Part Two - Ramping it up - My best summer ever
When I returned from Thailand I took 5 days complete rest to let my hormones sort themselves out, but I was on such a high afterwards, that I kept up my training and I was exercising at least 5 days a week and sometimes twice a day (once before work and then again afterwards). I had started the year with a bang and I was determined to keep it going.
As World’s Toughest Mudder is a 24 hr race I needed to get experience in doing over-night events, and also long distance OCRs. Gradually through the year I booked up as many weekends as possible with races that would aid in my training.
One of my first OCR’s of the year was the Spartan Sprint held at the Olympic Park in Stratford on April 9th. As it’s the sprint it’s not that challenging a distance, plus there would be no mud as it was a stadium sprint, but the obstacles would still be tough and the burpee penalty would also still certainly apply. I was actually busy that morning, and so rocked up in the afternoon with a free race voucher I earned volunteering the previous year. I wasn’t expecting much, I just wanted to do it for fun, but as I was going around the course, I could feel that I was doing well. There were no queues, and I completed every obstacle without penalty, so about half way through I thought ‘this race is nearly over, if I kick it up a gear I might actually do well’, so I pushed hard and finished. To my surprise and delight I came third in my age group, which meant that I had qualified to race in my age group category at the World OCR Championships in Oct in Canada.
I mean bloody hell; how did I manage that? This was a fantastic boost for me, but it was kind of an aside. My aim was to race at World’s Toughest Mudder not World OCR Champs, so I took it as a great compliment, but parked it, and focussed on my endurance training.
May was when everything properly kicked off for me, I had three major events that month, plus I started on a sports nutrition plan with Unorthodox Nutrition to get my body fuelled with everything it needed to perform at its best.
First was Dirty Weekend by Rat Race (RRDW). This was my longest OCR to date and so I wasn’t sure how I would fare. The longest OCR I’d previously done was about 13 miles, and I also ran the London Marathon the year before (which I had not enjoyed at all because I got injured half way around), so RRDW being 20 miles was a lot longer than I was used to. I set off with my usual 10K pace (you know, with all the excitement) but realised I’d need to slow down if I was gonna make it in one piece! On the whole I didn’t really enjoy the race. It was ok, but I definitely felt it being hard at the half way mark, and I had ages to go yet. There was a lot of running between obstacles, and I got cramp in my calves which made jumping over walls really difficult. When I finished the race I felt sick and needed to just lay down to re-coup energy, but on the whole I felt accomplished.
The following week I had Nuclear Oblivion. Not only was I attempting long OCR races for the first time, I was attempting them within a week of the other!
Oblivion is four laps of the 12km Nuclear course. That’s a long way. Especially considering the Nuclear course makes great use of its terrain by making you go up and down ditches constantly and gets you covered in mud for most of it. The week between these two epic races I did a couple of really light CrossFit classes and had a full body massage. (If you do sport then get regular massages, I can’t recommend them enough. They hurt like hell, but they help so much).
For Oblivion I got my very own vest top with my name on it. This made me feel special. But as I rocked up to the start line I noticed how few females were participating in the event. This made me sad. Maybe I shouldn’t be here either? I felt extremely out of my league, but I put the mind gremlins to the side and continued onwards. This was superb training for me for WTM and so I had to conquer it. As this is a lapping race I got to practise certain fuelling strategies (win) so I had my kit bag all prepped with anything I might need as I came around each time.
I knew I had to do each lap in a certain time in order to make the cut off for the full four laps; I was not certain I’d make it as I’m not a fast runner, but as soon as I did my first lap I knew I probably wouldn’t hit four. Which was actually fine. It took the pressure off me to go quick, and I could just slog away in my own time. The first lap was great; the course was empty so I had free reign of every obstacle. The second lap was also super fun. The other Nuclear racers were now on the course and had been instructed to move out of our way so we wouldn’t get held up. Absolutely everyone gave so much support and respect for me as I passed them, it was a real boost. The third lap was hard. I had to walk in many places as everything started to hurt, but the course had cleared again and it was only the oblivion runners left on course. Thankfully, I had some fantastic friends come and support me on this last lap, they literally walked around with me (I was running so slow that they could walk beside me, hah!). When I finished the race I cried. So much emotion. I’d done two epic races only a week apart and survived. Maybe this World’s Toughest Mudder malarkey wasn’t such a crazy idea after all? Do you know what also made my day? A few of the Mudd Queens who had been supporting my race said I had inspired them to participate in Oblivion next year! Win win! More females out there pushing themselves to new limits is definitely a motivation for me.
The following weekend I had nothing planned (phew), but the weekend after that I was participating in the Superhuman Games.
The Superhuman Games is a partner event with 5 different workouts - each 20 mins long - spread throughout the day. It’s a ‘You go I go’ workout where you need to complete a certain number of reps between you and your partner, but you can split them up however you like. I did this event with some of my CrossFit buddies and had an epic time. One of the workouts was even a mini obstacle course, so I naturally loved that! The workout I was fearing the most was 15 Thrusters at 30kg and 30 American kettlebell swings at 16kg. I was worried because thrusters at that weight is just on my uncomfortable level of being able to do some; but lots? I wasn’t sure. So I trained thrusters as much as possible in the lead up to the event, and when it came to it on the day the thrusters were fine! What I struggled with was the kettle bell swings! It was outside and there was no chalk, and as I sweated my hand started to lose grip, and every time I swung it above my head I had visions of me dropping it and knocking myself out! Thank fully that didn’t happen, but I can tell you it wasn’t pleasant. The rest of the event was super fun with workouts that included 40kg slam balls, flipping massive tyres, and doing a partner carry. It was a thoroughly enjoyable event, and I will definitely be signing up again next year.
In June I had the Airfield Anarchy weekend. This was an awesome weekend surrounded with awesome friends, and I also got some awesome results! 5 Km and 10 Km on the Sat with the 10 mile on the Sunday. I managed to place 3rd in the 5km race! I totally wasn’t expecting that. I came 7th in the 10km race (unfortunately I didn’t start in the first wave which I think held me back), and then I came 2nd in the 10 mile race the following day. This meant that over the Epic weekend I came 2nd overall. Massive surprise, but then it was the same weekend as the European OCR Champs, which I feel may have aided my good fortune a touch! Still, a win is a win, and I got an innovate voucher as a prize, which I used to buy some Roclites (which will be making an appearance at WTM ☺)
The last weekend in June I went to Snowdonia in Wales (the first of three trips to Wales this year), to walk up Mount Snowdon and also go coasteering with Harriet through BMF events. Coasteering is jumping off cliffs into the sea. It is epic fun. World’s Toughest Mudder has an obstacle called ‘The Cliff’ which is a 30ft drop into the lake. It’s a toughie if you don’t like that sort of thing, and so the only training I could think of to prep us for that obstacle would be coasteering. I’ve done coasteering before - last year down at the Jurassic coast - and I loved it so much, so I would use any excuse to go back and do it again! The Sat was the hike up Snowdon on the Watkins Path, and the Sunday was the coasteering (with rock climbing, but that was a complete fail as it was too wet). It was a fantastic weekend, and it allowed me to suss out what going up Snowdon was like, because later in the year I was headed back up there again with the Mudd Queens, but for that trip I had the idea that I wanted to run it!
In July I became an ultra-runner.
The first of my over-night races was called Brutal Enduro, it’s an 18hr trail run starting at 2pm and going until 8am the following morning. This was the perfect opportunity for me to see what it was like to run through the night, and to have a proper pit set up with tent and supplies at the ready each time I did a lap. The course was 10 km long, and had a real mix of terrain. It was also the first time I had the chance to go beyond my previous distance of a marathon, and become an ultra-runner. I had no idea how I would fare or if I would enjoy it, but I actually did very well. The plan was to jog slowly and walk up every hill from the start, this was to preserve as much energy as possible. I ran 3 laps with minimal break between each, and then took a more substantial break before completing another two laps on the first day. When I got to being on my 5th lap I was ecstatic when I hit the 2 km mark, as anything extra I did meant that I had reached my first goal (marathon distance), and I was now an ultra-runner. When I finished the 5th lap it was dark, and I realised that running in the dark with a head torch was a completely different ball game. The floor changed completely (despite me knowing the course well by this point), and it was really hard to tell if the mud was hard or soft. Would it support my weight or was it soft and disappear when I stepped on it? I didn’t like it. I made the decision to call it a day and take some much needed rest in my tent for a few hours. I did manage to sleep, and I felt so much better for it. I woke up just before the sunrise and headed out for a final lap. I saw the sun go down and now the sun coming up. This lap was very quiet; many of the runners had also gone to bed, and it made me feel special that I could experience this beauty after having put my body through that distance the day before. I was walking for much of the final lap, as my hip flexors were completely shot, and I found it hard to lift my legs up, but that didn’t matter. As I completed the race I felt amazing. Little to my knowledge I had actually done really well in this race, and I came second out of the solo female racers. Crazy huh. The winner had done 9 laps (super amazing), so there was a massive gap between first and second and I felt like I really shouldn’t deserve that win. Which I got over pretty quickly, but then I just got sad. Once again the reason that I’d done so well was because there simply weren’t many women doing the race.
I shouldn’t be placing 2nd in my very first ultra-race. That’s just crazy. The title of this blog is ‘not a runner’ to WTM. Whilst I believe that anyone who goes out for a run is a ‘runner’, I don’t see myself as a ‘runner’, because running is not my sport. It’s an aside that I do because it aides my obstacle racing. I don’t go out and rack the miles up during the week, I run 1.6 miles to CrossFit a couple times a week, and I do BMF run club once a week. That’s nothing compared to proper runners who are trying to improve their performance in running and run proper distances multiple times a week. I was sad because there needs to be more women to compete against me. Especially in ultra-running, and do you know why? Because it is the one physical sport where women actually excel and can beat men. It’s true, the athletes who are at the top of their game who win ultra-runs are women. That makes me excited. That makes me want to be an ultra-runner. That makes me want other women to realise their potential, that they can excel in something big and amazing. When is this going to happen?
Part 3 coming soon.