Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you all! Hopefully everyone is happy and healthy, and raring to go in 2017. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to do a long “Review of 2016” (I think the moment for that has passed), but I am going to have a quick backward glance over my shouder, and then blow my own trumpet just briefly.

I started the year injured and grumpy. I spent half the year still injured and grumpy. By the autumn I began entering off road races because I love them (and they’re easier on my foot), met up with lots of other Chippenham Harriers and rediscovered my love of running. I learnt how to swim front crawl, and now need to work on completing more than a length at a time. I got out more on my road bike, and completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge of 2016.

My coffeeneuring patch. Very proud of this

Brace yourself – here comes the trumpet blowing.

As at the end of 2016, after running in 4 races in the Wiltshire Athletic Association Off Road League I found myself currently 3rd in the ladies league (out of 90 runners), and first in my age group! This is glossing over the fact I actually came last in the tri-counties XC race – that was a hard slog! Just two more races in the league to go, so keep your fingers crossed for me. I’m dreaming of trophies (no idea if they actually give out trophies, but don’t shatter my dreams just yet). Oh, and Chippenham Harriers are leading both the Mens and Ladies Team competitions as well. Toot toot!

The last day of 2016 started with parkrun. A lovely atmosphere there, despite the drizzle and slippy mud. The new year started with volunteering at the same parkrun, not easy in torrential rain and with more runners than I’ve ever seen there (but not quite a record apparently!) My first lesson of 2017 was that the bar code scanners don’t work well in the cold and wet. My second was that some people don’t deserve a free run totally staffed by volunteers. I mean, we were all getting cold, wet and frustrated that the scanners weren’t working, but to throw your soggy paper bar code and finisher’s token at me shouting “Oh just take it then!” isn’t on really, is it?

Anyway, enough wandering down memory lane. Today I’ve run* my first parkrun of the year, last week I made it to my first ‘Efforts’ session of the year (probably my first since 2015), and I’m planning on going to my first swimming lesson of 2017 on Monday. Bring it on, 2017, I’m ready for you!

* staggered, slipped, wobbled

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 …

Running – remember that?

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:-

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Frosty fields
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Icy puddles
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It’s icy down there!

Beautiful – and worth the cold to see it!

The one where I fell over

Of all the feeble excuses not to run, “I’ll have to wash my running kit in the shower” Is up there with “but the plasterer’s here and I’ll have to make lots of cups of tea”.

Yes it’s been that kind of week. Our dining room ceiling has been replastered, and the washing machine gave up the ghost and can’t be fixed until next week. This has meant lots of hand washing and visiting my parents with a big bag of dirty laundry. (Thanks Mum and Dad!)

On Saturday morning I suddenly remembered about Jantastic and realised I need to fit two runs into two days so as not to fail. So off I trotted around the village, determined to stay as clean as possible to make it easier to wash my kit in the shower afterwards.

All went well, until I took a short footpath that I haven’t been down for months. There was no frost today, so of course it was very soft and muddy, and despite being absolutely flat I managed to slip over. Just a few strides from the stile to take me back onto the road, my foot slid from under me and down on my knee I went. Fortunately the verge was so soft I didn’t hurt myself. Unfortunately I ended up with a very muddy pair of running tights to wash in the shower. But most importantly, no one saw me fall over (and that’s what matters!)

That'll be my muddy footprints then
That’ll be my muddy footprints then

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 …

Summer is Over

It’s official. Summer has gone. I ran my first race with the temperature in single figures last week. For the past two days I’ve run in the cold and wet. Someone found this blog by searching for “thick oozy mud”. My trainers are currently sat under the kitchen radiator looking very sorry for themselves, and I was seriously considering wearing gloves this morning.

The clincher is that I’ve put my running shorts away. Even my lovely new Crewroom shorts have been packed away and my capris and tights have been pulled from the back of the drawer.

So that’s it folks – it’s all over until next April.

Oh hang on – I’ve just heard the weather forecast. Apparently it’s going to be barbecue weather by the weekend. Now where did I put those running shorts ….

Frozen hands

So my 3rd 3 mile run in 3 days -a  strong start to my marathon training!

However this was by far the coldest run of this week, with a thick frost and frozen hard ground.

Beautiful, but hands were frozen all the way round (even with Nike running gloves on). Rest of me was okay, but then I was wearing a hat, long running tights, TWO long sleeved tops and and hi-viz running gilet.

Santa Dash 2012

After supporting Dorothy House (our local hospice) when I ran in this year’s London Marathon, I was very keen to take part in their second ‘Santa Dash‘.

It was held on Sunday 2nd December, starting and finishing at Dorothy House. The route wound round some little lanes, down a main road, along the Kennet and Avon canal towpath, then back up the hill for refreshments.

Attractive ‘One size fits none’ Outfit

First challenge was getting into the enormous costume – how to tie the trousers tight enough so they wouldn’t fall down vs. cutting off the blood supply to my legs. Boy do those beards itch as well!

Many photos were taken, a quick mass warm-up in the car park, then we were off!

It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, and we all soon warmed up inside our suits. Down the first few lanes there was a regular littering of Santa belts as they broke and fell off. Charging single file down the main road we had a few ‘toots’ from passing motorists, and then it was onto the towpath.

I so wish I’d had my camera with me here. The path was flat and the running was easy, apart from passing the odd bemused dog walker. The water was still, the trees arched over above us, and a thin red line of running Santas stretched away into the distance.

Crossing the aquaduct (twice) was exciting and meant we could shout encouragement (or abuse!) to runners just ahead of us, and then just behind us as we crossed the River Avon. I had to give in and take my hat off here, as my head had reached 1000C

After that, was THE HILL. This was muddy and slippery, as well as steep. What was worse was that we could see it coming, and the straggling line of Santas struggling up it.

I confess – I walked up the hill. Everyone did. I have to confess as not only is it good for the soul but there is photographic evidence. That’s me, at the back of the group, hat in hand.

As the hill levelled out I started running again. Not far now! I even managed to put my hat back on just before crossing the finishing line.

It was lovely to be offered a cup of tea and a Danish pastry at the end, and even a bag of chocolate coins (which my children devoured).

So really well done Dorothy House for such a great event (and thank you for most of the photographs as well!) I hope you raised lots of money to carry on your amazing work.