Dopey 2019 Reflections: Rest and Recovery

Just over a week ago I finished the Dopey Challenge with a personal best marathon time in spite of really struggling with the heat and humidity. You can read about that here. For those of you who thought I was done with Dopey posts – nope. I’m going to milk it a little longer. I want to tell you about the rest and recovery that got us through the challenge in this post and then the celebrations and the medals in the next.

So the first thing to think about it how much sleep you’re going to need. Dopey is tiring and I think we managed to make the challenge enjoyable in part because we slept loads. We had an afternoon nap every day during the race weekend. It meant not playing in the parks but it was the right thing to do! Work, Christmas, travel and all of that meant we were tired anyway, add early starts and running increasing distances for 4 days in a row. You need to sleep – at least you do when you’re me!

So afternoon naps and early bed helped massively and that pattern didn’t stop – we slept after the marathon. On the Monday after we played in the parks with lots of sit downs and stops and we came away quite early. On Tuesday we went to the parks early but then came back and slept before heading back out, same on Wednesday. Thursday we managed a full day in the parks without a nap and were sooooo proud of ourselves, Friday we were back to resting if not napping!

The only thing that really got me was chafing. I shall spare you the details but trust me when I say you should never be that conscious or that worried about exactly where your underwear sits. It all happened during the half marathon when we had a pee stop. Sweaty lycra pants are tricky to get back up properly and they never sat right again. The full just aggravated the already raw areas. As much as it freaks me out, this was a job for vaseline. I hate vaseline, the texture, the smell, everything… but vaseline it had to be.

I am sure that being relatively active helped recovery. We walked a fair bit and kept those legs moving. I also spent quite a while lying down with my legs up in the air and overall I think I did pretty well. After the half marathon I was fine. After the full I was tight and my feet were a bit tender. However nothing really hurt. My lower back on the right side and into my right hip were niggly on and off but nothing too bad. I suspect that could have been avoided completely if I had stretched more. In fact this is the one thing we really neglected. We’re idiots! We hardly stretched at all which is just daft because that actually makes a massive difference and I think would have avoided the soreness that we did experience. Live and (probably not) learn.

The other thing that probably wasn’t ideal is food. We fuelled relatively well during the challenge having chosen our restaurants carefully but even then the portions were too big and we probably had too much. The days after we could probably have made better choices to help with our recovery. We didn’t go crazy and kept the booze within relatively sensible limits but Disney portions and menus that kept enticing us to have three courses meant that we had far too much and too much of the wrong stuff. I can’t tell you how excited I was to find some actual green vegetables! The food was amazing and part of our celebrations but it was really not a healthy week!

I was worried about how I would mentally deal with finishing Dopey, recovering and then starting running again. I mostly did quite well. I was overwhelmed and had little cries every now and again but I recovered well mostly. I had one major wobble. It didn’t come until Tuesday when we were queuing to get into Hollywood Studios. There were a few Dopey runners and marathon runners around and many of them looked very sore. I was feeling ok. I suddenly thought, wow I clearly didn’t work hard enough, I’m not sore, I should have done so much more… and I started thinking about points where I could have pushed harder. I soon snapped out of it but every now and again my mind goes back to that. I also forget or fail to recognise that Dopey is a pretty big deal. It can’t really be because I did it. And I don’t do things that are such a big deal.

I was also worried about getting back into running after Dopey. I struggled with that last time and London Marathon prep suffered as a result. I was concerned that I won’t recover enough to train properly. The first test came on the Thursday after Dopey. We decided to try a little run on the Contemporary running track. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas about how far I would go or how fast. I just wanted to see if I could still put one foot in front of the other. I could. I was incredibly tired and my legs felt pretty heavy. I trotted round a mile and a bit, took some pictures. Right at the end I felt my hip niggle a bit so I stopped. Overall, it was a good first trot out.

Dopey 2019 Reflections: Logistics and (not) cheese

It’s the Wednesday morning after the Dopey Challenge. I’m going to milk this for all the blog posts it’s worth so there are a few more to come. This one is about the logistics, the race organisation and most importantly, the snack boxes you get at the end.

Disney races are unlike anything else of this size. The organisation is slick. I see grumbles on Facebook pages and I heard people complaining but I don’t quite see why. Disney can do logistics. They get it. So over the entire race weekend which actually starts on Wednesday with the Expo, things run pretty well and are well thought out. They have frequent and plenty of buses from resorts to the Expo and back, they have buses starting early to get you from the resorts to the races and the only slight glitch here was having to wait until the course cleared on 5k day. On half and full marathon day the monorail runs from the monorail linked resorts and it runs frequently.

I loved the fact that this time the monorail exit linked straight into the race village thus bypassing the main security bag check making this much calmer and taking the pressure off all areas. The start area is big enough for everyone with plenty of quieter corners to hide in. You can choose to be pumped up by the main stage or focused somewhere at the back tucked away. The corrals are easily identified and there are staff and volunteers everywhere telling you where to go and by when. You don’t need your brain, you can just focus on doing your race thing and follow instructions (and crowds).

Here’s the big one: toilets. There are porta potties everywhere. Queues are always fairly short, the potties are well stocked and re-stocked with toilet rolls and the loos are not limited to the start area. There are some along the corrals and then plenty on the course for each of the runs too. Race organisers take note. This is how you do toilets at a race event! The picture shows a tiny selection in one area.

The courses are extremely well marked and marshalled with volunteers, signs and announcements everywhere. In fact I suspect that ‘Caution Runners! Course narrows ahead’ will be stuck in my head for a while! While it’s still dark volunteers point out any corners or turns with glow sticks that remind me of lightsabres. Volunteers are also strategically placed along the course to cheer you on and shout encouragement.

Water and aid stations Are plentiful and have water or Powerade and Vaseline, biofreeze etc respectively. again they were staffed by fabulous volunteers and were set out on wide stretches of the course with both drinks at either side and plenty of room to keep going through the middle.Then there is the entertainment on course. I have read and heard a couple of grumbles about how limited and crap it was. I disagree. There was pretty much something every mile. There were character stops, music, DJs and then of course the very Disney mile markers themselves. That and of course actually running through the parks themselves. While you don’t spend much time in them, a mile max really, they do really lift you.

The finish line area is wide and the first thing you come to is the medals which are given out by enthusiastic volunteers ready to congratulate you on your achievement, then there were space blankets or cooling towels, then further on bottled water and more Powerade, then the mouse ears on marathon day and then the snack box and banana station.

So the snack box. I’m not sure what to make of it really. It was some nice bits and pieces in including tortilla chips, pretzels and some apple purée which I actually really like (but not immediately post run) and then there is this:

Despite its name this is not cheese. I don’t know what it is but it’s not cheese, not even anything remotely resembling cheese. Nothing should be dipped in it. This stuff, whatever it is should not pass your lips. Just no! The thing is, people have been saying this for years. Our Dopey 2016 boxes had ‘the cheese’. There were so many comments about it, the whole non cheese thing was named cheesegate. Well chessegate continues. But seriously, just no!

So if you want to organise an event, you can learn a lot from Disney, throw people at it, more people than you could ever imagine you might need, brief them well and then make sure you have enough space and enough toilets. Everything else runner’s are likely to forgive easily but insufficient toilets is a big no and so far Disney races are the only ones where I have actually seen enough! If you can’t make that happen, just make the bling ridiculous. Disney have that covered too!

Hawkshead Prep

Tomorrow is the next ‘race’ on our calendar. It would be nice to finish this one! We are having our second attempt at a Lakeland Trails event. The first one back in October didn’t really quite go to plan. So I have scaled down ambition and expectation for this one at Hawkshead and been rather more realistic – I’m doing the 10km rather than the longer 17km distance. I’m looking forward to it. I had a bit of a wobble the other day when I decided I was just going to pull out rather than make a fool of myself and as I was coming home on the train today I had a few minutes of being absolutely terrified and really not wanting to do it. But now I’m a nice mix of excited, looking forward to it and a little bit scared.

Don’t ask me what I’m scared of, no idea! I know I can do the distance. I can run the distance straight off on the flat and I’m planning on run/walk/run anyway. I’ve  had a number of runs up at the distance, over the distance or close to the distance throughout the end of March and April. The distance is fine. The hills, well the hills are always to be reckoned with – it’s the Lakes. But hills are ok too. I have hills here. I walk. Quite simple really.

Lakeland Trails Hawkshead Course Profile (from the Lakeland Trails website)

The coffin trail might ask a question or two  – near vertical and about a mile long apparently – but I’m not enough of an idiot to try and run it. I’ll be walking, looking around, taking it in and maybe, just maybe, stopping to take a picture or two (and some deep breaths)! Time, well no actually I am not scared about how slow I’ll be and how long it might take. I’ll genuinely happily come last. I’m not concerned because I know people won’t actually be waiting for me to finish so they can pack up because there’s the longer distance still to come. We set off at 11am, the first batch of longer distance runners go at 1pm. I’ll get back to wave off the #Run1000Miles people doing 17k who are coming for our meet up. So the scared bit – it’s minor and it’s a healthy scared; an appreciation that it’s running, it’s trail running, it’s trail running in the Lakes – things can go wrong.

Anyway, we’re sorted. We’ve packed a change of clothes, baby wipes and deodorant so IMG_8830meeting the others won’t be too unpleasant for them. I’ve got my kit sorted with an alternative packed in case the weather hasn’t seen the forecast, I have a choice of 3 pairs of trainers and I can’t decide – it’ll come to me tomorrow. We have some nibbles and plenty of water for the drive up and back. My watch is charged, my phone is charging and I remembered to hunt down the safety pins for our race numbers. Sorted!

I haven’t blogged for a while so there’s lots to catch up on. I have been running quite consistently and I have also been writing – lots. I’ve finished my book (with my wonderful colleague Sanna) and once my brain has recovered from that last effort of pulling it all together I will be really excited about it but to be honest, I haven’t felt much like writing anything else.  So, more to remind myself really but to give you a taste of what posts are to come over the next few days, I need to finish writing these:

  1. Review of Alpkit trail tights and other stuff
  2. Review of Tailwind – so far the only drink/gel/bloc thing that doesn’t give me tummy cramps or make me feel sick. I’ll be using it tomorrow – don’t really need it for 10k but useful practice for the half marathon coming up
  3. Update on planned races
  4. Run down of April running and mileage update
  5. And of course, I’ll tell you all about how it goes tomorrow!

Running in the Shadows

Putting this weekend of running into words is quite hard. We ran in the shadows of Helvellyn, we ran in the shadows – full stop – there was almost no sun to be seen, we ran in our own personal shadows, fighting our own personal demons…

Let’s start at the beginning. We drove up to Glenridding on Friday afternoon. We stayed at the Glenridding Hotel which is a little odd but absolutely fine. We had our tea in the hotel bar and both opted for Cumberland sausage and mash – I wasn’t entirely sure about that for running fuel but we weren’t running until 1pm so it was going to be fine. We got an early night and I slept quite well. After breakfast (full veggie version) we walked IMG_7812across to the field where the Lakeland Trails marquee was. It was actually just next to the hotel. We couldn’t yet register for our race as they’re busy giving out numbers for the 5km and 10km runs that went earlier. We walked round the little village (didn’t take long) and along the first few hundred metres of the race route. I was beginning to really feel like I shouldn’t be there.

Everyone I’d seen so far was skinnier, looked stronger, looked like runners. It seemed ridiculous for me to be there. We went back to the hotel and just rested and watched the 10k race and 5k race leave and then, after not very long at all, we watched them come back in. That didn’t settle my doubts. I knew that this run was likely to be the hardest I’ve ever done. I’m not confident on tricky terrain and the terrain was going to be tricky. I got changed into my running gear and at about 12.40 we headed over for our 1pm start. We joined the queue for the loos, had a pee and then it was only another minute or two before we were on our way. We jogged slowly along at the back of the pack and for a short period of time it was all ok. It was going to be awesome and I was going to love it. We turned left towards the hills and quite quickly hot a bottleneck as everyone slowed to make our way down a narrow path alongside a little river. Then things opened up and started sloping upwards.

Screenshot 2017-10-15 20.35.17

I started finding it so hard so quickly and had to walk much sooner than I wanted to. I’d only done a mile and I was struggling. My head spiralled and I started to wonder what on earth I’d been thinking – I didn’t belong there. But I kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually the second mile was done. I don’t really remember what came where on the run but I remember the relentlessness of the early ‘up’ and then the section that I disliked most which was a muddy slippy path where a woman behind me fell (not seriously hurt) and I may have whimpered a few times as I lost my footing and just about stayed on my feet. Once through the muddy bit the paths turned to streams for much of the way and it was actually nice to run in the water. We settled into a little running rhythm and eventually passed half way.

The scenery was stunning. I kept reminding myself to look and try and take it in. There was a huge amount of water around with waterfalls coming off the fells all over the place. You could tell when you were running through a stream coming down from up high – it got marginally deeper and significantly colder. I didn’t take any pictures on the run so these are from the day before of the first bit of the route.

Not long after half way we were passed by the first runners doing the race rather than the challenge – they were doing the same route but had set off an hour later. The next bit was horrendous. We kept having to stand in to let people past so it was stop start and I IMG_7784was struggling. I was also a little upset. Kath had been talking me through all the sections, pointing out the easiest path and encouraging me on. At around 3 miles (I think) we’d come down a steep set of stones which basically formed steps and I was doing my best but going quite slow and at that point it sort of felt like Kath was just fed up of me and really annoyed at me. I snapped at her and we continued in silence from there. We said almost nothing to each other until we were back at the hotel. As it turns out, Kath was struggling with anxiety and I just made it worse by not realising, snapping at her and not being able to go faster. If we had been a little faster we would have been off the narrow stretch by the time people started coming passed and that would have helped loads. Kath just withdrew into her own little bubble to get herself through it and I didn’t know that so felt a little abandoned – because, you know, obviously everything is always about me.

At about 6 miles we crossed a little bridge and had a really boggy bit to navigate. As my right leg disappeared thigh deep into the bog and I vaguely wondered if my trainer was going to stay on my foot I sort of giggled. This whole thing was totally ridiculous. I pulled myself out, pushed on, got stuck with my left leg, pushed off again and felt my left calf muscle protest – protest but hold, then I was through. From there the rest of the run was along a wider path and it was easier for people to pass. I managed more running, not enough really but more. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and just over 2 and half hours after we’d set off, we crossed the finish.

We went straight back to the hotel rooms, stretched, and had a bath (I had a proper mud tan). IMG_7814We were both a bit upset and started to talk things through. We went for some food and were grateful when the brilliant little cafe/restaurant Fellbites agreed to serve us from their cafe menu when they’d normally have a break while they set up for dinner. Over food and a little walk we agreed that we would pull out of the Ullswater Challenge we were due to run today. If either of us had picked up a hamstring niggle we wouldn’t even be having the conversation about whether to run and really, an anxiety niggle is no different. Once the decision had been made we stopped at the bar, had a couple of pints and reflected on the run.

Today we went to Ambleside before heading home, had a lovely couple of hours spending money on running gear, books, cards… and then we came home and went for a run. I thought it was important for Kath to have a proper run so we agreed the route and I sent her on her way and followed more slowly. My legs were a little heavy and I could feel my knees and ankles questioning my sanity. Nothing actually hurt though so I toddled on. For some idiotic reason I had agreed to do our trail route through the wood –  who needs comfort zones anyway?! I hesitated briefly as I got to the top of the wood and had to navigate down the hill. I was tentative but I never kept moving. There were a few more sections along that path that defeated me – mainly because the path was covered in fallen leaves and I kept tripping because I hadn’t seen tree roots and stones and of course I wasn’t actually picking my feet up enough. I finished that section and went on to make my way onto the canal – I was determined to keep running which I managed until I saw Kath at just under 3 miles. I stopped as she was talking to someone we know so I had a little breather and then we went on and completed our loop together. With that run I have hit 405.5 miles for the year.

So what I have learned?

  1. I am a really selfish runner. It’s all about me and it never occurs to me that Kath might actually be struggling. It just didn’t enter my head. She likes running, she’s good at running, why would she struggle
  2. I am not fit enough to deal with the uphill and too much of a wimp to go downhill – bit of an issue on the Lakeland Trails
  3. I may have looked totally miserable but I actually really enjoyed much of it and certainly loved the experience overall
  4. In spite of 2 above – I am so much fitter and so much bolder than I was. Not that long ago I would really have struggled to walk that route very steadily in the dry and would simply not have done it in the wet!
  5. Even when we get things wrong and our wires crossed, we’re a solid team. We needed different things from this run so neither of us really got the best out of it but we finished and we learned a lot.
  6. Helvellyn and Ullswater are stunning and I want to go back
  7. Lakeland Trails events are great events and I want to do more
  8. Walt Disney was right, it is kind of fun to do the impossible
  9.  Champagne bought by a wonderful friend to celebrate another achievement is really rather yummy after a weekend of running (thanks Chris!). Cheers!


Planning September and October

I’m having a rest day today. Kath’s been out for just over 3 miles but I do think I need a bit of a rest. It’s a bank holiday here so I have done bank holiday things – taking time over breakfast, sipping coffee, contemplating life, getting excited about our holiday… that sort of thing.

The other day Kath was planning the next few months of running keeping in mind our IMG_6954goals and planned races etc. Here I’ll share the next couple of months with you (any further out than that and it’s too liable to change). So for August I have two runs left really – they are the usual 45 minute ‘maintenance’ runs (to use Galloway speak). Hm. They may have to be a bit longer because if I can cover 10.35 miles before Friday I will have covered 90 miles this month. I’d also like to get to 350 year to date miles before we go to Disney which, with another 10 miler planned on Saturday should be in the bag.

Then we go to Disney World for 10 nights and don’t have a plan as such. We’re taking running gear and we want to get out for a few little runs, just a couple of miles round the resort maybe. We’ll see how it goes. The whole point is to have a couple of low mileage weeks seeing as both of us have recorded higher mileage than, possibly, ever before in August. So the plan really kicks off on the day we land: 15th September: 10k easy (it won’t be easy but it will help kick the jetlag into touch). So here’s the plan starting this week. I’ve used the 12 week Too Fat to Run? Clubhouse template.

Sept/October training plan

So Mondays are generally complete rest days and Wednesday is generally strength yoga day and Friday is a general yoga day – plenty to chose from on the Yoga Studio app we have. We do try and do some stretches/yoga after every run as well as some strength exercises most days. Our next races are mid October – the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double (Helvellyn and Ullswater challenges). I was really nervous about these but the last couple of weeks of running have shown that I should be fine. The time is generous and I’m not running them for a PB – just to have fun and hopefully enjoy some spectacular views and/or bracing Lake District weather.

There isn’t anything on this plan I’m worried about. I think the hardest bit might be getting ourselves out for a 10k on the day we get back from Florida. I think we land about 7.30 in the morning so if all goes to plan should be home by 10.30-11am ish depending on how long luggage takes and what the traffic is like. I’m not sure what’s best, short cat nap and then run?

I like that the plan takes into account real life. That we have weekends away which don’t involve running and that that’s fine. I read something the other day (can’t remember where – some online thing) about running completely dominating and everything else having to be organised around that and I don’t think I’d like that. But then I suppose I am more flexible than many in terms of when I can run during the week. Anyway – that’s the plan. As the sayings go, if you don’t plan, you plan to fail and rules are there to be broken so these are our running rules for the next couple of months and they can (and probably will) be broken, moved, stretched and re-written.