The Terminator 2018

After January’s race (Slaughterford 9), I was struck down by the lurgy. A lung-coughing-up, temperature-fluctuating, razor-blades-in-the-throat, voice-losing, 2-days-off-work-sick, “I think this might actually be flu” lurgy. It was horrible, I felt very ill and really sorry for myself. I also didn’t run for 2 weeks because of it.

Roll on February, and I realised that the last race of the Off Road League was coming up. The most difficult race of the season, with the weather becoming much colder again, and very little training having been done. Ummm.

Yet again, it took the support, (i.e. nagging) of my club’s fellow off-road racers to make sure I entered this race, and that I actually turned up on the day. I can also say I was, if not dragged round the course, definitely walked around the course by my top running buddy Liz.

This was a seriously tough race, I had heard it was fairly gentle in the first half, then had 3 sharp hills & a “free shoe wash” in the second half.  This was all sort of true, although I definitely counted FOUR steep hands-and-knees hills, and a bog as well.

The bog was a black stream followed by shoe-stealing mud. There was a rope strung across the stream which looked helpful, and determined not to be a wuss I laughed at a team mate trying to find a shorter route across and launched myself in ahead of Liz. Last laugh was on them – half way across I lost my footing for the first time ever when running, and went into the black lagoon right up to my waist.

The Bog of Doom. Magical powers – making you feel naked from the waist down.

The worst part was emerging (dripping) from the other side, running up the hill into the wind with the disconcerting feeling that I was naked from the waist down as the wind whistled right through my clothes.

The miles passed, and the route as promised got harder and hillier. The three sharp hills were actually four, with the last one being particularly cruel. As we ran towards a hedge we could see runners heading off to our right, but as we reached the hedge we were actually turned left, straight up the short but very steep hill,  along a ridge for a short way and then straight back down again.  At the top, as I was gasping for breath, I spotted that we were actually running around one of Wiltshire’s White Horses. Back on the ground I mentioned to Liz how great it was to be so close to a White Horse, and she said “what White Horse?” I replied “Look behind you!” Seeing it on Strava makes me thinks it might be the cruellest segment I’ve ever seen, particularly in a race.

OOh look – a White Horse!

and the photo of me at the top is yet another classic “shoot me now” face.

Yes, yes I’m sure it’s an amazing view, but I still can’t breathe

We eventually made it back into Pewsey, and as we ran along a road we could see marshals standing by a small bridge. Of course, the “shoe wash”. The road goes over the stream, but of course in this race we had to go off the road, down the bank, through the stream, and then scramble back up the other side and onto the road again.

As we finally could see the school building in the distance we knew we had nearly made it back. Fortunately as we came around a corner and onto the school fields we could see the finish line right there, because if we’d had to run round the field first I might have cried. Similarly, it was just as well there was plenty of cake left as I’m sure I’d have found the energy for a tantrum if there hadn’t have been (two slices of really good lemon drizzle for £1 – bargain!). I even wore my new t-shirt to celebrate whilst holding cake in one hand and the team trophy in the other (Wiltshire Off-Road League champions once again!) side by side with best running buddy Liz who faithfully kept me going right to the end.

So, Terminator race – you did not disappoint. I checked after the race, and that 12 miles is the furthest I have run since my last marathon in October 2015. You were certainly the hardest off-road race I’ve ever run, and you lived up to your reputation. The race memento was impressive, but I’m unsure as to whether I’ll be back …

P.S. Huge thanks to the tail runner from Pewsey Vale Running Club who helped me find my car afterwards. That’ll teach me to chat whilst walking from car park to race HQ!

Tri-county XC Race 2017

I feel obliged to point out that this race was my least favourite race of last year. It was full super speedy runners hoping to gain a County vest, running in just shorts and crop tops. In December. There was no walking up the hills, there was no well earned amazing views from the top of said hills, there was no feeling of being lost somewhere in the middle of nowhere. So why on earth did I enter it again this year? Well, it was race number 4 in the Off-Road League. ‘Nuff said. I’m unlikely to win my age category this year, but pride and the fact that our Chippenham Harrier’s teams are currently in first and second position in the league meant it was a “must do”. Yes, our B team is ahead of everyone else’s A team. Unfortunately our rivals had also spotted this, and were rallying their troops in order to try and knock at least 1 of our teams off their spots. Therefore, it was all hands on deck (feet on mud?) from the Harriers as well.

XC events consist of a series of races throughout the day, to ensure the entire family has the chance to get cold, muddy and tired. Starting with the youngest first, the course gradually becomes longer for each subsequent race, with additional long or short loops. Just to make it more confusing, each race at this “tri-counties” event has runners running for their own county.

For the “Senior and Vetern Ladies” we had to run 2 short loops and 1 long loop of a muddy, sloping field at Bath University.  I was consoling myself with the fact that it was only 4 miles long, but sadly this did include going up the long hill 4 times.

Just adding to my joy and anticipation for this race, was the weather forecast which predicted snow for the day. Wonderful! After spending the morning  checking (with fingers crossed) to see if the event had been cancelled, I finally resigned myself to having to run and set off. As I got closer the weather became snowier and snowier, until I found myself squelching and crunching across a field to huddle with my team mates.

Brave Harriers Ladies. I'm NOT wearing shorts
Brave Harriers Ladies

As I feared, running this race was cold. It was miserable. It was snowing. It was horrible. It was really horrible. I told every marshal I passed how horrible it was (but I did thank them on our last lap – it must have been just as miserable standing there all day).

Running in the snow photo
“It’s horrible. It’s really horrible”

Despite being several minutes slower than last year, I didn’t finish in last place. I was chased all the way around the final lap by an Avon Valley Runner woman I only shook off on the last downhill ‘dash’ to the finish line. Her sprint finish must be even slower than mine.

Sprint (trudge) finish
Sprint (trudge) finish

Still, at least it’s done now. This race has officially won my vote for “Most horrible race. Ever”, and I gained 100 Hardcore points for finishing covered in so much snow. I have also finally defrosted my toes, so that’s all good.

Photo of snowy runner
100 Hardcore points to the lady with the snow and the tiny runner hitching a ride on her head

Roundway Revenge 2017

Here we go again – Wiltshire Off-Road League Race number 3.

Bring it on again! Bring mud, hills, more mud, more hills. Then bring even more mud and even more hills. That just about sums this race up, although it doesn’t do it justice.

Sadly, at the top of the hills it was so foggy you could see nothing. However I’ve been assured the views are magnificent on a clear day. It was so muddy that you couldn’t even run some of the downhills, but hey – walking’s okay!

Without wanting to sound like a masochist, I really enjoyed this race right up to mile 5. After that, my lack of fitness and training really made themselves felt. I struggled to stay warm after the water stop at mile 5 and probably should have taken something sugary to eat for an energy boost.

A huge plus point is the fantastic race photo I actually bought because I liked it so much. Me with two of my Harriers buddies. Look at us running up that hill, whilst the people behind us walk (cough cough – as IF we’d start running again as soon as we saw the photographer!)

Photo of happy runners
Exhibit A. Smiles all around!

Race number 3 of the off road league complete. Next stop – Tri-Counties XC. It couldn’t be worse than last year, could it??

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
img_0473
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.