How to get your 🍑 handed to you for £3

It’s taken weeks to get this post out and life has trundled on since running this race, so lots to catch up on.

Here it is: How to get your 🍑 handed to you for £3.

Step 1: Enter the Blencathra Fell Race. 7.5 miles, loads of m elevation for £3.

Step 2: Do the race.

It’s got to be up there for the best value race of the season- you get physically destroyed in Britain’s most stunning landscape and you get flapjack at the end…all for the princely sum of £3. Does it get any better!?

You will also end up with the most horrific race photos that you will ever see. Bonus.

It starts in Mungrisedale Village Hall, complete with parking and toilets. You’ll need full FRA kit for this one, rightly so, it’s not to be underestimated.

Reminder:

🧢 🧤

🗺 &compass

🧥 👖 waterproof with taped seams

💧 🍫

It’s a Wednesday night race so after a days work, starting at 7pm. Over 100 runners so really good attendance. Plus you get to run with fell running royalty- always a very strong elite field.

So the race itself is humbling. I mean, lots of steep climbing, lots of ridiculous downhills and lots of runnable sections that I was too wrecked to take advantage of. Proper fell running. Do it.

In other news, I won the Hawkshead 10K- and my prize remains in the post. Apparently.

It was a confidence boost as I’ve cut down on racing compared to last year and am trying to train with more consistency and quality (heard that one before!).

I’ve also now completed a Leadership qualification in fell running with England Athletics and am half way through the coaching course- will be fully qualified in November as a Coach ☺️.

#run1000miles challenge is ticking along nicely although this spectacular weather does lead to spectacular tan lines….

And finally a shout out to Hadrian who completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks with me over three days.

Oh and PS: check me out in the current issue of Trailrunning Magazine!

Next race: It’s the Snowdon Race on Saturday…’Go hard or go home’ – I’ll do my best! 😅

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Thinking of stepping up to ultra?

There are a lot of factors to consider when taking on your first 50K ultra. I’ve tackled a few so far and have picked up a few things along the way that I wish that I’d known as I stood under the start gantry for my first one.

Don’t let the distance daunt you

You’ve hit the wall before right? Chances are that by now, you’ve probably worked out that there is not just one wall to overcome in a long race. Know your walls. Mine generally pop up at miles 11 and 17. So I make sure that I prepare myself for the struggle ahead- this could be by pre-emptive fuelling so that I ensure that I’m not low on energy when things start to feel a bit overwhelming. If you don’t know your walls yet, just assume that they’re there. Because they are.

Another useful way to come to terms with the distance, is to break it up. Decide on your happy place. Mine is usually at half way and again at 5 miles to go. It’s always a boost getting past the half way mark, even better when you can start the 5 mile countdown.

One thing to bear in mind is that (especially on mountainous or trail races) it is fairly likely that you’ll be slightly over distance (your watch might over estimate, you might get lost). Prepare yourself mentally for a bonus mile! It is highly unlikely, even with the best will in the world, that it will be bang on 50K.

Prepare to succeed

The last 50K I ran, I didn’t look at the route/elevation map. It was nice to have a few surprises along the way. However, if it is your first one, it’s a good idea to get some facts straight before you line up at the start.

·   You’ll almost certainly have a kit list- follow it.

·   Study your route- people do get lost, route markers do get moved. It’s worth having a decent idea of the route. Make friends with the elevation profile- you might have a gentle downhill jog for the last two miles into the finish, or it might be your last significant climb. It’s useful to have a sense of this as it is often in those last few miles when you’re at your most stretched.

·   Give your kit a rigorous test beforehand so that your race isn’t ruined by unexpected hotspots and worse- chafing.

·   Think duration over distance, not all 50K’s are equal, you might be done in 5 hours or maybe even in 10. That’s going to impact on your planning for nutrition, clothing, kit etc. so do have a realistic idea of your time and bear in mind that this can significantly change depending on the terrain, elevation and even more difficult to plan for-the weather. Check out the forecast in the run up to your event.

The final few miles are always tough but if you can run a marathon, you can run an ultra. It is massively psychological.

The question perhaps should not be ‘Can I do it?’ it should be more like ‘Do I want it enough?’ if you do, you’ll make it round.

Hopefully you’ll have found a couple of tips here that make it a little easier.

Most importantly- enjoy it!

Feast or famine

This Easter has been particularly busy. I’ve had to balance running and cycling as I’ve been training for the Tour of Flanders. It’s been feast or famine and I’ve found it difficult to give time to both.

One of the tricky things is when you’re on holiday, particularly city breaks. It can be hard to know where to go in a new city to run, or maybe more importantly where to perhaps avoid.

One way of getting around this is by booking yourself a running tour. These are now available in most European cities and are easily found through social media/internet. After our cycling sportive, we had booked a couple of nights in Bruges and so I arranged for us to have a running tour of the city.

These tours generally take place before the city comes to life, we started at 8am and were joined by a German couple. The tour was around 5 miles long, with various stops to hear about places of historical, religious or cultural significance. It’s a fantastic way to get the miles in and really get to grips with a city. All for around 25 euros per person.

If you take your GPS, you can also use your route to revisit areas that you’d like to explore in more detail later on. We used ours as a handy navigation tool for the rest of the days sightseeing.

And it helped my mileage- 5 miles in the bag!

My other trick to keep the miles ticking over is to get myself booked onto an ultramarathon. This way, I can bank a few miles, have a great day on the trails and know that I can relax on the weekly target.

And I think that is what is really important about #run1000miles- it’s about a year’s worth of work, not just one week. Part of this is recognising that you will have weeks that you’ll do very little- that’s ok! You should be enjoying running, not seeing it as a chore. So by doing things like running tours and ultras, you can get a great sense of variety and before you know it, the miles are in the bag!

I ran the Kielder 50K the week after Flanders. I’d planned to take it easy but felt good and pushed on (probably too much!) and was surprised to finish as 4th female (and they gave prizes for 4th!- hurray!)

My furry running buddy Hadrian has also been helpful in motivating me to hit the trails. We’ve been carefully building him up now that he’s old enough to cope with short runs and he loves it!

It has improved my flexibility and agility as I desperately try not to trip over him every time he smells something interesting!

Last week it was a sheep jawbone- say cheese!

The Tour of Flanders

Well, after all my training (🤥) the time finally came to begin our journey to Belgium.

Cycling has to be the biggest faff of any sport and the amount of fussing over kit was astronomical. I love new kit so I’m liking that aspect of cycling, but deciding what to wear on a ride is something else! We’d studied the weather forecast and it was looking like sunny intervals with a chance of rain.

In reality we shouldn’t have fussed because we ended up packing everything- just in case.

We took the ferry across from Hull to Oudenaarde, meeting up with Ed’s Dad Peter on the way. It was a pleasant enough crossing and we enjoyed a surprisingly ok dinner before retiring to our cabins to quietly fret about the challenge ahead.

The next day we headed to the campsite, met with the rest of our party and settled in. We needed to register for the race in Oudenaarde (10 miles from the campsite) and so we got suited up and headed off. I was keen to try out some of my spanking new kit- including my Castelli Perfetto jacket 😍.

A flat ride along cycle paths later (and some confusion about where exactly registration was) we arrived and collected our numbers. We also stopped off for some Beligian specialties- beer and frites.

I consumed my bodyweight in frites.

The ride home was wet. It poured down, soaking all of our kit. Luckily, courtesy of my Dad, we had our monster heater Rutherford on hand in the van and we spent a long afternoon nursing soppy kit in front of him. Thankfully we were dry before bed and hit the bar for a few beers and last discussions about the race ahead.

So my longest ride was around 30 miles and we had to add an additional distance of 20 miles there and back (plus the 48 of the race..) it was starting to look a bit more scary than I thought.

We had to set off in the light because we hadn’t got lights on our bikes. A somber 10miles led us to the start and over the timing mat to begin the 72km Tour of Flanders.

It was generally well spaced out and my lack of bike-craft was pretty well concealed in the first few flat miles. These flew by and before we knew it, the first of ten climbs was upon us- The Koppaberg.

We attacked it with gusto- momentum seemed to be key on the greasy cobbles. I fought my way up the climb, knowing that Ed and Peter were around me somewhere. Stopping was lethal but again and again, people did, dismounting in the middle of the narrow road and pushing their bikes. There was no respect for those battling on and again and again I had to take evasive action to dodge these people. I ground to a halt finally when two riders on a tandem crossed my path horizontally and dismounted in my path.

I pushed and then got back on a while after, feeling disappointed that I hadn’t made it. Ed and Peter had faced the same experience and none of us were able to ride the whole way- not down to fitness at all. (We rode all the other 9 climbs without stopping)

Our shared experience meant that we were able to rationalise our ‘failure’ and not let it phase us for the remaining climbs and we were all buoyed by how easy the next couple of climbs were. Ed lost the contents of his saddlebag on a flat section of cobbles with a helpful rider shouting after him ‘you have dropped many things!’ On we rode, teeth chattering and elbows rattling to the rhythm of the cobbles.

We were a great team and I can honestly say that there was no low points between us. We smashed through the other climbs- The Kwaremont and The Paterberg being the most notable. We’d learned from the Kopperberg to give no quarter and to ride with confidence through the field, carving our way through the Lycra-clad obstacles as we went.

Powered by Belgian waffles, we reached the finish line together. A final sprint across the line saw me almost take us all down as my previously mentioned bike handling skills showed their limitations. Luckily Peter had the experience stay vertical and save us all- we crossed the finish like heroes. It was such an amazing feeling and it made it truly special to share it with Ed and Peter.

Post race fuelling was burger, frites and beer. We ate like kings and rode the 10miles home- I never wanted it to end.

Final tiny preparations

The cumulation of the last few weeks went by in spectacular style. The Wilson Run is one of the oldest fell races and is at the heart of what matters here- camaraderie, resilience, perseverance and humility. 11ish miles of fell, road and trail, through beck and bog, field and track- a proper race.

The last week or so has been varied. Lots of short runs with Hadrian- he’s done Winder twice now and is loving life!

Sunday we raced. Due to weather the Carrock fell race had been pushed forward a week, meaning we could make it. Last year the weather was absolutely horrendous and I found it incredibly hard.

There’s a long climb at the beginning up to the top of Carrock, a sweeping downhill brings you to a marshy section before a drag up to the top of High Pike. The final descent is fast and goes on and on.

This year, the weather was glorious. I improved by 18 minutes from last year and came 6th Lady- I’m chuffed! but a lot of that is down to the conditions on the day and it does really show what an impact this can have.

We’ve been doing some cycling to try and get me ready for Flanders. I’m nowhere near ready but I will do my best! We’re in the van right now, driving to catch the ferry. Wish me luck!

A first ascent

We’ve been getting Hadrian used to running on a bungee lead so that he can accompany us on some of our adventures.

Because he’s still growing, we only do short distances and are slowly building up. We’re also careful that he doesn’t put too much stress on his joints by bounding downhill so we keep him on a short lead on the descents.

He’s doing really well and can be off the lead if there’s no sheep around, his recall is good and he sticks fairly close by.

We’ve started out with a few trial runs along fell wall in Spring-like weather.

I enjoyed a slow and steady couple of runs out this week as well, Arant Haw and the final Wilson qualifier in nice conditions.

Today was Hadrian’s first summit- Winder, in some really wintery weather. He was an absolute star

Ed has also been doing lots of training with the pup and I refer to them as my ‘fell wall assessors’ as they have a favourite route up and along the wall at the base of the fell and are always keen to report on the weather and ground conditions!

I’m just about on track for #run1000miles but have not been getting wrapped up in the numbers. It’s been a really busy few weeks and I’m generally feeling tired so I’m looking forward to a break!