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?!

Two runs (one race), one swim and a cycle ride. Boom!

So I finally did it. In one week I managed a swim, two runs AND a cycle ride. Never mind that, one of the runs was a race. I know – get me, eh?

The bike ride went surprisingly well. I enjoyed it, especially as it just *happened* to include one of my favourite cafes* as a stop to warm up.


Unfortunately it was also a chance for me to prove as true the old saying “pride comes before a fall” by also including a stationary “couldn’t unclip in time” tumble off the bike in front of an admiring audience.

The swimming lesson went well, the first (short) run was fine and I was feeling quite enthusiastic for the Marshfield Mudlark on the Sunday.

Finally got to wear my club vest again
Finally got to wear my club vest again

First real race for nearly a year, so I was feeling nervous, and glad I would be meeting up with other runners from my running club – the race to be “last harrier home” was on! It was only as I stepped out of the car, I realised I’d left my trail shoes at home. Sigh. The recently-retired road running shoes I was wearing to drive in would have to suffice.

Fortunately it wasn’t very muddy at all this year, and there were zero cattle on the course (woo hoo!) it was just a lovely run through the countryside. Wearing a number. With a bunch of other people. In old road shoes.

Felt so good afterwards I was persuaded to enter another trail race. I’ve just noticed it’s described as “quad burning”. What have I done??!

* Merkin’s Farm, Bradford Leigh, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 2RW   GO!

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.

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

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 …

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!

*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!