View from the Back
Vicki Milburn's Blog
On May 20th, I took on my biggest challenge yet. A fell race. The race of choice was the Goatfell Race. I wanted to challenge myself to do something that scares me. I took on too much. The race was on the beautiful Isle of Arran.
By 11am, the Ormidale Pavillion in Brodick was packed. I looked around at other runners in full fell racing kit. I had little specialist kit as I didn't want to buy lots as I didn't know if I would do fell racing again. The first big problem occurred when I went out to do a warm up. My back bag kept banging against my lower back. I saw some of the other runners had tighter fitting packs or larger waist packs with water bottles on the belt. I wasn't going to be able to complete the race with my back getting bashed with every move. Not wanting another DNS, it was a case of rapidly rethinking how to carry essential kit. I was able to attach the holders of my waterproof jacket and trousers to my waist pack. Hat and gloves were stuffed inside the jacket. The whistle went around my neck. A few snacks in my backpack. My water bottle had to stay in my backpack to be left there. Despite the more unusual kit carrying practice, I passed kit inspection.
At 1200, we were off for a lap of the playing fields then a jog into Brodick and along the road towards Castle Drive. This bit was nice, pleasant weather and very pretty. At Castle Drive, it got hillier as we headed into the tree line. I could handle that and kept it up.
By the time I got to the top of the tree line, the path was heading to the summit and very rocky. Big boulders, narrow bits, large gaps that had to jumped and lots of walkers in both directions added to the difficulties. I felt way out of my depth but was hell bent on not quitting.
By the 2 hour mark, I was only at the shoulder of the mountain. I was mentally and physically exhausted. The summit was a near vertical scramble half a mile above me. I knew it would take at least half an hour then I had to make my descent. I was so far out of my league on this one that I made the decision to cut my losses and head back down, for my safety and for the sake of the many volunteers. It was sorely disappointing but I made the right decision. My first ever DNF.
Trudging back down was easier physically, though mentally harder. The sense of defeat was crushing, even though I felt it was the right thing to do. A mars bar from my waist pack gave me an energy hit to get back. I got water on the way down from my partner. The worst bit was coming out of the trees back onto Castle Drive. Off the mountain, onto the road... Then still a mile and a half to go.
The walk back to Ormidale seemed like the longest mile and a half in my life. I didn't bother running back as so was no longer in the race. I returned to the Pavillion to an unexpected round of applause.
I did the lap of shame around the playing field then watched the prize giving, cheering on the real fell running heroes of the day.
On reflection, I was too ambitious. I am proud that I started and gave it my best shot, it just was not meant to be. I am pleased that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I feel like I have learnt a lot from the experience. It did show me that I need to rethink my strategy.
I don't think I will return to run it next year, though I would love to be there to spectate. Fell racing isn't for me just yet. In any case, all of the experiences that we have are valuable and allow us to learn, but we don't necessarily always want to repeat the experience.
I am back! Injured but never defeated. Due to spraining my ankle at the Lizard Trail Race, I needed to take a short break so it could heal. It was touch and go whether I would be on the start line for the Sunderland Half. The big decider was Parkrun on May 6th.
This was a highly significant Parkrun for me as the outcome would determine if I was going to do the Sunderland Half. As it happened, to my great relief my ankle held up well. It was a fairly slow Parkrun after not running for a week. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable morning at Redcar Parkrun.
Sunday morning came early. Too early if anything, I struggled to get up. After the usual long run prep of Vaseline, deep heat and beet-it, we arrived for the start in Keel Square. I had a lovely time catching up with friends and runners we know but rarely see. After cheering Carolyn and the other 10k runners over the start, it was my turn.
The half marathon had 1000+ fewer people than the 10k but the start line atmosphere was just as lively. I was near the back from the start but I am happy with that, there is more space there. I never see the point of starting at the front when I know I am slow. The first 5 miles went quickly and on target. There were more loops than a roller coaster in the first few miles. I settled into an interval pace and headed out towards Grangetown. The next 5 miles started well. I work on a slower time for miles 6-10. Negative splits are a long distant dream for me. As the run headed into the bridge and followed the 10k route, I seemed to run into a glass wall.
For the last 4 miles, it was hell. Every part of my body hurt. Every interval run got harder and increasingly slower and shorter. Walking got slower. Heading up the hill at Roker Park felt like a very long slow slog. At the top, my mum was cheering me on. The Roker Park loop seemed endless. On reaching Dame Dorothy Road, my spirits increased as that was on the home straight. Crossing the bridge again, Carolyn was there with her camera. The photos aren't pretty, I looked totally wrecked.
On the sight of the finish line, I somehow found the strength to run, in a fashion. I was well beyond sprinting! To say I was relieved at crossing the line is an understatement.
I was disappointed in my time of 3:07 but wear the finishers t-shirt with pride. I really struggled to get over the finish to wear that!
Now it is time to look back at possible mistakes and how I can improve them. I had no means of interval timing so I maybe got those wrong. I also need to look at changing the intervals in the second half when I am getting more tired. I am not dwelling on the time, though it really hasn't done my Run Britain handicap any good. I just want to make my next half marathon, Edinburgh, better.
Easter Monday was a more special day for me, finally getting to enjoy Easter. Still miserable about missing North Tyneside 10k, I went out and did a slow 3k along the river. With running and enjoying cooking our Easter dinner, I felt like a whole person again.
Wednesday evening was Start Me Up for Sunderland, or SMUFS for short. This event has ran one evening a month for 4 months. I attended the first in January and the last in April. This helps runners prepare for the Sunderland 10k or Half Marathon, with short group runs and advice. I struggled with the 4K run and just couldn't get into a pace. I was behind everyone else so thankfully there were 2 lovely tail runners. I have really enjoyed both events and met some people with real vision and passion for running and developing sport for all abilities in the area.
On Thursday I felt much fitter and did a 5 mile training run. I was happy with my time and enjoyed it. I began to feel like I am making progress again.
Saturday was time to put the pre-race experiment to the test. As Sunday was a 5k race, I decided it wouldn't be a disaster if my legs were tired the next day. I did 2.8k sprint intervals after I finished work. Feeling weak legged in the shower, I began to wonder if that had been over-ambitious.
Saturday also came with the realisation that I am 4 weeks away from the greatest and scariest physical challenge of my life: The Goatfell Race. I don't feel ready yet.
The week ended with a sporty day. My partner and I enjoyed the Terry O'Gara Memorial 5k at Cobalt Business Park. First it was the kids 1 mile race. I watched as they did it considerably faster than I could. Then again I am used to being overtaken by 7 year olds at Parkrun. Then the main race. I set off running and was surprised to find I had reached the 1k marker in under 7 minutes. A super fast first kilometre isn't always a good thing, I have been known to struggle for the second half of a race. I switched to sprint intervals for the final 4. I finished with a chip time of 36.55 which is my fastest ever 5k.
I later enjoyed watching the London Marathon on TV. I would love to do a marathon one day but I know I'm not ready for that yet. Maybe one day...
An article I came across on whether you should run the day before a race has provided a lot of thought this week. The basic premise is that it is good for us to run the day before as it loosens the muscles and prepares them for exercise, as long as we don't overdo it. I then did a Google search and found lots of articles supporting this and a few advising against running pre-race. I guess it very much depends on the individual runner.
Until recently, I was very much in the 'rest' camp prior to a big race. I feared that a pre-race run may result in being too tired to run well the next day. There was also an element of laziness too.
My 'rest' approach changed purely by accident. I am a huge Parkrun fan but I cannot do it often, so I grab any chance, even if the day before a big race. I have been surprised by the results. A few weeks ago, I did Stewart Parkrun the day before Temple Park 5k. I set out to do a slow plod around Parkrun but I got my best 5k time this year. The next day at Temple Park 5k, I beat that time. Last weekend I struggled around Rising Sun Parkrun then got my fastest 10k the day after at Blyth.
I was due to do a 5 mile run on Friday so I decided to experiment with doing a short run on Thursday afternoon. I only did 3k. A slow jog for the first km but then I got bored and switched to sprint intervals.
Unfortunately, I cannot comment if it helped or not. On Thursday evening I got my kit ready, went to bed early and prepared to get up at an uncivilised hour.
I did indeed get up at an uncivilised hour but the rest of the day's plans never happened. I woke up at 0400 feeling rough. From 0430, the effects of a horrendous D&V bug kicked in. While my partner enjoyed a sunny drive to Bridlington and a scenic off road 5 mile race on a beautiful bright day, followed by a lovely pub lunch, I absolutely was NOT enjoying my time at home very sick. My Good Friday tea was a rehydration sachet, immodium and a bottle of lucozade.
That was my first ever DNS. It was disappointing, but these things happen. Sickness bugs don't kindly give you advance notice of when they will strike.
Easter Sunday was spent moping and miserable because I wasn't recovered enough to run the North Tyneside 10k. I have wanted to do that race for ages. DNS number 2 :-(
All I can do is say onwards and upwards. I have plenty other events to look forward to.
Next Sunday I have a 5k, so I will repeat the pre-race day run experiment then.
My running week ended on a better note. My number for Blaydon arrived. That is exciting! It is my first Blaydon race :-) Also, on Easter Sunday, my partner did do the North Tyneside 10k with the rest of Newcastle Frontrunners, and brought my new club vest home. NFR changed colours on April 1st so I am looking forward to running in team kit again.
My running week started on Wednesday at the Monthly Mile in South Shields. I can't do it every month but I always enjoy it when I do. It is always great to catch up with people too. It is even better when the nights are lighter. I gave it my best shot but finished in over 11 minutes, compared to my best time of 10:17.
Saturday morning was Parkrun time. This week was Rising Sun Parkrun. As I wasn't able to train outside races this week, I was treating it as a training run rather than chasing a PB. I set off raring to go. 200 metres in and my legs felt like dead weights. After just 600m I was walking. By half way even walking was with heavy legs. I spent the rest of the course enjoying the scenery and a mixture of walking and jogging. I couldn't find the power - mentally or physically - to sprint. I finished in over 44 minutes.
It was not my finest hour. Knowing I had Blyth Valley 10k the next day created a sense of anxiety.
Sunday morning. I struggled to get out of bed. My muscles ached and even walking hurt. Not even the bright sun could lift my spirits. Getting dressed took ages due to rubbing in copious amounts of Deep Heat. Breakfast consisted of cornflakes, paracetamol and a Beet-It shot. I find the latter the most vile tasting substance I have ever known but I am willing to give it a go. My partners car stunk of Deep Heat within in a few minutes.
The unusual breakfast must have worked. I had decided to sprint interval the full distance. 1k in and I was finding the strength in my legs coming back. By 3k, I was really into it. I was loving the beach scenery. I felt at one with the beach, the warm breeze and the smell of the sea. The stresses of the previous week began to fade away. The sprinting intervals became much lighter. This lasted to the 5k point at Seaton Sluice when the race route left the seafront and turned onto the road that took us back to the finish. Less inspired by what was around me, I put my focus into keeping the sprint intervals strong to the finish.
I finished in 1:19:07, a time I was delighted with. I had spent ages trying to break the 1:20 barrier. My previous best 10k time was 1:20:38 and I couldn't get near it for ages.
My running week finished socialising with some really cool people from my running club who had also done the Blyth Valley 10k. We enjoyed sunshine, a brilliant chippy, cupcakes, ice cream and lots of laughter and chatter. Overall a great day!
My name is Vicki, 40 something runner, living in Sunderland. I've been doing running events since 2011. I do a range of races, parkruns, Great Run Locals, monthly miles, charity fun runs and various distances. Over the last few years, I have taken training more seriously. I am a member of Newcastle Frontrunners.