Off Road Training 

After struggling at the Marshfield Mudlark, and realising the Wickstead Wander was fast approaching I decided I’d better do some training. So on Sunday I planned a route involving hills, mud, more hills, woods and also a tweak on a route I’ve run before. The beautiful parts of the run were breathtaking (although that could have been the hills). Autumn in the woods is so beautiful and so full of colour. 

Photo of Autumnal leaves
Imagine running through those leaves

Six and a half miles of beautiful exploring was exactly what I needed after another stressful week at work. 

An interesting point of the run was when I ran past a new housing development. Two years ago this was a derelict MOD site which sat atop miles of tunnels. This was one of the Government’s secret bunkers in the Cold War, and I wrote about how it looked here.  As a sneak preview, 2 years ago the approach looked like this:-

and today it looks like this:-

Funniest though is how all but 1 of the three ‘slope shafts’ have disappeared. I wonder if the houses are described as having “extensive cellars”?! 

Photo of remaining slope shaft
Just a small issue here still to deal with …

From here, a new route headed back towards the woods and so onto home. You know you’ve chosen a hilly route when you stand atop the slope you’re about to run down and think “I’ve sledged down here!”


So, training done.  Bring on the Wickstead Wander …

Let the Off Road Season Start!

Sunday 8th October 2017 saw the start of the Off Road season. It was yet another running of the Marshfield Mudlark,  yet again I tip-toed past the cows, and yet again I walked up ‘that’ hill. This year I remembered my trail shoes (unlike last year), which was just as well because it was pretty sticky and slippy in places. There was also a small stream to splash through, which I had forgotten about from previous years.

I hadn’t really trained for this race (see my previous post about lack of time!), but still enjoyed it. As ever, it was a brilliant race, through stunning countryside with lovely marshals, and this year with the added bonus of VEGGIE HOT DOGS for sale at the end. Who needs a medal?!

And so the Road Race season begins

Since my last post, I have been a little busy. There was “that” large birthday to celebrate, a new age category to rise up* into, a parkrun that I dragged family and friends along to, many presents, delicious food, and cake. Much cake. So much cake.

After all that  carb loading I’ve staggered around a few runs, and also managed my first road race of the 2017 road racing season. The Highworth 5 was on Sunday 19th March 2017, and before we go any further I should clarify it was a 5 MILE race, not 5 kilometres. The poor chap I spoke to in the first mile was wishing there’d been some clarification – he’d turned up to his first ever road race, after a longest run of 3 miles, thinking he was in a 5K race. It was a simple loop around the roads and lanes, with a sneaky hill at 4 miles. How the organisers had arranged for gale force headwinds for the last 2 miles (including the uphill section) was a puzzle to all of the runners. I have included an informative slide explaining my pace vs. conditions:-

Love a good mug

What was also a puzzle was why a runner thought it was okay to shadow me all through the windy section, thus using me as a windbreak. I could hear her behind me, and as I glanced behind could just see the red of her top. As we entered the playing field for the hated “rounding up to 5 miles” section. I could still hear her behind me, and had a horrible premonition that she was about to sprint past me and finish in front of me. Now I don’t do fast finishes, I am the runner people love to catch on the line, but the bit was firmly between my teeth now. I was seeing red, not just the red of her top,  and thinking of our club’s Tuesday nights Efforts sessions I sprinted for the line. The satisfaction of beating her by a second will last for quite some time. As will my delight in my race momento.

* I’m choosing to think of it as a promotion

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 …

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

Lanhydrock parkrun

I am feeling very smug, as I’m on holiday and I still got up for parkrun. Truth be told if I’d known it was quite such a hilly course I might not have bothered.

Lanhydrock parkrun is set in the grounds of a very fine National Trust house in mid Cornwall. It was a warm sunny morning as I arrived and used my time honoured technique of ‘following the crowd’ in order to find the excellent National Trust toilets, and then the start. Chatting with some locals I learnt that the second half of the course is all uphill, including the final climb they referred to as “heart attack hill”. Fortunately I also learnt it was a one lap course.

A blast of vuvuzelas sent us thundering down the grassy slope towards Lanhydrock house. With a brief sideways glance at the house we entered the woods and started climbing.

The course is beautiful. Partly on tarmac, and mostly on trails with some grass, it winds through the woods down to the river. This was my favourite part, but sadly it didn’t last long before we were heading uphill again. I was determined not to walk, and succeeding, until the final hill when a man in front of me started walking. It was impossible not to stop at that point. The spur to run again came when I realised that the cows I thought I could see in the field next to the path were actually on the side of the path – no fence!

There was a great downhill sprint to the finish, but most people seemed too shattered for much speed at this point. I staggered over the line in 29:34 which isn’t a parkrun PW but is pretty close.

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Harriers Vest on tour

I then decided that seeing as the National Trust tearooms open especially early on a Saturday I really ought to go and sample their wares. Mmmmm. Happy holidays all!

Juneathon Day 16. Making Up for Yesterday

After yesterday’s slack day I thought I’d better make up for it today. 4 miles with 2 hills was a good start to the day.

As I ran I was struck by how running was an activity of contrasts. I set off thinking what a lovely temperature it was – just warm without being hot. By the time I staggered back I was dripping and cursing the sun.

I ran through thigh high grass enjoying the cool, tickly feeling on my legs then thought “I must check I haven’t picked up a tick when I get home”.

I was overjoyed to be greeted by the kittens when I got home, and also Tibbs, the big tabby boy. There was a lovely moment of temporary truce as they all shared the kitchen, followed by a hiss frenzy as Nev cracked, and patted Tibbs’s twitching tail. Ah well, one day they’ll get along.

Uneasy truce
Uneasy truce

Update. I was so ashamed of Monday’s Juneathon I thought I’d better redeem myself. So as well as the morning’s run, I went to the Chippenham Wheelers Midsummer Bike Ride in the evening with husband and son. Husband shot off whilst me and son worked out how few laps we could legitimately do before we could stop for a snack. 3 was the answer we decided upon, so we stopped for the food of champions.
image We did manage another 2 laps after that, but my son was tired so we headed home. In total we cycled 20 miles, which after my hilly morning run I was happy with.

Juneathon Day 11. A down, an up, a phone call and a chat.

I finally caught up with a few other Juneathon blogs today, and one in particular made me think. Jogblog, (who with her other hat on is Ms Juneathon) wrote about 5 WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF JUNEATHON. She reminded me that Juneathon is meant to be fun, and that it’s good to interact with other ‘athoners on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll try and keep this in mind.

After another busy day I finally made it out for a short run. To make it worth my while putting the lycra on I decided to run down the hill and back up again. However after getting up the steep bit my phone rang, and I had a chat with my builder (who must have thought he’d phoned a heavy breather the way I was panting). I ran on, and then bumped into my neighbours who I needed to have a chat with. Finally I got back home. A short run turned into quite a slow one!

Kitten lesson of the day is how to sleep.

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Fluffy stomach

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It's the paw again

Even the big cat is getting in on it:-
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Hill training for my running mojo

So we all know that Hill training is excellent for running, but what about for running mojo?

After the muddy goodness of my last race I finally succumbed to a cold and spent most of the week sniffling and feeling sorry for myself. A few slow plods to get my Jantastic runs done and that was it. Down in the valley of my hill training wondering where my mojo had gone.

The following week, giving myself a swift kick up the backside I went out running. 3 miles one day, then 4 miles on another, and then 10 miles on Friday. Wonderful. The sun was shining, I ran the 10 miles 5 minutes faster than last time but best of all it felt great. I wasn’t sore or stiff afterwards and I really enjoyed it. I even then popped out for a 5K sprint on Sunday which, if my Garmin hadn’t messed up the start, might have been a new (unofficial) 5K PB. I’d reached the peak, I’d scaled my Everest. Hooray for hill training.

Then came this week. Four enthusiastic miles on Monday. A day painting doors on Tuesday (I lead a very exciting life). Then the plumber turning up early on Wednesday to help the builder rip out one shower room and plumb in a new one, with the water switched off all day. I wasn’t going to hang around being sweaty all day, so that put paid to a mid week run. Today, Thursday, I’m spending the whole day killing time in Swindon waiting for a car to be serviced. No running today either (see earlier comment about hanging around being sweaty all day). However I’m spending much time in coffee shops today so maybe I could fit in a caffeine-fuelled dash later. Is that a good idea? I don’t know, but I do now know one thing about this mojo hill training thing. Unlike running where the uphills are hard and the downhills are easy, with running enthusiasm it feels easy on the way up and miserable on the way down. I never thought I’d say it, but “Bring on the uphills” in that case, say I!