I was going to write a post about how pleased I was that I got out for a run. I was mentally drafting a paragraph where I described how chuffed I was that after 5 miles I chose an extra 3 miles rather than a 2 minute trot home. I was even thinking how best to describe the weather (four seasons in a day, sunshine, all accompanied by incredibly gusty wind).
However, I think two pictures I took sum this run up better than any words.
And as I squinted through the wind and hail, this was the amazing sight that greeted me:-
In a break between the heavy showers today I thought I’d dash to Corsham, my closest town, for a swim and then a coffee for this week’s Coffeeneuring trip. The swimming pool there is part of a very recently rebuilt centre that now includes the library, a police station, sports centre, climbing wall and of course, a cafe. Sounded perfect.
I waited for the very heavy rain to pause, then dashed out quickly before I saw sense and changed my mind. I hadn’t appreciated that the heavy showers might have stopped, but the water hadn’t had time to drain off the roads yet, and so less than half a mile from home saw me freewheeling through the middle of an enormous puddle, feet as high as they could get off the pedals, and yet I still got wet up to my ankles. The thought of having to put wet socks and trainers back on after swimming nearly had me turning back for home, but the promise of this year’s Coffeeneuring patch kept me going. There were 4 big puddles in total on this lane that I had to cycle through, but once you’re wet, you’re wet, right?
Reaching The Springfield Centre, I was amused that mine would be the only bike outside in the enormous rack (can’t think why), so I chose what I thought was the best spot, in the corner shielded by the roof and two walls.
My swim was good, but as feared it was truly horrible redressing in cold damp socks. I reckoned I’d earned a good mocha. And maybe even a cake. Or lunch. Or … Oh. So turns out the vegan options were somewhat limited in this tiny cafe, with certaintly no vegan sandwiches in the fridge and nothing to show there was anything else available for lunch. Lady appears behind the counter. Conversation goes thus:-
Me “Hi. I’d like a mocha please. Do you have any non-dairy milk?”
Lady Behind Counter “We’ve got soya milk.
Me “Brilliant. Can I have a soya mocha please?”
LBC (firmly) “Well – the chocolate powder’s not dairy free”.
Me (innocently) “Really?”
LBC grabs the catering size tin and squints furiously at the ingredients, desperate to prove her point. After a long pause she says hopefully “cocoa butter???”
Trying not to laugh I politely say “Oh no – that’s from the cocoa, that’s not dairy”.
With a triumphant replacing of the tin firmly at the back of the counter, LBC delivers her knockout blow
“Well we’ve run out of it, anyway.”
So that’s how I ended up drinking a Butterscotch Soya latte, smelling of chlorine, with damp feet. I didn’t dare ask about vegan cake, so chose some ready salted crisps. This may be my least impressive photo from this year’s Coffeeneuring campaign.
Coming back out, I discovered that even with my carefully selected parking spot, I still had to ride home on this:-
The ride home was uneventful, as the puddles had mostly drained away, but was completed with damp feet, trainers, hair and backside.
Springfield Centre cafe
5.1 miles ridden
1 butterscotch soya latte (tasted nicer than it sounds, but sadly served in disposable cup)
1 packet ready salted crisps
1 irritated cafe employee
2 unexpectedly damp parts of me (feet and backside!)
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.
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).
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.
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.
It’s been a week of superhuman effort on one hand, and a very human effort on the other. My husband spent 4 and a half days cycling 1,400 kilometres from London up to Edinburgh and then back again. Wow. With 1,499 other cyclists. Incredible.
I did running, a bit of swimming, and a lot of driving. Not so impressive.
On Saturday we had both volunteered to help at registration for LEL (as it’s known).
This was an amazing experience, meeting riders from 53 countries who were due to set off on this amazing event the next day. We saw excitement and nerves, extreme preparation and last minute holdups (a strike in Calais and gridlocked M25 must have been nerve jangling for those stuck). I worried about the Indian riders who were already feeling cold on what was quite a nice day, loved the noisy camaraderie of the Spanish riders, and was amazed by the man from Leeds who ridden down for the start.
On Sunday I waved my husband off, with prayers that he would be safe. I drove back home to Wiltshire and ran (and walked) a very slow 4 miles on Monday. I went swimming with my Mum on Wednesday morning and apart from the splashy kids I was the youngest by quite a few years. (Apart from the kids I was also the only one that got my face and hair wet!). I then raced 5 miles on Wednesday evening in a race I’d forgotten I’d entered. This was the Stripped Back Bustard 5, a great little race on a night with horizontal rain.
Despite just aiming to finish, I hung onto Dawn’s shirt tails the whole way round and was delighted to finish in under 50 minutes in 49:44. I was also delighted with my cup of tea and two hobnobs. (I’m very easily pleased).
On Friday I drove up and back from London to bring an exhausted husband and his bike back home. M25 on a Friday. Twice. Lovely!
You might have guessed by now which of us was the superhuman! I’m only human, so can I have a rest now? Oh hang on, I’ve promised to take my son to parkrun so he can raise funds for his NCS charity of choice, Pets as Therapy. I’ll just leave his fund raising link here… Rest after parkrun then please?
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:-
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.
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:-
It is the final day of the Coffeeneuring Challenge (which is basically to take 7 cycle rides to 7 different cafes in 7 weeks*). Squeezing in my final ride on the very last day was cutting things a little fine, but I’ll explain why in another post.
I decided to pedal over to Corsham again but this time go to the very lovely Methuen Arms. We’ve eaten here before (and fabtastic it was too) but I’d never popped in just for a drink. Husband decided he had a bit of a tickly throat after his big ride yesterday, so I wrapped up warm and set off alone.
Last night, Storm Angus came through over most of southern England, and the ground was really wet and full of fallen leaves. Nothing my “Happy Shpper” couldn’t handle, I thought!
Half a mile out of the village, I came across this:-
On closer inspection, this was a very large puddle, or even a flood. Large, and very murky. I dithered for a short while, then decided to turn back. The only other road to Corsham is another small, twisty lane but much busier with cars. I don’t like cycling on that road at all as it doesn’t feel safe so my Meuthen Arms trip would have to be postponed. However, I still had to fit in my final Coffeeneuring trip.
Thinking on my feet (wheels) I headed back home, and quickly made up a flask. I then set out in the opposite direction and headed for my allotment. Another first – Coffeeneuring Without Walls! (Yes, this IS allowed in the rules!) Not surprisingly, there were no other people at the allotments, and I quickly mixed up my packet hot chocolate.
Standing at the deserted, sodden allotments, drinking quite frankly horrible hot chocolate, whilst thinking of the lovely surroundings I’d missed out on, I had to admit to myself that if I wasn’t trying to complete this challenge I wouldn’t have bothered. Still – that’s what these challenges are for, pushing you to do things that you wouldn’t have done otherwise.
Anyway, 2.5 miles done around and about the village, and my 7th Coffeeneuring ride in the bag! I would recommend my allotment as a coffee stop on beautiful sunny days. There is plenty of bike parking (the hedge is huge!), the locals are friendly but I’ll need to rethink my choice of beverage.
A round up of my Coffeeneuring Challenge experience is coming up in the next post.
On a morning that started with snow on our velux windows and roof, knowing I had to squeeze a ride in was not a delightful prospect. I had planned a short route to a Costa Coffee which felt like a cheat because it’s a cafe I visit every Monday morning between my swimming lesson and my Italian lesson. I have never been to it by bike though – so it still felt like a worthy challenge.
The cafe is on a small retail park just outside Chippenham and as I cycled around the car park I saw there was nowhere to lock my bike up by the cafe, but there was some cycle parking right over on the other side.
It might have been a distance away, but it had the rare luxury of a roof. It was immaculate so although the park has been open for several years I think I was the first cyclist to use it!
I had a hot chocolate and sat in the window anxiously watching the dark skies before pedalling hard and fortunately beating the weather home.
7.6 miles on the trusty “Happy Shopper” bike, and just one more Coffeeneuring trip to fit in before the end of the weekend.
Bouyed up by my first successful (if short and somewhat wussy) Coffeeneuring adventure, I planned a trip to Merkin’s Farm for half term, when I presumed I’d be able to drag my teenaged son with me. The promise of one of their homemade bean burgers will normally prise him away from his computer and onto his bike. Unfortunately, this time I obviously wasn’t persuasive enough, so a solo trip it was.
It looked cold and grey, so I dressed up in my new (and highly attractive) winter cycling gear.* What’s not to love about fleece-backed black and hi-viz yellow lycra? (Shall I start a list??)** Anyway, it’s warm and visible which is what matters. I planned a route and set off. Route just happened to go past Great Chalfield Manor – anyone spot Poldark there? No, just a van.
I arrived, ignored the suggested cycle parking,
parked in front of an (unfortunately) pink bench,
and headed inside for my veggie breakfast.
An uneventful ride back home (no falls this time!) completed an 18 mile round trip. The only downside to this ride? It wasn’t as cold outside as it looked and I was sweltering in my winter cycling gear especially on the return journey with a warm, full stomach. It was worth it though!
*Maybe, just maybe, that’s why my son didn’t want to accompany me
**You’ll be glad to hear I have no photos of me wearing this attractive outfit
Ciao! Here I am in Monza, Italy taking advantage of the fact that my husband is currently working out here (free accommodation!)
Thought I’d better try a run, seeing as the apartment is only a kilometre from the amazing Parco Reale (Royal Park). This park is so huge it contains within it the famous Monza motor racing circuit (you know, the one that hosts the Italian Formula 1 Grand Prix race. That little place).
The park has marked 3Km, 5Km, 10Km and half marathon routes, making it easy to find your way around. I ran up to the park, past some curious looks from locals, and then followed the 3Km yellow markers. With the run to and from the park this made around a 5Km run – quite enough in this heat!
Always reassuring to see a defibrillator, just in case…
There were plenty of runners in the park. Also power walkers, cyclists, mums with prams, but no inline skates today. It was well marked, it was hot, and all too soon, but very gratefully, I saw the finish marker.
After that it was just a gentle jog back to the apartment, which included the longest stop EVER at traffic lights (good for drinking water and panting, basically). I arrived back looking like this:-
So to sum up, It was beautiful and cool, no old men stared and no nuns frowned at me. I’m also most definitely not now a red sweaty mess and sweat did NOT drip from my elbow as I took the above selfie.*