Event Ten – Finlandia Ski Marathon

IMG_3595So the cross country ski marathon week had arrived.  This was an event that was completely out of my comfort zone and involved a skill that until a few weeks ago I didn’t have.  What was I thinking!!   As you know I went to Chamonix three weeks ago to learn to cross country ski and if I’m honest didn’t think it looked too hard – Oh boy how wrong I was.

My Chamonix week left me feeling that maybe I taken on one challenge too far.  But what was I to do? I had already paid for my trip to Finland and the race entry.  Looked like I was going and I would try and do my best.

A cold, hard bike sportive and a half marathon managed to take my mind off skiing for a while but the trip came round soon enough.

I landed in Helsinki and met my group.  Apart from one guy called Alex, everyone knew each other and had done many trips and races together – this was an experienced bunch – Oh SHIT!!! What had I done.  As you can imagine they seemed surprised that I had signed up for a ski marathon after 5 days of previous ski experience.  Thank goodness Alex was a novice too, having only skied the week before in Italy.  We fast became friends and support for each other.

My new friend Alex

The first day on skis it took me a little while to get back in the swing of things but I was helped by much better snow conditions than in Chamonix and although my technique was that of a beginner I could still get round the tracks and with great effort just about keep up – they were obviously all taking it easy in preparation for the race and could have left me at any time.  The tracks were also very hilly, which actually helped me a little too as I’m bit better going up the hills than on the flat – where a lot of skill is required – and I could use my downhill ski skills on the down slopes.

On day two Alex and I were taken off on our own with Gareth, one of the guides and a very experienced cross country skier.  He had done races all round the world and was a wealth of information.  A day with Gareth helped us no end – we practised all the skills we would need for the race like jumping in and out of tracks for overtaking – ha ha ha ha – didn’t think I would be doing much of that.  We worked on our glide and it was also very useful to understand how the skis actually worked – you need to push down on them to get them to glide.  Anyhoo, after a day with Gareth we were able to go back with the group for the next two days and get a few kilometres in our legs.  The whole group was very supportive and encouraging and by now, although I knew I still had a lot to learn I was pretty sure that I could make it round on race day, it just might take a while 🙂

On Friday the day before the race we went to the Lahti Ski Stadium where the expo was held.  The ski stadium is fabulous with three huge ski jumps behind it – very impressive. At the expo we collected our race bibs and left our skis to be waxed. I also bought a jacket for race day, my gorgeous lululemon jacket, although trendy was apparently not quite right for a race, I needed to look the part – at least on the start line 🙂

Scary ski jumps

Race Day

I woke up very early and immediately checked the weather.  It was -11C, that is cold and much colder than the temperatures we had been out in all week which had been nearer -1C.   The group had had lots of discussions about how many layers we should wear. Hopefully my new jacket would keep me warm.  I had a shower and some tea.  I’d got all my kit ready the night before and my skis were at the stadium,  I would pick them up just before the race started.

At 8.30am Alex and I walked the 30 minutes to the stadium.  It was indeed cold and also snowing.  The pavements were very icy and we took our time, didn’t want to fall before we had even started.

My lovely friends Minna and Olga who I know from my running forum were meeting me at the stadium.  They had both driven for two hours to come and see me, I so appreciated it, and it was lovely to see familiar faces and have my own little cheer squad.  A quick hug and chat and a few photos and it was time to get on the start line.

My friend Minna and pink monkey

It was really something.  Hundreds of skiers all in the tracks in the stadium ready to go. It was quite cold waiting for our wave to start but we only had to wait twenty minutes and my nervous energy helped keep me warm.   I looked over to Minna and Olga and they were waving Union Jack Flags – perfect!

Skiers waiting for the start
Olga waving her flag



Three, two, one and we were off…straight up a steep hill.  I was prepared for this as we had practised it, but it was very different trying to herringbone up hill with hundreds of skiers around you.  My newly waxed skis were quite slippy too.  At the top of this hill Minna and Olga were waiting and madly waving their flags and cheering.  As I looked over at them a reporter ran over to me and said I’m going to take your photo….oh ok 🙂   He ran ahead of me and snapped away.   Apparently Minna had given him a little interview about me and my 50 events …I made the morning paper.  Hahahahah …some of you will know this is not the first time 🙂

Morning paper fame

The first 13km were mainly uphill, there was actually 1000m of climbing over the course, and to think I thought that cross country skiing was done on the flat lol!  Actually the Finlandia is quite a technical course and one of the harder ones on the circuit. I didn’t know it at the time but this year was the best conditions they have had for about ten years – good snow and cold temperature.


A lot of this section was familiar as we had done it in training, including a very steep down hill which I successfully descended.  Unfortunately at around 14km on another downhill I wasn’t so lucky and fell as I tried to negotiate a steepish bend.   The snow had all piled up as a few thousand skiers had gone round it and my skill level wasn’t up to the job.  I hurt my ankle in the fall and it was to hurt for the rest of the race.  At no point did I feel it was bad enough to stop but towards the end when I was very tired it hurt to push and glide and I had to resort to double poling quite a bit – yay for strong arms.

The feed stations, there were five, were…interesting.  They called your name as you came through which was fun. Paula Green from Great Britain…..Welcome!   Lots of hot sweet drinks, bits of banana, bread and butter! and gherkins were on offer.  I stuck to the drinks and the banana and I also had a chia bar broken up into pieces in my pocket. I was warned not bring chocolate as frozen chocolate is not too kind on the teeth.

Feed station

After the second feed station it flattened out for a little while but it was still hard going as the snow had softened with the skiers going over it – probably better to be at the front I guess.  I was also getting close to the furthest I had ever skied – 23km (and that was with a lunch break lol).  But I knew that if I could get to 30km then mentally I would feel like I was almost there and just grit my teeth and get on with it.  The last 10km were also over familiar ground which would help too.

Occasionally we would ski past houses in the woods and people were out with cowbells and cheering, a lovely boost.  Although the tracks were much quieter by now (at the back of  the pack) there were still plenty of skiers around to keep me company. The weather had also got much better, blue skies and sunshine, in fact the best weather of the week.

Despite my aching ankle I was happy throughout the race and so pleased I took the risk to attempt it.  It was a “no pressure” race, taking part and doing my best was all that was required.  The experience was enough.

At 39km the last feed station appeared and as well as the usual fare, beer was offered – hey, it was rude not too.  Good Finnish beer I was told – I had a small cup and set off again and straight into my second fall of the day, maybe I shouldn’t have had the beer.  The original distance of this race was 50km but it was shortened to 42km due to poor snow conditions in some areas.  In the end my garmin said it was 44km but who knows?  It was a long way and it took me 5.28.06. Two weeks ago I was worried about not finishing in eight hours so I was thrilled with this time.

Minna and Olga were waiting for me at the end – cheering and taking photos.  It was a happy day and one that I will remember for a long time.

All my group finished and did some great times.  There were only 18 Brits in the race and I think only four British women, so I was the fourth fastest British women ha ha!   After the race I got my new World Loppet passport stamped – it has all the major ski marathon races in and now I have the passport I obviously want to get more stamps 🙂   So next year it may be Estonia or Iceland or Sweden or….. oh dear I think I’ve got the cross country skiing bug.






Event Nine – Exeter Parkrun

Boats in Exeter near the start

Another week and another trip to Exeter – and still no shopping!!! This time it was for parkrun and funnily enough it started about 200m from where I did the Half Marathon last week.  I knew where to park and where the toilets were – perfect 🙂

After the usual briefing about, not being a race, and looking out for other park users we were off.  Everyone dashes off so fast and the first few metres were hectic, but before long I settled into my back of the pack place.  I actually ran the first 1km pretty fast for me and was hopeful of a good time but as the run went on the mud and wind came into play and my pace slowed accordingly.

I thought it would follow the same route as last week but we quickly left the canal path and headed off along a track and over a little bridge before turning left onto a football field. This was the muddy bit.  We had been told that we must stick to the edge of the field to make sure we ran the full 5k and of course this was where the most mud was. I was better prepared today and wore my trail shoes so although I slowed up I didn’t feel like I was going to fall.

The wind that had helped so much with my speedy start was now blowing straight in a our faces and as we left the field and got back on the track it was really strong and gusty.  But no rain, thankful for that.

I was very relieved that it was only 5km – my legs felt good and I wasn’t too tired but I needed to get back home as I had to drive to Heathrow in the afternoon!

I finished in 30.10 and unusually for parkrun the barcode scanning was done inside.  We had to walk 300m to a climbing centre where everyone had to remove their muddy shoes and walk in our socks upstairs to the scanning area in a cafe.  It was a great idea and if I had had more time I would have stayed for coffee and cake.

But my next event beckons. Off to Finland and hoping I can remember how to Cross Country Ski!

Event Eight – Exeter Half Marathon

After the race, back in the warm and with a cute medal

Valentine’s Day!! Yay – let’s run 13.1 miles/21km to celebrate.  Or maybe just sit around and eat the lovely chocolates that Ian bought me.  In the end I did both 🙂

This event nearly didn’t happen due to The Body in the Park Situation ….. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As this event was held in Exeter which is not that far away, I didn’t have to get up too early which was nice after last weekend, and ….. it wasn’t raining !!!! I know! But, it was very cold and my phone was telling me there may be snow.   But as I set off  the weather was fine 🙂

As usual I got there early – I do love to get a good parking space and it was nice to have time to have a coffee from my flask.  I also wanted to delay leaving my warm car.  I had plenty of layers on including a hat and gloves but already I could see people in shorts and vests – WFT!  This could only mean one thing, it was to be another fast race with me plodding along at the back.   I’m starting to look forward to Taunton and Yeovil half marathons where the field will be much bigger and I won’t seem so slow.

The race was starting by a canal – not a part of Exeter that I know well – in fact the only part of Exeter I know is the shopping area lol! But despite the grey skies it was a pretty area.


At 9am we were all called together for what we though was a race briefing…. it wasn’t. The race was to be delayed 15 minutes due to an incident in the park we were about to run through!  No details were given but apparently it was now a crime scene.  I had seen a guy taking photos earlier and figured he was the local journalist, he was, and he told me that a body had been found in the park.  He was very good at saying all the right things – about the poor person – but he did seem quite excited that he was the journalist “on the scene”.

I also used this time to chat to other runners – I saw a guy, in a couple, who had a Staffordshire 70.3 t-shirt on – I’ve done that race!! Turns out the pair of them had done many of the same races as me and we had a good chat about triathlons and how we had all seen/chatted to Gordon Ramsey in Stafford.  I saw him later in the race – he was well in the lead and won by a big distance, I think he lapped me before I had finished lap two – trust me to pick the fastest runner there to chat to.  Hope he didn’t realise it me as he sped past.

Anyhoo, back to the delayed start. At 9.15 we were told it would be another short delay but the race would still go ahead, they just needed to re-route some of the course and move the water station.  I have to say the organisation and communication was very good and soon we were under way.

From the start I felt tired and heavy legged.  The pace was very slow as we all tried to run up a narrow path and avoid the puddles.  Within minutes my feet were wet, muddy and very cold – a familiar feeling this year.  It was a long way to run with wet feet.  I also realised that I had picked the wrong trainers – should have worn my trail shoes.  My trainers are really old and I had forgotten how much they can rub – my big toe now has a horrible blister and the trainers are in the bin.

As the race spread out a bit I found myself in my usual spot near the back.  The laps, now that the park was out of play, were up and down a long canal path – three 7km laps.  Up one side, across a little bridge and down the other side.  It was nice and flat but the mud made it hard going.  I guess it could have been quite boring but the police helicopter over head and the many cars with flashing blue lights livened it up a little.

My pace was about normal for this distance but I felt very slow and also felt a bit miserable.  However, I kept smiling because that’s what I do, and I chatted to all the marshals who were lovely and must have been freezing.  The lovely ladies at the water station all gave me a big hug on the last lap – must have looked like I needed it and hey, at my pace there is always time to stop for a hug.

I got another hug from my sister Adi and hubby Antony too. Totally surprised to see them – my sister had even texted me that morning pretending to still be at home.  I heard them before I saw them – GO PAULA GREEN!!!! What!!!!  OMG I was so happy and it gave me a real boost for my  last lap.  I didn’t get any faster but I felt happier knowing they were there and I would see them at the end.

I finished in 2.22.05 – a very normal time for me for the half marathon distance.  I ran all of it, occasionally walking through some mud so that I didn’t fall.  But it felt like hard work and I was very tired by the time I got home.   I had a little wobble that evening wondering if I had taken on too much this year – would this old body hold up?  But after a good nights sleep, some yummy chocolates and a meal cooked by Ian, I woke up on Monday morning feeling just fine and ready for the next 42 events!





Event Seven – Bristol Ride It sportive – 71 miles



Guess What?  It was raining!

Event Seven took place one day after Event Six – trying to catch up on events after my week in Chamonix.  I managed to pick the worse weather weekend of the year to cram in two events.

There was some doubt if my ride would even take place as the weather was so bad the day before (parkrun day).  The rain had flooded many roads and the wind was crazy – we had a tree down at my house – right on our phone line.

Evan Cycles who ran the event were good with updates on Facebook and at 9.42pm on the Saturday confirmed that it would go ahead, but to check first thing just in case!

I was up at 5.30am, and out of the house by 6.15am.  The rain was intense and it took me over an hour and a half to get there.  Very slow on the motorway despite little traffic.  Bristol was lovely and quiet at that time in the morning 🙂

I parked up and registered in a big sports centre where HQ had been set up.  I only saw about three women !  In fact there weren’t that many people at all.  In total 310 riders turned up out of 400 that had signed up (I asked!) which I thought was a good turn out.  In the summer most sportives have a 1000 plus riders.

After signing in I dashed back to car, the rain was only drizzle at this point thank goodness, and got  my gear on and ate my porridge 🙂  As I sat there, the hail started – hammering on the windscreen.  I decided to stay there a little longer and looking around so was everyone else.

At 8.45 it stopped and everyone got out of their cars and headed towards the start.  I was hoping to see my friend Jo who was also doing it, but must have missed her.  I would be on my own (my lovely friend Sarah had planned to come, but the awful weather and timing issues, meant she couldn’t make it – a three hour drive from Kent would have been a nightmare for her).

I set off in a little group of about ten people after the pre race briefing …. actually not a race we were told, there are no winners and results are not shown in time order.  After about 4km we turned a corner and went straight up the first big hill – there were three signature hills on the ride.  I wasn’t expecting it so early, really should have checked the route lol!  But actually I was glad to warm up.   There were quite few people walking already, not much fun in the rain.  All the distances, even the 15km “fun ride” went up this great big hill!!!   I managed to catch up with a group of lads that had whizzed off from the start, but they all stopped at the top for a rest – there was no way I was stopping and getting soaked, so I was on my own again.  Then the hail came down….. again.  It was painful.

The next couple of hours were very wet.  Funnily enough there was blue sky and sunshine too, but even though I could see it, I was still being rained on – nice rainbows though 🙂  It would have been nice to get some pictures but I was just too cold to stop and get my phone out.  My phone also has a habit of dying in extreme cold and I needed it to record my ride….if it’s not on Strava…well, it didn’t happen.

The first feed station was near Cheddar Gorge and just before the next big climb. There was hot coffee, which was divine.  I shared a banana with someone as there weren’t many left and had a few salted peanuts.

The climb was the other side of Cheddar from the usual Gorge climb.  Starva tells me it was called Burrington Combe and has an average gradient of 6% – yay another chance to warm up!

Coming up Burrington Combe – wearing all the colours!

At the top it was crazy windy – really strong cross winds and hard work.  Then down Cheddar Gorge itself – free miles, wheeee. But it was also very cold and at the bottom where it is very steep (around 16%) the wind was howling up the gorge and I was wobbling all over the place, I didn’t enjoy it one bit.

The weather had brightened up a little and I was quite enjoying myself as the route headed over towards the Somerset levels. Here there was a sign that split the medium and long routes – I had got there in good time so carried on with the long route and to the next feed station for a few more snacks.

The next big climb was The Old Bristol Road.  I remember this climb from my Lands End to John O’Groats ride last year.  It’s just past the pretty town of Wells and its quite steep in parts and nearly 3km long.  I had forgotten how much it kicked up at the end and was relieved to get to the top.

By now the wind was behind me and the last 30km were much easier, although I was quite tired and my feet were frozen.  No matter how well you cover your feet when the roads are flooded the water comes through the bottom – result soggy feet.  The rest of me was warm enough and my gear worked well – merino vest, long sleeve base layer, soft shell jacket, lightweight rain jacket and gillet, oh and a hat and ski mittens (they look stupid, but are very warm).  The Evans guys at the end did mention my strange colour combo – fluorescent green, yellow, pink and orange – I had the lot, but I was warm.

The last 10km seemed to take forever and there were a few more sneaky climbs but finally I saw the sports centre – hurrah!

A quick hot chocolate and I was back in my car and heading home as the rain started yet again.

I got home at 6pm – a 12 hour day with six hours of cycling – totally shattered.

7 down, 43 to go!




Event Six – Burnham-on-Sea Parkrun

Burnham-On-Sea parkrun start. This is a lake not a puddle!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last event, but I’m back with another parkrun and it was another rainy one.    Adi came with me again and this time we were prepared for the bad weather.  She did not even attempt my flooded lane, I met her a few miles away and then we drove the 45 minutes to Burnham-on-Sea.

Despite the weather we were in good spirits and excited about doing a new parkrun.  We were nice and early so got a good parking space, then sat in the car for a while and had the usual “how many layers to wear” discussion.  Bad weather is tough – trail shoes or trainers? head band or hat? Gloves or no gloves? The temperature wasn’t too bad so I opted for a short sleeve top and a lightweight jacket and some gloves – which worked fine 🙂

Happy in the warm car

The pre run briefing was brief as it really was hammering down.  They had moved the start due to flood water – and they also decided to run the loop in opposite direction to usual – so that the big puddles were at the end.

As soon as everyone had walked to the start it was 3,2,1 GO!  No hanging around – much appreciated.

All parkruns are 5km and today this distance seemed enough, especially as my legs were still aching from Cross Country Skiing.  Cross Country Skiing??? Yep !! That’s where I have been the last week, in Chamonix, training for an up coming event in Finland at the end February.  I was hoping to be able to do some kind of event in Chamonix, but in the end just learning the technique and training was all I could manage 🙂

The beginning of the run is through parkland round a little lake – at least I think it was a lake, may have been a big puddle lol! Then we headed towards the sea front where the wind came into play.  At first it was behind us, for I guess a kilometre or so, but then we did a U-turn and almost came to a standstill as the headwind blew at us.  I tried to tuck in behind a girl in front of me but she was too small, really could have done with a five foot wide man!

Adi and I had decided to do our own thing today, rather than try and run together.  Her recovery has been going well and her running has progressed a lot, but she wanted to stick to her run/walk strategy while listening to her running podcast – although in the end she didn’t walk much due to the rain.

I saw Adi as I ran back on after the U-turn and she looked good – we high fived as we passed.  Further along was another turn and we were back out of the wind.  The final 500m was full of big puddles, everyone just splashed through them, cold wet feet – yay! But the end was near.  A quick burst of effort and I finished in 30.26, Adi was not far behind in 33.57 – woohoo!!

Adi finished and happy with the result

While I waited for Adi I had a nice chat with a man who liked my trainers – parkrun is friendly like that, then it was off to get our barcodes scanned.  Lots of problems with soggy barcodes today but I have a little plastic one which worked well.

We were drenched, and sitting in the car on our towels we decided that we couldn’t face the drive home this wet. And so ensued a comical ten minutes where we tried to strip down in a public car park and get dry clothes on.  As this is pretty much my sixth wet race I’m now pretty good at this.

Getting changed in the car 🙂

Six down – 44 to go!