MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 2

Continuing on with the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… 

*Catch up with part one if you missed out*

So Wednesday was the day I was probably least looking forward to. We had a planned “session”. Being a rather lazy runner who doesn’t do much (*cough* if any) speedwork, interval sessions and track workouts aren’t really my thing. It’s partly down to associating speedwork with injuries and partly down to not having a terribly strong desire to whittle down my PB’s. So the pain-gain balance doesn’t quite work for me.

Martin (Yelling – of MarathonTalk podcasting duo) was great at putting people (me!) at ease the night and morning before. It’s easy to big these things up and start worrying. He helped us frame things in in a way that meant we could go into the session relaxed and excited, using it as a way to challenge ourselves without freaking out.

We headed out in the morning after breakfast.We had about two miles of gentle running to the area where we were going to do the intervals. Martin led a warm-up routine (high knees, bum kicks, etc.) and then we had time to do our own personal preparations.

The session was 3×2 minutes 5k or faster efforts with two minutes static recovery, followed by about six minutes of rest and 10 minutes of 10k effort, followed by rest (can’t remember how long) and then 3×2 minutes again. I was dreading the shorter efforts as I’m a long distance runner and hate sprinting. Funnily enough though the shorter sections were far more preferable to me than the horrific 10 minute long effort, which reminded me of why I hate 10ks.

Suns out guns out 😉

Martin was great at shouting out the times and also picking us up on form, reminding us to keep our hips high, use our arms, raise our knees…stuff like that.For the 10 minute effort we ran five minutes one way and then turned round and ran five minutes back. This was horrific, I won’t lie. I was annoyingly in the middle of the groups so was on my own. The demons in my head telling me to slow down, not bother, decrease the pain…but I pushed on. It was nice to do a session like this in a group, knowing you weren’t alone in your pain. But it was tough. I thought I’d then struggle on the third session (the second set of short sprints) but actually I maintained relatively similar speeds to the first sprints.Then we jogged a mile to the little local cafe for some refreshments. Ahh it felt good to have worked hard! I say this ALL the time but I do need to do sessions like this more often. In the cafe I was able to spot a pudding that I knew 100% I needed in my life before I left Austria. Oh yes, I would be back.

After showering and lunch, Rob drove a few of us down to Mariazell for a little wander about as we didn’t do much exploring the day before. The little town is a popular pilgrimage destination and very pretty, and wasn’t far from the villa by car. Weirdly it’s known for its gingerbread and honey so lots of shops were selling this (including gingerbread ice cream).Alongside these shops there were lots of touristy stalls selling all manner of tacky memorabilia, like key-rings, postcards and even water bottles with the Pope on. Obviously.There was a lovely area where you could see the surrounding view as well as a hop scotch that demanded immediate attention. After meandering around a bit we decided to enjoy a nice coffee and snack in one of the cafes under the basilica.The coffee came with a chocolate marzipan which was just delightful. I gobbled it up quickly so I wouldn’t have to share 😉

Wednesday evening after dinner we had a quiz made by one of the run campers, Dave. It was hilarious. Bless Dave, he’d obviously given a lot of thought to it but it did unravel a few times, despite his meticulous eye for detail (“Data Dave”). Despite the bumps, it was a really good quiz with lots of laughter.Before coming on the holiday together we’d been asked to send our favourite running/motivational song to him and then we had to guess who’s song was who’s during the quiz. After spending a few days with each other it was a really fun thing to try and do. I chose Muse’s Knights of Cyndonia which I think surprised a few people (apparently Destiny’s Child’s Independent Woman seemed more my bag). Can I just add that I was on Martin’s team for the quiz and he was about 100% useless.

The next day we drove to the bottom of a mountain and got a chair lift up to about half way so we could run the rest of it up, then run all the way down (hi, I’m a runner and do pointless things).I thought we’d be in one of those enclosed car things, not actually sat on a ski lift right out in the open. I’ve used one of these before when I went skiing but it’s slightly different seeing hard rocks and ground below you rather than fluffy snow (though I do realise both would cause injury). But we survived!

Running up the mountain was more like run a bit, slow down, die a little, run a bit more, die a bit more, crawl. But the views more than made up for the lactic acid overflow invading my quads and glutes.We arrived at the top to find a play area. I mean, come on, what a fantastic place for a play area. Obviously a tester had to be done!So much fun. One day I’ll be an adult, but not yet!Then we began the descent down. Well, after a few photo opportunity moments, including Martin finally getting his “T-Shirt Around the World” photo for MarathonTalk. We also did a mini photoshoot where Martin took photos of us running past him with the beautiful scenery behind. Mine sadly didn’t come out too well!The run down felt fabulous after all the uphill running but after a while it became tricky in its own way. Getting your footing right on the unstable rocks and tiny trail paths required serious concentration.It was around 11k of running down to reach our destination, another lake. It was a fantastic run. I mean all you had to do was look behind you to see where you’d come and be blown away. And hearing cow bells in the distance as well and the smell of the pine and the all encompassing peace… it really puts it into perspective that not all runs are created equal.The lake was crystal clear. I think it took all of five minutes before a few of us had stripped off and gotten into the water. Luckily the busses had been dropped to the car park so I handily had my bikini and towel to hand. Then I enjoyed an ice lolly and coffee. Divine. What utter luxury.

That afternoon I did something I rarely (if ever) do. I got my kit back on and headed out with a few others for ANOTHER run. Double day running, baby! (Oh hey, Anna, maybe this is why your knee niggles now?) This was purely for cake though, I hasten to add. The others were going for 10k but all I fancied was a very gentle 5k and then a pit-stop for the mammoth cake I’d spotted the day before.My fellow run camper and friend, Sarah (super speedy, she holds the record for fastest fancy dress nun at London Marathon and has a marathon PB just over 3 hours) and I shared one of the monster cakes… Normally I don’t share food but I’m glad we did. Look at the size of my slice!Covered in custard, chocolate sauce and cream. I think we have a winner!

We went out for dinner that evening and the less said about that the better! I made a spectacularly bad decision on what I ordered and ended up with five fish goujons on a salad with a watery garlic dressing/sauce. The problem we had was that the menu was in German and we only had a few people to translate so it was a bit of a guess.

With my mediocre portion of disappointing food I decided the only way to improve matters was pudding. But lo and behold I fared badly in that area too. I was led to believe I was ordering a delectable strawberry cheesecake but received instead some suspect strawberry mousse. So, what does any normal person do? Order ANOTHER pudding. Obviously.I ordered the apple strudel and all was well again.

The next day, Friday, was less eventful as we’d be leaving for the airport (insert sad emoji here). Originally it was going to be a 10k time trial but no one was really up for a serious speed sesh after ALL the running we’d done so we headed out for a relaxed jaunt, some doing 10k and some doing 5k.

In true Anna style, I blithely ignored Martin’s map chat and directions beforehand because I assumed I’d always see someone ahead or near me. I’m rubbish with directions anyway so really there was no point me listening. Yep, I’m actually a 29 year functioning adult apparently.

Off we went and straight away I found myself alone again with the lead pack sprinting ahead. All fine, all fine, I can still see them. La la la plodding along. Wait, where’ve they gone? I’m sure they went down this road. *10 minutes later* wow this is steep. It looks like it’s going up this mountain. That can’t be right. I remember them saying there was a slight incline…but this is tortuous. Hey where’s everyone else?

*Sighs* I decided to randomly turn off from the main path to find my own little way slowly up the nearby mountain. Luckily I realised my error after hitting 5k and deciding the best thing to do was just turn around and go exactly the way I’d come. Worst case I’d bump into people coming the other way, best case I’d just get back to the villa.I arrived back to find the 5kers back and I was the first to return. I’m sure it must have looked strange me being the first back – the sudden rocket speed I’d gained! But turns out Martin’s route was longer than 10k whereas mine was pretty much dead on. I basically just clarified my stupidity. Though, no names, at least I didn’t have to hitchhike my way back after getting lost like someone else did… 😉

And then we were off to Vienna for a few hours before the airport. Vienna is infinitely less interesting than the Austrian mountains and lake so I won’t recap it, asides from a rather delicious slice of Mozart cake.I kind of don’t want to sing the praises of this camp too much. There will be a limited number of places for next year’s “proper” run camp and I’d love to go again. We were able to feed back a few issues (for example, for vegetarians, it was noted that more options were needed) but otherwise it was a pretty successful trial which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.I mean, it does kind of depend on getting a good bunch of people as well (of which we were supremely lucky. Everyone was just lovely and we bonded very nicely – I sincerely hope to keep in touch), but the scenery, the villa and of course the running was fantastic. If you can get there, I’d say GO.

Check out Sarah’s review as well here!

Have you been to Austria before?

Have you ever ordered badly at a restaurant?

Ever ordered to puddings?

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 1

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… well what do I say? Having been on three Sandy Balls Run Camps previously I knew as soon as I got the email invite this was a trip for me.

Described as a sort of ‘tester trip’ to see if the camp would work next year as an official MarathonTalk run camp, 14 of us headed out to Austria to joining Martin Yelling and a lovely guy called Rob to Rob’s luxury villa in the middle of nowhere somewhere outside of Vienna to run, chill and just have a good time. Martin, for those who don’t know, is one half of the running podcast MarathonTalk (if you don’t listen, do you even run?). He’s also married to the super fast Olympic elite runner, Liz Yelling. He’s not too shabby a runner himself either 😉It wasn’t a training camp per se, of which I was happy about as I prefer a more relaxed environment for these sorts things. It was very much similar to the previous Run Camps where you could run as much or as little as you’d like. More like a meeting of like-minded people in a beautiful setting with a bit of running thrown in.

The week started with my running club friend, Michelle, and I being picked up by Martin at a motorway services on route to the airport (he was coming from Bournemouth and handily Michelle knew one of the other guys going on the trip who was also being driven by Martin so we were able to blag a lift as well). At the airport we met up with more of the run campers and had breakfast.Standard procedure for me pre-holiday! Especially when you don’t know when you’re next going to eat. Go big or go home.

It was nice to actually meeting Martin properly. At Sandy Balls there are over 100 people and you don’t really chat to him or Tom Williams (the other podcaster). Martin’s a lovely guy – very relaxed and fun. Pretty much like he is on the podcast, but with fewer censors 😉 All the other run campers seemed very nice too and straight away I felt relaxed and happy. It was going to be a good week.We arrived at the villa to find a table spread with Prosecco, beer, soft drinks, water and fruit and had a bit of a refreshment before being shown our rooms.

Now when they described the villa as luxury they weren’t joking. It used to be a hunting lodge owned by a rather posh Austrian toff back in the day. Lots of wood panelling, fur rugs, antique furniture and deer antlers hanging from the walls (and a pinball machine because obviously…). There were three floors and each floor offered a different style of room. Some rooms had their own ensuite and some shared bathrooms between a couple of rooms. I was lucky to have a room with its own bathroom, though to be honest it wouldn’t have been a hardship to have shared. After the Sandy Balls Run Camp anything is an upgrade! 😉After dumping our stuff, it was time to stretch the legs out and have a little run around the beautiful lake just a stone throws away. The loop around the lake was 2.5k and for the first two loops we stuck together as a group, chatting and basically just gawping at the incredible scenery. The third lap Michelle and another run camper, Stuart, peeled off ahead. Michelle and Stuart are fast runners so I got caught up with their speedy pace while we were chatting!It was a fantastic group of people and amazingly we all just got on straight away. The common link of loving running obviously helped this, but despite all being different ages, with different backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences we just meshed. Of course I knew Michelle, and I also knew three of the others from previous Sandy Balls Run Camps but even with those who I didn’t know I found I could relax and easily chat to straight away.There was a good mix of people and downtime often involved meandering conversations and debates regarding interesting topics such as social media, minimalist living, favourite foods and hot pants (I’m not even joking).Dinner was prepared for us by the lovely staff (they did a fantastic job of taking care of us for the week – even providing us with a seemingly never ending Milka and Haribo supply). We all sat on a long table together for meals and it made for a very social and open environment.On the first night I did get somewhat confused and thought we were only getting soup and had a mild panic, only to relax when I realised a main course of fish and apple strudel pudding would be coming too. Whew. I was very well fed in the camp!

The next morning we met for breakfast (a continental affair) and prepared for the first proper run. This was to be a longish run following a route Martin and Rob had rec’ed for us on a previous trip. The plan was to stick together as a group and stop for a coffee halfway at lovely Austrian village before heading back.We were all of mixed abilities, from the super speedy Michelle (~18 min 5k PB) to the less cheetah tendencies. But despite this we stuck together, regrouping often, admiring the views and having impromptu photo shoots 😉The run was fantastic. We stopped halfway in Annaberg (my hometown) for a quick refreshment (Diet Coke and an ice lolly for me) before continuing our loop back to the villa. 14 miles in total. The day was ridiculously hot and after the run the obvious thing to do was jump in the lake. It was chilly but once you were in it was perfection.Lunch was hoovered up at rocket speed, the run having taken three hours! All that stopping, all those photos… I mean it was impossible to just run and not gawp. The terrain has been mixed; road, track, off-road, hills, declines… a bit of everything.

It’s certainly hard to say for sure but I think this was my favourite run… but it’s a close call.
That evening we ate al fresco with a BBQ of recently hunted local venison. Not being much of a drinker normally I found myself enjoying a cold Austrian beer each night. And pudding of course!Tuesday a few of us woke up early to get in a quick lake swim before breakfast. I’m not actually that keen a swimmer ordinarily but I love swimming in fresh water (but not arctic British dodgy lakes). I mean, it was pretty chilly I won’t lie but it didn’t half wake us up.After breakfast it was hard start with running uphill. I found this run quite tough and challenging. I let the demons in when I felt myself slacking behind the faster group but it was a good motivation to keep pushing. The risk of being left behind was never a reality as the other slightly slower group were behind me with Rob and Martin. Some of the second group preferred to do more walking, and this was fine. There were no judgements, no leaving people on their own. You felt very safe and un-pressured on the runs to go at your own pace and distance.Again, lots of stopping and taking photos. It wasn’t like the runs were non-stop. Though that terrain was challenging, it was never insurmountable, whatever your ability. The faster runners like Michelle and Stuart would run further ahead and then turn back to collect back with us. Everyone could get out from the run what they wanted.We ran through some gorgeous scenery and eventually reached the top part of the run. There was a chair lift option but a few of us decided to walk (or run!!) to the top. It was almost two miles and when I say uphill I mean some serious uphill.We arrived at a lovely little cafe right at the top where there was a beautiful tower you could climb up.After a quick refreshment, it was time for some fun downhill running all the way to the town, Mariazell, at the bottom.As always, the views were amazing and it was fun to stretch the legs out after such a punishing climb to the top.

We reached a beautiful view just before entering the town and the bells of the basilica were ringing, seemingly welcoming are arrival. All very magical.This required a celebratory ice cream and Diet Coke of course!

When we arrived back at the villa of course another lake swim was in order. One of the run campers, the lovely Becci, brought her GoPro so we had some fun lake pics. Such a great way to finish a run. I need to find me a lake…

And that will finish part one. Honestly it’s so hard whittling this down as there’s so much to say. I wish I could literally tell you everything but I’ll be getting to sound a bit like, “this one time, in Run Camp”… But anyway, part two to follow eventually!

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do holiday training camps appeal to you?

Do you swim much?

Marathon Talk Run Camp 2017 recap

So this was my third time going to the Marathon Talk Run Camp in Sandy Balls in the New Forest. Marathon Talk is a running-focused podcast hosted by two genuinely lovely and knowledgeable guys, Martin Yelling (running guru for lots of publications and races) and Tom Williams (MD of parkrun).

I love listening to the podcast on my long runs and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the previous two run camps I’ve been on so I pretty much signed up straight away as soon as it became available. I knew a few others who were going, though some of them couldn’t make it in the end which was such a shame 🙁 but I still got to see my running friend, Adrian, who went to the last one and I ran Fareham parkrun with a while ago.

I arrived on Friday night and met my fellow housemates. There was a married couple and two female friends who I was sharing with. What was nice was that I got a room to myself as the friends were happy to share their twin room.The cabins have a little kitchen, two bathrooms and a lovely lounge area with a fire. It’s very cosy but fairly basic. Sandy Balls is a holiday camp set in the middle of the New Forest so the scenery is beautiful with forests all around you.

That evening we headed out to meet other Marathon Talkers around a fire pit and toasted some marshmallows.It was nice to chat to lots of different people. I got to chat to Dan from Xempo, who does all the Marathon Talk clothinig. He was so lovely. A really nice and funny guy. I mentioned to him that I was considering running to the Moors Valley parkrun the next day as I wasn’t going to be able to stay for the Sunday long run. He said that his fellow housemate, Andy, was thinking of doing the same. Funnily enough I realised I knew the Andy he was talking about from Twitter. Though I found out he was a sub 2:40 marathoner so that concerned me a bit that I might hold him up a bit!

After chatting to Andy I managed to persuade him to definitely run it…and he handily said he’d figure us out a good route (the route I’d planned was all road and a bit dodgy with the traffic, true Anna-style planning of course!). He wasn’t entirely happy about getting up earlier than he’d need to for the parkrun but I won him round 😉

The next morning we met after 7am and headed out for the 9 mile planned run he had. This run was fantastic. The route was perfect. It went pretty much all along New Forest trails so off-road and through beautiful countryside. Over styles, along a river, through boggy areas… it was fantastic! We saw lots of wildlife and even had a dodgy moment of almost getting stampeded by horses but it was fiiiiiiine.

Though it was snowing when we set off, I’d worn too many layers and by mile two was feeling rather hot. The pace was good though probably faster than I would have run on my own – but that was nice to be challenged a bit. And there were several stops of jumping over styles and things like that. Though I did worry that I was going too slowly for this marathon pro!We arrived at Moors Valley parkrun with a good amount of time to spare. My pace is all over the place due to the trails and hills.Just enough time to lose our lovely warmth and get cold again! Our smugness of being nice and toasty while everyone around us was shivering quickly disappeared.We had a quick Marathon Talk group photo and then headed to the start. Moors Valley parkrun has definitely expanded since I last did (a year ago) as there were so many people – and not just the influx of 100 or so Marathon Talkers!

Source: Marathon Talk Facebook page

I was going to run with Adrian as he was semi-injured so would be going slower than normal (he’s normally a lot speedier than me!). We positioned ourselves badly though and the first 200m we were stuck behind a lot of people who were going slower than us. This was our fault not ours and we managed to politely (I hope!) navigate past them and get into a good stride.

A lovely woman, Pippa, ran with us too which was nice as did Andy. Then Andy dropped us as he speeded ahead, then Adrian and I peeled away from Pippa, then Adrian peeled away from me! It was quite funny how that worked out. I just didn’t have a sprint finish in me at all on my heavy legs.In the end I got 24:30 (151st! So many runners) which I was happy with after the 9 miles.Then we headed to the cafe to have some breakfast. I’d already decided on a fry-up because I was really craving one. And I knew I wouldn’t be eating lunch because by the time we got back and I got sorted we’d be heading out for another Marathon Talk chat and then interval session. I wanted to do the intervals (gently) as I wanted to increase my miles for the day. I’d done 12 already but I ideally wanted 16 as I wouldn’t be doing a long run the next day.The fry-up was perfection. I got to talk to Scotland’s parkrun ambassador, Terry, which was really interesting. He’d been to a previous Run Camp so he was a familiar face. it was interesting to hear about what an ambassador does and the differences with Scottish and English parkruns.

Then I thankfully got a lift back with Pippa and her husband and then chilled in the cabin with my housemates chatting about random running-related stuff. One of my housemates, Patricia, is also doing Tokyo so it was interesting to speak to her about it. She got a good for age place which I didn’t even know existed! This would be her final Marathon Major so she’d be picking up her amazing HUGE medal as well as her Tokyo one. How cool!

Then we headed to the conference area where we had a talk from Liz Yelling and Professor Andy Lane (one of my housemates!).
It was fascinating to hear Liz talk about her training, the mental and physical sides of being an elite runner and now being a non-elite and adjusting to that side of life. Professor Andy was really interesting as well, as he was last year. He talked about the psychological aspects of training and having several goals for a marathon rather than one. And not just having outcome goals but process goals so you’re hopes aren’t stacked against one thing that is in the hands of so many elements, not just your ability. For example, run with good form (like if you know the way you swing your arms needs correcting, focus on that) or focus on having fun and taking photos rather than I MUST GET SUB-4. Because ultimately a marathon is such a long way to go and there are so many factors that are out of your control that it is really setting yourself up for a fall if you just have one time goal… good stuff!Then we headed out for some intervals. I wasn’t planning on doing a full effort session but just wanted the extra miles and to “be involved”. We headed out a mile very slowly in convoy to an area just outside Sandy Balls. The views were amazing!We were divided into groups depending on our 5k time and I made sure I sand-bagged my time so I wouldn’t be tempted to go full effort. The session was 1k at tempo speed with 15 seconds break before a 300m full-on effort, then 5 minutes break – four times.In the end though I did run faster than I would have but it was nice to have some speed on my legs, even if it was fairly tough. I did feel a little bad as everyone was in pieces around me but I was OK relatively speaking.Then we headed back for a mile cool-down back to the cabins. So a total of 18 miles for the day! I felt pretty damn pleased with myself. I had a nice hot shower back at the cabin and then chilled out again next to the fire while chatting to the others about social media, races and life in general. It was great.

I was SO hungry though by 6.30pm when we all met up again for dinner. Annoyingly though we were one of the last tables to get called to go up and get our food. I was practically climbing the walls with runger. Yes, my own fault as I should have planned food better but there never seemed to be a great time to eat something – either having just run or about to get running. I did have a few snacks but obviously nothing huge.I made up for that by piling my plate high with chilli and chicken curry (weird combination but to be honest at that point I didn’t care) with rice and salad!We then had another talk from the truly inspiring and amazing Vassos Alexander who told us all about his ultra running craziness. Like how he ran around London ALL NIGHT before heading to his breakfast radio show in the morning. He said he stopped for an espresso but otherwise just kept running. He was such a lovely, lovely guy. I’ll definitely be buying his book! And he’s currently in the process of writing another one. What I liked was how he said he was offered money to write a kind of sports “tell all” book as he’s interviewed so many sports stars but he really didn’t want to as he wanted to remain trustworthy and genuine.I went up to him afterwards to speak to him and he was just so nice. I did have a bit of verbal diarrhoea though by blurting out how I didn’t actually listen to Radio 2 but was more of a Radio 1 listener and how my dad would kill me not getting a photo with him. He found this amusing thankfully!

I also got my usual photo with Martin and Tom… I do feel awkward asking for a photo from them but they’re so lovely that they didn’t make me feel like a silly fan girl.After a fun quiz, which our team (the Camp Runners) did terribly at, I had to go home. I had lots to do the next day and I needed a proper lie-in. I was sad to leave and sad to miss the next day’s fun but it had to be done. I loved the time I did spend though. I will be signing up straight away for the next one as it’s just so good. So much fun, so much good advice and information, so many nice people and a way to connect with other runners. I love it. I fully recommend coming if you can!

Have you ever been to a running camp?

Do you often do intervals?

Heartbreaker Half Marathon (and last of the MT Run Camp)

So the final part of the Marathon Talk Run Camp weekend recap is basically the race recap of the Heartbreaker Half Marathon that took place on the Sunday.

{Catch up with PART 1 and PART 2 of the MT Run Camp}

Not everyone at the Run Camp was doing the half but most people did. The others that didn’t did an 8 mile or 16 mile run with Tom.

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The handy thing about the race was that the race HQ and the start line was at Sandy Balls so it was really easy to get to in the morning, obviously, as that’s where the Run Camp was based. I knew the course was going to be tough and I had no ambitions to get a good time so I wanted to add some miles on beforehand to make it into a good marathon training long run instead. Happily some of my new (and old) fellow Marathon Talkers had similar plans so a small group of us planned to meet up at 8.45am to run five miles. The race started at 10am so it was more than enough time.

My fellow lodger, Hannah, and I headed down to meet Matt and another guy, Aidan.

IMG_8815Thanks to Hannah for the photo!

We planned a fairly easy pace and a 2.5 mile out and back to keep things very simple so we wouldn’t be at risk of getting lost and missing the race.

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We asked a passing dog walker to take our photo before starting so we could get a “Sandy Balls” photo. Annoyingly he missed the “Balls” off! Ah well.

The route was actually quite tough as it was rather undulating but it was just a precursor of what was to come really.

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We saw lots of marshals heading out to their positions as we were very close to the actual race route and we waved and smiled. A walker wished us good luck for the race as Hannah and me were wearing our bib already to save faffing time later. Then we got back in time to have a quick pre-race pee and listen to the brief. I also spotted a few of my running club friends as well which was nice. It’s a fairly local race so I wasn’t surprised to see them (one of them had previously told me he was doing it but I was just an idiot and had forgotten).

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Then we walked down to the start. “Down” being the operative word here. The race begins at the bottom of a rather steep hill. An actual hill, not an incline or undulation. If I’d have come across this hill at any other point during the race I would have walked it!

My friend Matt and me decided to run together which was nice as without any time goals it can be a bit boring just plodding out miles. Plus we’d both done the first five miles together so we were both fatigued to begin with. We tried to pretend the five miles hadn’t happened. Annoyingly my ankle chip thing had come undone and so I had to stop to sort it out mid hill. I told Matt to go on and this was pretty much the theme of the race!IMG_8801

After the awful hill we were then on to a very gentle incline along the road for about a mile and then onto the track in the New Forest proper. The ground was easy underfoot and the scenery was beautiful.

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The course is a sort of T shape where you run down the stem of the T, where the aid station is based (water or a carb-based drink on offer), and then it’s a left turn to head down an out back of three-ish miles. There was an almighty downhill and then some sharp uphills before turning around and heading back…to that almighty uphill.

 

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Matt is further along in his marathon training and in general I think he’s slightly faster than me so he was springing up the hills whereas I was struggling. I walked without shame when it got too tough, but I always caught him up again – though it did require me to burst some speed out.

IMG_8802Mid-race photo of Matt on the downhill

As we got going along the next bit of the T out-and-back we were going along quite nicely, chatting away. The good thing about these out-and-backs were that we could see so many other people either going out or coming back. We waved and cheered other Marathon Talkers and people we knew, which was great. We saw Martin Yelling zooming along several times too. I waved and shouted to my running club friend, Mark, but he just looked daggers at me and grunted.

“Must be having a hard time, I guess”, I said to Matt. Then we got to the turnaround and began our final way back (after just being passed by Steve Way heading back on the last stretch of the marathon – the marathon began an hour earlier and was twice the course). As we turned around the wind hit us in full force. Jesus! Suddenly we were faced with a ridiculous wind and some nasty uphills. No wonder Mark reacted like he did when I cheerily greeted him. I would have been the same! Matt broke away from me again on the hills and I vowed to catch him up again on the flat – which I did (though I can’t be certain he didn’t just slow down for me).

Then finally we turned again to head back to Sandy Balls. Thank god, we were now out of the wind. The good thing about the course was that you could split it into segments psychologically I found this easier than one loop or point-to-point (ahh Boston is a point-to-point…).

We just had one final nasty long slow incline to power up. Before that we had a nice downhill so I sprinted down it to put some distance between Matt and me so that when I inevitably slowed down on the hill the distance between us both wouldn’t be so huge and my catch-up wouldn’t be so hard.

The hill was relentless but we powered up and Matt, once again, got ahead of me.

IMG_8822Matt on the left (Photo credit: Gary Derwent)

But on the final mile back we were on a gentle downhill with the wind behind us. I did my fastest mile and felt completely in the zone of strong running. I caught Matt up and we pushed on to the end. Whew!image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the finish line we received our medals and a free cup of soup and bread roll (though I somehow missed the roll as I was talking too much). What a great way to finish a race! My time was 1:44:37, 58th overall, 10th lady and 6th in my age category. 18 miles in total. Not a bad training run!IMG_8806

The race was fantastic but it was really hard work. The hills and wind… it was tough, tough, tough! Especially with five miles to begin with. But the medal is great – with the race and date engraved on the back.

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I rushed back to get showered and sorted and then met the MT crew back in the usual events room for a carvery lunch. Before the lunch we had another talk, this time from Andy Lane who’s another Marathon Talk podcast interviewee (it also gave people a bit more time to finish and shower before lunch). Andy Lane is a psychology professor and does a lot of research into emotion regulation in sport. I was a bit zoned out at this point and very hungry. I hadn’t had breakfast or anything during the run, only the small cup of soup and it was now heading towards 1pm. My concentration levels were a bit blurred. What I did hear was interesting though.

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He talked about how as runners we need to have more of cyclist mentality where not every training session needs to be goal-driven and pressured. We should have more “cake rides”. Cyclists are renowned for just going out and cycling a fair distance but then stopping and enjoying some cake and social time. This rarely happens with running (OK logistically and stomach-wise it’s obviously tough, but we rarely have a run where it’s just about catching up with people and not focusing on the actual run). He said that goals don’t always need to be time-driven and hard. They can be things like: take some photos during this run or simply enjoy the outside. parkrun is a great example of this – it’s not all about your finishing time.

Then it was finally time to eat. It was a carvery so we had to go up and serve ourselves. Our table was about sixth to go up and I was getting increasingly hungry. Thankfully chatting distracted me so I wouldn’t turn into more of a monster.

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When we got up there I piled my plate high with vegetables, potatoes, gravy, and what I thought were stuffing balls, and then roast beef was placed on top from the chef. I tried not to wolf this down at breakneck speed… Turns out the ‘stuffing balls’ were actually vegetarian falafels. An interesting addition to the roast dinner! It was so lovely sat there eating this delicious meal amongst running friends and discussing the half marathon and running in general. I was very content.

IMG_8821This is actually from the Saturday evening but it’s mostly of the same people (Photo credit: Gary Derwent)

Then we went up for seconds Open-mouthed smile The chef gladly gave me more meat (there was loads!) and I was in my happy place. Until I was in my very full uncomfortable place Winking smile (arguably this is also my happy place…).

I plucked up the courage to go up to Martin and Tom, similar to the last Run Camp, and asked them for a cheeky photo. I told them I’d been there two years ago and showed them the older photo. They found it quite amusing.

IMG_8818Martin, me, Tom and Toms daughter, Rosie

They’re so friendly and lovely! I really hope I can make next year’s running camp. They’re just fantastic at organising the camp. It’s so well put together.

Then to finish Martin explained his epic running he’s got planned: running the South West Coast path! Twenty-one days of running 630 miles! Ouch! On the website you can sign up to join different stages or parts of the run with him which is quite cool. I might think about doing that – maybe! And not an entire stage!

And then that was it! I headed home with a lovely warm fluffy feeling in my stomach, and not just from all the food Winking smile Anyway, the Marathon Talk Run Camp was EPIC, amazing, so much fun and just fantastic. I learnt a lot, met some truly brilliant people and did some really enjoyable running. Fully recommend it to anyone interested in running: whether a veteran marathoner or a newbie runner just doing 5ks. It’s so inclusive and friendly. No one is left behind or made to feel like they’re not good enough.

Would you be interested in a training camp?

Are you better at running up or down hills?

What kind of course do you prefer – an out and back, a loop, laps, point-to-point, etc.?

MarathonTalk Run Camp –part 2

Continuing on with my recap from the MarathonTalk Run Camp (catch up with part 1 HERE)… So where was I? The interval session was fascinating to watch, especially seeing Steve Way taking it ‘easy’ in the third group at 7.20-30min/miles. I wish that was my easy interval pace!

Steve Way(Photo Credit: Gary Derwent)

During the interval session (that I didn’t take part in) my feet were literally like blocks of ice.

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Larking about (Photo credit: Matt Fowler)

I was wearing simple Van shoes without socks so really it was my own fault but it took a good while of them being in front of the electric fire in the lodge to get feeling back into them!

I was also starving as I hadn’t had lunch and it was now 4pm and dinner wasn’t until later. Luckily I had a whole load of snacks back at the lodge so it wasn’t too much of an issue. I wolfed down some beef jerky, a protein bar and a couple of apples. After relaxing for a bit we headed down to the events room again to hear the next talk.

This was from Jamie Ramsay who ran 18,000km in 600 days from Vancouver to Buenos Aires solo with no support crew. I mean, WOW. I’d heard the interview with him on the MarathonTalk podcast and remember being blown away by his incredible story – which he was in the middle of during the time of the interview. Now he was back and was staying in one of the lodges and was involved in the whole weekend too.IMG_8794

He was incredibly charismatic. He had a PowerPoint which showed photos of his trip and some geeky stats (us runners love our stats) of elevation, miles, etc. but mostly we just focused on him telling his story.IMG_8795

It was clear that he was very much a ‘happy go lucky’ kinda guy. He decided one day to quit his job and just go do something incredible. He’d been inspired by other adventurer’s books and enjoyed the feeling of completing marathons and found his life was just grinding along without purpose. So he typed into Google ‘Vancouver to Buenos Aires’ and that was his route – not even joking. He tested out running 10km every day for a month to see if his body would break and when it didn’t he worked out his notice, sold everything and got on a plane. Mind blown? Mine was!

He ran most days and usually over a marathon distance. He didn’t plan ahead, he just ran vaguely the route he needed with everything in a buggy (tent, some clothes, money, passport, food…the bare minimum). His journey sounded absolutely incredible. The people he met, the memories he made, the things he saw, the scenery around him… I literally sat there with my mouth open. Injuries and illnesses were few and far between (I’d hate him but he was far too likeable). Mostly the illnesses came from swimming in dodgy waters! Because I was so blown away by his talk I just had to go and speak to him afterwards (and get a shameless selfie with him – what a legend).

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I asked him several things, like what pace he ran and he said he aimed for 60 minute 10ks and that if he needed to stop and rest he would. There was no real time pressures (most of the time). He did say he got dependent on Ibuprofen though and had to wean himself off it as he found when things started hurting he just took the pills. I found him so fascinating to speak to and super friendly, I could have grilled him for hours. He was so passionate and enthusiastic. I have so much more to say about him and this in general that I hope to do another post on it… watch this space! (Also, if you fancy voting for Jamie for the National Adventure Awards you can do so HERE – he deserves it in my opinion!). He’s also writing a book, which I’ll definitely be buying when it’s out!

Then it was time for dinner! Luckily (I say luckily as if this wasn’t well planned on my behalf noticing where the food would be served…) we were sat on the best table for food. Our table got to go up first to pile our plates up.MarathonTalk buffet dinner

Don’t let that salad fool you one bit, underneath there was lasagne, chilli con carne, chips, garlic bread and potatoes. Would you like carbs with your carbs…? My empty stomach was definitely making the decisions here. And I went back for seconds. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve eaten so many carbs in one sitting in my life – usually I’m all about the meat but I think the caterers realised we were runners! This was then followed by a fruit salad and cheesecake. I still manage to surprise myself (and others) with how much I can eat.

It helped me with my decision about the next day though as I’d been wondering what to do about breakfast. I had brought porridge with me and also a Trek bar in case I wanted something lighter. I was going to run five miles before the half marathon (which started at 10am at Sandy Balls) to get a total of 18 miles. I’d planned to meet some of the running camp guys at 8.45am to run it with them (pretty much everyone is marathon training!). If I was to have breakfast it would mean getting up a lot earlier so things could digest… but if I didn’t have breakfast it meant I could sleep until 8.15am. What a luxury! Anyway, the decision was made after the sheer quantity of food I ate. I knew I wouldn’t be needing anything before the run now (and, spoiler alert, I felt absolutely fine on the run – really well-fuelled in fact!).

After dinner and pudding, it was quiz time. To make things interesting each table (team) had to write down six questions on ANYTHING and then the questions would all be collated and that would be the quiz. It didn’t even have to be about running, though obviously there was a theme. The questions were so random and hilarious. A few of ours were (which were running-related):

  • When did women get to run the marathon in the Olympics?
  • How many official marathons have been run in space?
  • When did the Marathon bar become Snickers?
  • How many marathons would you need to run to complete the circumference of the Earth?

One of the most random questions from another team was “how many Lego bricks would need to be piled on top of each other to crush the bottom one?”. These were not easy questions clearly!! (By the way, I think the answer was like 300,000). The best one was “should an adult man wear Crocs with jeans?” referring to Tom Williams who was stood on stage wearing exactly that. It was hilarious hearing him read it out and realising it was talking about him!

IMG_8798Damn, you can’t see his shoes!

It was so funny to actually see and hear Martin and Tom having banter in real life, rather than in an edited podcast. Martin is a lot more rude (lots of swearing and rude humour) and Tom clearly has to keep him under control. You can tell a lot of editing has to happen in the show for it to be ‘family friendly’. But it was hilarious to watch.

We scored 16 out of 60 which was obviously ridiculously bad, but not that far off from other teams. It was good fun though. I also managed to get a photo with Steve Way – who by the way, is the most easy-going and friendly person ever. Despite being a super amazing eye-wateringly fast elite athlete he joined in with everything and was always interested in what other people had to say and how their running was going.IMG_8788

He’s so chatty and funny. God I look so star struck in this photo it’s ridiculous… but I was just really chuffed!

As the night got later (oof past 10pm, can you even imagine! Winking smile) we headed back to the lodge to get some decent sleep before the next day. Most people were doing the half marathon, a couple were doing the full marathon (Steve Way included) and some were doing a guided run of either 8 or 16 miles. But we’d reconvene afterwards for a carvery and a wind down.

My tummy was so full I worried I wouldn’t sleep, but actually the carbs sent me off nicely. Despite my alarm being set for 8.15am I woke up after 7am as I’m such a light-sleeper and anything wakes me up. It was also FREEZING. Seriously our lodge was so cold! But I stayed in bed until 8am and had a black coffee, got ready and felt raring to go.IMG_8800

And I’ll leave the run and race recap and the end of the MarathonTalk weekend to the next post!

Have you ever gone travelling round the world?

Do you eat a lot of carbs the night before a race/long run?

Do you enjoy pub quizzes? I’m so rubbish at them but I do enjoy them!