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!

Janathon Day 25. The Slaughterford 9. Hills, Mud and Gussets.

So a race morning when you over sleep by half an hour is not a good start. Nor is not being able to find your favourite running bra. At least the rush meant I couldn’t dwell for too long on the race ahead.

It was the morning of The Slaughterford 9 – a race that I swore I would never do again after I last ran it 3 years ago. The race that contributed to an injury that led to me missing 5 weeks of training for my first marathon in London 2012. Nevertheless I thought it was time to give it another go, not least because the morning saw the area covered in freezing fog so I never got to see the views from the top of the huge climbs.

The runners and marshals were as friendly as you’d expect from a small race, and my jazzy socks got plenty of complimentary remarks.

Nice and clean at the start
Nice and clean at the start

The hills were as steep as I remembered. However the mud wasn’t as bad, and was nowhere near as bad as at last week’s race (Bath Skyline 10K #3).

Walking the hills. We ALL walked the hills
Walking the hills. We ALL walked the hills

The stream we have to wade up in the last mile wasn’t as cold as I remembered – I could actually feel my feet as I climbed up the hill on the otherside. The steam WAS deeper though, stepping down into knee deep muddy water is a challenge. Wading along the uneven bottom when you can’t see where to best put your feet is more of a challenge, and how they made it go deeper as you went along is a secret only a sadist would know. The cold water reached my shins, knees, thighs and just as it hit gusset-level I heard a cry of “oo my undercarriage” from up ahead, which made me laugh.

The final steep hill was as much a killer as ever, and then it was the final slope to the finish line. I originally ran this race in 2012 because I’d had massive race t-shirt envy. Seeing as I got paint on my original shirt I was looking forward to getting a new one. Imagine my face when I saw that this year’s t-shirt was pink.

Regular readers will know exactly how I feel about the colour pink, as did the man I was running next to when I spotted the colour (apologies to him for my language).

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Pink. No moe words

 

It had been great to see Mr. B&T pop up around the course three times to cheer me on and take attractive photos, but it was a close run thing as to whether I was more pleased to see him at the finish, or the Mars bar I was handed.

So happy
So happy
Still fairly happy
Still fairly happy
Just pleased to see the finish line
Just pleased to see the finish line

After a cold nearly-a-mile walk back to the car, I was most pleased to see his car with it’s heated seats. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood wouldn’t approve, but I can highly recommend heated seats on a soggy bottom.

Janathon Day 18. Bath Skyline 10K #3

When I arrived home after this morning’s race, I told my family I felt like I’d been steamrollered. (Teen 2 promptly asked if I’d ever actually been steamrollered. I told him Health and Safety standards had been much lower in the seventies when I was little).

How I arrived home, post steam rollering.
How I arrived home, post steam rollering.

At the last Skyline 10K I ran, back in November, I was fairly scathing about the course, the organisation, the location, in fact about everything except the medal. (Read my race report here). I am very pleased to report that Relish Running Races has acted on all of these problems and turned this into a fantastic race. It has moved to Bath Racecourse, the route is all off road and incorporates two big hills, and after the recent wet weather we had been warned it would be muddy.

I’ll notlie to you, the course was hard. Steep hills are always going to be difficult (for me) to navigate. Throw in thick, oozy mud and things get interesting. Wading and splashing through knee high mud is one thing. However slipping and sliding down a steep hill or being unable to climb back up the otherside because you have zero grip is quite another. Think cartoon running, where your legs are spinning but you don’t actually move. It was all good fun.

I love the camaraderie at tough races like this. I love that I was complimented on my balance as I slithered out of control down a muddy slope (I told my complimentor not to jinx me). I love that I was inspired to tell a strange man that he was my favourite person so far this year (he was handing out the chocolate bars at the end). I was touched that I spotted an expression of true love in the car park afterwards, when I saw a chap struggling to pull off his partner’s muddy tights for her whilst she held onto the car seat with both hands.

"Keep those expensive socks clean" was the last thing Mr B&T said as I left the house
“Keep those expensive socks clean” was the last thing Mr B&T said as I left the house
Post race snacks. Jaffa cakes, mmmm
Post race snacks. Jaffa cakes, mmmm
Medal. It came in a plastic bag which is why it's not muddy
Medal. It came in a plastic bag which is why it’s not muddy

I loved the warm tent at the end to collect my medal and graze upon the snacks. I loved the sunshine which made the temperature feel warmer than the 3C it actually was. The views down towards Bristol were stunning, but I had to concentrate on where I was putting my feet so didn’t get much of a chance to savour them. I’m delighted that I think I recorded a new PW for a 10K time, and yet I still think I gave it my all. I’m loving the glass of red which is now going down very well and making me feel very mellow. However I might not love how my body feels tomorrow …