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 …

Bath Skyline 10K #1 Update

image
Hooray!

Quick update to my somewhat nit-picking review of the Bath Skyline 10K #1 which I ran on Sunday.

The medal mix-up has been sorted. Apparently, halfway through the ‘handing out of water and medals’ at the end of the race, the second box of the first part of the interlocking medals was mislaid. Disgruntled runners like myself ended up instead with the (still very lovely but not interlocking) medal that will be given out to anyone only doing one of the series of races.

Relish Running posted on their Facebok page and website that they would exchange the medals for anyone who sent it back. I duly wrapped and posted mine back this week, and was very happy to recieve the correct medal this morning. It’s not that different to the incorect medal, but it now gives me the impetus to complete the rest of the series and complete my medal, even if that does mean running hilly trail races in December, January and February.

As an added bonus this morning, the photos from the event have been published. Not only did I manage to have a good photo with Sham Castle in the background (my eyes are open and I’m smiling), I even managed to have a photo of myself running with both feet in the air AT THE SAME TIME! Excellent!*

Look no strings!
Look no strings!

* On looking at this foot again, I look like I’m about to do a perfectly executed heelstrike. I can only blame my uncomfortable clumpy trail shoes, concentrating desperately hard on not slipping over on the muddy downhill in front of the photographer. 

 

Race Report – Bath Skyline 10K #1

After a new PB at Cricklade Half last month, I had a feeling my next race might be a new PW. It was the Bath Skyline 10K organised by Relish Racing. The first in a series of 4 races, a key selling point was the great medals – a set of 3 interlocking medals if you complete 3 races with a single extra medal if you only run one or as your final fourth medal.

BathSkyline10K
Lovely interlocking medals

The race was supposed to be based at Bath University’s Sports Training Village. However due to last minute changes everything was down at the start line with only toilets available in the Sports Training Village. These changes were posted on Relish Racing’s website but nowhere else. There were people wandering around before the race who obviously didn’t know where they were going. Fortunately it’s easy enough to spot and follow other runners on occasions like this, and one family stopped me and asked if I knew where they could register. Maybe an email to all entrants would have been a good idea?

Down at the start we were told we were being split into two starts – men and then women, again at the request of the University. I could overhear groups of people who’d been planning on running together discussing this and they were obviously upset.

At five past eleven most of the men (and a few speedy women I think) set off and then about 10 minutes later a whistle blew and the rest of us set off. Well, the people at the front set off, the rest of us shuffled forward slowly towards the start line, shuffled slowly over the start line, and finally managed to slowly start to jog. This first part was really congested as there were several hundred runners all trying to run along a very narrow path. We all came to a halt as the route took a sharp right turn after a bridge, and as we entered the woods we stopped and queued at every steep section up and down, at every muddy section and at every narrow section.

Things only really improved on the second lap when the runners had spread out. Then I had a chance to run at my own pace and yes, I confess, I did still walk up the steep climbs in the woods but I did my best impression of a mountain goat on the steep descents. I also had a chance for a better look at my surroundings.

For a race called “The Bath Skyline 10K” I had been hoping for glorious views down over the city of Bath. What we actually got was the back of the University accommodation blocks (concrete), followed by some woods (nice), the edge of the golf course (bemused golfers), and finally a section with a view as we ran past Sham Castle (great but would be even better if it wasn’t foggy).

I was pleased with my own running as I managed to push on where there was space, and ran all of the slopes (apart from the really steep bits in the woods) including both accents of the long steady slope up from Sham Castle. I passed several people here so I’m sure the hill training I’ve been doing paid off.

I headed for the finish line, pleased with how I’d run and keen to get my hands on the first medal of the series. I crossed the line and – oh look – a queue. I could see the Race HQ tent ahead so I was confident I’d soon get some water and my medal. After waiting and shuffling forward, more waiting and more shuffling I reached the tent only to discover that the queue actually made a U-turn, doubled back on itself, and then made another U-turn before finally reaching the promised land of the tent. It took at least 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue and finally grab a cup of water and a couple of slices of orange. I was then told they had run out of the first medal in the series, confusingly given another medal and a chocolate bar, and told they’d post the proper medal out later. I was really cold and fed up by this point as my warm top was back in the car and I’d been waiting all this time just in sweaty running clothes.

image
Lovely medal. Shame it’s the wrong one

As I quickly walked back to my car I was feeling quite disgruntled about the whole race. I rang my daughter because I was now going to be late collecting her from a friend’s house, and when she asked how it had gone I told her I’d have to have a think about it..

So after a couple of glasses of wine on Sunday night and several days to think about it, I’m finally feeling slightly mellower about the race. The shuffling and waiting on lap one meant I actually managed to run negative splits over the two laps of the course (by nearly 3 minutes) – something I’ve never managed before. Parts of the route were lovely, and I’ve never raced on such steep hills before so I did feel pretty hardcore (for me!) The atmosphere was good with plenty of smiling faces and encouraging marshals. I believe the problems could be solved fairly easily with a few little tweaks to the organisation of the race. I’ve made my suggestions below:-

1. E-mail any last minute changes of venue, registration and start details so runners can make the appropriate arrangements before they arrive.
2. If you aren’t allowing people to register on the day then you know exactly how many runners there could be, and therefore how many medals to bring.

3. If you separate out bag reclaim from the finish line funnel of water /chocolate /medal collection then runners will be able to clear the area more quickly and won’t be stood waiting for over 20 minutes for a drink of water.

4. Chip timing is really reasonable nowadays, and would mean runners could start off in more and smaller waves whilst still recording an accurate race time. This would help reduce the queueing on the first lap resulting in a smoother race all round. The problem of running negative splits I’d have to solve on my own!

Having already entered all four races in the series, with my mellower head on I think I’m looking forward to the next race next month. I’m interested to see what the ‘B’ course is like (apparently it’s harder than the ‘A’ course we ran on Sunday). It will be interesting to see if the organisation is any better by then. Watch this space …

Juneathon Day 16. Creating New Running Styles

A proper run was needed today, so I set off through the village, onto a busy lane, turned into a quiet lane and headed down to the main A4.

image

 

image
The A4

The verge alongside the A4 was very overgrown and to stop myself fallling into the path of a lorry I tiptoed along here looking for the start of the bridleway. I failed dismally, reached the roundabout and had to turn around and backtrack.

image
Not surprising I missed it

The start of the bridleway was also overgrown, so I didn’t run as much as battle my way through.

image
Battleway rather than Bridleway

It was whilst fighting through the undergrowth whilst not being able to see your feet I realised I’d discovered a new running style -The Shuffle*. Not so much running, more shuffling your feet ahead of you to make sure you have a stable footing. Not speedy, but effective.

image
Advantages of battling through the undergrowth

A little further I reached a patch of eye level grasses I had to get through. It was here I developed my second new running style “The Rocky”. This one has you running along with your hands held in fists, alternately punching the plants out of the way before they swipe you on the face.

If you try either of these two methods on your runs, please do let me know!

* Whilst doing The Shuffle it is compulsory to hum the 70s hit “The Hustle” changing the words as appropriate.

Janathon Day 3. Finally a Good Day

Yay – finally a good day,  with a good run.  I’m dithering about entering a really tough trail race, so thought I’d run part of the route and see how I felt. It’s one of the muddiest sections, slithering downhill through the woods,  followed by a steep hill back up to get home again.

I felt proud of myself for heading off on this run as although it’s not a long route it’s really hard.

image
At the start of the run

The mile down a track to get to the woods was windy,  blustery and cold. The path then drops down towards the river and the mud starts. 

image
Muddy puddles, but not the muddiest part yet

The path leads down into the woods and here it is sheltered and quiet.  The route is steeper,  the mud becomes slippier, and the hard work starts.  Even my arms felt tired from windmilling around to keep me upright.

image
Thick, oozy mud

After the stickiest point the path then starts to head back up and finally joins a lane. A sharp right turn leads to the steepest part of the hill which is the route home.

Turning into my drive,  I took a final photo,  an ‘after’ shot of my legs and feet.

image
I seem to have changed the colour of my socks. ..

3.73 miles in 42:28, which included lots of photo stops, plenty of slips and many smiles. And just for good measure, a 1 minute 40s plank, *not* in pyjamas this time.

Hello Motivation!

After the Chippenham Half, when I pushed myself so hard I would have cried if I’d had the energy, it was hardly surprising the very next day I’d go down with ‘The First Cold of Winter’. This meant no recovery runs, the worst DOMS ever, three thousand tissues and a general air of self pity around Black and Tabby Towers,

By Friday I pulled myself together and dragged myself out for a run again. It felt hard. It was an ‘Easy 3 miles’ and yet my Heart Rate was up and I coughed my way round. I gave myself the weekend off.

On Monday I set off down the lane from my house that leads to a killer hill. The lane slopes gently for a mile, then plunges down to a brook. Coming back up It’s is a short, but steep hill (the road sign warns “25%”) and I’ve never managed to run all the way up it before. Technically I’m not sure it was running it was that slow, but I didn’t stop and I made it back up. I then added a loop up through a field to make it just over three miles. Wednesday I ran some intervals, and on Friday I added a Long Run. This week I attacked ‘The Hill’ again on Monday, sneaked in a Tuesday Tempo run, and eased in an Easy run on Wednesday. I am planning a Long Run for Friday.

So where did this motivation come from? Was it from some amazing Sports Supplement, available from all good retailers (and some shady ones) for an extortionate amount of money? Was it a secret I read in an old copy of Runner’s World? Did I come across it in my late night perusing of the internet? No my friends, I’ll let you into a secret. Its something we all know, but be warned, it is very powerful. It has the power to get me out running in the pouring rain. It has made me tackle THE hill twice. It has made me wear my short shorts even though summer has definitely gone. I even ran intervals under its influence. Are you ready for it? Come close whilst I whisper it to you…

I entered a race. Not just any race, but an off road, multi-terrain race with a shocking hill in the middle, lots of mud, and last time even a field with a bull in. The Marshfield Mudlark. Apart from huge respect for the marshal who had to stand in the field with the bull, I also remember how much fun this race is and also how hard it is. I’ve run it in the rain (when they had to move the car parking off the cricket field because it was too wet) and I’ve run it in blazing sunshine (when I took my water bottle with me because I knew I woudn’t last between water stations without a drink). It was still muddy that year.

Oh and a week after that, I’m entering the Wadsworth Devizes Half Marathon. Well, its not far to travel, it’s sponsored by the local brewery and last year the goody bag contained an engraved pint glass. It’d be rude not to.

Races, races, hang on – I feel the urge to put on running shoes and tackle that hill again …

Bluebells and How to Trick yourself to Run

I was feeling very lazy, despite getting out for a couple of runs already this week. I wanted to go for a longer run, but was having trouble motivating myself. After the Postman brought the new pair of ‘Runderwear’ running pants I bought this week I knew I had to go. (More about the pants another time).

Once in my new pants and out the door I talked myself into taking a longer, more ‘interesting’ (i.e. off road and uphill)  route by telling myself it would be full of bluebells and very photogenic.

A few bluebells
A few bluebells

As you can see, not too many bluebells were actually out. I had cheated myself!

However I had set off intending to do a 5 mile road run and ended up having run 7.5 miles including some off road, so I didn’t mind really.

Does anyone else ‘trick’ themselves to run further, or is it just me?!

Fame at Last!

If you haven’t seen the Seriously Ugly Race Pics website, then I highly recommend you pop over and have a look. And a giggle. This is a site for anyone who has run a race, then seen the race photos and winced.

Funnily enough, a couple of my own photos have just appeared on the website. Have a look, and a giggle, and then dig out some of your own amazing race pics and send them in. And give us all a giggle!

Seriously Ugly Race Pics

Running and Geocaching. And mud. And hills. And a Cup.

So as a keen geocaching family, its always exciting to see a new geocache* pop up close to home. Even more exciting to see one just off one of my running routes. Slightly less exciting that that particular route is the muddy and hilly one I usually only brave before the annual ‘Marshfield Mudlark’. Add in the fact it has been torrential rain for the last week means that you would have to be seriously deranged to be looking forward to this.

So that’s why I set out yesterday, on the first non-raining day for a week, aiming for the woods and the river. Because its a long walk to get down to the By Brook here it is usually very quiet, and apart from the 2 dog walkers I met, the whole area was silent apart from the river and the birds. Despite the clouds, the deserted farm simply looked sad and abandoned, rather than eerie and spooky.

Deserted farm
It’ll be this way, then

Despite my mud warnings, the path wasn’t too bad. Squelchy in places, but nothing a good ‘wade’ couldn’t get through! I was wearing my shorts as I thought if it was really muddy it was easier to hose my legs off when I got home, rather than struggle through with wet and muddy trousers.

As I got closer to the cache location I had to pull my phone out to follow my progress with GPS. Crashing through the woods, I found the obvious spot and then spent around 10 minutes rummaging in the undergrowth getting muddy hands and knees to match the rest of my legs. Found the tupperware, opened it up, and discovered that I had got the FTF (‘First to Find’) and my reward was a little silver cup. Lack of a pen to write in the log book didn’t hamper this intrepid geocacher (that’s what twigs and mud are for!)

My prize!

With my little silver cup stashed in my waist belt I set off for home, all the way back up from the river (the route goes up 100m in 1 mile. Is that steep? It felt it!)

4 hardcore miles – DONE!
Geocache – DONE!
FTF – DONE!

*If you don’t know what geocaching is, its basically a treasure hunt using GPS. It has been described as using technology costing millions of dollars to find tupperware hidden in woods. Sounds geeky (okay – it is pretty geeky!) but its a great way to get out into the countryside and find paths you never knew existed!