An ultra marathon is a BIG undertaking. The initial blog post I planned was also BIG! So I have split it in two. Here’s the details on the training and the run up to Canalathon. It didn’t all go to plan…
I entered this race in July 2017. I can’t remember how it all came together but I planned to do the race with my team green friends (from UKrunchat on Twitter), Gemma, Jon, Brian and Ellie.
My training plan included Conwy Half Marathon in November, Cakeathon in January 2018 as a marathon and then, the big one, Canalathon 50k in March 2018.
Conwy was a great race. The weather was beautiful and the views across the Great Orme were spectacular. The medal was one of my favourites of the 12 medals I earned during 2017. I had a niggly calf during the race though which developed into full blown calf strain about a week later during one of my run group sessions. I had only just recovered from that and managed one run when I came down with flu. Proper flu, the kind where you can’t fathom how people manage to get dressed and get out of the house type flu. Christmas was a write off as we all came down with it.
I did Wepre parkrun on New year’s day thinking I was much better but I was wrong! I wheezed and puffed my way round the course and felt only slightly better when I learned that it has the second hardest elevation of any parkrun in the UK.
I was trying to build up the mileage ready for Cakeathon at the end of January. I had wanted to do this race for a while. I had seen so many tweets from people brandishing this absolutely enormous medal and, as I like a nice piece of bling, I was intrigued. When I heard the race was coming to Yorkshire (it’s normally in Kent which is a 5 hour drive for me!), I signed up immediately.
Also my calf strain returned when I tried to increase my running. It didn’t bode well for doing a full marathon at Cakeathon at the end of January. I was lucky enough to win a free physiotherapy treatment in a Twitter competition, though, so I got some treatment and felt much better.
I drove over the night before and stayed in a local pub near the start. It was a fairly low key event with about 300 taking part. We congregated in the community centre in Peniston for the race briefing and to ogle all the cakes. I had brought a marble cake for the cake competition but no prizes for me on that front. It was great to see Helen Bly, Colin and Keith Johnstone and to meet a few others for the first time.
The course was straight forward laps of 4.37 miles along the Penine Way which ran behind the community centre. 3 laps made for a half marathon and 6 for a marathon. I had really wanted to do a marathon here but I just wasn’t fit. I was determined to do a half marathon and in fact managed 4 laps or about 17 miles.
Running up and down the path was not the most interesting after a while but it meant that you constantly saw other runners so it wasn’t as isolating if you were a slower runner like me (especially slow that day!). We managed most of the race in the dry with some rain showers towards the end of my last lap.
The aid station was back at the community centre so when you completed a lap, you had your card stamped and helped yourself to plenty of crisps and cake. I was drawn to the rocky road which I later learned was made by Rachel, the race organiser. She reckoned that the secret of its success is that she adds a bit extra salt.
I was happy with 17 miles on the day as I remember just being really perplexed as to how unfit I felt for all of January. Flu is a horrible illness and really takes it out of you. I didn’t feel properly well until the week before Cakeathon, when I finally shook the annoying little cough. I seriously considered pulling out of Canalathon as I wouldn’t have been able to prepare properly and with 50km at stake, you really have to respect the distance.
Although I came down with yet another cold and missed Mad Dog 10K, after that, things went a bit better and I recorded my highest ever mileage month in February at 166.2 km, including at 32 km run around the northern half of the Wirral.
My favourite training run was what felt like an epic point to point run from my in-laws in Port Appin to Oban, a total of 34.5km. I followed the cycle path all the way to Oban (although it disappears in some places and I had cut through a camp site at one stage!). It was quite magical too because I also saw a red squirrel, a deer and an eagle all in the space of 10 minutes about halfway through the run. They all disappeared before I could get my camera out, of course! It was much more hilly than I expected, especially the last 10km but on the final downhill into Oban, I felt invincible and on a real runner’s high.
This was a turning point for me as I finally felt that I was as ready as I would ever be for the ultra. The cloud had lifted.