Janathon Day 29. Slaughterford 9 Race

Slaughterford 9 is a hard off-road race. I’ve run it twice, but as it’s organised by my running club in the last few years I’ve had to volunteer to marshal instead.

This year the race is part of the Wiltshire Off-Road League. The club runners who have run the previous four races in the league this year were allowed to run it, as a very special honour. And to gain points for the club in the Club championship, of course.

We still had to help out, so all of us Harriers racers were out bright and early on car park duty. The weather was cold, it was faintly drizzly, and it was very soggy underfoot. At about quarter past nine we escaped in order to strip our many layers off, collect our race number, assemble for the team photo and to try not to shiver too much.

The race has a mass jog down to the start line, because everyone has to cross the very busy A4 to get there. After shuffling myself towards the back, with very little ceremony we were off. The early part of the race is practically on home turf for me, so I knew exactly where to walk and where to push on. I looked longingly up the footpath which leads 1mile to home, and resolutely followed the racing line.

I don’t want to describe every muddy, sticky, squelchy step of this race, take it as read it was hard. Instead I’ll let the pictures speak a thousand words:-

I finished. I surprised myself, I had genuinely been dreading it. It was my slowest time, but in fairness it was the worst conditions I’ve seen on the course and I was in the worst condition to run it as well.

The best bit (slight exaggeration ) was getting ready for bed and realising I didn’t still have to perform a random exercise whilst cleaning my teeth for Janathon.

Janathon Day 22. The swamp

After the ignominy of forgetting Janathon yesterday*, and with an up coming race at the weekend, AND with having a day off, I thought I’d better get myself out for a run.

A lack of enthusiasm, along with a huge list of jobs to do (on my “day off”) meant I decided I just get out for a shorter run, but with some hills in it. Off I set down towards Slaughterford, with the sim of repeating the short but steep hill 3 times. Around a bend I was confronted with a puddle. An enormous puddle. In face, let’s not mince words, it was so large and so brown it was definitely a lake. I cannot tell a lie I did briefly consider turning around, but the effort of thinking of another route seemed worse than the effort of ploughing on through,so ploughing on it was. It was cold, it was muddy, it was over my ankles grimness.

I completed my 3 hill repeat. Yes there was walking, yes there was topping to give directions to a motorist who didn’t trust their satnav, yes there were puzzled looks from the workmen at the bottom who saw me three times, but I did it.

As I headed back towards the swamp, I stopped to take a photograph to prove just how horrible and huge it was. I was heading back through it, right in the middle, just as the bow wave was coming back over my ankles, I saw two other runners come round the corner. They stopped, watched me wading through, then told me they weren’t going through it and they were going to turn around.

“Did you run up that hill?” they asked admiringly. “Oh yes” I modestly replied. “And walked a bit” I honestly added.

“Are you training for Tough Mudder?” they asked.

“Oh no”, I replied. “Much worse – Slaughterford 9”!

Swamp puddle
Swamp puddle

*I know, I know – surely it consumes my every waking moment? It’s totally inconceivable as to how I might have forgotten?!

Happy New Year 2018!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to do a huge “My 2017 – a review” post, complete with Powerpoint presentation and Strava stats (my stats are rather half-hearted for 2017, but that’s not why I’m not doing it. Honest.)

I think there’s just time for a squinty-eyed short-sighted peer at the year ahead. I really need to be more organised in order to find time for running, swimming, cycling, my allotment, the house, my family (apologies to my family for putting them last in that list!) Having decided to stay on in my what-was-meant-to-be-temporary job, my life needs to become more regulated (boo!) in order to find time for the stuff I want to do (hooray!). As this job is quite stressful and unrewarding, it’s actually essential that I manage to find time for any stress-relieving activities that I can.

This might mean forcing myself out for a run after work, even if I don’t feel like it. I’ve hit the “it’s too dark to run” nail squarely on the head by buying an “Ironman” style chest torch which should illuminate most of the village as I run by. I have entered the tough “Slaughterford 9” race at the end of the month which will act as quite an incentive to get out and train! My son bought me a lovely insulated cup that is meant to fit into the bottle holder of my bike, which hopefully will persuade me to get out for even short rides (in a “Coffeeneuring stylee) . I haven’t been swimming for weeks and weeks, and the worry that I might have forgotten how is enough to have me checking the timetables for a suitable session (just as soon as my “sniffing my way into 2018” cold clears up).

A few weeks ago I asked my Facebook friends how on earth they fitted everything in. I was especially asking a lovely lady, who is a mum of 3, a full time dentist and runs Ultras (not simultaneously). Responses from everyone were basically along the lines of “just get out and do it!”, but also, and perhaps more surprisingly, “don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage it”. This made me feel much better for the last few weeks of the year, and means that the thought I’m taking into 2018 is “Be kind”. I always try to be kind to the people around me, but maybe I need to focus a little more on being kind to myself. Let’s see how it goes!

I wonder what thought other people are taking forward into 2018?

 

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.

Slaughterford 9 January 29th 2012

I had been dreading this race for weeks, ever since I entered it in fact. I had wussed out of entering it for the past 2 years, and in December 2011 decided this was the year I would do it. It is, after all, the closest race to my home. In fact I regularly run part of the route of the race as one of my ‘short’ routes. 
 
So why so scared? 
 
Well, this race has a formidable reputation. Just beyond where I live is a very steep valley which I avoid when I run because its just too steep. And muddy. And I’m sure wild animals live out there. In fact the stretch of the route that I run is the track where I was attacked by a ‘psycho pheasant’ last year. Proof! The route of the race goes right down to the bottom of the valley, back up part way, even further down then practically vertically up to the finish. An uphill finish – how cruel! In between all these hills the route is mostly off-road, which at this time of year means lots of mud. Oh, and the 100 metres along the over-knee-height By Brook is, erm, refreshing to say the least.
 
So, it was with very mixed feelings I arrived at race HQ, and parked in a muddy field, with the temperature at 1C and gazed around at the fog. Not so much of the view-admiring to day then!

See – I did make it there – and I have a rather cool race number to show for it!

The race went as I’d expected. My family had cycled from home and cheered me on around 2 miles, complete with my hat which I’d inadvertently left at home, but which I no longer felt the need for. At about 3 miles we ran through Slaughterford itself, and on seeing my friend who lives there I managed to drop off my gloves as amazingly even my hands were warm by that point. After that, the hills started. My trail shoes were rubbish – I slipped and slithered up (and down) the muddy hills (although to be fair – everyone else was as well, so maybe it was just too muddy even for trail shoes!)

Although I was running on my own, there was a group of about 6 of us running at around the same pace so we did chat a little when we had the breath to do so. I was glad of the company, as the fog meant I completely lost my sense of direction and after Slaughterford had no idea where I was. I was extremely appreciative of the marshals. I’ve never been so pleased to see a hi-viz vest appearing on the far side of a field through the fog. They must have been freezing standing still for so long, but were all cheering and encouraging. Hoorah for them!

The stream-wading was breath taking. Literally. I’m not good at cold water, and the gasps I emitted as I got in must have been highly amusing for everyone else. It was a mud slide down to the brook, but fortunately the stream bed was stony so no chance of slipping once I was in. The limbo under the over hanging tree branch was a nice touch, but the quagmire as we got out of the stream was shoe-suckingly-tastic.

The final hill was nearly too much for me. Even walking up it I had to stop for a second to catch my breath. It was lovely to see my family again at the top, waiting to accompany me up the final hill to the finish line. I even managed to run this last bit (just in case there was a photographer at the finish line!)

So it is with pride that I am (still) wearing the T-shirt that I really did feel I earned. However I think I need to make an addition with a permanent pen under it, saying

“NO I FLIPPING DIDN’T!”

Is this Hilly enough?

So Week 4 Run 3 in my schedule said “40 Mins Hilly”. I chose this route – do you think that is hilly enough??

Pleased with 3.13 Miles in 33:50, as it really is a steep hill on the way back up. No more runs now until Sunday, when I face the notorious ‘Slaughterford 9’ race. That’s going to count as my Long Slow Run for the week, as although 9 miles probably isn’t quite long enough, I can guarantee it will be slow! Looking at the amount of rain we’ve had this week so far (coming down again now as I type) I’m thinking snorkel & flippers might be appropriate gear.

Still, keep thinking life’s all about new experiences so really have to do this race. Its certainly the race that’s closest to home, and will certainly be an experience. Not necessarily an enjoyable one, however. Another new experience I’ve volunteered for is writing a race report for Women’s Running magazine. Not for the Slaughterford 9 (don’t want to put anyone off) but for the Bath Half Marathon in March. Sounds less muddy and less tiring than Slaughterford 9!

I will return after the race and let you know I’ve survived … hopefully!