Friday, 11 August 2017

Trail Fun and Friends :-)

August seems to come have around very quickly this year and I can't believe that in just a couple of weeks, we have visitors arriving from the UK in the form of Andy's mum and dad. I'm so looking forward to seeing them - it's been nearly 3 years since we last saw family - and we have plenty of things planned to show them as much as practically possible in the month long visit, as well as having some downtime and relaxation.

Of course, this also means that the Mogollon Monster 100 miler is fast approaching and with 6 weeks of training left before the big day, I feel like I will be ready to give it my all.

The Mogollon course is renowned to be rocky, hilly and technical - it isn't a 24-hour course, and I suspect that I will be out there for at least 27 or 28 hours - maybe even longer. But I feel ready for it and so long as I make sure I eat enough and refuel - and avoid falling over! - I'm sure I will be ok. I will have my ever reliable Andy there to crew me but this time, I likely won't have a pacer to help keep me going in the later stages.

With being an exceptionally hilly course, I have been trying to include lots of hills in my training runs to prepare the old body for the onslaught of climbs.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend from Canada was in Phoenix and we had a lovely run/power hike in the McDowell Mountains, taking in Bell Pass and Tom's Thumb. We didn't start until around 9am and were still out on the trail around 3pm when we actually ran out of water. I knew we still had a good couple of miles before arriving back at the car, it was extremely humid and in the mid 90's, and to say we were both parched is an understatement. We opted to take an alternative route that took us past some houses in the hope that we could knock on somebody's door and ask for water, but the trail started to veer away from civilisation and it was a good 45 minutes before we found the Pizzeria and were able to have a drink - a glass of iced water and a glass of coke had never tasted so good!

It's the first time ever I have ran out of water on a training run - I took 2 litres with me for 14 miles which would usually be plenty - but we did do quite a lot of hiking which obviously made the trip longer than if we had been running, and so we were out longer than expected. Thankfully we were both ok, but it sure is a reminder to make sure to be prepared for anything as you never know!

The following weekend, I headed over to the McDowells again, this time with the intent of running further and including much more climbing. The plan was to start around 7am and to include Bell Pass, Thompson Peak and Tom's Thumb - a distance of around 18 miles and nearly 5,000 ft of climbing. A few people thought that I was crazy to attempt the run, especially with the summer heat, and I admit that whilst I knew I would likely be ok, after the previous weekend's experience, I was starting to think maybe it wasn't a good idea, especially if I headed out on my own without any company.

Thankfully a lovely chap named Andy said he would join me, and we agreed to meet at 6am to run the proposed route. This time I took 3 1/2 litres of fluid with me as well as fresh oranges to munch on to provide more fluids if needed and although the backpack felt heavy, I knew it was risky to take anything less.

The run proved to be successful and we made great progress to summit Thompson Peak despite the crazy 20% gradient but I have to say that my quads were really feeling the steep downhill and both Andy and I said our quads would likely be suffering the following day.

Heading back to Bell Pass before the climb up to Tom's Thumb, Andy and I parted ways. He had another appointment, we had started to slow a little and we agreed that so long as we both had water and were feeling ok, he would head back and I would carry on. Being Andy's first time around the McDowells I was worried that he would take a wrong turn and potentially be wandering around in circles but a couple of hours later confirming he was back home safe and sound was a great relief.

I continued onwards and upwards, legs feeling good as I made the climb up East End. I was surprised that I had already consumed 2 litres of water but thankfully I still had another 1.5 litres of Gatorade to get through - I knew I would be ok this time.

I'd anticipated completing this run in around 4 hours and I finished in 4 hours 10 minutes with legs feeling relatively good. The run was a great confidence booster for Mogollon although obviously there is a huge difference between running 18 miles and running 100!

Another week of good, solid training followed, I had an extremely painful sports massage which helped to sort out the very tender quads, but it did take a good 3 or 4 days before my legs felt anything like back to normal. I wouldn't normally have been too concerned, but I did have a race coming up on the Saturday - the Vertigo 52km at the White Tank Mountains - and if my legs didn't recover in time, then I wouldn't be racing it.

Friday before race day, there was still a little tightness in the quads but I was far more mobile and could successfully get up and down the stairs without wincing. But even though the legs were feeling much better, I almost didn't go to the race. I hadn't raced since early June, and whilst training had gone well, I had no idea whether I was race fit. There was also the pressure of having some competition and dealing with the expectation of others. I have had lots of successful races since moving to the Phoenix area and with that comes the added pressure of performing well every time - I'm not an excuses type of person but I know when I'm not 100%. If I'm not 100%, I obviously won't be able to race as well as usual, and I knew that there were a couple of good ladies that could quite give me a run for my money on the entry list. I was nervous but I knew that whatever the result, I needed to do this race as it would help to determine whether things really are on track for Mogollon in September.

I was really glad that I went in the end – we haven’t seen some of our running friends in a while and it was good to see so many of them at the White Tank Mountains on Saturday night. To put this into perspective, I didn’t even realise that it was my coach Adam saying hello to me when I went to drop off my drop-bag at the start – sorry buddy!

I was running the 52k which meant 5 laps of the competitive loop. I wasn’t familiar with the route but having asked around, it sounded like it wasn’t too hilly – just one main climb at the midpoint of each loop but otherwise more rolling hills in and out of washes with some sections more technical than others with the last mile or so allowing for some smoother, faster running. I was still feeling nervous but my instructions were to run conservatively, run comfortably, and if I was ahead of Adam, then I was definitely running too fast.

I decided to try and stick to around 8.30 miling to start and then when darkness came, I would undoubtedly slow down due to the lack of light.  The course record was 5 hours 34 minutes for the ladies and I figured that at this pace, assuming I could keep it going, I could run around 5 hours.

In short, the race did and didn’t go as planned. I started well and completed the first 10km ish loop in 52 minutes give or take. I was feeling comfortable, feeling strong and had ran the whole loop non-stop. The main climb up the steep hill wasn’t too bad and I felt confident that although it would be harder towards the end of the race, I could still manage a jog up there even in the dark.

I slowed slightly on the second loop which was to be expected with it now being dark. I was still feeling really good but taking it easy and relaxed, but when the 10k runners came speeding up behind, I found myself speeding up a little to make room for them to pass on the narrow sections. I was also starting to catch the tail enders of the 31k and the trail became quite busy. It really threw off my pacing with the speedy 10k-ers and the more leisurely 31k-ers around me but I was still doing ok and knew that I would get some space back again shortly.

The third lap also started well and I was still maintaining a nice, steady pace – crikey, I hadn’t even walked any of the course yet, not even the hills, and I was feeling bloody marvelous! But my tummy had started rumbling and I was getting extremely hungry. I’d been refueling but was only using energy gels – I needed some proper food in me!

When I got to the remote aid station on the 3rd lap, I stopped to take some food – I grabbed a banana and some oranges along with some M&Ms – about 15 minutes later, all the gas that had built up in my tummy started to come out and despite the darkness and lack of runners around me by now, I was extremely self-conscious of letting it out. But it got to the point where something HAD to come out, so I dived off the trail and found a spikey bush to crouch behind, hoping there were no snakes hiding in there ready to pounce on a bare backside!

I felt much better after that but I was still desperately hungry. Andy had been crewing me for the race, making sure to have my gels and drinks bottles ready at the start/end of each lap and as I ended my third lap, I asked him to get me some food and some coke so I could get some calories in me. I left that aid station feeling strong but 100 yards up the trail, blurrggh! Out came the banana, coke, oranges and M&Ms – such a waste as they had tasted so good but my tummy just wasn’t having it.

Oddly enough, I felt much better after being sick and I started my penultimate lap feeling ok.

By now there were even fewer people on the trail but almost everybody I passed seemed to know it was me and they gave me lots of encouragement. My legs were started to tire a little bit and I had stumbled a couple of times but then I hit a flattish, less rocky section of the trail and wham! Down I went like a sack of potatoes, and my poor right knee got another battering as it hit the rocks on the ground. Lots of F’s, f’s, f’s followed and I was so annoyed at myself. How many times do I need to fall during a race??!! I wasn’t exactly “speeding”, I had even just changed the batteries in my headtorch at the aid station so couldn’t blame it on lack of light – I guess I’m just clumsy, or I zone out and don’t pay attention!

After the fall, disappointingly it gave me a reason to walk. My knee was stinging but it wasn’t hurting but there was plenty of blood trickling down my leg to make it look far worse than it actually was. I was now running far too cautiously in an attempt to avoid falling again which affected my pace. When it got a little more rocky, I tentatively stepped over the rocks rather than running and I was getting annoyed that I had slowed down.

I made it up the small hill before hitting the aid station, and then I spent a good 5 minutes cleaning the wound – there was a lot of grit and dirt in the cuts and whilst I didn’t want to waste time going to the medical tent, I also didn’t want it to get infected – I still had another 8 miles to go!
It took me over an hour to complete the fourth lap and I had now gone over 4 hours in time – there was no way I would break the 5 hours that I had hoped for, but I could hopefully still sneak the course record if I just kept moving and my knee didn’t stiffen up.

I grabbed some more food and nibbles at the aid station, Andy saw to it that I was ok and off I set on my final lap. By now I really was bored of the loop. It was gone 11pm, I was hungry, tired and sore from the fall, BUT I only had one lap to go – thank goodness!

I was still overtaking folks on the final lap but I had no idea which race they were doing nor which lap they were on. That’s one of the things I love about night racing – you have no idea what position you are in, you don’t know where your competition is, and so you just have to force yourself to keep moving forward.

Lap 5 was another exciting lap. A couple of miles in, I bumped in to our friend Tom who had stopped on the trail with another runner – there was a rattlesnake blocking the way and he was an angry little fella! The trail was wide enough to pass him by, but whenever somebody got close, he coiled up ready to strike. He was quite small compared to others I have seen and I figured he could have been a baby which can be worse than the adults. Thankfully, a squirt of water from Tom got the little bugger off the trail and we could pass him safely.

Sometimes I get so focused on my running that I forget to look out for the snakes and having just seen one, it put me on my guard for more. I didn’t see another snake, but I did see a giant centipede / millipede scuttling across a rock. He obviously wasn’t snake sized, but seeing something long and thin moving in the beam of the headtorch caused me to jump at a funny angle which led to me once again hitting the ground, fortunately a little more gracefully this time and only a minor bruise on the left side. Dagnammit!

I really, really wanted the race to be over by now. I was starting to run more again and was covering ground pretty well. About a mile before the aid station out on the course, I ran out of water and my mouth became extremely dry. I hadn’t realized how hot it actually was despite being night time, and I had drank something like 4 litres of water since the start. I hiked as fast as I could to get to the top of the hill and ran  impatiently towards the aid station, absolutely gagging for a drink. The volunteers were absolutely awesome and so encouraging and better than anything, they filled my bottle with iced water which tasted AMAZING!

It was only 2 miles or so to the finish line now, but that 2 miles seemed to go on forever. I was running the flats and downhills and walking the ups, but where was this bloody finish line? I was also mega thirsty and in need of more water – the iced water I’d had was now warm in my bottle and it tasted like bath water, bring no reprieve whatsoever to my thirst.

But as with any race, the finish line does come eventually and as I rounded the corner, I speeded up just so that I could break the 5 hours 20 minute barrier – official finish time 5 hours 19 minutes 38 seconds – a new course record by 14 minutes, 1st lady and 2nd overall. Job done :-)

Andy was there at the finish line, this time with the pups and they all made a huge fuss of me and tried to clean my bloody knee. We grabbed some tacos and nachos from the food van but my stomach was still playing funny buggers and I had trouble eating – I’d gone past the hunger stage by now and really had no appetite. However, I was able to consume a nice, ice cold beer – YAY!

Two friends finished as 2nd and 3rd lady and I was so happy and honoured to share the podium with Lisa and Meghan. These two ladies are so lovely, both are amazing runners and it was so nice that we all got to receive a prize on Saturday night.

Driving home at 3am, the dogs were shattered, Andy and I were shattered but it had turned out to be a good evening in the end. I was by now starting to have craving for savoury food – a Melton Mowbray Pork Pie with some pickled onions wouldn’t have gone amiss at that point, but I had to settle for a bowl of porridge when I got home with a nice cup of tea.

Crawling into bed at 4am, the dogs snuggled up around me, I drifted in to a restless sleep feeling happy and content.

Mogollon Monster is only 6 weeks away but I feel ok about it and know that I will be ready.

For now though, a huge thanks as ever to Andy and my pups for waiting around until the early hours just so that I can do a mere 32 mile race (!), thanks to coach Adam for suggesting I do this race in the buildup to Mogollon, thanks Mackenzie for sorting out the sort quads, and finally thanks to Aravaipa Running, the events team and all the volunteers, the runners and spectators that make these events so special and so much fun.

See you at the Monster in a few weeks time!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Another Hot ... but Happy! ... Summer in Phoenix :-)

It's that time of year again where my social media accounts are awash with pictures of mountain trails and the lush greenery of Colorado or other cooler climes, whilst I and many others attempt to tolerate the baking heat and increasing humidity of Phoenix. We've been in triple digits for several weeks now and being in the middle of the monsoon season, that "dry heat" that we are accustomed to disappears and we are dripping with sweat from the hot temperatures and higher humidity. We look forward to those afternoon storms, hoping for torrential rain that is usually associated with the word “monsoon”, but instead we dodge dust storms and high winds that sweep across the valley.

For me, this time of year is tough in Phoenix and I feel like a bird that has had its wings clipped and is no longer able to fly, trapped in a world that it doesn't understand. I'm so used to being outdoors, so used to hiking and running with the dogs and running miles and miles on the trails, but all that changes for the best part of the summer months. Dogs are banned from the trails when temperatures are 100 degrees or more, and who would want to take them anyway when the ground is so hot it burns their paws? The lunch time and afternoon tea time walks diminish as it's still too hot to play outside, and we wait like hermits for night to fall so we can head to the dog park and avoid the burning sun. We still try to spend an hour there, icing the dogs down to keep them cool and trying to stop them from running around as much as they normally do. We arrive home around 10pm, hot and tired and sleepy - the thought of getting up at 4am to run 10 miles in the morning before work is simply not appealing, and so we get up at the usual time, follow the usual routine, and try to cram in a run around 6pm instead, hoping things have cooled down by then but knowing full well that it's going to be another hot, sweaty slog whilst trying to run a half decent pace and carrying the two litres of water that are a necessity due to the heat.

Hills, heat and humidity - another tough run!
I make it sound awful - and sometimes it is! - but whilst I do find myself starting to feel a little claustrophobic at times, I am coping far better with things this year when compared to last, and that alone makes me happy. I am running daily, the dogs are playing in the paddling pool in the back yard, and we have visited Pine, Prescott and Sedona in recent weeks to find some reprieve from the heat and have fun with the pups.

Earlier this month we had Independence Day and certainly in our neck of the woods, there were lots of fireworks displays which sent the dogs loopy! Poor Brandy was terrified and couldn’t wait to leave the dog park virtually all week whilst Wilson just barked in confusion whenever he saw flashes in the night sky, and Tillie got nervous simply because the other dogs were nervous. Andy and I did head up to Anthem for their annual display in the park but our main priority lay at home and trying to keep the pups calm.

Due to the holiday, we had an extra-long weekend off work and boy were we busy. The Sunday saw me joining AZTraileggers for their 4th of July Hot 'n' Heavy Half at Apache Wash. I missed it last year so was determined not to miss the party again this time around despite having to crawl out of bed at 4.30am on a Sunday morning. It was well worth it though and it was nice to start the run shortly after sunrise when the temperatures were much cooler. I felt great that day and ended up running a PR on the loop by some 12 minutes which I was really chuffed about.

Hot n Heavy Half with the AZ Traileggers (PC Jon Christley)

 After the run, it was nice to have a chat with friends I hadn't seen in a while and with the runners’ pot luck, we were treated to home baked cakes, watermelon and crisps as well as other snacks and munchies. 

With having 4 days off work, on the Monday we decided to go to Prescott to escape some of the heat and give the dogs a day out at Lynx Lake. There had been a huge brush fire in that area and the main road to Prescott had only recently reopened so we weren't sure whether certain areas would still be inaccessible due to the fire. It was so sad driving there and seeing how much damage the fire had done to the land and how close it had been to houses, and it was a relief that nobody had been injured or properties damaged, although there had been evacuation orders in the surrounding areas.

We arrived at Lynx Lake and were very surprised to find it was open although it was much quieter than we were expecting, especially being July 4th weekend. At 85+ degrees, it was still hot but being by the lake meant that the dogs could have a swim virtually every couple of minutes to cool off, and boy did they take advantage of it! Wilson refused to come out of the water, even Brandy got her hair wet, and young Tillie was getting braver with every step and although not swimming, she did paddle up to her belly before she jumped back out of the water and did crazy spinnies whilst trying to engage Wilson and Brandy in play. We had a lovely little picnic together on the lake shore, and it was so nice to have the place pretty much to ourselves so we could enjoy the peace and quiet whilst the dogs happily played nearby.

Cooling off at Lynx Lake

Fun at Lynx Lake

However, when we arrived back to the car, we bumped in to the Park Ranger and were informed that the lake area was closed due to the fire risk and recent fires in the area. Somebody working for the Forestry Service had accidentally unlocked the gates that morning when they should have remained closed. The ranger was apologetic and although we weren’t to blame, it didn’t stop us feeling guilty about wandering around and having a fun but relaxing day when we shouldn't have been there.

With the Mogollon Monster 100 miler being my next target race, I have been trying to incorporate technical climbs and descents into my training, and so the day after our visit to Prescott, I did a 10-mile run at Thunderbird Park. I didn't get out until after 10am and it was so HOT! I got a little paranoid that I was really going to suffer and become one of those names on the news where people judge and comment, "you can't fix stupid!" but I am realistic. I know my limits and I know how much the heat can affect you - I had a very relaxed run at Thunderbird Park in temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and I felt ok. I drank 2 litres of water, I took salt tablets and salty snacks with me and even though I had gone there to run, I did hike the steeper more rocky sections so that I didn't over exert myself in the conditions. I thoroughly enjoyed the run and I made it to the summit of all 3 peaks in the park - with something like 3,000 ft of climbing over the 10 miles, I was done for the day!

North Peak at Thunderbird Park - enjoying Independence Day Weekend :-)

A week or two later, I joined around 20 other people for a training run on the Mogollon Rim. This again meant waking up at 4am to allow time to drive to Pine for a 7am start. The idea of doing this run was to reccie some of the Mogollon Monster course - the meetup notes said it would be around 35km and would use the course route throughout.

It was so relaxing driving up to Pine on the morning - no traffic on the road, cutting across country and watching the sunrise as I drove along. The only downside was yet another brush fire burning to the north of Phoenix, something that later that day would cause significant smoke and air quality issues close to home.

Once again it was great to see a few familiar faces for this training run and after a bit of chat with friends and a group picture, we headed out for the morning run.

Mogollon Monster Training Run Group - PC Noah Docherty

The trail started to climb straight away, a gradual incline to start before it gradually got steeper. By the time we made the turn on to the Donahue Trail, things were far rockier, extremely steep and somewhat overgrown. The Donahue Trail would take us to the top of the Mogollon Rim and it was a slog due to the steep gradient and the increasing heat. Although we had set off as a group, we were now at around 3 or 4 miles and I was already running alone. There were probably 3 or 4 people ahead of me and everybody else was behind. I don't know why, but I've always ended up as one of the mid-packers in ultra-running - too slow to keep up with those at the front, but too fast for those towards the back - I always find myself running in no-man’s-land, usually on my own which is why I think I tend to do most of my training runs on my own - it teaches me to be independent and not fear things quite so much, to be more aware of what I'm doing and where I'm going and not to rely on other people being around me during a race. Of course, during a race there are race markers and flags and it is far easier to navigate a course if you are paying attention. The Mogollon Rim has lots of trails and wannabe trails and if you are unfamiliar with area - as I am! - it is very easy to miss a turning and go the wrong way.

Mogollon Rim Training Run

Mogollon Rim TRaining Run

The map instructions mentioned a meadow at around about 5 or 6 miles into the run - it really wasn't easy to miss and I had no problems knowing exactly where I was at that point - but then it mentioned that the aid station would be clearly visible and that the trail was behind the aid station - "don't follow the forest road, follow the trail by the wooden sign". This wasn't race day so there was no aid station, I didn't see any trails veering off the main forest road, and so I continued onwards. I should have turned down Turkey Springs which would have taken me to the water drop at around about 10 miles, but I missed the turn. By the time I got to 8 miles, I knew something must have been wrong, but I could still see footprints on the trail I was following and thought that maybe I was still on track. My sense of direction was telling me that I was going the wrong way and I knew I had to turn right somewhere, but still I didn't see a right turn that would take me to the edge of the Rim for the climb back down.

My watch beeped 10 miles - that was it. It was starting to get really warm, I had got through half of my water, and I still needed to get back. I turned around to retrace my steps, figuring that I would either see the turning this time or meet the other runners coming in the other direction and I could just tag along with them.

Two miles later as I was heading back, the forest ranger came driving along the dirt road. I flagged him down and asked if he had seen any other runners - no he hadn't - and then I asked if he knew where the Turkey Spring Trail was - he'd never heard of it. My heart sank and I felt so frustrated - not with him, but more because of the situation. The sole purpose of being here was to check out the course, but now I would be lucky to see 5 miles of it and I was disappointed.

I had no choice but to continue onwards - I didn't see anybody else except for a couple of campers and a family out on an ATV. Other than that, it was so quiet out there and I found myself just enjoying listening to the wind in the trees and the birds singing. I was drinking lots more now and with a few miles still to go, I was getting a little concerned I would run out of water so I tried to drink a little more sparingly. I passed the meadow once again and still didn't see the Turkey Springs Trail and so I admitted defeat - I just had to head back to the car and give up on the route we were meant to be doing.

Solo Run at the Mogollon Rim - may as well admire the beauty of the area :-)

I made another mistake as I hit the single track again - after a half mile or so, the trail really didn't look familiar. I remembered a couple of fallen trees from earlier in the day but I hadn't yet seen them and I was pretty sure that they should have been there by now. I turned around and found a fork in the trail and yes, I had headed left instead of right - 200 yards or so down the right trail and I spotted the trees. Heading back down the Donahue Trail I slipped a couple of times on the loose rock and at one point found myself clinging to a tree branch to stop me falling and then rolling down the hillside amongst the brush.

Mogollon Monster Training Run
Almost 3 hours later, covered in dust and extremely thirsty, I arrived back at the car. It had still been a beautiful run, but I couldn't erase the disappointment that I was feeling. I needed to get home, have some proper food and a drink, and get some sleep!

After that training run, I was starting to doubt whether I wanted to do the race after all, but after a few beers, a good night's sleep and a couple of good runs over the following days, I know that I will end up doing it. Crikey, I've even arranged to rent a house in Pine on race weekend that is minutes from the start, I've booked the time off work, and my mind is focused on getting into the best shape possible for what will be a tough race - how can I possibly back out now?!

I've been doing alot more trail running since that training run and I'm now doing a consistent 50 miles a week in my build up to the race. With the heat, the miles and the climbing, along with the reintroduction of strength sessions in my routine - my body is trying to adjust to the demands that are being placed on it. I work hard on hard days, I take easy days easy, and I look forward to my rest days when I can relax and have fun with the family.

Last Saturday was such a day and rather than staying in the oven that is otherwise known as Phoenix, we headed up to Sedona to go hiking with the pups. 

Sedona is usually stupidly busy and very popular with tourists, but we managed to get onto the parking lot at the West Fork Trail with no problems and had a lovely walk along the river and back with the dogs. We ended up with 8 miles in total and the rainfall made things far more refreshing. The dogs had a fabulous time, I had a fabulous time, and after a bit of a picnic and a paddle at all 13 water crossings, we were all suitably tired and content by the time we arrived home that evening.

West Fork Trail in Sedona 
Just one of the water crossings but the dogs loved it!

The next few weekends are going to be busy and we likely won't get up north for a while, but that's ok because we have some great plans ahead. Next weekend our friend Dennene from Canada will be visiting briefly and we'll be heading out for a long trail run together which I'm really looking forward to. I then have another race on August 5th - the Vertigo 52km Night Trail Race at the nearby White Mountains. It'll be almost 2 months by then since I last raced and I must say that I've missed it and am looking forward to getting out there and hopefully having a good one.

The following week is the next Mogollon Monster training run and we will be heading back up the Rim for a 25 to 30 mile stretch of the course - this time I will hopefully have company, or at least be able to do the proper route without taking a wrong turn! 

And then I am so happy to have Andy's mum and dad visit us during August and September. We haven't seen our family for nearly 3 years and it's one of the things that I for certain find difficult since we left the UK. Andy's parents are absolutely amazing - so easy going, non-intrusive and I love them to bits. We are planning to head up to Wyoming to watch the eclipse with them, and then visit Yellowstone before heading back towards Phoenix and doing the sightseeing on the way back. We'll then be taking them to Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as spending a couple of nights in Las Vegas - we still need to come up with a feasible itinerary to ensure we fit in what we can but it's coming together and we are very excited about spending some time with them. And of course, Wilson, Brandy, Tillie and Khayman the cat will be coming with us :-)

So yes, this summer is once again a hot one, yes, I am finding it tough not being able to go outside as much as I would like, but I am trying to make the most of things and am spending as much quality, happy time as I can with those that are important to me. Life is good right now and I am feeling happy, and I know that it's thanks to the support of Andy and the unconditional love from Wilson, Brandy, Tillie and Khayman - they mean the world to me and I am so grateful to have them all in my life.

Our little family - minus Smudge the cat :-)

Monday, 12 June 2017

Oh What a Night! Blackout Night 27km Trail Race

Having returned home from San Diego late Monday night, we had a few days off work to chill out and do some relaxing at home. I had a deep tissue massage with the amazing Mackenzie on Tuesday which helped to alleviate some of the post marathon soreness and I was really happy to have managed a couple of easy runs to aid recovery, which saw me heading up Union Peak at the Sonoran Preserve close to home. It was a hot but beautifully sunny day, and despite the heat and the steep climb, I really enjoyed being back on the trails having been mainly road focused for the past few weeks.

Fun running on Union Peak :-)
By Friday, we had all our camping gear packed ready to head north for a couple of nights camping in Flagstaff. Crazy as it seems, I was racing again on Friday evening, this time the 27km Blackout Trail Race on the forest trails at Fort Tuthill County Park and with volunteering to help out with the Big Pine Trail Races early on Saturday morning, we had decided to stay over on the campground and enjoy the cooler and fresher air that comes with being at over 7,000 feet. I had also planned to hike Humphreys Peak with Wilson on the Saturday – at over 12,500 feet, Mt Humphreys is the highest point in Arizona and I was looking forward to the 9 mile round trip to the summit with my favourite boy.

Unfortunately, although the original plan had been to stay for two nights, we would have to return home Saturday evening – a tent located amongst the pines isn’t a place to take a cat, so we had left Khayman back home where we knew he would be safe and well for the next 24 hours having left him before when we’ve been unable to take him somewhere with us.

We arrived in Flagstaff around 4pm and having put the tent up and made camp, we went to make a cup of tea when we realized we had left home without the camping cooker and the utensils so we spent the next hour or so driving around Flagstaff trying to find a camping cooker. My race was due to start at 7pm and I still had to get myself ready, so after an hour with no success (no way were we going to pay premium prices for a stove and utensils from REI!!) we headed back to camp on the basis that Andy would try again whilst I was racing and hopefully our canned beef stew and canned vegetables would still be good to go for tea when I finished my race later in the evening.

My favourite things - camping amongst the pines :-)

The camping area was pretty much right next to the start and finish area of the race so we had a casual wander off and just enjoyed the atmosphere whilst waiting to start. There were 3 races on the Friday – a 27km which I would be doing, a 13km and finally the 6km. Each of the races would take runners through the pine forests and with a couple of climbs and elevations of 7,000 feet, it was certainly going to be somewhat different from the other Aravaipa night races I have done. I was excited to be doing this race but I was also a little concerned – it was only 5 days since I had ran the marathon and whilst I was feeling ok, I wasn’t sure if I was recovered enough to do myself justice in a 27km trail race. I wasn’t really concerned about who else would be racing – this was about me competing against myself and seeing how I got on – and with 25 entries for the 27k (the other distances had far more entrants), it wasn’t going to be as competitive as some of the other Aravaipa events but I was still determined to put in the effort and attempt to have a decent run.

My awesome support crew :-)

With there being such a small field for the race, I found that I was leading the pack for the first half mile or so with some of the guys reluctant to go ahead. I was surprisingly running a decent pace – my legs felt better than expected but then we had only just started – there was still another 16 miles of running ahead of me, and I was more concerned about any ladies that might actually be close behind. The nature of the course meant that there were sections where we could see who was behind us and I was relieved to see there weren't any ladies in striking distance just yet.

The course consisted of two loops through the pines, all of it perfectly runnable. I was surprised how good my legs felt on the flats and downhills, but on the inclines, I definitely felt the after effects of the marathon in my legs and my pace slowed which allowed some of the men to overtake me. It was still daylight on the first loop and the forest trails looked beautiful as the setting sun filtered through the trees. It was a nice change to see the trails lined with pine needles although there were still some sections that were a little rocky and would need more care when darkness set in within the next hour or so.

The first climb came quickly and although it wasn’t particularly steep, it was quite rocky and I immediately started to feel a little of the post marathon fatigue lingering in my legs. I had no intention of walking but I did slow a little and made steady progress up the hill. A few of the guys had by now passed me, but as the trail flattened out and we meandered through the pine forests with the setting sun enveloping us in its golden light , my pace dramatically improved and I found myself speeding up.

The first loop went by quickly with no mishaps and other than having to walk a small incline after the remote aid station, I was feeling happy and relatively relaxed  as I came in to the start/finish area ready to start on my second and final loop.

By now, it had gone dark and I’d had to switch on my headtorch to see where I was going. The full moon provided some light as it shone through the trees and cast shadows on the trail ahead of me, but it wasn't quite enough for me to see properly.

As I ran back out on to the course and followed the forest road along the edge of the campground, there was a chap just ahead of me. I wasn’t paying much attention to him and was just focused on running my own race and wanting to know how mu h of a lead I had. The second placed lady passed us going in the opposite direction – she hadn’t yet started her second lap so I guessed that she must have been around about 5 minutes or so behind me. Now that it was dark and knowing I would likely slow on the final lap not only due to lack of light but also because my legs were starting to feel it, 5 minutes was a little too close for comfort for me and it made me attempt a little surge of pace to increase my lead.

It was then that the chap just ahead started to eff and blind and I realised that we had missed the turn back up the hill and along the x trail. We turned around and were now running blindly in the dark, frantically looking for course markers. Admittedly the first section of the course didn’t seem that obvious even in the evening light an hour or so ago, but now it seemed nigh on impossible to get ourselves back on track. We ran/jogged/walked back the way we thought we had come, wasting a good couple of minutes trying to locate the markers. We spotted the light of another runner through the trees so proceeded to follow them which thankfully brought us back onto the correct route back up the trail.

I was a little pissed off at this point. I was tired, my legs were tired and hurting, the second placed lady was now likely only 2 minutes behind, and I had to run up a sodding hill that was quite rocky but not exactly steep and my legs were winging and protesting on the climb. The chap who had gone the wrong way with me was also doing my head in – it wasn’t his fault, but I was feeling irritable and annoyed and his constant random shouts and noise were driving me nuts. I really needed to get past him but our pace was too similar and I hadn’t got it in my legs to run any harder up that climb.

Even when the trail flattened out he was still closeby along with another chap and although he would start walking, as soon as I tried to pass he would start running again and I selfishly wanted him to bugger off! I just needed my own space both physically and mentally so reluctantly and grudgingly, I picked up the pace to pass men and without looking back, forced myself to keep it going until I hit the next climb shortly after the aid station where I would allow myself a little walking rest. By then, I was hoping that the gap would be wide enough so as not to be bothered by unwanted company. Geez, I was grumpy!

The next mile or two whizzed by and I kept thinking that somebody was right on my tail but it was actually the full moon peeking through the trees as I ran along. It was a beautiful clear night and the moon looked amazing against a gorgeous midnight blue night sky. Despite the fatigue that was now definitely setting in, I was starting to enjoy myself again.

The climb after the aùid station wasn’t that bad the second time around – sure my legs were tired, but knowing that there was another lady likely not too far behind, it motivated me to put in a bit of effort up the hill. I caught a few of the 13km runners in the last couple of miles which now meant that I didn’t know whether the lights following me were theirs or if they belonged to a lady that was racing the 27km - I told myself it was the latter , just to keep me going.

The last mile and a half of the race was relatively flat and even though it was well marked, I was again having trouble spotting the course markings. The trail signposts were reflecting in the beam of my headlamp and a couple of times I almost took the wrong trail, but then I saw a couple more runners ahead which helped, and I knuckled down and started to gain on them.

I remembered there being just another tiny climb through this section of the course before it headed back to the campground and into the finish, and as I started that climb, I overtook another chap who was running in the 27km. I opened a good couple of hundred yards over him, and seeing the campground lights ahead and hearing the loud speakers at the finish line, I picked up the pace again.

The trail then started to climb and became quite rocky – I didn’t remember this at the end of the last loop – but I carried on regardless. I looked behind me a couple of times but nobody seemed to be following me, and then the next thing I know, I crashed face first down onto the rocks, cutting my right knee and badly bruising both legs and arms. It was one of those falls that really knocks you for six – I felt dizzy from the fall even though I hadn’t actually hit my head, I was covered in dust and dirt, and it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I sat there on the ground for a minute or so, swearing like a trooper and trying to shake off the feeling of nausea that had swept over me. I finally got up and tried to run up the trail, but my right knee was exceptionally sore and I started to walk. I turned again to see if anybody was following but still there were no lights and I figured that somebody should have caught me by now. It was then that it dawned on me – I had once again taken a wrong turn and started out on the loop again by mistake. I was now not only angry at my clumsiness at taking a tumble, but also about missing the course markings – what the hell is wrong with me?

I made my shaky way back down the trail and almost missed the junction again in my haste to get to the finish line. I hobbled down the last bit of single track trail before hitting the forest road back through the campground and ran / limped my way to the finish which was literally just 600m or so away.

Bloody and in pain, and sulking! :-)
I didn’t feel any elation when I finished – I felt so disappointed that I had fallen and taken a wrong turn not once but twice – and felt certain that the lead I held in the ladies race had been lost because of that late race error. I was feeling peed off and just wanted to get to the medical tent to see what damage had been done. It was only when I was sitting there having my wound washed out and Jubilee announced over the speaker that I was the first placed lady in a new course record that I finally started to smile. Thank gawd for that! It sounds awful but I hadn’t even realized that Andy was at the finish line and had followed me into the medical tent – how awful is that?!

Wounds cleaned and bound and my right knee throbbing with pain, I finally found out that I had indeed won the ladies race in 2 hours 36 minutes, taking something like 9 minutes off the old course record. The chap I had passed just half a mile from the end before making my mistake finished 3 minutes ahead of me so I know that I could have ran faster if it weren’t for the error and the fall. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it – I was happy with another victory and a course record, and I really shouldn’t complain.

Still in pain but feeling happier :-)
It was great sleeping in the tent that night. We had the 3 dogs with us and both Wilson and Tillie climbed under the covers to stay warm whilst Brandy kept guard. Apart from the pain in my knee, I slept like a log and at 6am the following morning, I was helping out with race registration for the Big Pine Races which were held the next day. It was great to see so many familiar faces and it was good to be putting something back into the sport I love by volunteering.

3 little munchkins loving the tent - Tillie is just trying to squeeze through :-)

Of course, the knee injury and inability to walk properly put paid to my planned hike up Humphreys Peak with Wilson. I was disappointed as the weather was beautiful, but I  knew that the hike would not be good for the knee and besides, that peak isn’t going anywhere anytime soon – I shall be back in Flagstaff again soon and fully intend to make it to the summit with my furry boy.

Instead, we took the dogs to the dog park in Flagstaff for some off-leash fun and then after lunch, we had a wander around Buffalo Park. The dogs loved it, we loved it, and we had lots of valuable family time together.

Buffalo Park with the munchkins  :-)

The past week has been amazing what with our visit to the beaches of San Diego and then a weekend in the pines in Flagstaff, and no work all week. OK, my knee is out of action right now – it’s still swollen and I am unable to bend it – but I don’t have any big races now until September, and we have more vacation planned in between which will hopefully involve a visit from Andy’s parents.

For now though, I’m relaxing and letting the knee heal and the body recover from a great start to my racing calendar. Mogollon Monster 100 miles is my next focus and I have plenty of time to get strong and fit for that one. There are a couple of training runs planned up on the Mogollon Rim over the next couple of months and I am sure to take advantage of them and the company so I can familiarize myself with the course. With trips with the family planned and trail running with friends, this summer in Arizona is panning out to be lots of fun.

Happy trails my friends, and happy running :-)

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

This Girl did Good for a Trail Runner! The Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon

Just a mere 7 weeks ago, I made the decision to run another marathon, this time in San Diego. The decision came just a week after running an 88km trail race and almost 18 months after my last road marathon where I had vowed never to do another one again. My interest in road running had waned since moving overseas back in 2012 and I find it extremely boring and arduous work trying to stay focused and running hard on pavement for much more than an hour these days. And yet I also saw the benefits of running another marathon - it meant I had to work on my speed and leg turnover, work on my speed endurance, something that my body just wasn't used to anymore with being an ultra-runner and trail running convert for so long.

Moving from trail to road and preparing for a marathon in just 7 weeks wasn't easy. I knew the distance wouldn't be a problem, but I had no idea how I would cope with a faster pace. I also wasn't used to pounding out the miles on road these days and my hips, glutes and feet had been having a few moans and groans leading up to the marathon but thankfully they didn't develop into running injuries. Add to that catching laryngitis and a bad cold just 2 weeks before the race and I really had no idea how my old body would fair over 26 miles.

When I entered the race, I put my anticipated time as 3 hours 10 minutes. Being honest with myself, I felt capable of running anything between 3.05 and 3.10 if I had a good day but I really didn't want to go into the race putting pressure on myself. This wasn't about posting a fast time - it was about teaching my body to run faster again which in turn would aid me with the trail races I had planned over the coming months.

The race was on the Sunday, so we travelled to San Diego on the Friday - a 6-hour drive from Phoenix to the coast. Having never travelled across the very south of Arizona, it was interesting to see how barren and flat it was down there compared to the Phoenix area. As we passed close to the Mexican border, there were real sand dunes just like those I have seen in the Sahara Desert, and I desperately wanted to get out there and have a wander but the heat was far too intense and it wouldn’t have been a sensible thing to do.

Real desert with sand dunes :-)
As we got to San Diego, it became hillier and the dried-out landscape started to become greener with lots more colour. Things also cooled off and we had gone from 35+ degrees whilst travelling across the deserts to around 20 degrees as we came into the city. It felt amazing even with the renowned San Diego coastal fog, and we excitedly opened the windows on the truck for the dogs to breath in some of the fresh air rather than being cooked up with the air con blowing.

We were staying at the Blue Heron Cottages in Ocean Beach and I must say that it was a bloody excellent choice. The original Dog Beach was just a 5-minute drive away and there were enough bars and restaurants in the vicinity to keep us entertained if we wanted to venture out. Ocean Beach definitely had that California feel to it, and we loved it! The cottages were amazing and very pet friendly - up to 4 pets could stay there for just $25 per visit which was perfect considering we had Wilson, Brandy, Tillie and Khayman with us. The back yards of the cottages were entirely fenced in with a communal area for all guests to share, and dogs were able to roam free and mingle with each other. They even provided dog toys to keep them entertained and our 3 pups spent ages out there playing and frolicking with each other. 

Perfect for dogs and cats - back yard at Blue Heron Cottages, Ocean Beach
Can highly recommend them :-)

We spent Friday afternoon at the beach with the dogs and they had so much fun splashing around in the sea and jumping in the waves. Even Tillie wouldn't come out of the water and considering it was her first visit to the coast, we were so happy to see her looking confident and having so much fun. I also managed a short 5km run along the coastal path and the beach and it felt amazing to be breathing in the cool, fresh sea air as the waves crashed against the rocks below.

The real original "Dog Beach" - packed with lots of furry friends :-)

A couple of friends from Phoenix were also running the marathon, so on Saturday morning I met with up with Mario and Cary and we all headed to race registration together. It was great to see them and chat about the race and running in general - with 30,000 runners expected to take part, it was unlikely that I would see them the next day so I was glad to be able to spend a little time with them and wish them a successful race.

At the Expo with Cary and Mario :-)
Saturday afternoon saw us spending more time on the beach but with an early start expected Sunday morning for the race, I had to be in bed early to make sure I was rested ready for the race. That night however, there was yet another terrorist attack in the UK and I found myself watching the news until later than expected, feeling extremely sad that this is the world in which we live these days. It made me think about the race - 30,000 people gathered together, raising money for charity and having good times with friends and family - something that these terrorists resent - but I felt extremely reassured to hear about the increased police presence, the K-9 units that would be patrolling the streets for the duration of the race, and the increased security in general.

Back to the beach with Tillie, Wilson and Brandy :-)

I awoke at 4.15am on Sunday morning and after a bowl of porridge and a cup of tea, we were ready to hit the road. The race started at 6.15 but with all the road closures, Andy needed to drop me off for the shuttle to the start before he got stuck downtown. He wasn't coming to the start with me - there was no parking and with having the dogs with us, it really wasn't practical - so after the hugs and good luck wishes, I headed to the start at Balboa Park whilst Andy headed back to the cottage with the animals in tow.

Downtown San Diego just before heading to the start - 5am and smiling :-)

It was a lovely, overcast and cool morning and conditions were ideal for running. I was feeling optimistic and hopeful of a good run, and I still felt capable of running around 3.10 if everything went to plan. I dropped my bag at the baggage trucks and then headed to the start. I was in coral number 2 and I was a little concerned that I would be too far back but it was perfect. I didn't get dragged along too fast at the start, but then I didn't have anybody in front of me that was holding me up and as they released our coral a minute or so after the first, I was soon getting into my stride and heading out on the course.

One of the things I love about the bigger races I have done in both America and Canada is the fact that they play their national anthems prior to the start and every time I've heard "The Star Spangled Banner" or "Oh Canada", I have felt extremely emotional and patriotic to the country I've lived in at the time. I never experienced that in the UK - the London Marathon and the Great North are both televised and are a huge part of the UK running scene, and yet I cannot recall them having ever played the British National Anthem which I find a little sad. Sunday morning in San Diego was no exception and as the national anthem of the USA was sung live, I once again shed a tear of emotion as I watched and listened to the people around me singing along before a rousing cheer at the end. It was amazing!

The San Diego Marathon course is definitely not flat and the first few miles are consist of some rolling hills. I was trying to stick to around 7.15 minute miles but I felt relaxed and comfortable and found that I was knocking out closer to 7 minute miles. I decided to just go with it to see how long I could hold that pace - even if I slowed towards the end, so long as I ran a sub 3.15 I knew that I would be very happy.

I wasn’t really paying too much attention to mile markers or mile splits but was trying to concentrate on finding a rhythm that I could maintain. I was also making sure to enjoy the course and the race itself. The course wasn’t the most scenic and it reminded me somewhat of other city marathons I’ve done in London, Calgary and Edmonton - but the energy out on the course in San Diego was simply amazing. There seemed to be endless cheerleaders out on the course dancing and singing away on what seemed to be every street corner, and there was plenty of live music to keep you entertained if you needed it. There was also a stretch at around about 8 miles where the street was lined on both sides of the road with photos and memories of soldiers that had died in active service, stretching for a good mile or more down the road followed by locals lining the street and waving the American flag for a further mile or so. The “Wear Blue: Run to Remember” team were behind this which I later learned is a national nonprofit running community that honours the service and sacrifice of the American military, bringing together military and civilian communities and creating a living memorial for all those that have fallen in service. I  always feel emotional when I see things like this, and it seemed apt that I happened to be wearing my blue Aravaipa Racing Team shirt as I passed through.

I passed the half way mark in 1.33 and was happy with how things were going - although I knew I would undoubtedly tire as the race progressed, I was still confident that I would run around 3.10 to 3.15 based on how I was feeling. I wasn’t too bothered about where I was in the ladies’ race – I knew I wasn’t going to win or even make the top 3, but a top 10 placing would make me very happy. At one point, I was informed that I was 17th lady – I was still on track for a 3.10 finish at that point and it highlighted the quality of the field if I was “only” 17th despite running that kind of pace.

We hit the Mission Bay area and did a lovely little stretch alongside the shoreline and through the park and it was a couple of miles after that where the real climbing started.

By now, my glutes were started to tighten a little which was affecting my lower back - I really need to build strength work back in to my training as it did hinder me a little when I tried to stride out and pick up the pace - something to work on over the next few months.

I passed through 20 miles in 2.25 and was once again surprised but very happy with the split but as the road started to gradually climb, I knew that my pace would likely slow from here onwards. I’d been informed by my good friend Mario the previous day that there was a good climb of over a mile but I hadn’t yet encountered that climb. At 22 miles, the road got slightly steeper but then we turned off and headed down to the freeway which led me to believe that that was the climb that Mario had mentioned. How wrong could I be! The next 2 miles climbed up the freeway – it was steep, it was long, and just when you thought you were at the top, there was a bend in the road and it continued to climb. 

My pace had slowed at this point and I ended up doing a combination of running and walking up the hill along with everybody else. We only had about 4 miles to go to the finish and I tried to stay focused, but I did find myself swearing a little when I saw the road again curved and went up even though it seemed like I’d already been climbing for about 10 minutes!

I knew that the finish was downhill but what I didn’t know was how much of the finish was downhill – was it a mile, was it 2 miles?

Finally, as I summited the hill, I saw the 24-mile marker – thank goodness! This meant that it must be 2 miles downhill to the finish – yay! Except my legs were buggered from the climbing and running a faster pace than I’m used to these days, and with the tight glutes, I couldn’t take advantage of the downhill as much as I would have like. I was hoping to do some sub 7’s heading into the finish to recoup some lost time from the climb but I found myself struggling to pick up the pace despite a decent downhill gradient – gosh, I even walked a few steps before realizing how ridiculous it was to be walking downhill!

My sub 3.10 had already slipped away unless I suddenly started to run 6 minute miles, but there was still a chance that I could go sub 3.15 if I could just get the flaming legs moving a bit more quickly. I overtook a few people and tried to keep pushing, counting down the miles as I went – 1.9 to go, 1.8 to go, 1.7 to go – and then finally there was less than a mile to go. My watch was approaching 3.08 – could I do it?

We merged with the half marathon runners in the final mile, us on one side of the road and them on the other, and the crowds were amazing! I could hear the speakers at the finish line but I still couldn’t see it and then bloody hell – there was another small hill of about 100 metres to contend with -what the …..??!! I pushed up the hill as best as I could before turning left into Waterfront Park and there ahead of me, about 600 metres away, was the finish line. I glanced at my watch again – 2 minutes to do 600m and go sub 3.15 – I pumped my arms, tried to stride out and move my legs but it felt like I was running through sludge. The crowds were urging us all on to the finish, I was pushing as best as I could and finally, finally I crossed the line – my official time 3.15.15.

I am not going to worry about 15 seconds – there are so many places where I could have saved a few seconds - if I hadn’t stopped to go the loo at 3 miles, if I hadn’t have walked through that aid station, if I hadn’t walked around that cone, if this, if that – it really wouldn’t make any difference to my result and I was very happy. I also hit my goal of a top 10 place – I finished 9th female, 2nd in my age group and 107th overall out of a few thousand runners. I’d be pretty selfish if I was disappointed with that result!

Post Race Party Zone in Waterfront Park, San Diego

Andy was unable to see me finish with having the dogs with us but we met up about an hour later and headed to Denny’s to get some greasy food to refuel before heading back to the beach again with the dogs. It was a pretty awesome day and I really felt extremely content when heading to bed that night.

More dog park and doggy beach fun :-)
It's now Monday afternoon and I’m typing this as we are heading home having had another amazing day. We spent another hour at the dog beach in Mission Bay this morning before heading to La Jolla to see the wild seals on the coast and have a little walk along the cliffs. We stopped off in Palm Springs and spent a little time there at yet another dog park to make sure the pups were fed and watered, and as I type, we have just crossed the state line and are back in Arizona after a wonderful weekend in California. Looking back, I can say for certain that I would consider the San Diego Marathon again despite being more of a trail runner at heart these days.

Coastal Walk in La Jolla

Wilson and Tillie chilling out in a hot and sunny Palm Springs

Wild seals in La Jolla

As ever, I have my husband Andy to thank for agreeing to going on another mini road trip with the dogs and cat in tow, and for putting up with me harping on about running and racing and pacing and heart rate etc etc etc for goodness knows how many years now! He may not have been able to make it to the start and finish line with me this time, but he still made me feel relaxed, he still had belief in me, and I felt much better knowing that the furries would be taken care of whilst I raced.

I also have to say a huge thank you to Adam Livingston who has been coaching me since last October. I am feeling the fittest I have done for a while right now and it’s thanks to the program that Adam has put together for me in recent weeks. When I think of the races that I have already done this year, I feel like my training has been spot on in helping me to recover but also in preparing me for the next. I had niggles that thankfully went away because my training plan didn’t have me overdoing things, and my pace increased enough for me to run a 3.15 marathon which I didn’t think I was capable of anymore – who knows, if I trained properly for 6 months instead of just the 6 weeks, and if I cut out the trail running, I may have even got close to 3 hours! Vegas in November anybody....?

But my passion isn’t on the roads, it is on the trails although that doesn’t mean I’m reluctant to venture back to my running roots occasionally - training for something different has helped to refresh my mind and body and I am glad I did the marathon - but I am looking forward to getting back on the trails over the coming weeks, starting with the Blackout Trail Race this Friday night in Flagstaff. Yep, I’m racing again on Friday and I’m once again feeling just a teeny weeny bit excited 😊

Been there, done it, got the t-shirt :-)

Trail Fun and Friends :-)

August seems to come have around very quickly this year and I can't believe that in just a couple of weeks, we have visitors arriving f...