Event Review: Race to the King

Whether you chose 23.4, 30.2 miles, or run the whole she-bang, Race to the Stones has quickly established itself as a fantastic race event in the summer trail calendar. And for GRTW runner, Florence Theberge, who came first female for the Day one race, the perfect training race for her first ultra the South Coast Challenge in August 

The morning of the race was gorgeous, with the temperature already warm at 5am, lovely as a start but promising hot conditions for later for the many runners, joggers and walkers taking part in the RTTK 2018. As I was allocated wave B start at 8.15am, I arrived at Arundel train station at 7.15am to waiting for the event shuttle (£10) to the race start.  I arrived there to find many other runners waiting for the shuttle too and we all exchanged stories, some had signed up for both days, some to run it continuously, others to break for the evening and some, like me just doing day one.

Most were from UK, although there were a few runners from as far afield as Poland, who looked very experienced judging by the running kit. And the age range was really diverse, including two ladies in their sixties or seventies who told me they walked the race every year.

Soon we were on our way to the  race start at Gaston Farm (BN18 0RS), arriving just a few minutes before the first wave went off at 8am. The atmosphere was great with the usual warm ups, long toilet queues and the excitement of the runners, support crew and event organisers all in the middle of a farmer’s field just north of the beautiful city of Arundel.

Ten minutes later, my wave was started by a man dressed as a King, carrying a fuming torch,who ran in front of the runners before quickly stepping aside for risk of being trampled over by a hoard of eager runners/walkers.

The start was quite narrow for about a mile, making it difficult to overtake walkers/slower joggers & runners, so I’d recommend anyone else doing this next year to start nearer the front. But soon the path widened and wound through a mixed of shaded, wooded areas and South Down chalky trails, including some steep hills! I love  hills but these were even quite an ascent for me but it gave everyone the opportunity to have a  power walk and refuel. And the reward of the climb was stunning views and picture-perfect landscapes which made me regret having buried my phone at the bottom of my running bag.

Over the 23.4 miles there were 2 feed stations (8 and 16 miles approx.), which were both well provisioned with fruits, sweets, squash, flat cola, and water, while the second stop included for the 1st and the 2nd had savoury snacks and sandwiches – and both hand hand santizers, a new one on me!

I ran most of the race on my own but chatted to a few runners who gave me advice on how to manage cramp during ultras – the Monty Python Walk.  Apparently, if you feel your calves starting to cramp, practice that walk and you’ll be fine. It didn’t quite work for me but that might be due to being already too tired to be able to reverse the process. Thankfully, I was close to the finish for day one where were were cheered in and ushered towards hot food and salad bar.

At the finish, there were also small tents for those who were staying overnight or for the runners who needed a break before pushing on. They were quite close together, so if you are a light sleeper, I’d bring ear plugs. The best thing though were showers, yoga mats for stretching as well as a massage tent provided by Birmingham physio students.

I loved the race but the downside of finishing in such a remote area was the complete lack of mobile phone reception (3 mobile) , and being nine miles from the nearest train station. I didn’t want to wait six hours for the next shuttle at 7.30pm, and so I had to walk another mile to Compton village for a bus (every two hours to Havant).

 

What I learned from the race:

  • A change of scenery is great for fighting the ‘tiredness’ of the training
  • Never, ever neglect 2 things: sleep and strength training, especially your upper body; your body gets tired and you really need your upper body to switch on and help support your body
  • Practice, practice, practice: I used this event as a training run for my A race – my first ultra – and it was a great occasion to test running gear, refuelling on the go, pacing in race conditions.

 

The Good

  • Great organisation from start to finish with clearly marked route and well stocked pit stops (even ice cream!); love the hand sanitizers at every pit stop.
  • Finish area (day 1) greatly set-up; my favourite was the bean bags areas with free newspapers and a giant TV screen to watch the World Cup 2018 football
  • Very good atmosphere, friendly staff and great post-run massage from Birmingham physio students.

The Bad

  • Narrow start meant a very slow jog over almost 1 mile before getting into one’s own pace.

The Ugly

  • No phone reception at the finish area.

Flo is being mentored and coached by GRTW ultra running coach, Sarah Sawyer. For details on our virtual coaching packages please click here

 

Event details:

https://www.racetotheking.com/

Next year date: 22-23 June 2019

Day 1 2018 entry fee £57

Shuttle from Arundel station to race start: £10

YouTube video of full length (not official video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnaaC9A8RRo

 

 

 

GRTW Recipes for Foodie Runners: Power Bombs

So, you hate gels or want to avoid them while training? Try our all natural energy balls

 

  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 15 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (plus 1/4 cup for rolling)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cacao powder
  • pinch of rock salt
  • 1 tablespoon water if needed

Method

Put almonds into a food processor and pulse until it forms a flour (or you can use packet almond flour). Now add the remaining mixture and pulse until combined. If it seems dry, add a bit more coconut. Then spoon out the mixture and roll into balls. Coat each ball by rolling in coconut.

These are great for afternoon snacks, pre and post run and every time in between. You can also play around with the ingredients, changing the nut (pecan and walnut?) and add cinnamon, ginger, even a bit of cracked black pepper.

If you’re lucky enough to run with us in Brighton, some of our runners even get these at the end of a run.

How was your weekend running?

The weekend just passed had us thinking a lot about motivation and will power to push through when training or racing gets tough…

Perhaps this was partly due to my taking on Grafman, a Half Ironman event, which comprises a 1.8km open water swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride and rounded off by a half marathon at the end. But it was also because it was a weekend of running events that require a lot of mental reserve, such as the Night of the 10km PBs and the North Downs Way 50.

Fittingly enough, the Girls Run the World ultra distance coach, Sarah Sawyer, took home first place this year at the North Downs Way 50 (for coaching advice and mentoring with Sarah, email info@girlsruntheworld.co.uk) and another reason my focus was on mental strategies due to a podcast that I did with her last Friday. After all, who better to ask about mental strategies than a woman who came first in the Crawley 24 Hour Track Race a few months ago, running 127.8 miles in 24 hours around a 400 metre track?

You can listen to the podcast later this week, but what was most interesting about our chat is that Sarah didn’t say ANY of the usual things when it comes to mental strategies. Instead of counting, music or mantras, her main approach is grounded in the fact that she loves running and whenever anything gets tough, she reminds herself of how lucky she is to be running. That and switching up her events so that her ‘journey’ to that final event destination goal stays interesting and enjoyable seem to be her main strategies for staying strong.  At the beginning of this year, she focused on the 24 hour track race, then she switched from flat running to the hills to take on the North Downs 50, which leads her on to the Global Limits 200km Stage Race.

So, when I was running my final six miles of my Half Ironman this weekend, with the sun belting down, I reminded myself that ultimately, I choose to do this, as we all do. At any time, any one of us can say, ‘That’s it, I don’t want to do this any more,’ and stop.

We take part and participate because we enjoy the challenge, the camaraderie and the sense of achievement. And if we remember this, that when we train and it feels tough on a tempo run, or a long run when we’re just not feeling it, try to shift your thinking to accept that that discomfort is simply part of your end goal, making you stronger, and helping you to get to the fantastic end feeling of achievement. If it wasn’t challenging, none of us would feel quite so good at the end of it. Besides, it makes the celebratory beer feel even more amazing.

We’d love to hear about your weekend racing and any strategies you use when the going gets tough. Comment below.

South Downs Trail Run, Sunday 29th April

If you’ve been hibernating or pounding out the miles for marathon training, NOW is the time to get out and enjoy the beauty of the trails in early summer…

This week is the start of our Summer Trail Series in Brighton, £45 for the entire series which runs to the end of June or you can drop in per session to suit.

We have two distances, a shorter one for those who simply want to build their endurance and start running on trails but for fun, and a longer distance that will build week by week for those who are joining us in training for the Bewl 15, July 1st.

This week’s run meets at Ditchling Beacon for a beautiful run along the top of the ridge before heading down for a loop past a local farm and back to the return. The total distance on the start of this season is six miles but it is also open as a four mile route, with runners being able to turn and return on their own should they wish.

Get fit, meet new runners, explore new trails. It is the BEST time to be on the Downs.

For details of the full season, click here. To book visit our booking page and choose the full series or book per run. 

Plus don’t miss our once a month Running Adventures, starting in May. Details coming soon. If you’re not in our Brighton and Hove Facebook group, don’t forget to join. 

How was your weekend running?

This weekend saw the second up in the weekend series of marathons with the Brighton marathon taking part in the HQ city of Girls Run the World. Were you there?

 

This weekend is a big one in the Brighton running calendar because of the Brighton Marathon. It’s now in it’s ninth year (expect something special next year for the 10th anniversary) and it has grown in popularity year on year, partly due to it’s proximity to London and the fact that it’s a draw for those who don’t get a London place.

Add to that the fact that there is also a 10km race at the same time, along with the Kid’s Mini Mile races the day before, and the entire city turns into a running metropolis for the weekend.

We had lots of runners taking part this weekend, as well as a few of our mentoring clients (well done Verona and Kellie!) and so we were out in force cheering and supporting. (Sorry if we didn’t spot you, it’s hard if we’ve not met personally – although I’m sure I saw Vix In Lewes from Instagram!)

Well done to every single one of you who ran the 10km or the marathon, but particularly to all the first time marathon runners. You learn a lot about yourself and your running when you do 26.2 miles for the first time (er, and the second, fifth and tenth time!) You may not realise those lessons the afternoon of the race or even the next day, but over the next week, things about your race will begin to sink in, what you executed brilliantly, what you realise in hindsight that you would do differently next time. (If, of course there is a next time).

If these lessons do filter through, don’t waste them. Write them down. Because after a week has passed, you’re likely to forget them and you don’t want your race day experience to go to waste.

One of the biggest lessons I have learned from doing marathons (I think my next one will be 10th or 11th) is that the race really doesn’t start until the last 10km. That’s when you need to dig deep and really focus mentally. Of course a marathon is tiring physically, but mentally, it’s exhausting!

But as so many of the runners out there showed today in the final stages, a smile goes a long way of lifting your spirits.

Well done to you ALL and particular kudos to our first timers out there today, Verona, Vanessa, Demi, Ellie and Verona, and to all the many 10km runners who took part too.

Of course, there was another big marathon taking place today too…Boston! Did any of you run? One more biggie go to next weekend …VLM!!

Whatever distance or wherever you ran this weekend, we’d love to hear about it. AND If you ran a marathon today, what is the single best piece of advice you would give to any runner who is about to take on London next weekend? Comment below.

 

Marathon Mastery Series: Race Day Tips

This week, we chatted with GB Endurance Coach, Tom Craggs about tips for marathon race day….

Keep your nerves in check

As you’re eating your pre-race breakfast or walking to your starting pen or think about five to ten key positive statements to help you keep calm. It doesn’t matter what your training was like, there is alway something that you did well in the 16-20 weeks, whether it was a good core exercise or hill session. Focus on that.

Let everyone run away from you

The first 10km will feel REALLY easy. Stick to YOUR race. Let everyone run away from you. Then, they become targets for you later in the race. Just because it feels easy, this is  NOT a reason to go fast. If you’re really gutsy, run the first 10km slower than your race pace.

GRTW add; – sticking to your pace is CRUCIAL. Running faster doesn’t mean you’ve ‘got miles in the bag’ as we’ve heard so many women say when they first start racing. It means you’ll find it much harder at the end. Be disciplined.

Don’t allow the crowds to push you past your pace

Through Cutty Sark, there will be so much noise and the atmosphere is so amazing, you’ll be pyschologically pushed out of  Greenwich and  then you’ll hear Tower Bridge about a mile away. And suddenly, you’ll find you’re running the second 10km faster than you should. Enjoy the crowds but HOLD back.

GRTW note: Likewise if you’re running Brighton marathon and it’s your home town and you know so many people who are out there to cheer you on, watch you don’t start running faster when you go past them. AT the latter stages of the race (final two miles) it can be helpful but NOT when you’re only mid or even three quarters of the way through. 

It’s going to get tough

At some point in a marathon, it’s going to start feel tough, that’s why you’re doing it. The so called wall? No one builds a wall at mile 20. It’s created by you going too fast at the beginning and not fuelling properly or your head.

GRTW note: Accept that the marathon is a huge battle. You don’t escape the fight, no matter how fit you are. No one escapes the mental struggle that you will face. How we do differ as runners is how we decide to handle that struggle.

You have a choice

You will come to a point on a race day where you have a choice to keep going, to keep pushing, or to slow down. Tests show that the key limiter in endurance is not our body and our muscles, it’s our minds. You need to build your mental strategies and that you’re going to go to when you get to that stage. I use runners 20 to 30 metres in front and work on overtaking them. This helps  you to apply your focus away from the pain that you will be feeling.

 

You CAN do this

Every single one of you can get to the end of 26.2 miles.  If someone you love needed your help and they were 26.2 miles away, you could make it.

 

 

The Strava Chronicles

 

A recent article in The Times by Peta Bee highlighted the rise of online virtual training apps like Strava. 

Love it or loathe it (and she was on the fence due to being confronted when meeting her virtual followers in real life – read the article here), being on Strava creates some funny behaviour. Do you recognise yourself in any of these…? I certainly do, I’m embarrassed to say…

The one where you spell out every bit of your training regime 

No, not come across this? Or perhaps you don’t even know what it means and you think it is some kind of secret morse code. It will read something like; WU, 2m@HMP, 2m@MP x 3, WD. And that’s just a simplified version.

I’ve done it, others have done it. Why? It helps you to keep track of your training diary so that when you scroll back through your activities, you can see what pace you were hitting and what training you did. But it could equally be seen as showing off about your running know-how.

Which is silly because let’s face it, none of us on Strava are Paula Radcliffe…erm, although I do hear that Jo Pavey is on Strava.

Run with RP

The secret runner…this is the one where someone keeps their running companion a secret. Is it because someone couldn’t make the effort to write out their companion’s full name (although why bother to write at all?) or that they want to keep their running partner secret?

Perhaps they’re having an affair, or they want their other running friends to know about someone new they’re running with? Maybe it’s a new boyfriend? Or maybe it’s totally innocent and we should all have something better to do than wondering who it is?

Easy run with the kids

The one where you want to make sure your followers don’t think you’ve run really slowly, more slower than you’ve ver done before. Fair enough if you really have run with the kids. Not so cool if you actually ran by yourself and you just wanted to go on a slower run but couldn’t bear not posting it because you’d miss out on your Strava monthly miles target.

Felt awful, feeling sick, last mile my leg hurt. Then my head fell off. And I lost my running shoe.

The traumatised runner…this is the one where a runner explains in minute detail every feeling and niggle that occurred on a training run. Usually written just after a long training run when someone is still so internally focused, they don’t quite realise how much they’ve just shared via Strava because they’re still reeling – and glycogen deprived – from the run.

Sun run, feeling fine. OR, Running off the work headache. Stress. Feel like I could punch someone.

The confessional runner where someone inadvertently (or perhaps not?) shares a little too much information about what’s going in their life in general.

 

Despite all of this, we are BIG fans of Strava at Girls Run the World as a training app. It helps you to set challenges, connect with others, keeps track of your training and even gives you ideas about how to train by following other people.

Our community is small, around 3000 around the UK with a few outpost in the US and Australia but we’re growing all the time.  By joining our club on Strava, we’re creating a network of GRTW runners which means that maybe next time you’re travelling to New York, Sydney or Mumbai, there might be another GRTW local runner who could show you her city. 

Join Girls Run the World on Strava here. And if you’re worried about privacy settings, here’s a little video about how you can create privacy zones. Click here

How was your weekend running?

Hurrah, it seems like the first weekend in ages that we’ve all had a respite from cold winds, snow, ice and frost which has probably made for a great Sunday training run for those on their final long marathon runs or who are tapering. And then there were the races on this weekend.

 

First up is the inaugural London Landmarks Half Marathon, which lots of our Girls Run the World community ran (we have a review coming up if you’re thinking of doing it next year), and along with the London and Brighton marathon ‘sharpener’ the Cranleigh 15 and 21 mile race.

As for myself, I was out on riding following last week’s snowy Moyleman Half Marathon Relay which has left my calf muscle a little tight, so I headed out on the bike instead (plus, I’ve got two half Ironman races coming up soon!). I usually ride with other people on long Sunday training rides but with my niece and sister staying, I had to do that thing that most mums have to do every weekend, juggle childcare and training. Which meant that I had to get out EARLY to get it done and get back to be a good host. Which meant a 6am wake up call….effectively 5am since the clocks went forward.

Riding 40 miles solo reminded me once again how useful training alone can be. It is unappealing when you’re about to head out but it’s really useful as a runner, triathlete or cyclist. While training with others can help to ensure we run faster and improves your speed endurance, doing long training runs on our own occasionally is the perfect mental training.

On my ride today, there was no one to lean on when feeling tired, no one to say, ‘Oh shall we just stop for a quick coffee/photograph/tyre change/gels stop,’ and that mental endurance is as important as your body’s endurance.

So if you’ve done some solo runs this season and they’ve felt awful, don’t be down on them, they’ve probably done more for your mental training than you expect. As you begin to taper for your marathon over the next three weeks, start thinking about these strategies, which technique or strategy are you going to use on your marathon?

Look back over your training diary/Instagram posts/training memory, and write down all the amazing or positive things that you’ve achieved in your training since you began back in November or December. These are your golden fuel bullets to power your mind and body on race day, but you need to have them in your mind so that you can remember them.

It may sound cheesy/over the top to write things down but tiredness from running in marathons plays funny tricks on your brain, and makes it hard to remember. I once tried to calculate my pace per mile on to my total running time for every mile I passed at the London marathon. I lasted about five miles before my brain couldn’t do the calculations anymore. Doh!

Anyway, we’d love to hear how your running went. Where you trained, where you raced…even where and how you recovered?!

How to choose the right training plan for a marathon

For many of us with our sights set on a Spring marathon, we’re already twenty weeks away from our goal race but how do you find the right training plan for YOU?

If you’ve followed a great training plan , consistently marking off each session, this is how you should feel at the expo – excited and raring to hit the race start line!

Generic plans off the internet and magazines

There are thousands of them all over the internet, printed in magazines, handed out my charities that you may be raising money for but, which one is good? All training plans are generic and we hazard a guess that 85% of them will have been written by men, who don’t have to juggle multiple responsibilities such as work, family, kids and everything else. Regardless of gender, few take into account running history, how many miles you are currently running NOW (i..e your running base), your lifestyle, or work/life commitments.  Recognise this FIRST so that you can acknowledge in advance that it will feel like a clunky fit. It is.

If you go down this route here’s what we recommend

  • Choose one that includes at least four runs per week and starts NO LESS than 16 weeks away from your race goal. Only if you’re very fit, and regularly run marathons should you look at a 12 week plan.
  • Write out your plan – and add your own sessions  print out your plan, or re-write it and plan in other sessions that are ESSENTIAL to help you avoid injury during your marathon training. This should include yoga/foam rolling/basic strength and continuing and sports massage at least every three weeks. Whoever said running is cheap had never run a marathon!

Training Apps

There are numerous training apps on the market, including Runner’s World’s MyRunPlan, and  Training Peaks where you can pay for a plan, which again is generic, but it loads to a calendar as an app on your phone. It’s easy to log in, see what the run is, do it, and mark it off as done. The calendar will reward you by turning green once you’ve completed. Fail to do the session and you get a red square. Training Peak plans are good because you can see clearly what you’ve got to do but suffers the same problems of any of the generic plans that you get anywhere else – except you’ve paid for it.

Personalised training plans

Many running coaches, ourselves included, will write training plans specifically for you. We tend to send you an in-depth questionnaire, followed by a chat on the phone and then we deliver a training plan, specific to your goals, your current fitness, life-work balance. The advantage is that it’s exactly for you. The cons are that if you get injured, fall ill, etc, the plan does not change to accommodate this in the same way as anything generic doesn’t. However, with it being written specifically for you in the first place, the likelihood of injury occurring due to a plan that does not reflect your specific running history is minimal.

 

Mentoring & Coaching

If you can afford it, and you want to run a marathon and enjoy it, race mentoring is the gold service for any runner. It doesn’t matter whether you’re interested in achieving a certain goal time or simply want to achieve a sense of satisfaction with each training session you do, not just the final ‘race’ goal. We charge £100 per month (some companies charge more, some less) but it means you have a personalised plan that can adapt and change week by week, according to how your training is going or the unforeseeable life events that can derail your training for a week or so, leaving you unsure how to proceed.

Plus, wherever you live in the world, your training is tracked via Strava or Garmin so we know what you’re doing – or not doing. It helps to hold you accountable and to help you feel like you’re achieving something with each session, because this method if training is so closely matched to helping to challenge and progress you as an individual; if you’ve ever struggled with a generic plan, you’ll appreciate how frustrating or disappointing it can be when you’re following something too easy or too hard. Where we differ with our plans is that we have a holistic approach, recognising the many elements must be balanced when you’re a woman training for a marathon juggling multiple tasks.

 

THE most important thing, no matter which option you choose is to start thinking about it from about 20-24 weeks away from your marathon goal. And follow a 16 week plan as an absolute minimum.

 

You can read more about our marathon mentoring service here.  Read about one woman’s experience of mentoring here.

 

Kit Review: OOmg Recovery Shoes, £110

In the summer, we reviewed the OOfos sandals and loved them. Now, for the winter they’ve brought out a shoe. Here’s what we thought…

 

When it comes to running, their are so many claims about shoes that help improve your running or prevent you over-pronating but few products that focus on helping you to recover. Step forward Oofos. According to the manufacturers,  these recovery shoes absorb 37% more impact than other shoes thereby helping to support the body after a hard training run or race. While not scientific studies have been conducted, on anecdotal evidence alone, these make a huge difference.

I’ve worn them after the Berlin Marathon, the Valencia Half Marathon, park runs, trail running,  pace runs, you name it and they enable me to walk lightly and fluidly as if I’m a mere twenty-years old again. Remember, your legs and feet take two and half times your body weight with every stride you take when you run. Which, personally, leaves me exhibiting a slight wince as a walk (or mince, perhaps?) after a hard race as my calf muscles and  Achilles struggle to recover.

My only note of caution would be not to wear them ALL the time. It’s tempting, because they are as comfortable as slippers except you can wear them outside without attracting strange stares. However, the soles are so cushioned, I personally think you could be in danger of overworking the stabilising muscles in the ankles if you rely on them too much.  But as a recovery shoe, which is what they are intended as, these and the Oofos sandals have been a revelation.

For further information visit www.oofos.com