Wednesday, 23 September 2015

St Albans Stampede

The morning of Saturday 5th September was a bit of a cold, grey and drizzly one as Mummysaurus and I made the short journey to the venue. We got there with bags of time to spare, got a parking space and hauled our gear to the Scout hut. Putting up the tent was a breeze as Mummysaurus had one of those "pull the cord and watch your fingers" type pop up tents. Within 2 minutes of finding our spot we had put up the tent, added the top sheet, pinned it down and chucked our gear in it. So far so good!
We headed inside the Scout hut to registration and to get out of the drizzle. The place was pretty much empty so we strolled over to pick up our numbers. They had previously told us that we would have to have two timing chips, one for each foot as we were both in the solo category. I had asked a few days before about what would happen if we needed to change footwear and was told that they would ask the timing people. Sure enough at registration we were told the solution was that now everyone would wear lanyards so this wouldn't be a problem for any changes. I was really impressed at the speed this was done. A lot of other events would have just told you that's the way it was. Top job guys and girls!

We milled around for a while as more people showed up. I always pin my number on to my shorts as it makes it easier to change tops or add a jacket without switching the number over. Mummysaurus went for the same idea. You could see the nerves kicking in as she tried not to pin her leg to her number. This was her first go at a 12 hour event and even though her plan from the beginning was to run 20 miles today she was still a bit jittery, understandably! This event happened to coincide with her last long run before her first official Marathon, Loch Ness on the 27th September. Even though she will have bags of time today and support every 4 miles its still a 20 mile run.

My plan was to hopefully hit around 50 miles. Lately I have felt pretty tired. I`m not sure if its the amount I have done this year or simply a lack of training in between events. I suspect the latter.
I have felt like I`m just trying to get round rather than putting in a good effort. With a bit of luck I can pull something out of the bag today.

8:45am - We gather in the Scout hut for the race briefing. I love this bit. The nervous excitement buzzes around the room, you can feel it building as the briefing finishes and we start making our way to the start. Even though the starting group is only small the energy is huge. The chatter from everyone wishing each other good luck is a welcoming ice breaker for all.

9am - 3.......2.......1.......GOOOO!!!

People cheer, the front runners leg it, Mummysaurus and I hug and then shuffle off with the back of the pack.
We get over the start line, turn the very first corner and face a pretty nasty looking rocky hill. Right then, this will be a place to walk each lap then! Finally the hill levels out to a nice flat bit and then starts heading downhill, good place to make up some time. The next mile or so is a kind of gentle up and down then we head down again before coming across a flat field.
It was a little sticky from the rain and I already was thinking about changing to my other Luna sandals. I had started in my trusty and now very worn Luna Mono but had bought along my new Leadville in case it was a little slippery. It was.
At the end of the field was another grass hill leading to a gentle downhill which turned into a steep muddy hill with roots and a big muddy puddle at the bottom.
Once through the puddle we had to head off to the right through a bit more sticky stuff then onto a beautifully soft moss like common. It was short and springy like running on new carpet. Up and down the hills, another right, another hill and then a long flat bit that bought us to the entrance driveway. The driveway was slightly uphill and covered in a light gravel, the type the is not enough to make you slip but just enough to get in your shoes when you walk.
After the long gradual uphill, finally the driveway drops down and we head to the bottom of another gravel pathway that is, you guessed it, uphill to the start/finish line.
One lap done! 4 miles, phew.

So now you have the lay of the land I can move on to how the rest of it went.
The first lap I naturally headed out like I was in one of the relay teams, I wasn't and already knew I was going to pay for it later. Idiot points - 1
With that lap done I quickly headed back to the tent to change into my Leadville as my bald Monos just weren't up for the slippery mud today.

I bolted off for another couple of laps then decided I should get some food. It was at this point I found that my legs were like jelly. Oh dear. I wobbled myself to the aid station that was set about 20 feet off of the route and preceded to stuff my face like it was the first time I had ever seen food. Idiot points - 2
The next lap, well...sucked. I felt heavy and tired as my body diverted all of its power to digesting the horrendous amount I just ate. It really bugged me as I knew exactly what I had done wrong. I have trained over the last year or so to run on less and less so I`m really not used to digesting so much. I like to run light and just nibble on small amounts and it seems to work for me. What was I thinking?!
I think I was on my forth lap when I caught up with Mummysaurus. She was looking so strong. We chatted and trotted along at her pace. I was more than happy with this given the way I was feeling. I ended up doing nearly a full lap with her. She headed off to get something to drink and I wobbled off up the hill, trying to shake off whatever the hell was going on with me.
Slowly, slowly I started to feel better but I just felt like my mind had deserted me.

Mojo has left the building......

Whatever number lap this one was will be named The Dark Lap.
I no longer cared. I felt tired, it all felt so pointless. What was I doing here? I`m not a "real" runner, I`m walking, a lot. Should I just fake and injury and stop? Should I just slink away at the end of this lap and nap in the tent? "Oh yeah that sounds great! Get back to the tent, take a nap! Hey, just sleep the time away and say you didn't set an alarm, no one would know." said the little demon on my shoulder, gently whispering all this crap in my ear. "Think of the coffee! Think of the food! Think of that sleeping bag!! Oh the sleeping bag!! No one cares if you give up, its 12 hours, you did your best on the day" I desperately looked at the other shoulder for the little Angel that was going to convince me otherwise. The little Angle smiled at me warmly. PHEW! Talk to me my little friend... "Its OK, give in, he`s right" Wait!! WHAT?! The little Angel burst into laughter, pulled off the wings and threw the halo in my face. Great, now I have a demon on BOTH shoulders!! Its going to be a looooong day.

Somewhere around this time I managed to get a small bit of running in, probably out of frustration and caught up with Ben Scott. We got chatting and it really helped to shake the negativity away. I think we stuck together for around 3 laps just shooting the breeze, it was great. I was feeling a lot more human now and we bopped along, switching from fast walking to slow running. Thanks Ben you really helped me through!
He was also starting to feel a lot better and so headed off in front while he could. I continued to hike and trot as best as I could while talking to people on the way to try and keep my spirits up.
I caught up with Mummysaurus again and she was STILL looking really strong and focused. She told me that she was just about to hit 32 miles!!! Incredible! My Mum was now an ultra runner!! I couldn't have been happier at that moment and we hugged and talked about it as we marched the hill. I stuck with her for the rest of that lap reveling in the moment. We finished the lap and parted ways as she went for a quick break.

Off we go again........

I had some really nice chats with Michal Mosurek Zawals and Richard Hazeldene, both of which were doing really well. The laps past, the time ticked down, a deer ran across my path, all was well.
I was feeling pretty thrashed but at least now I was allowing it as I had done around 40 miles.

This event had a strict 12 hour time limit. This meant for your lap to count, it had to be finished by 9pm. If you were even 1 second from the finish line, that lap wouldn't count. Sounds a little harsh but I like it. It means that you have to really make a decision on if you can make another lap or not. Risky as you might end up running a lap that wont count if you got the timing wrong.
With this in mind I came into lap 10 and headed into the scout hut to grab a coffee and work out how much more I could do.
My pace was right down and a lap was taking just over an hour. I was hoping to get in another 3 laps to end the day on 52 miles but today was simply not that day. I just didn't have enough time so instead I had a little break, drank some coffee, had a little sit down, safe in the knowledge that I could plod and still get another 2 laps.
Now feeling nicely rested I headed out of the warmth of the scout hut for my final 2 laps.
Somewhere along this lap I was joined by Richard Hazeldene again and we put on a bit of a march. His walking pace was impressive and I had to work my little legs hard to keep up. It was good though as the sun was nearly down and it was starting to get colder. It felt really good to be back at a reasonable pace. Even though a lot of it was still walking, it felt like it had more purpose.

1 lap to go!

We had an hour and a half left on the clock so enough time to knock out 1 more lap and then we could stop! The temperature by now had really dropped so we stuck to our quick march. It was still just about light enough to not need a head torch until about halfway round when Richard finally turned his on. We hiked at a strong pace trying to stay warm and trying to just get it done. You could feel the excitement that this was the last lap.
It was finally time to turn my lighthouse of a head torch on. I have the LED Lensor SEO 7R, catchy name huh? What it lacks in a pretty name and battery life, it more than makes up for in power. At 220 lumen on full, its like turning on the sun. The hillside lit up, rendering Richards head torch redundant. Its almost embarrassingly bright. I found myself giving a warning before I turned it on so people don't get confused with it being a car! The battery life however for my use is, well, just as embarrassing. On full power it will last around 5 hours then will completely cut out. Fortunately today we only needed it for about half an hour.

Finally we could see the gravel driveway. The temperature here really dropped suddenly, I guess it was a little more open. We hiked as quick as we could, catching up with Geoff Russell on the last part of the driveway and decided to finish over the line together.
Finally after being on the move for 11:32:10 we crossed the line together at a gentle trot. Well relatively speaking we could say it was a sprint finish. It wasn't but we could say that.
The crowd at the finish were brilliant, clapping and cheering everyone across the line. I even saw someone I knew from Parkrun! Wai Meng Au-Yeong has to be maybe one of the cheeriest people you will ever meet and her encouragement to other runners is quiet amazing! It was great to see you and thank you so much for your support!

I met Mummysaurus at the finish and we headed inside to warm up and wait for the prize giving.
I was so happy to be sitting down with a hot drink and eating cake. All around me people were chatting with each other about how the day went.
I got a phone call from my lady and my Dad who had driven over to meet us at the finish. I headed outside to meet them and got back inside just in time for the start of the prize giving.
It was great to see Ben take 3rd male in the solo category with 64 miles as it was his first 12hr event!! Hell of a start man, well done!!
They started the prizes for the Female solo category...."....with 32 miles....Jo Summers...." we missed the bit in the middle and Mummysaurus looked at me a little puzzled as she thought that was first place and was now panicking that her chip wasn't working. "And in second place with 36 miles...."
"Mum that's YOU!!!" I said to her with a massive smile. A very dazed looking Mummysaurus got up and was handed a trophy for second place lady!!
What an incredible end to the day! My own finish was just another completed slog, the pride I had for my Mums achievement was the thing that made my day. I said to her as she sat there with her pretty bit of glass that I was as jealous as I was proud ha ha ha. She earned that trophy more than I earned my 48 miles.

So what now?

We are both heading for Loch Ness Marathon on Saturday 26th September for my Mums first official marathon and I for one cant wait! I've been looking forward to this one for quiet some time. The biggest thing I took away from St Albans Stampede is that I simply need to try more and keep my head in the game. So with that in mind.......Loch Ness...The monkeys are coming to get you!!

Thanks for reading folks, I hope you enjoyed it!
Much love


  1. Hot drink and a tasty cake with Mammasaurus must be a real pleasure, we here suppose)) Was the marathon of a great success to both of you?

  2. It was great after a long day! Thanks for reading

  3. So many emotions! One friend of mine is also attending every marathon we have in Chicago. He is a case study writer, so he is trying to do his best, to find a free time for his hobby. When I listen to him, talking about running, I can feel how much he love this. Hope you doing well, keep it up!