Friday 30 June 2023

50k Training Reflections

 So after thinking about the Salomon Serpent Trail 50k race for a good couple of years now, it’s finally nearly race day and I thought I’d write down some of my reflections from training for nearly 5 months.


First Covid stopped me, then injury got in the way, so when everything looked clear this year I had to sign up for the race before it was too late.


I started upping my distances last autumn and began training in earnest at the beginning of Feb.

I’ve been amazed at how well my body has coped.  Towards the end, the training plan has had me run maybe 24 miles on a Saturday and 10 miles on the Sunday and while it has been hard, I’ve been able to do it.


The real question is can I do that distance all on one day?  Many people think I’m crazy when I say I’m doing this to see if I can, but that’s the only reason I can give you.  Can I run that far and come out the other end in reasonable condition?  Time is only the tiniest consideration for this one.


Training since Feb has been hard and there have been times when I really haven’t wanted to go out and run, especially in the cold pouring rain, but with every run I’ve got stronger and hopefully made it more likely that I’ll finish.


And I’ve been able to tick some things off my bucket list, the biggest of which was to run the South Downs Way. I still can’t get my head around the fact I've done it.  Looking at it on the map it just seems too big, but I’m so glad I’ve had the chance to do it.


I’ve also run the whole Serpent Trail which was quiet and beautiful and I’d like to do again now it’s drier and the woods will be full of leaves and plants etc.  (Yes I know I’ll be running part of it for the race, but that’s not what I mean.)


I’ve run the Shipwrights Way, which I’m glad to have done, but wasn’t the trail I was hoping for, aimed more at cyclists than runners.


And I’ve completed all the Slow Ways into Petersfield.  There are some lovely routes in this bunch and I look forward to running some of them again.  But I’m also looking at the next set to work my way through.


I’ve loved running the trails, even in the winter.  But going forward this is something that’s only really going to happen in dry weather.  I really can’t stand sliding around in mud, it just spoils the whole run.  I don’t really like wet feet either!


But running through the countryside and not having to worry about cars is bliss.  Finding new places you’d never see from the road.  They feel like secret places.  I know other people have used them, I can see their marks on the mud, but it’s rare to actually see them.  This is a whole other world that I have to myself, except for a few deer.



It’s been very different from training for my marathon as that was all done on roads and followed a lot of the same routes each week.  This time it’s all been trails and each week a different one.  I’ve not just been training my body to run a long distance for a long time, but also gaining confidence in my map reading ability.  Yes I’ve got lost a few times but nowhere near as badly as I thought I would.  I’ve been learning to trust myself and trust in my abilities.

I’ve been able to see the improvement from the first few runs where I kept getting lost to now where I’m unphased by not being where I thought I was and finding that’s not happening as often any more anyway.  I’m really looking forward to doing more exploring of the trails in my area once I don’t have a certain distance or time to cover.


One of my hardest mental challenges has been convincing myself it’s ok to eat sweets while out running.  I would never normally spend my Saturday morning eating packets of sweets and I know this is different but it’s taken time to convince myself it’s ok. (I’m still not really convinced!)


And there is no way I could be doing the training I’m doing and commuting to work every day!  I’ve been getting up at 5:30 to get 9 miles in before work, but if I was catching the train I just wouldn’t have time.  Plus commuting is tiring and I’m already tired from all the running.  The two combined would just be too much!  (Also my boss was really relaxed about my start time, if I was ‘running’ late, which really helped.)


Lastly once again the support of ‘im outdoors has been amazing.  Although I know he thinks I’m crazy to want to do this, if I ask him to drop me off in the middle of nowhere and tell him I’ll run home he does it without comment.  If I’ve asked for a pick up, again from the middle of nowhere, he’d been there when I’ve needed him, often with a recovery shake. I could have done the training without him, but it would have been a lot more difficult.


So there we go.  A round up of the past 5 months.  There have been good bits and bad bits and while I’m nervous about tomorrow's run, I’m excited too.  Excited to see what I can do, excited to be out on the trails again and excited for it all to be over.

759 miles run in training, 4 blisters, 3 pairs of trainers, 2 falls.

Sunday 25 June 2023

Glass Summer School At The Glass Hub

 Last week I spent a week at The Glass Hub for their Glass Summer School.

As you might have seen I tried making lampwork beads recently and fell in love, but I was very aware that there is more to glass than beads.  I wanted to find out more, but didn't even know what was possible, so when I stumbled across the Summer School I had to attend.

Each day we tried a different sort of glass work and learnt some of the basics for each discipline.  It was a brilliant week and filled my mind with ideas and questions.  The only downside was having to wait until lunchtime each day to see our work from the day before!

Day 1: Fusing 

This is where you work with the glass cold to create designs, then put the cold glass in a kiln so that it melts together.  Once the pieces are fused you can then add shape to them by slumping in a cooler kiln.

This was great.  I learnt how to cut and grind the glass and learnt how to make the stress in the glass work for me.

Day 2: Glass blowing

This was the one that made me the most nervous.  I don't like hot things, so was worried about how I'd cope with the molten glass but actually it was ok.  We started just twisting the glass.  Then we made a paperweight.  Next we blew a bauble and lastly we made a vase each.

Looking at my work the next day I could hardly believe I'd had anything to do with the making of them.

Day 3: Lampwork

This is an area I've played in before, so I was mostly interested to see what other techniques our tutor might have that I'd not tried before.  She blew my mind by showing me how to work on the end of the mandral so the hole doesn't go all the way through!  Woah!


Day 4: Glass blowing

We were back in the hot shop (and it really was hot - the weather was beautiful but very hot!) to work on our glass blowing again.  We made tumblers and a bowl/plate (we could chose) then had the afternoon to make what we wanted.  I made another bauble and another paperweight, but this time using copper leaf rather than frit inside to give it the colour.


Day 5: Casting

On our last day we were shown how to make a plaster mould and fill it with glass.  This then went into the kiln to be cooked.  We also had a go at sand casting - a much quicker process.

The whole week was amazing and I learnt so much.  There were only 3 of us in the group which made it feel like 1 on 1 training which was fab.  And all the tutors were so friendly and happy to answer ALL our questions.  They were also very open to experimentation which was very refreshing.  Glass can be a little unpredictable so when we asked if we could try something they helped us do it in the safest manner possible.

So now I've got loads of idea of things I can try at home.  Not just the lampworking, but the fusing and casting, which although smaller than we did in class should still work in my baby kiln.

With Bath being quite the commute I got an Airbnb for the week, which allowed me to have a very relaxing week off.   I was a little worred about doing this so close to my race, but it was actually perfect.  A nice place to run in the mornings before class, a brilliant learning experience and then relaxing evenings knitting or reading.  I came back feeling refreshed and ready to run!

Sunday 18 June 2023

Slow Way - Newapet

With only two weeks until my race, this was my last proper long run before I start to taper.

Running all these different trails has been amazing, and I'm so glad I've had the experience, but at the same time I have to say I'm looking forward to getting my weekends back!


This week I was finishing off the Petersfield Slow Way set of seven, running from New Alresford back to Petersfield.

It wasn't quite as hot as last week and there was a lot more shade on the route which was very welcome.  But it wasn't really a trail.  It used a lot of back roads, so very quiet, but only a little bit on trails until I got closer to Petersfield.  


Because I was crossing fields and woodland I got a nice mix of lark song and woodland bird song to keep me company.  Lovely.  But the nettles are getting a bit much on some of the trails now - particularly when having to push through small gaps in hedges to access footpaths.

It was quite a nice route in general, again until I got close to Petersfield.  I came out at Stroud which I've run through before so expected to be routed to one of the bridges over the A3, however I came to what looked like a deadend, with a high hedge screening me from the A3.  On further inspection there was a tiny gap and a stile and then a scary crossing of the A3 to a similar tiny gap on the other side, only to pop out in the industrial estate! 

Seeing as the rest of the route had been quite pretty it seemed a shame to end here.  I'll be suggesting the end is changed to follow a sightly different route.

But that was 16 miles completed.  All seven Slow Ways run.  And a little bit more exploring of my local area logged.  I am so lucky to live in such a beautiful area and love running these routes.  I fully intend to do more after my race. 

Lets just hope it cools down a bit for race day...

Sunday 11 June 2023

South Downs Way - Part Four


 Having run most of the South Downs Way I just needed to do the last little bit - 20 miles from Falmer to Beachy Head.  But while I've been very lucky with the weather so far this one was REALLY hot and sunny and this part of the Way is very open with very little shade.


Added to this it was also very busy.  I get the impression that this part of the Way is pretty busy anyway but this week I got caught up in the Macmillan Mighty Hike - 26 miles from Brighton to Eastbourne and mostly using the South Downs Way.

Weaving round walkers who were mostly unaware of your presence was hard work, as were the hills in the heat.  The first one which got me was at the 8 mile point.  I got up there but I felt very faint at the top and had to have a little sit down.

Can you spot all the Macmillan walkers?

Somehow I kept going but by mile 15 there was a lot more walking than running.

How I expected most of the Way to be

Getting to the Seven Sisters was a major achivement and I only had a couple more mile to complete my distance target.  If I'd thought the hills before were bad, these were crazy.  I was so tempted to go down to hands and knees, but with so many people around didn't think it was quite the done thing.

I ended up stopping at Birling Gap, just missing Beachy Head by a couple of miles.  But I was exhasted and running on empty.  I'd finished all my water and had nothing more to give.  'im outdoors picked me up and took me up to the Beachy Head car park where we had ice cream and a well deserved sit down.


So there we go, I've managed to run pretty much the whole South Downs Way.  It was a great experience, something I'm really pleased I managed to do.  It was amazing to see the landscape change as I went.  And I am so grateful to live in such a beautiful place.   I am also grateful that there are only 3 more weeks until my race and I can cut down on the running and get back to a more 'normal' life.

Wednesday 7 June 2023

Bead Clusters


Our friend Jen of Sweet Briar Forge, is amongst other things a blacksmith and makes some lovely things out of metal, including some railings and a gate for our garden.


She also makes small bookmarks and having see some of my glass beads wondered if I could make her some clusters to hang from the bookmark end as a small decoration.


I said I'd give it a go and ended up making a selection of different coloured tiny beads.  I then put them together on silver wire and gave them a loop allowing them to hang nicely from the loop she makes in the metal.


It was such a fun collaboration.  She's going to see if they sell and we can go from there.  I hope I get to do more things like this.


Sunday 4 June 2023

South Downs Way - Part Three


 With only four weeks until my race I've still got three long runs on my training plan.  So this week I was back on the South Downs Way.

I finished at Amberley last time, so this is where I got 'im outdoors to drop me off.  A fast walk up a hill to get to the 'start' was a good warm up as there was still some cloud and a chilly wind.  But there was even more hill past this point so it felt like ages before I actually started running.


Although this weeks part of the Way was still hilly, it is the South Downs after all, it wasn't quite as bad as last time, so I could get a bit of rhythm going. 

It was also more open than the last section, with less trees.  This wasn't a problem, but did mean that the wind tried to steal my hat a couple of times!  It was also pretty busy with a mix of dog walkers and day trippers, so I had to keep an eye out for cyclists and walkers.


I also came across the South Downs Way 100 Miles Relay.  It was very interesting to run past one of the points where they change runner and see the row of mini buses waiting to take everyone onto the next point. 

And I ran past Devils Dyke where I did my Silver Map Reading course last year.  It was lovely to see the view this time rather than the driving rain we had in November.


After 24 miles and five and a half hours of running I came off the Way at Plumpton.  You don't quite realise how high up you are until you spend 10 minutes coming down on a very steep track.

It was a good run but hard.  I'm finding the chalk hard underfoot compared with the sandy soil and leaf litter I'm used to near home.  And the wind was really strong and constant, trying to steal my hat and making my nose run.  But I'm getting closer to the sea now and one more run should see me to the end.


When it's hard I keep reminding myself how lucky I am that I live in such a beautiful place and that I am capable of running these sort of distances.  I know many people who'd love to do something like this but just can't for so many different reasons.  I intend to keep going for as long as I can.


 You can read what happened on part four here.