A knock in confidence

I was injured in my last post, and I am still injured, maybe even more so now! What I thought was a normal sprain turned out to be a 3rd degree sprain (torn ligament) so returning to running after just over 2 weeks rest was insufficient and I may have done more damage than originally. Not only that, I thought my ankle was fine as I had no pain running or walking so I kept running.

In 1 week I had taken two falls, one at orienteering where I got the sprain and then a week later stupidly hiking the first section of the Ring of Steall skyrace where I took a tumble on the Devil’s ridge infront of everyone, hurting my pride more than my skinned knees and bruised tummy. I never fall running. I have always prided myself on never having had an injury, yes I get niggles, but I normally rest a couple weeks or see Liz for her advice and healing hands and am fine. I had 2 falls, my first real DNF and experienced the ‘sad bus’ and am now staring a DNS (or another DNF) in the face as the Goat Race (55miles) is in 4 weeks.

Today my planned easy hike with poles in off as this morning I was limping again, so emailed the Goat to ask if they have a deferral policy. I am afraid I will be withdrawing my name from the WHWrace hat too at this rate as I know with a race on the horizon I am more likely to rush back to training too soon again. I just want to be out enjoying this beautiful winter, instead I am sat at home feeling sad and trying to summon the will to get on the turbo (the bike shop is shut so could not rent a MTB!).

Not only did my body fall on that ridgeline, but my confidence too and that has yet to get back on its feet. I have found myself struggling to know what to do, to know if I am being lazy or sensible and found my confidence in other areas of my life has plummeted too. I am struggling with running WayOutside alongside my day job and find that I do not have the energy to organise the training camps for next year and feel like giving up. As a result I am making bad choices driven by fear desperate to climb way way back up to where I was.

I know it is just an ankle. Compared to where we were just one year ago, this is a drop in the sea and plus, I know it will heal. I think I am so sad as I just wanted to get faster so I could keep up with Max! As a slower runner in groups I am often on my own and want to be able to keep up with the others, it can get lonely on your own for hours! I had decided to get a coach to see if I can be faster, if I could keep up as I have started to realise I hide behind my own label ‘slow runner’ as an excuse sometimes. I still have not given up on that, maybe will start agin after xmas.

Giving Back: The Spine Race

After struggling with postvrace blues from the WHWrace I have no big race goals for 2019, instead I am volunteering at several events throughout the year and setting up some community events. I started 2019 off by volunteering for a week on the Spine Race Media Team.

The Montane Spine Race is a non-stop race with a 7-day time limit covering the entire length of the 268mile long Pennine, in January. Via Twitter and live tracking ‘dot watchers’ are kept up-to-date with the 100 or so athletes as they journey on foot from Edale to Kirk Yetholm. The darkness, extreme winter weather and sheer distance makes this race unique in the UK and it is billed ‘Britain’s Most Brutal.’

This race was in the mainstream media this year because it was won by a woman (Jasmin Paris incase you missed it), who was also a relatively new mother.

So, before I begin a run down of my time volunteering I want to try explain what it meant to follow Jasmin and then see her win. It is more than just about a race win and it was not about a woman beating a man. Women and girls are both openly and subtly told that they are less and that we should not try. We are taught to curb and limit ourselves, and that our place is not to take an opportunity from a man. You can argue this is not true, but it is ingrained, even in the tiniest detail. I pointed out to Scott on the finish that he had a woman winning overall, but no finisher T-shirts in women’s sizes. Same for the female volunteers, there were no tops in our size. Our bodies are an afterthought. I do not believe this was an intentional oversight, just that it had never occurred to the RDs as a problem.

Then you see what Jasmin is doing. You can argue the weather was good, but the previous course record holder came in 2ndand he did not come in faster than his record. The runner she raced the entire course with, retired 6km from the finish. They both pushed each other to the utter limit. You cannot say she is selfish and put her career first, because she is a mother and an amateur runner, not a professional. She has a profession as a vet and is reading her PhD. Jasmin has gone and done the opposite, and she has done it with such style and with such respect. She was always friendly, polite, running on her terms and with no trace of ego. So many people were wanting her to win. Women have been winning extreme races outright for a while so this is not new, but this was timely and the fact that she was expressing milk only raised awareness of what many mothers go through – maybe not running an ultrarace, but in the workplace and in their daily lives. There should be space for women’s bodies as well as men’s without it feeling like we are an inconvenience or an afterthought. We should be able, without guilt, to be ourselves fully and not to dumb or slow ourselves down, or let notions of what motherhood or womanhood should look like stop us from achieving our goals.

Continue reading

West Highland Way Race 2018

I have given a full blow-by-blow race report on John Kynaston’s final podcast; you can find it here.

I completed the 96mile race in 33hrs and 5mins. I am under no assumptions, my finishing was part of a team effort. Without my crew, Neil Scott, Kristin and Jason Main, Susan Barley and my husband Max Holloway I could still be out there somewhere! I cannot thank each of them enough for helping me accomplish this goal, all were absolute heroes. Thank you also to everyone who supported me in the lead up including my family, but also a huge thank you to Liz Bennett. Liz sponsored me, keeping me injury free through my training and had my legs feeling their absolute best come race day. Thank you to the race organisers, volunteers, medics, marshels and supporters. You put on an immense race in every sense. I entered the race to understand myself better, to know how I would react come second sunset, and when the nausea and sleep deprivation hit. Here are some of my insights (the take away parts are in bold) as a first time West Highland Way Race runner and first time running an ultra distance past 53miles.

Continue reading

The trouble with unfounded expectations

Now I am less than 3 weeks out from the the West Highland Way Race. The work, however much I managed, is done.

I have been thinking about this race for about a year, it has been in my mind daily since then. I started ‘pre-training’ in mid October, 1 month after the Ring of Steall Skyrace, and began 100 mile training the first week of January 2018.

I had a huge wobble. I had an amazing March where training was going perfectly to plan, then in April work and travel caused havoc for my schedule. In hindsight, Max being injured was also a factor. Without my running buddy I was skimping unintentionally on my long runs and back to backs. I missed spending time with him. The Fling had gone great, but I had tapered so lost out on WHW training. Then a brief injury post Fling meant the following 3 weeks were sub par seeing two thirds less running than was planned. I never completed a peak phase in my training as I was wiped out.

Continue reading

Highland Fling 2018 Race Reflections

I had not intended to enter the 2018 Fling, with the West Highland Way race in the same year. Back in 2016 it took me 6 weeks to recover enough to even want to run again. I was scared I could not recover in time for the WHWrace, just 8 weeks later. Neil my Chief Crewman, however, advised I run the Fling as my longest training run for the WHWrace. Against my better judgment, I entered and got a ballot place. So the race was not a race, but a dress rehearsal for June 23rd. I am so glad I listened to Neil.

Continue reading

What stops women entering ultras?

A couple months ago Robbie Britton caused a stir on the ultra-running facebook group with his article on Fast Running blog ‘Should female runners get double lottery chances in male dominated races?’ A lot of people, all of whom were ultra-runners and the majority of which were men, gave their opinion on both, why women were not entering and how and should this be solved. Anyway, I thought we should just ask women why they were not entering! So I posted the text below onto the Adventure Queens all women outdoor adventure group to find some answers, and hopefully solutions.

‘There is a debate happening on the ultra-running FB group at the moment about helping get more women into ultra-running. I thought we could actually ask some women instead of guessing. Can I ask any runners, especially those who have ran half and full marathons; What stops you from entering an ultra-marathon? And do you have any ideas what may inspire or help more women get into the sport? Thanks!’

One assumption made by the ultra-runners, was that women in general, do not want to run an ultra and that is why they do not enter. However, the majority of the responses  we received (around 40 women commented) began with ‘I would love to do an ultra, but….’

Below I have grouped the responses into to four categories in order of frequency mentioned.

  1. Training
  2. Ability
  3. Time/logistics.
  4. Lack of knowledge of races.

Continue reading

Why run so far?

On my longest training run so far I had the distant and quiet thoughts of quitting. Dropping out of the WHWrace, for surely I could not succeed, or I would hurt myself trying. I cannot shut off these voices, they are natural for survival and as I get closer to the event, and deeper into the event itself, the negative voices telling me to stop will grow louder.

I need a clear motivation that is greater than the voices telling me to stop. My chances of success rely on this. I need to know why I am doing this race. What bigger reason to keep going despite pain, discomfort and fear. There are reassurances I can utter to myself like ‘it is only pain’ or ‘you are privileged to feel this pain,’ and I will not be alone in the latter stages of the race which will be an immense comfort, but these alone are not enough. I need to fully understand why I am running.

Continue reading

Training Plan: 5 months to WHWrace!

So here it is, my training plan for the 96 mile West Highland Way Race on 23-24th June! On the WHWrace podcast I mentioned how prior to this race I had never created an excel spreadsheet for my training. I am not good at schedules, fixed plans or fixed times to do things. With this in mind, and to take into account that my day-to-day and week-to-week life has little to no routine, I came up with a plan!

Continue reading

Winter Mini-Adventures

So I put out a poll on what to write about next, a grand total of 4 people voted. Thank you  4 😉

As Max sailed off into the never-ending sunset on his Antarctic adventure, I began to think that maybe, to pass the time, I should try some new things, things that pushed my comfort zone a little bit. So here is what I did!

Challenge 1 – Ladies’ Pond, Hampstead Heath.

I am a member of the ‘Adventure Queens‘ Facebook group, which is an excellent resource for women out there looking for inspiration, ideas, women specific kit recommendations (I hate pink, all my kit is pink, vendors please stop doing this!! I look ridiculous and clash a lot!!) and female company to go adventuring with. On this group I had seen a thread about open water swimming. In London. In winter.

Turns out there are several locations open in London in winter for open swimming, including…

Continue reading