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?!

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

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 19. Post Race Thoughts – Bath Skyline 10K #3

Still thinking about yesterday’s race (shows it was a good one!).

1:27:30 is my official time for the Bath Skyline #3 (Racecourse course) Definitely my new 10K PW*, and I’m fine with that.

I was amused to see that Relish Running Races had published this on their website and facebook page yesterday:-

“WOW! We have never seen mud like that before, that was really something else. That has to be our toughest course ever! If you thought it was muddy for the earlier waves, the later waves was a pure mud bath! Well done to all the runners, what an fantastic achievement 🙂

It was amazing to see such commitment to the cause and seeing runners coming home plastered in mud – the Cotswold Hills are definitely a little shorter this evening :-)”

It’s official then – it was a tough one. Runners wearing ‘Tough Mudder’ T-shirts were overheard to say it was tougher than Tough Mudder. I’m just wondering now how the Slaughterford 9 (next Sunday) is going to feel after that…

I was amazed I felt so okay after running that, that I didn’t bother with a recovery run and got on with the day. By the evening though, I realised my mistake.

Day 19 of Janathon could justifiably have just been getting my kit clean again, but I also heroically managed a few creaky stretches before bed as well.

* PW = Personal Worst

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 …

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.

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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.

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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 …

You know its a muddy run when …

… when even the ditches at the sides of the lanes are full to the brim and over flowing over the road surface.

… when you get to the gate at the bottom of the field you’re going to run up, and the water is running down faster than you could run.

… when you spot a particularly swampy patch up ahead and decided you ought to double knot your laces to stop you losing a shoe to the bog. Then you realise you can’t actually see your laces.

… when the large muddy puddle that you would usually avoid becomes a chance to wash some of the mud off your trainers before you get home.

… you arrive home and you can hear the washing machine groan.

… you arrive home,  muddy up to the knees, with a big smile on your face.

Any definitions I’ve missed out?? Please add your in the comments below!

Dancing on Ice

Week 8 of my training schedule starts with ‘just’ an easy 3 miles today. The snow and ice of the weekend has now frozen hard, so even with my Icebiters strapped to my running shoes it felt like I was dancing on ice for parts of my run.

Important discovery made today. In the soggy field, under the snow is ice, and under the ice is mud.

Snowy Footsteps