An academic in (running) tights

Blogs on education and running: My two passions


General running thoughts

UTMB and other stuff

So I’ve got a place in the UTMB OCC. Apparently this is a good thing and I should consider myself lucky.

What follows is all the random thoughts I’ve had since I became aware of the UTMB a year or so ago (yes I’m that inexperienced and naive)

When I first read a little about the races I immediately felt uncomfortable about the whole concept. I’m not sure why. I can’t identify a single point. It just didn’t feel like the kind of event I’d want to be involved with. Mass participation, snobbery? Full of urban socialites looking for bragging rights?

All these thoughts were based on no evidence, what so ever.

Then I was convinced to give Race to the King a go. Another event that didn’t appeal to me. I was used to being thrown a cup of tea at the finish and that’s about it. All these bells n whistle kind of events seemed pointless.

But I paid the RTTK fee and did it. I could see where the money went as it was a very well supported race and I did love having a toilet on route! Pretty sure people are sick of me revealing all when nature calls during my usual events 😉. I mellowed a bit on these kinds of events.

Anyway, after the race I noticed it had UTMB points – 4. I mentioned this on Twitter and after a while I was convinced to set up an account ready for the UTMB ballot. At this point I was still very uneasy about it all but I thought I ought enter as it seems to be the thing to do (sheep following the herd mentallity)

Then I noticed that my next Race, Lakes in a Day also had points -4.

So I now had 8 points and an opportunity to go for a few of the UTMB races. Still feeling unsure about it all, I opted for OCC. The baby race.

Christmas comes and I start entering other races fully expecting not be successful in the ballot. Then on results day…. yep, I was successful!

My first thought….f#*@!

This does not fit with my plans! I’m not that bothered about it. All that money to get over there and accommodation etc. Just think of all the running shoes I could buy instead!

A bit of self reflection and I realise I’m being a bit of a d**k. So I’m changing my mind set. This is an iconic race for so many and I ought respect that. As such, I’m going to embrace the race and training and give it the respect any race deserves. Plus I can turn this into a great holiday with my minion 😊. There are lots of positives and I’m going to embrace them all.

I’m now grateful for the ballot result, I’m sorry for my previous stupid thoughts and I look forward to a new experience.

But if anyone stabs me with a pole on this event….. I’m taking you down 😉😁😙


3 stand out moments of 2017

It’s that time of yesr where many of us reflect on the past year….what was good, what wasn’t.

I’m just going to post about the 3 events that impacted me the most – each for different reasons.

Paris Marathon – this was to be my A race. But a grade 2 ankle sprain and 2 courses of antibiotics later, the A race turned into a survive race. And I piggin loved it! Yes it broke me and I was so much slower than I originally hoped for but I was so damn happy to finish. This race represents everything I usually dislike in an event, road, over crowding, expensive etc. But out of nowhere the joy won.

Lakes in a Day – possibly my favourite event ever! This was a big challenge for me. I’m a relatively inexperienced runner of 4 years. I did the nav training and reccies and lots of hill walking. The weather was atrocious and my choice of shoe was stupid. But I genuinely loved it all. Another example of a race which I finished slower than hoped but taking it easier meant I wasn’t broken and I was still good to go out walking the next day. For me, a win!

And finally….

Night navigation winter training – not a race (through Nav4). To say I was scared was an understatement. During the night I felt pretty good about the navigation. It was the conditions that scared the #@*# out of me! Snow, ice and dark around Blencathra. But I faced my fears and stuck with it. Never have I wanted to quit so badly. I know I’ll do this kind of thing again and I’m also happy to remain scared. The last thing I want is complacency in the mountains.

So that’s a very brief summary of my moments in 2017.

I wholeheartedly recommend all three events but especially nav training whether that’s in the dark or daylight. Get proper training by experienced and qualified people folks. Not only can it open up a whole new world of events but it’s also a valuable survival skill. Knowing how to use a GPS unit is not.

Cheat sticks and wimp wands

I was unsure on how to start this. I guess the title could cause a stir (probably why I chose it). So before I get into the main discussion, I want to say this is a mix of scientific (peer-reviewed) evidence and personal opinion.

I’m a newbie when it comes to ultra running. I’ve only done 3 x 50+ miIlers with a few 50K and 40 thrown in. I have been running just over 4 years. I’ve been driven by curiosity and adventure. Being a career scientist, my first research tactic is to look for peer-reviewed research, find out if any bias exists, then make a personal decision.

Sometimes I can’t be bothered and just make a decision.

So as I read several posts on various ultra running communities there was a common debate…… running poles. Continue reading “Cheat sticks and wimp wands”

Linear relationship between race times and irritation?

This is a weird one folks.

There’s been a few races completed by my friends, and people I follow on various social media sites. Some of which are time focused, some aren’t. I think I’m definitely more of a ‘I don’t care but I like to finish mid-field’ (which probably means I do care!).

Anyway, I’ve noticed a couple of things lately: Continue reading “Linear relationship between race times and irritation?”

The most enjoyable hell I’ve been through

So, Lakes in a Day event – 7th October 2017. 50 mile ultra marathon across the Lake district with a reported 12000 feet of climb. Actual race stats puts it at 54 miles with just over 12300 feet of climb.

Spoiler alert: Continue reading “The most enjoyable hell I’ve been through”

Lakes in a Day recce (aka WTF)

I wrote this a day after I had 3 days recce on the LIAD course. My thoughts have changed a bit since then!

So I told my fella I’m taking him on a holiday in the Lakes for a bit of hiking. I eventually came clean and told him it was a race recce Continue reading “Lakes in a Day recce (aka WTF)”

Lakes in a Day Caldbeck to Threkeld (Leg one)

You may have seen my previous post (here) where I did about 2/3rds of the route over 3 days. All walking with a 1:50 OS map.

This recce was organised by Open Adventure, the race organisers.

Caldbeck is the start of the race which is in a village. You get given last year’s map which is 1:50 OS with the route clearly marked. The recce event split naturally into 3 paces with me being at the back of the middle pace. Each group had an experienced race person who gave some great tips on best route options.

So the recce. Continue reading “Lakes in a Day Caldbeck to Threkeld (Leg one)”

Lakes in a Day: Race prep thoughts

So I have done Caldbeck to Threkeld recce and then from Helvellyn to Cartmel recce. The only bit I haven’t done a recce for is Threkeld to Helvellyn.

From a newbie perspective this is a collection of thoughts for race day

  • Know how to use a map and compass. If weather is bad you’ll be VERY thankful of these skills.
  • It gets cold. Really f******* cold so I intend to pack my kit accordingly. I would prefer to carry a bit of extra weight than be stuck in the wood section at 2am in the cold with poor clothing. I’ll have long sleeve top, tee, spare top, down jacket, waterproofs, gloves, hat, buff. Plus the more clothing I wear, the longer it takes the wild animals to get to my flesh 😀
  • I will be changing my shoes (and socks) at Ambleside from La Sportiva to comfier trail shoes – may be my Leadville. I’ll also change into my dry top I’ll be carrying.
  • I will use my gaitors
  • I will use my poles (Mountain King) for ascents
  • I will take a 1:25000 OS map, especially as the last half could be quite tricky in the dark.
  • I have set up my Petzl Nao+ headlamp (with spare battery) so I have light for up to 20 hours
  • I’ll take my usual 1st aid kit
  • There are plenty of places in which shortcuts could be taken and incur time penalties but why would you? You’re not completing the race if you do that intentionally.
  • I’ll grit my teeth and just keep ploughing through Leg 1 – I will have to turn my brain off for this section as mentally, it’s awful.
  • I will opt to go through the gates when I reach the wall before Ambleside and keep the wall on my left.
  • I will use 2 x 500 mL flasks of fluid for Leg 1 but from Threkeld to Ambleside I will also top up my 2 litre bladder. I suspect I will be on this Leg quite a while. I am hoping 2-3 litres will be enough or at least enough until I reach Grisedale Tarn.
  • I’m going to start on the snacks very early on.
  • I’ve still not successfully managed my salt levels – I hope eating salty snacks will be enough.
  • It’ll hurt to run at some point. But I expect it’ll hurt to walk too, so you may as well attempt to run. This has been my thoughts on past ultras and it worked well.
  • I must keep reminding myself that after Ambleside, it’s easier in many aspects. Do not give up!
  • Don’t die

Continue reading “Lakes in a Day: Race prep thoughts”

Race to the King experience

This was my 2nd 50+ mile event. The 1st one was Gower 50 on Oct 1st 2016. This event claimed to be 53.5 miles (my fenix 3 said 54.3). To say I hit a roller coaster of emotions is a massive understatement! And the ride hasn’t stopped 48 hours later.

If any of you have read my previous posts you know that this year has been a mix of injury recovery and infections. This hasn’t meant I haven’t run, it just means I didn’t have any focus to my running. I still managed to knock out a couple of marathons, a 50k and 41 miler. I thought if I managed those with relative ease, then I should be kinda OK for RTTK. And I was OK.

So why does it feel that it was a big fat failure?

I had the right kit, I felt pretty excited at the start line, I had enough sleep and I had kept an eye on hydration and food the week prior. Even race day temperature wasn’t too bad! Humid but bearable.

I set off at what felt like a comfortable pace, walked (power walked) up the hills, stopped at the pit stops and used the portaloos. The 1st 20 or so miles were pretty fun! The scenery was great!

Then around mile 27 is I started to feel fed up. I have no idea why. It got worse. I felt I was being inhabited by ‘Kevin the teenager’. Full on moody, stubborn ‘ I won’t run any more’ mood had taken over. I was one miserable cow.

Add that with the heart palpitations and the hallucination…..(a dog about to attack me) led to an ‘interesting’ last 35 miles. Now I don’t think I was lacking fuel or hydration as I kept an eye on what was happening with urine loss. I can only put this down to heat. I actually dripped sweat and that’s something I don’t normally do to any extent. Any other suggestions are welcome!

So I carried on, stopping for lots of photos, stopping to look at the views (yes they were incredible) and took full advantage of every pit stop, including sitting down and drinking tea! According to my stats I wasted a good 45 mins on this 😀 But at the time, it felt the right thing to do.

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Around mile 35 I decided I was going to pull out of Lakes in a Day, another 50 mile event. By mile 45 I had convinced myself I useless and I should give up long distance. A volunteer at the last pit stop did her best to cheer me up and encourage me, but it was no use. I hated everything.

Until mile 51

Then I suddenly got a new lease of life and I ran……and ran….and ran! I felt good again! Obviously it was because I knew I was nearly done but that sulky teenage mood had been kicked to the ground. I actually felt like my body could have carried on running and crossing that finish line was pretty damn good.

So was the race hard? No. The route was easy (ish), there were a few good hills, the path was clear, the temp was warm but OK and I wasn’t suffering with any aches or pains and not a blister in sight. There was absolutely no reason for my mood. I can’t explain it.

I finished in 12 hours 15 mins, 18/81 in age cat, 50/171 female, 235/581 overall. For my standards that’s pretty damn good! A whole hour faster than Gower 50 and Gower was shorter by 4 miles and had less elevation.









I think I know why I’m not happy.

I really, really hate being tired! I like finishing events feeling fresh. Yes I know that means I haven’t put in the effort but it still doesn’t change the fact I like feeling relatively fresh after an event. I know I shouldn’t expect the same after 50+ miles, but I do. If I could just change this mindset and accept that ultras make you tired, then I’m sure I’d be a lot happier with my result!

I’m still questioning whether Lakes in a Day is a good idea

The Race Review

It costs £119. If you look at the price of other ultras, this seems pretty pricey! I begrudge paying anything over £45 so signing up to this was a leap of faith. Although many have said it is overpriced, I disagree. You get 7 pitstops, fully stocked with individual wrapped goodies, branded foods, full medic tent and portaloos. If anyone has every tried to arrange a race over farm land before, you’ll know what an absolute nightmare it is to arrange, and portaloos?…not a chance of sorting it unless money changes hands. So yes, it costs a lot, but you can see where the money has gone. This event and its support would not be as comprehensive without this price. Add in the discounted race entry for Save the Children, and I’d say the price was justified.

I will add that this is the 1st ultra I’ve done with full medic, loos and array of food etc at every pit stop. No grabbing of snot covered jaffa cakes at this event!

Add to the above to the lack of navigation required….I’d actually recommend this as a 1st ultra. And I’d never thought I’d never recommend anything over £50!

There are other charges to consider such as carpark and coach transfer fees but again, the carpark was on commercial farmland so I think that price was understandable. However, the coach transfer fee was seriously over priced. Thankfully I needed neither.

So yes, it’s a cracking event and yes I’d certainly recommend it even though I was miserable for the majority of the race 😀

I’m a fickle bugger!


An after thought

I don’t think I was that bothered about this event to begin with – I have had a rough few weeks with work and all I wanted to do was disappear. This might explain the extreme moodiness 😀 A few words from Matt (Running Adventures) has given me the kick I needed to change my mindset. Not only has his online coaching provided me with training to complete these ultras with relative ease, but he also gives me a mental kick when needed! For that I thank you.

So now for recovery and start to appreciate my ultra performances are improving. I have also arranged to recce part of Lakes in a Day route. The road is long….and long is good.

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