at about 35km. I felt fine for the first km but then I began to feel hotter and hotter and not nearly as relaxed as I had hoped. By 5km I was tired!!! Worse though was that I suddenly heard a crashing of feet and the 4-hour pacer was running next to me with his band of warriors. I was really surprised as they were charging along and were going way faster than I thought they would need to for even splits. I reckoned that the pacer knew that everyone would slow down a lot in the second half, so he was banking time. However, I decided to stick to my plan and so let them go ahead, hard as that was! 

I got to 10km at my planned time and by then we were running along the sea front and I could feel the breeze getting up. I was also getting thirsty again which was bizarre considering how hydrated I was. I found myself stopping at the water stops every 2.5km which were bedlam, with people tramping all over each other and of course the palaver of trying to get a cup. That was a big mistake as in fact I then went on to stop at every single water stop so lost an enormous amount of time. I think I was just panicking that I might keel over as I didn’t feel as spritelv as I had hoped. It was ridiculous really as I was also still carrying my full bottles!!!

Just before half way point at Cap d’Antibes, I realized that I was off target. Plus, a girl crashed into me with her elbow and knocked the lap button on my watch. Panic all round as then I wasn’t sure what lap distance I had run etc. The wind had picked up by now and there were these gusts that came and went. Being quite light there were moments when I was being buffeted from one side of the road to the other. Then came the hills. However, they weren’t nearly as bad as I had thought so I kept back some reserves of energy thinking that the “big” hill was around the corner but that never quite came. It was Strava that made us think there was going to be 400m of elevation but in the end it was only half that so I shouldn’t have held back.

The second half of the marathon was very erratic. Lots of slowdowns, water stops and just mentally I began to doubt myself. My hips had started to ache but thankfully the cramps never came. I did see lots of runners suffering cramps though and also saw one poor guy lying on the pavement and being tended to by medics. Another hard thing to see was the relay teams. As each runner was doing a short segment, they had lots of energy and would go flying past. 

When I had a couple of kilometers to go, I knew I could finish but wasn’t sure of my time. Then suddenly in front of me appeared a flag, the 4:15 pacer!!!! That kind of spurred me on as I certainly didn’t want to finish behind him, so I picked up the pace and realized that I still had energy left. My times for the last couple of km's were like I still had fresh legs. I crossed the finish line with a thong of other runners and then we were ushered along this assembly line of medals, t-shirts and food goody bags. It was good to get to the finish line and surprisingly I didn't feel too trashed although a couple of toes felt pretty tender. Then began the hard task of finding Bill.

Initially we were both disappointed with our times as we knew we could have done better. Mine was 4:15 and Bill 3:51. In the end though we realized that we had finished and it was a beautiful course (not that I took much in) and very well organized. We spent the next 24 hours analyzing what, why etc. and eating lots of food and drinking beer! For me, I definitely need to work on my confidence as I think a lot of it was a mental struggle. It’s funny as I actually found the Paris 80km easier but then maybe I was more focused and determined. Or maybe I blanked out the pain! Bill also feels that he needs to be more competitive and I do think that is partly true. Anyway, it was a fun weekend and we both haven’t suffered too much with sore muscles. I think though I’ll still take a couple of weeks off. 
I really do love Nice!

Now we are just waiting to see if we have got into the Berlin Marathon for next year…..
Bye for now

Marathon des Alpes Maritimes here we come

I've almost made it through training and I'm finally feeling that I may be able to run this thing. I've had so many doubts along the way but then I always have doubts no matter what race I am doing.

Just under 3 weeks to go...

My training has been 18 weeks and I'v been doing the 80/20 level 2 marathon plan (Mat Fitzgerald). I was nervous at the beginning as I started with a dodgy hip which developed after the 80km Eco Trail in Paris. That race was a killer because of the weather ( mud, mud and more mud). All that pulling my legs out of the gooey bog was really hard on my body. Lots of people told me that at 57, I shouldn't be so ambitious but I did it and survived and am even thinking of doing another one, in better weather I hope.

I am happy to say that my hip is kind of feeling better and I thank my osteopath for that. I had a session yesterday with her, which involved an hour of massage, pulling, twisting and pressing here,  there and everywhere. I am hoping that in a day or two I'll feel like a new woman.

My main dilemma at the moment is how am I going to keep hydrated. The marathon apparently will only be giving out cups of water so PANIC. I can never drink from a cup whilst running. I could stop but then I know that I will it find it hard to get going again. I don't sweat much so I overheat quite quickly. Lots of people say that carrying fluids is for beginners, but to be honest my main aim is to finish. So if that means carrying a water belt, then that is what I'll do.

Last Sunday I had to do a 26km marathon simulation which meant running the whole way at my planned marathon pace. Trouble was, I am very undecided at what pace to run. My heart wants to beat my previous marathon time of 4:12 but then the Marathon des Alpes Maritimes has a lot more hills so my head and legs are telling me that I am 4 years older. I ended up running at around 5:40/km and I was pooped at the end and many times I wanted to sit on the side of the road and have a wee lie down. I actually only managed 24km. I had a water belt with 2x300ml bottles of Tailwind and I drank it all and yet still felt thirsty. That is something that I really need to work on. I'm going to hydrate, hydrate and hydrate over the next couple of weeks.

We had masses of rain and flooding yesterday so no running today and plus my osteopath said to take 48hours off. When I have a day off, I almost get withdrawal symptoms. Talk about being obsessive.

4 more runs and then it is taper week. I'll report back then and let you know if I feel like a new woman :).

It's getting hot out here so take off all your clothes.....or Run Naked!

Me in my #RUN NAKED #UGLOW attire.
I'm ashamed to say that I don't seem to have written a post in a few weeks. No excuses really except that it has been so hot here in Limoux (hence my post title and my Uglow t-shirt) and I've just not had the energy or the enthusiasm.

However, I now have an objective or new goal I should say and so all of a sudden, I am back up and running :).

My objective is the Marathon des Alpes-Maritime in November 2018 and my goal is to beat my best marathon time. I've only done one marathon!! and the time to beat is 4:12. I think though I may have to overcome 2 issues:

Issue number 1 is the elevation. I had wanted to do a flat marathon but this was the flattest that we (Bill is doing it too) could find at that time of year so I am a wee bit worried about how it will go. Then there is the problem of finding out exactly how un-flat it is. The website is not clear and people's strava runs seem to show anything from  250m to 450m. Quite a difference.

Issue number 2 is the weather. It could be hot or rainy and mostly likely windy. I don't run well in the heat or the wind, so let's just hope it is raining.

As many of you know, I have been doing low heart rate MAF training but I've decided for this marathon that I really do need some speed work to propel myself along, or at least to give me the confidence that I can actually run at a decent pace if I want to. So I've launched myself into 80/20 training and am doing the level 2 marathon plan.

80/20 Running

The marathon plan is 18 weeks long and basically 80% of the training is done in your aerobic zone and the other 20% in your anaerobic zone. So far I am really enjoying it. There are only 2 days a week when I get a bit panicky as there are intervals or hill repeats but in general I am feeling strong. Thankfully there is a facebook support page so in moments of doubt or anxiety, there is someone to encourage me along.

Till next time :)

Recovery time from an Ultra Marathon

Recovery time from an ultra marathon was not what I expected.

I am now 4 weeks post Ultra Marathon so I have had time to let the elation (and pain) die down and to think about what I learned and would I do it again....... :-)

For those who haven't read my previous posts, I recently did my first ultra - the 80km Eco Trail à Paris. My race report is here.

So how has it been the past 4 weeks?

Recovery Time

I must say it has been frustrating. I had thought that a couple of weeks off would do and then I'd be back feeling ultra fit and ready to smash all my training runs and any races. Not so.

I read up beforehand that rest between 5 days - 2 weeks would suffice and then to gradually increase your runs and pace until you were back to normal. In my case I took 2 full weeks off and then tried to resume running. Ouch! The backs of my knees, were very sore as though I had tears in the muscles and ligaments. I couldn't quite work out if it was the calves or the hamstrings. Plus my outer right thigh was sore, IT band pain perhaps. This was an odd pain as it moved around and up and down my thigh and sometimes went behind the knee. I also noticed that my piriformus butt muscle which had been bugging me before the race, was still sore in spite of all the stretching and acupuncture sessions.

I knew then that I need to take another 2 weeks off and all in all I was feeling very sorry for myself.

Keeping busy in my recovery time

My Elliptical trainer saved the day
Thankfully, I have an elliptical bike at home and as that didn't seem to hurt anything, I pedalled on that an hour a day, in front of the TV to make it less boring. I was frustrated and worried a lot about how my fitness gains from all that training were being wooshed away. Thank goodness for the elliptical trainer as I felt that it was at least keeping my cardio system topped up.

I also did lots of piriformus and hamstring stretches and strengthening. This made me realise how weak my hamstrings really are. Shockingly weak actually. I did wonder if stretching an injured muscle was a bad idea so I was careful about keeping the discomfort level very low.

After 4 weeks of Recovery

After my initial false start back running, I tried again after 4 weeks. By this stage, my back and hips felt fine and there was just a slight lingering discomfort in my thigh. I took my son with me as I knew then that I'd keep it slow and not too long.

We did about 45 minutes which was probably longer than I should have but we did a run/walk and at a very slow pace. However my legs felt really clunky and stiff and my heart rate was all over the place. After about 15 minutes, that familiar buttock pain also started to come back and my thigh started to become sensitive. Frustrated.

The next day, I didn't feel worse, although I didn't feel better either so I have decided to keep on running but very gently. A bit of movement to keep the circulation going is not a bad thing. I have done 3 runs now and each one slightly longer than the last, with the longest around 60 minutes. I don't at all feel like a spring chicken, more like a stiff old bird and I wonder how on earth I was able to run for 12 hours only a month ago.

I am also wondering whether my buttock pain is linked to my thigh pain and that it is sciatica. I had thought it was IT band pain but because it is moving about I am guessing it is a trapped nerve. I really don't want to got to the doctor and spend weeks waiting for assessments etc so I might get an appointement with an osteopath to see if s/he could do some work on my hips.

Lessons learned

The recovery time from an ultra marathon is not set in stone and there are lots of variables to take into account. You will read on the internet and people will tell you, "rest for 2 weeks and then gradually start training again" or  "a week off is plenty. When is your next race? and even "you are going to be a racing demon when you restart running".

Well none of that has applied to me.

What I have learned is that:
  1. If it is your first ultra marathon, then recovery time can be double to what you might expect. Your body has been given quite a shock.
  2. The older that you are, the longer that your body might need to recover. I am 57.
  3. If you have any weakness or the slightest injury going into the ultra, then that weakness or injury is going to be exacerbated during the race, meaning your recovery time is going to be prolonged.
  4. You can still keep fit whilst recovering. Do other activities that don't aggravate any sore areas and do strength training.
  5. Don't over stretch an injured muscle or ligament. Forget the "no pain no gain". Be very gentle on yourself.
  6. When you start running again, you might feel clunky and stiff. This will get better the more that you run.
  7. Eat, sleep and enjoy it :-)

Ecotrail Paris 80km Race Report - 17th March 2018

ecotrail Paris 80km finisher medal

Since I have more time on my hands (no training for now hahah!) I thought I’d let you know the gory details of the Ecotrail Paris 80km - my first ultramarathon and at the age of 57.

The Ecotrail Paris 80km was in fact 9 days ago and it is still fresh in my mind. Plus me legs are still feeling it too.

So how did it go..............

We arrived in Paris on the Thursday and I had done very little running for the past 10 days as my sciatica was still bothering me. I developed sciatica 2 weeks before the race (really bad timing). I was quite stressed about it and wondering if I’d even make it to the first ravito (water stop). 

Race kit ecotrail Paris 80km
Her Kit
Anyway for our first night in Paris, we went out for a nice meal and even had a glass of red wine, after having been teetotal for the last couple of weeks. Gotta relax a bit. On Friday we went to collect our dossards at the Paris expo, Porte de Versailles, which is an exhibition centre in Paris. We tried not to overdo the walking about but it is a huge place and there was a Salon de Tourisme going on at the same time, so lots to see. Then it was back to our studio to put our feet up and to get all our gear together. We had rented a really cute Air BnB studio and it was so much more practical than a hotel. We could cook what we wanted, had a decent size fridge and even had a washing machine.

Race kit ecotrail Paris 80km
His Kit

Suddenly it was Saturday morning and it was race day! 

Surprisingly we both managed to sleep but we were up early (far too excited) and I stretched and rolled my legs. I was a bit nervous about overdoing it, so did a sort of half hearted attempt. Breakfast was a cold boiled egg, yogurt and coffee (plus obligatory mint green tea for me as well) and then we packed up our backpacks and off we set to get the train from Gare Montparnasse. 

It was funny trying to spot other runners on the metro and trying not to let our backpacks get in the way of other travellers. Our backpacks weighed around 3kg as we had to carry a minimum of 1.5 liters of water plus various supplies. Finding the right train was a bit of a nightmare as there were works on the lines so lots of trains had been cancelled or rescheduled. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones bumbling about. We eventually found our train and had about 5 minutes to get on it. We had been given a free train ticket which was great…not! Bill went through the barrier first with his ticket but when I tried mine, it refused it. Oh the panic!!!! There were no guards about at all and we just didn’t know what to do. I bent down and got under the first bit of the barrier and pushed my backpack through to Bill but then I was stuck. Bill kept telling me to climb over the second barrier but it was about 8 feet up in the air so that wasn’t going to work. I was peeing myself! Thankfully another runner came to the rescue and using his ticket we went through together as one person. My hero!

The train to St Quention en Yvelines took about 40 minutes and then we had a 10-minute bus ride to Trappes. Once at the start, it all became real. Poor Bill was freezing and trembling as it was so cold and it had started to rain. Everyone was trying to shelter in 2 small tents. Thankfully there was coffee and cake to eat. I seemed to spend most of my time in the toilet queue and I went about 3 times. I think it was nerves.

It was interesting looking at what people were wearing and I began to worry a bit that I had chosen not to wear trail shoes. I went for comfort and was wearing my 'lots of toe room, walking on air', Brooks Glycerin 14 shoes. One guy was wearing leather thongs and an another was barefoot - brave people. Some people had huge backpacks and others seemed to have practically nothing. Then there were people in poncho capes (they ran in them too) and some so wrapped up you could only see their eyes whilst others were wearing only shorts and t-shirts. On the whole I think we blended in.....

We had brought some ready made up UCAN with us, so drank that down about 30 minutes before the start. This was hopefully going to give us enough energy to get us to the first food station.

Start line ecotrail Paris 80km
Ready to go

Then at 12:15 we were off.

I had taken some ibuprofen just before the start to help with the sciatica. I don’t normally like taking medicines but my goodness, it was a godsend. We decided to go slowly and go by our MAF heart rate for the first 20km or so. That meant running with a HR of around 125 – 130. I looked at my watch and my HR was immediately 162! Must be a mistake I thought but then it never seemed to come down. I then decided to not look at my watch and to run by feel as otherwise we would be walking the whole way. 

The first part of the race (until the first food station) is pretty flat and took us round the étang de St Quentin before heading to the forest. The first few km's went by in a blur of excitement and chit chat. Everyone was smiling and happy and although it was drizzling and there were muddy puddles, we all took our time to gently tiptoe through them, trying to keep our feet clean and dry. 

The first ravito was at 22km so we filled up our water packs, added some Tailwind, dilly-dallied around the food tables filling up a plastic bag with chocolate, nuts and dried banana. I had also brought marmite and peanut butter sandwiches (not mixed together) but Bill was relying more on the food supplied and some gel bars. By this stage we realized that we were 10 minutes behind our planned schedule. We weren’t too worried as I thought we could easily make it up later (I was in charge of the time plan 😊). Our plan was to do the race in 10.5 - 11 hours and the official time allowed was 12:45 so we had made ourselves a time cushion of just under 2 hours.

However we were going to need that time cushion as after the first ravito, the mud horror began.

Mud - ecotrail Paris 80km
Let the mud begin...
This was also the toughest part of the course in terms of elevation. The mud was incessant. There were people falling over the place, slip sliding along and it became impossible to run, even on the flat. By now our shoes had filled with water and mud and the mud inside started to solidify into clumps so it was not very comfortable.

What surprised me a lot was that the hills which I had worried about, didn’t seem at all bad on my legs (says me who used to whinge at all the hills) and we didn’t feel exhausted. It was more just a challenge of staying upright and being frustrated at not being able to run. I think our training must have been spot on. Many people were surprised that we did all our training at MAF hear rate. This meant no intervals or fast running and walking most of the hills. The emphasis was on, time on our feet and the longest training run/walk that we did was around 7 hours.

We got to the second ravito (45km) just as it was getting dark. It was drizzling and speckles of snow were starting to settle and the air just felt damp and cold. There was only water (no food) and it was a grim place with runners starting to look forlorn. On a good day you should be able to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance, but not today. I took off one shoe to try and get out some of the grit and mud but then getting it back on again was horrible. My hands were cold and I seemed to be putting back in more mud than I had taken out. We also realized that we were nearly an hour behind schedule. 

Headlamps on and more ibuprofen and we set off again. The next ravito was in about 12km and we could get hot soup there apparently so that was something to really look forward to.

It was now snowing properly and it was dark. The forest just seemed almost like a dream. There were reflective strips on the trees every 50m or so but it was a challenge to spot them when you are looking down at the ground all the time. It was impossible to know where the tree roots were as everything was mud and puddles. The runners were getting more sparse and the chit chat had died down as everyone was really concentrating. All you could hear was the slip slop of feet being sucked through the mud.

I fell over several times but thankfully Bill was there to pick me up. Each time I fell, he said I got heavier and heavier to heave up! I had bought a new headlamp for the race and tested it several times during training and it had worked brilliantly. However because it was so cold, the batteries were not working properly and the light was much dimmer than usual. Bill also had problems with his phone which packed up because of the cold. We learnt afterwards that we should have used Lithium batteries as opposed toe Alkaline ones which don't do well in the cold.

Finally, we got to the 57km ravito. Hot soup. Yeah! Although it was luke warm by the time we got there. The volunteers were absolute champions at remaining cheery as they had been stuck in the woods for as long as us. At least we were moving about whereas they were stuck in one spot for hours on end. There were theoretically meant to be first aid tents here too but everything just seemed a blur of brown mud so it was difficult to work out what was going on. All we knew was that we were getting further and further behind our time schedule. At this point it became a matter of just keep on running and do your best.

Normally, what color are my shoes?
 On we went, the field of runners getting more and more sparse. Although we were all silent, we felt that we were all supporting each other. Every hill meant one step forward, half a step slipping back. The flat was even worse in a way, as you wanted to run but couldn’t. I tried a few times but my body would go forward whilst my foot would just be sucked into the mud and stay put.

Ravito -  ecotrail Paris 80km
Last ravitaillament - Keeeping postive. Only 13km to go...
Eventually we got to the last ravito, 67km. They had hot soup which was actually hot 😊. However, we had seconds to drink it as we were told that the cut off time was looming and we had 11km to go and one and half hours to get to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. It turned out to be 13 km…..

We were really close to Paris now and when we got out of the woods and onto the streets of Paris, it felt almost surreal. It was certainly a shock to the feet, hitting hard pavement, some of it cobbles too. We decided to run and not stop. I did a quick calculation in my head (don’t ask me how!) and realized we could do it if we ran at a pace of 8min/km or under (not realizing at that point that in fact we had to run  13km). All the zigzagging had made the course longer.

ecotrail Paris 80km
Why am I running away from the Eiffel Tower?!
We started overtaking other runners who were walking or limping or doing a run/walk. I was desperate to walk at some points too and began to feel weak as we had not eaten anything at the last ravito. Head down and concentrating hard we just kept moving forward. Thank goodness I was with Bill as the marker tape was actually quite hard to spot. At last we saw the Eiffel Tower but it still seemed too far away for my liking. And then we seemed to run in the opposite direction! As a final taunt, we were directed onto a small island on the River Seine and guess what, it was muddy. And so of course I immediately fell over!

Finally, we were there, Paris traffic zooming around us and we were being directed towards the steps of the Eiffel Tower. In previous years they would security scan your bag but this year, only an entrance ticket was shoved in your hand and then we were off up the 330 stairs to the first floor. Funnily enough I had energy to run up but you couldn’t as we were in a pack, all trying to get up the stairs together and so it had become a slow crawl up. There was a red carpet at the top leading you to the final timing mat. It was just before 1am and we had been going for 12:42:10. We arrived just under 3 minutes before the official cut off time and when they turn the lights off in the Eiffel Tower.

Crossing the finish line was sort of an anti-climax. A wooden medal was put round our necks and then we were directed to a table to get a t-shirt. Then we headed over to get a beer and I was able to use my non-disposable cup (part of the obligatory equipment) for the first time. The first floor of the Eiffel Tower was cold, wet and windy with runners wandering around in a kind of daze.

Arrivée, ecotrail Paris 80km

We later heard that just over 500 people abandoned the course (2200 started) and people who had done it before said that their times were slower by 2 hours. So I think our original estimate of 10.5 - 11 hours could have been correct. Maybe we should do it again next year... 

Tour Eiffel - Ecotrail Paris 80km
1st Floor of the Eiffel Tower
After we got back down to the Paris streets we had to walk about 10 minutes to collect our bags. That was hard as we had begun to get really cold. We then went to a huge sports hall where there were showers. Bill didn’t bring any clean shoes so I went off to just wash my feet and put on some compression socks and clean shoes. Trouble was that the showers by that stage were filthy so I basically stayed dirty. One thing I did notice when I took my gloves off were that my hands were huge. They had swollen like a Michelin man. Thinking back, although I had drunk at least 2 liters of fluid, I had not peed for the whole race plus my feet also swelled the next day. I did look up why my hands had swollen and one suggestion was that the swinging of my arms (to keep balanced) caused fluid to collect. Another suggestion was electrolyte imbalance although I was taking in electrolytes with my water. I’ll investigate more.

We then went off to this big marquee (still freezing) to have some food. By now it was about 2am. We had bought a bottle of bubbly to share with other runners but somehow it seemed that no one was in the mood. We did talk to a few runners who had done the race before. Basically everyone said the same thing, in that their times were 2 hours slower than usual and that the conditions were the worst that they had seen.

After taking a while to find a taxi, we got back to our air bnb around 3.30am and crashed into bed at 4am.  Then can you believe it, we woke at 8am. What?!!!!! I think we were just too excited at having finished and wanted to see all the photos and the results on the Internet.

Funnily enough we both did quite enjoy the whole thing. Easy to say now but I don’t remember ever feeling like I wanted to give up. I think we felt strong generally, because we had done the right training. Even the hills didn’t seem too bad. Having done a couple of training runs of  6 - 8 hours meant that the time on our feet didn’t seem too much of a shock. Towards the end when the mud never seemed to stop, it got frustrating and it was really frustrating not being able to run on the flat sometimes. Next time (hahaha but yes we have thought about it!), I would just run through the mud from the start. Weaving in and out of puddles, certainly added on a couple of km.

People say it is wise to take a couple of weeks off running after and ultra marathon as your muscles have suffered a lot of micro tears. I can certainly believe it. My legs feel a bit more fragile than Bills although he has 4 black toenails. What I thought was sciatica, I am now wondering if it is actually IT band inflammation.

Today it is day 9 post race and I have just started some gentle stretching and some strength exercises. I am walking our dog Lily twice a day too to get the blood flowing. All in all, I am feeling chuffed but also really looking forward to getting my trainers back on and getting back out there. Patience Nicole!!!

In a couple of days I'm going to write about my ultra marathon kit and nutrition and basically see what worked and what I could have done better. See you then.

Ultra Nutrition - What to eat and drink?

D-Day is getting closer and I am now in the tapering phase with 17 days to go. I've still got a 26Km and 16Km to do this weekend but that is the last biggish weekend. Funny how 26Km seems not much these days!

During my weekend runs I have been practising what I am going to eat and drink. Ultra nutrition has been one of the hardest things for me to work out as there are no set guidelines as everyone is different. 

Being on the smaller side, I need less calories than others but then how many calories? How much should I drink too and what should I drink? Then there is the fear of sugar overload, nausea and vomiting (apparently one of the main causes for not finishing an ultra marathon), bonking and so on. 

Believe me it has been stressful trying to work it all out. However I finally feel that I now have a sensible and doable nutrition plan

I have based my ultra nutrition on the following:

  1. Drink about 250ml fluid per hour and being careful not to over drink. Here's why. I am not a great sweater and I'll be running slowly.
  2. Eat around 200 kcal per hour. Although I will be burning more calories than that, our body can only cope with absorbing around 200-300 kcal per hour during the race. Eating more than that and you risk vomiting.
  3. Take in around 10gm protein per hour (for muscle repair).
  4. Eat as much natural food as possible.
  5. Go easy on the sugar. That is a great cause of nausea.
  6. Take in electrolytes to replace what is lost through sweat.
  7. Have a bag of treats for when I am having a meltdown.

What I am going to eat and drink during the Ultra Marathon

During each of my weekend long runs, I have been practising and seeing what works and doesn't work. To be honest I have liked all of  my "picnic" food tests and nothing has caused an upset stomach. The biggest issue I have had is how to carry it all and where to store it in my back pack for easy access.

Before the race start:
We start at 12h00 so I plan to have a breakfast of eggs and bacon with a piece of toast. Then 30 minutes before the start I am going to have UCAN.

I discovered this fantastic energy fuel a year ago and have been trying it out in longish races and now for the ultra. It is pretty globby and thick but the taste is OK.

The main selling point for me is the energy it provides. It just seems to leak this constant energy into your body without any feeling of nausea or overload. UCAN say you can take it during the race too but I think I'd get into a right mess making it up so I am just going to have 2 scoops beforehand mixed with water. This will provide me with enough energy for the first 2 hours.

During the race:
There will be aid stations so there will be snacks and fluids but I don't want to rely on them but use them as back up if necessary. In fact during the first 55km there is only one aid station with food so I need to bring my own calories. Below is my planned picnic (UCAN is for before the start):

I know it doesn't look much but that was just for training. I'll adjust quantities on the day.

So what am I eating?
  • Peanut butter sandwich with brown bread
  • Marmite sandwich with butter and brown bread
  • Dried apricots
  • Slices of Serrano ham
  • Homemade energy date balls (made with dates, oats, almonds, cocoa, peanut butter.....)
  • Salty crackers - for when I am bored
  • Haribo dragibus sweets - for when I need some TLC
And as for drinking:
My go-to drink is going to be TAILWIND. I can't say enough good things about Tailwind. It is easy to mix, easy to drink and provides electrolytes and calories. Plus it has solved my cramp issues. 

Initially I was worried that it would be sickly to drink for hours on end but it really is surprisingly easy to sip down. There are lots of flavors but for me the Naked flavor is my favourite. It has a slight taste but nothing overpowering.

So I hope that I have got my nutrition correct. Being my first ultra this has been a huge learning experience. I will be reporting back afterwards so watch this space.

It's All about the time on your feet

I'm in shock as I am already on week 15 of ultra training. How did that happen? I won't lie, but I am starting to feel a bit tired, however I am also feeling strong.

Although things are going well, I stress all week about the long run that I have to do on the Saturday, followed by another semi long run on the Sunday. However once I have done them, then I wonder why I got so stressed.

Over the past few weeks I have done 35km (twice),  39km (twice), 50km and now this week 42km. Then  it will be 3 weeks of slowing down. I think that in itself is going to be a shock to the system as I am so used to planning my day, sorry no my life, around running so what am I going to do with all those extra hours? I am now up to running over 12 hours per week. I look at that and feel elated and shocked. Before I started ultra training I was doing around 5 or 6 so this is a huge leap for me.

One think I am hugely happy about is that I have not been injured. I am walking all the hills and only running (well trotting actually) the flats and the downhills. Everything centres around my heart rate and for me that means not going over 128 bpm. Being slow has an advantage in that injuries are less likely as your body is less stressed but then the flip side is that I am on my feet for so fricking long. I sing to myself, I talk to myself and I just think, think and think some more. Occasionally trance mode takes over  but that usually means I end up running over my heart rate. Thank goodness Bill is back this week so we can run together and I can bore him with my chit chat.

The only niggle that I have, is a pain in my left buttock, rather like I have been kicked in the butt. I have had this before and I am sure it is related to doing hill work along with weak hips. This week I have started doing my hip strengthening exercises - a bit late in the day to start I know. I am also going to visit my acupuncturist tomorrow. Last time she diagnosed piriformis syndrome and she sorted it with 2 acupuncture sessions so fingers crossed that she can work her magic again.

Xmas is Over and Thank Goodness Too.

Christmas is over and will someone please finish the chocolates and the Christmas cake!

Every year it is the same scenario in our house. We love receiving and making all those sweet yummy goodies but we also want to finish them before January 1st so that we can start the new year with lots of good and healthy intentions. None of which involves being crouched over the chocolate box menu and then eventually giving up squinting and just trying one of each.

Christmas was great. It was just Bill, me and our 3 kids. They are all young adults but Father Christmas still came and he did well at choosing silly gifts like fancy dress stuff and risqué jokes and the more sensible things like a box of paracetamol and a new toothbrush.

Of course they are....

We played silly games, got excited and competitive about the modelling clay in our Christmas crackers, drank bubbly for breakfast....lunch and dinner too and ate so much chocolate that I even had to put some in the bin - well just the flavors that no-one would eat.

Now I am in serious mode. Serious, meaning I've really got to get my diet in order for the ultra in March. I have been trying on and off for about a year now, to eat a low carbohydrate, high fat diet (LCHF) and I get so far but then fail miserably. Excuses like a birthday, Christmas, a holiday, house guests.....have all contributed to me being weak willed.

Our body's stock enough carbohydrates to fuel us for a few hours and then the hunger pangs set in. However our body's also stock enough fats to fuel us for days. So the idea behind eating a LCHF diet is to train your body to rely on using fats for fuel rather than carbohydrates. This means you will not feel the need to eat so many carbs (biscuits, cakes, pasta, bread..) as you will have less hunger and at the same time you will be burning fat for fuel. Bye bye belly.

You might be horrified (and scared) about eating more fat, but after reading about in on Phil Maffetone's website, I am convinced that it is a healthy lifestyle choice. Many people don't realise it, but they are actually intolerant to carbohydrates and this causes all sorts of physical and hormonal issues. I certainly get a bloated belly when I eat pasta and rice and I sleep better and just feel better when I eliminate them from my diet. Tough when you love rice.

So I'll tell you all right now so that I am accountable - "As of today, I am going to master the Low Carb High Fat diet and healthy eating"...... I've just got to finish the 'After Eights' first.

Happy New Year to you all and wishing you lots of health and happiness in 2018.

PS More Running specific information is on my website

Week 4 of Ultra Training

I can't believe I am already in week 4. It is a nice thought in one way but then I feel panicked in another. I don't want it to go tooooo quickly as I really don't feel I am anywhere near ready. I guess that is how I am meant to feel. And that is why we do the training.

I am training 5 days a week right now. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then Saturday, Sunday. The weekend runs are the long ones with Saturday being longer than Sunday. Last week I did 19km and then a 13km and the weather was foul - freezing wind and snow. The only good thing was that I got to try out my new Salomon Lightning waterproof jacket. I'll be writing a review on it in a few weeks when I have had more time to test it.

Update: Here's my promised review of the Salomon Lightning jacket.

Salomon Lightning Jacket - Trying it on for size

I am also planning on testing the the UGLOW rain hybrid jacket which I am really excited about. However delivery is taking ages - 3 weeks so far and not a peep from them. They are a fairly new French company so I think that they are still finding their feet.

I also tried out some new compression socks today. Testing your equipment is really important and I'm glad I did as the socks gave me a huge sore on one of my toes. The seam on the inside near the toes rubbed like anything. They were cheap! I do have 2 other pairs of compression socks which cost a lot more and they don't have seams in delicate places. I guess you get what you pay for. If you are wondering if compression socks are worth it, I've written about the why's and the what they do on my website. Compression socks are they worth it?

So, for now I am feeling ok. I do get moments of thinking that I'll never be able to run for 11 hours. I can just about manage 3 and then I am ready for a massage and lots of TLC. No, I don't have a masseuse so it is wishful thinking......However, I am really excited at the same time, about having a challenge. It is good to set challenges in life whatever they might be.  So yes I am still smiling, yes I am managing the training and no, I don't have any injuries....touch wood.

PS More Running specific information is on my website

Ultra Training Starts Today

Today it is Monday 13th November 2017 and I am officially starting 16 weeks of training in preparation for my first ultra - 80km Trail de Paris.

I'm p****ing myself with excitement and nerves but I'm saying to myself  "I CAN DO THIS"!.

Today started well as guess what, it is a day off!

Tomorrow is only 3km and in fact all week it is low mileage. In fact the first 3 weeks are low mileage and then it really gets going. I am going to find back to back Saturday and Sunday runs hard. I've tried it a few times over the past couple of months and I did find it took a lot out of me. I was very tired in the evenings and my calves felt tight. That is definitely something that I need to manage.

Finding a training plan was a bit tricky but I've found one that I think I'm going to be happy with.

There are no intervals or set paces as I am training purely by heart rate, a low one at that. I'm not sure how it is going to go as running X km at a low heart rate could take me forever. I am guessing I will have to make some adjustments.

Anyway, for now I am feeling good, feeling positive with just the odd panicky moment. Fingers crossed it will continue like that.

Beware of the DOG!

I've finally decided I need to do something about dogs. It seems to have got worse recently. Why do dog owners think that they can just leave their dogs out all day roaming the streets? For us runners, walkers and cyclists it can be a potential hazard. Plus it is scary.

I've lost count of the number of times dogs have crossed my path and started barking, snarling and basically telling me to get off the road or path. Sometimes their owners are with them and other times the dogs are alone and outside their house as their garden is not fenced. Yes the dogs might be gentle and loving at home but it is their instinct to protect their owner and their territory so you never quite know how they will react with you.

I know of someone who was bitten on the calf by a small dog so he kicked it in the face and dislocated its jaw. I know that sounds awful and I don't think that I could do that, but I do understand. I know another person who was randomly attacked by two dogs whilst our running. She was knocked to the ground but somehow found the strength to kick one of the dogs in the ribs. He let go of her arm yelping and then the other dog turned on the yelping dog. Bit bizarre but it meant my friend had time to get up and run like the clappers.

Our dog Lily
I am by no means a dog hater and even have my own deliciously cute and sweet dog Lily. Although I am 99 percent sure that she would never hurt anyone, we don't let her wander on the road and if we are out walking her then she is on the lead if there are other people about.

So my first plan was to research how to deal with dogs. I had been doing it wrong all along. This is what you need to do if you come face to face with a less than happy dog when you are running.

My second plan was to buy some pepper spray which is legal here in France. My pepper spray has just arrived and I am excited to test it. Mind you I am terrified of it too. Watch this space for my review.....

A couple of weeks later......I've tested the Sabre Red Pepper Gel and here is my review.

Tomorrow I, am heading out armed with pepper spray and a stick. It sort of spoils my run but without them I feel stressed.

I've Signed up For My First Ultra

Talk about midlife craziness but Bill and I have just signed up for our first ultra. An ultra is anything longer than a marathon and as it may well be our one and only ultra we've signed up for 50 miles/80KM!

This is what we have signed up to.......

Eco Trail Paris 80km

Now that we have done it, I've been telling as many people as possible as that way we will have to do it. No excuses. I mut admit 1 month on and I am starting to get a bit panicky. I've found a 16 week training plan and it starts next weekend - yikes. This is now real.

Finding a training plan was hard.

Should I train by time or by distance. Both seem to have their merits and as I train by heart rate and run purely aerobically (i.e slow!) anyway, a time based plan seemed the lost logical. However I was worried that going by time, I would not run enough distance on my long runs. So, in the end I've gone for a distance based plan as I think that will give me the psychological confidence that I can do this beast of a run. I will probably adapt the plan a bit but generally I will stick to it which means I will be running I guess 5 days a week and upwards of 7 hours a week. I currently run around 6 hours so what is one more hour - a lot I think!

I am also starting to think about what to wear. I bought  a great hydration backpack off AliExpress (cheap but so happy with it) and now I am on the hunt for a running jacket. Mid March in Paris cold be cold and wet but it could also be really hot as happened a couple of years ago. I'm thinking waterproof, windproof and with a hood. If you have any suggestions, I'm all ears. As for shoes, I think I'm going to run in route shoes as opposed to trail shoes which I tend to find heavy. I'll be practicing on my runs to see what feels best.

I will write reviews as my training progresses, of the equipment I am using or might use as that might help you in the future.

This is a huge learning curve for me so fingers crossed all will go well. Of course it will - positive affirmations Nicole :).

Running the Trail de la Collégiale

Bib number 25

After deciding that I have had enough of racing this summer plus having had a bad cold for the past week, my heart got the better of me and I decided to run "just one more" race this summer.

It was a local race in Montréal, a pretty little village in the Malepere area and since we know some of the club organizers, I felt it was good to support them. Also Bill was going to be doing the 30km (cautious me signed up for the 11km) and the thought of hanging around for several hours waiting for him sounded a bit boring. So, heck, why not race as well.....

Getting up at 6am was hard. I hadn't slept so well with my bunged up nose. First things first was to do my HRV reading (heart rate variability). It was a RED 75. Basically "Stay in Bed"!!! For once I ignored it and then it was a rush to shower, walk the dog, sort out breakfast, dose up with paracetamol and head out the door for the 25 minute drive. Thankfully the day earlier I had decided to clean our car and discovered that the battery was as dead as a dodo. And the car is not even a year old. Renault grrrrrr!!!!. Anyway the garage lent us a temporary car so all is good.

Arriving at the race car park area it was nice as always to see familiar faces plus the nodding of 'bonjour' to the new faces who you know are sussing out if you are their age group competition. Today I decided that racing my guts out was not an option and instead I would do what I could, clenching a pack of tissues. Basically just go out there and enjoy the course. I knew there were going to be some fantastic views from up in the hills and that also there would be some forested areas which were also beautiful.

At 8.30am ,Bill and those doing the 30km (1000m of elevation) were off. I didn't envy them at all and seeing as there were only 9 females out of the 95 runners, there had to be a reason. 45 minutes later and I and 150 runners set off on the 11km (350m of elevation). It started with a hill up to the village church. A hilly start I always dislike as once my heart rate has shot up, I can never get it down again. Today I decided to not look at anything - neither my pace nor my heart rate, which I knew would be horrendous anyway. I was going to run by feel - gentle enough to enjoy it but fast enough so as not to be last!

The first 8km was a roller coaster of hills. Up and down, up and down, through forest, through fields but with some great views of the hills and the countryside. The race marshaling was superb and I never got lost. If anyone is going to get lost it will be me! I just kept reminding myself to look out for the red and white ribbons and to try and keep an eye on the shirt in front.

Trail de la Collégiale
Feeling good at this point
 By 8km I found that I was running in rhythm with 2 young lads who looked about 12!!! and a couple of guys and another girl. Whilst I would walk most of the hills and get left at the back, I would then overtake my fellow runners on the downhills. Then I spied her.....

"Her" was wearing a lime green t-shirt who up until a couple of months ago was in my age category but has since moved up. I have NEVER, ever beaten her and I have always admired how fit and strong  she looks and how well she runs. Normally she is ahead of me and is always just out of reach but today I was in front! I think she had been stalking me for most of the race, waiting to make her move in secret. But today I suddenly got that itchy feeling that I could fight back. Where my energy came from I have no idea.

I just kept pushing forward, still walking the hills and trying to keep my breathing under control, then hammering the downhills but also keeping a side glance for the lime green t-shirt. We got nearer the village and I could hear the voice over the microphone calling out the finishers and this gave me that extra lift. For once at the end of a race I had leg-fulls of energy so I just hurled myself down the last 200m to the finish, overtaking 3 runners on the way. I was a demon possessed.

It was so nice crossing that line and feeling that not only had I finished in spite of a stinking cold but I felt strong too and as a big bonus I had beaten lime green t-shirt. I felt happy for her though as she came first in her category.

The other nice thing that I later discovered was that I was 12th female out of 52 so not too shabby at all. And very surprisingly I was 3rd in my age group so got a few nice goodies to take home.

3rd place goodies!

I did learn a BIG lesson from that race: 

Start out slow as it really pays off later. I have never (try as I might) been able to start out slow and so I usually succumb to a slow and painful shuffle at the end. I have this anxiety that if I start out a a slower pace then I'll lose invaluable time. However today I was forced to start slow which meant in the second half I still had energy whilst others were slowing.

Bill also did really well and I am so proud of him. The 30km was gruesome and in spite of having a sore ball of his foot (a nagging problem that he really needs to sort out), he finished in 4 hours and looked pretty good at the end.

After showering, prize giving and a typical french apero, we then sat down to a great (in taste and size) meal of gesier (gizzard) salad, cassoulet, fromage, tarte au pomme and glugfuls of wine.

So that is all my races done for 2017 although Bill has started hinting that next month there is a race around a lake that might be interesting....

Happy Monday.