Category Archives: Training

A windy weekend in Yorkshire

I love living in Yorkshire. It is a truly beautiful county – especially when the sun shines! This weekend it was still beautiful but also brutal! Average winds were 20 miles per hour with gusts over 4o miles per hour. Intermittent hail stones joined the party.

The training plan was 2 x 20 mile runs with a 4-5kg pack. In the wind – do you run in the shelter of woods with the risk of falling branches and trees? do you run on the sheltered but incredibly boring canal bank? or do you get on with it and stick to the planned route taking in the highest point on the moors? We stuck mostly to the plan! Saturday, our training group was 4 – John, Fiona, Renee and I. We started with a 12 mile loop around the twelve apostles (to include the ritual circumnavigation of the stones) on Ilkley moor, returning over the Odda. John and I then continued on another 8 mile loop to make it up to 20 miles! We were blown to pieces. the reservoirs looked tidal. But it was fun….

Sunday – time to do it all again. The weather forecast was colder but stiller. Well it was colder but the wind was extreme. Rombolds stride route in reverse (less the top corner). 8 miles in 2.5 hours moving time. The headwind was ridiculous. We could barely move forwards on Ilkley moor. It was more like crawling than walking, let alone running. Occasionally tiny hail stones would batter us in the face – training for sandstorms in the desert – that kept cycling through my mind! Eventually we reached Keighley mast as the bigger hail stones set in. As we turned towards home we had the pleasure of a tail wind. The hail stones ricocheted off our head and shoulder, but with every stride we moved an extra few feet. I loved the running and hop skipping with the wind propelling us. I stopped to wait for John who complemented me on my chicken impression as I flapped my way along the stone flags – but it worked and I had fun for the first time on the run.


A somewhat delirious photo, Sunday on Ilkley moor.

Eventually we made it home again, exhausted but pleased to have set out and achieved the plan. Lots of stretching, a hot bath and feet up in front of the fire followed for me :o)

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Snow is like sand….right?

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year all.

It’s been a busy few weeks of running…and eating….and socialising! I am feeling happy with how my training and preparation is going despite some recent over indulgence!!

Is it all going according to plan?

I revisited my plan in my previous blog post. Some of it is exactly on track. Some elements haven’t happened – but I have learnt some things about myself and understand why. I am typically running 30-40 miles a week, sometimes more. I go to hot yoga weekly. Sometimes I swim or cycle but neither of these happen regularly! I have realised that running tires me out much more than cycling or swimming and as such I sleep more.
My plan to lose weight has been slow but I am a couple of kg less so it is going the right way.

Training milestones

In training I have done some long runs Saturday followed by another Sunday. It feels good. Most of my training is with MDS buddy John. The long miles pass much quicker when chatting.

We ran out first Ultramarathon at the beginning of the month. Frostbite30…..although the name is deceiving when the route is 34 miles! It lived up to its name in other respects though. It was freezing. Nidderdale was white with frost and it made for beautiful scenery for running. Having not run over 27 miles before this was unknown territory. The route was off road and hilly. The plan was to walk the ups and run the rest. Like clockwork it went until the last 6 miles when we bored of walking and ran strongly to the finish. It couldn’t have gone better and we felt very pleased with ourselves. Better still, the next day I got up (and after some good stretching) ran the first winter league cross country for my club. Only 4 miles but the legs worked well carrying me through the mud and up the hills well. I was slow down hill but that was partly in my head as I feared my legs would give way!

We squeezed in a lovely relaxing weekend break in Budapest before Christmas, with lots of spa time and fantastic food. There was still time to run though. My boyfriend James even came out to keep me company. As he is someone who doesn’t usually run, this was really special. While not a runner, he is fit and encouraged me to “smash it” round a 5km track in the middle of our run!


Over Christmas my aim was to run everyday. This included a Christmas day parkrun. It was lovely to see so many of my running friends. Getting beaten by James was even good as I love that we were out running together. I was very lucky and Santa brought me desert food and foot cream!

The Chevin chase was boxing day – a 7 mile trail race. A lovely route with the main climb like something from the Tour de France – so deep with spectators.


Racing with olympians is always exciting too, with Alistair Brownlee taking the win, closely followed by brother Jonny.

The 27th brought an epic 28.5 miles round a variation of the Haworth Hobble. wpid-20141227_102011.jpgEpic as at times we were thigh deep in snow! Snow is like sand…right? Trudging through the snow must be good training for sand??

The landscape is so different when covered in snow and I was pleased my running buddy Chris knew the way well! We got back just as the sun went down. Stunning views over the Yorkshire hills.


My last run of 2014 has been the Auld Lang Syne fell race at Penistone Hill, organised by Dave and Eileen Woodhead. A fantastic, muddy/snowy/slippery race, again with Olympians heading up the field and full of all kinds of fancy dress – my favourite being emu on stilts!

What’s next?

Order kit!
Plan the desert menu!
Add some regular gym strength sessions
Increase the pack weight
Loose a couple more kg
Stay well ☺

Thank you and Happy New Year

The fundraising for the Intensive Care Foundation is going amazingly. Thank you all so much for your kind donations. I have been really touched and quite emotional by it all.

An especially big thank you to Joe and Simon who made me a wonderful fundraising video, which not only does a great job of explaining why I am running for the Intensive care Foundation, but also of showing off our Yorkshire countryside. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it here:

I wish you all a fantastic, healthy and adventure filled 2015!


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Watch “Marathon des Sables – Training in Yorkshire” on YouTube

Marathon des Sables – Training in Yorkshire:

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“Crazy got you here. Grit will get you back.”

“Crazy got you here. Grit will get you back.” said the motivational fluorescent pink sign part way around the Rivington Trail26 off road marathon on Sunday. This wasn’t long after we had to push cows out of the way to get along the track in an event which had a selling point of “the bog of eternal stench”. Other pink signs referred to zombies chasing you, blisters being running trophies and that unless you puke, faint or die – keep running! All in all though, it was a fantastic event.Extremely well organised with great feed stations and no need to navigate whilst enjoying the beautiful countryside. Better still, we finished strong (ran with MDS buddy John again) and nearly an hour quicker then the same distance 6 weeks ago. Today, apart from being a bit tired I am no worse for wear. Very happy with my running progress. So yesterday, I did not need to draw on the Yorkshire Grit within me as the run went exactly to plan, but come April next year this is one message which I will hold in the bank for those tough moments in the desert.

This month has been busy with the postman. Lots of fundraising materials have arrived from the Intensive Care Foundation, and a running vest. I needed new trail shoes, although they already don’t look very new and I expect there will be a few more pairs of them before next April.

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I ordered a rucksack for MDS which I hoped would fit and that I could start training with. No such luck. While the Raidlight Olmo 20 was a fantastic pack it just didn’t fit me. Despite having wide shoulders and being relatively tall, none of the straps would go tight enough and the shoulder straps were on the very edge of my shoulders. I have since tried on every rucksack I have had access to in the hope I will find the right one. The quest continues…..and I haven’t even started with the rest of the kit list yet! Note to self – kit list needs increased priority.

I’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who had so generously sponsored me donating to the Intensive Care Foundation and for all the messages of support. It means so much. I am over 10% of the way to my target fundraising amount.

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Good start and a Good shepherd

My first month (and a bit) of training towards MDS has started well! In summary:

  • 2.5 weeks cycling through Peru and Bolivia – it was planned to be a holiday, but turned out to be hard as nails, high altitude training camp!
  • A little bit of running and a Vo2 max test.
  • Yorkshireman off road marathon.
  • Last week – a good 4 run week with 38 miles of running, including the Good Shepherd fell race on my birthday.
  • In between the runs I am back into 2 days of cycling to work and a quick ride at the weekends.
  • 2kg weight loss on holiday (tough cycling + poor food) means I am going in the right direction to MDS weight.

It feels great!

After a few summer colds, cycling every day at altitude seems to have been the cure! Peru was stunning, yet poor and baron. Cycling up mountain passes to 4300+m then descending into the jungle at 1500m was like visiting two different worlds in the same day. Women in traditional dress were in fields everywhere tending to their animals, grazing them on ropes, trying to find the next tuft of grass in the dry dusty ground. Machu Pichu exceeded all my expectations. Pictures and television do not show you the sheer size of it and the incredible Inca workmanship. It is a strange sensation to walk on the floating reed islands in lake Titikaka, mixing with the locals, who welcomed us into their homes (actually they led me in by the hand!) and then afterwards tried to sell us tourist tat! Bolivia was different again – just as poor – but much more corrupt and bribes seemed to be required as standard. La Paz was a crazy, highly populated city spanning a bowl amongst the mountains. Cycling the road of death, descending into the jungle again was amazing, finished off by staying in a beautiful hotel, followed by a zip wire ride in the jungle the next morning.

We shared the whole experience with good friends, old and new. It could not have been a better bunch of people, through the tough times (of which there were many!) and the fun, which were plentiful too. The mental toughness was put to the test most days.

We arrived home safe (albeit no bags or bikes for a few days) and then tipped up to Glasshouses to stay at Harewell cottage as a test run for our friends opening a new holiday cottage. It was lovely to relax and a luxury place to stay! I managed a little run, with a big climb and the running legs did well, despite laboured breathing which I did not expect!wpid-20140912_083036.jpg

Then followed an unusually busy week, including a heart MRI and a VO2 max test, as a participant in a research study. A healthy, trained heart and a Vo2 max of 50.9 were reported. Really fascinating to see my heart working and the first time I’ve done a Vo2 max and I was pleased that I managed to take my work load higher than my usually very steady pace.

 The Yorkshireman marathon was a top day out. Perfect weather, good company and Yorkshire moors. My legs did me proud till 20 miles, then the cycling legs fell out with running and my hip muscles smarted to say the least. With encouragement and company of my MDS buddy Fiona, we eventually made it back for soup and cake. Very stiff legs followed….


After a few days and a bit of cycling my legs returned to a comfortable state an I had a great week of running:

  • Saturday 3 miles (trail).
  • Sunday 10 miles (trail).
  • Tuesday 4 ish miles (trail).
  • Thursday 8 miles (road).
  • Saturday 13.5 miles (fell).

Happy hips again. Happy running and birthday cake.

The fell miles consisted the Good Shepherd fell race, with MDS buddy, John. This involved twogood shep assents to Stoodley Pike and some good scrambling through tussocks and steep moorland. I’m not a good fell runner, but I love it. It’s like being a kid again, exploring where there are no paths.

Today has been a spectator sport day, watching the three peaks cyclocross race. It was a pleasure to be making the most of the Yorkshire dales in the sunshine. The legs and body feel good and I am excited about the training weeks ahead.


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How do you train for that?

“How do you train for a race like that?” This is the most common question that people have asked me when I’ve told them that I will be racing Marathon des Sables. Well, that is after they have asked “Are you mad?”

I thought, rather than writing about whether or not I think I might be mad, I thought it might be more interesting to write about how I propose to train for this race. Over the last couple of years I have met a few people who have done the Marathon des Sables (MDS) before, and I asked them the same question (knowing that I really wanted to do the event and stocking up on tips early!). More recently I have read a number of books: Running from the Shadows – Mark Roe; Highway to Hell – Grahame Harvey; Survival of the Fittest – Mike Stroud. A year or so ago I was lucky enough to hear Mike Stroud speak at the University of Leeds as part of a seminar series on physiology in extreme conditions. He is a fascinating man and captivating speaker. I made lots of  notes.

Last week I attended a Webinar provided by Simon Ward and Rory Coleman. Simon Ward has been 220 Triathlon Coach of the year a number of times. He completed MDS in 2001, but mostly completes in Ironman triathlons. He is also a good friend of mine, who is going to complete MDS in 2015. Rory Coleman is an ultradistance marathon runner and coach. He has completed MDS 11 times and coached scores of athletes to a successful completion of MDS. This webinar was excellent and really helped me to put my MDS thoughts in order and start with a plan.

What have I done before

Over the last few years I have competed in various triathlons from sprint distance to half iron distance.

I have completed many one day and multi day cycle endurance events. I have successfully raced in cycing time trials and mountain bike races.

I have run consistently for  a few years. In the last couple of years I have run mostly off road, and on the fells. I have twice completed the Yorkshire 3 peaks fell race.

In May this year I put it all together and raced City to Summit – an Iron distance triathlon with a mountain at the end!

I know that I have endurance. I have learnt that I need to respect rest and recovery. I know that I need to spend more time on strength and conditioning.

Where am I now

Since the City to Summit race I have struggled to train consistently. Through July I had a number of bouts of cold/flu. In August I have got back into riding my bike and a few good runs. I weigh 70 kg and am 27% body fat. That is a size 10/12. I am 5ft7 – 169cm. While this weight is in the healthy range, it is heavier than I’d like to be for MDS.

Training phase 1

This will be a 13 week period where I build back up to training 8-12 hours a week (as I was until the end of May this year). This will start with riding my bike most days, with a few runs and swims. I will then build on the running so that I am running 3 times a week, up to 30 miles in total. I’ll maintain some cycling and swimming. Some weeks I will include a long walk with a back pack. I will also find some local sand to run in when I can.

During this phase I will run a couple of marathons and culminate in three back to back marathons.

Every three weeks I will have a recovery week with reduced training volume – especially the run volume.

I will start with regular gym sessions. I will aim to lose 5 kg.

Training phase 2

This will be a slightly shorter 10 week phase and will incorporate some high training volume over Christmas and New year. My runs will be off road wherever possible, testing out my new head torch on the local trails.

I aim for consistency and will try and maintain some cycling and swimming, because I enjoy them and also to help reduce injury risk and for cross training strength benefits.

In January I will increase the number of sessions where I train with a pack. I will also gradually increase pack weight. I will be sure to build stretches of walking briskly into my run sessions. Running and walking use different muscles and I don’t want the walking muscles to get a shock when I get to the desert!

Training phase 3

Another 10 week phase. I will hopefully have all my race kit by now and will be able to use it in training. I will fine tuning my nutrition requirements for the race.

The last two weeks before I leave for MDS I will undergo some acclimatisation training in the environment suite heat room at the University of Leeds.


So that is the plan! I’ll keep you updated with how it goes!

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