Dulux London Revolution Ultra Trails

You’d probably all thought I’d had my ultra marathon fix after doing Race to the Stones (RTTS) last year…Oh how you were all so wrong!!

This weekend I took part in the London Revolution trails event. Originally it was just a cycle event starting at Lee Valley Athletics centre in London, ending at Windsor race course. There are four route options – weekender, ultra, Southern and Northern stage. You can camp out at Windsor or tackle the course all in one! This year was the first year with the trails options, and I thought it was really well organised and planned event!

When I heard that they were adding this trail option, I couldn’t resist in taking part. With the start being so close to home and the finish area only a short drive away, it seemed perfect.

Admittedly I felt quite nervous on the day. I felt like I had prepared myself enough, hadn’t done enough training/long runs and seriously started doubting myself. However, when I turned up at the start line to be greeted by Charlie, Andy, Mel, Hannah, Emily and Lisa, I knew I was going to fine! I also got to finally meet Anna, her husband and beautiful daughter!

At the start it was very different to RTTS. It was small but there was a great buzz in the atmosphere, and everyone was really excited. The walkers started at 8.30am, followed by our wave for the ultra and marathon distance at 9.15am and the next at 9.30am. The half marathon wave started 12.30pm. For a grey day, it was actually quite mild. Within 5 minutes of starting I’d taken my rain jacket off and regretted bringing it with me! I was thankful for the event leaders, who followed Charlie, Andy, Lisa and I around the course, for holding on to it for me!

Once we had started, we made our way through the streets of Marlow and headed out towards the trails/hills. Feeling good, we made our way through the woods, up a few hills, greeted by some beautiful views and down towards the first pit stop. Here the course splits and marathoners double back and ultra marathoners headed out through Hambleden and up more hills. We didn’t spend much time at here, but to quickly use the loo and grab some fuel to go. What we were then about to be faced with, was NOT expected!!

Hills, and LOTS of them!!!!

This view at the top was WELL worth it!!!

Once we had surfaced from the monster incline we carried on into the woods and stumbled upon the quagmire that had developed over the recent few days, and what we had been warned about before we started. Luckily, Charlie’s white socks managed to stay white, however the new shoes didn’t get away so lightly!

Down the hill and deeper into the forest we went, heading back towards Hambleden and to our second pit stop.

Not spending much time here, again, we grabbed a few snacks and carried on. We were now making our way back to Marlow/base camp, along the high ground, down to the main road, through fields, passing fast flowing streams, through THE darkest of tunnels and down to the river. At this point we had lost Andy and Lisa. Andy was getting calf cramp and told us to go ahead. I felt bad leaving him but I knew he was serious about us going ahead, and he in great hands with Lisa by his side!

I will not lie, this ☝🏼was not fun! At one point it was SO pitch black, I couldn’t see Charlie in front of me. Afraid I’d fall down a hole, I ran faster to keep up with her and get out! A few miles later and we wiggled our way through the, now busy streets of Marlow, to the third pit stop.

The most exciting thing about this pit stop, was the watermelon! I can not describe to you the cravings I had for it and I literally jumped for joy when I saw it!!!! For a second, it took my mind of the cramping in my left calf and gave me that boost to get going. Again, we didn’t stop here for long, just because we didn’t want to start seizing up and we were also on for a good time!

Onwards we wet and with only 22.1km to go, we were getting into the pain cave…the cramp continued and I started to get uncomfortable. At this stage, my mind was also starting to go, and if it wasn’t for Charlie, I definitely would have walked a lot more than we did. We were now making our way to Windsor and thankfully it being along the river, it was flat. Through Bourne End and towards Cookham, we ran a lot of the way, crossing the river and along to pit stop 4, I was very thankful for another rest station.

We spent a little longer here, using the loos, filling up my water pack, grabbing a few more sweets and doing a bit of stretching. I could feel myself mentally deteriorating and at this point wasn’t sure how I was going to get through to the end. Before we left, we were warned of a rather large wasps nest in the bush, suggesting taking a wide berth when we passed it! Here, a friend of Charlie’s caught up with us and we chatted for a while, which was a welcome distraction!

Making our way towards Maidenhead, we passed the 15km. Knowing we only had a few more pitstops, and smaller mileage in between, we continued to run/walk when we needed and enjoyed the quietness and beauty along the river. As we passed over the Maidenhead bridge, we were greeted by the sweetest family of geese!

Not having much longer to go until our 5th pit stop, we continued running. I felt okay and my cramp had gone. I took my mind off things by singing to myself and enjoying the views. It’s strange when you run with someone, as your never sure of their pace and if you’ll keep up or manage to fill the time by chatting. There were moments of silence, and I used these times and when Charlie was in front of me, to focus/almost lean on her, to get me through. We often played cat and mouse with a few other runners, who were so supportive and friendly. We passed a few walkers who encouraged us on and boosted our confidence, with many of them mentioning how strong we looked and our fast pace. Reaching the fifth pit stop, we didn’t spend long. We were so desperate to sit down, the temptation was too much and we needed to get going again. We were ready to be done now.

Carrying on and with only 3 miles until the next stop, I told myself I could do it. “It’s just a park run” I repeated and we managed to get a solid 2 miles of running in. Passing through a lock and reaching the final pitstop, we didn’t stop. There was a cameraman just past the tent, Charlie grabbed some watermelon and we ran towards him. Less than 3 miles to go, we’ve got this. Or so I thought I had…

After a mile of running, we took a quick walking break, I munched on my cliff bar hoping it would give me something to get me through. We were both very deep into the pain cave now and all we had to do was to keep going. We took turns in “carrying” each other, talking about post run massages and how desperate we were get our shoes off and sit down! As we reached an opening along the river, to the right we saw the finish area, Charlie’s husband and children by the bank, shouting at us! A huge boost we both needed! About a mile before the end, I let Charlie go ahead of me. I knew I couldn’t carry on at her speed. For me, this ultra was not about a time but all about the experience and I’m glad she chose to run on and smash the sub 7 hour PB! I met a really friendly man, who I walked and chatting a little with, until he ran on ahead.

On my own, I messaged Becky and started to cry. I’m so thankful for her quick, response and boosting messages back, to get me going again. I started running, along the main road and into the racecourse. The end was so close, passing finishers, who were congratulating and cheering me on. I ended up catching up with the man, who I wish I’d caught his name, when Charlie left me. Together we made our way up the final few metres and over the finish line.

I was DONE.

We congratulated each other and all I wanted to do was cry. Out of nowhere a medal was placed around my neck and I searched frantically for Charlie. I spotted her in the distance and instantly burst into tears, as she ran over to hug me. I’d done it. I’d finished one of the most mentally challenging events of my life. Shaving a good hour and half off our RTTS, I was just glad I’d completed it. I didn’t give up, there was NO way that was happening. I fought hard and I am beyond proud of myself. I had the best day. Yes it was hard and painful towards the end but I’d do it again. Crazy as it sounds.

“You’ll be wistful for ‘the wall’ of the marathon, when you hit ‘the death grip’ of the ultra.” – Bob Glover. This quote sums it up. This ultra broke me physically, and tested me mentally. I did hit ‘the wall’, found my second, then third wind and experienced another level of endurance I didn’t know existed, let alone, thought I ever would experience or had in me.

If I’ve learnt anything from this, it’s how mentally strong I am. I have doubted myself so many time before races and events, that I’m not ready or haven’t trained enough. Not now. No matter what is thrown my way, I am a stronger person from this day and I have Charlie to thank, for playing a major part in it. Our friendship has grown closer, and I’m beyond grateful to know this inspiring and amazing lady.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to every single person who wished me good luck, encouraged and congratulated me. Your constant support means more to me than you will all ever know. A massive thank you, also, to the organisers and volunteers at each pit stop, along the course and at the end. Without you, these events don’t run as well as this one did.

I hope you have all had a wonderful weekend. Congratulations to all of you who raced, rode in the Dulux London Revolution, smashed PB’s and experienced their first ultras. I hope you are all proud of yourselves! Ride that high and tell everyone about it!

Emma xx

Tough Mudder Classic

Shivering, and soaked from head to toe, I told myself last year that I would never do a Tough Mudder again…well that didn’t quite stick…!

11am Sunday morning, and I’m in the car with Laura, and her husband Neil (our photographer for the day), making our way to the Mudder field, in Fawley. Here we met the rest of the team, checked in and took our ‘before’ photos. We arrived with a good amount of time so that we weren’t hanging around for too long, as it was cold, before the warm up started. It was 12.15pm. No going back now!

Like I remember last year, the warm up was pretty epic! A lot of humor, jumping around and wishing each other good luck. The atmosphere was buzzing, everyone was pumped and ready to go!

The first part of the course is dry and the obstacles include climbing over walls, trekking through the forest, running up Everest and piggybacking each other through the woods. We then reached the water and mud…we experienced the Block Ness Monster, Quagmire, Leap of Faith, and Hydrophobia, where many fears were conquered and realized. The water was absolutely freezing cold water but it didn’t stop us from completing the obstacles! You can find out more about all 25 obstacles here!

Making our way back towards the village/finish line through the woods and over the hills, our spirits were still high. We were so close, only three more obstacles to go! I’m hugely grateful for Philippa for staying by me as we climbed the pyramid and ran through the electroshock therapy together, trying not to face plant into the mud at the end. I, however, wasn’t so lucky avoiding that!

With everyone done, we made our way through the finish line, grabbed our t-shirts and other goodies before having the final photos taken. We were done, with big muddy smiles on our faces, we were so happy to have finished!

I can’t thank this awesome lady, who I get to proudly call my friend and PT, for a truly fabulous day! Your love, passion and dedication to your job shows through on each and every one of your clients (all members of this team) You got us through shoulder high water, mountains of mud and showed us we can all conquer our fears.

The stiffness is real and the bruises keep appearing, but I wouldn’t have missed out on this day for the world! Thank you to all of you for a fantastic day and a MASSIVE well done to everyone who took part – on Saturday too, at the 5k! I have to say, I am contemplating signing up for next year…!!!!!!

I hope you have all had a wonderful bank holiday weekend and thank you, as always, for reading! Much love.

Emma xx

Happenings 3.5.19

I can’t believe we are now in May! April flew by and was an amazing month. Let’s hope this one is too! As always, this post is inspired by Heidi.

Doing: Sat on the sofa with one dog on my lap and the other firmly asleep on my foot. We are dog sitting our friends dogs and absolutely loving it! Having four legged friends back in the house is wonderful, especially since we recently lost our pooch, Oscar.

Hearing: The snoring of the smallest dog nestled on my lap.

Drinking: Water but craving a cup of tea but we’re about to take one of the dogs out for a walk, so I’ll wait until after. Shortly followed by a bath!

Eating and Cooking: Lots of seasonal fresh greens and sweet, juicy strawberries (from England) that have just started hitting the supermarkets. Also not forgetting the daily coffee, or two!

Wanting: A lot of things…! Mostly a new pillow, which I finally ordered last night. I can’t wait for it to be delivered, because my neck is so sore from the old crappy one I currently have. Also wanting all the warm food, tea, cosy clothes as it seems that winter has returned!!

Looking: Forward to a fun month. Involving family, friends, and running adventures! I’m taking on day 1 (50km) of the new London Revolution Trails next Saturday, and I can’t wait! I’ve also got a few local 5 and 10k races that I’ve signed up for, and I get to look after my goddaughter for a weekend <3 

Deciding: A lot of things…too much to mention, so maybe lets just leave it there…

Enjoying: The light, early mornings and longer evenings. On the days I run before work, I get to see the sunrise, and recently its been the most beautiful sight. Returning home from work in daylight has also made a huge difference, and I feel like I have a longer evening at home.

Watching: Grey’s Anatomy (mostly at work because we don’t have Sky at home) and the recent series of Line of Duty – which ends tomorrow!! I’m gutted about this as I enjoy watching a little TV now and again.

Reading: Not as much as I’d like to. I started a book a few weeks ago but I’ve abandoned it, which I’m not happy about. I love reading, especially before bed, but I have been quite tired recently and fallen fast asleep the moment my head has hit the pillow.

Wearing: Allllll the sports wear! Haha! My boss gave me some beautiful leggings for my birthday, which are so comfy! I’ve also fished out my floaty tops, hoping Summer, or even Spring, will make an appearance soon!

Buying: Some running shorts – FINALLY! Thanks to Charlie for posting about them, and a reasonable price for the brand. Looking forward to trying them out soon.

Planning: Fun weekends with friends and family.

Craving: My supper – which I will start once I’ve finished this!!!!

Loving: Pretty much everything in my life at the moment. Especially the wonderful bunch of friends and family I have, who love and support my unconditionally.

Savouring: The dog cuddles and walks with our friends dogs. I really miss the company of a dog, but that will all change after the summer.

Playing: Catch up with sleep. I’ve felt exhausted recently, so have been making the conscious effort to get to bed early most nights. With my early mornings, early nights are the only way I’m going to get the sleep I need at the moment.

Feeling: Tired…with a big event next weekend, I’m prioritizing sleep next week. Also very fed up with the cold weather we have at the moment, and praying it changes soon.

Much love to you all, enjoy the long weekend, and thank you for reading.

Emma xx

Easter Weekend

I’ve been waiting for this long weekend for a while. To enjoy a break from work but mainly because my friend from Canada was visiting and we had so much planned!

On Good Friday we took part in the Maidenhead 10 miler. A beautiful sunny morning but already warm and we knew it was going to be a hot one! This was a local race, where I managed to see a few friends and the Prime Minister! It was very well organised, we collected our bibs just before 9am and met up with Steph, who had just ran the Boston Marathon and received her 6 Star Finisher Medal! After that we were shuffled to the start and waited for the Mayor to start the race. What I didn’t know, was that the first 3 miles were lapped (NOT a fan of lapping) around the business park, then off out into the fields/country lanes, through villages and back into business park. Unfortunately at mile 3, Cortney had to pull out. Having just ran Paris Marathon on Sunday, her legs were not quite ready for the distance, but it was a wonderful surprise to see her cheering me on at the finish!

The race was tough, I won’t lie. I felt like I’d re-lived the London marathon from last year, it was hot. I hadn’t expected it to be so warm, so early. Regardless, the marshalls were wonderful, there was plenty of water stations and the support from the locals and all the Athletic Clubs, was great.

On our way home we stopped off at a local, and new favourite cafe in Marlow, called Coopers. The food and coffee was delicious, much needed and I felt more human after it! We then made our way home to shower and change before Anna arrived and we headed to Harry Potter World for the evening! If you’ve never been, I HIGHLY recommend it! I won’t go into detail, because if you’ve been you know and if you haven’t, well I’ll let you find out for yourself!!!!

Saturday morning we got up and headed to Woodley Parkrun. One both Anna and Cortney hasn’t participated in. Again, it was already warm for 9am and I knew time wasn’t going to be my aim. I was using it as a shake out from yesterday’s 10 miler, plus I left my barcode in the car, not being bothered to go back and get it!!! We then headed to another favourite cafe of mine, Geo Cafe, for breakfast.

Breakfast consumed and cake bought, we headed back to mine to shower before heading out to treat our feet to pedicures. After which, we said our goodbyes to Anna and headed off to do some shopping. Feeling pretty knackered, a lazy afternoon in the garden was much enjoyed before a stroll to the pub at the end of our lane. This is exactly what hot, sunny bank holiday weekends are for!

Sunday morning arrived and we were up and out again to attend a favourite workout class of mine! Cortney had asked if we could go, so I thought why not! Another sunny and warm morning spent outside for an hour, before coffee with a friend after. My parents, meanwhile, had put together a great lunch for us all and some friends and we spent the rest of the day eating and soaking the sun up, in the garden. Stupidly, I got quite sunburnt and am now paying the price…will I ever learn?!

After a much needed early night and lovely lie in, we slowly made our way to the airport, via one more cafe, for one more delicious breakfast! I don’t think I’ve eaten out so much in so many days, oops, but it’s definitely something I’m not sorry about!!! We strolled through the woods to the cafe, a nice cool walk and chatted about our plans for Chicago in October. It feels like such a long time away, but I know it’s going to come round so quickly.

Strolling back to the car, we found ourselves at the airport saying goodbye. Something I hate, and am seriously missing her, but I know it won’t be long until October!

Now sat in my shady garden, cheeks aching from so much smiling and laughing, I feel nothing but content and so thankful to have such wonderful people in my life, from all parts of the world. I have a feeling I’m going to be riding a high from this weekend for quite a while!

I hope you have all had the best weekend in the sun, hopefully not as burnt as I am, with friends, family, loved ones. I hope you’ve smiled and laughed as much as I have and are feeling content as it draws to a close and we head back to reality tomorrow. But for now, let’s hold onto the last bit of the Easter weekend, and the sunshine.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter everyone!

Emma xx

Reading Half Marathon

The day had FINALLY arrived. Two years of trying to run this race and this time, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me!

I woke up quite early to the birds singing and the sun shining. The weather looked great for the whole day, as well as the temperature. I was excited and feeling very ready to go. My friend, Lauren, and I munched our bowls of porridge, banana and peanut butter before getting dressed and heading out. We planned to catch the free bus from outside the station, and I have to say, it worked so well. They did a fantastic job of having plenty of buses, making the who process really easy and quick.

We arrived just after 8.30, into the race village and made our way to the bag drop. Again, everything was very well sign posted, laid out and easy to find. Once we dropped our bag, we found Miriam, my friend I was due to run the race with, and huddled in the tent to keep warm. By now we had all hoped that the wind would have gone, but it was definitely a lot better than the weekend before, and for that we were thankful for! Around 9am we paid a visit to the toilet before heading to the start line. I didn’t realize the starting pens were quite a walk from the race village, so to anyone planning to run this race in the near future, allow plenty of time to queue for the toilets (which had doubled back!) and get to the pen on time! A few people ended up running to get to theirs before the gun!

I had the privilege of meeting James – such a sweet and super friendly guy! He’s taking on the Marathon des Sables in less than 2 weeks and I’m so excited for him! You are going to do GREAT!

Feeling cold and very ready to get started, we were hustled to the start line, the gun sounded and we were off. Our plan was to start off slow, pacing ourselves for the first 3 miles before the hill. The crowds were pretty great, throughout the whole course, and definitely played a huge part in the race! Unfortunately around the 3 mile mark, I lost Miriam. Our plan was to race together, but this didn’t quite work out. So I set off on my own but told her I’d be waiting to cheer her in at the finish.

As I pushed myself up the short and sharp hill, I continued to feel good and knew I had more in me than I thought! Winding through the grounds of Reading University, my pace was faster than what I expected it to be but I tried to not look at my watch, so I focused on the atmosphere and just ran. At mile 8 I saw my best friend, Becky, and her boyfriend Tom, to which I ran over and hugged hard. I teared up slightly as she pushed me on. Little did I expect to see them again at mile 10! I was in complete shock but it gave me the boost I needed to get through the last 3 miles along the A33.

Shocked to see Becky and Tom at mile 10 but also SO thankful! I needed it to get me through the last few miles!

This part of the race had now turned into a mental game. I decided to go through the alphabet naming animals, and then countries. As I reached mile 11, I’d lost interest and decided to focus on people in front of me and seeing my mum at the end. At the last half a mile, I dragged a young man, who had started walking, along with me. I told him he had to keep running, to chase me to the finish line, and that’s what he did! Heading round past the medal area and down into the stadium, I gave everything I had and strongly crossed the finish line with a PB. Grinning from ear to ear, I made my way out of the stadium, and launched myself into my mums arms for a much needed hug! She gave me my medal (she was volunteering) and shuffled me on to go warm up! I couldn’t leave the finish area until I’d seen Miriam come in and when she came round the corner I shouted and screamed her on! We met up in the race village, I gave her a massive hug and congratulated her. I was proud of her for pushing herself around the course alone. It wasn’t what we had planned but I hope that it proved to herself that she has the physical and mental strength in her, regardless of her doubts. I’m beyond proud of her and can’t wait to join her in a few more runs and races!

Back to the shuttle bus, Lauren and I then made our way to meet Becky and Tom for lunch and a much needed catch up!
I really enjoyed this race, and after two years of waiting to run it, I have to say it was truly worth it! They did a wonderful job at organizing, the crowds and the support from local communities, bands and the choir dotted around the course, was incredible.

So, what’s next. Well, some time off training, to be honest! I have a few 5 and 10k races that I’ve signed up for, as well as Pretty Muddy (Race for Life) and the London Revolution Ultra, in May.
I will, also, be volunteering at the London Marathon this year, at the Finish Baggage area. So if you spot me, do say hello and I shall be waiting with open arms for congratulation hugs!!!!

Again, a massive well done to everyone who ran last weekend, getting a PB or not, you should all be so proud!

Emma xx