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Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

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Interview with hellen

Joopsy asks: Absolutely bloody delighted that you won this and I can stop my long running campaign now. You have seen some dramatic improvements last year in your times, how fast do you think you can get over marathon distance?

hellen says: Thanks Joops. I am currently on 3.27.29 which was the week after a 55 mile ultra so definatly believe I have a few mins to come off. I think with a bit more focussed marathon training there will be a few more minutes as well. I would really love to get 3.14.xx as that would give me a champs start at VLM but I am not sure if that would be possible, will just see how I go.
clairster asks: woohooo! What Joopsy said! Well pleased for you :) what is your long term running goal??

hellen says: Very long term I would love the idea of completing UTMB but that is really hard core and I am rubbish at technical terrain or anything slighltly challenging (remember 'the bridge' at Elsecar Skelter???) I am also not keen on running off road in the dark! Maybe over the next few years I will improve in these areas so it would be more achieivable. Another long term, slightly more achievable but still challenging goal is to run 100 miles (but dont tell Mr H!). I am worried about injury and know that if I get to 90mile I wouldnt want to stop as it is just so close to the finis. I am doing a 24 hour event in a couple of weeks which is 1km laps, no getting lost and you can stop at any time without getting a DNF. I have no idea if 100 miles is achievable in that time period this year but hopefully in the next few years.
Ted asks: Awesome Hellen. :o) You are an obvious distance nut. Which of your races to date has been the most enjoyable and for what reason?

hellen says: Difficult question Ted, I think Davos K78 in 2010. I had been looking forward to it for a year, the desire to do it is what got me into ultra running (see the answer to an early question by someone who keeps changing her name and I hope she changes it back before this is posted, I dont think that new name is true at all). It is a very big ultra which also overlaps with shorter races in places so you are never alone. The atmosphere is amazing; great scenery; loads of aid stations with COKE and CHOCOLATE; a challenging route but quite a lot of it is still runable and the sense of achievement when I finished was something else as I had been gearing up for it for so long.
minardi asks: Congratulations Hellen, what gives you the incentive to keep going when the going gets tough?

hellen says: When I am finding long training runs tough I promise myself a can of coke at the next shop of a bar of chocolate or something! I will also break the run down into little segments so just think about the next bit to the shop or back home to pick up some more food/go to toilet - I often run loops from home so I dont have to carry as much so thinking about one loop at a time helps.
In races I think about the T shirt/momento/sense of achievement/warm bath. I always have some nice food in my bag at the finish - my fav being a caramac bar or choc covered marzipan bar (thorntons or aldi - thorntons best as thicker marzipan!) so I will think about that. When I am carrying a rucksack/my larger waistpack I will take my little mascot spot. He is a little dog who I bought for £1 from a local charity who also have some novalty toy they sell at Christmas or Easter. I will sometimes talk to him or open up the pocket and have and say hello to him, he has a really sweet face and although it sounds silly he does help!
Velociraptor asks: Congratulations, Hellen, and not before time! Your running has improved enormously over the last few years. How did you achieve the transition from a 5-hour marathoner to a 3:30 marathoner?

hellen says: My first marathon was a very hot FLM which I did in 4.48 but 5 weeks later I did Edinburgh in 4.28 so I prefer to see myself as starting out as a 4.30 marathon runner! One of the best things I did was to leave the HRM thread (thanks to the nudge from you!) and ditch the HRM as I had been a bit of a slave to it and whilst I made some progress I didnt make much.

Next step was to roughly followow a P&D schedule which had longer runs in the week. So I was doing a couple of 10ish milers in the week rather than everything being around 6 miles.

After a while of that I started back to back long runs at the weekends eg 10 +20 (dropping one of the 10s in the week when I did that though) and added faster paced work at the end of long runs when I wasnt doing B2B runs. The P&D and B2B runs got me down to the sub 4 marathon which was in October 2009.

Since then I have been on and off the injury bench so didnt race another marathon until Sept 2011 which is when I started chipping away at my marathon time getting it down to 3.31 by Nov 2011. I thnk my recent improvements have been due to..
1. Losing the weight I put on when I first started marathon running and overcompensating in the food department!
2. Lots of marathons/ultras in training (mostly at a steady pace) which has increase my endurance
3. Doubles several days a week. This has increased my weekly milage by a little but when doing a double day my evening run is shorter than it used to be. So now in the week I rarely run for more than an hour at a time but because I am doing long runs most weekends I am getting my endurance there. In the evening I often run to and from the gym for either a gym session/spin/body pump so running home on tired legs is good training.
4. Less speed work - previously I would do a tempo run Tues intervals thursday regardless of how I felt. Now I have it in my mind I need to get out my comfort zone at least once a week. I will often do more than one hard session a week but as long as I do one I am happy. So I will either do 4-5 miles tempo run or 10x1 min hard 1 min easy. I have found a nice bit of pavement which lets me do that interval session without many people around and road crossings so I have not branched out into longer sessions. In the past I would do a hard 6 x 800m which would take a lot out of me. The 10 x 1min hard is hard work but doesnt break me down. I know I should do a bit more and I will soon!
5. A few MP miles here and there - in addition to the speedwork/tempo runs I will always try to put in a few MP miles at least every other week. That will often be on a lunchtime run where I pick the pace up for the last couple of miles
6. Listen to my body - in the past it was intervals thursday regardless of how I felt, now I dont have a plan I just do what I feel like doing each day. I go out the door and if after a mile or so I fancy intervals then I will do intervals, if I fancy a bit of a blast then I might go for it for the last few miles. I think it is counterproductive to do an interval session when you are feeling to tired to do it as you will just get into a downward spirral of feeling worse and worse each day.
_andy asks: Well done Hellllen! Nice to see the ultra flag flying strong. How would you sell the idea of running beyond 26.2 miles to any normal (non-ultra) runner?

hellen says: You can run slower, take walk breaks and usually have aid stations with lots of food along the way - cake, chocolate, sweets, sausage rolls (no interest to me as a veggie), biscuits..... ultras are more relaxed than marathons and people tend to be more friendly during the race. Once you have finished you will have burned loads of calories so can eat what you like without feeling guilty!
Watford Wobble asks: Well done Hellen. Most deserved. What is the best piece of kit you use and why?

hellen says: It has to be Mr G (garmin 310xt) I couldnt run without him now. I have been known to set out for a run, have the battery low come on and go home to give him a charge! I like to know my distance and pace on every run! I am less obsessed than I used to be though as I no longer bother with HR
Hyperboy asks: Congrats Hellen!I am an ultra virgin and quite fancy doing one, what would be your suggestion for my first and why??

hellen says: My first was JW which is great for a first one as it is just a mini ultra (30 miles) so mentally not such a challenge. I would say for your first to pick something with no navigation as that could add a lot to your distance if you are like me with maps! A 30 miler such as JW or Grantham canal (v similar) would be good as it breaks you into the ultra world gently. You can then call yourself an ultrarunner and the next step up will be less scary as you will have already done one!
Sunbed Athlete asks: Congrats hellen!! For a non ultra person what's the main drive behind you to succeed on those distances?

hellen says: Thats a hard one and I suppose it depends what you mean by succeed. A lot of races I just do for enjoyment and dont push myself, I see them as a day out just as going for a long walk might be. Other races I will work hard at for example the Crawley track race this weekend. I wanted to see how far I could go in the 6 hours.

I suppose I would just like to see what I can achieve but I am not especially driven and will not push myself so hard that I am sick and only rarely have I pushed hard enough that I felt sick!
heffaroo asks: Well done H! Do you have an dream Ultra that you'd love to finish someday?

hellen says: Yes, UTMB
mile muncher asks: Hi Helen, richly deserved win! Is there any distance you wouldn't do??

hellen says: 5km, it hurts too much!
DeaJay2 asks: Congratulations Hellen- highly deserved! How do you cope mentally with injury layoffs?

hellen says: I'm not really sure that I do cope! I get v grumpy especially at the weekend when missing races. When out I curse other runners and when people don't run cos they CBA I get annoying thinking they should be thankful they can run!

On a positive note I go to the gym with magazines, books and videos on iPod as well as nice snacks so I can have little snack breaks as if I were at a checkpoint in a race
Mrs Sunbed asks: Congrats my question what made you want to do a ultra race.?

hellen says: My first ultra was the JW, I cant remember what got me to do that. I was on the forum on RW and kind of got sucked in I think. That was just 30 miles so I didnt really count it as an ultra as it was hardly any more than a marathon. I said that would be enough for me, I didnt want to do any of these all day jobs until I went to Switzerland and saw what was on offer there! I was then tempted but in preparation needed to do some longer races to get ready as 30 flat to 50 mountains was a big jump!
emdee asks: So, how come you get 2 weeks half term? I'm sure I've only asked that 2 or 3 times before ;) Srs question: What would you do if an urchin stole your coconut mushrooms?

hellen says: We get 2 weeks at October half term as it is a private school!
Gymfreak threatened to steel my coconut mushrooms at a track marathon once she had finished and I was still running round and round! She knew her life wouldn't be worth living if she did so left them alone in the end after tormenting me
oldbiddynandi asks: what's your mantra when the going is really gutting ??? well done, you fit into my mental file of *nutter* :):):) xx

hellen says: I dont really have a mantra. I persuade myself to keep going with the promise of a walk/sweetie at a certain point in time or I think about the race Tshirt/momento or the nice food I have as a treat when I finish.

Sometimes I think about what other people are doing which is harder than what I am doing eg in a recent race I was feeling sorry for myself and thought of Gymfreak doing her 300km cycle which would be far harder and take far longer. I told myself to man up as it would be over with soon and much quicker than the big cycle.
flip asks: congrats hellen , about time ! If i can get Hardmoors moved to school holidays will you come up and run please ? :-) (PS. the 30 is on NYD which i assume you don't have to work! )

hellen says: Hardmoors is just too hardcore for me. No I dont work NYE but i dont think Mr H would be too pleased if I was running and we had to spend NYE separatly as I have bad night vision so wouldnt beable to drive home afterwards
Naomi P asks: Congrats :-) Now you've proved you're good at the distance stuff, are you going to have a bash at some PBs over shorter distances too? It's good fun, honest!

hellen says: since you asked the question I have done a 20 mile and HM PB. I will be sorting out my 5 mile PB at the Long Eaton 5 in June and did a 10km in Nov so that is fairly recent. There are quite a few shorter races I plan to do over the summer, not necessarily to PB but because I know they will be good for me!
HappyG(rrr) asks: Congratulations hellen. In ultras, no how large the field, there are always quite long periods by yourself. Do you enjoy solo running or do you prefer to run with mates? Well done again. :-)G

hellen says: I do most of my training on my own. In races I do like to run with others and chat but I often find I forget to take on food/water when chatting and then pay for it later. Also, I prefer to run at my own pace which is often not the same as other peoples for very long as they are either too fast or too slow.

I listen to lots of podcasts which I enjoy - marathon talk, endurance planet, ben greenfield fitness, talk ultra, wake up to money, womens hour, money box, which money.......
ogee asks: Nice one Hellen, so which toilet tissue do you recommend carrying on the long stuff. I've had enough of using dock leaves ;-)

hellen says: On your recommendation I now carry wetwipes!
mulbs asks: well done - do you still have all your toenails? :-)

hellen says: At the moment I do but a couple of them are very odd looking! I'll not post any pictures. They look fine with dark nail polish though :)
Yorkshire Lass asks: Well done Hellen, what's the furthest distance you've travelled or would travel for a race?

hellen says: The furthest is Davos where I have been 3 times. I would not go much further just for a race but might go further if combined with a holiday
Binks asks: Hey Hellen. What shoes are you going to wear to answer these questions? Do you find that with all the great achievements and races you have done you are a bit less stressed before race day or do you still love to panic? Also, why did you misspell your name on Fetch?

hellen says: I'm wearing my slippers Binks, my name is mispelt because the correct spelling was already taken!
If I am doing a race which I have done before then I dont get particularly stressed. If I am doing a new race then I sometimes do, that will usually be worrying about what shoes to wear or if I will get lost (for the off road events). If I am doing a new distance or something quite different then I get very stressed. For example, last year I got quite worked up about Hell on the Humber which was a 12 hour event run through the night. I wasnt worried about 12 hours as I had done that before but was worried about running through the night.

I am doing Basel 24 hours in a couple of weeks and am paniking more than ever before as it will be the longest distance and time I have been on my feet by a long way.
SarahL asks: Congrats Hellen :-) if your shoe came off in a muddy bog during a race would you dive in and dig it out or run to the finish without it? X

hellen says: Definatly rescue it Sarah. I usually carry wet wipes so could clean my hands afterwards :)
Garfield asks: Congratulations Hellen on MOTM! Do you have any advice for someone toying with the idea of doing an ultra? I'm thinking of JW ultra for my first venture onto the dark side!;)

hellen says: Go for it Garfield! Because ultras are given a different name I think people get a bit scared of them (I know I did). If they were called 'a marathon and a tenth' then it would probably seem less of a big step up. My first was JW and I loved it, it is only 3 miles more than a marathon. I know most people get to the end of a marathon and think they couldnt run any more but because you take it at a slower pace and possibly have walk breaks it actually feels a lot easier. For my first JW I had a 5 mins walk at each check point and between each check point, I also ran it at a very steady pace and got to the end feeling fine.
Rents asks: Very well done Hellen. Most ultra runners that i know of prefer very flat coke to drink as opposed to fizzy coke. Do other runners hear you coming when you're belching and do you have a favourite brand of coke?

hellen says: At Davos they flattened the coke which really annoyed me. Then at one CP they were just about to start shaking it and I stopped them so I could get some before it went flat, they looked at me a bit odd!! Yes, I usually belch for about 5-10mins leaving the CP.

My fav is Tescos own diet coke with a hint of Almond. Sadly they stopped doing it recently, it came in a 2L bottle and was only about 50p.
SpicedApple asks: Congrats, Hellen! What is it that attracts you to 24-hour-races (as opposed to "normal" ultras) and how do you stave off the boredom/monotony doing them?

hellen says: I havnt done a 24 hour race yet but want to have a go (my first is in a couple of weeks). I suppose the next step up after 50 milers is normally 100 miles but that scares me. I dont like the idea of running through the night when I might get lost and I worry about injury. A 24 hour race feels like a safe step up as it is laps so I wont get lost and I can stop whenever I like for a rest or to finish the race without feeling like a failure or getting a DNF
Chrisity asks: So Hellen, i made our 5 mile race t-shirts green for you and you got injured, i organised a 50 mile race and you couldn't make it - just what do we have to do at Long Eaton to get you running here? ;-)

hellen says: I was injured for the 50 miler sadly. I will do the 5miler this year if I am not injured and possibly the ultra next year. This year there is an ultra the following week which is a one off so I think I will have to do that. A pink T shirt would definatly sway any doubts I had about doing a race!
Jogging Jon asks: Congratulations very well deserved. So what are your goals for 2012?

hellen says: My main goal at the moment is Basel 24 hour race on 12th May. After that my focus is getting to 100 marathons/ultras and chipping away at my marathon time.
Nywanda asks: Congratulations Hellen - can you think of the one thing you would recommend a beginner runner did, that worked for you, to ensure their running made a positive improvement? Oh and what's your core rucksack contents for runs over 20 miles?

hellen says: I think little steps is key. I dont mean when running (although I think the Pose lot say little steps!) I mean in training. So aim to increase milage a little bit each time and dont increase speed and milage at the same time. So if you are doing 20 miles a week and want to increase that just add extra slow miles. When you are at a milage you are happy with then start making some of those slow miles faster but always follow a hard day with at least one easy day.

Rucksack contents depends on the time of year and if it is a training run or race. For a training run I often do looks from home so no need for a rucksack but I might carry a waistpack with waterproof and will def have sweeties/protein bars/jaffa cakes for more than 20 mile. For a road race it will be waistpack with water, painkillers, proplus, high5zero tabs, sweeties, gels, protein bars, phone (if Mr H is supporting and tracking me). For off road where water stations are fewer and where I will be out for longer I will also carry a waterproof, sometimes a spare top (cos sometimes if it is just drizzling I CBA to put my waterproof on so useful to have a spare top incase it then turns cold) spare socks, plasters
Smiling Pete asks: Very well done Hellen. You clearly have a lot of admirers.

hellen says: Thankyou Peter, good to see you on fetch
clare1976 asks: Congrats Hellen :-) when and where do you hope to run your 100th marathon?

hellen says: Not sure yet but it will most likely be August or September this year. I have a plan of races I want to do but June is looking rather busy with a new ultra that has just popped up the week before a marathon so I will decide about the marathon when I know if I am recovered enough. Then there is the Triple Crown in July where I might not finish so that will also have an impact on 100. And of course I could get injured again but I think I have had my fair share of injury in the last few years.
26 miles asks: Hi Hellen, what do you enjoy doing when you are not running long races or training?

hellen says: Eating and watching rubbish TV!!

I also play the violin (I have a diploma so was quite good at one point), but I got bored of orchestra a couple of years ago as the conductor always chose music I didnt like - it would either be really modern stuff or classical. I like a good bit of Mahler, Sibelius or Tchikovsky but we never seem to do that.
mad4it asks: Congratulations do you think you will run 10km quicker than you will answer all these questions?:-)

hellen says: I am not really a short distance runner so I think it would be close!
Night-owl asks: Congrats Hellen. If they were to make a film of your life who would you like to play you?

hellen says: I would see it as a complement if Paula or Liz were asked to play me!
thuginasuit asks: Well done Hellen. What ultra would you say is the best for a first for someone who can get lost running round a lake?

hellen says: That would have to be a track ultra then!
Gymfreak asks: Hi Hellen :) Totally about time that you won this its very long overdue and you have been the PB & weight loss queen recentl as well as a great friend and someone I never go a day without speaking to :) Are you going to wait for me to get back running before you run sub 3.20 so we can do it together? And if you could make any flavour of protein bar what would it be? And the same for cereal? *steals box of coconut mushrooms*

hellen says: GF, when you are running again I will bring some coconut mushrooms especially for you so that you dont have to steel mine then we can do sub 3.20 together! I am not looking at sub 3.20 until 2013 so that will give you time to get back into running after your opp.
A protein bar would have to be chocolaty and coconutty. So I would say coconut in the middle and covered in thick chocolate - preferably white chocolate. Think bounty bar but more chocolate!
The Juicer asks: Well done Hellen. I remember us sharing emails years back - we were both trying to break 4 hours for the marathon. I've failed miserably, but you've gone absolutely from strength to strength. So, what Vrap said, what do you feel were the main changes that achieved this?

hellen says: Hi juicer, yes I remember those days, I dont see you around much on here now? When I got my sub 4 that was due to following P&D and doing B2B runs (see first part of V answers). You can do it too, good luck!
richmac asks: Congrats on MOTM, whats your favourite comedy animal and why?

hellen says: Thanks Rich, I was very tempted to ignore that question but that would be rude so I'll just say I dont know, I am not into comedy animals but my favourite animal is a dog, I love dogs and the main reason for not getting one is that I would get too sad when they are sick or when they die.
posty john asks: What ultra do reccomend for my 1st. With no navigation. I am used to mainly road marathons

hellen says: I dont like navigation either so a canal one would be good as they are quite straightforward usually. If you just wanted a small step up then JW ultra and Grantham ultra are both great and 30 miles. Grantham is a little easier as you dont have to keep crossing bridges and with Grantham you have the option of running back the next day. JW always fills up within a few days of opening. If you want something longer then there is Northampton to Tring in Jan (45miles) with the option of going back the next day. Or if you want to go abroad the Ecotrail Paris is a fab event- 50 miles and quite hilly but no big hills. My favourite is Davos K78 but is not ideal as a first.

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