Back to Racing!
With summer coming to an end, I thought now would be a good time to update the blog for my recent activity and yes….actual races!
THERE’S A RACE? How about two...
The Trail Monkey Round the Rock Ultra was held on Saturday 8th August under new Covid-19 restrictions with staggered start times, social distancing, hand sanitiser at aid stations etc, all part of the new normal.
This was my second time tackling the 48 miles and 4500 feet of elevation around the Jersey coastline and I was looking to improve on my last year’s time of 8:24:57, which was good enough to secure me second place in the woman’s race behind Leanne Rive 8:04:23.
One major concern was the August heat wave that had unexpectedly arrived with temperatures reaching 33°C on the Friday before the race with a 27°C forecast for race day. When you consider the average temperature for August is around 22°C and the last time the Island had temperatures this high for a six day period was July 2006 this was not good news. Anyway, enough of the meteorology lesson and to the race…
The 6am start time always means a restless night and an early morning filled with coffee, porridge and ‘dropping the kids off at school’. Although there were a few missing from the start line, including Leanne, I was excited to be racing again. I ran the first 11 mile road section to St Catherine’s with Sarah Hindle at a steady tempo and felt relaxed. The sun was coming up and the legs felt good. As we approached the trails at White Rock, Faith Addison, had about a 3 minute lead but I was happy with my pace and was sticking to the plan.
I always think of the north coast from Rozel to Grosnez as my second home as I have spent so much time running on that 18 mile stretch of coast line and today was no exception with the views and trails distracting me from tiring legs and increasing temperatures. As I have mentioned in previous blogs constant hydration and food in-take are essential on such long runs to maintain energy levels but today the food would just not settle in my stomach and I struggled to keep anything down, probably due to the heat. This of course meant more gels and fat cokes (you just can’t beat a cold fat coke when energy levels are depleted) to get me through the day, obviously not an ideal combination.
After overcoming a sore knee on the five mile road I dug deep in the midday heat and before I knew it I was on the esplanade heading for the finish line. Not having seen Faith at any point I knew I was running in second place and finished in a time of 8:29:53.
I was pleased with my second place again and although my time was 5 minutes slower than last year conditions were so much more extreme this year it is difficult to make comparisons. All in all a fab day and great run event.
MY FIRST TRAINING CAMP
Given the restrictions on our general freedom of movement and certainly on holidays since March, an unexpected opportunity arose in mid July to go to the French Alps for a 2 week training camp with Ollie Turner.
Ollie is one of Jersey’s best known triathlete’s having competed in Commonwealth Games, Island Games and Super League Triathlon and had recently got me into road cycling and swimming, both of which I was enjoying immensely but I must stress with no plans to target a triathlon anytime soon but merely a great way to cross train for and compliment my running.
We had an amazing 2 weeks in Saint Chaffrey surrounded by stunning scenery and famous tour de france climbs (Alpe d’Huez, Galibier etc.). Most days started with a swim in the local lake and we would then go our separate ways to concentrate on our individual training plans, me in preparation for Round the Rock and Ollie for the 2021 Island Games triathlon trials and hopefully the Jersey Super League Triathlon.
My long runs in the Alps were both exhilarating and terrifying. The scenery was incredible and terrain challenging but on many occasions I would find myself clinging to the side of a mountain with a sheer drop and thinking should I go back or carry on before eventually seeing a fellow hiker or runner…phew. I guess this is one of the downsides of planning runs on Strava! [Shout out to Al for the call whilst I was up there!]. Amazing running at altitude swapping between running up mountains or crawling down them but all in all great preparation for the races coming up.
Although I am very new to cycling and things like clip in pedals, disc brakes, deep rim wheels and even dealing with 22 gears I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to climb the iconic Alpe d’Huez with its 13.8km of tarmac, 8.1% average gradient and 21 hairpin bends. Of course my back wheel skewer broke the day before so I had to hire a bike on the morning of the climb but as it turned out this worked in my favour as the Giant Adv Pro hire bike was a much more expensive bike than my Focus and came with a “granny gear” which turned out to be essential on the steeper 11.5% sections. The fastest recorded ascent of Alpe d’Huez is insane at 37min 35sec by Marco Pantani during the 1997 TdeF. My time 1hr 27min…I’ll be back to bridge that gap.
A great training camp was completed just before northern France was re-designated a high-risk Covid area requiring a period of self-quarantining on arrival back in Jersey. We also returned before second wave spikes started appearing around Europe and felt lucky to have squeezed a holiday/training camp in during this mad year of uncertainty.
A NEW COACH
I have loved the last year being coached by Sarah Place who has been very attentive and everything I could ever have wished for in a coach. I will always be grateful to her for motivating and inspiring me to do better and for overseeing my development in such a caring manner.
The opportunity arose in July however to be coached by Tom Evans at Team Project Run. Tom is a professional ultra marathon runner and podium finisher at hopefully my next big event, the Marathon des Sables. It was with a heavy heart therefore that I changed coaches in late July to focus my training on my 2021 MdS challenge. At this rate the pandemic might prove more of a challenge to overcome by next April…fingers crossed.
After a successful Round the Rock and Island Games trials for Ollie where he finished first in the team and individual trials over 2 weekends we decided to enter the Breca Swim/Run event on Jersey’s north coast on 5th September with the imaginative team name of Beth & Ollie.
Because of ongoing Covid restrictions the event had been shortened to a 20km sprint route split between 6 runs (15 km) and 5 swims (5 km). The weather on the day was perfect but dangerous rip tides meant very late changes to the course with one swim cancelled and 2 shortened meaning a lot more trail running over the 20km.
Although at home running on the north coast cliff paths, I was actually disappointed with the changes as I had spent a lot of time sea swimming in preparation for the event and felt that my swimming was strong and with Ollie setting the pace could be an advantage over the other mixed teams.
The morning of the race I was surprisingly nervous as the first wave of teams contained most of the Islands triathlete’s who had just qualified for the 2021 Island Games. I was indeed boxing above my weight but was determined not to let Ollie down and put in a strong performance.
From the start gun, it was manic! The first run from Gorey Castle was a downhill flat out sprint and as we entered the sea at Anne Port I was still gasping for breath as my face hit the water. Thankfully the sea swim was fine and I managed to catch my breath and find some rhythm, all that sea swim training thankfully coming to good use.
We exited the 1-mile sea swim at L’Archirondel in the top 3 and never looked back. As we thought, we were very competitive in the swims and could hold our own in the cliff path running and quickly consolidated our position as 1st mixed team and 3rd place overall. We were both knackered as we approached the climb out of Bon Nuit but knew the end was close and could even enjoy the last few miles despite the pain.
Our finishing time of 2:35:05 secured us 1st mixed team, 3rd place podium overall just 7 minutes behind the winners Richard Tanguy and Nick Thorne and the award for the smiliest Team. What an amazing experience and my first victory of any kind since I started doing this running malarkey seriously 3 years ago. It was more special as it was a shared experience with Ollie who has been amazing this year and is a great athlete to train with and just be around.
NEXT UP – WILL IT HAPPEN THIS TIME?
As mentioned above I am now totally focussed on the Marathon des Sables in April 2021 with preparations starting with a MdS training camp at Club La Santa in Lanzarote in January 2021.
This is all of course dependent on some significant worldwide progress with Coronavirus and hopefully a vaccine in the not too distant future so we can finally put 2020 behind us and get back to the old normal. Mind you if I get any more vouchers for Club La Santa for cancelled dates I’ll soon have enough to buy the place…