Dorset Invader Half Marathon 2019

White Star Running events are legendary in this part of the world. Off road trail races, in beautiful countryside, organised with a light touch of madness, and notoriously hard. Distances are in “country miles” with one last-minute-rerouted half marathon coming in last year at 16 miles!* The Dorset Invader races took place in the last weekend of May, based on a farm in the deepest darkest part of Dorset. A weekend of camping and running (and eating if you were in my party!).

On Sunday morning, I got up to see the marathoners set off. They were to do 2 laps of the course, whilst the half-ers were only doing 1. I scared myself doing this, because these runners all looked super organised and extremely well prepared (and incredible fit) with running poles, hydration vests and muscles. When I turned up for our start, two hours later, I felt reassured- here were my people! Still looking prepared but also looking like they were prepared for a fun trip through the countryside.

The Start

I was running with my running buddy Liz, who had been signed up for the marathon but was still feeling very tired after her previous marathon so had decided to drop down to the half. We squeezed in towards the back and with very little ceremony were off.

See how happy we look before the start?!

Hills

Dorset is hilly. Dorset is REALLY hilly. I don’t think we had any level ground at all – it was all either up or (you guessed it) down. We were sent up the second highest hill in the county and then – yes you guessed it again – up the highest. Fortunately it was so pretty, and the views spectacular from the top, that I’ve almost forgiven them.

View from the top of the second highest hill in Dorset
and Liz on top of the highest hill in Dorset

Cows

As well as the hills and the views of course we encountered cows. As a line of runners carefully trouped through a field, the bullocks were all gather in one corner at the top of the field watching us. We made our way past them without incident (no bogs to fall in) and climbed over a massive gate into a farmyard. We breathed a sigh of relief at braving the bovines, then a runner behind us pointed out that the cows had been hiding the sign showing us a different stile and the correct route out of the field. Sneaky!

Slowworm

Whilst leading the way through a wood, Liz suddenly shouted out. On the path in front of us was a slowworm. It’s very rare to see one of these, so I quickly took a photo before we encouraged it off the path into the safety of the undergrowth.

Slowworm. Not an insult

Official Photos

Apparently some people can run past the official photographer without acting up for the camera. Apparently I’m not one of those people

Fake running up the hill whilst elbowing Liz our of the photo

The Bling

Of course we finished this tough course – we’re tough (if rather tired) women. It was definitely a PW for me, but that wasn’t really the point of this race. The bling at the end – that’s what it’s about. A medal, a pint glass and a drink to put in it – what’s not to like!

Now *that’s* a medal!

Oh – it was also about exploring an amazing part of the world, and about running with a friend both encouraging and in turn being encouraged. Liz told me that she was so glad she wasn’t doing the marathon approximately every 10 minutes or so, and being a good running buddy I didn’t tell her to shut up. (Truthfully, I really enjoyed running with Liz – although we both love our running and take it seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously). She’s a perfect running partner!

Sprint finish
See – we did run some of it!
Propping each other up at the end

It was brilliant, and as soon as I can feel my legs again I’ll be back out in our Wiltshire countryside.

* There was a last minute problem with the course that meant it had to be so much longer – but basically you have to be prepared for anything

May the Fourth parkrun

May the Fourth (Star Wars day, of course) fell on a Saturday this year. Saturday is also parkrun day, and the first Saturday of the month is pacing week, so of course our parkrun had a Star Wars parkrun. I’d signed up as a pacer again (first Saturday of the month), so naturally I had to appear as a Star Wars themed pacer.

Reappearance of the Princess Leia outfit

I was pacing 32 minutes again, but I was finding it difficult to run to a steady pace this week. I pressed on, and with about a kilometre to go I apologised as I passed a runner in front of me. “I was hoping to stay in front of you!!!” she wailed, so I told her to stick with me and we’d get her in under 32 minutes. Coming up to the line I told her to sprint ahead, and seeing as I came in in 31:15 means she was definitely under 32 minutes. This is the first time I’ve actually had someone running with me and relying on my timing, and I was delighted we did it (even if I was too fast!)

As I waited to get my barcode scanned, another runner told me that he’d had me in his sight all the way around, and was really pleased with his time as a result. Two satisfied customers- the force was strong with this one today!

Note – in case you missed the first appearance of the Princess Leia costume, it was here. And yes – I was impressed I still fitted into it as well!

Corsham 10K 2019

On a whim, I entered Corsham 10K hoping the fear of an upcoming race would force me out of the door to run. It worked, I reached the start line feeling ready to run, particularly after running an impromptu half marathon, on my own, just to see if I could. (I could).

Back to shorter distances, Corsham 10K has always been a great race and one of my favourites. The route has some lovely parts out on the lanes, and the entire way around has people out supporting, clapping and handing out sweets. It’s been so long since I ran any kind of race, I was really unsure of how I would find it. Turns out, I loved it. I enjoyed the entire thing, I ran up ‘the’ hill with no problem, I chatted to all sorts of people on my way round and I even managed a strong finish.

Happy running face
Happy!

It helped that I knew I was running for an awesome medal, a beer, AND a t-shirt!

Medal photo
What a medal!

Celebrations and Achievements

It’s taken a long time (like all my running does ) but I finally achieved it. My first parkrun milestone of 50 parkruns, in just over 5 years. parkrun wouldn’t run out of t-shirts if everyone took this long.

Anyway on Easter Saturday, a beautiful sunny morning, I popped on my apricot Chippenham parkrun vest and trotted around our local park having a lovely chat with a friend. parkrun done right. The only strange thing is how my hand has apparently turned into a claw?!

Okay – now to wait to be able to order my beautiful red milestone t-shirt …

Two pictures worth a thousand words

I was going to write a post about how pleased I was that I got out for a run. I was mentally drafting a paragraph where I described how chuffed I was that after 5 miles I chose an extra 3 miles rather than a 2 minute trot home. I was even thinking how best to describe the weather (four seasons in a day, sunshine, all accompanied by incredibly gusty wind).

However, I think two pictures I took sum this run up better than any words.

Photo of dark sky over lane
Dark clouds over a deserted lane

And as I squinted through the wind and hail, this was the amazing sight that greeted me:-

Complete Rainbow
Beautiful

It’s a “No” to Janathon, but “Yay!” to Veganuary

So after posting a very short activity for New Year’s Day, I also managed a swim on the 2nd (to test out one of my Christmas presents – more on this another time!). After a strong(?) start, I then returned to work on the 3rd and Janathon went awol. PAH.

On a more positive note, I volunteered to run as a 33 minute pacer at parkrun on Saturday 5th, and I am pretty pleased to say I managed to achieve a run time of … 33:00 minutes. I may have peaked at pacing just 5 days into the year.

Proof!

Another success so far this year has been my participation in Veganuary. My attempts at being vegan again, after a break of about 23 years, came a cropper in December when a work colleague gave me a milk chocolate advent calendar and I couldn’t hurt his feelings by not eating it. (I was also delighted to finally feel like part of the team. I’m so needy!) Veganuary was just the push I needed to start again, and with my daughter accompanying me, I think I’m doing pretty well this time. Well – apart from *those* crisps – who in hell puts milk in Thai Sweet Chilli Crisps? Walkers Sensations- that’s who. Double PAH!!

I’ve also decided that as well as trying to get more sleep, I need to start feeling generally “well” again. So many odd symptoms, including bad sleep, are really starting to get me down. I’m certain they’re all just menopausal “it’s my age” stuff, but I’ll likely punch anyone who says that to my face. (PMT-type rage is just another symptom). So – I’ve purchased a box of horse tablets for “women of a certain age” and I’ll try and remember to force one down every night. Worth a try I reckon.

I’ve found that when I’ve dragged myself out for a cold, dark run after work then I sleep much, much better that night. I’m using this as a successful prod to get myself out there after work. (I can do it as long as I don’t sit down when I get in. If I sit down, I’m done for). As an added bonus, I feel like superhero running in the dark on my own, wearing my extremely bright chest torch. Who doesn’t want that!

Does anyone have any top tips that might help with sleeping, or with coping increasing age? Please share if you do!

Janathon 2019

After a rubbish end to 2018 (seriously- who wants to be ill for 3 weeks including over Christmas and New Year? Nobody – that’s who) I decided I’d better kickstart 2019 with Janathon.

So January 1st – 0.4 mile walk around the block just before Doctor Who. It’s a real activity- it’s on Strava and everything! I also got to finally see the most decorated house in the village this year which cheered me up immensely:-http://www.blackandtabbyruns.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/img_4218.mov

Veganeuring 2018 #7

After wimping out of riding this morning because it was sleeting, once the sun peeped out very briefly I thought I’d better get on with it.

Back to Corsham via the Post Office, and then into Previous. This is a new shop, selling vintage stuff, cards, gifts and so on, with a small cafe upstairs.

Bike parking right by the Post Office
Photo of Previous in Corsham
Really cute little building

I headed straight for the cafe, keen to see if it had improved under its new owners. Last time I came here, I was with my family for a quick lunch. We order soup and sandwiches- nothing complicated- but waited about 30 minutes for it to finally appear. If you’ve ever seen the Victoria Wood sketch, featuring Julie Walters, as a very old, very slow waitress, you’ll appreciate our hilarity as our waitress finally brought the food saying “One soup… and … another … soup”. *

Today service was much quicker, and they even had my favourite Almond milk for my mocha. On enquiring about vegan cake I was told they always have 1 vegan option and 1 gluten free option which is great. We both searched all the labels and found the flapjack was marked as Vegan. Like the granola bar from Grounded this was pretty solid, but still pretty good. Photo of cafe

Small but perfectly formed cafe

It was still cold when I came out, but the warmth of knowing I’d finished this year’s Coffeeneuring challenge kept me going all the way home.

Just under 5 miles cycled, almond milk mocha and solid flapjack consumed, warm happy glow achieved.

Recap to come!

* If you haven’t seen it, go google it. It’s worth it!

Veganeuring #6

Sunday dawned, bright and sunny, and still I was reluctant to get my bike out. “It looks a bit chilly”, “It’s nearly lunchtime”, ” Want to come with me???” Honestly I was worse than a whinging toddler. It was only the thought of getting my penultimate Coffeeneuring trip of 2018 safely in the bag with still a week to go that got me out of the door.

I headed back to Corsham, and went into their branch of Grounded.

Never feels very safe leaving my bike here

I was too late for the Vegan breakfast (too much whinging earlier!) but I was delighted when they told me they did have a cake that was vegan. Admittedly it was the healthy (and solid!) looking granola bar, but still a cake.

Coffee + Cake = Coffeeneuring done right!

Despite my misgivings regarding where I parked my bike, of course it was fine when I came back to it. I popped into the Co-Op for a few things whilst I was there and then headed back home.

Corsham was looking extremely photogenic in the autumn sunshine, so I obliged and took a photo. Sadly no peacocks today.

On my way back up Hartham Lane I was struck by the redness of apples against the blue sky – so of course had to stop for another photo. No wonder I’m such a slow cyclist!

Stats:- 5.2 miles cycled, 4 photographs taken, 1 soya mocha, 1 solid (but vegan) granola bar, 1 ride left to do!

Veganeuring #5

After last week’s soggy ride, I was hopeful for a drier day despite combining Coffeeneuring with swimming again. I headed back to Chippenham, made it into the session with 40 minutes to swim and splashed for 1400 metres which I was very pleased with!

Turning towards town I remembered the steps I encountered last time and set off in a different direction to avoid them. This put me onto the Wiltshire Cycleway for a short distance which meant I cycled through the park (where parkrun is held every Saturday), past a slightly strange statue, and ended up in town right by the bike parking having avoided a busy section of road. Photo of The Twister sculpture

I headed to Caffè Nero, one of my favourite of the coffee chains, because this cafe is less crowded than most others, they always have friendly staff, they have a good range of drinks & food AND they let dogs in. We don’t have a dog, but I love seeing other people’s pets sat in the cafe.

I ordered my now usual soya mocha, and whilst they were sadly already sold out of their tomato, pesto & vegan cheese toasty they had plenty of their (accidentally vegan) mince pies.

Couldn’t wait to start on my mince pie! Sadly no dogs in today

I headed for home, back up the busy road, and whilst waiting at the traffic lights to go under the train line through a viaduct designed by Brunel, I suddenly spotted this sign on the pavement:- Image of road sign

10 points if you know what this sign means without having to Google it

Pretty sure of my Highway Code, I turned onto the pavement, safely away from the traffic, and rejoined the road after the junction. I spotted this sign again at another roundabout further up the road, and again managed to safely avoid a busy junction. I was very pleased with myself, but the glares I got from the pedestrians I met on the footpath were of the “if looks could kill” variety. I’m certain they all went home complaining about cyclists on pavements, as I’m pretty sure most people don’t know what the sign means (unless they’re a cyclist!)

Anyway, to recap. Another successful Coffeeneuring trip, to Caffè Nero in Chippenham

10 miles cycled in total

1 soya mocha and 1 mince pie eaten

3 new sneaky (and safe!) shortcuts discovered

6 glares-from-pedestrians received (that I spotted – could have been more!)