Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, and raring to go in 2017. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to do a long “Review of 2016” (I think the moment for that has passed), but I am going to have a quick backward glance over my shouder, and then blow my own trumpet just briefly.

I started the year injured and grumpy. I spent half the year still injured and grumpy. By the autumn I began entering off road races because I love them (and they’re easier on my foot), met up with lots of other Chippenham Harriers and rediscovered my love of running. I learnt how to swim front crawl, and now need to work on completing more than a length at a time. I got out more on my road bike, and completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2016.

My coffeeneuring patch. Very proud of this

Brace yourself – here comes the trumpet blowing.

As at the end of 2016, after running in 4 races in the Wiltshire Athletic Association Off Road League I found myself currently 3rd in the ladies league (out of 90 runners), and first in my age group! This is glossing over the fact I actually came last in the tri-counties XC race – that was a hard slog! Just two more races in the league to go, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’m dreaming of trophies (no idea if they actually give out trophies, but don’t shatter my dreams just yet). Oh, and Chippenham Harriers are leading both the Mens and Ladies Team competitions as well. Toot toot!

The last day of 2016 started with parkrun. A lovely atmosphere there, despite the drizzle and slippy mud. The new year started with volunteering at the same parkrun, not easy in torrential rain and with more runners than I’ve ever seen there (but not quite a record apparently!) My first lesson of 2017 was that the bar code scanners don’t work well in the cold and wet. My second was that some people don’t deserve a free run totally staffed by volunteers. I mean, we were all getting cold, wet and frustrated that the scanners weren’t working, but to throw your soggy paper bar code and finisher’s token at me shouting “Oh just take it then!” isn’t on really, is it?

Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. Today I’ve run* my first parkrun of the year, last week I made it to my first ‘Efforts’ session of the year (probably my first since 2015), and I’m planning on going to my first swimming lesson of 2017 on Monday. Bring it on, 2017, I’m ready for you!

* staggered, slipped, wobbled

A tale of two races

Two weeks, two races. A muddy, hilly trail race and a fast, flat 10K. Both pretty chilly, both hard work but both an achievement in their very different ways.

Last week was the Wickstead Wander. A 5 mile meander over hills, down paths, through farm yards and over horse jumps. And through water jumps. It was good fun, despite being able to see runners in front of you then learning there’s actually an extra sneaky loop you can’t see between you. I loved the marshals who helped runners leap over a stream, and the biggest water jump had marshals armed with cameras and a safety inflatable dolphin. In my defence, I couldn’t see how deep the water was so tried to lower myself elegantly into the black, smelly water.

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All the elegance
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Made it!

I enjoyed the race and would do it again. 5.3 miles in 58:42

Race number 2 – the Bromham Pudding Run. This is 2 lap race around the village of Bromham, organised by and with all profits going to the village school’s PTA. There’s no medal at the end, but every finisher does get a Christmas pudding. Does this make it sound like it’s a small, amateurish affair? Don’t get the wrong idea – this race is a flat and fast course, so it attracts serious, speedy runners. It is fantastically organised with some of the most enthusiastic marshals around (clapping, cheering, playing Christmas music – these guys are pros!)

After being injured and not running ‘properly’ for so long I felt like a beginner in my first race. I didn’t know what pace to run, or what time to hope for, but I vaguely knew I’d be very happy to get anywhere near an hour, as I remember how hard I worked first time around to do that.

I ran with a friend from my running club, who was aiming for just under an hour to beat her PB.

Swishy pony tail!
Swishy pony tail!

We worked hard together, enjoyed the sunshine despite the frost and although I left her in the last mile (she told me to go!) we finished within 30 seconds or so of each other. The photo shows me crossing the finish line feeling shattered but happy.

Finish line in sight!

I collected my official time, and was split between being pleased with getting so close to an hour and being annoyed at how close to the hour it was.

Just 3.9 seconds!

6.2 miles in 1:00:03.9 – I’ll take that!

I’d forgotten just how hard ‘proper’ races are (ones that don’t involve mud, water or hills) but I’m very glad I did this one as it’s boosted my confidence no end.

Next weekend, it’s back to the mud and hills again …

Running – remember that?

Oh yes, running. Not been much talk of that lately around here. It’s all been cycling, cycling, a bit of swimming, more cycling and a little bit of running. Not much good for a blog called “Black and Tabby Runs”!

Well, I have been running. Usually twice a week (if I can fit it in with all that cycling and swimming). With the start of the cross country season I’ve been loving getting out in the mud and puddles. The softer ground seems to be kinder to my foot, and to be honest I’ve always loved getting out in the middle of nowhere, splashing around and freezing my toes off. I have a race report to write up from the weekend (I’m waiting for the photographs) so in the meantime, here are some photos from today’s run:-

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Frosty fields
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Icy puddles
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It’s icy down there!

Beautiful – and worth the cold to see it!

Getting better all the time*

Another few weeks of trying to get out for some exercise, repeatedly telling myself that just like when I first started running, it WILL feel better eventually. Suddenly, just maybe, I might be there…

To recap, I’ve been going to my swimming lesson every Monday and still haven’t drowned (although this week it was pretty close – I thought I could do breast stroke!) I’ve been mostly managing my two runs a week but haven’t been on my bike so much**. Fantastically soggy parkrun on Saturday 1st October, which reminded me how much fun running in the rain is. Makes you feel so much more hardcore than a hot and sweaty run, that’s for sure.

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Soggy parkrun. Mud and everything – including a smile

Buoyed up by that run, I entered the Marshfield Mudlark, an 11k race that consists of hills, beautiful countryside, sometimes bulls, oh yes and mud. And hills. I have run this race several (3?) times before, so I do know the course and I may have been a little too keen as the race is this Sunday.

How much hill work have I done this year? Erm – does the tiny slope at parkrun count?***
Is my longest run anywhere near 11K? Even allowing for the metric / imperial conversion I don’t think 5 miles is that close to 11K.
Oh well. It’ll be a lovely day out in the countryside anyway. A full day maybe, but lovely.

Just as I was feeling like I’d definitely bitten off more that I could chew, I popped out for a 3 mile trot around the village this morning. After the chilly mornings of the last few days, today looked sunny and beautiful. It was. This was the view looking down over the field I was running around.

Beautiful view over field
Wiltshire looking stunning in the autumn sunshine

I returned home feeling happy and satisfied. And a little smug if I’m honest. Bring it on Sunday – I’m ready for you!

*  another earworm, anyone?

** repeat after me “buying winter cycling gear from Aldi does NOT count as a cycle ride”

*** no it doesn’t

Summer’s almost gone

I can never resist giving you an ear worm. However, it is true, the heat of the summer has gone, the evenings are drawing in and road races I’ve been ummimg and arrrrhing* over have been replaced by off road trail races.

Swimming lessons are continuing, but despite buying some overly natty cycling glasses, not much biking has gone on. I did bravely venture out once, forgot my glasses, forgot a bike lock, couldn’t find the cafe I was aiming for so turned around and found a different cafe instead. 1473430402856.jpg

Result!

I’ve made it to parkrun a couple of times, which has felt hard but satisfying (masochist!)

I’ve made it out for a five mile run (longest so far this year).

Last month I thought if I could get out for one swim, one bike ride and two runs every week, then I’d be back on track whilst saving my foot. (This time last year I was managing four runs a week. How long ago does that seem!) I haven’t actually managed this yet, but I live in hope.

Right – where’s the booking form for those races…

  • Apparently today, 19th September, is International “Talk like a Pirate Day” so I guess it’s appropriate to be “arrrrhing”. It’s also my Cornish Mother-in-law’s birthday. I don’t think these two facts are related.

Three runs, one swim and a triathlon.  What a week!

I’d like to just leave it at that, but in the interests of full disclosure I’d better elaborate. 

Monday was my swimming lesson,  and I enjoyed it as much as ever. Only negative was getting home,  putting my costume into the washing machine,  and realising the costume fabric was now so thin it resembled a string vest. I  immediately shamefacedly added “swimming costume” to my shopping list. 

The three runs were a short race (the Lacock relay), a long run (4 whole miles!) and a parkrun (with cake – bonus). It’s been a fair few months still I’ve managed that many runs in a week,  and my foot felt fine, if a little stiff afterwards. 

And the triathlon?  Well it’s true I was at the Bowood Triathlon on Sunday. However I wasn’t competing,  I was helping out. If you were there I probably gave you your registration pack, along with some supposedly helpful advice and a smile. I also took the chance to go down to the Lake and have a look at the swim stage. Oh my word. How scary did it look?! I watched the start of a Super Sprint swim (400m) and how far did it look?!! Think I need to keep going to my swimming lessons….in my new costume of course. 

A race report. Yes, honestly! Lacock Relay

Still technically in the first half of the year, and I’ve finally managed my first race report of the year. Actually my first race of the year. 

The Lacock Relays are a series of 3 races organised by my running club,  Chippenham Harriers. Runners are placed into teams of 3 according to how fast they can run,  so that reach team has a fast,  a medium and a slow runner. In theory, any team can win, you’ll always be running with other people of around the same speed as you, and even if you know no one else there you’ll at least have the other members of your team cheering you on. And it’s only £2. What’s not to like? 

The course is very simple but extremely pretty. Heading out of the village the entrance to Lacock  Abbey, you cross the river and then take every left turn until you’re back at the start 2.6 miles later. The hill back down into the village gives you enough momentum to thunder through the beautiful High Street (as seen in practically every period drama), frighten the tourists and sprint over the finish line. 

I confess I wasn’t running my fastest, as I know I haven’t run much lately and I’m still cautious about my foot.  However it was still a hard run and I enjoyed it. My Harriers vest had its first outing of the year, I saw friends to chat to,  and it was the most fun I’ve had whilst wearing a vest on a cold and drizzly evening for ages.*

*I think you might have to be a runner to appreciate this

Happy New Year!

As 2016 enters soggily in I thought, like so many other people, that I needed to think about the year just gone and the new year ahead.

2014 ended very sadly, with the loss of our old cat, Holly. We were so sad for so long. Even re-reading the blog post brought tears back to my eyes just now. However the year has ended with the kittens we got for our son’s birthday growing up and finally starting to get along with our beautiful Tabby boy.

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Three boys on one sofa. A Christmas miracle

House wise, I started the year painting throughout our new loft conversion, including inside the undereaves cupboards (that wasn’t easy!) We ended the year with myself and husband moved into our new upstairs bedroom. Daughter has pinched another room upstairs and also has her eyes on the Scalextric room next door … We still have more decorating to complete downstairs, but plenty of time in 2016 for that. We ate our Christmas dinner in 2015 in our redecorated dining room, over-illuminated after my husband came to the Christmas Shop I’ve been working in and discovered the Christmas lights all had 50% off. Maybe in 2016 we’ll finally have a dining table rather than having to carry the kitchen table through!

I joined a running club, attended the ‘Killer Tuesday’ sessions, made a lovely new friend and felt that my running was the strongest it had ever been. This probably resulted in me running my muddiest race ever, my fastest 5k and my fastest marathon. Unfortunately the two months I then spent working in a Christmas Shop turned me into a broken woman and I ran only a few times in the whole of November and December. This did include a parkrun with uber-parkrun tourist Louise, which was brilliant.

So the year is ending on a non-running note, but I’m sure as soon as I recover I’ll be back out there. In the meantime I hope to do lots of stretching and strength work to stop anything like this happening again.

So little time, so little running

I havea new and huge admiration for anyone who fits in running and racing with a full time job. Or a small business. Or both.

Since my triumphant marathon several weeks ago (did I tell you about my mara…? Oh I did. Several times. Sorry.) I have celebrated my Silver wedding anniversary with my lovely husband (we went away for a few days with the kids). We’ve planned and organised a party to celebrate said anniversary with around 80 family and friends (including food for everyone). My small (very small) business has sprung into life for its busy few weeks (I design and sell children’s nativity costumes, have a look here ). Oh and I’ve started a temporary full time job, in the Christmas department of our local garden centre.

All I can ask is “how do you lot fit it all in?” Because as sure as my face is glittery every day, I’m not managing it! Please tell me your secrets!

A long way from Tunisia

I ran on Friday around my village, a very small and quiet Wiltshire village that often feels a million miles away from the modern age (my teenagers agree with me). It’s a unique place, a place of beautiful sunsets and traffic jams involving ducks crossing the road. It is hard to imagine anything bad happening here, and yet on Friday the long arm of international terrorism reached down into this little sanctuary. The awful news about the shootings in Tunisia was shocking enough, but to learn that a lady from our village, and her partner, were amongst the victims was almost unbelievable.

I stopped off on my run in the church and signed the books of condolences. Was it disrespectful that I was in running gear? I don’t think so. Eileen had always been a big supporter of our village sports teams and the village hall so I felt it was highly appropriate.

On my run I thought about how we never know what is around the corner in life, and we cannot know when our time is up. I am sending love and sympathy to Eileen and John’s family and friends and I can’t help but feel a lesson to be taken from this tragedy is to live every moment to the full and to enjoy life.

R.I.P. Eileen Swannack and John Welch.