running

Lakeland Trails, missed the boat, but grand day out all the same. Ullswater Emergency 10k 2017

Digested read:  well that was hilarious.  The plan was a 10k round Ullswater, starting with a boat.  Alas, no boat and a shorter alternative route, but on the plus side lots more time for Smiley mingling, impulse purchases and then the actual run was gorgeous.  All’s well that ends well eh?  Home to Sheffield with renewed running mojo and consolidated adoration and appreciation for the collective joy and fabulousness that is the Sheffield women’s running club of Smiley Paces.

So this was Day Two, of the Lakeland Trails finale weekend.  Much anticipated by Smiley Lakeland Trails veterans, this particular run involves the added novelty of a boat crossing on a steamer at the start!  I know, how cool is that!  The boat looks like this, it isn’t a scam because there is a picture of it and everything:

ullswater steamer 2012

The steamer was last sighted in 2014 as far as I know, and most definitely does exist as the 2012 picture above stolen from the Lakeland Trails Facebook page demonstrates.  Alas, in subsequent years foul weather prevented sailings.  (Do steamers sail?  Probably not, but you get the gist.  ‘Launchings’ maybe?)  Part of the problem was perhaps the November timing of the event – not the best time of year to be counting on calm waters and clear skies. This year the trail weekend was brought forward to the potentially more clement month of October.  Much excitement bubbled amongst us. This was surely going to be the year.  There was even more of a build up yesterday when the weather was gorgeous and the forecast for today, Sunday, promising too. The back marker had said so.  What could possibly go wrong? What trail running event wouldn’t be improved by a leisure boat ride across the scenic.  We were collectively beside ourselves with excited anticipation.

Oh, you need to know the basics? Yawn.  Well, if you haven’t been hanging on my every blog post since, I don’t know, ‘whenever.’ then you’ll need to know that the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah for the Ullswater 2017 described todays event as follows:

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

Starting from the Ullswater Pier at Glenridding (CA11 OUS), your journey starts with a beautiful half hour cruise aboard the Ullswater Steamer “Raven”, which takes you to the start in the hamlet of Howtown, whilst being serenaded by singer/songwriter Pete Lashley. The 10km Ullswater Trail Run, 14km Ullswater Trail Race and 14km Ullswater Trail Challenge follow well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways along the lake shore, giving panoramic views of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks, finishing in Jenkins Field, next to the Ullswater Pier. Much of the course passes through ancient woodland, which will be at its autumnal best. Underfoot conditions can be tricky at times, especially if wet.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Helvellyn event the day before? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend.

Oh my gawd.  How amazing.  And now the day had finally dawned!

It actually dawned in the small hours.  Blinking as I lay under the duvet, fretting over how to complete morning manoeuvres in the dark without disturbing those dorm buddies who were doing the afternoon run.  Three of us in my dorm had signed up for the 10k and that was a 9.00 a.m. sailing. Registration from 7.45 a.m. Working backwards, we’d need to be up dressed, packed for leaving the youth hostel as we had to strip beds etc pre departure – but also leave food somewhere (not in kitchen) for lunch, and a change of clothes somewhere (not in dorm) for afterwards.  We had negotiated with our obliging dorm sleeping-in buddies that we’d have to set the alarm for 6.30 and we’d have to put the light on at some point, but just because we’d agreed it, didn’t mean that we’d have the absolute nerve to go through with it. I mean it seems too cruel.  Like chucking a bucket of iced water on a rough sleeper or something, to knowingly cause a slumbering Smiley to be wakened.  Cruel and unreasonable treatment at the very least!  I suppose if we did cause provocation at least there would be an added motivation to run fast afterwards…

rude awakening

I went through my preparations in my mind.  Running kit ready all folded neatly stuffed in on top of my bathroom bits, dry running shoes at the ready for grasping, a swift and silent exit should be a shoo in really cometh the hour. I got up at 6.00 as I couldn’t bear just lying there waiting for the alarm, made it into the showers, all was going well, until I realised a fundamental oversight in my kit prep.  No knickers!  How did that happen?  I’m not running commando, I don’t care what anyone else does.  Curses, all my preparations counted for nothing, as it seemed I’d have to rummage noisily through my stuff in the dark after all.  Getting up is soooooooooooooo stressful.

Amazingly, I did discover my lost knickers, eventually espying them abandoned on the floor in the middle of the dorm, right near the door, where they must have fallen from my bag as I tried to creep out of the room.  I retrieved them, remedied my dressing fail, and then decided I couldn’t inflict light on my seemingly still slumbering buddies even though I knew in my heart of hearts I must have already woken them up with all my crashing around trying to locate my M&S five to a pack cotton rich briefs.  Do M&S sell anything else I wonder.  Indeed, can knickers be purchased anywhere else?  There is Runderwear of course – but apart from there, nope, I don’t imagine they can. I decided all further preparations would be more effective post tea and breakfast sustenance.

I made for the kitchen.  Oh joy!  My other two dorm morning running buddies were already there.  Better yet, they too were clearly traumatised by the stress of pre-run preparations, and had also decided better to brave the kitchen early on before the crush. It was very comforting, we were able to share our individual neuroses with one another and then were immediately massively reassured to find we were not alone. We were all disproportionately angst ridden by the enormity of our current first world problems, which required us to get up AND get dressed; AND pack; AND forward plan lunch and later changing options; AND have breakfast; AND decide on short or long sleeved tops; AND remember our compulsory kit – and that’s not even factoring the minefield of deciding what time to leave for registration and what to do about communal food that we’d finished with but our car buddies might want later but still needed to be packed!  At least I didn’t have the added angst of wondering whether or not to run at all due to blister progression over night.  It’s so stressful all this running stuff in a communal non-home context.  Worth it undoubtedly, but stressful all the same.  Also, both of them had spotted my knickers on the floor earlier, and respectfully stepped over them. That’s nice too isn’t it.  Supportive even.

Heartened and bonded through shared adversity, we three went back to the dorm and switched on the lights with abandon, then vacated the area to sit it out until it was time for a mass exodus to the event HQ.  I was thirsty though.  I needed a glass of water.  I went up to the kitchen area but it was absolutely heaving, I stood outside the door blinking for a while as Smilies busily circled back and forth somehow avoiding collision like in that amazing video animation of extraordinarily juxtaposed happenings that I think was a Talking Heads ‘Stop Making Sense’ one, but might have been Sledgehammer – nope can’t find it.  If you know it, you’ll know it, it has one person walk across a room, then a ball bounces in through the window, new things keep being added until every inch of space is full but somehow nothing intersects with anything else.  If that image is too hard, then think about what it was like when you are a kid and two people swirl a skipping rope, and you have to run in and join several  others who are already jumping in there.  You are waiting for the right moment to run in, but you get one chance only, and if you misjudge it, everything ends.  You could ruin it for everyone. Don’t mess up! It was like that.  Only more terrifying.  Talk about a jump into the unknown…

skipping games

I stood wide – eyed and hesitating outside the kitchen door, it’s was like I was looking through a window into a parallel world.  I literally made several abortive attempts to plunge through the shifting gateway and into this alternative universe, but kept losing my nerve.  Eventually, I realised I there was a good Samaritan Smiley alert to my dilemma and looking out for me – albeit in a pointing and laughing at my ineptitude sort of way, but supportively pointing and laughing and that is a good thing.  It broke the tension and made me laugh too as I saw the ludicrousness of the situation. We talked through options, and, to cut a long story short, acknowledging the extreme pressure on facilities at just that moment of time, and the mass of people milling around I agreed that the sensible thing to do was just to take refuge under a nearby table, and emerge some time later when hopefully this crisis had passed.  Good plan.  Felt safe there.

hiding under table

Even so, I had to emerge after a bit. I got water from a downstairs bathroom, and then sat very, very still on the sofa in the foyer whilst Smilies darted back and forth and all around me like a spawning of whirling dervishes (whatever they are). They were all making the trek to the drying room and each emerged in turn exclaiming the lament that their shoes were still soaked from yesterdays paddle along the Helvellyn paths.  I was quite pleased I’d brought my Irocks as a back up plan. They aren’t massively cushioned, but they are grippy, and I’d rather start the day’s run with dry feet.  As I sat, trying to be invisible and not in the way and just blinking. Magic Making Smiley Samaritan actually came over to see if I was alright.  I must have been manifesting physical signs of shock, with which magic making smiley was very familiar after with the broken wrist incident and the woman looking grey only yesterday. I was alright, I was fine.  Lesser mortals might have accused me of attention seeking quite frankly, but I was so touched at her concern. It just shows all over again that Smilies are delightful, individually as well as collectively.   For this I thank you all.

 

At last, and thankfully, it was time to leave.  Food bags were stashed in cars, single bags of stuff heaped up in the foyer and off we went once again in a loose smiley convoy, down the road towards the start.  It seemed a bit cooler than yesterday, but calm.  Still beautiful.  Still well hung sheep about and curious locals looking on…

Got to the event HQ and it was all reassuringly familiar.  Numbers collected; tags on; baggage dumped; T-shirt of the day admired. Good oh.

It was all very efficient.  I saw a group of runners making their way across the field to the boarding point for the steamer.  I joined a Smiley crowd and together we chatted joyfully about the forthcoming boat ride.  Only, then it emerged one of our number either had taken, or was about to take an anti-seasickness tab. What?  Why hadn’t I thought of that? This was another whole area of angst I’d not previously considered.  I’m terrible on boats, but I’m also knocked out by anti nausea meds.  Better to dehydrate from throwing up than pass out comatose perhaps?   Aaargh, I don’t know.   I had not even considered this, and now I was thrown into panic. Doh.

Just as my mind was racing through the pros and cons of knocking back a pack of puke-u-not seasick pills, word got out.  No boats!

What no boats?  Really?  I’d missed the announcement, so went to ask inside.  Yep, no boats, only in fact more accurately it was possibly no boats.  They were going to wait another 15 minutes and see how it went. Fifteen minutes later the announcement came.  An announcer read out the words from the Captain verbatim from a scrap of paper – like it was a royal decree of something, which in a way I suppose it was in that it was non negotiable.  The wind picks up on the open water and it just wasn’t safe, there would be no boats today.   The emergency race plan would come into operation.  An alternative route would be offered with a mass start, a bit shorter.  Marshals would need time to get into their new positions. Sorry and all, but there you go.

To be honest, although people were disappointed, there wasn’t any massive unrest at this revelation, more a collective shrug and sigh of ‘oh well’.  To be fair, what can you do?  I’m sure the organisers were more disappointed than anyone given that whether or not the steamer tripped happened they’d still had to do all the lists of sailings and logistics of sorting runners out and everything.

In fact, the event director put it this way at the later prize giving:

We can’t change the weather. But what can we change? Our ATTITUDE to the weather.

It’s our 10th anniversary of the Ullswater Trail, and 3rd time unlucky, yet we still have an overall 70% sailing record. That’s pretty good.

After last year’s feedback from you, we decided to do four things, in case poor weather forced the Ullswater Steamers to be cancelled again :

1. Move the event three weeks earlier into October. Fat lot of good that did us!
2. Look at the Steamer Cruise in a different light, as a bonus, and not include any additional contribution towards hire of the Steamer in your entry fees. IF we sailed, we would foot the bill as a way to celebrate our Season’s Finale
3. If we had to, implement a FREE park and ride option for those wanting to use it
4. To add an additional, longer emergency route in the afternoon, so that the 10K runners didn’t have to hang around in the cold all day, and the 14K runners could run a longer course 

We’ll always listen to constructive criticism and change our plans accordingly.

So there you are.  Not sure what else they could have done.

Besides, I was quite taken with the idea of an emergency 10k eh?  I love the notion of that, being made to run 10k in a collective panic with sirens blasting and blue lights flashing overheard.  To call it a wet-weather contingency 10k may have been marginally more truthful but face it, it would also have been a lot less exciting as an abstract concept.  Post the event I noticed some Smilies had referenced the route on Strava as the ‘no boat run’ I know what they mean but that is surely tautology of sorts, well, maybe not stating the same thing twice exactly, but certainly stating the seemingly obvious.  Running races don’t generally require boats after all, so why say that.  Unless you have accidentally signed up for the Three Peaks Yacht Race of course, in which case lord help you. Does this boat ride look fun?  Would you feel like a trot up to the summits of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis after a stint in that? Quite.

2011 three peaks yacht race

You might as well say it was the ‘no balloon’ race, though to be fair only the other week I began with a balloon and ended without one, so perhaps that would be OK. Try again ‘no bike route’ I suppose Triathletes might use that for time to time.  Oh, for goodness sake, stop going on about it, it doesn’t matter!  The point I’m trying to make is that we didn’t run the intended 10k route on account of the fact there was too much weather for us to get on the boat safely.  The organisers therefore set us off on a shorter, alternative route, implementing their ’emergency plan’ (like you have for nuclear accidents or terrorist incidents) and hence we were running the Ullswater Emergency 10k.  Hope that’s all clear.

The cancellation changed the morning’s running dynamic certainly. A few injured runners who’d been tempted to run because of not wanting to miss out on the boat ride (which to be fair is taking on increasingly mystical status) were now feeling maybe what with having only one functional leg/foot whatever perhaps they shouldn’t.  One or two decided they needed to get home more than they needed to hang on to do a shorter route.  It was all pretty philosophical, no tantrums. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a Smiley tantrum about anything to be honest.  It’s not how we roll.  We are more likely to fall out because everyone wants to do the washing up, rather than because no-one will.  Even then there would be no falling out, only a graceful withdrawal, that’s as high as the stakes go in my experience anyway.   Well it was at this point in the day anyway, how things change…

 

In fact, at least one Smiley was positively euphoric at the prospect of a shorter run.  I encouraged her to practise sounding disappointed at the news.  Or at the very least, if she was unable to suppress her joyful guffawing she should at least try and save the situation by turning it into a disappointed ‘hah! how could they?’ sort of exclamation. We got there in the end.

I didn’t have strong feelings about the distance, but I was delighted that the delay to the start meant a cup of coffee was now a possibility.  I didn’t have cash on me, but no worries, I had a woodrun buddy on hand who paid for me.   I was a bit sad I didn’t have cash for a Lakeland buff, but maybe at ten pounds they were on the pricey side anyway.   Better yet, whilst I was in the queue I explained about the new shorter route to someone who hadn’t heard and who genuinely had a look like thunder at the news and then turned away and punched the air with an audible  ‘yay’!  She’d been on some sort of masterclass on pretend disappointment.  Very impressive delivery.

I supped coffee feeling cold and admiring my shoes.  I’ve not worn them much, but they are extraordinary.  I call them my Tardis shoes, because they look really small on the outside but are bizarrely bit from within.  They are definitely wide enough, I can’t really claim they are massively comfy, because they lack cushioning, but they are roomy enough and don’t have pressure points which is usually a massive problem for me (though not with my new innov8s either to be fair).  Miscellaneous Smiley bonding and milling and chilling continued. Non-running smilies turned up to check out what was going on.  It was fine and dandy.

 

Coffee drunk, I went for an amble and I’m delighted to report the organisers had laid on some impromptu entertainment. There was a bride and groom who’d got married earlier at the lakeside, and were now going to take on the 10k with their bridal party in tow.    Impressive. They were there in their wedding regalia, and we were encouraged to form a circle to congratulate the newly weds whilst the MC put on their ‘first dance’ music so they could swirl around in front of us to roars of congratulation and approval. A drone camera flew over head and a multitude of photos were taken. It was lovely actually… if a little prolonged. The ‘happy couple’ did look happy, but it was hard even for them to sustain eye-contact, and feel so lurved up that there was not a smattering of self-consciousness  as it became apparent they were being subjected to the full long play 12 minute version of the song when they’d been expecting the 3 minute dance one. Hilarious.  The tension was mercifully broken by an invitation to go in for a communal hug.  It was all delightful.  They had another impromptu communal wedding dance session at the finish apparently, but I missed that.  My usual cynicism aside there was something joyful about all that hope and optimism laid before you, and going for a run together is a great way to celebrate any occasion. Though I did feel for the bridesmaid, her outfit didn’t look altogether compatible with being expected to run atop those exposed mountains later on.  Definitely on the flimsy side, and no cagoule stashing pockets anywhere!

So watching that was a welcome distraction and a nice bit of habitat enrichment to keep us entertained whilst we waited for off.   Once that was over, I roamed around a bit more and eyed up my fellow participants for the adventures still to come, seemingly I was eyed up in return.

In the absence of alternative entertainment, and as there was still time to browse – I found myself increasingly drawn to the sports clothing stand.  I am easily seduced by running socks.  I had no cash on me yesterday either, or card, so it was easy to reject them. Today I’d brought my card with me in perhaps a subconscious acknowledgement of the inevitable failing of willpower.  I circled round a few times trying not to cave in, but really, me and running socks!  It was like Dougal on the magic roundabout encountering a pile of sugar lumps and being expected not to succumb.  I believe the records wills how that was the undoing of him in Dougal and the Blue Cat.  Like him, it was inevitable I could only hold out so long.  Socks were bought. I had a card.  My woodrun buddy who stood me a coffee earlier was complicit in the offence.  She spotted a rather gorgeous innov8 top.  We had to wrestle a little with our inner consciences, as it always feels wrong buying from anywhere other than from our local running shots, but these were such bargains. We were made dizzy by the opportunity and not thinking either ahead or straight. What would it matter that we’ll never be able to wear them in Sheffield, for fear of being outed for our consumer disloyalty, we were living in the here and now.  What can you do… Technically, it was only I who was guilty, as I made both purchases on my card so we’d be quits after coffee sub earlier on. My woodrun friend was blameless.  Good luck wearing the top on a Thursday woodrun though – at your own risk and all that.

DOUGAL-AND-THE-BLUE-CAT-006

To be honest, this hour and a half of milling around was rather fine.  It was like being at some sort of Smiley social.  The run was almost incidental to proceedings after a bit.  However, inevitably, eventually the call went up to assemble. There was a brief anxious moment for me when I joined the start funnel facing the wrong way and was nearly expected to take off at the head of the throng!  That would have ended badly.  I nipped round to the back of the queue and then edged towards a little gaggle of smilies for reassurance.  I’ve managed to capture accurately their expressions of delight at seeing me as I joined them.  This was it, any moment now, we’d be off!

We headed out the field in the opposite direction to yesterday… and immediately hit a bottle neck as runners queued to go through a narrow gate.  Fortunately, a quick-witted marshal stepped up and waved a load of us round to a bigger gate so for the first  time in my whole life I overtook some super speedy runners still queuing by looping round ahead of them. REsult.  Then it was onwards and upwards.  A bit much road for me to be honest, but this was made more palatable by pathologically lovely cheerful marshals – also at this point I was just slightly behind the bridal party and could hear rousing cheers chorus up ahead as they passed by-standers.  This was fine!

I wonder if this is what they mean by a runaway bride?

We turned off the road onto more gravelly track, and then soon we were on an ‘undulating’ path that offered extremes of up and down.  It seemed to go on and on. The views were absolutely amazing, and the narrow paths for the main part made over-taking impossible, so it felt even more legitimate than usual to take some shots along the way.   I just felt really lucky to be out in such fantastic scenery on a blustery autumnal day, uninjured and in the company of Smilies.  What more could anyone ask for?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The narrow paths my have limited overtaking but were great for buddying up.  Fortuitously I ended up in a gang of four Smilies caught up at the same stage.  Excellent mutual photographing action shots followed.  Team work you see. Very important, we were our very own Smiley Paparazzi Unit:

Running must be so hard if you don’t stop every five minutes to take a picture.  My way is loads better.

We inevitably reached the steep, steep steps others had warned us off.  Walking was the only option, with hands firmly planted on knees to help.   Finding myself at the end of a queue of people plodding onward and upwards I said jokingly ‘oh dear I was going to sprint ahead but my way is blocked‘ only to have horror of unnecessarily obliging runners in front offering to part like the red sea and let me through. ‘no, no‘ I insisted in a slightly too panicked toned, that was my bluff well and truly called!

After a seemingly endless climb, we were ‘suddenly’ at the top of the ascent.  Right at the highest point of the run,  a hardy (or more accurately cold) marshal was being buffeted about by the wind but still smiling and pointing us on. Marshals are always awesome at running events, but I do think at this Lakeland Trails event they really excelled themselves.  Everyone I passed was keeping up clapping and cheering throughout, many had quips in addition and some offered up visual aid (reference hi-viz sheep) or other props (reference cow bells) as well as encouragement and directional pointing on the way round.  Much kudos to all you hi-viz heroes on the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Much of the terrain was technical, though nothing like as wet as yesterday, but rocky and steep.  Oh my god I lurve my irocks though.  Today was our first proper bonding outing.  I’ve only worn them out and about a few times before, this was their first race route. They make me feel invincible, they  seem tiny on the outside but astonishingly can accommodate my plate like feet.  They grip on anything, I felt safe skipping along. They lack cushioning but a necessary compromise on this route, plus they have little padding or soft stuff to get water-logged so I barely got my feet wet. Result.  No blisters either, despite fact I’ve not really worn them much at all.  I may start to sleep in them.  Then again I may not.  I have limits.

DSCF9391

From here it flattened out a bit.  Then soon enough, there was once again the helpful warning sign to ‘smile’ in advance of encountering the photographer ahead.  Just as well we were warned as he was crouching in a ditch this time, looking a bit sodden to be honest, but still with professional focus.  We were a veritable train of Smilies at this point, creating the teasing prospect of a Smiley group shot.  One declaimed ‘no jumping’ as we bore down on our photographer friend.  I didn’t jump (never do, in fact the photos of me apparently levitating were achieved by undertaking the whole of yesterday’s trail by zip wire, and paying the photographer to photoshop out the wires at the end.  That way, no concerns about concussion, just don’t tell anyone).  As I was in company today, and there was the unexpected route change, the zip wire option wasn’t available, so I had to resort to running on my actual legs.  Hence a lot less bounce in today’s photo. I’m relying on you my reader not to let on though.  People like mystery in their dull little lives.  They must not have cause to doubt my ability to launch myself vertically into space once in the frame of a camera lens.  Let them keep that little spark of joy….

Anyways, we didn’t co-ordinate all that well to be honest, apart from in the sense of our fine matching Smiley tops –  but the photos are nevertheless a pleasing reflection of our smiley quartet. See if you can spot the one Smiley with manifest leadership qualities from within the montage below.  You can see that I respected the ‘no jumping’ directive, opting for the slightly over-excited and maniacal stare pose instead.  Totally nailed it if I say so myself.

The photographer took some pretty amazing shots of the great and the good and the glorious and the gifted storming round.  Here are just a few of my faves of the day, from viking warrior to team jumping shots, all of running fauna was there to behold against the stunning Lakeland backdrop.  Nice out innit?

There were plenty of other Smilies snapped on them there hills too you know. Here are just a few.  We were like cockroaches swarming across a kitchen floor when the light goes on, only more immediately likeable.  Maybe more like golden fallen autumn leaves, blowing about in the sunshine and bringing joy to the world. Yes?  See for yourself:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We pushed onwards, it was flat, and then teasingly starting to go down hill. Whilst it was tempting to take advantage of the gradient and yomp on, I found it was essential to stop to admire the scenery when we came across a wondrous waterfall.  This beauteous site had potential to get us on cover of National Geographic magazine for sure, or at the very least Life magazine (though I concede that might be a challenge given it’s no longer published) … Women’s Running at a push.  In any event, the posing was essential, even if it alas it meant we became separated from one of our number who was too focused to notice and so sped on ahead.  She mistook our amazing find for but a hobbit hole (which to be fair would have been pretty amazing too) her loss.  Besides, we really had to stop at the waterfall to cool off because we were on fire running round!  Honestly. We are hot stuff.

As we continued down hill, there were three of us now, bonding, staying together.  We had noted the absence of one, and whilst we regretted her loss, we respected her decision. Besides, we decided that regrettably, ultimately it would be her loss as we’d be having soaring stats on our Facebook pics in recognition of our en route selfies, she’d pay a high price missing out on all of that frenetic social media recognition for sure.  Life is cruel like that.  I’m not saying it’s fair or right, that’s just how it is sometimes.  Validity of one’s existence through the Facebook ‘like’ button exacerbated by the tyranny of the emoticon.  It was so much easier before all of this, when you only communicated what you did when away by a solitary uninspired postcard that reached your intended recipient many weeks after your sojourn away was long forgotten.

We went onwards, down the steep path, rock jumping, and waving overhead at the drone that mysteriously appeared above us at one point.  I did wonder briefly if this was just the logical extension of woodrun leaders ongoing surveillance operations, but tried to dismiss that from my mind.  We bounded on, waving at the householder who was leaning out to watch us go past.  Considering how exposed it is out there, there was a lot of support out and about. We continued, skipping by the friendly marshals that we’d passed on the way out who had perfected the art of perpetual motion in their synchronised support.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eventually, we were back on to tarmac road, and by a cattle grid we espied another photographer. The more gobby assertive member of our party berated the poor guy for apparently wasting time busying himself wiping down his camera lens when he should be photographing us.  He gestured beside him.   There was another camera set up on tripod and a drone beside him ‘they’ve been filming all the time’ he countered. Uh oh. Captured on film whether we were ready or not!

DSCF9531

The idea of sticking together for the finish was mooted, but I wasn’t sure.  Road was coming up.  Whilst my younger smiley compatriots would pick up speed on the more predictable terrain it stops me in my tracks as my poor feet start to shatter and I don’t have the stamina to maintain a constant running pace.  ‘You go on without me‘ I cried out, almost pleading them to do so.  They would not hear of it.  They even paused and walked for a bit to let me get my breath back.  We headed off again just as some fellow Smilies appeared at the sidelines to cheer us on.

Finally, we were back into the field, round the blooming keyhole again and then, well, we just  couldn’t help ourselves. Shout went up for a sprint finish, elbows and all. Friendly buffeting rivalry that’s all.  I can’t possibly have been in the wrong as I am middle-aged and she is but a young stripling, so let’s get that cleared up.  I have a bruise too.  It was quite a fight to the line though, and pleasingly we ended up with the same finish time exactly, and no doubt the same fear of throwing up on the marshals collecting in the ankle tags.  Fun though.  I was surprised I had that in me.

Another T-shirt, yellow this time, but not a horrible one, I haven’t tried it on yet, but it is a technical one and female fit, which is something of an innovation in running events, a pleasing one too.  All friends again for the photo anyway, that’s the main thing, keeping up appearances… 🙂

DSCF9537

We gathered up our bags and fellow smilies, before heading off on the migration home to the hostel.  Alarmingly, I discovered my Cheetah buddy had had to pull out early on in the 10k due to a knee niggle. That’s harsh.  Quite a few missed out on the Sunday run for diverse reasons, I suppose that’s the frustrating nature of it.

My sprint finish smiley stopped off at the medical tent for advice on her knee – well I thought it was her knee, I’m told it was actually her ankle, but hard to know with Manchuasen’s.  It’s technically true she has had an injury for ages, but personally I think she was seeking an explanation as to why she’d failed to pass me in the sprint.  The medic seemed very thorough, and the advise seemed to be every runner’s worst nightmare ‘rest and monitor’.  Noooooooooooooooo!

DSCF9540

Medical attention concluded, we started walking back. We thanked and said farewell to the still smiling marshals who remained at their posts.

Then, with a terrifying familiarity the woodrun surveillance team materialised in front of us.  They had some pretext of running the afternoon challenge, but well, you know.  What with the drone earlier, I’m not sure. They seem perfectly lovely, but they would, wouldn’t they, otherwise how could they move amongst us so silently and undetected?

woodrun spies

It was like being in Sheffield by the Lakes as walking onwards we picked up more and more Smilies heading back and met more and more walking out for their afternoon romp.  For our part we Smilies shared our race experiences and reassured one another there were no hard feelings left over from our hard finish.  We are all Smilies, we are bigger than that!  Probably.

It was nice to see Smilies gathering en masse.  I was a bit taken aback by the rather blatant transfusion of haemoglobin en route to give competitive advantage re oxygen levels during the race, by one of our number, but then again, it does explain her awesome finish times.  I think it was that, someone else said it was red wine in her hydration pack.  Well, whatever works for you I suppose…. you couldn’t accuse her of being underhand anyway.  Shameless rather.

DSCF9574

It was lovely to wave the afternoon runners on their merry way.   At this stage they were exuding hope and joy, entirely innocent of the knowledge of the mighty hill to climb ahead.  Bless.  It seemed only humane to let her carry on ignorant of what lay ahead for as long as possible.  Disillusion arrives soon enough for all of us.

happy innocence

Back to the hostel.  It was somewhat chaotic, with the YHA staff frantically hoovering around our bags in the lobby they clearly didn’t want us to hang around, that cup of tea and change of clothes I’d be hoping for wasn’t going to happen.  No worries, I changed my socks and shoes, and ate most of the contents of a crisp multi-pack which was great actually, as I was craving salt.

Then, reunited with my car-pool buddies we piled back in and off we went.  A straight and scenic run back to Sheffield by happy chance of avoiding the M6 in favour of the A66 (I think) stunning scenery and Autumn sunshine accompanied us home.

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

It was like a mini-bereavement being dropped off home.  The weekend is over, we are left with nothing but memories.  Fortunately they are all fine ones.  Wonder if we really will do it all again next year?

If we do, any more for any more?  Here are the filthy foursome – once again, in case you missed them earlier. It’s definitely doable, and some of the Smilies out there have unfinished business I know!

Filthy Foursome

They only look slightly manic in the circumstances, and not really grubby at all. I’m a little disappointed they haven’t double bagged their T-shirts – you know green from Saturday, Yellow from Sunday and Smiley Vest because – well that’s only right and proper. But hey, great pioneering work their team.  Same again next year I take it?  Or are you seeking a Fetid Five by somehow weaving in the 5k sports trail that seems to have slipped in as a Saturday special?

Oh you want to know the route?  I knew I’d forgotten something.  Hang on…

Here it is, stolen again from my woodrun buddy.  It was the wet weather route, again a bit short at 5.3 miles and just 884ft elevation, though that was pretty much up a straight rock stair case to be fair.

Ullswater non sailing route

And you want the results too?  There should be a link somewhere to all the results for the Lakeland Trails Ullswater day, enjoy, or not, as you wish.

So that’s it for now.  A happy Lakeland Adventure and Epic Smiley Tour to boot.  Thanks to the Lakeland Trails folk for organising an amazing weekend of running and providing some brilliant over the two days too.   You can browse through all the Lakeland Trails photo albums here, but it might take a while.

Here are some more of the non-professional ones I can’t bear to leave out.  It’s making decisions you see.  Hopeless quest for me.

If you just want visual snapshot of the day(s), and you don’t suffer from migraines, this video fly by is quite cool. Cheers innov8

For the organisers summary of the event and results see the newsletter here

Just remains to say thanks most of all to my lovely Smiley co-conspirators, running buddies and friends.  I feel so lucky to have found you all, and so very proud to be part of such a supportive, funny, smart and talented lot of wonder women.  Together, we can achieve anything. Go us.

gaggle of smileys

That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.

🙂

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Well that was one hellofarun up Helvellyn! Lakeland Trails Dirty Double Helvellyn 10k 2017

Digested read:  my the Lakes are lovely.  My TomTom didn’t work which means no Strava so technically I suppose this entire weekend of running never happened, starting with the Saturday.  Oh well, worse things happen at the seaside.  The run was lovely but quite rocky. Smilies are lovely and they rock too.  We get to do it all again tomorrow.  Hurrah!

You can see how lovely we are here.  The shot is courtesy of the fine photographer man James who took heaps of amazing shots throughout the weekend. This is quite brilliant, as it means we can browse the photos and relive fond memories of the runs at will.  So, as I was saying, here we are:

gaggle of smileys

And that photo isn’t even half of us.  About 70 of us made it up to the Lakes for this epic running weekend put on by the Lakeland Trails team – in fact it is the weekend finale for a whole season of trail running adventures.  If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a choice of four events over two days.  You can choose just to run one, or two – hence dirty double, or if you are a Smiley on a mission you can get really filthy and do all four. Smilies have been patronising this event for a while now, so the event organisers though perplexed, will indulge outliers by letting them enter whatever they want, after all a fool and their money are easily parted are happy to cater for bespoke arrangements given sufficient notice.   I’d like to be able to make the point that this privilege was restricted to Smiley Paces participants only as a sort of VIP service in recognition of our unique awesomeness.  Alas, I can’t really. It’s true the offer wasn’t disseminated more widely, but I strongly suspect that is a reflection on lack of other takers rather than Smiley exclusivity. Who cares. Smilies are a rare breed all the same! Go us.  Or go them, the fabulous filthy four people, not me obviously. I mean why would I?  Here they are though, for ease of reference.  Maybe a somewhat manic look in their eyes, but I don’t think the lay person could necessarily tell by looking just how suggestible they all are.  Maybe a hypnotherapist would know?  I must ask my carpet cleaner.  He did a weight-loss hypnotherapy group session and it was really good apparently, well worth the minor inconvenience of having to bring your own duvet.   Lost loads of weight with no effort since.  His insight on how it works is that hypnotherapists can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do anyway, but they can sort of help trigger the will power to do so.  Even so, it seems to me strange how this quartet was running but the person whose bright idea it was to demand such an offering was mysteriously ‘otherwise engaged’.  Definitely dark arts at work there somewhere.   Oh well, ours is not to reason why….

Filthy Foursome

I was going along for two times 10k, one on the Saturday and one on the Sunday, involving a boat, a steamer to be precise.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  As far as Saturday goes, the Lakeland Trails website blah de blah about this event says:

Lakeland Trails in Helvellyn, Saturday 14th October 2017

Starting and finishing at Jenkins Field (CA11 OUS), on the shores of Ullswater in Glenridding, the NEW! 5km Helvellyn Sport Trail, 10km Helvellyn Trail Run, 15km Helvellyn Trail Race and 15km Helvellyn Trail Challenge follow circuits along well marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways that take you into the foothills of Helvellyn, with elevated panoramic views of Ullswater, and dramatic vistas of Helvellyn and the surrounding peaks. Underfoot conditions are generally good for those used to off road running, but can be tricky in places.

A carnival atmosphere is guaranteed for both spectators and competitors, with live music, race commentary, food and drink all available at the start and finish. So, whether you’re new to trail running, an experienced athlete, or simply looking for an unforgettable day out in the Lake District, a family-friendly, festival atmosphere and some amazing trail running awaits you!

You can enter and find out more about each event here.

Fancy combining it with the Ullswater event the day after? You can enter the ‘Dirty Double’ weekend here.

Doesn’t that all sound lovely. But first things first.  Got to get to the start line from the dorm first of all.

sleep well

To be fair. The accommodation was good, even though there were eight of us to a dorm it is spacious, but I just don’t sleep well with other people in the room.  It’s not so much that I’m disturbed by then. Quite the opposite, I seem to spend the whole night in that half-awake half-asleep twilight zone fearing dropping off too deeply in case I snore like a train and wake everyone else up. I have been told on different occasions that I’m ‘completely silent’ and ‘oops, yep, bit noisy there to be honest’, so I suppose the truth is somewhere in between.  Even so, I’d hate to be driven out of the Smilies by secret ballot for anti social nocturnal habits not of my choosing.   Or worse yet, suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, manifested in averted eyes, spotting groups whispering in corners that fall silent as I pass. The shaking of heads, the pitying looks.  Smilies are too nice to be horrible to me because of any such failing, but I’d feel the burden of shame for having let everyone down. PBs missed because of collective sleep deprivation that was all my fault.  No wonder I can’t sleep in a dorm.  It’s a nightmare.  Ironically, because even with a nightmare you’d get some kip.

Then there’s the ‘I’m bound to need to get up for  a pee‘ angst, the horror of which was massively exacerbated by being a dorm with the squeakiest and bangiest door known to human kind. FACT.  Once I’ve had that thought, speaking personally, it is just a question of how long I can reasonably hold out before giving in to the inevitable.  I did have to get up in the night twice, and yes, it was just me.  I am clearly inadequate as a human being.  And even then there is the question of are you better off fumbling in the dark and risking even more banging about or falling over and on top of a slumbering running mate or do you risk sending a shaft of torch-light onto your dorm buddies even though the beam might cause them to recoil and vaporise into dust.  I decided not to take the risk.  I was quite near the door anyway, so that was OK.

Morning came, ready or not.  I gathered up my gear and forlornly looked at my TomTom which had chosen this day of all days to go blank.  It’s never done that before, and I stupidly hadn’t brought my charger with me as it only works through my laptop – which I also hadn’t bought) and I’d fully charged it before coming.  A hard lesson to learn.  Lovely smilies various did offer up tomtom chargers, but they seem to have new models, it was to no avail.  Tragedy. La la la la, it’s a tragedy. Etc.  Naked running for me this weekend then.

 

Amazingly, even though there was only two showers for a squillion people I managed to get one.  It was hot, but only a trickle, still, at least I turned up fresh at the start, I don’t know that everyone else did. It’s not good when you have to do a DIY sniff test in the event HQ field at the start.  Fortunately, we are all too polite and comradely to draw attention to any such miscreant behaviour at the time.  Much better to passive aggressively mention it in a blog post later on say, and make out that no-one else within the Smiley tribe has ever been guilty of such an act pre or post chosing of kit for a run.  I think so anyway, and I’m sure you have no reason to doubt me.  You can see I was particularly poker faced about the whole thing at the time.  Why would I lie after the event?

RW sniff test

The shower bit was a win, but the general trauma of having to navigate a multitude of micro human interaction on waking,  including breakfast was positively terrifying.  After a number of false starts and being thwarted by the enormous pillar which takes up about 50% of the floor space in the communal kitchen and yet lacks a sign to indicate which is the correct way to go round it (I begin to understand why roundabouts in the UK are so confusing to those who are not previously acquainted with them). Eventually I found a corner on a table near another shell-shocked looking Smiley who appeared to be manifesting a similar stress response to situation. We ‘no speaking or even eye contact pre my first cup of tea’ people intuitively can recognise and find each other.  We exchanged brief knowing looks and then sat in comfortable silence at opposite ends of the table ignoring one another. That true camaraderie when you need it.

Post tea and porridge, which was OK, but not as nice as at home in my own microwave in my own bowl, back to the dorm and communal decision making procedures regarding ‘what to wear’. Long sleever or short sleeve?  Will there be a water station (nope).  Shoes, which shoes?  An extra layer of interest was the inspection of a room buddy’s blister. It’s not so much a blister in the traditional sense, in that it exceeds the surface area of a conventional compeed plaster, the large ones.  It was such a significant expanse that a veritable collage of compeeds were required to cover the area. Think decoupage, or is it décolletage, I can never remember.  It was very impressive though. But that too threw up more potential for concern. What if the extent of the plastering makes the shoes too tight?  Nightmare. I may have been without my TomTom but at least my feet were currently unblistered.  Count what blessings you can people.  Take nothing for granted. Nothing I tell you.

After communal faffing had run its course, we started to head off for the morning. Well, those of us doing the 10k did, the others who’d opted for the 15km in the afternoon, well I’m not sure what they did, just didn’t I suppose.  Not until later.  They were probably still drinking gin, or maybe foam rollering, I have no idea.

It was ridiculously exciting walking down to the start.  It was unexpectedly warm, light drizzle made rainbows over head and it was just gorgeous.  This is an obscenely beautiful part of the world, it really, really is.  There was a lot of water, flooding threatening to lap across the road in place, picturesque scenes and distinctive characters along the way.  Also, some very well hung young rams.  You couldn’t really not notice to be fair.  Rather unusual colour too I thought.  The wool that is, not the sheep’s tackle, I wasn’t going in for that close an inspection. Fixing the ‘caution runners’ sign on a bus stop struck me as a cruel irony, but there you go.

We got to registration a bit after 9.45 I think (our race started at 11.00 a.m.).  The event HQ was all a bustle and very jolly in my view.  The location is absolutely stunning, with boats in the water, fantastic mountain views all around and shafts of light coming through dramatic clouds to light autumnal trees in vivid golds and oranges was like a wonderland.

There were boards with lists of runners, and a course outline, you had to find your number and then join the relevant queue.  We picked up numbers and were issued with ankle tags.  I wasn’t clever enough to work out how to put this on unaided.  To be fair, I think it did require training to become adept at this. Once you know it’s easy enough but it wasn’t obvious immediately.  Maybe it would be to those used to being electronically tagged but that didn’t apply to me. Also I have tiny ankles.  No I really do.  I just looked needy until someone offered assistance, by which I mean they did it for me. Thanks Cheetah buddy. Then minutes later I brazenly helped someone else with what I hoped was the sort of confident and authoritative approach that suggested I’d known all the time and was massively competent at this whole race prep malarkey.  Pretty sure I pulled that off.  She had to help  me pin my number on straight though, so I it seems I am still ‘work in progress’ regarding my safety-pin use NVQ.  One day I’ll get there maybe, if I really try to apply myself…

Numbers on, baggage dropped, there was plenty of time to go for an explore. There were lots of loos, but alas they were not quite like the luxury portaloos in attendance at the Sheffield TenTenTen last weekend.  At least one Smiley, who shall be nameless was horrified by them.  It is true, it was something of an act of faith to take a pew over the open-pit below, there was no discrete barrier between yourself and the effluent of a thousand previous runners.  You do have a somewhat irrational fear of falling in, but given I can hardly climb into a hoop these days it’s fairly low risk I’ll plummet down a toilet bowl.  Brilliant for the comedic value of hearing about the outrage of an exiting Smiley declaiming at inappropriate volume ‘never have I seen so much shit!  I have had to perform on someone elses shit! Can you believe the shit in there!’ and so on. Bit of a theme there.  I’m more of a half full person myself. At least we had the loos, and to be fair they were most definitely at least half full.  Still, it’s good that Smilies speak their mind, you know where you stand then don’t you? …  Or nervously squat depending on the context.

obligatory loo shot

 

It was pretty much idyllic if you stopped looking down the loos and instead took the time to look up at the sky.  A rainbow, absent Smiley smiling down on us we like to think 🙂

Absent friends

Naturally, the setting required lots of photos and the taking of a great many selfies, as well as asking for outside assistance for group shots.  Handily, the jauntily legged photographer was obligingly taking loads of awesome photos and happy to help us too.  He took this one of me.

smiley view point

At the time I was taking this picture I think:

DSCF9206

He wins with his shot.  Not only because it has the captivating image of a Smiley within it.  He got my best side too.  I have a feeling he may have taken photos before.  We got him to take one of me and Cheetah Buddy, contemplating the muddy road ahead, but that is still to come, meantime here is one my Dig Deep buddy took of us instead.

get a grip eh

Nice photography man James Jumpy Kirby also had the best leggings ever.  A bespoke item of couture that is genuinely unique. I had running kit envy I will admit. Still, it’s not a look everyone can carry off, so maybe the world has been spared the sight of me flaunting them in public.

Anyways, after our private photo shoot, he said he was seeking a smiley group shot, so I undertook to try to corral as many as I could.  It’s not an easy task, but I achieved moderate success.  Unbelievably, this picture is only half of us who went for the weekend.  It is quite extraordinary when you think about it, that 75 individuals would make the collective trip from Sheffield to Glen Ridding for this weekend away.  It makes my heart swell with pride to be part of this amazing group of women. Smiley Paces solidarity and support is remarkable, infectious and life-affirming.  Go Smilies indeed.  We can be a force for good in this world collectively, we really can. Or at least have a lot of laughs along the way, which amounts to the same thing.

VP milling

It is a rare thing indeed for me to be in a Smiley group shot, as usually I haven’t got back in time from the run to join the after snaps, so this picture makes me especially happy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then there was lots more chilling and milling and chatting and selfie taking as we made our own entertainment before the off.

As the starting time drew nearer the atmosphere built. There were drummers!

drummers drumming

Instant party, I’d have been up for strutting some funky stuff, but alas, didn’t realise the party was happening elsewhere until later. Still, there’s always next year I suppose….  I’ll know who to hang out with for the ‘dance like no one is watching‘ detail.   Happy to embrace being a part of that.   I really liked the drummers, I think they would be a boon at any event.  Note to self, must tell Round Sheffield Run people.  They can’t rest on their organisational laurels for ever.  A small army of drummers is clearly the way forward for future event village entertainment innovations.

party on

I’m not sure they should have been displaying this disinhibition quite so close to the baggage sign however. Bit of feedback for you for next time perhaps?

baggage

You’re welcome.

Eventually, the shout went us to get us to the start funnel, and there was a cheery count down to awf!

starting line up

It was fun yomping off across the grass. Music was playing, there were some supporters lining the route.  It was all very good-natured.  We yomped back on ourselves round the field, and then quick bolt across the road past waving marshals, and soon we were heading up hill. I don’t know why it is that I continue to be caught out ever single time I do an event by two particular things which are annoyingly commonplace, ubiquitous even. Firstly, you are expected to run! Right from the start.  No really you are.  And secondly, that it often necessitates running up hill.  Despite the alluring vision of the gorgeous mountains all around us, I still felt the element of surprise as the realisation dawned that we were being required to run up one of them.

I tried my best I really did. The surface under foot was quite hard for me.  I love my innov8 parkclaws but their cushioning is limited. The path was stones, and fractured rocks.   Often running with water.  Very little mud actually, and the first part was really a grit path.

One boon about a mass Smiley presence at an event, is that rather like rats in a city, you are never far from a Smiley on a run.  This is mostly fine, but it does mean you get caught out slacking rather quickly.  Quite a few overtook me early on, but I think I blagged it OK, but explaining I was just waiting for them to catch up with me so I knew they were ok and then I’d  let them get ahead a bit so I’d have something to chase. They are bound to have believed that line aren’t they?  A trusting lot Smilies, not infected with the bitter cynicism that generally infuses me.  I can use their good naturedness as cover for my dark inner soul, so that’s good.

The hill went up and up. One car cautiously pushed through down the road –  I think it was probably full of other runners going down to register for the afternoon race. They waved at us cheerily as they crept by.  I was naked running without my Tomtom so had no idea what was going on.  I don’t really think I look at my watch when I run, but I like to have it so I can see retrospectively the route and elevation.  However, I’d forgotten that my TomTom vibrates every mile, and that’s really good for knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you’ve still to go. It was weird having absolutely no idea of time or distance that had passed, especially on a completely unknown route.  Still, Smiley buddies in abundance helped rally the weak:

en route somewhere

There was lots to look at to distract me though. There was the cowbell ringing marshal, some random guests at a cottage en route, laughing in disbelief but cheering with enthusiasm as we sped (ahem) by.

One passer-by saw me slurping from my water bottle and thought I was having a drag on an e-cigarette mid race.  Not an easy mistake to make.  I think from his tone he was more impressed than judgemental to be fair!

Onward I went, trying not to be discouraged by sight of runners other side of gushing torrent of a stream, high up on the hill, snaking across the mountain side like a trail of soldier ants.

They looked amazing though, like a stretch of colourful bunting flags draped across the mountain side:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We carried on alongside a bulging stream that raged past in a positive torrent. Then over a little bridge and turning back, but along the steep and rocky mountain path.  It was very beautiful, but extremely wet.  Running water basically.  As I pushed onwards, cautiously, I met a fellow Smiley turning back as vertigo had got the better of her.  A DNF is always a sad, sad thing, but we had plenty of photos early on so that’s a run really is it not?  And a DNF is way better than a ‘fell off the cliff edge’ or ‘remains frozen to the spot on a mountain ledge three days later’ which are the alternative options as I understand it.

The really narrow steep bit had to be picked through at a walk.  This was companionable, as you could chit-chat a bit with other runners as you were practically stationary anyway.  I met again the nice lady I’d been talking to in the loo queue earlier.

Then there was the super friendly marshal with his hi-vis wearing sheep who was a personal favourite of mine going round. That’s really making an effort marshaling wise isn’t it?

high vis sheep

 

It was pretty steep to be fair. Some runners ahead were holding bits of bracken for reassurance as they crept along.  Not sure that having your fingertips gripping the end of a frond of bracken would offer much in the way of brakes in the event of a fall, but it seemed to bring psychological comfort, so that’s grand!  This runner looks like he was managing without hanging onto foliage as he ran, but you can see some of the lovely colours of the burnt orange autumnal bracken, and that’s the main thing.  Obvs.

burnt orange bracken

As I yomped onwards, alas I came upon a sorry sight.  Two of the fearsome filthy foursome smilies had abandoned their run and were with an injured participant. They were walking her down, trying to cheerily chat with her having got her nicely wrapped up in a foil blanket. She’d had a bad fall and rather spectacularly broken her wrist.  I offered help but was assured there wasn’t much I could do beyond making sure the marshals ahead were aware of what had happened, which they should have been already.  It did feel wrong leaving them, but logic dictated there was no point in me staying too.  It was a harsh reminder of the need to respect the environment, and how quickly you can get cold if you  do have to slow or stop.  I decided to concentrate a bit more and left off taking so many pictures until the terrain was a bit more predictable.

Marshals came and went, views were consistently spectacular and the wind picked up and dropped. Water continued to gush from everywhere, like running across the deck of a sinking ship maybe… bolts flying out of the wood as the water pressure builds and the boards awash with white water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Ahead of me other running buddies were also pausing for selfies and nearly stepping backwards off the edge – how I laughed!  I shouldn’t really can end badly like that poor student at the Seven Sisters cliff edge the other week…  I did offer to take a photo for them too, before skipping onward myself, past the teasingly positioned bench placed at a handy view-point, daring any runner to stop and soak up the scene in favour or running onwards….

selfie buddies

Finally we started to descend. There was a brief interlude along a nice bit of woodland track before ae tell-tale but appreciated ‘Smile’ sign so you know what’s coming.

Quick pause to hoik my knickers and put my camera away so I could look ‘natural’ running round the corner and into frame …  I think I cracked it.  It’s all too easy for the shallow, ignorant and ill-informed to ridicule the running style of others.  I find levitating the more challenging sections of terrain reduces the chance of concussion related running injuries.  I do concede looking around seven years old as a consequence is an unfortunate side effect, but we runners are prepared to make sacrifices to achieve results.  Just so you know:

LT me levitating again

Whilst I went for the nonchalant and unaffected running look, others with more exhibitionist tendencies shamelessly played to the camera. There were a few contenders for the ‘seen a photographer’ award but these are my personal favourites.  I particularly like the departure from convention with the jumping with poles shot, the artistic challenge to conventional boundaries in personal space where the guy leans in to the photographer daring him to hold his nerve and the team shot. Glorious. Bravo all of you, and thanks to everyone who made the effort on the day.  Was great fun choosing my favourites, a fact which I’m sure will please you one day, if you ever get to give it even a moment’s thought in passing.

Obviously, Smiley Club members were all hard-core runners speeding by with awesome running form. Look at them go. It is a fact doing jazz hands makes you go faster, so does smiling and waving, that’s why we are all so awesome in our running performances:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Run shots secured, the end of the run came quickly.  More cheery marshals and we were onto a section of road.

Up until this point I’d been running with two other women who I’d assumed to be friends what with their raucous laughter and joint selfie taking on the way round (women after my own heart).  However, as soon as we got onto the rough tarmac, one runner shot ahead abandoning her running buddy entirely calling out by way of explanation  ‘she’s a pain in the neck‘ as she did so.  I was shocked, and looked it. I mean only minutes earlier we were all looking out for each other – she even alerted me to the fact I’d got a bit of mud on my legs going round at one point.  That was sporting.

DSCF9350

She repeated ‘she’s a pin in her leg’ it means I stay with her when the ground’s uneven but she’ll be Ok now’.  Oh Ok. That made more sense.  We all found our own rhythm and were soon separated once again.

There followed a bit of road running, never my forte, but I had to abandon all hope of slacking off as I espied woodrun leaders walking in nonchalantly.  The more naive Smiley may have thought they were there to offer support, and indeed they attempted to support this cover story by clapping and cheering as I passed – but I suspect we woodrunners were just under surveillance.  Those accelerate spies are everywhere!

DSCF9324

A band of other Smilies were along the path and lined up to give me a high-five en masse.  Love Smilies.  They were horrified that I wanted to stop and photograph them afterwards though. Different priorities I suppose…

Suddenly the end was in sight. over the road, down the tunnel of innovate flags, arms outstretched for a glorious finish..,

RW me running in

What a misdirection of effort that was!  It wasn’t the finish at all, we were made to do an extra keyhole shaped loop round the field and back on ourselves which nearly ruddy killed me. I had to hide briefly behind the tree at the far point so I could get my breath back before coming back round to the finish tunnel.  I think I got away with it, phew…  That was a nasty surprise though.  I thought the hill at the end of the Wingerworth Wobble was bad, but at least we were forewarned about that! This was finish route by subterfuge.  Not good!

Oh well, it was worth it, cheered in, and into the arms of welcoming marshals to relieve you of your tag and placate you with a T-shirt.  It was green this time, different for each race.  This is an acceptable colour I think, though I have a great many race T-shirts I’ve never been brave enough to wear in public due to their fluorescent overtones. The lime green Sheffield Half T-shirt being particularly vile even amongst the vile.  TenTenTen from 2016 is probably the best.

Into the tent to get my bag and jumper and there to my surprise and delight I encountered the two saviour smilies who’d walked down with the fallen.

DSCF9332

They’d pretty much had to come the whole way down, but then were able to race to finish.  TEchnically not the intended route, but well deserved.  Hurrah!  No need to write an article for Runner’s World explaining why methinks. I was delighted because I was worried they’d still be stuck out there waiting for mountain rescue and miss out on the chance to belt round the Filthy Four.  They were in surprisingly good spirits, so that was fine.

RW smiley saviours

I commiserated with them that they maybe hadn’t had the race they’d wished for.  This got onto the topic of ‘really annoying things other people do at races’.  Apparently, one of the worst things for one of these two, is someone running with loose change in their pockets, jingling away.  Capital offence at least in terms of its annoyingness.  This neatly segued into my suggestion of cheering the mood by indulging in ‘fantasy rage scenarios’ i.e. when you fondly imagine what you would have done if only it were possible, socially acceptable and/or legal.  Or at the very least you thought you’d get away with it undiscovered.  To my extreme disappointment, they initially misjudged my suggestion, taking it to be the altogether nicer ‘let’s change the subject’ and talk of ‘Fantasy Race Scenarios’.  As if that would be any good when you need to allow a fellow human being the catharsis of expressing their rage. Besides, we already have a fantasy race in the form of the aforementioned Round Sheffield Run – though even that could be improved with more unicorns and rainbows (which I’ve fed back every year to a wall of silence) and the attendance of a band of drummers.   I soon put her right, and we had a great time thinking of appropriate ways to act out ire.  It’s not appropriate to go into them all here, but the notion that loose change in a pocket might spontaneously heat up into liquid metal, run down the legs and reform into an ankle shackles was pleasing.  It would have the added bonus of preventing offenders from running onwards, so very practical also.  I was very glad to be able to drag down my fellow smilies to my pond life levels of social interaction.   My work is done.

By now I was feeling the cold, so I just cheered a few last runners in, and then began the walk home with two of my car share buddies.   We were in dire need of coffee, but decided to walk towards the Youth hostel to find some, rather than get further away into town where to be fair the options were much better but it would take longer to get back and changed.  The options weren’t many, but we found a post office come shop that sold pretty much everything, including surprisingly serviceable coffee, which you bought in the store and sat and drank in a sort of converted garage space next door.  Not the most salubrious of surroundings but acceptable all the same.

Coffee drunk, back to the hostel where we cleaned off our shoes and left them in the ironically titled drying room. To be fair it was warm in there, but nothing really seemed to dry. I suppose it was a tall order given the number of soaked items of footwear festooned around.  Enough to cure a shoe fetishist by sensory overload surely?

KH shoes

I was very glad of a hot shower whether just a dribble or not.  Lunch was bread and cheese and peanut butter yum. Then a snooze, pleasantly interrupted at intervals by returning smilies who could regale me with their adventures from the day.  There may have been a little bit of opportunistic T-shirt stroking as well now I come to think of it.  Well, it was a Les Brutelles one, you have to don’t you?

T shirt covetousness

In the evening it was one mass communal meal.  A practical option, if not the most inspired of menus.  Then there was chatting, sharing stories and general spreading of Smiley good will.  I opted for an earlyish night and dorm chats like a sleepover for grown ups, others revelled through to the small hours having come supplied. And quite right too!  I’m sure gin counts as a carb, and carbing up was needed if you were doing it all again come the morrow.

food for weekend

So that was it for Saturday.  For the morning runners anyway.  Other runners were available, there was a veritable plague of Smilies out on them there hills at times!  Even with some disguising themselves in mufti, we were still a force to be reckoned with, although thankfully a benign one in the main.

I’m not really fussed about times but full 2017 Helvellyn results are here for those of you who mind about or even notice such details.

Oh, and as for the route?  Well, as you know I had an epic fail where route recording is concerned so I’ve had to steal a Strava screen shot from a woodrun buddy – frankly from my point of view it’s  probably a blessing not to have my noticeably less impressive rendering of the route posted on-line for posterity.  Hopefully casual readers will assume this is me. Massively improving my running recently.  Inspirational stuff even.  Go me!  Don’t let on dear reader, please don’t…

Helvellyn route Lakes Dirty Double

It was actually a bit short of 10k, coming in at 5.3 miles (don’t know what that is in kilometers and can’t be bothered to google it) with 1,074 ft of elevation. So now you know.

Run one down.  And  you know what. It was glorious.  Tomorrow, you get to do it all again.  Fabulousness upon fabulousness, how lucky are we.

So exciting.

So well done Smiley Buddies one and all.  This going en masse to the Lakes malarkey is a very fine thing indeed.   How lucky are we to have one who moves amongst us willing to put in the work to make it so.  Smiley Magic Maker – we salute you!

Smiley magic maker

Who knows what tomorrow may bring… patience people, the time will come!

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And so it began … venturing into the unknown departing to join the Dirty Double

Digested Read:  This weekend, a whole load of Smiley Paces Awesomeness decamped to the Lake District for a weekend running the Lakeland Trails.  Packing was a nightmare.   I got a lift up with four Smiley comrades.  Our very own road trip.   It took a lot of faffing to get us all there, but we made it.  Yay!  Youth Hostels are a lot nicer than I remembered.  The sun does not always shine in the lake district.  Who knew?

lakeland trails logo

The longest journey starts with just a single step. That’s how the saying goes. I suppose technically that’s true, you can’t really argue with the literal interpretation of that, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Case in point.  The Smiley Paces annual outing to the Lakes.  The origins of why this trip are largely lost in history, but a brief excursion into  the archeological records of the Smiley Facebook page suggest it had a lot to do with a scouting party of Smilies spontaneously heading to the Lakes some years ago, having a lot of running-related fun and deciding to share the love by bringing a whole load more smilies in their wake the following year.  A lot of prosecco was drunk too, which probably helped, until to a raucous chorus of ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ the seed of an idea that ultimately led to the birth of the annual Smiley Trip to the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double Lakes trip was born.  The rest as they say, is history.  Or more accurately the stuff of legend.

We Smiley Paces folk are fortunate in that we are blessed with a logistical genius who can make things so.   Hence, for the past couple of years Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s running club have decamped en masse to the land of the lakes where the sun always shines, to take part in the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend of running related fun around Helvellyn and Ullswater.  Basically, there are two runs on each day, a morning 10k and an afternoon 14k or 15k depending on the day.  You can run just one race if you want, but why not do one on each day and sign up for the Dirty Double Delight of getting soaked on two consecutive days?  Alternatively you could be a really hard-core pumped up Smiley and request the opportunity to do the Filthy Four and enter all of them. If you are going to do that, it’s a brilliant strategy to commandeer a whole load of other Smilies to join in too, and then drop out at the last-minute on some unexpected and/or handy pretext such as a child’s birthday (your own offspring’s not some random other child) or perhaps a broken foot.  Inexplicably, whilst the Dirty Double already has a link to it live on the Lakeland Trail website multiple entries info for 2018, the Filthy Foursome doesn’t appear to get a mention.  A Smiley Special offering it seems.  I wonder why?

On the Sunday, you get to take a boat to the start, only you don’t because it keeps being cancelled due to high winds and torrential rain.  Apparently last year it was when the event HQ marquee blew away from its moorings and tumbled off into Ullswater that participants had to concede hope over experience can only get you so far and no ferries were going anywhere, still, there’s always next year eh?  Or as it’s now next year, this.  (Keep up).

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make, is the weekend finally dawned. The 2017 Lakeland Trails Dirty Double (and Filthy Four) main event, and we Smilies were heading out if not exactly in convoy, then as moths to a flame or trail runners to mud.  We were coming to Glenridding whether the events organisers were ready or not!  The numbers have swelled over time as Smilies are a collegiate lot who like to share the love, and from just a half-dozen or so the first year, the group became 40+ last year – booking out the whole of Patterdale Youth Hostel for the occasion last year to a positive bulge of seventy-five Smilies hoping to get there in 2017. The YHA was once again booked out for our exclusive use,  the were races entered, the prosecco was bought, the event was on.   Yay!

patterdale-youth-hostel

We’re all going on a running holiday
Lots of running for a day or two.
Fun and laughter on our running holiday,
No more worries for me or you,
For a day or two.

We’re going where the sun shines brightly
We’re going where the lakes are blue.
We’ve all seen it on Facebook posts,
Now let’s see if it’s true.

Every runner wants a running holiday
Doin’ runs they always wanted to
So we’re going on a Smiley holiday,
To make our running dreams come true
For me and you.
For me and you.

So, obviously, I didn’t want to miss out.  In the euphoria of coming back from the last trip, participants conveniently forgot all about the torrential horizontal rain, brushes with hypothermia and ending up in A&E parts of the collective Smiley excursion.  Rather they regaled us with tales of shared laughter, joyful scenery and bonding in front of an open fire amidst a veritable upturned bottle bank of empty and ongoing prosecco receptacles.  Great!  You have to admire and embrace the optimism and celebratory qualities of fellow Smilies, but sometimes you do also need to contextualize it with the visual evidence to the contrary.  Not that hope over experience isn’t lovely, but a bit of triangulation of the evidence can help to manage expectations, that’s all I’m saying.

Clearly, I’m shallow and susceptible to peer pressure so signed up for this 2017 sojourn at the first possible opportunity.   Yes, we’d have to share a dorm, but hey ho, I’m a grown up it’ll be fine.  It’s only two little 10ks it’ll be lovely.  I’ll just throw my running gear into a little bag with my tooth-brush and a clean pair of knickers and away I go.  Travelling light, leaving nothing but footprints, taking nothing but photos.

Oh. My.  Gawd!  Do you have any idea how much stress is involved in packing for a two-day running trip? I am in the midst of moving house and I swear that I got way more stressed sorting myself for the Dirty Double outing than I am over moving or when I had to pack for a three-month trip to Cambodia.  It’s a nightmare I tell you.  How on earth people manage to pack kit for a triathlon overseas I have no idea.  I was thinking of becoming a professional sports personality, but it’s just not worth the bother of trying to qualify for the GB team (other teams are available) unless you have staff to do your packing, logistics and kit for you.  Make your own choices, I can only speak from my own personal experience, but whilst the trip was most definitely worth the effort, it was most angsty preparing for it.

There’s the what to wear aspect.  Two days running in potentially foul weather means a lot of kit. Then you are going to get your shoes full of water so that means two sets of shoes potentially. I knew almost intuitively trail shoes were to be order of day. Well, I say trail shoes, but maybe fell?  Oh gawd…  These runners are fell over a lot on the terrain earlier in the year, so that would suggest fell might be best?

Trail shoes suggested

No shoes in the youth hostel so you need slippers for inside and ‘normal’ shoes for when not running. Then warm clothes because the lakes are cold, and wet weather gear because it always rains in the Lakes whatever unlikely tale last year’s graduates may have tried to spin. Then there was the kit requirements for Ullswater:

Mandatory Kit List – Cagoule, tights or over trousers, hat and gloves. The Ullswater Trail is unique and follows one of the most beautiful lakeside trails in the UK. Access is difficult for a large section of the route, and safety teams can only reach it by boat. For this reason, we have a mandatory safety kit list which you must bring with you (wearing or carrying). This will be checked before you board the Steamer, and we will be running spot checks at the finish.

Upshot was I did not travel light.  I pretty much emptied my entire running wardrobe into a squishy sports bag and then wore every other item of clothing I possess in a futile attempt to make it look like I had less stuff than I did, like some people do to avoid paying luggage excess before flying.  It remains a mystery to me that I can still expect on pretty much any trip I undertake not to use half the stuff I’ve brought with me and yet still have ommited to bring one or two items of crucial significance. This weekend amongst those items on the latter list was the charger for my TomTom.  Oh well, we live and we (sometimes) learn.

Then there was the minefield of collective catering.  What to bring?  Enough for the occupants of your car?  Enough for your dorm allocation?  Enough for all Smilies in attendance?  Enough for all smilies everywhere, past, present and still to come?   Yes, that, the last one, and a bit extra ‘just in case’.  Tell you what, feeding five thousand barely registers as food provision in Smiley terms, collectively we could feed the world!  What about nightwear? Oh my gawd, I forgot that. And then you’ll need to change after running.

My only consolation was that fevered messages were exchanged by others too.  Well I say consolation, but in many ways it also created further potential for angst as I thought of new things to stress about.  Someone suggested a bike would be a boon as it’s about a mile and a bit from the start to the hostel, and if you are doing lots of trips that saves a lot of walking.  Then there was the reminder that at Patterdale Youth Hostel there is no wifi and no phone signal?  ‘I’ll have to pack carrier pigeons as well now’, I thought, and yet in my heart of hearts I knew that 2 hours pre departure time there was insufficient time to source such birds, let alone train them.  My favourite post though was the plea for someone to lend them an extra Smiley Vest as they were doing multiple runs and were worried about their pong quotient exceeding acceptable levels if they had to wear the same top throughout.  Of course lovely smilies offered up a multitude of tops to borrow, but one wryly observed this request would never in a million years have been posted by members of her other running group.  Hard core, out of the peat Dark Peak Runners who can run in shorts through ice and snow-covered peaks aren’t going to let whiffy kit scare them on a weekend away.  That made me laugh.  A lot. So true.  Smilies are hard-core runners too of course, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate wearing kit that’s come laundry fresh straight from an intensive sport cycle on the washing machine if we are about to tackle vertiginous terrain!

The countdown to Dirty Double Departure day included regular updates from the Lakeland Trails Facebook Page.  Although this included handy stuff about starting lists it also alerted us to the possibility of, well let’s just say ‘inclement weather’ shall we.  Here was the parking field a couple of days out. Ooops.

parking plan

But we didn’t need to rely on them to tell us what was happening. The BBC was also obligingly keeping us up to date.  Well, this is a Smiley escapade we are talking about, what could be more newsworthy and in the national interest than making sure we were all up to speed with the potential running conditions in the Lakes?

cumbria flooding

To be honest, it was a bit like the relief of exam day when Friday finally dawned, and it was too late to do any last-minute purchasing or packing adjustments!

My cheetah smiley buddy had offered to drive.  Not only that, but she’d worked out a logistics timetable for pickups.  She arrived at mine to the minute, having even rung (hands free) en route to let me know she was on schedule.  I mean you can’t buy that sort of attention to detail.  So it was, five of us were all a-jolly in the car and off to Patterdale by 1.30 on Friday afternoon.   Food in the car boot, squidgy bags in the roof box, and away we went.

We were soon off doing our very own road trip. Exactly like Thelma and Louise, except that we were five people not two, and there was no sexual assault or murder en route and we didn’t have to drive off a cliff edge as a finale. But otherwise identical – oh apart from the weather.  Our road trip was less desert dust and cloudless skies and more horizontal rain.  So basically same same.

017-thelma-and-louise-theredlist

Smiley catch up was mandatory of course.  De-brief of the contents of every food bag.  Detailed cross comparison of packing choices.  Speculation about the weekend ahead. That kind of thing.  A micro adventure.  One of our party wanted to stop to stock up on further provisions.  ‘Only if there’s a waitrose or M&S en route‘ because we have our Smiley standards it seems.   Even more  hilariously, there was! One of the service stations had an M&S food outlet so we all decamped and got emergency rations that we suddenly realised we wouldn’t be able to manage without like honey roasted cashew nuts, that kind of thing. Well, they weren’t just honey roasted and salted cashew nuts…. as the advertising slogan reminds us!

We left Sheffield in glorious sunshine.

The weather worsened en route.  Here are some scenic shots along the way:

Despite the weather, we did get the occasional glimpse of the surrounding scenery and it did look super awesome.  I can’t lie, I wasn’t over enamoured at the thought of running not only in torrential rain, but essentially through flooded rivers throughout, but I was comforted that I’d be doing so with a veritable Smiley army of compatriots, plus wet water running is really hard-core, so extra kudos would offer some compensation.   It was a pretty smooth drive up all things considered, apart from the last couple of twisty, turny miles which made me regress to being a carsick child in the back seat of the family cortina.  Why haven’t I outgrown carsickness?  It’s not fair!

Our route took as part the race start, and then just over a mile up the road – and a manageable walk meaning we’d avoid the nightmare of lack of parking and shuttle buses from Penrith entirely by being able to companionable amble down to the races each morning and afternoon.  Handy indeed.  I mean, it’s very impressive (no it really is) that the Lakeland Trail organisers had such an effective wet weather contingency plan, but that would be a whole new level of angsty faff to add to my neuroses, and that I am very glad to have avoided.  Big buses aren’t they? I think I’d definitely have heaved in one of them on the windy roads.

shuttle bus

Finally, we were there! YHA Patterdale!  It is pretty impressive. HUGE.  We disgorged from the car and padded across the entrance….

I was so glad to be heading in to an actual building. The camping fantasy is all well and good, but really, would you?

DSCF9155

We kicked off our feet as we entered and found it all brilliantly organised within. There were lists of who was in what dorm.  A fantastic communal area with enormous squidgy arm chairs and a roaring fire. The kitchen was miniscule, and soon over-flowing with Smiley tuck bags.  The dorms were simple but spacious and everywhere was immaculately clean.  It was also incredibly and unexpectedly hot. Every radiator was blasting out heat.  That I did not expect.  Youth Hostels have evolved a lot from the grim austere dorms I remember from my youth.  Not that I stayed in them very often, but the memory of communal cleaning and the horrors of huge dorms lives with me still.

I was quite excited to find myself in a dorm with predominately woodrun folk.  Who are not to be confused with woodcraft folk which is something else entirely, nor folk dancing which is also a different skill set altogether.  I have been inwardly speculating for some time how our Smiley leader arrived at her final lists for dorm allocations. Does she pick names from a hat? Does she randomly allocate by numbering off room numbers against an alphabetical list?  I think not. My current favoured scenario, is that she operates from a sort of subterranean bat cave, and has a huge wall of glass on which she draws colourful overlapping circles to create a flowing montage of Venn diagrams. Like they do in contemporary detective dramas when they are trying to be all high-tech.  There would be a circle for woodrunners; another for triathletes; snorers would have their own sub circle somewhere and so on.  She’d overlay this diagram with one of the dorms and then using some sort of statistical fairy dust arrive at a ‘best case’ matching scenario to ensure no-one is left all alone with no special friend to hang out with, but all also get the chance to make new friends too.

glass board

I’ve since had some inside information on this, and it seems that – other than the subterranean bit – I was way out. She actually operates from an underground military bunker.  She has a huge map of the destination, and a variety of shaped elastoline (or plastic) figurines, and then she pushes the figures around using those little rectangular ended sticks.  Whatever strategy it is, it seems to work. Respect for that.

We did some milling and loitering. Poking the fire and sharing anticipatory excitement angst with other Smilies that had also just arrived. The Youth Hostel is pretty amazing, my photos don’t really do it justice:

The views were just amazing. Hang on, I’ll steal photos from someone else with better photographic skills:

CF hostel view

and the hostel was pretty swish too:

There you go…  I’ll do my best getting some photos for you by way of illustration, but you need to appreciate there’s a lot of photos to sort through you know. It’s not like the olden days when you waited four weeks and then got your 12 bonus print shots back from the printer with stickers on them telling you they were blurred or over-exposed because you were a failure as a camera operative. Those were the good old days when you didn’t really have to choose between photos because there was only one useable offering worthy of retention let alone display. Nowadays in this digital age there are thousands. What’s a blogger to do? You have no idea how I suffer for my questionable art. …. no idea at all.  How could you.  If you saw how exorcised I was trying to pick out my most suitable pair of running socks to take with me to the lakes when they are even the same make just at different stages of wear and tear, then you might get some small insight into the paralysing effects of being faced with thousands of alternative Smiley sourced photos from which to choose.  It’s hard being me. It really is. To be fair knowing me or hanging out with me is even harder, but at least people in those categories don’t have to do so 24/7.

Never mind, whilst I was hobnobbing with the sofa set, my more selfless and community minded traveling companions were whipping up a fabulous meal.  Choice of vegetarian or meat chilli, pasta, salad followed by cake. We even had vinaigrette dressing and parmesan cheese (not on the cake, that would be stupid).  I may have no aptitude for catering, but I clearly have considerable aptitude for tagging along with Smilies who do. It may be parasitic but at least I was appreciative, so that’s practically symbiosis. They do all the work, but I thank them for it.  They gain kudos and appreciation in return.  It might not sound quite fair and balanced to the untrained outsider, but I’m sure it must be, otherwise what would that make me?  Anyways, it was all very delicious.  And very civilised. Left to my own devices I might have had the wit to bring a sandwich with me, or possibly I’d rustle up something vegan and dubious using only the mould scraped off the interior walls and moss from the outside.  It might have been innovative even, if not actually palatable, but we’ll never know.  I did bring yorkshire tea bags along though, so that was something by way of contribution.

So there we are, Smilies all a gathering on a Friday night all set for a weekend of running adventures ahead. Who knew what the morrow would bring?

The anticipation is exciting, isn’t it! Eek.

Spoiler alert – some of what it brung is this lot:

Good eh?

🙂

For all my Lakeland Trails related posts, click here and scroll down for older entries.

Categories: off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The power of ten – TenTenTen 2017

Digested read:  It was the TenTenTen last Sunday.  The quintessential Sheffield Trail 10k no less.  I went.  I ran (sort of) it was very nice thank you for asking.  There were some moment of high drama like when the toilets didn’t materialise but crisis was averted, bladder infections avoided and all’s well that ends well.  For those that lingered there were extra bananas!  What’s not to like. Are you coming same time next year? Do so, you won’t regret it.

Is the re-writing of history ever completely innocuous?  I don’t honestly know, but it certainly seems to be the case that ‘facts’ are often evolving and fluid and not as nailed down as some might choose to believe.  Case in point. I thought (knew even), that the 101010 was so called, because the inaugural event took place on 10th October 2010. So in a genius bit of race naming, the TenTenTen was born.  (You can see what they’ve done there 10/10/10, smart eh?).  Hurrah!

tententen logo

It may have been genius, but it was unfortunately short-sighted genius, as what was a rousing and apt name choice in 2010, lost some of its relevance when you get to 2011 and beyond. This is harsh, as the very success of the event, and its longevity, made the naming of it potentially problematic.  No worries, just a little tweak of history, and now the accepted wisdom has become ‘well, it’s a 10k, and it takes place in October (tenth month everyone, keep up) and it always starts at 10.00 a.m. so hence TenTenTen!  Voila!’  I accept it is the prerogative of race/run organisers everywhere to name races as they choose, but it does mess with my head a bit.  I have now heard disbelief from others as I state my recollection of the origins of this classic Sheffield trail run.  Is that how easy it is to reframe history?  We should all be scared.  Just saying.

Even with this factual re-write, the name is confusing to some.  It’s a problem with a lot of runs round here that unless you’ve experienced them the name doesn’t immediately communicate what they are.  Trunce anyone?  Dark and White series? I rest my case.  Only last night I met a friend who was really impressed I’d done the 101010 (and rather surprised) as she’d thought it was called the TenTenTen because you run 10k three times. Three times!  I ask you. Blimey, imagine doing 6 laps from Endcliffe park to get to the 30k, diminishing fun quotient I feel.   Though I did like the marshal who on lap two was proclaiming ‘8 more laps to go’ insisting it is a ten lap course, hence it’s nomenclature.  The possibilities for interpretation are seemingly endless.  More so if I understood binary numbering systems.  It’s probably computer code for something even more mysterious if I but only knew…

In any event, we can all agree that it is a 10k run, it started in 2010 and has become a (hopefully) permanent fixture since.  Another from the kandoo stables of event conjury, it is described as ‘the quintessential 10k running race‘ this tag line makes me happy.  ‘Quintessential’ is a fine adjective that gets not nearly enough exposure.  It makes  me love the event even more.  For those of you not in the know, the TenTenTen website blah de blah describes the event as follows:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?

It’s an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event has a great atmosphere, and is well supported. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name!

Who is it for?

This is an all-inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak up the atmosphere and support. 

The Course

The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. It’s not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. It’s a really balanced mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun

So for the record, the official line seems to be that the naming of the TenTenTen is a indeed a reference to its historical origins, and those who spin other truths risk being branded purveyors of fake news, and that never ends well.  The Kandoo team is very good at organising running events, but I wouldn’t necessarily have them at as the headline act topping the bill at an international comedy festival say. The name is novel, but not really side-splittingly hilarious to be fair.  Perhaps funny-peculiar rather than funny ha-ha? They do have a sense of humour though, they must have to have initiated the doggy dash amongst other innovations.  Plus all running events are inherently hilarious. So all is not lost. Well, I think they are anyway.  On a personal level I sure as hell don’t participate in any running endeavour to experience individual sporting glory, but rather for the intrinsic merriment of what is essentially a pointless collective endeavour.  It is completely illogical and ridiculous to just run round in two big circles for no particular reason if you stop to think about it.  But you mustn’t stop, because then it wouldn’t bea  10k run.  That’s not to say there aren’t members of the sporting elite at these events, only that the race caters for both ends of the running spectrum.  If my experience is anything to go by, they are genuinely inclusive and celebrate the social side of running whilst applauding and rewarding running excellence as well.  Quite an organisational coup to pull off I’d say.  It all takes place starting in Endcliffe Park.  Here is the park looking lovely, before the event village made camp, thereafter it still looked lovely, but in a very different way.

ten calm endcliffe

By the way, one of the attention to detail things they typically do is to make TenTenTen run photos freely available via their Facebook page, but request that if you use them, you make a donation to their nominated charity  The photos are always excellent and pop up on profile pages everywhere, so here’s hoping if you enjoy them, you’ll be minded to make a contribution too.  It’s not so very much to ask, as the organisers put it …

Some inspiring Finish pics from Race Image Photography – Ian has very kindly decided to donate his photography fee to Weston Park Cancer Charity If you do end up using your pics do consider a small donation www.justgiving.com/tententen2017 Photos also supplied by True Glass Photography and Ben Lumley Photography

So there were plenty of snappers on hand for runners to direct their ‘seen a photographer face’ at.  Always a boon.  This is my favourite photo of the day by the way:

ten hill fun VHR

I’m guessing swift up that hill but I’m thinking fractionally slow on the uptake in spotting the paparazzi, but the result is a gift to us all in the form of this photo that is a joy to behold.  So can we have a shout out to all the photographers on the day for fabulous photographing throughout?  I thank you.

That might be my favourite photo of the day, but this was my favourite sight:

beautiful sight indeed

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate a thing until you think it has been taken away from you.  More of this later.

I will out myself now. I do have a bit of a soft spot for the TenTenTen.  When I first moved to Sheffield as a complete non-runner (as opposed to the pretend runner I pass myself off as currently), I saw signs for the forthcoming 10k trail run and marveled that people did such a thing and hankered after being able to do such a seemingly impossible thing myself one day too.  On the day itself, it was torrential rain, really, a lot of water out there.  All coming out the sky (unsurprisingly) and bouncing back at ya from the ground as well.  I happened to see my bedraggled next door neighbour returning from having run it sporting his bling and looking hardcore.  I was very impressed. Six miles running on a trail in that was clearly not for the faint hearted.  Fast forward, and it still seems extraordinary to me that I can now count myself as one of its participants. I’ve only run it a couple of times, and last year volunteered in return for a free place this time round (an enjoyable option if you fancy a year off or can’t run because injured some time). Through volunteering I made two new friends and so sourced some outstanding running buddies, and you can never have too many of them.  However, the event has a symbolism that goes beyond what it is, which is a basically a very nice 10k trail in two laps from Endcliffe park. As I could in theory at least run that any time, it’s appeal is perhaps a bit disproportionate, but it is the camaraderie and added value that being able to access a proper coffee and pizza wedge afterwards that elevates the event beyond the ordinary.  I was looking forward to it.

Well,  I was looking forwards to it, and then the unthinkable happened.  Not in this instance the realisation that I’d be expected to run.  But when I had my pre-event peak at Facebook in case of any updates I saw this:

Morning guys – we have a bit of an issue this morning – our toilets have been cancelled on us at 3am this morning! As a result there are very limited toilets onsite – we are trying to rectify the problem quickly!
Please try and arrive Having done your business! Please bear with us!

ten loo alert

They tried to ease the pain with a nice photo, but really.  It was all very well saying ‘fingers crossed’ it’ll be sorted, but I had visions of having to run the whole event with my legs crossed!  That was my whole pre-race ritual out of the window.  I must have a multitude of precautionary pees before any organised event.  This was bad.  I imagine though, my horror, was as nothing to that of the organisers.  What good is a 3 a.m. cancellation to anyone. Co-incidentally, that is about the time that always wake spontaneously for my night-time pee.  We must all be synchronised to do so across the land, if this is when cancellation emails are sent and received.

I’ve no idea how they got it sorted, but amazingly they did.  An hour later, new loos were in situ.  Not just any loos, but luxury ones with fluffy white hand towels, gold-plated taps and a spa whirlpool annexe round the back.  (Not really, but it was such a joy to behold them, they may as well have done).

luxury loo

Presumably Mr Kandoo has a batphone link to emergency toilet purveyors. I suppose they get helicoptered (or bat-dropped) in on demand if you have the right contacts.  I so wish I did, that would be such a boon at events when you are desperate for the loo and there is ne’er a toilet cubicle in sight.  Mind you, I can’t help but think if they had gone ahead with the Doggy Dash plan (doggy run as a prelude to the main event), then most people present would have come with a supply of poop bags for their canines and incontinence products for themselves as a precautionary measure in case they wet themselves with either fear or laughter during the K9 run proceedings.  This has all been documented previously..  In that case the lack of loos would have been less of an issue as runners would have been prepared. Just some helpful feedback for the race team to take on board there.

Even so, I would welcome that as a super power quite frankly, the ability to conjure up a loo any time, any place, anywhere.  Would be great if you could extend it to introducing sanitation into areas of the world where there is none, I wouldn’t only use it out of narrow self-interest, though I can’t lie, I’d probably do that too.

helicopter portaloo drop

I decided against an early show at Endcliffe Park, delaying departure as long as possible.  I’d picked up my number in advance from Front Runner anyways so no particular need to go early other than to queue up perpetually for the loos.  Once a Facebook update indicated the problem was sorted, I ambled down.

It was a glorious running day, perfect autumnal weather.  No rain, cool but a little promise of sunshine to come perhaps.  It was fun walking down and enjoying the familiar rituals of the event, the ‘road closed’ signs and coned off entrance to Bingham park ahead of The Hill.

 

Better yet there were familiar faces in their expected marshaling points.  This particular marshal pretty much owns this mini-roundabout.  It wouldn’t be the TenTenTen without her in place.  Apparently this marshalling  post requires someone arsey, gobby and with a voice like a fog-horn who is not to be messed with with excellent leadership and negotiation skills as it can be a bit challenging being situated where the road is blocked off.  Fortunately, cometh the hour, cometh the woman who can. Shout out to one of our very own Sheffield Hallam parkrun run directors and volunteer par excellence strutting her funky stuff.  We who are about to run salute you!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then you start to encounter the first of many red arrows – not quite as exciting as I first thought to be fair, being more earth-bound than flight bound, but nevertheless, leading the way.

 

As I went through the park, I met with the first of the 2.5km fun runners.  I had a bit of a pang that I was missing Graves junior parkrun today, but this was almost as good.  Some of the young runners really do sprint by, but there were a few merrily making their way with miscellaneous adults in tow which was quite sweet.  And I was delighted to spot a Smiley out and about so soon as well. Go Smilies!  I didn’t think the adults on bikes was entirely sporting, but then again, you have to stay ahead/ keep up with those speeding juniors somehow!

 

I missed the communal warm up for the junior event, but the photos made that look well impressive. It was led by the amazing levitating man from Trib3, but even more impressively, he had some of those juniors levitating too!  What do they get up to at that gym?

ten levitating man

Coming into the event village, there was a joyous sight for sore eyes to soak up before taking in the glories of the other facilities on offer.

sight for sore eyes

I did get to see some of the juniors return victorious.  Cute quotient of junior runners for a Sunday was thus fulfilled.  Phew.  You’d have to be in possession of an ice-cold heart not to smile and share the joy in some of these shots.  I like the use of a personal trainer at the finish and the hand holding over the line.  Altogether now …. ‘aaaah!’

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After cheering back some of the juniors, then it was milling and chilling time.  Trying to find other smilies mainly.  I did a circuit to say some hellos to the great and the good and then joined the perpetual motion immersion experience that is queuing for the loos.

 

ten venue

I didn’t find all that many smilies to be fair, but enough for a couple of pre-run selfies which was the main thing.  Other smilies were volunteering, and there were plenty of familiar faces from other clubs in general and parkrun in particular.  It’s great doing local events in that respect, you can’t fail to recognise loads of people and it makes the whole thing feel supportive and friendly. Well I find it to be so anyway.  Depends how you feel about the value of anonymity when running.  I had to field a few disappointed queries from those wondering why I was solo ‘what no giraffe‘ but I explained about Geronimo resting up at the moment.  I think I did a bit too much with her a couple of months back what with Vitality Move and the Round Sheffield Run so I’m keeping her rested up til Christmas now probably.  Maybe next year though. We’ll see.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It is perhaps a little unfortunate that the group shot was snapped at the precise moment one of our number spotted the Endcliffe Park flasher, but these things happen.  At least it gives the photo an authenticity it might otherwise have lacked.  Can’t accuse us motley crew of being too posed!

Photos snapped, gossip shared, bags dropped. There was a warm up for the main event, but I took the precaution of not joining in too much for fear of wearing myself out.  Instead, I took my place in the starting pens alongside new best friends from TNT who let me peer inside their tops for sizing purposes.  I seem to have accidentally signed up to do some cross country with them next month, and needed to know about kit. Those tops look tight though, even by running top standards.  Could be a squeeze.  I love that it’s OK in running start line ups to ask such questions, you aren’t normally allowed to put such posers when queuing in the post office say, but in a running context, completely acceptable behaviour.  Discussions on moisture management socks are probably OK too, but I’d generally make my opening question about choice of running shoes to be on the safe side.

 

So after milling and chilling, there was warm up, hanging about and then ‘suddenly’ we were off.  Actually, it was a bit slow going over the starting mats, but no worries, it’s all chip timed anyway, so only the purists focusing on gun times would have had an issue, and I expect they all started at the front anyway.

The first obstacle of the morning was an impromptu lake.  This was before we’d even left the park, and it was hilarious how many of us tried to pick our way around it, as if this would be the only water we’d encounter en route.  I am learning that it’s best to get your feet soaked early on in trail events so you stop pussy footing around and just plough through.  You’ll get wet feet anyway, but surrendering to the inevitable early on, you gain confidence and a more direct route round.  A sound investment if you are but bold enough to take it!  Here is the puddle, and some gratuitous trainer shots, courtesy of the TenTenTen photography team, who know the power of such titillating running shoe images.  Well I think it’s the shoes, not the calf shots.  Each to their own though.  That water feature would have been quite good for the doggy dash incidentally … maybe next year that fantasy will become a reality.  We can cross our fingers for that, now we don’t have to keep our legs crossed any  more.

 

Out of the park, onto Rustlings Road.  Lawks a-lordy how I hate running on roads, especially in my trail shoes. Not anywhere near enough cushioning, I could feel my feet splintering.  I need to go to Trib3 and learn to levitate, or concentrate more at Accelerate trail runs so I can be lighter on my feet.  Meantime, I’ll just wince a lot.  And complain.

AFter the road, it’s pretty much straight away The Hill.  It’s only a really short section, but it’s a steep grassy bank of exceptional slipperiness.  You are supposed to cycle up it according to the signage, maybe that’s part of the problem.

The Hill

The photo makes it seem pretty innocuous, but it is like trying to ascend a greased up slide.  Have you ever watched  Total Wipeout?  Pleasingly, I learned from Front Runner on a recce of the course some years ago that it is legitimate race craft to just walk up this hill. Why exhaust yourself over such a short distance, only to be thwarted by a bottle neck as you enter the woods down a narrow path at the top of it. For all but the elite, running up it is pretty much futile, though it is massively entertaining for spectators, so it comes down to how much of an exhibitionist crowd pleaser slash competitive athlete you are on the day. Great photos though.  On a serious note, I have no idea at all how the lead bike got up it, it was a mud slide by lap two…

 

Mercifully, I was spared a photo of myself tackling the hill.  Possibly because I crawled up on my hands and knees, and therefore was under the sight line of the photographer throughout.

This hill is probably the worst/best bit, depending on your point of view.  On reaching the top, you duck into the wood and it’s a lovely sheltered woodland trail. You have to watch out for tree roots, and it is narrow, so pretty much impossible to overtake.  Again, that doesn’t worry me, but it did slow me quite a bit, maybe I should have gone a bit further forward in the starting line up after all.  It was a nice yomp through, periodically marshals appeared to point and cheer and warn of any particular hazards ahead.  It all feels very well supported and safe. There was one moment in the trails where I heard the tell-tale shriek that signified we had a runner down, a woman had taken a tumble in the woods.  By the time I got there a number of people were helping, I asked if any help was needed but was told not. A bit further on there was a marshal who had obviously been alerted to the incident and was making their way back to her clutching a first aid kit.  Hope it was a first aid kit with something more than a sling and an elastoplast or it might have been a challenge. Joking apart, she was walking wounded, so even if a regrettable DNF, which seems likely, I don’t think it was too serious.  Hope not anyway, recover soon whoever you are.

The 10k is in two 5k laps, so you emerge from the woods at intervals onto road crossings, so there are plenty of opportunities for supporters to cheer you around, and in between are smiling clapping marshals.  Here’s one by way of illustration, but other marshals were available to. Thank you all for being all-round awesome.  Much appreciated – which isn’t an observation I’d automatically make to any random man loitering in the woods in the expectation of runners coming by shortly.  So much etiquette in life is context specific don’t you agree?

hi viz hero

Have I mentioned already how brilliant it is doing a local race because you’ll know so may people out and about on the day?  I did?  Well, every silver lining has its cloud. The downside of being part of the local vibrant running community is that there is really nowhere to hide.  It was like running under surveillance, every time I nursed even a distant thought of slacking off a smiley or woodrun supporter would pop out from behind a tree and shout some words of encouragement and support.  It would be rude to be caught out walking in such scenarios.  If I saw them first I was able to implement my ‘I’ve been doing perfect running form all the way round‘ mode, and knock out a few strides of graceful (by my standards) bounding.  If they saw me first, I had to do an apologetic little spurt of ‘honestly, this is the first time I’ve backed off the whole time‘, not sure how convincing either performance was…  With some I just stopped and went in for the hug or the shameless wave.  It’s quite a complex social interaction to be fair.  We all have our own tactics when running under observation.  It’s not just me, it’s well documented.  Have you never heard of the Hawthorne effect?  Nevertheless, it was unconditionally brilliant to be cheered round. You almost feel like a celebrity if you hear the Go Smiley shout out, and as for an actual name call, well, that’s the ultimate accolade. So thanks everyone who popped up.  I applaud you all.  Whether you bounced out from behind the railings on Rustlings Road; gave a post- Tissington hug in Endcliffe Park; shooed me round the mini-roundabout at Oakbrook road; high-fived me in a family quartet near the lake; cheered me on the road as I turned back for home; enquired about my party hat at the road crossing or cajoled me up the hill.  You are appreciated.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Running buddies are The Best.  Fact.

Known supporters are particularly welcome, but you know what, I’m shallow, I’ll take encouragement from wherever it comes.  There was lots.  A few children offered up high-fives which is always a boon.  I made one miscalculation though, going in for a high-five with a little girl who seemed up for it, but then the sight of me bearing down on her caused her to have a change of heart.  I fear I may have left her mildly traumatized even though I aborted my manoeuvre just in time.  Feeling guilt ridden, I was therefore massively cheered to see as I cornered a family quartet of known supporters, positioning themselves so I could go for the full monty of a perfect four high fives on passing.  Reader I did it.  I couldn’t have been more impressed by our co-operation and co-ordination if I had indeed been part of a red arrow fly past display.  We were genius, and far better in terms of CO2 omissions too.  I mean no family experiences that much fatulence surely, even with the excitement of procuring cumulative high fives factored in?

Alarmingly early on in my first lap a bike started to push through.  I was initially annoyed, ‘why is a cyclist being so assertive in the midst of a load of runners?’ then I realised it was the lead bike. The first runner home was way ahead of the pack.  Admittedly I have been lapped previously at the TenTenTen, but only just at the half way point, this was much earlier on. He led by a good few minutes, it was impressive, but almost disturbing, that’s got to be super-human speed surely.  It’s not a massively challenging course, but it isn’t as predictable as road running, he was super fast.

ten how its done

By the time I got to half way, there were a few more runners streaming to the finish.  I contemplated joining them, but figured first woman home was a bit of a stretch, and what’s the point.  I headed on round and to the water station, where a fellow smiley was on the bottles so to speak.  I haven’t sussed drinking and running, so stopped to drink and walked on for a bit.  I really do need to work out how to hydrate on longer runs, it isn’t efficient to just zone out for a while, though it is fun watching other runners pass.

Soon I was back at the hill.  It was even more slidey now, and I struggled to get up it even with my grippy innov8 shoes.  I didn’t mind too much that I was struggling up as other runners were similarly cautiously trying to pick their way through the mud.  Less supportively, and more mysteriously, by the time we came round for the second lap there were some kids playing by just running up and down the hill apparently entirely effortlessly.   I could have wept.  How do they do that?  How come it’s even possible?  They were veritably skipping up it I tell you. SKIPPING!

The field spread out a bit more in the second lap, and weirdly I found this second 5km much easier than the first.  It seems to take me 5k to warm up.  Maybe I should try doing an actual warm up before a run one day and see if that helps.  High risk though, don’t want to use up all my stored carbohydrate supplies too early on in proceedings.  It was fun seeing the same marshals the next time round. All of them kept up a constant stream of words of encouragement.  Well maybe the ‘only eight laps to go‘ quip wasn’t entirely encouraging, but it was funny, and that marshal did correctly inform us this was the highest point of the run so kudos to him.

Oh yes, and there were the race photographers too, they took some great photos (make your donation to Weston park people, it’s the least you can do).  Now might be a good time to put some more in:

 

Whilst the photographers did a grand job of taking photos (not entirely unexpectedly, that is sort of their area of expertise I suppose) also out on the course was the Selfie Queen and back marker for the day.  Injury limiting her running plans, she was making the most of taking it relatively steady en route.  Bonding, sharing the joy of running and documenting the occasion. Plus, on flag removal duty on the second lap, that’s a lot of multi-tasking going on there.  I have been accompanied by a back marker on fell runs. On one particular occassion (Bamford Sheep Dog Trials) the tail runner kept disappearing into the bushes every few hundred metres or so.  I spent a long time thinking he really should get his prostate checked out before I twigged he was dismantling the course behind me!  Anyway, I give you the perfected running selfie.  I know, impressive.  I don’t know how she does it, she hasn’t even got a selfie stick, or go pro or anything, just a natural I suppose…

backmarking and selfie queen

So then almost suddenly, it was the final loop and back in the park towards the finish funnel. There was still a crowd to cheer runners home, and it is wonderful to experience that.  There is such an outpouring of goodwill at the kandoo events.  For that moment you can really believe that running is fun, and be all enthused about doing it all again as soon as possible!

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So you pass through the finish, get your bling (always excellent at this event, though the fun runners are under a directive only to use the bottle opener feature for ginger pop opening unless they are catering for the needs of their adult supervisors).  You could queue up for a DIY goodie bag (crisps, banana, rather good peanut butter and caramel or something bar, water, voucher for Trib3 all within a Sainsburys bag for life).  Better yet, there were smilies about and even a Smiley supporter (and my high-five quartet) who was distributing slices of pizza!  I know. Oh my god that was brilliant.  I felt a bit guilty accepting (didn’t want the family to go hungry) but I got over that pretty quick, and then further exploited the child labour on hand by getting them to take some post run shots.  Well, in for a penny eh? Thanks though 🙂

smiley finishers

Then I joined a short queue to get an instantaneous print out of my time, before rejoining my Smiley buddies ahead of the prize giving because one of our own was champion V60 Smiley. Back and on it after an injury induced absence.  Yay!  We gathered by the podium for the awards.  It was a very cheery spectacle.  It was also the occasion of the annual moss family photo as between them they won just about everything in all categories.  I wonder if that is a genetic coincidence or the product of a captive breeding programme.  I didn’t like to ask.  Well done though, very impressive.

The awards are great,  not just the cash vouchers which were no doubt welcome, but the silver trainer trophies with writing on the side. Very good.

 

As the awards ceremony was underway, a shout went up for the final finisher and back marker coming in.  We broke off to go and cheer them home. It was quite emotional watching them come across the finish holding hands.  They’d had a ball out there.  Congratulatory hugs all round and new running buddies forged.

 

I might have had something in my eye watching that.

More prizes, and then it was foraging for coffee, massages, post run anecdotes.  All needs were catered for!

 

So I lingered for post run coffee with awesome running buddies. And then just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, there were bananas being gifted in abundance, like they grew on trees or something.  We final few went home laden.  Hurrah.

So that was that, goodbye TenTenTen for another year.  Thanks everyone, organisers, volunteers, running buddies all.  All ended apart from the chafing.  I do so wish they did enormous g cup compeed plasters, then there would be no more bra related injuries for me.  I’ll add that to my wish list of sponsored goods for when I’m a famous sporting personality and get to commission my own gear.

Oh I nearly forgot, for them of you as care about such things, the TenTenTen results from over the years are here.

You’re welcome.

Happy running til next time.

This could be you in the frame same time next year. Just saying.  🙂

 

For all my TenTenTen related posts click here, scroll down for older entries

For Kandoo Round Sheffield Run related posts click here, scroll down for older entries.

Like the pictures?  Go on, make a donation, every little helps, and the feel good factor will make you run faster next year www.justgiving.com/tententen2017

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

International parkrun day – teenage kicks at Sheffield Hallam parkrun October 2017

Digested read:  7th October 2017 was parkrun’s thirteenth birthday and International parkrun day.  Yay!  I had a balloon.  I lost my balloon.  I still had fun though.  Did you know 2.5 million individuals have taken part in parkrun now. Are you one of them?  Isn’t that grand! Happy running til next parkrunday.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing.  I mean, I’m the first to admit that retrospectively I probably should have thought to undertake a more comprehensive risk assessment before turning up at Endcliffe Park to run Sheffield Hallam parkrun whilst in possession of a balloon, but I simply failed to anticipate the garrotting potential of a helium balloon’s string amidst a stampede of runners. Guilty as charged. Hey ho, as it happens, catastrophe was averted, but let’s just say I’m not running with a balloon again any time soon. It’s way harder than you think, and also far too much responsibility for someone with an aversion for being responsible for anything at all really, well not if it can reasonably be avoided.

Last Saturday, in case you haven’t been concentrating on parkrun history, and care not if it ever comes up as a question at a future pub quiz, was International parkrun day.  The date being the occasion of the thirteenth birthday of the original parkrun (which was actually a time trial apparently, but let’s not quibble).  The reason why the thirteenth anniversary is particularly worthy of note, is because when the event started on 2 October 2004 there were just 13 runners taking part in the inaugural event.  Hence the significance. See what they’ve done there?  I know, smart people in the parkrun core team, creative and cunning too!  Genius.

 

Thus it was determined by I know not what process, that the start of parkrun’s teenage years should be especially celebrated and International parkun day was thus to be particularly well marked.  We’ve had International parkrun day for a while now I think, but this is the first time I’ve been quite so aware of it as a ‘thing’, re-launch if you will.  Hurrah!  It’s only a matter of time before it becomes an official holiday worldwide.  Surely?

Starting a new international day of celebration isn’t an entirely easy thing to do.  Individual parkruns did their own thing.  From a continuum of absolutely nothing, to full on champagne and prize giving.  That would be Bushy park parkrun – the epicentre of all things parkrun being its ground zero.  Imagine, there was a time before parkrun?  I can hardly imagine it.  There was a general push to get as many people as possible to wear apricot by way of celebration.  I did consider this, but apricot isn’t really my colour, well it’s orange really isn’t it and anyway I couldn’t get a personalised top with my event name on it in time.  I will get one eventually, as I think it’s not much to ask of runners to support parkrun by doing so.  Plus, purchasing an apricot top could likely become a way to cross-subsidise the milestone tees.  Here’s hoping.  Rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, a New Zealand parkrun did an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time – solidarity across the world indeed.  Isn’t that grand.  Special wave and shout out to them, and let’s all go visit as soon as we can.  En masse would be grand, but quite logistically challenging, so we’ll just have to make the trek in dribs and drabs for now, and spread the international joy incrementally.   Whitby parkrun get the prize for ingenious apricot top dissemination though.  Bushy parkrun possibly (maybe inevitably) get the prize for literal numbers sporting apricot in a veritable sea of colour – or should that be more accurately a puree of apricot.  Not sure….

 

 

Anyways, I was thinking we ought to do something at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, though this appeared not to meet with universal enthusiasm.  The official line was ‘not really anything, but there might be a surprise and wear apricot if you can’.  Oh well, undeterred, I decided I might at least try to make my own entertainment.  You live and learn.  What to do though? What to do?

In the end, I decided against unilateral fancy dress, and thought I’d go for the more minimal but symbolic helium balloon purchase. Turns out, even getting a balloon is harder than you think.  I realised I had no idea where you go to get such a thing, and then when I did find somewhere, realised that apparently 13 year olds are considered too old to want a balloon with a number thirteen on it, as the numbered balloons only go up to ten.  I could potentially have gone for the two balloons in metallic individual numerals, but that was a bit top end of my budget for what was essentially a desperate whim.  Undeterred, I thought I’d go for a simple ‘happy birthday’ offering.  ‘Boy or girl?’ enquired the guy at the fancy dress shop.  Boy or girl?  Blimey, is this what parents have to go through every time they buy anything.  Is even a balloon purchase gendered?   I have no idea what gender parkrun is, but as an inclusive event, my feeling is it should be gender neutral. Well, that narrowed it down.  But I liked my balloon anyway.  Plus it came in a bag so it wouldn’t float away or require me to spoil the impact by carrying it floating above me on its string all the way home.  I also made an impulse buy of some little party hats, because who doesn’t like a party hat? A way to spread the joy of celebration surely!  (I’m so naive.)

Happy Birthday to me

So International parkrun day dawned.  To be fair, you couldn’t really tell it was International parkrun day on waking, nothing on the news which was a bit disappointing, but then again, those in the know, know, that’s the main thing. Incomprehensible as it is to some of us that there are still people out there who know not of parkrun or worse yet, do, but just don’t actually care.  I was reminded of visiting a good friend of mine in Warrington some years ago. Brilliantly, she had coached her offspring to look forward to seeing me, and when I appeared at the school gate with her to pick up one of said children, she took my hand, gazed up at me and explained with genuine confusion ‘do you know, when I told my friends at school that you were coming to visit today, not one of them knew!’  She was perplexed and horrified in equal measure.  I was naturally massively flattered and impressed.  I explained to her that due to my celebrity status, I had to keep my travel plans under wraps to avoid being mobbed  – she was very special and therefore in the know… I don’t think I’ll ever experience someone being so delighted to see me ever again, but no-one can take that moment away from me. What a marvelous and well brought up child she was! (and is, but also sadly older, wiser and less easily impressed now.)

Securing a balloon about your person as a prelude to running with it is actually quite hard. The balloon drags behind you, and where to tie the string?  In the end I secured one end of it in the back pocket of my running tights (hand free option you see) and then secured it a bit more with a safety-pin on the string attaching it to my top.  I thought that way I’d keep it under control. Epic fail.  The walk down to Endcliffe park was something of a challenge.  It’s hard to look nonchalant with a balloon attached to you just as it is hard to look nonchalent wearing deely boppers for say a Halloween themed parkrun of previous years.  I was conscious of getting a few smiles from people believing it to be my birthday, and I felt a bit fraudulent accepting their well-meant greetings, but you can hardly expect to cross the road and chase after a random pedestrian in order to explain it isn’t your birthday it’s for parkrun without them taking fright and running away it seems.  I felt for those other street walkers at this hour.  They must have felt they had stumbled on a peculiar subset of the local population as they went about their business.  I wasn’t the only unusual sighting.  I also encountered a woman walking along with a bowl of cereal and a dog.  The dog was company, the cereal was breakfast. This I find curious.  There is nothing unremarkable about taking toast, or even a mug of tea or other breakfast beverage of your choosing as you head out of a morning, but a bowl of cereal with the spoon and everything I thought quite ambitious for a morning constitutional. Fair play to her.  Wouldn’t try it myself, but then I’m more of a porridge woman. That comes out of the microwave piping hot. Dangerous…. Each to their own.

I made it to the parkrun assembly point, a little early, as I’d heard talk of flags.  A fellow parkrunner was trying to get 13 runner of 13 different nationalities to each run with their flag to communicate the international inclusivtiy of parkrun.  Couldn’t see them. Oh.  Never mind, I set about trying to offload distribute my party hats.  You have no idea how hard it was. Also, how easy I am to say ‘no’ to. Outright and unapologetic rejection followed rejection.  I think I made the rookie error of implying the offering was negotiable.  If I’d presented them as gifts, people might have felt mean-spirited to refuse.  I got a goldfish that way. Back in the day when you won them at fairs – something of which I do not approve.  A house-sharer of mine won one, but didn’t want it. He knocked on the bedroom door of our first fellow sharer and when she answered asked ‘do you want a gold fish?’ to which she responded (not unreasonably) ‘No.  Why would I want a goldfish?  *&%$ off!‘ and shut her door.  Learning from this response he then knocked on the next door which was mine ‘I’ve got you a goldfish‘ he said, handing it over.  ‘Thank you‘ I said, taking it.  Because that’s only polite, even though I was thinking in my head exactly as my first house mate had done.  Talk about a white elephant. Cost me a fortune that goldfish, I felt bad for her, so had to buy a tank, and a  filter, an aeration pump – even a companion. She lived for years. She was called Calamity, which is an excellent name for a goldfish I’m sure you’ll agree.  I don’t have a photo of her unfortunately, you’ll just have to imagine what she looked like.

 

 

I kept one party hat for myself, and disseminated the rest as best I could… I couldn’t help noticing that even some of those hat that I thought I’d succesfully ‘gifted’ were almost immediately palmed off elsewhere.  Oh well, I suppose not everyone can carry off a hat with panache and glory.  Fortunately, some can!  Party on people.  Great hat sporting going on with you – you know who you are…

 

 

 

I took brief joy in spotting another balloon wielding runner.  Yay.  Top marks for excellent balloon choice, but it seemed the balloon was for milestone celebration purposes.  Oh well, it was still most festive, and a fine colour co-ordinated choice to complement if not quite match the apricot tee too, so credit where credit was due.  Also, this particular runner has perfected the art of balloon running (yes it is a ‘thing’ and if I had my way it would be a recognised sport too, like parkour increasingly is perhaps, only marginally less dangerous – unless you inhale the helium, which you really, really shouldn’t).  If only I’d appreciated there was this level of expertise available to talk through balloon running techniques I maybe wouldn’t have got into such difficulties myself.  Oh well, too late now…  Worth noting for future reference though, one of the great joys of parkrun is the breadth of the network you build amongst fellow parkrunners.  I reckon there is expertise on just about every topic under the sun within the Sheffield Hallam parkrun field.  I’m not quite sure what my particular area of expertise is just yet, but perhaps it will emerge over time, given the right sort of nurturing and positive reinforcement.  Also, given the benefit of the doubt…

 

 

So people assembled. Some did their active wear warm ups – why don’t more people wear sweat bands these days? … others saluted the glory of the event in their own way, or offered up a little prayer of gratitude.  Lovely.

 

 

One things for certain, everyone was having heaps of fun, eager with anticipation for the great awf to come!

are we having fun yet

I love the random milling bit at parkrun.  What a fine and eclectic lot we all are.  It would be great to do a pen portrait of every participant on a particular day, I bet every one of us has a story of sorts that brought us there…

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Many had dressed up for the occasion, as well as sporting apricot, so that was excellent.  You have to appreciate it when people make an effort.  Again, good attention to detail with the colour co-ordination there.  Any colour-me-beautiful consultant would be well chuffed.  No personal make over services required here, no indeedy!

apricot effort

There was the first timers’ briefing, and then the run director led a rousing chorus of The Hokey Cokey before getting on with the main business of the day.

 

 

The run briefing did include a small element of ‘this is what you could have won’ as we learned we were to have had the co-op with us as they are a new sponsor of parkrun, but their presence was blocked by some local by-law or other, presumably one against co-operation with others?  We also learned we were going to have lots of international flags, but that wasn’t possible but, there would be a special appearance of the Belize flag later on to look out for.  It was however the thought that counts, so that idea was applauded. Then there was a shout out for someone getting married later.  Not just anyone, I expect lots of people get married on a Saturday, but a parkrunner present.  They were from Leamington.  At least I thought that was what was said.  I also rather jumped to the conclusion that the tutus were for the wedding party to save them all from having to get changed later on. Well, it would be tight getting to the registry office or church or whatever straight from parkrun. In fact, I think I might have got that all wrong, because at one point I did shout ‘go Leamington‘ at this trio of runners, and they just looked utterly perplexed.  I have  a soft spot for Leamington parkrunners, on account of the fact I used to live there.  Maybe this was just their running gear of choice in Autumn?  Autumn colours you see.  Who knows… never a colour-me-beautiful consultant when you need one!

respect the right of everyone

So volunteers thanked, parkrun rules run through (keep off the road people) and happy birthdays shared, milestones applauded and soon enough we were awf.

I am very proud of the fact that finally I have the ultimate flattering photo of me in the line up.  Identifiable only by a balloon.  I knew taking a balloon to parkrun was a genius idea!  Off we headed, the great mass of parkrunners, stampeding towards our very own intrepid photographer. He is fearless.  Or naively trusting.  I forget which. So far untrampled though, which is more than remarkable after over two hundred times of  being a volunteer photographer and so standing facing the front runners as parkrun kicks off, right in their path, fearless (or stupid) like a matador facing a bull (only less cruel and less enthusiastic about blood sports one would hope).  It is frankly a miracle he remains unscathed, physically at least – what it does to the mind to have hundreds of people running towards you with manic looks on their faces week after week I have no idea.  I don’t like to ask.  Maybe some things really are better left unsaid.

 

 

So we runners ran and yomped round, whilst the volunteer hi-vis army looked on, or directionally pointed, or clapped and cheered depending on their particular role for the day.

 

 

It started well, a bit of congestion made for a slow start.  That never bothers me, my excuse for my tardiness this time round was that I had the TenTenTen trail 10k the next day, but truthfully I don’t need much of an excuse to take things at a gentle yomping pace. Better value for money if you take it slowly on your way round.  A better excuse for my steady pace, was the own goal scored by running with a balloon. It’s a nightmare.  It doesn’t weigh anything, obviously, but it is like it is possessed by demons or something.  It is a perpetual irritation, bopping about and being wayward.  It’s probably like trying to run with a cat or something, albeit one that is airborne and tied to you with a string.

I did get some good will from my juxtaposition to the balloon. A fair few happy birthdays.  As I was also sporting my parkrun 100 top, I even got one ‘happy one-hundredth birthday’ which I like to think was a merry quip not an absolute belief. Some people thought I was doing my milestone run.  Oh well, I’ll take positive encouragement from wheresoever it comes. Just shows though, it’s hard to get across a pithy message.  Even the most seemingly obvious symbols can be ambigious. It’s what the study of semiotics is all about.  I imagine that it is anyway, not having studied it myself. (That one’s for you EWFM!)

I freely admit, it was also somewhat hazardous to other runners, so I had to keep panting out breathless apologies. At one point it near enough garrotted a fellow runner as its string seared across his neck as he tried to pass. ‘thank goodness I changed that cheese-wire strand to cheery balloon ribbon‘ I thought to myself as I once again mumbled an embarrassed ‘sorry.’  Fortunately, most were good-humoured about it, recognising my  mortifying faux pas as inadvertant rather than driven by malicious intent.  Mind you, it would be an interesting tactic for a faster runner wanting to impede/ take out any prospective over-takers.    I hung onto my balloon on a shorter string, and stuck to the sides.  It’s just as well parkrunners are all signed up to the parkrun code which contains within it the directive reminder to respect the right of all runners to participate in parkrun in their own way.  I wasn’t alone in doing so to be fair.   I think everyone pictured is enjoying parkrun in their own way, it’s just that in some photos the level of enjoyment is more obviously manifest than in others.  Whether you want to maintain your Tommy Cooper ‘Just like that’ impression for the duration, levitate the whole way round or multi-task with buggy and hound, parkrun will welcome you.

 

 

Anyways, it didn’t end well for my balloon. I made it to the end of Endcliffe park, and on to Rustlings Road. There I tucked myself in beside the railings and disaster struck.  I felt an ominous tug, and then… nothing!  My balloon had snagged on the railings and gone off on a voyage of its own. It’s not so much the loss of the balloon I mourn, it is that my ineptitude has let loose a balloon to the elements.  Discarded helium balloons are a menace for wildlife. Oh no.  Humiliation at my balloon carrying ineptitude was preferable to this new overwhelming sense of guilt and growing mortification. I’m never running with a balloon again.  Not without taking the proper precautions to avoid inadvertant release anyway.  Gutted.  Not even the possession of a silver party hat (which for the record stayed in place extremely well is very practical for running in just so you nay-sayers know you can’t use that excuse to reject one another time) could bring me cheer.

No balloon

On the plus side, it was a lot easier running without a balloon. And it is the thought that counts.

Eventually, my two circuits down, I was free to take up supervisory responsibilities cheering in the runners still coming in. This is always fun!  An important job too.

in charge

I also got my first proper flag sighting!  Dreams can come true, the flags were out in every sense.  No flagging on this course… ironically!

Class flag act

In fact there were more flags revealed in the photos post event.  Shows I should have a bit more faith.  Plenty of effort put in to the occasion, you just have to look:

 

 

 

So all too soon, that was another run done and dusted.

they who run together

It’s got a small footprint parkrun. Amazing how it goes from over 700 people assembled to nothing within an hour or so.

Parkun paraphenalia

Hope nobody went home with a barcode.  parkrunners are a forgiving lot, but there are limits…  Don’t try to find them.

parkrun barcode ruling

Many departed. But many lingered too. For me, post parkrun pleasantries continued in the EPIC Endcliffe Park Independent Cafe.  It was great to have a catch up with running buddies old and new.  I lurve running buddies, they are The. Best.  We can do anything if we cheer each other on.  I love that parkrun is so established one amongst us has her own espresso cup at the EPIC cafe.  That’s service is it not?

So that was it, done for another week. The fun hadn’t ended though, because there were still the photos to pour over after the event. Those snaps are most educational, I never knew before that you were supposed to fold children before putting them in a buggy for example. This operator has a self-folding child, which is particularly impressive.

folding to fit in buggy

So happy 13th birthday parkrun, and well done to all of you everywhere who made the effort to wear some apricot for the day.  Good effort.  I wonder what the teenage years have in store for parkrunners everywhere.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, our very own parkrun royalty Mr S-H, had a special message for us all on this auspicious day.  Hurrah!  It was quite nice getting the email, but I hope in time the technology will evolve so he can be beamed as a hologram into the sky to deliver future anniversary messages to the people like a pimped up Queen’s speech, only with fewer corgis and a less self-conscious Christmas tree.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…

As we prepare to celebrate our 13th birthday this weekend, it’s hard not to reflect on how far we have come in such a short space of time. 13 runners and a handful of volunteers at our first event has grown into a global community of more than 2.5 million participants. And while the numbers are impressive, it’s the friendships, the life-changing stories and the positivity that I have always seen as the true measure of our success.

Did you know, on the 13th birthday weekend the 1,000,000th person outside of the UK completed a parkrun! That’s quite a cult community!  Go us!

So thank you parkrun pioneers and parkrun people present and yet to be.  As our very own Belize flag bearer puts it with such beaming eloquence:

From just a few of us around the world, muchas gracias for being always, welcoming, inclusive and encouraging, no matter what time we take to complete our Saturday run! To all our wonderful parkrun family, fellow runners, run directors, marshals, volunteers and photographers, gracias! ❤️Sheffield Hallam Parkrun❤️😃xxx Again Feliz International 13th Cumpleaños parkrun!!! xxx

Gotta smile.

You gotta smile

Happy running y’all 🙂

Thanks Pontefract parkrun for awesome customised birthday greeting.  Great stuff!

pontefract logo

I really have to go now. There is an ENORMOUS house spider in my flat.  It has so far respected my boundaries and stayed on the floor, but I just glimpsed it migrating up on to the sofa.  Enough.  This ends here.  We can’t both stay in this flat tonight, so obviously I need to go pack…

For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.

For all Sheffield Hallam parkrun posts see here scroll down for older entries.

And as a postscript, we are more international than some know in Sheffield:

Germany 🇩🇪 Slovenia 🇸🇮 India 🇮🇳 Belize 🇧🇿 Iceland 🇮🇸, pic from International parkrun 13th Birthday!

flags a plenty

Splendid!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Oh what a beautiful morning! Dark and White Autumn Series 2017 event 1. Carsington Water.

Digested read: first time at a Dark and White series event.  It was lovely.  17km of fantastic views with brilliant organisation. Worth the horror of getting up in the dark.    You get cake!  No really, and you don’t have to navigate and it was super-friendly.  I was sad there was no teleporter as I first thought, but otherwise would recommend.

Peak distric trail run series

I can’t lie.  There were quite a few less than charitable words being exchanged in the car on the way to Carsington water yesterday morning.  The topic under debate was ‘whose fault’ it was that we’d had to all get up at stupid o’clock, when it was actually IN THE DARK to go and run round in a great big circle somewhere.   Accusations flew around the dark interior of the car where our not-so-merry quartet had gathered en route to Derbyshire. Finger pointing isn’t pretty, but it does sometimes happen during the angst-ridden journeys into the unknown. Bet it was exactly the same when people first set out to circumnavigate the world, which is basically the same thing as setting off to do a new trail run.  Accusations and counter accusations were in play, with some reference to ‘you need to take personal responsibility for your actions’ alongside alternative tactics of blaming people who weren’t even there.  I wonder if this is what it will be like when the world ends.  Bickering about how we got into this mess, rather than trying to extricate ourselves from it?  Probably. Don’t worry, we made up, and by the end it wasn’t a question of allocating blame, it was more a question of celebrating whosoever it was that inspired us to take on the challenge, but that was later.   All happy and friends again. Aren’t we lovely?

Arent we lovely and foot photobomb

I’ve only just noticed the foot photo-bomb, but I like that. Did you know that in many South-East Asian countries pointing a foot like that would be considered really offensive?  It’s OK in Derbyshire though, so no need for retaliation or retribution on this occasion even if we did know whose foot it was.

Where was I?  And more importantly, where were we going?  Oh, erm, it was the first race of the Dark and White Autumn event series.  Pre going myself, I was disproportionately confused by what these runs actually are.  Basically, it’s a series of three runs organised over the Autumn, you can enter them individually or as a series for a discount. Each of the three events offers a choice of two routes: long (14-17 km) and short (5-7 km), all in and around the Peak District National Park.  They are very well organised, well-signed and supported, with water stations mid-point and cake at the end.  Yes, you read that right. Cake.  At the end.

For reasons that had become lost in the mists of time, four of us had made a misguidedall for one and one for all‘ sort of pact to do the long route.  Which at 17km was actually further than I’d expected, because it didn’t sound too far in kilometres as I still can’t really fathom what they are, but is actually 10.5 miles, but hey ho, bit late to be backing down at this stage.  Hence we were now in a car at 6.30 in the morning, bickering and blaming one another, albeit in a good-humoured, smiley sort of way.  Fortunately, because, Smileys are all basically lovely, the squabbling died down pretty quickly, and we became distracted by the gorgeousness of the route in the early morning.

This is where we were heading. Carsington water.  I did actually steal this photo from their events  website, but it did honestly look like this.  Blooming lovely out there.

dark and white cover shot

It was a cold, but it gave way to brilliant sunshine and it was like being on a safari drive heading out of Sheffield. There was mist rising from Longshaw as we passed by, then we saw two huge fallow deer just chilling on a road somewhere. Our next sighting was of a fox, slinking across our path, a common enough sight in urban areas, but it’s years since I’ve seen one in the countryside.  And then a more disputed sighting, but I reckon was a stoat (or possibly a weasel), others thought maybe a juvenile squirrel, but it’s tale was too long and anyway it’s the wrong time of year for a young squirrel and one that small wouldn’t be crossing roads on its own anyway. Plus, deciding factor, my blog, my rules.  It was stoatally a stoat.  Because I say so.  Personally, I also got very excited at the sight of a sign for somewhere called The Pudding Room, but it would  have been shallow to have drawn too much attention to it whilst surrounded by my sporting elite buddies.  I feared they would shudder at the thought of such Dionysian access to free range carb unless it was already built into their current training plan’s gantt chart under the ‘nutrition’ column.  Then again, I should have credited them with a bit more of a capacity for reason.  17km romp or face plant into a smorgasbord of cakes and pastries?  Hmm, tough call, though to be fair it wasn’t open yet, another day, another mission perhaps…

pudding room delights

With only one minor detour, we arrived at Carsington Water about 7.45 a.m. ish.  I’ve never been before, but it was an impressive venue.  There was a massive car park which was basically empty, and flags were up denoting the start of race and there was a posse of marshals in hi-viz doing purposeful things.   In a run event first, we actually managed to park directly opposite the registration area.  Closer than the usual bag drop at an event.  Nice.  This would be  a great place to go for a run anytime really, as the facilities are great.  A huge visitors centre, loos, lots of parking, well-marked easy-going trails. Well, they say ‘easy-going’ I didn’t find the going altogether easy to be fair, but then I was trying to run faster than usual, you don’t have to.

You can pay for either 2 hours or all day parking.  We opted for a day at £4.70 so we knew we’d have until midnight to get round.  Well we had all gone for the long route and no point in putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure.  There are loads of pay and display machines around but – user alert – you have to  put in the last three digits of your car registration number when you get a ticket. That nearly defeated me, it not being my car, but we got there in the end.  Buying a ticket is harder than you might think these days, if you are parked a long way from a machine and getting a ticket for the driver you might want to bring a pen and paper with you to avoid purchasing mishaps yourself.

Once we’d got over marvelling at how well parked we were, we went to explore.  Outside the registration area were lots of signs clarifying kit requirements and the route.  The website also gave a pretty detailed course description of the Carsington Water Dark & White route to be fair. The blah de blah stated:

The run starts and finishes at Carsington Watersports Centre, see here for more information www.carsingtonwater.com

Both routes set off on the initially pan flat reservoir perimeter track in a southerly direction – the track is a smooth, hardcore surface making for fast, flowing trail running; after crossing the dam the routes split at the 2km point and the shorter route then completes a slightly undulating route back ‘under’ the dam before returning to the finish. The long route continues on the super smooth surface round the reservoir but the going becomes a bit more ‘rolling’ from now on so expect to start getting a bit of a sweat on!

At the 8km point the long route crosses a main road and the character of the course changes as it starts to gradually climb to a high point on the High Peak Trail. At the east of Hopton village a field path is taken and this is good, grassy running but on a steady, energy sapping incline off and on for around 2km; after crossing a lane there is a ‘dip’ in the track with a sharp little ascent to meet the High Peak Trail (which is on old railway line converted to a cycling/walking track). We’re now back on a smooth, fast, hardcore trail – flat to start with then it’s climbing again as we ascend the Hopton Incline which has a gradient of around 6% for nearly 1km. The high point of the route (330m above sea level) is reached at the 12km point – if you haven’t noticed already the views from here are amazing albeit blighted somewhat by the massive wind turbines nearby…

We now turn south for ‘home’ on an excellent field path – come over a brow and the best view of the day pops up i.e. the whole of Carsington Water in all it’s glory – now that’s got to be worth getting out of bed for! A steep grassy descent (care needed) follows into Carsington village then it’s a nip through the houses, cross the main road again and we’re back on the fast reservoir track for a 2km blast back to the finish. 17.1km/230m of climb – done and dusted – time for tea and cake!

So if you just wanted the route information you are done with this blog post now and are excused. Go do something more useful with your life and less time-vampirish than hanging out here with me.

It was extremely clear. There was also a scary kit requirement warning along the lines of ‘don’t even think of turning up at the start line without’ kind of thing.  They had relaxed the requirement for waterproof trousers and another top though, so that was good.  The kit requirements and other information are given out in detail on the information section of their website. Worth a browse.  Helpful stuff for a first timer like myself, even if I didn’t have the wit to follow all of it through.

Inside the registration are was a tight-knit team of friendly marshals on hand.  Again, I was an epic fail at this, as the first question was ‘do you have your disclaimer form with you?’ and I didn’t.  I explained about having it sat on the printer at home but that doesn’t count apparently. Fortunately the hi-viz heroes seemed a non-judgemental and patient lot. They also had a big stash of disclaimer forms for people like me to sign in a hidden room at the back of the sign up area  – the officials were extremely keen everyone did sign away as much as possible, which is fair enough. At your own risk and everything.  Then you gave your name in return for a dibber (or dabber, I still don’t know what it is really.)  There was a brief opportunity to admire the purple top of another of the race organisation team. It had a particularly appealing tactile and textured finish, and as a reward for our sighs of admiration and expressions of longing, we were allowed a little chaste stroke of the garment’s arm to express our admiration and appreciation,  before turning to the next table where we got given our numbers.  I got 22, which pleased me.  You also got a map, with the route on one side and emergency contact details and procedures on the other.  I forgot to get this and had to go back again.  Doh.

Race registration HQ

Next stop was the women’s changing rooms to attach our numbers with the aid of a mirror. Then of course the first of the precautionary pees of the morning.  There were loads of loos.  Only one in the changing room, but I rejected that, because alongside all my other neurosis is my affliction of bashful bladder, I knew I wouldn’t perform if my Smiley buddies were waiting for me directly outside the cubicle. I know how irrational that is, but it is also true.  I went in search of other loos, there are some in the visitors centre, but that doesn’t open until 10.00 a.m. but there were loads of clean and well equipped toilets in a couple of blocks alongside.  It was great venue for a race HQ.  Also, as I ambled over to these I got to appreciate the first of many amazing views across the reservoir as the sun rose, and a fine owl. I like owls.  Not a real one though.  Still nice.

This wasn’t a big event, and it starts in waves so it was all pretty relaxed.  We mootled about, admired the scenery and chatted a bit to other runners whilst faffing about with our kits.  I was taken with a Sparkhill Harriers running club vest.  Great name Sparkhill – fortunately the vest wearer was friendly, Sparkhill is a region outside Birmingham (sort of) apparently.  I think I should have known that, maybe did one time.  Still, no harm in being reminded of it.  This is a really low-pressure event. I’d already decided just to treat it as a yomp out, like a marked training run.  Of course it catered for speedy souls who wanted to bomb round, but it is also, in my view at least, inclusive in how it’s set up.  Friendly, no navigation and lots of support, generous cut off times and a nice milling and chilling start line.

The first wave, which we’d signed up for, was due to set off at 8.30.  A little bit before we gathered round the start flag for a briefing.  Straightforward, we were shown the route markers, advised to look out for each other and the CARE signs on the way.  Reminded of dibbing protocol – the beginning, the end and the mid-pointish feed station…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

and that was it.  We were on our way.  Gorgeous weather, the sunshine was almost too bright.  My new Sparkhill friend was in a different wave as I saw him jogging towards the start as we were heading out, he gave a cheery wave.  Within seconds I was distracted by the stunning views.  I was taking my time and I’ve just got my camera back from being mended so was soon on task pausing to take some shots along the way. This is not good for running times, but it is good for appreciating where you are.  This route was  rather more manicured than I expected from a trail run, but it was stunning.

Just as we set off, there was a duo on bikes heading off down the track simultaneously.  One struck up a conversation with me, first asking me about what we were thinking doing and then when I told her it was  a 17km run offered me a lift.  Which I politely declined.  It got me thinking though. Did you know that’s the third time I’ve been offered a bike ride by way of assistance whilst I’m participating in an organised race?  I’ve also previously been stopped by someone wanting directions!  That’s quite a high number of outside interventions to contend with I think. I don’t know anyone else whose fessed up to having the same offer made even once.  I can’t work out quite why this is, but I think it is a combination of one or all of the following:

  1. I must look in desperate need of outside assistance
  2. I must look highly corruptible, the sort of person who would give in to temptation and climb aboard
  3. I look friendly and approachable and up for a chat, or …
  4. (most likely) I look like I’m ambling along so half-heartedly I can’t possibly be engaged in any competitive endeavour, so free for a natter before I continue

None of these people have got the memo which states most categorically that I cannot talk and run simultaneously.  It’s very annoying.  They were nice though, these cyclists, and after a bit they got bored crawling along at my pace so they went on ahead, weaving through the runners with care, occasionally giving their bells a good old ding (not a euphemism) to let them know they were nearby.

It was quite roady to start with, a tarmac track around the perimeter of the reservoir.  I did wonder if I might have been better in road shoes, those hard surfaces are really hard on my poor arthritic feet.  I can feel all those bones inside them shattering on impact.  According to Wikipedia there are 26 bones in the foot.  I think I have must have more than that as I swear I can feel bits breaking off inside as I run.  Oh well.  It’s a tough call.  This route was majority hard compact surfaces, and I’d have loved more cushioning in my shoes, but for those muddy and steep off road sections, short as they were, I do think trail shoes were essential.  My innov-8s were probably the right call on balance, though I did have a moment of angst I’ve not really run them in properly.  I’ve only done one parkrun and one 6.5 mile run in them previously, I was a bit worried they might be so new I’d get blisters.  I did in fact, but only one, and right at the end, so OK.  On the subject of parkrun, did you know that as Exodus are now parkrun partners you can get a free apricot tee if you quote your parkrun ID when booking one of their holidays?  Me neither until last week.

The next bit of early on excitement was the presence of Chris Meads, official race photographer, who took some shots of runners heading out with the reservoir backdrop.  Official photos were £5.50 which isn’t bad I think, although in Sheffield we are very fortunate that some races have given up charging for photos in favour of a donation.  Here is one of mine, proof I made it out on the course.  Also, I like that you can see the boats.  I am so far in the lead of all the other runners there is no-one else in sight!  I know, who’d have believed it!

Chris Meads official photo

I was soon settled into the back of my wave, gazing around.  It was pretty flat, and so I was able to get into a bit of a rhythm.  I decided to just try to run continuously for 5k, because if I can do that at a parkrun I can do it at an event.  The field was quite spread out, and I couldn’t see runners ahead or behind.  This meant I ran long sections on my own with my thoughts, but that was fine.  There were some dog walkers, a few people on bikes.  Fabulous views.  An early sign for cake!  Oh no, too soon, it actually said ‘care’ ahead of some particularly sudden turn or other hazards.

One disconcerting aspect of the signage, was signs warning cyclists to take care which were particularly graphic in nature. The first one I saw made me gasp out loud.  It showed a cyclist being flung into the air.  I presume these signs were to warn cyclists not to advertise the spectacle we’d expect to see as we cornered by way of a tourist attraction.  In all seriousness, I  imagine these signs would be pretty effective, no ambiguity about them. Towards the end of the course was one that had been ‘enhanced’ by those with local knowledge perhaps.  Naturally, I don’t normally approve of such vandalism, but then again, good to know if you end up in the reservoir there will be sharks to contend with, forewarned is forearmed and all that.

The route was scenic, lots of gorgeous views on the way round.  I surprised myself by keeping running for a fair while, but inevitably, eventually there was an uphill bit which thwarted my ‘just keep on running’ aspirations.  Some runners from the next wave started to overtake me after about mile 2.  They were all unfailingly friendly, we exchanged breathless greetings.  I trotted out clichéd words of encouragement, I was going for a supportive but non-patronising yet not too sycophantic riff.  Mostly this became ‘good job!’. Which isn’t great, but you must have something pithy or there isn’t time to complete the sentiment.  To a  few I remarked (hilariously) ‘I’m going to chase you now!’ which most understood to be a joke, but a couple fled away with such speed I can only conclude that it seemed a very real threat.  Sorry about that, wasn’t intending to deliver threats with menace on the trails.

It might sound strange, but I quite like being overtaken by the faster runners. It’s inspiring to see some of them whizz by, apparently weightless and effortless eating up the miles with grace.  It’s also encouraging as most did have a word of positivity as they passed, and it adds interest to proceedings too.  It motivated me to run a bit more, as I’d have a bit of lope when I could hear them coming up behind and then try to run on again after them for a bit more before relapsing  back into a walk at times.

It seemed to go quickly, not that I was especially fast, but I suppose the terrain was pretty easy-going and it was a lot less challenging than the 12.12 which is my most recent event, so by comparison the miles flew by.  Even so, I didn’t need all that much encouragement to STOP when I got near the first of two busy road crossings.  A cheery marshal was on had to open the gate so I had no reason to slow too much as I went through.  Photo’s not great is it, oh well you get the idea…

Stop

From there, it didn’t seem too far to get to the nearly mid-point feed station.  It was up a bit of a hill.  There were a couple of marshals, one of whom I’d swear had earlier been at the registration HQ but a few minutes before. Either they had teleported up, or I hadn’t been traveling forward quite as fast as I imagined.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Your path was blocked by a hi-viz hero in possession of a dibber, so no danger of going through unrecorded.  The feed station had water and some energy gels I think and some cups of squash.  I went for the squash as I suddenly realised it might be a good idea to have a top of sugar and I didn’t fancy my naked bar and can’t tolerate gels.  I gulped it down, but it tasted funny.  Like cold lemsip. I gulped down some water afterwards, and then fretted as I felt all that liquid sloshing around that I’d maybe had an electrolyte drink by accident and what if that made me sick?  At the end I found out it was just sugar-free squash I think.  Lesson learned though, I’m not drinking anything at a drink station ever again without knowing what it is.   I walked for a bit to let things settle, and then after a short road section (very short) it was a sharp right over a slightly concealed wall style and continuing up a steep hill.

This was way too distracting for me.  I paused to breathe in the view and stood aside to let some faster runners past as I lined up what I hoped was a nice shot.  It’s hard to capture on film, especially when you have zero aptitude behind the lens at the best of times and have injected a still further element of surprise into the proceedings by not wearing your glasses whilst you snap away either.  I think you’ll get the idea though.  I noticed hardly any of the later waves of runners were carrying kit.  There weren’t any kit inspections that I was aware of today, but the inside word is they may be relaxed on a lovely sunny day like this, but in inclement weather the kit police will be crawling all over you, so be prepared!  This did seem a benign environment, but once you get high, weather can change quickly.  Gear is carried for a reason.  It isn’t just to make all your race photos deeply unflattering it seems.  You don’t want to end up like that pants man on Snowdon now do you?  Superman knickers were insufficient protection against the elements for him it seems.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I still had a lot of water sloshing, and there was still quite a bit of upwardness, I walked a fair distance from here.  I really do need to crack my ‘hydration and fueling’ strategies if I’m serious about doing longer distances.  I think I get away with things up to half marathon, but I’m sure I could save a lot of time and faffing if I worked out a more efficient way of doing things.

Onwards and upwards.  The next ‘excitement’ was more excitement than I’d have ideally liked.  I found myself running ‘on my own’ i.e. no runners in sight ahead or behind.  I crossed a minor road and there was a sign pointing straight ahead as you went over a stone wall. Thing is, as I ran ahead, the terrain got rougher and there were no more arrows.  I felt sure I’d gone wrong.  I looked back, and another two runners were following me.  I called out to them, but one said confidently ‘no, the arrow is definitely straight on’ so we continued, until we saw a sort of collapsed stone building and barbed wire and there was no doubt this was wrong.  Behind us, cresting over the hill, and gloriously back-lit by bright early morning sunshine was a veritable stampede of other runners, each following the one in front and all wrong, all because of me (sort of).  We frantically gestured at them back down the field and people variously romped round the wet grass in all directions.  At this point I felt the comedic value of the situation far outweighed the couple of hundred metres added to our course.  I decided to take some runners in action shots, as most of the field sped by, leaving me literally, as well as metaphorically standing.  It was a hoot though, and where’s the fun in a run if you don’t have a mini-adventure on the way round.  Plus, for clarity, this was a real anomaly on the course, the route was fantastically well signed, so well signed, that as soon as the arrows disappeared I knew I must have gone wrong. You didn’t need to navigate, though we did have our A4 maps in case of need.

I like my photos at this point, especially the one of the colourful snake of runners heading onwards and upwards up that hill.  Unstoppable, fearless, and still fresh as daisies they were, all the way to the top!  Well probably, possibly then.  I never got to see the state of them at that point to be fair.

I followed in their wake.  It was lovely.  The next unexpected bit of enrichment on the course was a tunnel!  It wasn’t a particularly long stretch, but I wasn’t expecting it, and I found out something about myself.  I found out that running through a tunnel all on your own is ridiculously fun!  You can hear the echoes of your own feet reverberating off the walls, and because of the contrast between the bright sunshine outside and the unlit tunnel interior, there is a brief section in the middle when you can’t see your feet or your body really even, so it feels like you are levitating. It was amazing.  Granted, I probably need to get out more given that I have found myself raving so much about what basically took a few seconds, but I would really recommend it as a running aspiration if you have not yet done so.  Find a long dark stretch of tunnel somewhere and run down it. Maybe not a London underpass in the small hours, choose wisely. You’ll work it out.  I might get you to sign a disclaimer form first though, because you have to own your choices if you are going for subterranean options I know not yet of, and haven’t had an opportunity to risk assess for myself.  My sample survey is of just the one tunnel.  it could be not all tunnel running is quite so much fun.  Or quite so safe.  Was it Indiana Jones who had some boulder issues when he was tunnel running?  Just use your common sense, that’s all I’m saying.

By now we were nearing the high point of the run. The extraordinary wind turbines came into startling view. I know some people hate them, but I’ve always rather liked them. They seem sort of sculptural to me.  So yes, I stopped to take some photos of these too, as correctly speculated on by one of my Smiley buddies, who was guessing my photo stops at the end of the route.  Seems my movements are entirely transparent.  It was around this point that my Sparkhill friend romped past.  I waved him on.

Around the wind turbines there was an enormous temptation to take a short cut across a road, but I was very good and followed the trail correctly.  A couple of fairly fiendish walls to clamber over. There were steepish stone steps sticking out of the walls to aid ascent and descent, but they were slippery and my legs were more tired than I realised and not impressed by having to shift into clambering mode.  There was another hill to traipse up, and my enthusiasm temporarily waned.  I let some other runners pass.  I told them I was there to supervise and they were doing well and should keep on moving through.  I don’t expect they believed me though.  At the top, more amazing views, right back across the reservoir.  It was gorgeous.

That was lovely.  But, what goes up, must come down, and my, this certainly knew how to come down steeply. The downhill bit that followed was practically like stepping off the end of the earth.  I was very glad of the grip on my shoes and I gingerly wended my way down.  The views were fabulous, but even what looked like naturally speedy runners seemed to stop and pick their way down quite hesitantly.  There was a big CAKE no, not cake, that was just me hallucinating, CARE sign, and it was very much needed. It wasn’t a long section at all, but I think it must have been the most hazardous section of the course.