November/December Off Season


After New York Marathon, the plan was a bit of unstructured, fairly low mileage, but basically do what I fancy recovery. I had 3 days of complete rest then the rest of the week went sports massage + yoga, yoga, parkrun + yoga, body pump + yoga. My body was stuffed after New York compared to Abingdon! I went all out at Cassiobury Parkrun 6 days post race and only just went faster than a steady tempo 5k mid club run the day after Abingdon. I had felt so strong a week before New York and thought I’d be able to beast a 5km when I got back but it was not to be.

The next few weeks saw me run 4x per week and working my way through Adriene’s 30 days of yoga challenge. I did a few little races, and even a bike ride with my friend in mid Wales where she lives.

Cassiobury Parkrun in Watford is a flat 2.5 lapper, a potentially very fast course. I went all out and it felt hard, but it just wasn’t to be. I was actually 4 seconds slower than I’d been at my last pre-NYC parkrun on a very hilly offroad course. I decided not to double up and go to cross country that afternoon as clearly I was not recovered enough from New York to be racing.

Newtown Parkrun in Mid Wales is shown on the website as being and out and back along the canal towpath, then crossing the bridge for a lap of a muddy field on the other side. I think we were on the winter course as we did an out and back in two different directions on the towpath. It was gently undulating, freezing cold, and I was reasonably pleased with my time. It was my friend Hannah’s second parkrun after I dragged her to one in Porthcawl about 4 years ago, and probably her first run in a similar length of time. She then got her own back and dragged me out on my first bike ride (aside from my mountain bike wine tour in Stellenbosch) in about 18 months. We did a lovely two laps around Lake Vrynwy with a cake stop in the middle.

Herbert’s Hole 10km was great fun. A cross country race not far from home. The start was late enough that I could drive there from Hannah’s on the Sunday morning and met my parents there for my mum to run and my dad to cheer us a long. It was a hilly course, with a bit of tarmacced country lane but mostly offroad. I can’t remember my time buy it involved fairly even splits and felt like I was getting fitter and recovering from New York at last.

Upton Court Parkrun made for a good meetup of sweaty doctors, followed by mince pies (before December!) and a cooked breakfast for those who didn’t have to rush off anywhere. I’ve met Bella here before but this time we were running in reverse – its got some very minor undulations, mixed tar and grass, and involves a big lap and a small lap. I started out with Chris who had only just made it to the start line in time, panting from a mad dash across the field from the carpark; and finished with Kevin who kindly ran with me to keep me going despite being very able to trounce me at the moment.

Eynsham 10k felt absolutely dreadful. I had a time goal in mind, and the first mile felt amazing. But then I crumbled. I was slowing significantly already and thought if I had slowed this much already, imagine how much was still to come. Being a two lap course, I decided to call it a day when I got to half way. But I got to the 5km point in a not terrible time, and this was where I got passed by a team mate who’s awesome and been to the Ironman World Champs, so I gave myself a talking to and got on with it. I finished steady, overtaking her about 1km before the end, and although I was disappointed with my time as it was my last shot at a 10km goal time for 2018 (having just missed out three times on my marathon goal time, once on my half, and umpteen times on my 5km), I chalked it up to being a good training session with a decent walk up and cool down for a reasonable chunk of mileage in the training bag.

Yoga with Adriene 30 Days of Yoga challenge was brilliant to get into a habit. I’ve been a big fan of Adriene for a while, and want to get into a more regular practice to keep me supple and less injury prone. I was doing regular hot yoga when I was training for the marathon des sables in 2015, more for the heat adaptation than the yoga, but that’s when I was hitting high training mileages and PBd at every distance without injury. Adriene’s original 30 day challenge (she has a few now all available on YouTube) starts basic and progresses. Some days are only 15 minutes and some are 45 so it does take some planning in advance if you want to set your alarm and do it early or need to combine two back to back. Ideally it should be done one video a day as she has designed it of course. I started about a week after the New York Marathon, but had already done a few yoga classes in the few days before starting. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t fit it in and others when I doubled up so all in all I did yoga 25 out of the 30 days and still completed it within the 30 days. And in total did yoga for about 29 out of 34 days in a row with a couple of classes in the days before I started, one extra yin class towards the end, and feeling in the flow – another Adriene session the day after conpmeting. I did feel more forward folds were a lot better by the end as a measure of flexibility. I’ve unfortunately already lost the habit now with work, exams, training and sickness; but is love to get back to doing something, even if it’s just 10 minutes, 5 times a week.


Chiltern League Cross Country in Luton was the day after my work Christmas party. I didn’t drink, and wasn’t up particularly late, but for once didn’t do parkrun in the morning beforehand. It was a rush to the start line, with parking chaos and then a queue for the portaloo – all men who had an hour until their race when mine was in 10 minutes. I was stripping off my layers and changing my trainers for spikes in the queue and made it to the startline with about 2 minutes to spare. It was quite dry underfoot and I do enjoy a bit of squelch and a mudfest at cross country. I ran ok, but unfortunately we only had 3 ladies turn up so not enough for a day. Miraculously we somehow placed ok still so it seems lots of teams must have been short for this fixture.

My big and last ever exam in the world ever was the 3rd of December, so with that out of the way, training would be plain sailing right? Sort of…. my car gave up the ghost on the 4th and got taken to a garage. Meaning I had to cycle commute to work the next day. But it was no simple 5 miles there, 5 miles back. Instead I had to go to work, then to a nursing home for my morning session, back to work, then home, then to an out of hours night shift, and back the next morning. Not easy logistically because you can’t shower umpteen times a day and most places don’t have facilities. Plus cycling with a heavy pack put a strain on my neck, shoulder and chest muscles. The next two shifts I run commuted – 10.5 mile round trips, and then I got my car back, £1500 worse off.

The middle weekend of December, I attempted a recce with Alan of day 5 of Dragon’s Back race – Brecon & the Black Mountains. I was talked out if my beloved parkrun in the morning, we got dropped off at Usk Reservoir, the checkpoint for day 5 and started to run to where we’d left my car at the finish near Llandeilo. The first bit was runnable (not to say it will be 180 miles in to the race!), and then we got off the forest paths and into the hills. We must have gone early on the navigation straight away. And struggled to get back on track despite having the route on the Viewranger App on my phone, and on my Suunto watch. Then the weather rolled in – gales and hail stones. We tried holding our hoods onto our heads and just head down, marching forward. But now it was impossible to navigate. Poor visibility, hands too cold to function, gloves sodden, and rain too heavy to operate the tech. We headed back for the tree cover which luckily due to going pretty much in circles, we hadn’t got far away from, and put out an SOS for my parents to come back for us. They’d just about made it home, so I’m sure it brightened their day greatly to turn 3 hours of driving into 5+. Alan had come out in shorts and was a bit of a mess so I put my emergency waterproof trousers on him and we hunkered down under the storm shelter I’d by some miracle thought to pack. Bought the thing on a whim when browsing an outdoor shop 6 years ago, was you do, always coming out with something you never knew you needed e.g. a glowstick/torch/whistle all in one extravaganza. We stuck lowland the next day and had a lovely run through the dunes and along the beach, taking my mum with us for the first part though she left when we started our 10 Big Dipper dune reps. 18 miles for the weekend, but we had not ticked off day 5 as recce’d and I don’t have any other free weekends now really to fit that in.

The next week included running club fancy dress tour of the town’s Christmas lights on Monday and also Wednesday christmas chippy night – one of the three times a year our offroad session ends at the chip shop for a sit down grubs up. I wasn’t missing that one!

Then it was down to South Wales for Christmas with the family. I had 6 days off and was looking forward to some long runs near the sea and in the sand dunes. Friday I drove down with a sore throat – great start. And Saturday it got worse but I managed to do Porthcawl parkrun – my 150th parkrun(!) plus an extra steady 5 miles. The next day 15 miles at pace through the dunes became 10 miles with my mum and I had to keep stopping and holding her up as I felt breathless. Christmas she’s planned 10 miles on the beach became a struggle through a Pilates class. That night I didn’t sleep as my breathing got so bad. I didn’t do my Christmas day parkrun or my Christmas swim. I barely eat because I was too short of breath. I didn’t do the Boxing Day fun run. I didn’t do a farewell last coastal run on the 27th. I drove back that day and went into work on Friday to find my oxygen levels and peak flow readings were in my boots despite feeling 10 times better so goodness knows how bad I’d actually been on Christmas eve. I’d been considering calling an ambulance, scared about my rapid breathing rate and the possibility of fatiguing and stopping breathing altogether, but worried that I was being a hypochondriac and really didn’t want to go and sit in A&E in the middle of the night on Christmas eve/early hours of Christmas morning. I suppose my ultra and marathon training saved me, being used to breathing fast for a long time…. Do as I say kiddos, not as I do. Which goes the next few days too. Saturday I ran parkrun but I took it super easy. Sunday I had planned to go out for a 10 miler offroad with the club but ended up struggling through 5.5 miles solo on the road. Then Christmas eve I ran 8 miles to round up to 1600 miles for the year. Completely arbitrary, but I’d checked my miles in early December and realised I’d get to over 1600 and possibly even 1700 at a push. Then with sickness over Christmas, I’d fallen short. But once I’d got that number in my head, well you know I had to crack it.

I’ve reviewed my mileage totals for the last 4 years and it’s my highest ever run total, and yet no PBs or stellar performances. I think this can be put down partially to inconsistency in training with the first 6 months still being based in South Africa and lack of safety for mid week runs, partly due to all my runs for that first 6 months being long and slow and stop-start, training for Comrades, so losing speed, but also evidently by really low cross training mileages which help with general cardiovascular fitness.


2015 = 1535 miles

2016 = 1387 miles

2017 = 1229 miles

2018 = 1600 miles


2015 = 1412 miles

2016 = 1368 miles

2017 = 498 miles

2018 = 45 miles


2015 = 17 miles

2016 = 83 miles

2017 = 58 miles

2018 = 17 miles

2019 Goals

The big goal for 2019 is completing Dragon’s Back so I’ve got some serious training and prep to do to get ready for some long days in the mountains with unpredictable weather. That day in December was proof you need to be tough and ready for anything. I also have Manchester, London, Berlin, and Chicago Marathons lined up, and have entered a couple of 10ks. I think I need to pick a nice triathlon for summer too, a chance to get on the bike and in the water and cross train after the brutal Dragons Back in May and before getting deep into training for Berlin/Chicago in Autumn.

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