My first ultramarathon – the lowdown

On 19th September, I ran my first ever ultramarathon, a 50km, 1900m elevation gain jaunt in the Peak District, one of the UK’s National Parks. The race itself was different to any other I had done, not least because of social distancing measures put in place to ensure the competitors safety, and was superbly organised by Ultra X (the co-hosts of my other big adventure, the Tribe RFL).

I arrived in the Peaks on the Thursday afternoon, wanting to get a feel for the area and have the chance to explore a little – the issue with racing somewhere is that in the couple of days before the race you don’t want to do anything that might hinder your ability on the day, but then after the race you’re incapable of actually moving and doing anything fun. I’d always recommend arriving 3 days before a race if you want to be able to explore and get in a shakeout run!

Warmup hike around a gorgeous Mam Tor loop

We did just that – on Thursday we did a short walk, and on Friday a slightly longer one of about 12km, scouting out a small part of the course. Saturday was, of course, a total rest day (which I found myself very much needing after our walk the day before). It wasn’t a ‘carb-loading’ day per se, but the whole week previously had been filled with a slightly greater proportion of carbohydrates than usual to make sure muscle glycogen stores were as full as they could be.

On Saturday I set up camp with the runners completing the full 125km weekend, who were coming back from their first day (75km) as we set up my tent. The evening was spent eating our freeze-dried meals and snacks while listening to people recount their adventures from the day.

My tent setup!

Meals/snacks/beverages:

The next morning started with a big breakfast and some snacks at around 8am, followed by taping of my irritated tibialis posterior, a little niggle I’ve been having on and off since January. Better to preempt injuries than have to stop mid race! Coffee x2 in (I tend to save caffeine for race days), three loo breaks (nervous wees are a thing) and a little jumping around at the start line, we were off. COVID restrictions means that we set off in waves, so I started alone, but shortly caught up with a friend from the Azores Run for Love (these events are small, so you often see the same faces pop up again and again, which is part of what makes them lovely!).

Simba and I running the old Mam Tor road down to checkpoint 1. Photo by Benedict Tufnell

Race kit (where I can’t find the exact kit I’ve put their newer versions, or left blank if there isn’t one):

The first 5km of the race were done at my usual long run pace, which may have been a bit fast but we made the most of the downhills and easier terrain to warm up quickly. We made it to the first checkpoint in less than 30 minutes, after which I took off my trousers and packed them away. I also took my in first nutrition around then.

Race day nutrition:

  • Lucho Dillitos coffee and guava cubes
  • Fruit sticks (like YoYo)
  • Human Food
  • Boiled sweets
  • Phizz rehydration salts
  • Homemade ginger parkin cake
  • Coca Cola (while I usually hate coke, it is one of THE BEST things to drink mid long run. I guess it’s the combo of sugar and caffeine that does it!).

I preempted one of the colder parts of the route by keeping on my warm weather gear for the first peak, as it was still early and cold and the wind was freezing up there! But after summiting the first peak, I took off my rain jacket and stored it away in my bag. This was the order of the day – run, drink, eat, strip a layer, repeat, until I was just wearing my shorts and a t-shirt (while I love to run in just a sports bra, for longer races I try to wear a t-shirt to avoid bag chafing and sun/wind burn). And that’s how I got round the race! Food, water and one foot in front of the other.

I finished the race in 6h49mins, which was over an hour quicker than I had anticipated! It also afforded me the place of 6th woman, which is better than I could ever have expected. I hope to do more soon – it really was SUCH a fun day. I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of the outdoors, and this was the perfect way to spend as much time in it as possible (and eat as much food as possible!). Watch this space for another race 😉 I’d love to hear if you have any plans for similar races coming up? What gear do you swear by? I’m always up for getting more recommendations! Comment down below!

One of the more roady parts of the race (15km in or so)

You can see my vlog of the race below – don’t forget to like and subscribe if you enjoyed!

Huge shoutout to Simba (middle) for running back from the end to collect me 3km from the end and force me to run the whole last segment. I wouldn’t have otherwise!
Second massive shoutout to my dad and his girlfriend, Charlotte, who drove me to the Peaks, helped me set up camp and plied me with ginger parkin when necessary. I literally couldn’t have even got to the race without them!

Staycation – The Peaks and Cotswolds

This post is in collaboration with Mitsubishi who were kind enough to lend us their Outlander PHEV, a car I first fell in love with a couple of months ago. All the pretty pics are by the amazing Caylee Hankins. You can find her website here and find her on Instagram.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my YouTube for more content.

As we headed into Autumn this year, Fiann and I decided it was getting less and less feasible to go and find sunshine somewhere that was less than 5h away, and so resigned ourselves a little to spending the rest of winter stuck firmly within the confines of Bristol, Dorset and London. However, following a trip to the Cotswolds with Mitsubishi (to trial their new Outlander PHEV), I was suddenly inspired. Just two days away had left me feeling totally revitalised, and heading to the Cotswolds allowed me to visit a new part of the world and fulfil another one of my passions: hiking. 

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Exploring with Fiann is one of my favourite past times

So, I spent a few weeks researching place I wanted to go (within the confines of a long weekend) and came up with the idea of a road trip up to the Peak District. I’d never been but had heard tales of its stark beauty and glorious walks (whatever the weather). So, with some help from Visit England for planning where to go, we picked up our new (super fancy) Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and set off for the Peaks! 

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I was so excited to be able to get back into the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV! HELLO heated seats

The first hotel we headed to (around a 4h drive from London with traffic), was Moddershall Oaks, a boutique spa retreat with a brand spanking new wellness centre called Made. We were promptly upgraded to the Bridal Suite due to a water spillage in our other room (although secretly I think it was all planned by Fiann) and I was super impressed with the incredibly friendly service and staff! I enjoyed a quick shellac manicure before we headed to dinner. I was blown away by the quality of the food at the restaurant – as someone who follows a plant based diet the option is usually singular and involves just removing something from a vegetarian dish and replacing it with nothing. Click here for a full review (and more pics!) of the lovely Moddershall Oaks.

The next morning started with a quick spa session before heading into the Lakes – an easy hour-and-a-bit drive north. We did about half of our driving in electric mode, meaning the petrol lasted so much longer! We especially chose to drive in EV (electric vehicle) mode in the towns – no need for extra fumes out there. 

 

 

Our first hike of the trip began from Hathersage, a cute village about 10 miles south-west of Sheffield, and took us about 10km up and along Stanage Edge and back down to the village. I cannot recommend ‘The Edge’ more – it was beautiful, bleak, windy and spectacular all at once. Not for you if you don’t like wind or hills, but very feasible for anyone as there’s a car park right at the base! 

At dusk we headed via Chatsworth House to our next stop, The Peacock at Rowsley, where we settled in and promptly headed for a nice warming dinner. People clearly come from miles around for dinner here, as it was totally packed! The food was more expensive than I’ve expected (£50 for two courses), but the dishes that I had were truly delicious. Again, there was a decent vegan menu and no expenses spared with the dishes – Fiann and I both got the cep israeli couscous with truffle oil and were both very pleased with it. The £50 also got us an amuse bouche and delicious homemade bread too. Thoroughly well fed, we collapsed in bed for a long night’s sleep before another day of walking on Saturday!

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All prepped and ready to go from The Peacock at Rowsley! Outfit from Underarmour.

Saturday’s walk took us to Castleton, another cute town slightly further north in the Peaks. Here we headed out on a hike up Mam Tor, along the ridge to Rosehill Pike and round. The route was a muddy, rainy and cloudy 15km or so, but well worth every second! See below for the beautiful views XD

Following our walk we drove the 20 or so minutes to Bakewell, a beautiful little town. Slightly starving from our walk, we went to ‘Because I Like It’, recommended by Visit Peak District as the best gluten free/vegan cafe in the Peaks. The vegan toasties we had did not disappoint – perfect for a wet and windy day! It wasn’t cheap (over £20 for two toasties and 2 vegan bakewell tarts), but I would definitely recommend if you’re in the area. The vegan (and gluten free) bakewell tasted just like the original too – perfect fodder to fuel our journey back down south. We headed back to the car to embark on the 112 mile journey to near reading, in preparation for Sunday’s 10km race. The car was ridiculously easy and comfy to drive back down south, and en route we stopped for our first tank fill up. As there had been nowhere to charge our car, the fuel economy was slightly worse than expected by this point, but the next few places had charging ports, so we made up for the lost fuel economy with purely electric driving later in the trip. 

Our race on Sunday was an absolute treat – despite the grey weather and intermittent rain, spirits in the Beverley family were high, and everyone enjoyed the race! It was hilly and seriously muddy (both of which I’ve avoided since cross-country races at university), so Fiann and I were very pleasantly surprised to come in at 17th and 18th out of over 200 runners – I even came 3rd female! See below for the pained faces of an exhausted Fiann and Flora at kilometre 9 of our race.

Exhausted and elated, after chowing down an excellent pub lunch, Fiann and I headed to our last stop together, Dormy House. 

Dormy House is another breed of hotel. Modern but rustic, with beautiful decor and everything you could possibly need – it was just what we wanted after a strenuous day! After plugging our car in at the charging ports in the Dormy House car park, Fiann and I dumped our bags in our room and headed straight for the spa. We spent a good hour in between the outdoor hot tub and the amazing pool and by the time we got round to dinner we were wonderfully relaxed. Dinner at The Potting Shed was great – again, there was a specialist vegan menu, and although it had fewer options than some of the other places, everything we ate was of top quality. I especially enjoyed the dessert! 

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By the time we arrived at Dormy House, dinner was very much needed

Monday morning was spent shooting at Dormy House before travelling down to Bristol to drop off Fiann. En route we stopped off at Gloucester Services – a favourite that if you ever go past you must visit! It is very ‘Daylesford Farm’ style, with freshly baked goods and coffee AND, we discovered, charging ports outside! So, we stopped off for vegan cupcake and coffee before heading on our way to our final stop of the day, a spot I discovered by spending too much time looking for inspiration on Instagram, Coaley Peak. If you’re in the area this is a stunning view point out over much of the Forest of Dean, Severn Vale and the village of Coaley. There’s some old farmland that’s now a wild flower meadow, and the whole area is spectacularly beautiful.

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Making use of the super fast charging facilities at Gloucester Services

Check out these photos from our stunning courtyard suite at Dormy House – taken by Caylee Hankins of ‘@alittlepickmeup’ Instagram. To see more photos and an in-depth review of Dormy House, click here

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Nothing like a cosy living room to brighten up a cold winter’s day. Leggings from Girlfriend Collective – shop here!

Tuesday, our 5th and final day of the road trip took Cayee and me to a personal favourite location, Cheddar Gorge, just south of Bristol and an easy 20 minute drive from Cadbury House, where we had stayed the night previously. The hotel was spectacular – such a cool mix of castle and hotel (see below) with such friendly staff. Refreshed from a great night’s sleep and a good breakfast, we started early and were able to catch these beautiful shots. Unfortunately it meant that we were unable to make the most of the spa at Cadbury House, which several people told me was amazing – I will be returning to make full use of it another time though, as the hotel was lovely!

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The beautiful outside of Cadbury House – half castle, half hotel!

We were lucky with the weather in Cheddar – the morning was bright, clear and freezing, and the light so beautiful that we captured everything we wanted by lunch time! So at that point we went into the town for a delicious vegan buddha bowl at one of the many tea rooms before starting the journey back to London.

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You HAVE to visit Cheddar Gorge if you get the chance!

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Outfit from Sweaty Betty – shop the top and the bottom.

Our journey was amazing, and took me to places I’ve never been before, as well as revisiting old favourites. It was a pleasure to drive the whole way in the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, and despite having driven it before, this was my first real chance to know what it would be like to own the car! I thought I’d write a list of my favourite bits of the car, as well as some considerations to take into account:

Pros

  • The car is insanely smooth to drive. Without a doubt the nicest car I’ve ever driven, with plenty of space inside, loads of controls and everything you could possibly need (and a whole load of stuff you didn’t realise you wanted but now won’t be able to live without!)
  • When driving around the city, it feel great to do it all on electric vehicle mode. If you know where your charging point is, there’s no reason you’d have to top up the petrol unless doing much longer journeys. Since electric is much cheaper than petrol, there’s a huge potential saving cost there! Nt to mention you’re doing wonders for the environment (and congestion charge is not a thing). 
  • Some service stations have fast charging ports, which are great, if you are happy to wait while it charges. Thankfully it’s pretty speedy – we got to 80% charge in about 25 minutes. Perfect timing for a wee, coffee break and a stretch. 
  • You can plug the Outlander PHEV to mains supply, so as long as you can park near a building with a plug, you can charge up your car anywhere. 

Cons

  • If you don’t use the EV mode, the car becomes much less efficient. The miles per gallon drops right down.
  • Unfortunately there just aren’t enough places with charging ports around the UK. Dormy House was great and had charging. Cadbury House did too, but they weren’t compatible with the Mitsubishi – it appeared that they were for Teslas only, which was a real shame! Other places had a mains supply but parking near it was sometimes tough. However, I can imagine this wouldn’t be an issue if you were mostly driving to and from home, or another place you knew had charging ports!
  • The mains lead (to charge your car on mains power) is quite short, meaning that an extension lead might be need to be used if you’re unable to park right next to your mains supply. 

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Fiann, me and our trusty steed

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Looking forward to our next adventure!

Moddershall Oaks

I stayed at Moddershall Oaks as part of my recent UK staycation with my boyfriend and partner in crime, Fiann.  Moddershall Oaks is primarily a country spa retreat that also doubles as a boutique hotel. The spa is situated near Stoke, so after a long drive from London it was an absolute treat to settle right in!

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The centrepiece of Moddershall Oaks spa – the pool

I enjoyed a shellac manicure as soon as I arrived, and the manicurist was so lovely I almost wished I could have stayed chatting to her for longer! But dinner called.

The food at Moddershall Oaks did not disappoint. As soon as I leave London I always expect the term vegan to be met with disgust, confusion and often the offer of a fish dish. However, the restaurant had a specific vegan menu with multiple options for each course, rather than the usual pile of vegetables without any bulk. Fiann and I each had different dishes for starter and main, and both were spectacularly delicious – something I definitely wasn’t expecting!

Our room was beautiful – originally we were supposed to stay in one of the smaller ones (which was still very sizeable), but due to some spilled water we were quickly upgraded to the Bridal Suite, something I maintain must have been organised by Fiann! The staff were incredibly friendly and helpful which made the stay all the more relaxing.

 

Breakfast in the morning could have done with a little more options for vegans, but they cooks helpfully agreed to make a vegan version of a cooked breakfast for me (mushroom, spinach, roast tomatoes on toast).

Sadly I never got to try out the hotel’s new wellness centre, Made. Faced with an entire day of hiking, I didn’t fancy fitting in another workout, but Fiann (ever competitive) headed over the moment we arrived at the hotel and said he was impressed, so it must have been really good. The centre itself opened in August and provides classes and activities for everyone, and is the first of its kind in Staffordshire. It’s great to see a wellness centre that places balance and wellness, rather than punishment and restriction at the heart of its ethos!

Instead of going to the gym, Fiann and I instead explored the spa on our second day. Our favourite part was the shared hot tub right outside our room. We got the whole thing to ourselves which was a lovely way to warm up and prepare for a long day of hiking ahead!

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Enjoying the hot tub right outside our room!

Moddershall Oaks was a really friendly, welcoming hotel that I would recommend to anyone wanting to stay in the area. It could do with a few more modern elements but the wellness centre is an amazing step forwards and really unique! I would 100% return in the future to enjoy the spa and try out one of their classes. Do let me know if you visit – I’d love to hear what you think!