Running, not singing in the rain. Back to base at Sheffield Hallam parkrun. Definitely autumn now…

Digested read:  made it out to parkrun, not my most enthusiastic running outing, but I like to think I showed willing.  Then post parkrun breakfast and running endorphins did their thing and now who knows what running horrors I may have unwittingly signed up  to for 2018?

I’ve been a bit of a lard-arse since the 12.12 if truth be told.  Tourism at Bushy parkrun last week was my first run in weeks, and then last weekend it was back to my home patch at Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  I was present more in body than in mind, some might have applied the word ‘begrudgingly’ to my demeanour and I’d have to concede they would have done so fairly, but in my defence it was a wet one, and being physically present is at least a start.  I’m still lapping my other self in a parallel (possibly more comfy cosy) universe, who rolled over when the alarm went off and stayed in bed.  They also got to listen to Saturday Live, can’t remember when I last got to do that…  What might have been eh, sigh.

By way of illustration, Here is the parkrun assembly of 9th September (thanks George Carman). As a fun rainy day activity, why not have a sit down and squint at the photo and see how many gritted teeth you can count and how many waterproofs there are in evidence.  The results are an indication of how much fun was expected to unfold. Clue, the higher those numbers, the lower the fun quotient.  You can disregard the people in shorts, there’s always a few, and they are statistical outliers which might compromise your findings.  It is a great testament to the cult lure of parkrun that I’ll even turn out for it in the rain.  How did that happen?

parkrunning in the rain

I would have happily run the whole thing in my pink coat were it not that I live in mortal fear of being seen by my cheetah buddy who (rightly) always wrestles me out of what she considers to be excess clothing if I appear to be sporting too many layers pre-run.  Heaven help me should she catche me waivering at the start in my duffel coat.  Honestly, the fantasies I’ve had about being allowed to run in a parka in our inclement weather – and I don’t even own one, but it’s just too high risk… She wasn’t even there today, but her eyes are everywhere, she’d find out, it’s not worth it.  Others had great running gear options,  I could only look on in envy and admiration, loving this powder blue offering, wonder if I could smuggle that through my next kit inspection?

right idea clothing wise

As you can tell, I wasn’t feeling the lurve in advance to be honest, but I did stomp down and as always je ne regrette rien.  The first truism is that running with others does really help to motivate you. I most definitely wouldn’t spontaneously have heave hoed out of bed and gone for a run in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning if it was just down to me.  Knowing that others will have turned out too, and they might be a breakfast buddy or at least some good anecdotes around to be harvested is a powerful incentive to get down to Endcliffe park. It’s only about an hour out in the rain tops.  That’s probably not going to hurt.  Running in the rain can even be fun if you surrender to it, well, so goes the theory.  Personally I think it depends.  If you are interested, I do have extensive (unsubstantiated) theories on this topic, but one criteria is I don’t mind at all getting wet once I’m running, it can be exciting and invigorating – but I really hate starting out in a downpour.  It feels wrong. Puddle splashing, that’s fun, but best out on the moors as that’s also what fell shoes were made for, puddle splashing on tarmac, not so much.  I probably should draw up a chart someday if there’s enough interest.  Lucy’s acceptability of inclement weather in which to run scale. That trips of the tongue nicely does it not?  I wonder if I could get some made up in time for the Christmas market.  The gift for the runner who has everything apart from friends able to choose winterval presents with care.  It could be a goer.  There must be loads of people like that.

Back to parkrun.  It was so inspiring.  In general it always it, but on this day there was extra cause for amazement at the tenacity of others.   There were the cardiac athletes out in force to mark a fellow parkrunners 250th milestone, who discovered Sheffield Hallam parkrun post a heart-attack six years ago. Two hundred and fiftieth parkrun people, that’s pretty good!  Also, a runner who always has a smile, which is more than I do when I’m running.  Go cardiac runners!  The outfits are pretty cool too, maybe not ones you’d proactively want to qualify for, but you get my drift.

Then there were the hi-viz heroes having a lovely time (not) standing around in the pouring rain, sheltering hopelessly behind the rubbish bins as they waited for runners to do their stuff.  If it is true that running in the rain just makes you even more hard-core in your endeavours, it’s truer in spade loads for volunteers.  I love them all.  Congratulations to our special centenarian volunteer today.  Yay.  That’s quite some service to parkrun over the years.  Volunteering is (mostly) fun, even if granted on this occassion the body language of some in the photo screams more ‘community service conscript’  than ‘enthusiastic parkrun marshal’ but that is why they need our approval and adulation more than ever.  Don’t forget to thank them as you speed by.  A wave will do if you are too breathless to speak.  Thank you for turning out hi-viz heroes. You are stars!

By the way, there was a bit of a shortage of hi-viz heroes today, if you haven’t volunteered before have a go – email or get in touch with the run team via facebook maybe.  They will love you for it, you will get adulation from runners and a lot of laughs on the day too.  Go on you know you want to…

There was the joy on the faces of the other runners, though possibly a bit less of the euphoria of running expressed on my own grumpy visage.  I wasn’t going to put this shot up as I do have some sharing limits – although granted the boundaries of these may not always be clear –  and then I thought, since it does indeed accurately reflect exactly how much fun I was having at the time, and exactly how much effort I was willing to put in to get around too, maybe it will help motivate me bizarrely. I mean I still did it. With very bad grace apparently, but I did it nevertheless!  It shows parkrun is inclusive.  The camera never lies, unfortunately.  I am barely moving, no wonder it felt like a slow one…

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The thing is, although I didn’t enjoy that parkrun at all at the time, my body protested the whole way round.   As with childbirth I imagine, once it’s all over, you completely forget the indignity and pain of the whole thing. I was perked up immensely by the presence of parkrunners proffering cake and carbs in various forms by way of milestone celebrations as soon as I was spat out the finish funnel.

That, and hearing about the stories and adventures of others including the VI runner also on a 50th milestone run in the rain,  and I couldn’t help but just feel privileged to be part of this extraordinary collective enterprise that is parkrun.  I do declare, it is hard to remember a time pre-parkrun these days, in all seriousness I think it has a cultural significance that is hard to explain or quantify.  My entire social circle seems to rotate around parkrun, and that’s my way in to new places too, no weekend away would be complete without clocking up a new or nearest parkrun venue.  Who’d have thought it?   As if to reinforce the point pre this run I met a woman in the loo (outside the cubicle, we weren’t sharing) who was checking out the local parkrun pre attending a university open day with one of her offspring.  Quite right too.  I’ve noticed a local estate agent (ELR) has taken to describing houses in terms of their parkrun proximity to Endcliffe park in the following terms:

Nethergreen offers a diverse lifestyle: weekends and evenings can be spent in any number of restaurants, wine bars and pubs or perhaps reading a book in the excellent local café is preferred … Perhaps instead a stroll through the picturesque Bingham Park which acts as the gateway to Porter Clough and the stunning surrounding countryside is more your thing, or for the more fitness minded individuals even one of the various exercise classes on offer in Endcliffe Park including the popular Saturday morning park run may fit the bill.

Mind you, can’t help but notice this particular estate agent didn’t get the memo about how to write parkrun properly #aowalc – All one word, all lower case. It’s parkrun. Not Parkrun, ParkRun, Park Run as the parkrun tourist jargon buster makes explicit.  I would tell them, but I’m too chuffed about being labelled as a ‘fitness-minded individual’ to want to rock that particular boat.  Little must P S-H have anticipated how his project would grow to become an influencing factor for potential house buyers but hey, those estate agents have a point. Realistically, how far away from your nearest parkrun fix would be acceptable to you if you were seeking to relocate?  Exactly.  I rest my case.

Then, also at the end, I found despite my initial fears, there were actually potential post-parkrun breakfast buddies on hand. One thing led to another.  We were soon ensconced in a cafe, sharing nostalgic running anecdotes, romanticising training runs out on the hills, bashing through heather and breathing in the views.  The misery of a wet and cold parkrun long forgotten. Worse yet, we had bigger collective running memories to distort.

Wasn’t Dig Deep 12.12 fun?  Wasn’t the training awesome?  Wouldn’t it be great to do it all again?  How amazing if we did the ultra?  Imagine that!  Do you think we could do an ultra?  Maybe we could if we trained. Shall we train? We could just recce it – use it as a way to explore the peaks?  Well if we recce the route, we might as well run it? It’s only an intro ultra, just a teensy bit more than a marathon and loads of first timers do that! If we don’t try, we’ll never know. …  So it went on. Post running euhporia you see. They call it that, but I am starting to wonder if it’s just a form of temporary psychosis brought about by post-running oxygen deficiency, like people get at altitude.  We should just be grateful hypothermia didn’t set in too, or we’d have started taking our clothes off. We could have found ourselves block entering the naked running international series, and the photos from that would be really bad!  Though on the plus side, such an approach would surely put an end to chafing injuries…  I don’t know where they pin their numbers though.

Naked-Running-Races-1.png

In any event, the upshot is that I have a terrible feeling I may have inadvertantly entered some sort of impossible-to-extract-myself-from pact to aim for entering the intro ultra in the Peaks next year.   Eek.  I mean I’d love to have a crack at it, but really, is it wise?  It’s far enough away that I can choose to deny it for a while at least, but sooner or later I’m going to have to buckle down, and set out some sort of training plan, otherwise there is zero chance of making it so.  Wouldn’t want to disappoint.  Gotta have a plan, or it’ll never happen.  I’d like to have done it, but that post-run euphoria will only come about if I train and enter.  Scary stuff.  After some toing and froing, I think I’m more in that not. My running buddy (12.12 graduate from this year too) and I are also scheming to drag other into the frame too. The more the merrier.  Sometimes just the act of committing is enough to start a veritable tide of ‘what the hellers’ and very welcome they are too.  We can indeed ‘make it so’ or die trying.

make it so

The thing is, everything running-related I’ve ever done has seemed impossible to me until I’ve done it. Of course on the one hand it’s ludicrous to even think of such a challenge when I could barely get around 3 miles on a wet saturday morning,  on the other. Well, you won’t know if you don’t try.  The 12.12 was impossible the day before as well as the day after too to be fair, but it still happened.  Apparently, and amazingly.   However, it wont happen unless I get off my arse and put in some miles and some training.  Curses.  It’s hard this running malarkey.  But worth it in the end.  Meantime, if I’m going to get the training in, I’ve got to learn to embrace running in the rain.

running in rain

Not sure I’ll be able to multi-task and sing as well as run in the rain. I can’t talk and run, let alone sing!  Probably a blessing for everyone around me.

So how about you?  Are you going to keep on embracing parkrun and set a Spring goal too.  Oh go on.  The more the merrier, you wouldn’t want to miss out would you? That really is a terrible thing, way worse than having to make yourself go for a training run when it’s cold and dark and wet.  Truly.  🙂  If you don’t fancy a running goal, how about a volunteering one.  2018 could bring new opportunities to us all.

Aah go on.. channel you inner Mrs Doyle, you know you want to!

aah go on

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

For Sheffield Hallam parkrun seventh birthday post see here.

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

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Back to Bushy parkrun, stag do and all. Plus, I officially have the X factor. Good to know.

Digested read:  went to Bushy parkrun. It was great.  I got awarded the x-factor.  There were some amazing stags around.  Plus I got to see the famous Sandy Lane super-marshal in action for myself.  Result!  Also, debut outing for new trail shoes. Hurrah.

Every time I journey down south, I think maybe this time I’ll try a different venue for a bit of parkrun tourism, but the lure of Bushy parkrun is too strong to resist.  Rude not to, when I’m so near.  Plus they have the best marshals ever.  Then I think, I’ll go, but I won’t do a blog post, because what more is there to add to my previous sycophantic tributes? And then I go, and there is always more to add, because new mysteries reveal themselves if you but choose to look for them.  Also, it’s my blog, my rules.  Reading is not compulsory.  Continue at your own risk.

So this was back on the 2nd September 2017, a fine Autumnal day.  I got to the park early, and it really is breathtakingly beautiful.  It’s not a natural environment, but in context it is a sort of wilderness, and it is remarkable that even in this busy part of greater London you can find a bit of solitude and sanctuary.  At the risk of sounding more than usually pretentious it does have a dreamlike quality in the mist. The deer are lovely and plentiful, the parakeets squawk and swoop through the trees. Crows stomp about.  And what it with those mahoooooosive fish.  They are like creatures from a fantasy world.  However jaded you might feel about your running, a sojourn to the parkrun mecca that is Bushy parkrun is sure to restore your mojo.  Look at what you’ll encounter, probably:

and that’s just walking to the start line.

Generally speaking parkruns everywhere have the feel of a flash mob.  You know, arrive 30 minutes ahead and there’s seemingly no-one there but by 8.45 a stream of people start to swarm on the epicentre of the event, apparently from nowhere, as if drawn by an invisible force like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind but with less of a musical back-track in the form of the five-tone motif to accompany them as they converge at ground zero.  Bushy parkrun is slightly different because it’s just on such a vast scale.  It is like a full on logistical festival set up operation, with a mass of hi-viz heroes marching about with purpose in evidence as you arrive.  The construction of the finish tunnel alone is worthy of note.  I can get tangled trying to just mark out a few feet of funnel for Graves junior parkrun, here you can but look on in wonder as the volunteers labour to work their double funnel magic.  It is a thing of wonder.

Unfortunately, inevitably with an event that has grown this big, you will get the occasional alpha male, strutting their stuff and disrupting the proceedings, completley unwilling to acknowledge the needs of other park users, let alone defer to them. Whilst this might seem annoying, sometimes you just have to roll with it, and recognise the greater presence.  Be honest, you’d move your finish funnel to accommodate this guy too wouldn’t you?  You don’t need to have read the warning signs to appreciate this is not a beast to be messed with!

I’m used to seeing the deer in Bushy park, but they are still extraordinary every time.  They are habituated to people being around, so seemingly completely unconcerned by the comings and goings of parkrunners and other park users. However, you should not confuse their nonchalance with tameness. They are not to be messed with and require a respectful berth.  I can relate to that. Like marshals who prefer not to be hugged, just give them some personal space and there’ll be no awkwardness or near death experiences you have to untangle yourself from in the aftermarth of your Bushy park ramblings.  You have been warned.  And lest you think I jest, I once inadvertently got close to a young fawn hiding in bracken and had to back off whilst pursued by a herd of angry hinds.  It was way scarier than it sounds.  They are very protective of their young, and not averse to taking decisive collective action to remedy any perceived wrongs.  Bambi is not a documentary I’m telling you, and you don’t want to know about the tooth fairy either….

In any event, or more specifically at this one, the team had to improvise a new funnel route to avoid the deer which was chomping acorns and not in a mood to be moved on. And to be frank, why should he?  parkrun may feel long-established but it’s a child conceived and given life in 2004, so barely a teenager. The deer on the other hand have been in Bushy park since around 1529, that gives them a tenure of nearly five hundred years – half a millenium – a bit of deference is only fair.  I’m not in favour of honouring all establishment creations by default incidentally, but this one, it’s no-brainer.  So, the hi-viz heroes here have to think on their feet and improvise under pressure like the most taxing of corporate team building activities you’ve ever imagined.  No really.  They are up to it though, they are awesome they can do anything.  Multi-taskers too, because they work their magic and smile too!

Whilst they were doing anything, I ambled about.  I had my precautionary pee, and watched people doing various warm up routines and marshals heading off to marshal points or mustering first timers for their briefing.  What a place for an absolute debut at parkrun eh?  You know they have a ticker tape and glitter gun at the end of the finish funnel every time right? It’s quite something to behold. All biodegradable so as not to damage the park obviously, but impressive all the same.

first timer briefing

As 9.00 a.m. came round there was the Run Director’s briefing, they have a loud-haler to help with this and even speakers, which are held aloft by high-viz wearing disciples of parkrun.  At times, it does feel like I imagine an evangelical rally would.   I am a parkrun believer, but have to concede it may appear to have some cult like tendencies when viewed from the outside. The wide-eyed intensity of the converted parkrunner is evident wherever you look, everyone is seemingly unconditionally euphoric at just being here together. Me too.  There is periodic clapping and whooping as parkrun milestones are celebrated.  Unnerving to the uninitiated but joyful to those of us already enfolded by parkrun lurve.  You just want to share the joy. Everyone should do this!

There was still scope for some comedic element at the RD briefing though, which is always most pleasing.  Two incidents spring to mind on this occasion.  Firstly, the overheard conversation as we were mustering on the start line.  I paraphrase, but it was along the lines of ‘it’s not that I mind being overtaken by Mo Farah per se, it’s just that I was on my bike at the time!’  Made me laugh anyway.  I’ve never seen Mo in action here, but he does train regularly in Bushy park apparently, he’s probably running too fast for me to focus on him as he speeds by.  Then there was the phone call received by the RD on his ‘event phone’ – which is a bit like the bat phone only a mobile I suppose – mid briefing.  He paused his briefing to take the call, it was THAT important.  Turned out, some recalcitrant runner had apparently dropped his/her barcode en route to the start.  They had to do the walk of shame to collect it from the RD before we could start.  Still, a walk of shame is but a small price to pay to be reunited with your barcode.  No barcode, no result, no exceptions.  Even if it was recorded on strava later, without a barcode and time that parkrun didn’t happen. FACT.  It disappears into the abyss of ‘unknowns’ never to be restored.  I think that might also be where single socks end up.  The single socks that aren’t removed by RSPCA inspectors that is.  It did look a bit like a lizard to be fair, but I’d have been mortified as well…

rare lizard

So then, eventually, we were off.  I was towards the back. I haven’t done a lot of running lately, and I’d decided in advance this was going to be a leisurely yomp with photo stops.  As indeed it was. I snapped some marshals on the way, it’s quite freeing not to worry at all about speed and just consciously soak it all up.

There were also some participants of note.  Bushy parkrun seems to have quite a high quotient of Visually Impaired runners who take part with guides. Different techniques of communication seem to operate.  But it is poetry in motion as team work.  I wonder how long it takes to build those partnerships.

Other notable participants included the milestone runners.  One brave soul was galloping round in possession of a balloon. This is game on two counts in my opinion. Firstly, because running with a helium balloon is way harder than you think, and secondly, because non-parkrunners and new-parkrunners will wish you a happy birthday, which is fine if you are over fifty, but less so if you are decades under.  I know this, because I have seen traumatised parkrunners in Sheffield expressing disbelief that their post parkrun demeanour was so aging as to put twenty years on them when well-meaning passers-by have wished them ‘happy birthday’ assuming the balloon is for something as trivial as that rather than as massive as the point at which you claim your milestone tee.  Can’t lie though, I find that funny.  Nice balloon choice though.  Respect.

fifty milestone

The high point for me though was coming round the corner to the Sandy Lane gate marshaling point.  Here was stationed parkrun super-marshal my mum!  Resplendent in hi-viz, with a neighbour buddy alongside.  It was really fun to see them both.   Also, to hear the little chorus of greetings for her as parkrunners sped by. ‘Morning Elisabeth‘s echoed around.  It was glorious 🙂 .

I lingered a while, making the rookie error of hugging a non-hugging bystander, but hey, you live and learn. It was an ambush hug anyway, all over before he even realised what was happening. We spoke later, I apologised.  It’s sorted.  Sorry though, but a bit of feedback, you need to work on your hostile body language to avoid future unsolicited tactile encounters, but I’ll wash off.  You will survive.  There’s even a song track on that theme I think – check out your old vinyls, you’ll know it when you see it.

Then onward again, and to the finish funnel.  Here though, I had a new first.  Oh. My. God.  I was only chosen of all the runners assembled on the day (and that was 1316 according to the run stats, with a further 59 volunteers) as the person present most in possession of the X-factor!  No really, they gave me a placard (well smallish sign) especially so everyone would know (as if it wasn’t immediately obvious!  Pah). It was like being given a big kiss – in a good way, not like creepy sexual assault.  It made me very happy indeed.

Lucys got the x factor

Pretty awesome eh?

I had to surrender it eventually though, all good things I suppose…

I also am now in possession of some of the secrets of the double funnel, but it’s sort of a rite of passage to discover these for yourself.  So I’m not saying.

I bimbled through the funnel, chit chatting to other finishers. It was lovely.  Then we were spat out the other end to a team of token women who again were doing sterling work to keep the queues moving.

Everything about this parkrun is on an epic scale – check out their token sorting system.  I’m sure they had a time and motion expert in to advise on that one.

finish token sorting

There was a table laden with cakes and champagne to celebrate some special milestones – there were a couple doing their 250th for starters. There was a first timer nearby who asked me if they always have champagne at the end. I like to think they probably do.  Stands to reason with that many runners, there is always surely something worthy of a sparkling celebration coming round.  I’m surprised they haven’t sorted out a system to have the prosecco permanently on tap.  Bet there are event planners amongst the Bushy parkrunners who could sort that. Chocolate fountain too, and maybe a decent latter – though there is the cafe for that of course I suppose.

champagne finish

It felt like a mini-bereavement walking away from all that good will.  I lingered a bit at the finish, cheering in some coming in behind me, before wending my way back out of the park.

Even heading homeward, there were more sights to see, the returning marshals, purposefully marching as only marshals on a mission will.

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I also took great delight in watching what were in reality probably BMF (British Military Fitness) people being put through their paces, but who I like to think were fellow parkrunners doing a supervised finger search for a misplaced barcode.  That’s the parkrun spirit in evidence, looking out for each other, even when it is at back-breaking personal cost!  Looks like that guy in the middle might have found it actually.  Yay!  High five to him next time you see him out and about!

finger search.jpg

So just a pony left to remark upon, and some ducks. Gotta love a duck.  Spoiler alert, I don’t think that was an actual police horse.

And suddenly that was it.  parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, and I got to debut in my new trail shoes!  Maybe they are what clinched me getting the x-factor?  I’ll never know.  I do know though, that despite being Teddington born and bred, I must now have morphed into a proper Sheffielder.  ‘But why? How do you know?’ I hear you cry.  Well, because I subsequently was talking trail running shoes with a fellow runner from these southern parts, as you do, and they were talking about preferring to run off-road locally. And I said ‘but where can you do that?’ and they looked at me like I’d lost the plot or something (which in fairness I often have, albeit not on this particular occasion) and said ‘in Bushy park.’  With a slight incredulity in their intonation.  And the thing is, I realised I have at some point recalibrated my definition of off-road, as I have my definition of ‘hill’ since moving to Sheffield.  Off road to me now means bog and gritstone and heather bashing, not just absence of traffic.  Bushy park is beautiful beyond measure, but fairly firm under foot as a running circuit.  Trail perhaps, ‘proper’ off road, I’m not sure I’d categorise it that way myself.  Gorgeous though, and a worthy destination for a special parkrun pilgrimage.  There’s even a monthly Bushy junior parkrun now I think, so pick your weekend carefully and it could be a full on family affair where appropriate. First Sunday of every month at 10:00am according to their website.  That’s a break from the norm, but hey people, this is Bushy parkrun remember, they wrote the rule book, they can do as they please!

Here are my new shiny shoes.  I think I like them. They are nice and roomy for my wide and be-bunioned feet, with good grip. Not a massive amount of cushioning, which was noticeable on these hard compacted trails but no regrets.  Innov 8 parkclaws since you were asking.  And no, I didn’t take this photo by accident.  Honestly, what some non-runners will say eh!

new shoes

So thanks again Bushy parkrun people for your fab hospitality.  It was a blast.  I have treasured memories to tide me over ’til next time.  Happy running in general and parkrunning in particular ’til then.  🙂

 Yay!

For all my parkrun blog posts see here – you’ll need to scroll down beyond this one to get to the others.

For all my Bushy parkrun blog posts see here – scroll through for the historic ones.  Enjoy, or not, reading is not compulsory.

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

Dig Deep Done. High jinks in the heather at the 12.12

Digested read:  did it, type one fun!  Who knew?  I could probably improve my time next year, but I don’t think I want to, why lose yomping time on the hills when you are having such good fun?  Added bonus wins included securing the best race photo of all time and hanging out with parkrun royalty.  It was a good day out.  Thank you Dig Deep people.

DD joy of running

The biggest surprise of all, is how relatively fine I feel today.  I fully expected to be broken post the 12 and a bit mile off-road run but apart from being shattered I’m not especially stiff, no blisters and best of all ….. drum roll…. no chaffing!  Didn’t expect to be writing that the morning after the reckoning of the day before.

So rewind for those of you who weren’t there or haven’t been concentrating.   Last weekend was the Dig Deep Series of races out in the Peak District.   Lots was on offer from the seriously hardcore 60 and  50 mile ultras, a 30 mile hilariously named ‘intro’ ultra on the Saturday, and then the more traditional 10k, 12.12 and new inaugural children’s Felly Fun Run on the Sunday.  Because ultra runners are hardcore and enjoy being cold and uncomfortable they can even camp overnight if they wish.  Mere mortals can rock up on the Sunday and enjoy the in-barn catering and register under cover for the shorter, but equally scenic offerings.

In a post parkrun euphoria of running endorphins I decided to sign up for the 12.12 Dig Deep trail event just a few weeks ago,  as part of the Vitality MoveMore #mysummergoal challenge.  Blame the enthusiasm of the Sheffield Hallam parkrun Run Director on the day for that.  Saying that, I got off relatively lightly, others around me are having to do Norway fjord marathons and win their age categories for The Trunce and all sorts, way more ambitious goals than mine. I was counting on just rocking up at the start of the 12.12 and then putting one foot in front of the other for as long as it would take.  Aaah, it’ll be fine…  I never said I’d take the giraffe though, even I have my limits.  Poor Geronimo Sky, her legs aren’t made for the rough terrain of Higger Tor, it wouldn’t be fair.  And if there was an emergency, I don’t know that Mountain Rescue are tooled up for giraffe rescue, it might end badly.

Apart from having to forgo the joy of running with a companion animal which was obviously a massive down side, I did secretly want to do the 12.12 this year, but didn’t think I’d be strong enough to take it on.  Don’t let on about this, but having done the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k in 2017 I did actually have a fantasy of returning to do the longer distance this year. The nice people at Front Runner told me after the event last year, that you don’t need to navigate for the 12.12 which had been my primary concern as my sense of direction and navigational skills amount to nil.  Once I knew this, then I’d fondly imagined as it was a whole year away I’d have trained to such an extent I’d be a lean, mean running machine 12 months on.   Trouble is, I didn’t really do that training, months went by and it was all a bit of a distant memory, it seemed a ridiculous idea, pointless to try … until the parkrun push for summer goal setting. I coudld pledge to do that!  What’s the worst that could happen? My endorphin swamped mind asked laughing in the face of reality.  Suddenly I was in!  Anyways. turns out, I didn’t need to navigate (not in my control) but hadn’t achieved the body and performance makeover I’d have like.  (Well, it’s really hard, you have to run lots and stop comfort eating, who can keep that up for months on end?).  The upshot was it was quite good to be nudged into entering, and  having done so, my ‘conscientious if not keen’ mantra kicked in and I started getting miles on the legs, familiar on the hills and kit testing every sports bra that has ever been marketed. I even had a bash at a strategic taper… it didn’t go well.

Finally, the day dawned. Too late for excuses and further training. Bring.  It. On.  Oh you want to know more about the course?  Well the blah de blah of the Dig Deep website details all the race routes, and the blurb for the 12.12 says:

The route covers some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK. At around 12.12 miles the route takes in some of the finest trails in the Peak District. There is roughly 633 metres of ascent and whilst there are no monster climbs the continued hilly nature of the course earmarks this race as a tough one to complete.

The Route

The route has been chosen because of its stunning scenery and the tough nature of the route. Whilst most of the route is on good tracks and Public Rights of Way it also crosses some tricky terrain where navigation skills may be needed.Whilst developing the race we have worked closely with local landowners and the Peak District National Park Authority to ensure that the race is sustainable and avoids sensitive areas. For this reason there are some strict route restrictions in place on some areas of the race. Please follow these wherever indicated.The route will be marked in most areas but in the event of poor weather some navigation may be necessary. Sport ident dibbing stations will be in place along the route – each of these must be visited, failure to do so will mean disqualification from the race.As well as the 12.12 mile race there will be several other races starting and finishing over the weekend.

There is also a map, I bought one in advance for £3.50. It did motivate me to do some recces, but I would describe it as ‘illustrative’ rather than ‘instructive’.  I did a lot of asking other people and heather bashing before I fathomed my way round.  Not an issue on the day, it was extremely well-marked, but heaven help the ultra runners in search of a dibbing station if they were reliant on that.  The tease is that it looks all colourful and lovely, but is of little practical assistance.  Forewarned is forearmed people, do your homework.

PeakTrails30Map

So, Sunday morning dawned.  Bright and crisp, it didn’t look like rain, but it did look like it might be hot later which for me is not so good.  Oh well.  As usual, I was up ridiculously early to have my porridge and go through my lubing up rituals. I am a relatively recent convert to vaseline, pretty much everywhere. It’s messy – and potentially hazardous if the vaseline saturates your socks and you are on a lino floor – but very good at stopping blisters and chafing. I slather my feet, back of my bra strap and under-boob area with abandon.  It takes quite a bit of contortion to access all areas, but this is not a time for skimping.  Them as who suffer from similar running related affliction will know both the necessity for preventative action and the associated drills.  Had I but known there was a volunteer on the registration desk apparently brandishing a tube of body glide I might have used that outside assistance, but as it was I didn’t need it.  I don’t know what she charged, but understandably you might expect certain crevices to attract a premium fee. Price worth paying though if you’d been foolish enough to turn up lube free.

Body glide services available at registration

Hmm, on reflection, that might not be body glide, it might be a dibber – either way she looks pretty pleased to have it doesn’t she?  Even so, be cautious in how you approach her to find out if she pops up again at registration next year…  Could be awkward otherwise, send someone you are willing to sacrifice ahead of you to check.

Incidentally, whilst on the subject of body glide, (yes we were), did you know they come in women’s and men’s packaging?  I was initially outraged by this, presuming the only distinguishing factor between the two was the tyranny of bright pink packaging for the ‘girls’ and blue for the ‘boys’. Don’t get me started on my fury at pink everything or I’ll never finish this blog post before entries close for next year’s Dig Deep Peaks.  However, apparently they have different constituent ingredients.  I’m a bit dubious, but presume the ‘for men’ probably consists of a cocktail of Lynx, Old Spice and puppy dog tails, whilst the ‘for women’ is Impulse-infused sugar and spice and all things nice. The packaging is extensive but doesn’t actively disclose whether I’m right on this point.  You pays your (eye-watering) amount of money and you takes your chance.  I am still to be persuaded it would be a sufficient upgrade from vaseline to make the purchase.  Not when it’s as pink as all that.  It’s probably not as messy as vaseline but I remain sceptical, or is it a cheap skate?  I get those words confused…

I arrived early, and headed to Whirlow Farm – the Sunday events were all fund-raisers for this project by the way, as were the Friday night talks.  I was turned back from the farm car park by a hi-viz marshal and sent back up to the official field car parking. There was supposed to be a marshal there, but he hadn’t been in situ when I went past and was hot-footing his way down the hill as I went back.  The carparking sign had also mysteriously disappeared.  Never mind, they were on it. A cheery rotary club volunteer directed me up the hill, and another one waved me into a spot promising he wouldn’t let anyone park in front of me so I’d be able to get out again.  Well, not absolutely no-one, they’d have had to have almost a field a car to achieve that, but I’d be able to get out again.  There was loads of parking, and despite my fears it was OK, not too muddy for my very non off-roady and elderly, albeit low-mileage, Toyota.

Parking

Then a scenic hike through the farm to get to registration.  It was a bit before 8.30.  The registration tables were already open, and I got my number, a dibber and a T-shirt.  Elsewhere volunteers were being briefed on whatever it is they get briefed on.  I had about eight precautionary pees (bring your own toilet paper people, it was running low) and then rehydrated with a coffee from within the barn.

The coffee was really good, though I’m a bit dubious it came from the coffee plantations of Sheffield as the signage seemed to claim ‘Steel City Blend’ or something. As an added boon, I got to chat with some awesome volunteers who were supporting the Felly Fun Run and we were able to share running tales as we waited for the start of the junior event.  For carnivores there was a bacon bap BBQ in full swing, just down from the ominously empty and echoey pigsty.  Personally, I wouldn’t.  Not sure if the pink pig with the floral tribute was in memory of the previous occupant of said pigsty but I fear not.  I very much doubt it’s marking an actual grave.   I just don’t think pigs that live in that sty end up buried.  In fairness, Whirlow is a working farm, so this is consistent with their mission and I’m sure their animals fare a lot better than most in the human food chain.

Absorbed by companionable chit-chat, we were nearly late for the Felly Fun Run!  My one gripe about the 12.12 is that it clashed with my junior parkrun fix. The Felly Fun Run was pleasing substitute.  There were two races, slightly different routes for two age groups. Hang on, let me get the Felly Fun Run blah de blah – there is even a map:

The inaugural Front Runner Felly Fun Run will be run as part of the Dig Deep Series Weekend. Taking place before the adults 10k and 12.12 races on the morning Sunday 20th August. There will be a shorter route for younger runners and longer route for older runner. The route will be made up of the amazing trails in and around Whirlow Hall Farm, the Limb Valley and Castle Dyke playing fields. 

  • 8-11 years old (MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN ADULT) – 1.6km with 50 metres of ascent
  • 12-16 years old – 2.3km with 95 metres of ascent

Route Descriptions.

Both routes will start in the field opposite the main farm building, head up towards the start of the adult races and through the gate, down the path towards Whirlow Hall Crescent & Ecclesall Road South. Before reaching the road a right turn is taken cutting over to the Limb Valley, just below the fishing pond. From here the main path is followed as it climbs gently…..

8-11 year olds will follow the yellow flags for ~600 metres before turning sharply right up the steep path, negotiating a style at its summit then crossing the rough grassy field before tackling second style and turning left back up the path for 200 metres to the farm and finish line.

12-16 years old continue up the Limb Valley for an extra 300 metres as it steepens, following ***** coloured flags. Just after passing the left turn for Whirlow Hall you tackle the behemoth of a climb up the steep and never-ending steps heading for the Castle Dyke playing field. There are 2 styles to negotiate at the top of the climb before opening the legs out through the farm field to reach and turn right onto the main bridleway running down from the plateau which is the Castle Dyke playing fields. A flying finish is a must as you plummet back down the farm and finish line.

I don’t know why there is a blocked out expletive in the route write-up.  Or possibly the flag colour was being held back to be a surprise on the day?   Bit of feedback for the organisers, the flags were lovely and everything, but I don’t think it merited quite the big reveal on the morning.  Also, I thought all the flags were orange, but who knows in this strange new world where paint colours such as ‘crushed childhood dreams’ and ‘shipwrecked skies’ are supposed to be meaningful.  Granted I did just make those names up, but I bet if I don’t immediately copyright them they’ll end up in a Farrow and Ball paint catalogue this time next year.  Check back in August 2018 and we’ll see.

So my new tail runner buddy sprinted off to the start, her partner off to point the way round on a style.  I went to watch.  It was really lovely.  It was a small but perfectly formed event which bodes well for future years. There was a friendly briefing, and the older children – all of whom looked pretty competitive lined up first.   The timer was on hand and soon they were away, at a very impressive sprint.  I was going to say ‘athletes in the making’ but that would be a disservice to their already significant running prowess.  Thankfully for the tail runner she was tasked with following round the younger age group.  They also gathered for awf.   Nail bitingly the tension mounted as the start was delayed due to the timer being on the phone to their stock broker or book maker or mum or something similarly important – and therefore unavailable for race timer duties.  However, eventually his attention was regained the cry went up and the stampede started.  I must be either really sleep-deprived or hormonal at the minute, but I genuinely find it moving watching juniors run.  It is running as it should be. They seem to move with joy, without inhibition and with a natural, effortlessness to their gait that grown-ups on the whole can only dream of.  Why everyone doesn’t volunteer at their local junior parkrun to get this weekly inoculation against cynicism each Sunday I can’t imagine.  If you don’t already do it you are missing out dear reader.

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Then we trooped round to the finish, the juniors also get to sprint through the arch and rightly so.  They also got fabulous medals, bespoke artisan creations that will no doubt be future collectors items as this was after all the inaugural event.  The finishers fair flew round, and it was exciting to be at the finish.  The tail marker had to double back to sweep a stray runner for some reason, but all ended happily I think.  It was great. Yay!

Then my new best friends romped in as the sweepers and that was it.  First race of the day done and dusted.  I’d already had an adventure and the whole day still ahead!

So there then followed ‘the gathering’.   This was an hour or so when numbers swelled, Smilies mustered (other running clubs are available).  Pleasingly, I also espied a junior parkrun marshal buddy, and we were able to humour and entertain one another by posing for shots whilst hoping we wouldn’t be mowed down by returning juniors.   Yeah, yeah, so my commentary is a bit out of sequence here, strictly speaking this was during rather than following, but what are you going to do about it. Shoot me?

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Smiley herding is quite hard though.  Not so much herding cats, more like picking up mercury with a fork.  I had a number of aspirations for the day, from ‘not dying’ through ‘not crying’ to ‘try and get in a Smiley team photo’.  My previous success rate for this has been lamentable.  Whilst it is entirely possible that my club mates go to great lengths to avoid being photographed with me, they have been spared trying to take evasive action by simply taking most group shots immediately post-race.  The trouble is, their post race quick snap and then home for a restorative bath and cake or whatever, is usually taken when I’m still hours away from the finish line.  This time, I saw an opportunity to get us together pre-race.  As an added incentive to achieve this, we had some mutual glory by association due to the presence of parkrun royalty.  Imagine how chuffed Mr P S-H will be to get into a snap with us by dint of being one of the rare Spammers allowed a pass on such occasions (That’s Smiley Paces And Men).  Also brilliantly (my the planets aligned for me today), whilst my little camera couldn’t cope with the bright sunshine on our collective moon-white countenances, the ‘proper’ photographer stepped in to do the honours at the same time. Thank you Mr Mick Kenyon of Racing Snakes for taking the initiative there.  Bucket list moment for me times two.  Not only am I now in a club photo so they can’t sack me, I am also in the company of the great man himself.  I could even Photoshop it so it seems to be just the two of us but even I acknowledge that would be a bit creepy.  Particularly as I was (once again) too star-struck to actually initiate conversation with him and open up a conversation like a normal person with basic communication skills might have done.  Even so, I’ve not been that excited since I got Jon Pertwee’s autograph at a local school fete when I was about 10 (he will always be ‘my’ Dr Who), that reminds me, where is that signed event flier that is to be auctioned on eBay to fund my retirement?  I’m sure I still have it somewhere…

I was going to put just the decent quality group shot in this blog post, but I like to think there is comedic value in the ‘compare and contrast’ exercise of juxtaposing the two.  See if you can distinguish which is which. Clue:  it’s not hard, but if you are stuck, the Dig Deep logo is on the official photographers offering if that helps.  There isn’t a prize for guessing right I’m afraid, apart from low-grade smugness, but I hope you will enjoy at least that.  Aren’t we all lovely?  Collectively, and individually. Go us!

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To be quite honest, at this point I’d got the T-shirt, and the ‘post race photo’ so it did cross my mind to just call it a day there and then – I could always get someone else to dib in for me if I really wanted a time.   Then again, I was here now, so might as well finish what I’d started.

So what could top that?  Well, lots of lovely Smilies milling around, sunshine, and being tooled up for an awesome day of running still to come. Some people might only be running an hour, but I was pretty confident I’d get a full day of felly fun.

Time then seemed to accelerate, and the next enrichment activity was the pre-race briefing.  Delivered with some gusto and not at all ‘incorrect use of the dibber’ shaming by the compère.  We were told about the signing – really good, mostly flags but some paint – by farmers’ preference. The little flags are a potential risk to livestock, cattle will try to eat them, the paint is biodegradable but will linger a week or so.  Only one dibber.  ‘And of the 279 say participants, 278 of you have the dibber correctly positioned round your wrist, one of you, who I wont name, but could be a woman runner… from Smiley Paces  … has it on their ankle – might be interesting if the dibber is fixed up high‘  Apart from a brief moment of paranoia that this would be me, it was entertaining. Anyway, it was acceptable banter because it was an experienced smiley elder who had done this, and she could let her legs do the talking by storming round the 10k leaving pretty much everyone else for dust.  I won’t name her, but just coincidentally include an action shot of her in the mash-up that follows. That seems appropriately understated.  ‘Look after each other‘ was the final sentiment expressed to send us on our way, and a fine one.

The kit requirement was reduced to just a windproof jacket.  I was wishing I wasn’t laden with everything as there were water stations too. Then I figured I have practised with all this stuff and I did once run out of water so best to have spare.  It’ll be ‘proper’ running if I go laden with baggage, and also a handy get-out clause for any required post-run justification of DNF or slow even by my standards finishing times.

And that was it, next thing I knew, the twelve twelvers were in the start funnel and away we went.  AND I remembered to start my tom-tom.  Always an auspicious start to a run.

DD 12 starting out

The start is a bit brutal, straight up hill, but I was glad to have both recced this before and done the Whirlow 10k last year as it didn’t panic me quite as much, I just stayed well back and took my time as the field spread out.  Pleasingly, a fellow Smiley and last-minute on-the-day entrant elected to yomp round at my speed.  I’d given my speech along the lines of that’s fine, but I’m doing my own stop/start thing, so you’ll probably dump me early on, but in fact to my amazement it worked ok.  Knowing where you are going definitely makes the course feel more manageable. It was also genuinely shorter, as we didn’t have to keep doing massive detours due to cattle congestion around gates and styles.

The first marshal we saw had his flag out.  Not a euphemism, an actual flag!  We were only 500  metres in, but I though this merited a stop for my first photo of the day:

leg one marshal

If it was intended as a dire warning for what lay ahead, no-one took any notice.  Incidentally, I’ve since heard that other people aren’t in the habit of stopping to take photos on their way round in a race.  How bizarre.  Don’t they want to stop to fully absorb their surroundings en route?  Might as well be on a treadmill otherwise.  Imagine doing a whole ultra through a veil of blood, sweat and tears with never a pause for either a picnic or a view!  You don’t even have to imagine, you can do it all yourself next year, and trust me,  my way is more fun.

So we did a brief bit of Ringinglow Road and then sharp left over a style and through a couple of fields. One used to have cows but didn’t today (phew), the next was a ploughed field. There was a bit of queuing over the styles, but you could yomp on in-between if you don’t mind running up hill through a ploughed field.  Then as you went over the summit, you descended down some steep, wooden steps into Limb Valley. For me, that descent was the scariest part of the whole day.  It was very steep, and I clung onto the handrail that was there for part of the way down, and then picked my way down watching the other runners disappearing into the distance.

Once we were in the woods, I found my Smiley Buddy waiting for me, and we ended up in a group of about five women of similar pace.  Another Smiley who is also a Brutelles so not to be messed with, and two women running together, one of whom was especially springy and energetic. It was like running with a sheep dog as she kept shooting ahead and then coming back to herd us along.  It was grand, quite companionable.  I don’t really run up the Limb much, but it was lovely, I prefer the woodland compacted leaf mould to the ‘improved’ gritted paths, but then again it does make it more accessible.  This section went more quickly than I expected, and, we didn’t even get caught by the 10k runners at this point.  I’d fully expected to be taken down by a stampede of runners as the front of the 10k lapped us.

At the top of the valley, another marshal.  A known one.  Yay, hugs and photo ops, and then the 10k started to approach.  It’s good watching the faster runners, and a measure of my running prowess that rather than being discouraged at being caught I was just grateful I’d made it up that far before I was.

limb valley marshal

Onto the road, this was the only road crossing of the day.  We made it to the base of Lady Cannings and then on up quite far towards the first water station.   As we did so, the 10k runners started to overtake en masse.  It was actually really fun seeing some familiar faces and being able to cheer them round.  In fact, at times today I felt like a sort of roving cheer leader, only with less cartwheels and pompoms.  It was inspirational seeing the speed merchants charge by.  Great marshals were on hand to point, clap and share chit-chat too.  This running malarkey is quite fun sometimes, you should try it.

From here, it was a sharp right into the plantation itself.  I never did find the correct route on the recce, but it doesn’t matter, this part is fun.  All squidgy under foot, lovely trees, head high bracken and a sense of being in another ecosystem altogether.  Periodically we moved to the side to give way to other runners, and it was especially fun when we were able to tell the women runners where they were in the finish line up, even more fun to see some fellow smilies storming round.  You hear about ‘the loneliness of the long distance runner’ and the personal mental strength it takes to go on long trail runs.  True I suppose, but being at the rear of the 12.12 was actually super-social because there was loads of distraction and enrichment through interacting with other runners. At this point it was the front of the 10k field, but later on it was the front of the 12.12 storming home as we were still heading out.  Also, there was a photographer in the woods (he got everywhere, appearing ‘as if by magic’ seemingly from nowhere like the fancy dress shop owner in Mr Benn).  This was a good first chance to practice the ‘seen a photographer’ pose which is obligatory in all running settings. Fortuitously, in these parts we have had years of training in handling this sort of situation, due to a diligent team of volunteer photographers who are an almost ever-present feature at Sheffield parkruns – particularly Sheffield Hallam parkrun.  (Thanks especially George).  The quest for the perfect running shot remains the holy grail for many runners.  Frankly, given the choice between a new PB or a flattering and impressive action running shot it would take super-human competitive spirit to go for the former in my view.  Not even a tough call.  Anyways, here are some random ‘what happened in the plantation shots’ including an unknown good gym guy who, in my view, has totally nailed the photo pose, by looking cool rather than  either manic or marginally self-conscious as he runs by.  Impressive.  Also some Smilies, because they are lovely, and some Graves Junior hi-viz heroes, disguised in Strider kit.

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You emerge from the plantation onto the grit path and the heather expanse before you.  It was breathtakingly beautiful, so obviously we had to stop to take photos of the that.  Then more runners came by so we had to cheer them on for a bit, it was quite busy.  A little further on I saw a fellow woodrunner out with his dog and a mate, and then the impressive sight of the first 12.12 runner on his way back.  My he was seriously fast though, I mean seriously.  Minutes ahead of the second man.

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Off the roman road, quick wave and photo shoot of the gate marshals and into the ‘proper’ felly bit.  Boulders, and gritstone, and puddles between heather.  I love this.  We had to pick a route to some extent as it was a bit technical, but then once you hit the  highest point, it was more of a scamper down. The recces had helped me feel a bit more confident tackling this, a few weeks ago I’d have just walked it.  Also I did do a fell-running course with Front Runner, only made it to one because of a knee problem but it was really good, and made me braver at jumping from boulder to boulder.  Basically, this video shows what it felt like running downhill, though I personally was running too fast to be caught on camera, ahem.  We did start to meet quite a flood of 12.12 runners though. On the plus side it was a hoot cheering them on, especially as they were having to run up hill at that point whilst we were running done, so it looked way harder for them than us apart from the fact they were nearly home and we had yet to meet the half way point.  Minor detail.

Our descent took us to the base of Burbage and another friendly face, we were fair speeding past so shouted greetings and agreed that rather than double backing we’d save the sweaty hugs of greeting for the return loop. She took some ace photos though.  Good spot, and again, really good course signage. It would be quite an achievement to get lost on this route it really wood.

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The next part was a lope along the road at the bottom of Burbage.  I had planned on running this, but my running buddy (just my Smiley mate now, we’d somehow pulled ahead of the other three) pointed out we ought to eat something really.  I just had a mouthful of my Chia protein bar.  I haven’t cracked what to eat at all.  It sat in my stomach a bit, and I felt slightly nauseous and didn’t want to eat any more.  It seemed to do the trick though, but I had to walk for a while whilst everything settled.  As we were walking, tigger buddy bounced past, and then before I knew it, we were at the little stream crossing by the bridge, waving at more marshals and traipsing up Higger Tor.  En route we passed some people using remote control cars.  I thought they were amazing, my runner buddy was seemingly nonplussed by my interest.  Fortunately, as I get older I get increasingly disinhibited and asked if it was OK to take a photo.  Post fifty I really have little dignity left to bother to try to hang on to, so sometimes the direct approach works well (apart from when I’m star struck, obviously).

Clamber up, and then there’s a down, a flat and another climb up to get to Higger Tor ‘proper’.  I was still unsure how navigation would work, but as we summitted (is that even a word, I mean I know it’s become common to use it, but it is an ugly use of the English language is it not?) the hi-viz team came into view. One was in possession of a dibber box.  It would have ended badly had she not reminded us to actually make use of it. They sort of waved us in the general direction of the ‘best descent’.  Honestly, it wasn’t as good as the route down on my last recce, I did a section on my arse, but at least we ended up where we were supposed to, and injury free, which was by no means a given based on my previous experiences of checking out the route.

Dibster team

There is a fun down hill bit, I was cautious on the steps, but then as we neared the base of Carl Wark, joy of joys a fellow Smiley offering hugs as well as directional pointing and encouragement at the next intersection.  Yay.  Gotta love a strategically located Smiley.

marshal hugging

We yomped onwards and bogwards.  The paint patterns continued to direct really well, there was even some spray painted bracken at one point which was a bit surreal.  The paint was almost luminous, it looked like a radioactive spill in parts. This was indeed a boon to navigation, but I really hope it does get washed away speedily. In any even we yomped through, avoiding the worst of the wetlands.  The temperature did drop though.  On a serious note, although I didn’t need my windproof, you have to recognise that had I gone over on an ankle at that point you’d definitely need something to put on to stop you from getting cold given we were nicely wet with sweat by this point.   Down to the little bridge where more marshals waved us upwards, back onto the grit path and yay, back to friendly hi-viz marshal who we’d sped past earlier.  It is so heartening seeing familiar faces.  We took advantage of the selfie moment, and she also offered a date.  Which I took because I knew I needed something but couldn’t face the thought of the Chia bar.  Pleasingly, she also provided  health and safety instructions, warning me it had a stone within. I wonder if that’s the kind of helpful and important detail that was covered in the marshal’s briefing earlier in the day?  That date saw me through, so seems I didn’t need as much extra fuel as I though, but then again, I wasn’t out for anything like as long I was on some of my recces, maybe it really is time out rather than physical exertion that saps my reserves, which seems bizarre, but could be true for me anyway.

From here, it was basically homeward bound.  Just a yomp up the hill, across Houndkirk, quick photo op and cheery support from marshalling smiley (thanks for the encouragement and heather backdrop snaps too)

then back on the Roman Road and down to the plantation. Fortunately though, there was still a final treat in store.  My running buddy was a highly effective early warning system for photographers as canaries are to smoke in the mine.  Actually, that might not be the most flattering of analogies, but you get the gist.  She sees them a mile off, and muttering a warning, it gave us time to sort our hair and hoik up our knickers and things before we were in range.  I can’t lie, when we saw him on the roman road, we actually made a strategic decision to walk for a bit so we’d have the energy to run past as we got closer. But then, in a moment of shared genius, we decided to go for The Jump Pose, and on three, launched ourselves.  Unsure if he’d have been able to do our efforts justice, we then did again, more than once.  Worth it?  Totally. Also, for the record, I think the first photo is the one that come out best – where ‘best’ is most comedic value as opposed to necessarily flattering. I  cannot adequately express my delight at the finished versions.  That’s it, my perfect race shot.  It is true that I maybe need to work on forward rather than upward momentum to improve my times, but reference previous comment about ‘which would you prefer?  A new PB or a good running photo?’  Quite.  I give you dear reader, The ‘seen a photographer’ photo sequence:

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I know, the camera loves us (in its own way) we are clearly awesome, and more importantly having a blast out there. Running (and jumping) is supposed to be fun, otherwise it is truly pointless.

From here, yomp back to the first water station, where I was glad to take on more fluid, I’d emptied my bottles.  I gulped it down which you probably aren’t supposed to do but there was only a couple of miles to go, and pretty much downhill from there. Well I say that, I seem to always erase from my mind the uphill bit as down the Limb Valley there are most definitely significant ‘undulations’ not to mention the sneaky uphill finish. Sweaty marshal hug (me that was sweaty not her) at the style before carrying on down the valley.

There were still three behind us, so although the marshals were sort of packing up as we approached they still cheered us by and stayed in post.  Later some caught up with us as they ran back after the final few finishers had come through.

Finally, we were on the little dirt track that takes you round the back of the event barn and a sharp right down through the finish funnel.  Pleasingly, a little crowd of supporters had hung on to cheer us in.  Lubricant Woman was doing the finish dibbing and although there was no medal, there was the glory of finishing and feeling immortal.  My running buddy overshot the dibber so I got in first by skidding to a halt, but only a second in it.  Anyway, it was never about competition for me, only about completion. We all stayed to cheer back the final few. One of the supporters somehow managed to gain temporary possession of a Les Brutelles shirt. Those women are super-human.  You can see she is stroking it quite covetously, but – and no offence here – that’s as close as she’s likely to get to membership of that elite hardcore club.  Still, at least she could inhale the perspiration from a garment worn by one of them, that’s being close to greatness, which is a start.  I don’t know why Lubricant woman is apparently eating for two.

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So that was that.  Pleasingly, even though the event was pretty much packing up around us, the coffee place was still open, so we were able to have a caffeine fix and a debrief.  And you know what? We’d all had an awesome day.  It’s true you know, the hard thing is deciding to do something in the first place.  Once you commit, it’s just a question of making it happen.  What seemed impossible not so very long ago was done.  Yay.  Don’t we look happy and animated at the end?

The non verbal cues of chairs being stacked up made us muster the energy to depart.  We headed off to be reunited with our respective cars.  On the way out we passed the fell running guide who I think had led the course signage.  I asked about route navigation for the longer routes, they are on their own out there apparently, but Dave does offer courses.  I’ve been put off these because I am so slow I’d be scared I couldn’t keep up with the running bit, but it seems if we can get a group together then we’d just go at whatever pace suited.  I’d like to do that.  Also I need to because, this is the shot when I said goodbye to my running friends and went in search of my car…

poignant farewell

poignant isn’t it… only to have to then run and catch them up, as  I realised we were actually parked in the same place and I was going in completely the wrong direction to find mine.  That navigation and orienteering course can’t come soon enough for me.

Oh, you want to know the results?  What a very linear and literal interpretation of whole point of these events.  Still, fair enough, the full results for the 2017 Dig Deep series are here for them as want to know.

In terms of how to improve my own time for next year.  Well, for me I’m not sure the time it takes to get round is actually the point.  More time out on the hills is more fun to be had having adventures in the peaks, why would I want to deliberately cut short any of that?  However, I can think of a few distinct areas where I know I sacrificed a bit of running time:

  • For starters, I have to concede I lost some time when stopping to take photos of your friends in the races who have either lapped you from behind having caught up with you on their 10k run, or because for the 12.12 they are on their way back across the heather when you are still on your way out. On balance though, that was a lot of fun, and I got some great shots, if I say so myself, sooooooo don’t really want to miss out on that.  Same plan for next year
  • Hugging marshals at every marshal point also takes time.   However, I really don’t see how you can possibly avoid that, nor would I want to.  It’s important to share the love, especially as some of them would have liked to have run but couldn’t because of injury, tapering for some other event, whatever.  Plus, I  think given how long I’ve made them stand out in the cold waiting for me, it would be rude not to show some appreciation on the way by. I wouldn’t want them to think their selfless flirting with potential hypothermia wasn’t properly appreciated. Also, in Sheffield the Round Sheffield Run has habituated the running community in these parts to always stop and natter to the hi-viz heroes on the way round.  It’s a hard habit to break – especially as they often they give treats as well, bananas and stuff.  I got a date going round this time, and lots of water.
  • It’s quite time-consuming when you have to pose multiple times for the official photographer in search of the perfect ‘race pose’ photo, on the other hand, so worth it.  Nope, same tactics for next year for sure.  Ref PB v good race photo dilemma outlined above.  A no-brainer really.

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  • Also a bit of a time vampire, was being inspired by faster runners coming through.  Sometimes the path is narrow so you have to give way anyway, so why not shout random encouraging things at them and encourage them by with some extra-curricular whooping.  Once you’ve stopped anyway, lingering a bit longer so cheer them through is no great hardship, and quite a lot of fun.  I might have told quite a few men they were ‘winning’ when actually it might really have been true for only one of them.  Actually the first man was stonking ahead way clear of the field and storming it, he certainly was running to win.   But the rest weren’t going to double back and remonstrate with me in a race – were they?  I found I could count to about third man, and then it got a bit guestimatey.   I figured the men would know their placings pretty well nobody would have seriously thought they were winning if they weren’t as they were in sight of one another, plus even if they did have a moment of thinking they were first in line, maybe that would inspire them!  With the women runners, they were quite spread out, so my counting was quite meticulous.  It was fantastic sharing the good news with those front runners.   Yep, would still do that for sure.
  • As is always the case, I’ve very much enjoyed looking at the post-race photos, and they are revelatory in terms of my running technique.  Turns out, I might possibly have used a bit too much upward propulsion when running at the expense of some potentially more helpful (time wise) forward momentum.   There was a lot of bouncing going on, and not just because of the limitations of my sports bra.  Addressing this could be critical to my future performance speeds.  Then again, surely it’s a good thing to practise your running drills when you are out and about?  It keeps your technique strong, otherwise what’s the point of going to woodrun on a Thursday to do my training drills?  (Rhetorical question, they do excellent coffee in the Woodland Coffee Shop).  Accelerate are always trying to make us jump up really high, they’ll be pleased with me for taking that on board on my own initiative.  Also, it turns out it’s quite fun leaping for joy.  I’m not forfeiting that either.

Incidentally, if you want to check out your own running form, then there is a wealth of very fine photos captured by Mick Kenyon Racing Snakes who captured not only the 12.12, but 10k, Felly Fun run and the ultras too.  Yay!

So, basically, I’m happy with the choices I made – I just take off a couple of hours from my ‘official time’ to allow for that and basically that means I came first anyway really.  It’s enough that I know this in my heart, I don’t care enough to put in an appeal and get the results recalibrated to reflect these points.   Also, actually, to improve my performance next year, I might take even longer, and incorporate a power nap up the top. I understand that you can’t over-estimate the importance of sleep to runners according to the keynote speakers on Friday night.  If it’s good enough for Sally Fawcett and Nicky Spinks, then it’s good enough for me.  I’d have come back fresh as a daisy if I’d had a bit of kip and a bun at the half way point I’m sure.  Or if not a bun, I might take some money for the ice-cream van… I’d need to practise that in training though I suppose.  Still, good to have options.  Worth going to the talks by the way, though that might be another story altogether.  I will just say though, that I now know how to get my name in the RNLI monthly glossy magazine.  Might come in handy one day, you never know.

ultra talks

So basically, no regrets.  A grand day out.

I’ve finally retired my Salomon Fell Raisers though, I’m a bit sad about that, they’ve done me well. No blisters today, and they held up, but their grip is compromised and any cushioning for my arthritic feet long gone. Also Strava says no, so time for them to hit the recycling bin (lots of running shops take them for a running Africa charity by the way, so give them a clean and then drop them off there, rather than binning).

retired shoes

Hope you’ll pick a run from the Dig Deep series and join all the fun next time round in 2018.  Go on, go on, you know you want to. Don’t over-think  it, it’ll be fine, or not, either way it will be an adventure.  See you there!

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you.

Thanks Dig Deep people, thanks Front Runner folk, thanks Smileys, thanks marshals, thanks fellow competitors, thanks woodrun folk, fellow parkrunners and thanks race photographer too.  It took quite a team to get me round.  You are all awesome!  🙂

 

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Maxing out with fun of olympic proportions at Sheffield Hallam parkrun August 2017

Digested read:  Olympians were everywhere at parkruns across the country today. We maxed out on our luck gaining Max Litchfield for the day.  I did finish token volunteering duty as half a Smiley double act.  We were awesome.  I have an idea for the re-education of Funnel Duckers, but it may not be entirely ethical.  It was a nice day, and you want to know the best bit? We can do it all again next saturday!  Yay!

The forecast for today was sunshine and showers, you know what that means?  Well, pessimists might say it means you get wet, optimists may say it means the sun smiles on you and I say, ‘look a rainbow!’  Always a grand start to the day, even if it did mean my sunglasses got wet.

rainbow

Today Olympians were promised to make an appearance at parkruns everywhere.  The identity of these demigods and the locations at which they’d be turning up was kept under wraps until the last-minute.  The plan was they’d be tail walkers at events as part of a campaign to get across the message that parkrun is indeed for everyone and no-one gets left behind.  So it was the night before Sheffield Hallam parkrun Facebook page did a bit reveal and announced we would be joined by Max!

Max to dip his toe in the parkrun

Very exciting news on this parkrun eve! We are proud to announce that this weekend, parkrun has teamed up with UK Sport and c.100 National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic Athletes will be attending parkruns across the country to help volunteer as part of #teamparkrun.
We are very pleased to welcome Max Litchfield tomorrow, who swam for Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics and for England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. 🏊   Max will be tail walking. Hope you’ve got your barcode Max! #dfyb.

Fortunately, they took the precaution of providing a link to save us all having to google who he was.  That is not in any way to take away from his achievements, but I think it’s fair to say he isn’t quite as high-profile as Jessica Ennis or Mo Farah say – though his support is/was more than welcome all the same.

Because of my big Dig Deep 12.12 adventure the following day, I elected to volunteer at parkrun today.  It’s no great hardship, volunteering is a hoot. You can still get an adrenalin high and loads of mini-adventures, plus credits to your 25 Volunteer tee, and not be made to run 5k.  Result.  To be honest, I’ve often had my services declined as a volunteer at Hallam parkrun, but this time I got my request in early as I knew I wouldn’t want to run today ages ago.   It did worry me a bit as I walking down when it dawned on me just how pleased and relieved I was that I didn’t have to run today given that I will have to run over 12 miles tomorrow.  Oh well, tomorrow is another day, maybe adrenalin will kick in and I’ll be unexpectedly turbo charged?

It was a beautiful morning, though it rained a lot later (poor ultra runners were getting a soaking early on in their 30, 50 and 60 mile Peak District Dig Deep epic races).  As I sauntered to the start, I saw a little huddle of hoodies, behind the bins, and bent over something. Closer inspection revealed each deep in concentration, with a little pile of tokens in front of them.  Each protectively nursed and tended their respective heap, occasionally a hand would shoot out and there’d be a brief wrestle for custody of one particular token, then the clattering of counted out bits of plastic continued.  They worked in a furious silence.

I wondered what they could be doing?  Trading Pokemon cards perhaps – but that would be rather late for such a craze to suddenly arrive at parkrun. It seemed altogether more likely that it was some high-stakes strange token gambling ring led by the snakehead or mafia gangs of Rustlings Road.  Honestly, I was not previously aware of any such triads of that nature operating in the area, but then again these things always lurk in the hidden shadows of society do they not.  Whatever it was, it was a reckoning not to be interfered with.  The die was cast, the game was on, it would have to play out to its inevitable conclusion without outside intervention.

I was actually a bit disappointed when I found out it was just that the tokens from last week’s parkrun never got sorted, so there was an emergency sifting system set in place this morning. They did good.  I was mightily relieved they did so with such focus and aplomb, as I was on token duty, with an elegant Smiley elder side-kick on finish token support. I knew we’d be a dream team with our combined expertise, and although maybe eyesight wasn’t our forte, I’d got my glasses with me so we’d probably be able to muddle through.

token dream team

The next item on the agenda was to check out our olympian.  Yesterday at the Dig Deep talks I’d tried to remember who he was.  I got the name right and said it was water related. The others around me reckoned on a diver.  I thought about this for a bit, and then remembered reading something about him excelling at the 200 and 400 metre distances.  Probably not a diver then?  I mean even tombstoning adrenalin junkies would draw the line at a 400 metre drop – wouldn’t they?

He is/was indeed a swimmer, a friendly one, and a tall one.  Going by the name of Max Litchfield and made easier to identify by handy dint of wearing a GB outfit and pink hi-viz combo.  At the start we noticed various people asking for autographs not so much from him, as from someone standing nearby who he’d come with.  I didn’t know who that was either.  I  wondered if we should start a queue to get autographs from each other, and see who we could dupe into thinking maybe we were the day’s Olympians, though granted people might struggle to guess what my olympic sport of choice might be.  Joking apart, we had a fine Olympian, he was very smiley, and did a sterling job at loping along and being photographed a lot, which is admirable.  It takes enormous dedication to excel in swimming, I hope his efforts are rewarded.  He must be good enough that he can probably do front crawl without swallowing water, and I bet he can pick a brick up from the bottom of the pool wearing his pyjamas too, so respect.  I never got beyond a one width badge myself, and even that never got sewn onto my bathing suit.  On the other hand, I do float brilliantly.  Actually, if there was an endurance ‘bobbing around like a cork’ olympic event I’d definitely win that. See, we do all have a unique skill set, it’s just a question of experimentation and exploration to find out for yourself just what that niche is.  I claim the sport of endurance cork-bobbing for my own!  You heard it here first!

tail walking team

So the press corp was there, the Olympian in evidence and the hi viz heroes assembled.  It was looking good.  I like the coming together at the start of parkrun, it seems to happen as if we are drawn to the focal point of the starting flag by some invisible force. What did we all used to do on a Saturday morning? I just can’t remember any more, I really can’t.  My pre parkrun life seems like a bad dream.  I shudder at the very thought.

Whilst I was staring at our very own olympian and posing for photos, the more spatially aware members of the volunteer team started to create a maze of red and white tape and lightweight poles to act as the four lane finish tunnel.  It was a work of art… which unfortunately periodically blew over  as the wind tossed up the lightweight posts.  This prompted a whirlwind of leaping hi – viz marshals into action, they ran around constantly trying to re-erect it in epic display of hope over experience.  Tenacious lot parkrun volunteers you know.

Eventually 9.00 approached and there was the pre-run briefing, applause for milestones, volunteers and a welcome to our tail-walking olympian

then 3, 2, 1, GO!  It was like the Wizard of Oz film, only with tarmac paths instead of a yellow brick road as we started in black and white and then evolved into Technicolor!  A.Maz.Ing.  Well, not really, but it’s still a cool bit of photo editing by our hero snapper for the day don’t you agree?

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As we had a  few minutes before the fastees came hurtling round me and some of the other volunteers lined the path and had fun watching the runners hare round.  As we were standing near play area, it was also entertaining watching runners various disrobe and hurl their unwanted kit onto the railings around the swings as they sped by. It was like a drive-by strip show or something.  Personally I wouldn’t have the body confidence, or indeed contortional dexterity to remove my top whilst running but for those who can why not?  One guy was (I presume) doing drills mid parkrun, running with an exaggerated style, high knees, then fast feet for a bit, that was fine, not sure it was quite so in line with parkrun etiquette to do a bit of zig zagging along the route to work those lateral  – well lateral whatever muscles it would work by dodging sideways –  I should have concentrated more at woodrun when we are building up to our grapevine drills I’m sure it’s been explained.  The double buggy runner was pretty impressive, but then again, so was everyone.  Runners are awesome, all of us, in all ways.  See them unfold before you in all their glory.  Look out for the jazz hands; the jiving jogger;  the happy couple; the joy of running photo pose; the ‘aw’ shots; the vi runner and guide and the unorthodox interpretation of the canine assisted run.  Enjoy:

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Suddenly, a cry went up and the front runner who was actually from Front Runner was coming into view.  We all leapt to our stations and were on our marks at the finish.  Last minute conferring on our technique and go!  We were indeed running like a well-oiled machine.  As finish token dispenser I had the privilege of handing out the tokens to each runner in turn, which is the only occasion in which I get to legitimately hold the No One finish position bar code. A great honour indeed.  Meanwhile, the tokens were handed to me in hand-size batches with a ‘right way up?’ ‘Check’ exchange in piles of about 30.  I think we worked pretty well.  It could be that a learning point for myself is that I’ve spent too long at junior parkrun and maybe those guys who’ve just done a 15 minute 5k or whatever don’t really need me to say ‘jolly well done!’ or ‘great running’ as they come into the finish funnel. Still it’s the thought that counts, and the first finishers are too knackered to speak anyway, so you can say what you want without challenge.

Another observation from this role is that you do get exposed to an alarming quantity of bodily secretions.  I mean, I’m talking a lot of snot.  I couldn’t believe how much mucus was discharged and on show as the hard-core runners come through.  I must say, this is less of an issue at junior parkrun.  It made me appreciate that for some the perfection of a well-aimed snot rocket is perhaps a legitimate part of their training.  I wouldn’t say it bothered me all that much, but I probably was less up for random high fives in the finish funnel than I would be at Graves Junior parkrun say.  Then again generally speaking, less physical contact with adult runners was expected.  At junior parkrun I dispense high fives in the finish funnel with uncensored abandon, but the first finishers at this  5k Sheffield Hallam parkrun didn’t look like they had the resources left for completing the walk through the funnel let alone returning any high fives.   Shame.

One weird thing though, was how many people stopped to ask me questions even though I was clearly in the middle of frantically handing out the tokens and trying to keep the line moving.  One guy even appeared behind me, not from the funnel, and started demanding a token, as ‘I need one too’.  Not sure what had happened there, funnel ducker maybe?  See what anomalies turn up in the results later on today….  I don’t mind particularly that people do these things, well I do mind about funnel ducking but presume it was a first timer who just didn’t know – but it is an interesting example of the post-run fug perhaps.  People just not really thinking or able to process ideas properly at that moment just after you’ve given your all and then suddenly stop.  Some didn’t want their tokens so I ended up with a little collection in my pocket, including one a runner returned having accidentally taken it home last week.  Thumbs up to them.  All of these tokens I nearly went home with, oops.  That would have been an epic volunteering fail if I hadn’t realised in time!

It goes quickly doing finish tokens, there’s a bit rush in the middle, and then the field emptied out again. We were all looking out for our olympian tail.  He actually came in all smiles, having run in encouraging a woman not quite at the back.  A false bottom if you will.    Like the sort you have in executive briefcases when you want to smuggle plans out of the country and are in some sort of spy thriller except not.  A cheer went up for our game olympian and his companion as they crossed the line.  Yay.

The stopwatch was stopped, and then there was minor consternation as it was realised the actual tailwalker was still out on the course.  Oh well, all back on stations, the stop watch was restarted, and although maybe their finish times would have been fractionally out, the crisis was averted.  Finish take two, cheers, and all home.

The final finishers were a family affair, which was most pleasing.  Gotta love parkrun!

 

So the clear up team dissambled the funnel and folded hi-viz jackets.  We returned unused tokens to the Run Director and that was it all done.

Apart from this.  Funnel Duckers.  Serendipity meant that the Soak a Scientist contingency were out in force in the park today. They were fundraising for MND (motor neurone disease) and gamely out there in less than clement weather with cake aplenty and lab coated scientists ready to be drenched.  Now just a thought, but could this be a possible way forward in terms of re-education to help reform and realign habitual funnel duckers by using this as a correctional technique.  There seemed to be volunteers enough to implement this so, there you go.  I got some shots as my fellow parkrunners had a quick practise, what do you think?  Could be a goer?  And a nifty little fundraiser to boot.  What’s not to like?

So the conclusion is yep, we maxed out on the fun, and fun was had by all, so much so it was probably viral on twitter by lunch time, but I’m not on twitter so I wouldn’t know. Thanks for the coming and tweeting Max Litchfield you clearly not only know your swimming game, but more importantly from my point of view, have completely nailed the group selfie.  My we are collectively gorgeous are we not?

Max Litchfield fun of olympic proportions

Happy days at Hallam eh?

 

Same time and place next week?

Happy yomping times ’til then.  🙂

 

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

For Sheffield Hallam parkrun seventh birthday post see here.

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

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

Final Recce for Dig Deep 12.12.. Job done with Higger mystery solved – but beware the bogs, you have been warned!

Digested read: Be careful out there! I’ve done my final bog recce for  the Dig Deep 12.12 trail race, and can now navigate off Higger Tor!  Hurrah.  However, I’ve also found out that wet feet often occasion fatal diseases. It’s wet in those peat bogs, I didn’t fully appreciate this is what was meant by the ‘Run at your own risk’ blah de blah disclaimer you routinely sign on entry to such events.  Oh well, no turning back now. Bring it on.

Yesterday, I got an opportunity to undertake a somewhat spontaneous final circuit of the Burbage/ Higger Tor section of the 12.12 route.   Some fellow committed/potential twelve-twelvers proposed the outing just the night before, explaining they would have their canine companions with them. This meant it was a walk that was being proposed rather than a run, which for me was a bonus as I’m not doing any more (hard) runs before Sunday now.  Better yet, it offered potentially a stop off at the last chance saloon for me to finally find that elusive route off that blooming gritstone tor and onto the more obvious path below.  My regular reader will know this part of the route has repeatedly confounded me.  Despite repeated recces, my departure off the top of Higger Tor has been a literal leap of faith every time.  My fellow dig deepers have fared little better.  It seems we have all taken routes involving inelegant and life risking scrambles down near vertical rock faces into the forests of bracken below. What is so frustrating, is that the path is really obvious going up the tor, and looks as if it should be really obvious coming down too – you can even see the path from the top for pity’s sake. Even so, when you are up on high, surrounded by the flattened  expansive plain of boulders, heather tufts and mud puddles disappearing off in all directions, it’s a different prospect all together.  It is beautiful if breezy up there, the location definitely has its merits, but it isn’t quite like following the yellow brick road in terms of route finding.  I’m not worried about getting lost per se, I know I can get down safely, but it would save so much time if I could work out a neat and relatively obstacle free route for descent.  It isn’t quite ‘Touching the Void‘ territory, but let’s not take any unnecessary risks out there.  The weather can change quickly up high.  I doubt they’ll be a marshal anywhere to guide, though there could be some dibbers (or are they dabbers?)  I’m assuming nothing, taking nothing for granted.  It is the only way!

Higger tor top

So we met, in the rain, at Burbage bridge.  We headed off up the tor, heads down.  We summited at reasonable speed, and then set about a collective scamper in all directions like worker ant scouts searching for food, only looking for a better route down. Well, I can report dear reader that against all odds, the excursion turned out to be pretty educational one way and another.  Not only was this final recce in fine company. We did it!  We finally found the ‘open sesame’ boulder that marks the point for descent onto the path off Higger Tor.  Once located, it is, whilst not exactly visually obvious, quite clearly the most straightforward, quick and hazard free route off, and it does lead straight on to what is the intended path.  Result!

I cannot tell a lie, we didn’t achieve this feat entirely on our own.  We were aided and abetted by the kindness of strangers who were up top too.   They clearly knew the place really well, insisting there was a path we could find, and we were tantalizingly close.  Our unexpected guardian angel was a guy walking with a boy and a dog, who pointed out to us (the guy not the dog) that the best way to memorize route is not in fact by looking out for distinctive boulders as I was trying to do – they are all a bit samey after a while – but rather seek out a fixed feature on the sky line (not that car on the road below heading to Longshaw then?) and head towards that like a compass point.  This was a brilliant navigational top tip, and also a blindingly obvious one once pointed out.

We to-ed and fro-ed on and off the tor for a bit, trying to spot the path from further and further away.  I am not 100% I’ll find it again but at least I know it actually exists. However, as we made our final descent, I spotted some weathered lettering, scratched onto one of the gritstones just near the dropping off point.  Clearly, I don’t approve of such defacing of the landscape, however, ‘James’ and ‘Dad’ do mark the spot as clearly as the skeleton pointing the way to the treasure on Treasure Island.  If I find them again, I’ve found my jumping off point.  It has definitely helped my confidence to discover this.  I could shave a good 15 minutes off my time just by not faffing about at this turn around point.  We all felt pretty darned good about our newfound navigational prowess, and grateful to our knowing stranger for guiding us on our way.

So, that was the really good news.  Against all odds, I can now navigate off Higger Tor, well probably I can, which is way better than my previous odds.  My navigation is always going to be a work in progress, but all the same, share a half-hearted and perfunctory ‘yay’ with me, a yay is still a yay after all.  Yaysayers are sometimes needed.   How does it go? ‘She believed she could and so she did!’  It’s a start.  Fabulous, and unexpected, it can be filed with the four leaved clovers and white heather in the ‘external signs of luck’ folder for future reference and psychological support.

So that’s the good news.  However, as with all good fairy tales, there is a price to be paid for such good fortune.  On the very day I encountered the fairest of fortunes on the navigational front, I also was made aware of the dark side of being out on the fells.  It was pretty boggy out after all the rain.  There is definitely a swampy section beneath Carl Wark. Now, certainly, a big part of the fun of the run is the splish splosh splash through the soft, submerged peat.  I always do a little bog dance. To begin with I jump from reed tussock to tussock, trying to keep out of the standing water as best I can, however, it is futile. It is almost a relief at the moment you know you have misjudged, you foot sinks deep into the soft ground and icy water fills your fell shoes. Thereafter you can gallop on uncaring. The wetter the better, it makes me feel like a ‘proper’ hard core fell runner, who laughs at the element and moves through the terrain undaunted by the streams, bogs, bracken and boulders in my path.  I can bound through (ish) and celebrate the ever-changing landscape as I experience it beneath my feet.  My wet feet.  The icy water soothing my arthritic bones.  However, this dear reader, comes at a cost.  Little did I know it, but all this time I’ve been playing Russian Roulette with my life each time I dipped so much as an adventurous or wayward toe into the damp embrace of the soft, squelching peat bog out on them there moors.

The bog dancing is all very romantic sounding and everything, but I now have new information.  Information I feel compelled to share.  It’s not health and safety gone mad, it is the cumulative wisdom of centuries of medical research which I had previously inexplicably hitherto overlooked.  It was on Radio 4 as well so it must be true.   Essentially, the less good news, actually the positively bad news, is that I’ve recently found out that venturing out across those peat bogs will quite possibly kill me, and may well kill you too.  No really.

I only found this out yesterday, so I’m about 227 years slow on the uptake, which is fairly disappointing I will concede.  Anyway, turns out, that the educated amongst us have known since 1790 that wet feet often occasion fatal diseases.  So said William Buchan (M.D.) in his page turner: Domestic medicine: or, A treatise on the prevention and cure of diseases.

wet feet

By William BUCHAN (M.D.)

Thanks to Radio 4  for their ‘A nasty case of the vapours‘ for alerting me to this previously  unknown almost inevitable eventuality.   This is obviously what they mean when Fell Race organisers  blather on about ‘running at your own risk’.  I’m still going to do the 12.12 anyway, ‘I am in bog stepped so far...’ already as the saying goes so might as well carry on regardless.  Wading onwards will indeed be just as challenging as retracing my steps back to the start. Also, it might be hard, but it wont be anything like as painful as treading on lego in bare feet say, and I’ve survived that in the past,  so it’s important to keep everything in proportion.  On the other hand, treading on lego isn’t known to be the ‘occasion of many fatal diseases‘ so you pays your money and you take your chance in relation to deciding which risks you are up for and which are a step too far so to speak…

 

Irrespective of my decision, clearly what each of us is willing to risk is very personal.  Therefore, I feel it is only fair to those who may step in my wake to share this warning, you can then carry out your own risk assessment and make an informed decision of your own. I’m quite surprised the race organisers don’t explicitly mention this wet feet point to be honest, but they are all probably enthusiastic fell runners and therefore it is in their nature and their interests to be in abject denial of the whole thing otherwise they’d never carry on running the insane distances over the hostile country that they do.  Or maybe the danger is part of the appeal.  Feel the fear and do it anyway people, that’s the best way to feel properly alive!  Look danger straight in the face and laugh, manically, and then run on.

One final thing though, further reading of this eminent tome suggests wet feet are only the start of the risks.  I’ve not read all of his book, because I did get bored eventually, but there is a section on wet clothes too, so even if you are blasé about your feet, you better at least be confident you are carrying the FRA approved wet weather gear before you head out even if you are currently young and healthy.  You can’t eliminate all risks, but you can manage them.

wet clothes

If you are doing the ultra and might be out in the night air, well I don’t want to be alarmist as such, but…. let’s just say there’s still plenty of time to transfer to the Felly Fun Run and they have lovely medals, so you can still have all the bling and fun of the run at relatively low risk, as long as you can pass yourself off as under 16.  Food for thought perhaps?

felly fun run

So that’s my recces done.  I’ve woken up today with a mysteriously painful shoulder, so good to know I’m developing random psychosomatic symptoms in accordance with normal tapering expectations.  I am confident(ish) I shall make it to the start of this endeavour.  Then it’s just one foot in front of another and dream of glory.   Not long now before we find out if I made it to the end.  Eek.

So that’s the yin and the yan of the final recce.  I have a route off Higger Tor, but I am also in morbid fear of wet feet.  Oh well.  It’s what makes life interesting.  Just the final count down now, and endless packing and repacking of essential kit, before Whirlow Farm on Sunday.

See you there?  Everyone who is anyone will be I understand.  Can you hear the sound of FOMO calling to you?  Getting louder surely…  You need to either get with the programme and join in (you can even enter on the day for the 10k or 12.12), or see if you can find a treatment for that.  It’s amazing what you can source on ebay these days.  This is a cream, but they probably do suppositories too.  Each to their own after all.

FoMO-faux-toothpaste

Food for thought I hope.

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

Oh and another thing, did you hear  keep on running? Thanks Radio 4 Extra.  Seems running is increasingly ‘a thing.’  We runners are quite the zeitgeist, whatever size or shape we come in.  Hurrah!

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

Tackling the taper… Not quite textbook tactics, but you know what? I’ll be reet! :)

Digested read:  The 12.12 mile off-road trail race is a week away.  What was I thinking when I entered it?   I’m fretting now. Tried to taper with a long walk instead of run. Epic fail. Wobbly, exhausted and confidence crushed.  However, espied something pretty darned special out on them there moors.  Have a guess.  Clue.  I got seriously lucky!  Yay, go me.  It’s a sign. It’ll be fine. Or it wont, but either way, it doesn’t matter, it’s supposed to be fun, we can all run our own race, nobody cares.  (In a good way).

Dreaming of the purple hills, this is what awaits me just a week from now.  Is it possible that the heather will be even more glorious come the 20th August?  However, between me and the Dig Deep trail challenge lies one final hurdle. The succesful taper.

nice out

The Dig Deep people keep putting up motivational posts on their Facebook page counting down to the big event.  ‘Yay, just three weeks to go’, ‘great news guys, a fortnight from now we’ll be good to go’ and now ‘final countdown to fun-land – just a few more sleeps’, I’m paraphrasing a bit but you get the idea.  This is all well and good, and no doubt very well-intentioned, but it’s really rather ratcheting up my fear levels.  What was I thinking? This happens to me a lot with off-road events.  Trouble is I’m seduced by the glorious settings, the seemingly manageable distances, and don’t factor in the challenging terrain and potentially impossible elevations.  A combination of absolute denial and hope over experience I suppose, hopefully not a fatal one.

My expertise in training protocol is rather limited, but even I know that at this late stage I’ve little hope of improving my fitness levels between now and next Sunday when I tackle the 12.12 event. 12.12 miles of off-road  (see what they’ve done with the name there?  Their creative vision team must have been working overtime to come up with that) and 633 metres of ascent.  That’s not even in feet, took me a while to realise that.   I try not to get too hung up on details at the point of entering events, it only leads to despair and sapping morale.  I’m not necessarily completely delusional when I sign up to things, it’s just that I’m ill-informed.  Upshot is, if you can’t improve your fitness at this stage, what you need to do is avoid injury, maintain fitness and carb up nicely.  That is, in my book ‘yay’ time, you get to taper!

My regular reader knows I’ve cluttered up the internet by pontificating on this point before Never underestimate the importance of a good tapir but that was a while back.  I’ve got a better understanding now, so time to revisit the topic I feel.  Why keep all that disillusion to myself?   I used to think tapering meant that you got to spend a fortnight sat on the sofa eating donuts as a sort of early consolation prize for being made to run a long way afterwards. Sadly, I now know it’s not quite the case.  It just goes to show that sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss, and greater understanding does not always bring about greater happiness.

Initially my research on ‘how to taper’  suggested that it was really, really important not to be tempted to do too much during  a taper.  I  say ‘research’, but clearly what I really mean is that I did a bit of random googling, disregarding the advice I didn’t want to follow until I came up with something I liked.  I liked this sentence from Susan Paul a lot:

Doing too much during the taper period can destroy your (event) performance. Your best bet for peak performance is to resist the urge to do more. When it comes to tapering, less really is more!

Good oh, that meant a fortnight out, after my last long run (I use the term ‘run’ loosely, yomp over 14 and a bit miles is more accurate, with quite a lot of pausing and gazing about) I settled down on the sofa fully committed to resting up properly.  Granted, I’d have to get up now and again to attend to bodily functions and check out the contents of the fridge, but otherwise me and Radio 4 (TV at a push) listening to the rain beating down outside would be the way to go.  To add creativity and interest I’d also be doing my best to improvise a ta ta bra out of a pair of recycled oven gloves.  I would have bought one, but really $45 for a bit of elasticated towel does seem a bit steep, even if it is a genius creation. Plus, they don’t seem to be available in the uk, anyway,  how hard can they be to create? (Answer, harder than you think, but you’ll have a laugh trying).

Unfortunately, further research, was emphatic about the opposite.  I didn’t like this advice nearly as much – whatever you do, don’t overdo the taper, said Coach Jeff in Runners Connect, adding for good measure:

The single biggest mistake I see in (event) tapers is that people over-taper in the last three weeks leading into the race.

This leads to feeling flat and sluggish on race day and increases the chance that you’ll come down with some type of sickness as your metabolism and immune system crash due to the sudden change in activity and demands on the body

Begrudgingly, I have to concede he may have a point.  Further research suggests tapering doesn’t mean an emergency stop, more a reduction in intensity and volume, depending on what you are preparing for.  I am left with the horrifying realisation that you are only doing a taper correctly if you feel frustrated and miserable the whole time.  That is, doing the opposite of whatever it is you are naturally drawn to doing.  Let me explain…

Scenario one:  If you are the sort of person who takes a month’s bed rest if you so much as stub your toe, when you taper you need to be doing a lot more than maintaining your natural default state of inert.  Plus, you really don’t need to start carbing up with quite such gusto, quite so far ahead.  ‘Carbing up’ only needs to happen about two days before. What’s more (and I didn’t like this message very much) you don’t even need to take in any extra calories apparently, simply change the proportion of carbs in your meal, so you are having more carb less fibrous veg say. Disappointing. No midnight pizza and pasta fests after all, so said the nutrition expert at the London Marathon Expo earlier this year.

garfield taper

Scenario two:  If you are the sort of person who gets a serious stress fracture, are given a pot and told to ‘rest’ for eight weeks but still think a 50 mile bike ride won’t count because it’s just ‘gentle cross training’ then you need to Stop.  Right.  Now!

can i run

Just to be clear on this point, I tend to fall into the ‘scenario one’ camp, in danger of doing too little.  Left to my own devices, brooding on the sofa, I started to feel increasingly fretful that this 12.12 challenge is beyond me.  I am increasingly aware of way better runners falling by the wayside.  The excuses they come up with are pitiful: ‘I can’t run I’ve dislocated my shoulder and broken my arm’; ‘I can’t run, I’m away doing a hard-core mountain marathon in Norway’; ‘I can’t run, I’ve got to have an operation’; ‘it’s not that I can’t run, I just don’t want to‘.  That kind of thing.  Maybe I needed to come up with a get-out of my own.  I know – I have a cunning plan. I can’t possibly pull out, that would be to fail, but if external circumstances were to conspire together to make my participation impossible, well, I’d have to shrug in despairing acceptance of my fate.  I can help fate along a bit though, with just a tad of initiative thrown into the mix…

I sent a private message to the Dig Deep team.  ‘Eeeerm‘, I said.  ‘bit worried‘ and then basically went on to explain I am mindful of being a tardy, lard arse, and whilst I do know I can do the distance (I do really) I will be soooooooooooooooooo slow.  Is that OK, or is there a cut off time?  Annoyingly, they sent back a speedy and cheerily encouraging response.  ‘That’s fine, all welcome‘ sort of encouraging and inclusive and generally not what I wanted to hear at all.  Oh no.  No handy external factor causing me to pull out under protest from that quarter.

I decided I needed to bite the bullet.  I would cut back, but not abandon all exertion.  I decided that I’d do one more long, endurance outing, but just keep it in walk so I didn’t get injured or too knackered, but still got miles on my legs.  Oh my gawd. This was such a bad move.  I thought I’d do one final recce that is an approximation of the 12.12 route, but coming up from Whitely Woods rather than Whirlow, and going along the top rather than the bottom of Burbage. Well, it might be more technical, but it’s gorgeous and I was really hoping I might see an adder soaking up the sun on the boulders on that slightly quieter upper path.   It’s a route I’ve yomped round several times now, and just over 14 miles, seriously beautiful.  I wanted to see how the heather was as well, given all the rain and then sun, it would be at its peak surely.

So it was beautiful, I will concede that:

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but as a final long yomp, not my best move.

There was an early warning sign, had I but realised what was happening, a fallen tree crossing my path going up the Porter Valley – surely an omen.  There were lots of trees down, I think the torrential rain had washed away a lot of earth and left roots exposed and trees vulnerable:

blocked path

Then, a bit further up, there were some misplaced sheep.  No really, in the woods.   I don’t know where they were from, but they were having an adventure.   Good for them, I wonder how long they will evade capture.  Who were those escaped pigs – the Tamworth Two?  They escaped death after many weeks on the run.  I suspect there won’t be a film and book deal and a happy ending for this trio, I don’t think they’ve even got an agent.  Oh well.

The point is though, that this was the normal order of things upturned.  I should have realised, and turned about, then again, it wouldn’t be so much of a story would it if I had. Same as with all those omens in Julius Caesar or whatever.  Ides of March anyone?

I pressed on.  It was OK to start, sunny, the heather in full bloom and a-buzz with bees. Not many others about, but lots of friendly exchanges with those who were along the lines of  ‘isn’t it gorgeous’ and the more mutually self-congratulatory ‘how lucky are we to have such beauty as this on our doorstep‘ all of which was true.  The problem was, that even though I think I run really slowly (and I really do) turns out, I’m still a lot quicker running slowly, than I am when I actually walk.  14 miles takes ages to walk.  It was hard.  I got hot, I ran out of water.  I’d taken a litre with me, and although I could have drunk from the many streams I got dehydrated without fully appreciating I had, and then it’s already too late.  I ate my chia bar quite early on, and then found I did feel my blood sugar levels dropping later on, but had nothing in reserve.  I didn’t get wobbly or anything like that, but I did get achy legs, and stop enjoying the landscape. By the time I’d been out about 4 hours I was feeling it, and didn’t have the energy to run and get the whole blooming adventure over with by that point. Plus, my feet were hurting.  A lot. My arthritis was excruciating.   Not blisters, granted,  which is something, but my fellraisers (which I do like) lack cushioning,  and Strava has been on at me for weeks to change them as they have done too many miles.  They are ok-ish.  I know they do need replacing but I didn’t want to try new shoes too close to this event, so thought they could do this one last task for me as their swan song.  On this final walk recce though I really felt they are ready to be jettisoned though.  They don’t have enough support, and weren’t comfy at all – although their grip is still good.  I started to feel pretty petulant.  I was annoyed at going out so blasse, I was too hot, and I still couldn’t find an efficient route off Higger Tor.  For future reference, doing a long walk was not, for me, a helpful tapering strategy. I’d have done much better to do a gentle run, or several shorter walks on consecutive days.  I felt pretty broken when I still had about 4 miles to go.  It’s incomprehensible to me though, surely, logic says walking should be easier than running?  I suppose it’s ‘different’, didn’t do a lot for my confidence.  If I can’t walk the distance how am I going to run it?  Aaaargh, curses. Why am I not a super-fit athlete with a coach, a nutrition plan, well-fitting sports bra, cushioned trainers and a dollop of common sense?  It’s not fair!

I traipsed on, thinking dark and brooding thoughts.

Then.

Wait for it.

Something amazing!

Something I’ve never seen before, just for me!

In amongst the landscape of purple I espied a little patch of white.  At first I wasn’t quite sure if it was what I thought. But it was!  White heather. A small clump of it, but definitely there.  I like to think if the fallen tree and the lost sheep were to warn me off my adventures, the lucky heather was to reassure me there is still a place for the unexpected and seemingly impossible.  I know you can get cultivated white heather, but seeing it in the wild, just there, was pretty amazing.  Perhaps I’m too easily impressed, but it really encouraged me.  Just look on and tell me honestly are you not moved?  You can’t be that heartless surely?

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I thought it was extraordinary.  I’m not superstitious, but I do take comfort from being reminded of the gloriousness of unexpected and unlikely discoveries.  White heather is a truly rare sight, but we can celebrate its appearance on the moors.  I too, will be an unexpected participant in the 12.12, also an uncommon sighting perhaps. However, whilst it might be a stretch too far to think of my presence on the day being exactly a cause for celebration, there’s no reason to expect to be unwelcome either.  I’ll be just another unusual thing for others to come across on a run out.  No more or less than that.

I carried on with renewed effort (I was going to say energy, but that’s pushing it).  Back through the woods I saw a comma butterfly, another incredibly rare sighting.  And a lot harder to photograph than white heather it seems.  Well I thought commas were rare, but google says otherwise.  I still haven’t seen one in years though, so made me happy, which is the important thing because this blog is at the end of the day all about me!

comma butterly,

Once I got to Forge Dam cafe, I caved in and bought an ice-cream.  I felt in genuine need as my legs were shaking by then.  Of course, I then immediately bumped into a Smiley Elder, and felt like I’d been caught out on an inappropriately wild feeding frenzy, binge eating sugar when I ought to be showing off with extra press ups at the end of my run like that Isaac Makwala at the world athletics championships trial.  Instead I was like a vampire caught with blood running down their chin, only with salted caramel ice cream instead of the blood of virgins. In fairness, she seemed approving of this replenishing of energy post run.  I genuinely find it confusing though.  How can I possibly have got such a drop in my blood sugar just by walking.  I can only conclude it is indeed hours out, not necessarily absolute exertion that is to blame.  Getting the balance right continues to be a challenge.  I want to burn calories through running, that’s part of the point, to counteract the impact of post-run brunches –  but it seems I always replenish more than I use.  In my case I don’t find running is a boon to weight loss, though it has other benefits for sure!

So, I returned from my ‘gentle tapering walk’ broken, exhausted and promptly flaked out and slept for about 5 hours solid.  The next day, which was yesterday, I could barely walk!  Today, should have been parkrun, but I still feel wobbly.  I can’t understand it, running never makes me feel that bad.  I think maybe it genuinely came down to being out way longer than usual. It wasn’t physical fitness as such, but probably nutrition and hydration.  I even wondered if I am ‘coming down with something’ it seems such an extreme reaction from walking a route I’ve yomped half a dozen times before withough any problem at all.  Oh well, lesson learned.   Presume nothing, take nothing for granted.

I’ve now got exactly a week to go.  I’ve decided (rightly or wrongly) not to push myself if I’m feeling weak (as opposed to can’t be bothered) in a nod to ‘stay injury free and preserve what you have’.  Whilst I don’t think I’m ever going to be in the over-training camp, I do think there is no point in forcing myself out if I am genuinely wobbly.    I will try for a bit more ‘out and about’ but I’m not doing anything else long or involving so much elevation.

As for next Sunday, gulp.  Oh well, I think I just have to remind myself that ultimately it’s supposed to be fun.  As long as I don’t present a risk to either myself or other runners it matters not one iota how long I take or how I tackle it.  Spoiler alert – nobody cares.  Participants will be running their own race, and I know I can do the distance in daylight at least.  I will carry a bit more food though, and weather depending, might think about wearing a T-shirt as opposed to long sleeves to avoid over-heating.  Speaking of which, the t-shirts for this event look splendid. Worth turning out for for sure!

dig deep t shirt

And as far as tapering is concerned.  I don’t like it. It’s confusing.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I liked it much better when I thought it was just about lolling around on a sofa eating pizza.  Now I find it a confidence-sapping challenge.  Still, on the positive side, as I do want to eventually get up to a marathon distance, maybe it’s good to learn some of these lessons early on, even if it is by trial and error.  I’d rather mess up my taper for the 12.12 local event, than for the London Marathon 2018.  We run and learn. So message for today?  Running is supposed to be fun. Let’s not over complicate it.  Agreed?  Also, tapering is harder than you might think, it’s OK to be grumpy.

tapering runner

The main thing is just to try not to interact with anyone during this running chapter to avoid alientating everyone you meet, and ‘tha’ll be reet’, as the saying goes.

Yorkshire_THALL_BE_REET-500x500

This is what I’m going to keep telling myself anyway.  You must do as you think fit.  Also, I try to remember there is always somebody worse off than yourself, it could be worse, I could be doing the ultra.  Good luck to those that are. You’ll be fabulous, because you already are.  I believe in you, you just need to believe in yourselves as well.

The End.

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you

 

 

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

Lessons learnt? Upping the distance on the quest to Dig Deep and getting lucky on the trails

Digested read:  I’m still scheming in preparation for the Dig Deep.  Learning the hard way about navigation, nutrition and kit, and benevolently offering up some unsolicited and potentially unhelpful and counter-productive but hard won top tips here. However, I have been getting lucky on the trails. Yay!  Are you coming too? Might be fun…

new approach

Given how long it is since I last posted about my Dig Deep recce progress, I’m a little disappointed nobody has checked in with me to see if I made it back ok from my last run out.  I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the person to whom I’d delegated the responsibility of rolling me off the trail if I died out there, has selfishly smashed up her shoulder and hence reneged on her offer, claiming she is no longer available to fulfill that task*.  It’s a worry.  I need to feel the running community are looking out for their own, if only to ensure the obstacle created by my decomposing corpse somewhere on the path below Carl Wark does not become a hazard to other trail users.  Plus, now I come to think of it, it would be good to upload my run on strava if I’ve got my tomtom on.  Would be a shame for that last effort to count for nothing, so if you’re passing if you would? Cheers.  All and any help gratefully received.

So, back to dispensing my pearls of running wisdom.  My regular reader will be delighted to know I’ve been making heaps of rookie errors over the past few weeks, which translates into learning the hard way about running strategies. Unfortunately, I’ve really only got as far as the ‘what not to do‘ and not entirely cracked the ‘why not try this instead‘ side of things. Still, work in progress is still progress right? This is what I like to think.

Since my last post about the Dig Deep, I’ve had a few further outings.  I have decided that I’m never going to pick up speed, certainly not between now and the 20th August which is when the 12.12 is taking place.  With hindsight, I wish I’d entered the children’s 1.6 and/or 2.3km trail race instead, that sounds way more enjoyable and doable, but possibly not technically in the spirit of the Smiley Championship races.  Although in my defence, they only specify that you should do one of the Dig Deep series without explicitly ruling out the Felly Fun Run as such…  Anyways, rather than pretend I can run continuously and doing flat-out shorter runs, adding 10% a week to build up the distance, I’m just trying to get out and do longer routes of about 10 – 12 miles of walk/run cycles and increasing the percentage time I spend running based entirely on how I feel. This may not be scientific, but seems to work for me.  Astonishingly, I am getting a bit speedier, I mean not exactly breaking the sound barrier granted, but definitely breaking a sweat.  Part of this is due to not getting quite so lost and faffing about on the top of Higger Tor for ages, part of it is just feeling more confident on the terrain and part of it may even be that against all odds my stamina is improving.   Another factor is advice given and lessons learned along the way, which I shall now share.  Lucky you!

They say you should never be above asking for advice, but I’ve never had a problem that end of the continuum, I’m more at the ‘too embarrassed to ask for advice’ end of that sliding scale, though I’m overcoming it and becoming more brazen.  My local running shop are most insistent that there are no stupid questions and I’m welcome to ask whatever I like, whenever I like.  I am going to test that claim to breaking point, I’m not sure I’m going to get them to agree to a personal paging system, which would be my preferred option, but I reckon a bat phone type communication device would do the job pretty well and indisputably look incredibly cool on any running shop counter to boot.  Should be able to get that past them.  I might go and look on Ebay in a bit, see if I can put in a bulk order, I can think of a range of experts I’d love to have on standby ready to give me advice when needed…  Naturally, if they are serious about wanting to retain my custom I’d require them to wear the appropriate gear, but as it’s clearly both fetching in style and practical for running purposes I can’t see any cynical naysayers putting unnecessary obstacles in the way there.  Super cool running tights and briefs in evidence here!  Frankly I don’t know why they don’t make that the staff uniform anyway, bat phone or not.

So, my top tips for running the 12.12 are in three disctint areas, specifically: navigation, nutrition and kit.

Navigation –
This has been a real problem for me, just couldn’t fathom the route for the 12.12.  I still maintain the map supplied was rubbish.  However, Strava has come to my aid in the form of more knowledgeable running buddies, who have spotted my errors and endeavoured to point me in the literal as well as metaphorical right direction. For ages, I was constantly thwarted coming off Higger Tor, because many had told me the 12.12 follows clear paths throughout. This advice has now been amended too ‘oh, well, yes, apart from coming off Higger Tor itself, obviously, there’s no path there!’  So all those hours I spent traversing the top of the Tor seeking a path were indeed in vain.  The nice man at Front Runner brough up a picture of the Tor on Google Earth (a surprisingly good top tip that seemed blindingly obvious once he’d done so) and you see from above how a very clear path just disappears into a pile of rocks, boulders and vertiginous edges.  You can either scramble down, or step off and hope you fly, whatever works for you.  I got the photo from the interweb, thanks Fran Hansall, I added the quote.  Cheesy perhaps, but apt all the same.  Squirm if you must.

fly higger tor

Yay!  To be honest, I was a bit slow on the uptake working this out for myself.  I should have got an inkling that time I scrambled over some boulders down onto what I thought was a path but turned out to be just a random shelf.  I found myself sharing the space with some pathologically enthusiastic and helpful climbers with ropes and helmets and all the gear.  I figured they’d know the lie of the land and asked them if there was a safe route down from whence they’d come.  ‘Yeah, sure there is, you’ll be fine‘ they said confidently.  I think I am being  generous in giving them the benefit of the doubt when I say perhaps they just didn’t notice I lacked similar skill and attire.   An alternative explanation is clearly that they wanted me to die. I did make it down, but not without seeing my life flash before me en route.  Still, all’s well that ends well eh?

Another buddy offered more practical assistance, first showing me the secret weapon of outdoorgps.com. The usefulness of this depends on others having uploaded routes, but there was indeed a outdoorgps version of the 12.12 from a previous year, you can zoom right in and the route became way clearer.  This is a genius tool, it opens up all sorts of other trailing opportunities.  Then she took me out under supervision. This was great actually (thank you Special Agent Smiley) as we actually went from behind Fox House, and now I’ve finally worked out how to join up some of the myriad of paths I’ve been gallumphing along without any sense of how they all inter-connected. So my top tips for navigation are as follows:

  • Get a decent map
  • Make sure the map is the right way up when you are looking at it
  • Ask lots of people so you have contradictory advice, it’s good fun trying to triangulate it all
  • Get a trusted friend to show you
  • Ask random strangers as you romp round your recce
  • Keep uploading your strava route and try to compare and contrast with the feeble route map you have already in your possession
  • Try google earth up close
  • Try outdoorgps.com
  • Get a personalised ad-hoc advice session from a GB triathlete through a car window, pre shoulder injury for preference
  • Befriend fellow Smilies (running club buddies from Smiley Paces) who go to woodrun and who have let slip that they are marshaling on Higger Tor on the day, if they aren’t able to point you the right way, they can at least scrape you up afterwards
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway
  • Maybe don’t hold out for the bat phone to rescue you, nice idea, but, well, you know.  I’m not saying they’d deliberately ignore my calls (perish the thought) but mobile reception is not guaranteed out on the moors.

Mix all these ingredients and then just head out in hope more than expectation, and voila!  Route sorted, sort of, which is probably good enough.  Tenacity not talent is what is most needed at the end of the day.

Armed with all this expertise, I have since done further romping, and it’s been grand.   I have sussed the boggy bits, had a bash at boulder bouncing, and been swallowed up by bracken taller than I am (which might not be saying much but is still pretty extraordinary to experience out in them there hills).  Every time I go out I am in awe of the Peak District, I’ve barely scratched the surface, and as I up my distances I hope more and more of it will fall within my reach.  All the muddy, moody gloriousness is out there just waiting to be discovered.

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In all seriousness, I am risk averse when I go out on my own, but this whole recceing thing (is that a word, not ‘thing’ – ‘recceing’, anyway, you know what I mean) has made me so much more confident out and about.   Those tops look miles away, but they really aren’t, and you can’t really get lost.  I mean, I get so I don’t know where I am exactly, but I know how to get home and/or to the nearest road, which is good enough. I’m further up the navigational competency chain than the first time me and Cheetah Buddy went out from the Norfolk Arms on what was supposed to be a 5k trail run. Darkness fell – impressive, as it was May, even though we had gone for an evening run, we didn’t expect our 5k route to take 6 hours. We ended up covering over 18km because we got so lost. Ultimately we found our way home by pausing in the heather and waiting until we saw some car headlights, moving towards them til they faded and waiting again, until we finally made it onto a road we recognised.  Not our finest hour. It taught me to respect the hills a great deal more, and to take seriously advice about going out with a head torch etc as you just never know do you.  Subsequently, my running buddy uploaded our route on some tracking thing she had (this was pre our ‘proper’ running watch gizmos) and we could see we’d repeatedly crossed our paths and double backed on ourselves,  but we were so disorientated we didn’t recognise where we were.  Scary really.   To be fair, we were caught out by inexperience, but better runners than me (I know, hard to believe) have been caught out by over confidence.  Hypothermia on the hills anyone?  Still, it wasn’t all bad, it was great for team building, and we had a hoot trying to take selfies before we realised we were so lost we would probably die.  We’ve improved our selfie taking skills since this shot was taken I’m pleased to say, and in my defence I wasn’t deliberately channeling the Jedward look, I’m sadly just a natural at it.  This was 2014 according to Facebook, my how time flies…  It’s me and Cheetah Buddy on the left, just to be clear.

 

Nutrition-

You might think from my silhouette that I eat all the time, but in fact, I never eat when I’m out running, I’ve only recently started to carry water.  I guess I’m quite good at carrying my own supplies as subcutaneous fat.  However, as I up my distances, and in accordance with FRA regs, I recognise it is probably a good idea to find out what I can eat to help me run.  The conventional wisdom is to refuel before you need it – some say every 45 minutes.  This feels very alien to me. Even so, I have found that now I’m running a greater proportion of the route, as opposed to power walking, I do notice I tire after about 90 minutes and if I want to build up to marathons, and I do, then clearly I’m going to have to eat something.  I did try a gel once, literally, one sip (it was free in a goodie bag somewhere) and it made me retch instantly.  Too sweet and too alien.  Not trying that again.  On the Round Sheffield Run I’ve indulged in banana (stomach cramps) and jelly babies, but I felt guilty about that because they aren’t veggie but I hadn’t planned and did need something.  I took fudge on the Sheffield half-marathon, bit sweet, but did the job.   Lots of people have recommended clif shot bloks they are vegetarian, and described to me as being ‘like soft jelly babies’.  As I lack imagination and am susceptible to peer pressure, I decided to give them a go. I took one out on a recce, and once I’d heave-hoed up Porter Clough and past Lady Cannings plantation I thought I’d tuck in.

super glue nutrition

Now, I don’t claim to be much of a food critic, and I might be wrong, but essentially for me the berry choc blok was like accidentally stuffing my mouth with glucose infused super-glue.  Not in a good way.  It was so sweet it made my whole jaw vibrate whilst simultaneously coating my teeth with a seemingly irremoveable clingy ectoplasm.  This was not for me.  FAIL.  I gulped down water afterwards, which wasn’t the best idea, you are supposed to sip water at the same time as having a shot blok it’s true.  However, I was rather trying to flush out my whole system in a futile attempt to rid my mouth of the weird sweet mucous that had claimed my teeth and was threatening to set.  I got hiccups, then I got pissed off.  This alas, was not to be my magic nutrition solution of choice.

On a subsequent run I tried an alternative clif product donated by Cheetah buddy who likes them for cycling.   Peanut Butter Clif bar

real food option

That sounds delightful, and to be fair it was a significant improvement on the bloc.  It’s sort of solid biscuity/ flap-jackyish.  Tastes functional rather than fun though, and this does rather raises the question of why not eat an actual flapjack, which would be a lot nicer.  I can’t see the clif bar as being any quicker to digest (the benefit of gels is that you can access the fuel instantly).  An actual flapjack might be more palatable, and possibly cheaper – though granted scrounging off your friends is cheaper still, as long as you don’t mind too much ending up friendless and alone, screaming into a void as you rage at the futility of life and the mistakes you’d made along the way, and no-one hearing.

Next time I was in my local running shop – which was today, I went in to get some of my favourite monoskin socks as the bat phone isn’t yet operational I thought I’d ask in person for some nutrition advice.  ‘So‘ I enquired, ‘if I can’t have a gel because it makes me heave, and a clif bar is basically like eating a flapjack anyway, why can’t I just have a marathon instead, that can’t be that much slower to digest surely?‘  Well, guess what.  ‘You can!‘ the other nice man in Front Runner said.  (Regardig ‘the nice man in the shop’ I think they must take it in turns, to be there I mean, not to be nice, they do that all the time.)  Anyway, don’t distract me, the point is, it turns out, it is true that gels and blocs are easier for the body to access because (and if I didn’t like the idea of gels before I’m so never trying again with them now) they are designed to hit your stomach ready for instant use.  This was cheerily explained to me as being ‘sort of like they’ve already been partially digested‘.  What the?  How do they achieve that? Do they have whole armies of house flies regurgitating their stomach enzymes onto the raw product and then just scrape it away and pump it into sachets before the poor insect has a chance to suck it all up again, it’s proboscis waving all in vain?  Quite aside from being animal exploitation, that’s seriously gross.  Have these food technologist product development specialists never seen The Fly?

the-fly-david-cronenberg-jeff-goldblum-geena-davis-john-getz-joy-boushel-leslie-carlson-george-chuvalo

Quick, counter that image.  Here are some magical trees seen out and about on my recent trail exploits.  Phew, sorry about that.

You’ll understand then why that’s me out stepping out of the queue for energy drinks, gels and blocs.    I can’t tolerate gels now, and whilst it’s all well and good for those that do, if I ‘m having solid stuff anyway, I might as well have something I know I’ll like.  I’m worried about chocolate melting in my bum bag (the mess) but you know what, I can always bung it in the washing machine post race, so I reckon a marathon bar it is.  That’s got sugar, protein, probably unhealthy amounts of salt, just the job.  I’ll compromise and get a snickers I suppose, to keep up with the times, but my quest for energy gels and semi-solids is for now concluded.  I shudder at the thought.  If Nicky Spinks can have fish, chips and curry sauce on her double Bob Graham, then that’s a lead I’m willing to follow.  Bet she didn’t get her support team to all spit on it before she tucked in.

nicky-fish-n-chips

So the nutrition advice is, do whatever you like, just practise first, and maybe if you are time sensitive I suppose you could take into account the time it takes for your body to get a boost from whatever you are eating when you refuel.  Alternatively, to hell with the time, why not take a full on picnic and just enjoy the view from the top whilst you rest your legs before tackling the next stage.  It is supposed to be fun after all.  I expect the marshal would appreciate the company and a share of your cheese and pickle sandwiches too if asked.

There follows a gratuitous scenic shot.  I can’t wait for the heather to be out properly, it’s going to be a.maz.ing!

look where you put your feet

Kit-

Well, the good news is I  like my socks.  I’m really confident about them.  I also like my ultimate direction stereo running belt, it can take loads of stuff and doesn’t move at all.  It’s not flattering, but it’s genuinely comfy, well worth the investment.  The only problem is I keep telling people it’s One Direction and that creates entirely the wrong impression.  Strapping a boy band round your midriff would not improve running performance I’m sure. Well, I’ve not tried it, but I’m fairly confident that’s trued.   It’s hard being me, you have no idea.  Really, none.

I’m going to wear my fellraiser shoes, they are a bit narrow, but super-grippy and I’ve just got used to them even though they aren’t the comfiest and Strava keeps telling me our relationship has run its course and it’s time to move on. I’ll have to wear a Smiley vest, obvs, but with parkrun T-shirt underneath because I’m not confident enough to run bearing all that flesh otherwise.  I’ve only got one pair of running tights, so that’s easy, and my runderwear of course.  My Achilles heel, is in fact my boobs. Anatomically unlikely in literal terms, but metaphorically, absolutely so.  I have ranted about this before, at length, and I know I’m not alone in this, but I cannot get a bra to fit.  I feel I’ve tried everything. Googling trots out horror stories of ‘marathon tattoos’ and laments that chafing and bounce are unavoidable alongside upbeat marketing pieces saying PATRONISINGLY ‘any good sports shop will fit you for size’ and claiming with a bit of lube and pert physique and upward thinking running style all will be well. This is a lie.  Yesterday I tried a new tack and got a bra fitted at another sports place. To be fair, I was impressed by the woman, who did the fitting, she had assets of her own that suggested she understood the issues, and the bra (a panache sport which very specifically claims an 83% reduction in bounce though less than what I have no idea) seemed plausible at first.  It is under wired though,  which did go against my better instincts, but I was so desperate I thought I’d give it a go.  It was alright when I did a 6 mile or so run yesterday, but I did stop start. Today, I did only 5 miles but at a more consistent though slower pace  (It was flat and roady, as opposed to hilly trails – gawd how I loathe running on roads).  About 3 miles in, I suddenly had that agonising sting when you know the skin has broken, and oh joy, because it’s a new bra, with a new fit, it was in a previously unscarred area.  The underwires separating my boobs had dug in on both sides creating what is basically now an open sore.  Nice.  Ouch, doesn’t cut it, but the underwire did, both of them.  At least my scarring will be symmetrical.  Of course running any distance whilst essentially holding your assets in place with a cheese wire carries an inherent risk.  I wouldn’t mind quite so much, but the fit is so tight (to minimise movement) that the bra also makes me feel like my lungs are being held in a vice. I am not amused.  However, my Secret Agent Smiley Buddy has agreed a mission. We shall head to Bravissimo and try on every sports bra in their Leeds shop and surely there will be some joy to be had there.   I resent having my running curtailed for lack of a comfy and functional bra, running related injuries should be oh I don’t know, sore Achilles, or plantar fasciatis – I don’t want those, but they equally afflict both sexes, feeling I can’t run because my upper torso is shredded to a pulp by the very bit of kit which is supposed to help improve my performance seems unjust.  It’s not chafing, it feels like self harming to head out in such circumstances.

So, my kit advice here is essentially, drink gin, rage at the injustice in the world, and find a friend to go bra shopping with.  It may still not have a happy conclusion, but you can at least have a nice day out and a posh coffee somewhere by way of consolation….  Otherwise, just wear whatever, check it is FRA reg compliant if required, and do other runners a favour by making sure it’s been washed the night before.  No pulling it out from the rancid heap at the bottom of the laundry basket on the day of the race.  For the Dig Deep 12.12 the kit list is given as follows:

Kit List (mandatory requirements)
  • Full body cover (windproof/waterproof)
  • Spare water and food
  • Whistle
  • Mobile Phone

Please note that runners will be disqualified if they are not carrying minimum kit requirements

It sounds sort of scary to me, I’ve never had to carry kit before at an event, which is probably why I’m taking the preparation for this event a bit more seriously than some others I’ve done.  On their facebook page they do say they’ll take a ‘common sense’ approach on the day if the weather is good and drop the waterproof requirements.  I’m glad they don’t ask you to take a compass, I have no idea how to use one, I might as well bring along a slide rule and some sudoko puzzles quite honestly.

So there you go, them is my top tips in relation to Navigation, Nutrition and Kit, bet you are chuffed you stopped by this blog post to enrich your running knowledge.

There is one other thing though, I want to put in the frame.  In praise of luck.  Yesterday, when I was doing my first bra-test run I ended up in a hay-field just after heavy rain when bright sun had made the clover and grasses just burst into life.  A sea of green clover stood erect, gazing up at me.  Now, I have a residual talent. Only one, and one I haven’t utilised in years, but it is an eye for spotting a four-leaved clover in just such circumstances.  The secret is to look from above DONT TOUCH just look for a break in the pattern … and there were loads, everywhere I looked.  Well, not everywhere, but enough that I kept having to stop to find ‘just one more’ before carrying on.  It was like trying to cross the deadly poppy field in the Wizard of Oz, except it wasn’t that I was in danger of falling asleep for eternity, I was in danger of never managing to generate any forward momentum ever again.  Eventually, the sound of an approaching runner, pounding the track towards me whilst I was arse up, eyes down  for no outwardly apparent reason shamed me into abandoning my task.  I had quite a haul though.  To keep them perky I stuffed them into my water bottles – another example of why it is a good idea to always have hydration with you, and now I have them home I suppose I’ll get around to pressing them or something.  Always good to get lucky on a run.  It might happen to you!

So where am I in relation to my Dig Deep prep?

Well, I reckon I know the route.  I know I can do the distance albeit it will be a walk/run effort, I am embarrassed at how slow I’ll be, but I’ve often humiliated myself in the public domain so any shame will pass and be more than compensated for by the views and heather.  Besides, I’m not alone in this. Came across a blog post from a woman who’s come last at 20 marathons and run over a hundred or something and still feeling the lurve for running, so I’ve a way to go yet to equal that.   She favours fancy dress too, so we clearly have much in common.  I’ve got nutrition nailed(ish), and in the habit of carrying water.  I’ve bought a whistle, and I have waterproofs.  The bra, well we shall see.  When I am a squillionaire I will have all my bras custom-made out of moulded cooling gel, and if that material doesn’t yet exist, I will have a team of scientists get out there and invent it.  In the meantime, my hopes lie in Leeds and Bravissimo’s  sports bra selection.  We shall see.  I’ve not absolutely worked out the finer points of how I’m going to get to be a squillionaire, but I see that as details, I’m more a big picture sort of person, someone else can do the gantt chart.  I know, explains a lot doesn’t it.

The painful truth may be there isn’t an easy solution to that one, but the rewards will be worth hitting the trails for anyway.  Look at what awaits.

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See you there?  There’s still time, you don’t want to be left wondering  what might have been on August 21st now do you?  Enter here – at least come and cheer on the Felly Fun Run.

🙂

For all my Dig Deep Series related posts, click here, and scroll down for older entries, or don’t, it’s up to you.

*Seriously buddy, get well soon.  I know you might not be up to moving my body this time round, but there’s always the next, and it is only you who knows how to recycle my bra appropriately, a weighty responsibility indeed.  We have agreed as a slingshot, but I trust your judgement on that one should the situation arise.  In the meantime drink gin and be awesome.  Thanks for being a super star navigator and motivator even when it was crunch time for you.  In return, I’ll look out for any bone fragments from your shoulder whilst I’m out on the hills.

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

Longshaw Revisited: Resolute Romping Round the Rear

Digested read: panicked by having inadvertently entering a 12 mile trail run, I finally made it back to Longshaw for the Trust 10k to try to get some miles on my legs.  Still there, still fabulous.  Nice chit chat romping round at the back.  Cross training insights too.  You’ve got to love the Longshaw Trust 10k. No honestly, you actually really have.

Loving Longshaw

It’s been a while since I had a good romp round Longshaw.  The monthly trail run which is part of the wondrous National Trust 10k running series.  In my defence I’d been away in Cambodia for a few months when I couldn’t run at all, so lost my running mojo/ confidence entirely.  Then when I got back to Sheffield those blooming hills had grown even higher and steeper in my absence, and seemed to thwart my feeble attempts to scramble up them at anything other than a breathless crawl.  Going back to do the Longshaw 10k seemed a bit over-ambitious when I could hardly walk to the shops without risk of asphyxiation due to over-exertion on local gradients.  Also I’ve been volunteering at Junior parkrun, that is a great way to spend a Sunday morning, and then there was the Round Sheffield Run, another Longshaw 10k weekend missed.  Before I knew it, months had passed. Time moves on.

Then, the other week I thought, hang on, I’m missing out here.   I do love Longshaw, it’s a shame to miss it. Besides, as experienced runners will tell you, the only way to improve at running round trails and up hills is to actually do some running round trails and up hills by way of practice (alongside your cross training – but more of that later).  Although my fitness levels remain lamentable, the Longshaw event is friendly and fun (think parkrun, only trails and twice as long) – why not go? Also, weighing on my mind is that I’ve committed now to completing the 12.12 later next month – the Dig Deep 12 mile off-road option.  Entering seemed like a good idea at the time, in a post-parkrun euphoria of misplaced optimism.  I’ve even written my pledge down for pity’s sake, that means I have to ‘make it so‘, or risk a public humiliation even greater than that I will experience from being witnessed puffing round it, whilst any passing walkers (and make no mistake, they will be passing me) mutter to each other ‘what was she thinking?’ as they stride on by.

pledge photos

You can see what’s happening can’t you.  My confidence and enthusiasm have somewhat waned. The idea seems even less inspired now I realise I can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag, let alone off Higger Tour… Oh well.  I’ve committed now, and I remain conscientious if not still keen.  Plus, the setting will be gorgeous with the heather out, less so if there is horizontal rain and you can’t see your hand in front of your face admittedly, but that might still qualify as type two fun (retrospective not contemporaneous fun), potentially generating an amusing anecdote to boot.   Always a boon on any running related endeavour, and everyone appreciates a good boon.  However, even in my most optimistic moments, you have to respect the (to me) longer route and uneven terrain, this isn’t an event you can just rock up to on the day and hope for the best.  Well you can, but it would definitely end in tears, I do feel a need to some training in advance.  It’s a good excuse to get out in some fantastic local landscapes, which brings me neatly (if not concisely) back to Longshaw.   Time to heave on my fell shoes and get back over to join the fell-based running fun, a 10k will be a great addition to my hypothetical training plan and show commitment when added to Strava…  When is the Longshaw Trust 10 again?

PANIC!  When I went to check the date the events list seemed to have vanished from the  relevant section of Longshaw website.  What horror was this?  Had the event been discontinued?  Have I been personally blacklisted from attending and my computer hacked to prevent me researching the event and reduce the likelihood of me turning up?  Nope.  IT improvements apparently.  Much as with sports bras, no sooner you find one that fits, (which takes more than a lifetime) manufacturers will ‘improve’ that particular line thereby effectively discontinuing the only bra that ever worked for you. Adding insult to injury by giving you a short-lived glimpse of what might have been before cruelly snatching it away.  Of course I’m bitter.  Running is hard enough without being subjected to an assault on your assets each time you head out.    Anyways, same with the Longshaw IT department. the site was down, because it is being ‘enhanced’, except, in this instance the interruption in service was indeed temporary. FYI, the plan is to update the ‘behind the scenes’ IT systems so eventually people attending Trust 10 events can sign up on-line and it will all be more streamlined etc by 2020 or whenever.  Personally I shall miss the slightly Heath-Robinsonesque quality of the current set up.  However, we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads about all that right now, as recent experience suggests a lot can happen in that sort of time scale.  The sky will probably have fallen in at the very least.  Chicken Licken was right all along.  If you read the original story the world did end, they all did get eaten so no ridiculing the poor bird for being alarmist when she was right all along! Hard as it is to imagine, running Longshaw might not be a priority in that scenario.  Also, in fact the Trust 10 series are always on the fourth Sunday in the month, so you don’t need to check online each time, only to be able to refer to a calendar and count to four.  FACT.  Apart from when they are not, because of Christmas say, but you get the gist…

chicken licken

It is July.  I shall go.  So went my logic.  I was apprehensive as it’d been such a while, but I was looking forward to it too.  It could be part of my training plan, if I had a plan at all.  I would attend to the cross bits another time…. Which brings me onto some startling new insights about cross training, which recently came my way, and that I now I feel compelled to share.

The thing is, for a long time I thought cross-training was a purely descriptive term.  A variant on ‘no pain no gain’ perhaps.  That is, you improve at whatever you are doing if you are able to push through the stage when you are just really annoyed at how hard it is, hate running, hate the world, that kind of thing, basically ‘training when cross’ gets abbreviated to ‘cross training’ but put in the hours and voila!  Improvement follows.   Then, I came to realise it was a bit more sophisticated than this, runner’s world no less gave this plausible enough sounding definition:

In reference to running, crosstraining is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training, to supplement their running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize.

So I started indulging in my own cross training, mostly courtesy of Thursday Accelerate woodrun sessions (thank you) involving wobbling about standing on one leg (balance), bunny hopping along woodland trails (strength, but also amuses run leader I think), and, most importantly of all, working on the upper body and arms whilst simultaneously attending to hydration, by slurping on a post-run latte on conclusion of the run.  It might not technically be cross-training in the purest sense, but it is a start.  Besides, it’s surely preferable to the fate of some poor souls who inevitably take the cross training a bit far, adding in cycling and swimming resulting in becoming inadvertent tri-athletes.  It happens. Before they know it, they’re off doing Ironman events just to improve their parkrun times.  I don’t think there’s too much risk of that happening to me.

Even so, I’m always open to a bit of running related advice, so I ambled down to my local running shop for some clues on tackling the Dig Deep. Specifically re kit requirements and navigation, and also as an alternative to actually having to go out and run.  It is a well-known fact, that visiting a running shop equates to an actual run in terms of training. You improve technique and running credentials just by breathing in the air of a specialist running shop.  Anyway, turns out, this particular visit was most enlightening.  Not only did I find out that there is no path off Higger Torr, you just jump off the edge and hope you fly basically; and that skip the running dog has his own instagram account, I also got a new insight into what motivates some individuals to embrace new sporting disciplines.  Injury basically.  Cross training at its source if you will.  So, of those in the shop at the time – and I won’t name names as that’s not my style – one only took up running after a climbing-related hand-garrotting / palm-slashing injury made further ascent of rock-faces impossible, so they accidentally entered a marathon for seven weeks later instead.  What could possibly…  and the other had ruptured something crucial in a leg (their own leg I think) so started swimming and one thing led to another and they’ll probably have to do an Ironman one day now, poor thing.  Ironman completion seems to lead to obligatory tattooing as well, which is another blog post altogether.  Marathon runners are compelled to talk about their marathon running achievements incessantly, and in perpetuity – a bit like the curse of the Ancient Mariner, only running related, and they won’t be limiting themselves to just stopping the ‘one of three’.  Ironman completers on the other hand, have to get their skin inked.  Them is the rules. To be fair, if and when I do complete a marathon I will tell everyone, a lot, and maybe even get an Ironman tattoo if in a parallel universe that happened.  Not on my stomach though, brave choice I think… at least I think that’s his stomach, but he must have detachable nipples and no tummy button, so I’m fearful it may be some other body part, and I don’t wish to scrutinise further. Surely not his back?  I did get my ‘O’ Level for Biology, but it’s not helping here over much to be honest, although I could probably still explain to you about worker bee dances if you’d like.  Do your own research dear reader, I can only take you so far along the journey of discovery.

The sport you end up using for cross training purposes depends on what body part you remove from use.  I understand a dislocated shoulder leads naturally to competitive one-handed knitting, but that’s subject to confirmation.  The knack is to secure one of the needles by grasping it between your thighs apparently, great for toning an all too often ignored body part, and such a strengthening technique would undoubtedly be a boon to both your knitting post recovery and your running. Or you could take up pole dancing, you need good thigh muscles for that too.  Good to know.  As far as cross training options are concerned, the only limit is your imagination, and human dignity.

Oh, and because you’ll be fretting, my kit is OK for a fell race apparently, as they only will check the seams are taped, not that I can fit into it.  So look out for me in something like this – you must have full waterproof body cover, but I reckon I’ll carry it off.  The guy on the right of the picture is risking disqualification heading out so ill-prepared.  His look out.

kit requirements

So where was I?  Oh yes, heading back to Longshaw.  It had been raining, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect weather wise on Sunday morning, but the inclement elements meant as I drove across to Longshaw the mist was rising from the dips in the hills, it looked really spectacular.  In my absence, the car park ticket machines have been updated for the new £1 coins, which caused a few problems for me and much bag rummaging as I feared I’d only got the old ones. I also think the cost has gone up, which I don’t begrudge as the run is free and I am happy to support he National Trust but is worth noting.  I keep meaning to get around and join them, but if I do, that will definitely make me a grown up, and I’m not sure I’m quite ready to do that.

In other news, they have put in a new woodland path to the cafe.  It was really lovely, lots of signs explaining what you were looking at and pointing out where owls have nested and woodpeckers pecked.  I was a bit disappointed to have it made plain that the hobbit house is actually the old ice house, some myths should be allowed to endure…

I arrived at the cafe, and saw the volunteer team were already hard at it, flags up, war conference in session, the big sail sign being carried to the start.  At least I think that was what they were up to.  Either that, or trying to find a surfing beach somewhere, in which case they must have given up, because it would have been a very long walk indeed.  We are a long way from the sea here.

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I already had my number – 999 – because I have saved it from a previous run because it is a rather marvelous number to have and to hold on to.  Plus it saves a bit of money for the Trust 10 and time for me if you bring your number with you.  The registration system has got a bit more organised. To protect confidentiality, everyone now signs up on a separate bit of pre-printed paper and has to agree to having results shared via email (you can opt out if you wish).  I can see why they have done this, before everyone could potentially see any other previous participants email and other contact details if they had good enough eyesight to squint through the lists of entrants as they signed up.

sign up form

Once I’d signed up, I stood around awkwardly, wondering whether or not anyone I’d know would turn up in between trying not to skid on the super-slippery slate stones adjacent to the cafe.  I don’t know why they’d become so treacherous.  Previously, I’d have stated with 100% confidence that the slipperiest substance known to humankind is goose shit, but now I’m not so sure, it really challenged my assumptions there as I struggled to remain upright on the flagstones.   Eventually, a friendly face!  Yay. The Runderwear ambassador putting in an appearance.  We negotiated that we would romp round together at the back, but as both of us have had negative experiences being compelled to run with others we each reserved the right to either abandon the other, or tell them to ‘go away’ using language which would leave little ambiguity as to the strength of feeling on the matter.   I mean, we obviously weren’t going to be quite as colourful as Anthony Scaramucci, but pretty direct communication all the same.  Yay, a running buddy!  I felt a bit less uncertain about rejoining the trail running fray.  Bring it on, there will be fun to be had!

running buddy

Pleasingly, other familiar faces started to materialise, and soon there was quite a jolly crowd assembled.  We ambled down to the start, I stood right at the back, and there was the usual briefing, thanks to the volunteers; watch out for tree roots and cows (the cows may move the tree roots won’t, unless they are magic trees, but not expected today); it’s a ‘long 10k’, so expect a slower than usual time, and then, almost suddenly, we were awf!  Hooray!

It’s been a while since I’ve done a run at talking pace with a buddy. In fact, on this occasion I got two buddies for the price of one as they were both Valley Hill Runners, and also romping round together. So I guess that makes me either the gate-crasher or the gooseberry, I’m not sure. Fortunately, I didn’t have the social skills to pick up on it if I was in the way, and it was really nice.  Hilariously, (I thought) there were not one, not two, but three tail runners.  One each!  It was like we were under close supervision whilst on day-release from borstal or something except we are a bit old for that and they probably don’t call them borstals any more.  Open prison then.   Initially, it was a bit unnerving being tailed at quite such close quarters, but I got used to it.    They do this so if say the slowest runner drops out after one lap, because they are significantly behind the next slowest participant, the tail runner doesn’t have to do a four-minute mile across bog to catch up with the new back mark.  Makes sense really.  (Edit:  update, I have a witness statement advising the tail runner in question subsequently described this experience as like doing a 5k warm up with a 4k sprint followed by a 1k cool down.  I think we can conclude that was challenging!  Type two fun for sure.)  Maybe in 2020, when they have the new IT booking system and it all goes very high-tech, runners romping at the rear will each have their own electronic tag.  For now, it’s low tech, each of us had our own personal detail to trail us on our heels throughouth. Maybe that’s why it’s called a trail run?

Important things were shared as we ran.  Most important of all, unanimous agreement as to which was our favourite marshal.  We might love her, but she isn’t altogether convinced by us.  I think I might actually bring dog biscuits with me next time (for the dog, not the volunteer) and bribe her into loving me back best of all the other runners.  Shallow to need that level of approval I know, but gratifying all the same to be on the receiving end of such canine adoration I would imagine.  Only time and forward planning will tell.

everyones favourite marshal

The volunteers are great, and also always in demand. If you don’t want to run but do want to be part of the fun (and get a bacon butty or veggie equivalent and a cup of coffee in return) then get in touch with the sports development officer and you will be welcomed.  I have volunteered once at Longshaw, when I first got back from my travels, and it was really fun, you get all the fabulousness of the scenery without the sweat of actually having to run up that really steep hill.  Plus you can high-five runners and cheer on those you know as well as those you don’t.  What’s not to like?

We tried to remember to look up and look around. Longshaw was truly beautiful.  Green, lush and emerging from the mists.  It did rain a bit, well drizzle really, but it was quite hot. There were a lot of insects.  I inadvertently swallowed a few, which might be a protein boost but did nothing for my vegetarian credentials.  Nevermind, plenty bit me back.  I was slathered in ‘Skin so soft’ which does work actually, but it is pretty over-powering stuff.  I used it to rid my flat of ants in Cambodia, which it did, and which is no mean feat!

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As well as admiring the view, and swallowing insects, we were able to chat quite a lot about bra fitting, which is my current topic of choice.  We did this to such an extent that the ‘top of the stone wall’ marshal, admonished us for our chit-chat, but rather regretted doing so as we filled him in our discussion themes, which moved from bra fit on lap one, to chafing remedies on lap two.

I also got to hear lots more about the Valley Hill running club, which was rather good.  I do love my Smiley Paces, but I struggle to keep up on group runs, so am open to running with other groups too. Smileys aren’t affiliated, so lots of members do pop up in more than one running group, for a variety of reasons.  They are in a slightly different part of Sheffield so have different run routes and also different club races that feature on their annual fixtures list.   A whole load of them are heading off to do some multi-lap ultra next weekend.  Sounds tough, endless 5k laps with a bangle on completion of each.  The Manvers Dusk to Dawn, it happened for the first time in 2014, and is very much a social event.  Food available, run when you like, with whoever you like.   That year the winner completed a staggering twenty-two laps (71.6 Miles).  Quite aside from the distance, I can’t imagine the tedium of doing that, but then again, having others about probably does motivate you, and the format is great in that you are only ever a short distance from assistance should you require it, which means you can be braver in going for ‘just one more lap.’  It was  interesting hearing about new to me races, and there is clearly some cheery camaraderie in action, disguised by a continuous line of mutually abusive banter.  I like that.  Also, they have a chip butty run.  Head turning stuff.

So it was we loped round, three tail markers (one a Smiley), a couple of Valley Hill Runners, me a Smiley and another fellow Smiley in ear shot ahead.  It wasn’t a fast romp round, but it was a fun and companionable one.  It was also really good haring downhill at the end on masse, our own sports day finish, into the arms of the waiting hi-viz team. Yay. Aren’t we all great.  Longshaw 10k is super friendly, it’s a great introduction to off-road running and a very supportive environment to join.  The views are outstanding and the running buddies awesome too.  I don’t know why I’d left it so long to get back to it.

There we go, that was it.  Run done.  One of the benefits of a slow finish is no queue at the cafe.  Fine latte and a cheese scone – which I’d swear has reduced in size since my last visit.  Like Wagon Wheel biscuits, you look at them, and just know, things are not as they once was.  Nevermind.  It’s not like I’m going to fade away.  Final chit-chat, and then farewells.   A grand morning out indeed.  Thank you volunteers.

So, in conclusion, I’m very happy to be back doing the Longshaw 10k.  It’s great in its own right, as well as hopefully helping me on my way to the 12.12.  For me that Dig Deep event will be a challenge enough I think.  Others have higher goals, check out the Masochists Marathon (only $1.60 to enter, but you might die); or there’s always the Bob Graham if you want to stay closer to home, don’t get that mixed up with the Billy Graham challenge though, might get awkward.  And try to remember it’s supposed to be fun, harder than you might think when you are six seconds outside the cut off of a one hundred mile, 120,000 feet, sixty hour ultra marathon.  Do your research people, pick your challenge wisely.  If you get it wrong you might end up broken like this at the end of your run of choice:

1500922688-esq080117barkley001mod

Whereas really you want to end up like this lot.   Some lovely Valley Hill Runners post the Longshaw 10k by way of illustration.  Not sure how many chip butties they have had between them over the years, but they’ve done a great deal of running.  Thanks for letting me tag along with you guys, much appreciated.

Valley Hill Runners

And that was it. We dispersed our separate ways into the mist, until next time.

Maybe see you there?  Fourth Sunday in the month at Longshaw.  Be there.  They put the flags out specially!

Happy running til next time.  🙂

flags out

Categories: 10km, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Refugees Romping Rotherham: parkrun tourists take on Clifton Park

Digested Read: a bit of enforced parkrun tourism today, took me and three running buddies to Rotherham parkrun. A hidden treasure, friendly, picturesque, loos pre-run and coffee after –  all that a parkrun tourist could wish for and more.   Thanks kindly people of Rotherham parkrun for the warm welcome, and sharing your lovely Clifton park!

Bandstand Clifton park

Sheffield Hallam parkrunners were temporarily shunted from Endcliffe park this Saturday due to the tramlines music festival.  So, evicted from our usual parkrun, a number of us refugees debated where to go for a spot of parkrun tourism.  In the end, we went for our shared nenyd – nearest event not yet done, which was only as far away as Rotherham as it happens.  (Why is it the unpronounceable ‘nenyd’ instead of ‘nendy’ I cannot fathom.  Oh well, good to have an air of mystery about some things I suppose.)  Between the four of us we have done many different parkruns, some quite a bit further afield, but somehow Rotherham has slipped through the net.  Honestly, I think we’d collectively overlooked it, and it turns out, that wasn’t really fair.

So, Rotherham parkrun.  Erm, well, not to be too rude, before I went along to their parkrun I hadn’t really thought that much about Rotherham.  Even though it’s just alongside Sheffield I’ve not done much more than skirt the edges of it on my way to somewhere else.  I was trying to think of what I associate with Rotherham, and I could only think of the Sand House, which actually a quick Google search revealed is a Doncaster thing.  Oops.

The Rotherham parkrun course description didn’t particularly inspire either – according to the official website blah-de-blah:

Runners start on the main path next to the bandstand runners complete three clockwise laps of the park before continuing to bear right up the hill towards to the finish.

three laps of tarmac around a not altogether huge park apparently.  Oh well, it would have novelty value I thought, keeping my expectations pretty modest…

Well, I run corrected!  This was a cracking little parkrun in a hidden treasure of a park and well worth the jaunt over.  It has all that a parkrun tourist could wish for: parking; precautionary pee facilities; warm welcome; picturesque setting and post-run coffee options. Add to this dizzying cocktail the option for an educational post-run museum visit and some pretty impressive park landscaping ((including a bandstand for goodness sake) and you will see it offers up a veritable smorgasbord of parkrun delights.  We felt like royalty!  You could too – crowns available for trying on at the Clifton Museum post parkrun en route to the cafe.  I don’t know why this hasn’t caught on as a parkrun ‘thing’ elsewhere to be honest.

parkrun royalty

The day didn’t start with promise. Torrential rain beating down on my velux windows.  Fortunately, we’d already collectively committed to running the night before. It’s amazing what a promise to a friend will do to help motivate me to run.   I chugged over to hers for about 8.10 and we drove over to Rotherham.  It was an easy drive, took almost exactly 30 minutes.  En route, cheetah buddy (for it was she) who used to work in Rotherham, was able to share little known facts about the delights of the town. Did you know it has a medieval chapel built on a bridge that dates back to 1483?  Me neither. Are you a stranger to the fact there is only one tower block in Rotherham, and it is privately owned and overlooks the very park that hosts parkrun?  Me too.  I need to learn more about this historic town it seems…  This is one of the things I really lovely about doing a bit of parkrun tourism, it takes you to places you might otherwise not visit, and it’s often educational as well as enlightening and entertaining.  Eee grand if you will.

tower block rotherham unique

We arrived at the Clifton Museum car park about 8.45 ish, and there was loads of parking.  It was £2 for two hours though, which was steeper than I’d expected, but I think if you arrived a bit earlier and searched around there might be free parking elsewhere.  The Museum building itself is really impressive, it was at one time Clifton House, and Clifton Park now, is what was once the 70 acres of ground within which it sat.  Naturally we had time for a pre-run selfie and a bit of an explore.

Almost intuitively, we weaved our way towards the loos.  We made our way through what is a lovely mature park, dating back to Victorian times, it is really well landscaped. It has formal gardens, a memorial, water features, and a decent sized hill, which, as you can’t see over it, gives a sense of the place being huge.  You imagine that beyond this hill are more rolling away, you could be at Chatsworth!  It was also absolutely immaculate, not one scrap of litter or pile of dog poo anywhere.

We met the very friendly run director and a volunteer en route to the facilities – they pointed us in the right direction.  Dear reader, I can report some very fine loos are available here.  Not only are there many, they are housed within the most extraordinarily shaped toilet block I’ve ever encountered.  I lie not, when I say they were an unexpected delight!  Apart from having those annoyingly ‘helpful’ all in one hand wash and dry things that take ages to run a whole cycle and create queues.  However, given that I have just had to hold on as best I can at many a parkrun it seems churlish to dwell on that.  The loos were fab!  They were next to what looked like a fairly extensive play area with a permanent ‘fair ground’, mini adventure playground and what must have been a water area though currently drained, or fountains turned off at any rate.  This park has fantastic facilities for local people.  Definitely impressed.  You could easily spend a day here if you had children of the right age.

space age loos

We made our way to the start.  It was sort of down from the bandstand.  This is a pretty small parkrun by Sheffield standards (70 run/walk/joggers today), so the muster isn’t huge.  Volunteers are sparse, but there were enough, and strategically positioned signs also marked the way.  The run director had a dry-sac which operated as the official bag drop, where you could leave coats and bags.  Car-keys were placed in his pockets for safety on request.  This bag is taken from the start to a bench on the finish line during the run, so that was pretty excellent customer service.  There was the usual run briefing – a lot of first timers, I didn’t recognise any other Hallam refugees other than our regular running buddy who arrived with her partner a bit breathless ‘just in time’ as the briefing was going on.

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The run started seemingly abruptly. We were off.  It’s a while since I’ve done a three lap course.  My legs were tired as I did a 14.5 miler yesterday, so I was happy to just trot round.  It is all tarmac, so a good fast surface for them as like to go good and fast.  Because the park is undulating there is much to look at, as different parts of the park come into view at every turn and new horizon.  I quite liked that the three-lap format gave you three chances to eye things of interest.  There was a companionable group of older people, all with small, stiff and aging dogs, who were undertaking what seemed to me to be their daily constitutional. A communal circuit round the park, followed by coffee at the cafe later.  (We saw them after the parkrun, continuing their social as we tucked into our own coffee and toasted tea-cakes).  There was a woman carrying a baby who may have been waiting whilst her partner ran, she smiled and gave encouragement each time I passed her.

Because the field is small, it spread out fairly early on, I think the undulating (hilly) nature of it also splits it up, so it never got congested en route.  Loads of room.  I did have  a few problems with a loose dog though.  The dog was very cute, but it was all over the place, often a good distance behind its owner 20 metres at least at times, so it would wander off, have a pee, sniff another dog’s arse, that kind of thing, and then do a rocket like catch up to its owner who seemed completely oblivious to just how disruptive it was.  It was criss-crossing in front of me, and although in actual fact it didn’t get under my feet, I felt like I had to keep stop/ starting in case it did.  You are supposed to have dogs under control and on a short lead at parkrun, but maybe because this parkrun is small that rule clearly wasn’t being enforced.  I tried not to let it spoil my run, but it would put me off making this my regular haunt to be honest, loose dogs are unpredictable, and that scares me.  At one point the owner was completely out of sight of the dog, far ahead of us and around a corner and I felt that was really unfair and not in the spirit of parkrun at all.  I did the passive aggressive thing of not actually saying anything, but nursed bad thoughts instead…  In the end, I decided my moodiness was spoiling the run more than the blooming hound, which was having a lovely time.  As I couldn’t change the situation,  I just slowed to the point it got ahead of me.  It was no longer my problem and so I was able to run my own run which was the best approach.  I wasn’t fast enough to overtake, and I’m not bothered about fast times.   I started to get lapped by faster runners and did wonder if the little dog would bring them down like nine-pins, but they must be used to hound-leaping here as I wasn’t aware of any fallers.  Impressive.

I clapped the faster runners as they lapped me – and there were some speedy souls out and about – and most gave a wave of acknowledgement or word of encouragement as they sped on by. It is a super friendly parkrun. At the end of the third lap, there is a short detour uphill to the right and a well signed and coned finish.  It was a cheery sight!

Inevitably, my Smiley buddies were back before me, but on the plus side that meant they both cheered me in, and one had done the parkrun equivalent of surrendering my cloakroom ticket and retrieved my coat.  It was a social finish line. The perambulating elders came by and one of their dogs took the opportunity to pee copiously on the finish sign which caused consternation and laughter.  My Smiley friend cheetah buddy sprang to the rescue, sacrificing her bottle of water to give the newly christened pee-point a decent rinsing flush, it was all good-humoured!  I was going to say good clean fun, but good cleaning fun may be more accurate.  There also a pleasing surprise in store.  A face from the past.  Turns out this is the local run of a former colleague – also an unexpected runner – we recently refound each other on Strava (a sentence I never expected to utter!)  It’s amazing who you come across at parkrun.  Cheetah Buddy and I bumped into each other at Hallam parkrun after a three decade separation.  Strange but true. Grand to see you my friend, looking forward to bumping into you a bit more often, out on them there trails!

We chatted for a bit, then went in search of coffee.  The Museum cafe opens at 9.45, which was fine for us, as I helpfully slow everyone else down by finishing ages after them, although we did have to walk back to the car anyway.  Speedies may wish to find other drinking holes.  As we went back we cheered the last few in. The tail walker was on duty at the back, collecting signs and bringing cheer to the rear.

cheer to the rear

We marched off in the opposite direction for coffee, walking with purpose, I think you’ll agree!

off in search of coffee

You could get to the coffee shop by walking round the outside of the building, but we were encouraged to make our way through via the museum. This was unexpected and fun. There seemed to be a pretty decent history of Rotherham, the obligatory alarming looking stuffed animals – poor things, and child friendly exhibits such as the crowns we felt compelled to try on as illustrated earlier.

We exited via the museum shop – handy if you needed to get a plastic sword or puppet animal, and then to the cafe.  It was good value, not the best coffee in the world to be honest, but lovely setting, very friendly and quick and generous butter portions (not marge) with our toasted tea cakes. They also had jacket potatoes, cake, paninis, as well as ice-creams and similar snack food.  We sat outside as the sun had come out. There were some other parkrun tourists from Brighton as well as the Clifton park walkers we’d seen en route earlier, and the run director had a chat with us too. It was all very cheery and companionable.  This would be an easy parkrun to make friends at if you wanted to I think.  Based on my experience today, I’d say the locals are a pathologically friendly lot. This is a good thing and made for a great start to the weekend.

cafe at clifton museum

So thank you Rotherham parkrun. It was a really good experience coming to Clifton park and getting such a welcome.  I’d love to come back for your ‘in reverse’ birthday celebrations one year.  The last one happened to fall on April Fool’s Day, which is particularly pleasing.  Run the opposite way round makes it feel like a much more down hill route because although there is one steep up hill bit, you get it out the way, and that’s three times you can romp round shouting ‘weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ with your arms outstretched and feeling like you have super-human speed.  That could be fun, one for the diary I think!

Until then, happy running 🙂

By the way, if you want to find your nenyd, or indeed the nearest parkrun to any given location, this parkrun tourist tool is pretty awesome.   You just stick your location into the search bar and the internet does magic internety search things and voila!  So for me, next stop Barnsley I reckon…

tourist tool

How about you?  Enjoy!

For all my parkrun related posts follow this link.  Scroll down for older entries.

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

Digging Deep all over again. The way ahead? Route Recce Round two.

Digested read: still got lost on Dig Deep Recce Second Attempt, but some improvement.    Brooded moodily as I ran,  nursing murderous thoughts about sports bra manufacturers.  What’s wrong with this world?  Saw a water vole!  All is well with the world! Was mistaken for a fell runner.  Fake it to make it may be the way forward.  I’m not through with this running malarkey yet.

DD Fine sheep shot

I’m not sure what my running-related forte is to be honest, or even if I have one at all. Perhaps ‘hope over experience‘, in continuing to pull on my running shoes at all, which can be viewed either as ‘admirable tenacity’ or ‘doomed-stubborness-that-can-only-end-in-tears’ depending on your point of view/ commitment to realism.  Whatever my running related talent may or may not be, I think it’s safe to say it isn’t navigation.  In my defence, the map I have to work from may have cost me £3.50 but it’s rubbish.  It doesn’t give enough detail to be any practical use unless you are already familiar with the Dig Deep route.  I am somewhat peeved.  On the other hand, it is the prospect of supposedly undertaking this 12+ mile route in a few weeks time that is motivating me to get out and about and explore the trails of Burbage and Houndkirk so that’s good.   Whether I actually make the start line or not, at least I’ll have learned some new and especially gorgeous routes.  That has to be a boon, and I do like a good boon when I’m out and about.

So, today was my second attempt at doing a recce for the 12.12 route, I had renewed confidence that, since I knew where I’d gone wrong last time, I’d get it cracked this time out.  I didn’t.  Close, but no cigar.  Nevermind, I don’t smoke.   I am getting closer though.  That’s the good news, the bad news is that I don’t really know where exactly I went wrong this time, no idea at all where I should have gone and so that isn’t looking promising if I was hoping for third time lucky next time out.  Curses.  Also, a fellow Smiley, who knows the route, pointed out to me that I’d gone up the top of Burbage edge, whereas, she reckons the route is the lower path, a lot less challenging and technical, which might be better on the day, but shows even the bit I thought I’d got right I didn’t.  Oh well.

 

Not only is the shape most definitely not quite right, but also I ended up practically abseiling down some cliff side at one point, clambering over boulders using hands and feet, and negotiating quite long sections by arse.  I am well-equipped to do this, and it felt safe, but I’m inclined to think it can’t have been the preferred route for an organised event.  Think of the paper-work involved if you lose half the field over a rock face just after the half way point.  Nightmare.  My conclusion is, yep, definitely lost, not just experiencing the more technical section of the course.

It’s not all bad news though.  I’ve discovered a few things since my last post.  Firstly – and this might be most importantly – a fellow Smiley Paces member, an eminent gin-soaked one no less, has advised me the 12.12 route incorporates sections that make up her regular mutt trot. This is a huge relief.  It means we have been able to agree that if I expire on the trails that she will probably come across my abandoned corpse sooner or later. She seems happy to do me the kindness of rolling my expired carcass off the main path and into an adjacent bog or heather patch (whatever, I’ll leave that to her discretion).  I wouldn’t want to lie there until mummified like those unclaimed cadavers on Everest, gaining an unwanted celebrity as runners get used to stepping (or bounding) over my slowly decomposing body as they continue along the path. You know,  like that long identified dead climber who came to be known only as green boots, because this part of his attire remained visible even in the deep snow.  Only in my case, my nickname would be due to my clearly ill-fitting sports bra probably.  The shame dear reader, the shame.  I dread to think what the wits of the hills might come up with for me by way of a nickname for ease of reference.  I might need to get back to gin-soaked Smiley, and make sure she dumps me face down….

In other good news, I did a bit of cunning sleuthing to see who else I know might be up for entering the 12.12.  It’s inconceivable anyone else will be anyone slower than me going round, but knowing there are friendly others out there somewhere ahead of me on the trails is weirdly reassuring.  Anyway, success!  My endurer buddies are also taking part.  Hurrah!  Better yet, they are doing some insane long-distance masochistic mud, ice and fire challenge the day before.  (It’s not called that, but you get the idea, it will be some sort of event aimed at people deep in the mires of mid-life crises who have come to enjoy putting themselves in painful personal jeapordy in return for a towelling headband.  OCRs have a lot to answer for.)   Hopefully, from my point of view, this means they’ll be pretty much physically broken, as well as sleep-deprived, by the time they get to the start of the 12.12, that should slow them down a bit.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll even get to reel them in from behind, one by one (well, I can dream can’t I).  Upshot is, there are a few positive runes relating to disposal of my remains if necessary, and knowing other runners out there on the day.  Hence, whilst I’m not completely convinced I’ll make it to the start myself, I am going to behave as if I will for now, and see where my recces and training take me.  I wonder if they’ll be an inflatable mammoth at the event rendezvous this time?  Always an asset at any gathering I’d say.  It was there last year when I did the Dig Deep Whirlow 10k 2016.  A highlight for sure.  I don’t know why the one long arm – never asked, and to be fair never really noticed before looking at this picture, maybe both his arms are the same length, just his left one is really stretchy?

2016-08-21 12.01.03

Back to my recce.  I headed out in cooler weather than last time.  Perfect running weather in fact, though I didn’t let that trick me into the rookie error of setting off too fast!  I drove up to the Norfolk Arms again, and romped along, stopping for photos on the way. There weren’t many people out at all, though a few cyclists passed me.  I passed a white, fluffy dog, whose coat was thick with sticky, clay-mud and who was sporting a mightily chuffed expression as it’s hapless owner stood by lamenting her hound’s skill in locating such mud baths in the most unlikely of settings.  From having done this part of the route just once before I was amazed how much more quickly I negotiated it all this time around.  I stopped for photos.  You don’t need all the details, enjoy the slide show summary.  It is breathtaking.  I don’t know why I haven’t explored more before. Well I do, it’s because I’m cautious on my own, but with long days and plenty of water on me, it was fine.  It’ll be even more spectacular in a couple of weeks time when the heather is out.

 

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So there I was, pounding the trails.  As I did so though, I was a bit grumpy pants to be honest.  Not about my actual pants, because I was wearing my runderwear, which makes me happy, but about my recent foray into the world of sports bras.  Here follows a bra-related rant.  You will either get it or not. Skip it if you want.

Bra related rant starteth here:

For my whole life, I’ve struggled to get a decent bra to fit me.  The opening of Bravissimo in what was then my home town of Leamington Spa was a day of celebration for me.  A bra company that caters specifically for women D cup and above.  It is an absolutely mystery to me why it took so long for someone to provide this.  We can put people on  the moon it seems, but manufacture well-fitting bras for those with anything other than an ‘athletic’ frame, apparently not.  I was so delighted when Bravissimo came on the scene, that I chose this company as an example of local start-up that achieved massive success when required to give a careers talk about entrepreneurship to a room full of about 400 youthful undergraduate engineering students at Coventry University.   Bravissimo began as the idea of  two women who themselves couldn’t get a bloomin’ bra to fit their assets, saw a gap in the market and filled it – in every sense.  Their story is fine, inspirational even. They started as mail order only, and now have some 26 stores, and deliver worldwide.  With hindsight though, maybe explaining the company’s success in finding a USP using the phrase ‘by catering for bigger busted women such as myself‘ to a group of 380 male undergraduates (don’t get me started on gender representation and inequality in STEM courses and careers), awash with the hormones typical of men in their late teens, wasn’t my best-judged moment. It would have been fine if they’d all laughed, acknowledging the in advertant humour of the situation – which is what  I wanted to do as I realised what I’d said.  What made it deeply uncomfortable was the awkward silence as I felt the newly attentive room of blinking acne-faced young men appraise me with snatched side-long glances.  It gives a whole new resonance to the phrase ‘making a tit of yourself‘.  On the other hand, it illustrated a point, and maybe we should shout about this problem more.  It’s a real one. Silence on the topic isn’t helping.

The cause of my brooding dark mood was another epic fail in my quest for a decent sports bra.  If there is one thing harder than finding a bra, it’s finding a sports bra.  Increasingly, it is recognised that along with running shoes, for women a bra is their most crucial bit of kit.  Running magazines are full of advertorial features on the damage you can do to yourself if you persist in running without adequate support – and they don’t just mean black eyes.  Tissues will rip, boobs will sag, stretch marks will line your body. This may all be true, but for me the reality is much more prosaic, it’s just uncomfortable running without a decent bra, and too much bounce makes you (me) really self-conscious.  I don’t need to be ‘persuaded’ to buy a decent sports bra, what I do need is for some f$£%ing manufacturer to come up with one in my size and fit.  I’ve spent too much time surrounded by piles of discarded different branded sports bras that I ordered online to try on, only to find not one of them will fit.  Some of them I will never know if they fitted because it is beyond human contortion to clamber into them unaided.   I don’t know if all men fully appreciate the torment this can cause. Some do.  I had a great conversation about chafing, blisters and swing with a guy I met on a boot camp once who pointed out that his moobs were even less well catered for than my boobs, probably true.  However, although we cried with laughter as we validated each others experiences, the misery of being stuck with our inadequate kit sadly stayed with us after our laughter had faded away.

The in-shop experience of trying to buy a sports bra has often been worse.  I do think sports shops are getting better, but in the past I have entered sports shops asking about bras only to be handed a bit of postage stamp sized  lycra  and waved vaguely towards  a single changing room with those saloon doors that offer no privacy at all.   This is disheartening in the extreme and leads to a rapid about turn and out of the shop.  Not unreasonably, sports shops tend to be staffed by sporty, svelte people from generally a younger demographic than mine.  I understand why this is,  but I don’t feel such staff necessarily quite ‘get’ what the issues are for the fuller-figured, older runner.  One of the particularly welcome innovations of Bravissimo is that many of their staff wear the products they sell, they do get it, absolutely.  I know my current bra’s fit is rubbish, but it is the only one I’ve got that I can at least put on by myself and it is the least worst of the other options I tried at the time.   I have a few sports bras, and they are all equally bad in their own unique ways.  I am beginning to think the perfect sports bra is just as much a mirage as the proverbial gold at the end of the rainbow, constantly moving out of reach.  I have wasted a lot of my life in a quest for this seemingly unattainable goal, maybe time to compromise, move on and accept that at times I will have to run with one boob in each hand to minimise bounce in extremity.  Even so, I keep a weary, wary eye out for new developments.  Hope over experience all over again.  So it was I was ecstatic, when a recent promotion invited women to a bra trying evening at a local running shop.  I signed up immediately.  I am held back in my running because of discomfort and embarrassment, this might be the answer to my prayers!  I don’t need a hard sell on this, give me a bra that fits and I will gladly empty my bank account into your lap.  If you can offer that and clown shoes too, to accommodate my wide feet, then I’ll throw in my car and all my worldly goods.  I’m not a reluctant purchaser, I am an increasingly desperate one.

brooks bra fitting

As the day got closer, my nerve wavered. What if this was going to be humiliation all over again.  Like the time I won a set of lingerie in a competition in a local newspaper only to find their range ‘didn’t accommodate this lady winner’ when I went to be measured for and to collect my prize (true story, scarred for life).  I rang ahead, I explained as candidly as I could short of emailing them an inappropriate picture that I was ‘not an athletic frame’,  that I’d had bad experiences of sports bras only being suitable for women with smaller cup sizes and that I didn’t want to waste time going to an event if this was going to be the same. The person I spoke to reassured me that many of their customers are that sort of client.  fuller figures, older women runners.   He told me that the Brooks ambassador who was organising the event would have ‘the whole range of sizes’ and it would all be very discreet and respectful.

Well, I should have trusted my instincts.  It was my worst nightmare.  Let me be clear, I am in no way blaming the shop staff for this, they were courteous and helpful and doing their best.  However, it was exactly as I feared.  A young, svelte, athletic woman eyed me as I stood in my bra in a cubical feeling self-conscious and vulnerable and pronounced my current bra to be worse than useless, which I KNOW, that’s why I went.  She then went on about all the damage it would do. Which I ALSO KNOW, that’s why I keep subjecting myself to these humiliating fittings, and trotted off to bring me some bras in the new Brooks range. They looked great.  Unfortunately, they only go up to an E cup, not even close to my size.  Given that we’d already been told the average woman (whatever that is) is a D cup in the UK, that’s hardly an impressive range they cater for.  In desperation she offered up an underwired bra that allegedly might approximate a fit, but a) seriously, run in an underwired bra, lacerate my boobs with projecting metal on top of everything else and b) I kid you not, I couldn’t work out how to get the darned thing over my head, let alone put it on properly. I was frustrated, defeated and felt utterly humiliated.  I abandoned it as hopeless, and whilst not having anything to fit me, she kept going on about ‘you really do need to get a proper bra, it will make such a difference‘  which I KNOW!  I asked again about fit, and she said, well we’ve got the fit of the under band perfectly.  Seriously?  The cup has to fit too.

On their website Brooks say ‘Our sports bras are designed to move with you comfortably, regardless of shape or size.’  They lie.  Clearly they believe only a certain physique is acceptable in a runner.

My mood and self-esteem were not helped by then sitting through a talk about how critical it is we should all have a well-fitted bra whilst being encouraged to have a good grope of what looked like  two stress balls, but were actually representations of a ‘typical’ woman’s boobs  by way of visual aid.  I know the rep was well-meaning but please feedback to the company that it doesn’t matter how technologically advanced your bra is if you are only catering for women in smaller cup sizes.  Great if you’ve come up with a product for them, but don’t add insult to injury lecturing me on my irresponsible breast care if you aren’t going to manufacture anything close to a bra size that will fit me.  I’m not a freak of nature, even though I was made to feel one, and even if I was, wouldn’t I deserve a comfy bra as much as anyone else?  There must be a huge potential market out there.  Who is making bras for us.   Bravissimo do up to a point, but I’ve not had success with their sports bras either to be honest, though others in their range are great.  Also, just so you know, most women don’t have an entourage of dressers to help them put on a bra in the morning, so how about coming up with a design that doesn’t require either hyper mobility/contortion, or a team of minions and dressers at your disposal to help you clamber into it?  Just a thought.

Incidentally, whilst I’m having a rant from the more curvaceous end of the spectrum getting a bra to fit seems to be a universal challenge for female runners.  A fellow runner commented to me only the other day the importance of ensuring you tried to ensure you were on the ‘upswing’ as you move into frame of the course photographer at a race. That made me spit my tea out in laughter I don’t mind admitting.  It’s true!  When I’m not being depressed about my body it does make me laugh, the whole ludicrous impracticality of how it operates at times, and yet I persevere.  You have to laugh or…

bra lesson.jpg

So I sat on the bench for the post bra-fitting lecture trying not to cry.  We then went out for a run ‘to try out the bras’ one other woman also couldn’t be accommodated.  Others liked the bras, but one at least rejected hers because even though it was really comfy, and supportive, she felt she’d never be able to put it on without help.  This is basic stuff.  Wanting to be independent enough to dress yourself.  As we ran, a rep took a video of us in action, no doubt to show immoveable assets all round by those wearing the Brooks bras, hopefully not periodically focusing in on my bouncing boobs by way of contrast,  in a ‘what not to do‘ if you like.  It was mortifying.

up and running

I still stayed for the post run prosecco and brooks goodie bag though, I thought of it as a consolation prize – booby prize if you will.  It had a frisbie (odd but welcome) and a rather fine buff, amongst other things. I’m still not saying the people I dealt with were at fault, they tried to be encouraging, but the evidence of my being ‘abnormal’ in the minds of the manufacturers was patently obvious in the lack of any available product to meet my needs.  It’s soooooooooooooooo depressing in its inevitability.

I enjoyed my prosecco, then went home and wept.  My body-confidence isn’t great anyway.  It takes courage to get out and run when you don’t look like what others might expect a runner to look like.  I don’t mean in environments like parkrun, which are inclusive, but heading out on your own, or in unfamiliar settings.  Mostly I just put those thoughts to one side, and head out anyway, but this bra-fitting experience really knocked my confidence.  It feels so unfair, I’m trying to get fit, I know I’m over-weight, but it feels like the very organisations that could make it easier for me, and others like me,  to join in (e.g. sports-bra manufacturers) are actually reinforcing the sense that we don’t belong, running is not for the likes of us, but rather for an elite breed of 0% body fat athletes to be culled once they reach the age of 25 (or whatever).  That is why sports tops for women are all in pink lycra size 8-10 and technical tees given out at races only ever made in men’s styles as standard issue.  Women aren’t supposed to run at all in races it sometimes seems.  It’s just so frustrating. Aaargh.  I could scream.

All of this was going through my mind as I pounded the trails.  You’ll understand why I was not in the best of moods.  Just as well I didn’t really see anyone for this part of the trail, I wasn’t the ideal contender for ‘the friendly face of Sheffield ambassador’ competition.  I’m not sure there is a competition for that to be fair, but it doesn’t matter, as I wasn’t entering anyway.

Bra-related rant endeth here

 

Weirdly though, even though my thoughts were almost entirely consumed with the ‘you don’t belong in the running community‘ narrative brought on by the trauma of an abortive bra fitting evening the night before, running helps.  You can’t be out on the moors, looking at those views, and breathing that air and not feel better.  Almost without realising, I became increasingly absorbed with the terrain, the lichen on the rocks, the craggy features, and forgot about everything else.  I didn’t really see anyone. I had one anxious moment when I saw four pairs of hyper-vigilant eyes on me from a pack of Alsatian dogs.  They must have been with an owner, but I couldn’t see anyone, perhaps they were sitting down. The dogs’ eyes locked on me and their heads followed my movement across the tops.  I tried not to look at them in case that antagonized them, but it took super human strength not to speed up as I ran by, I was scared if I changed my pace they’d give chase, and I’d have no chance.  I lived to tell the tale though, so I’m guessing curious canines, rather than aggressive ones.

Eventually I came to the little streams that pass under the road at Upper Burbage.  According the map this is called Fiddler’s Elbow.  I thought navigation would be straightforward from here, there are two footpaths fractionally diverging from one another, I took the upper one, that went up towards Higger Tor, and then onwards to Carl Walk.

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Onwards and upwards, it was beautiful.  However, when you get up high it was pretty exposed, even on a relatively nice day. Also, on the tops the path sort of disappears.  Instead you are clambering over an expanse of boulders.  I tried to find a route, but in the absence of any clear path ended up practically abseiling and scrambling down.  I nearly wet myself with fear sliding arse first down a grit side at one point, but that’s ok, I survived.  I think maybe a childhood spent hiding behind cushions at the sight of the Daleks, has made me more resilient than I fully know.   Jon Pertwee helped me learn to feel the fear and do it anyway.  I met a couple of people, father and adult son and agile dog coming upwards, and that gave me a possibly misplaced confidence there was surely a path there somewhere.

Spotting a break in the bracken I found a sheep trail that took me towards Carl Walk, but again, once up on high, I couldn’t find the path off.  I thought I saw it below me, and scrambled down a flat sided boulder onto what turned out to be just a narrow ledge.  I had visions of lying there unfound for months, or until the RSPCA called out mountain rescue to find out from what animal such mournful bleating was issuing, and attempted a rescue.  Runners have rescued cute lambs before too.  Maybe some passing athlete would rescue me.  I might not be ‘adorable’ in quite the same way, but I could still be piteously needy.  In the event, gravity was my friend and I made it down unscathed.  It was an adventure, that’s OK.  On the other hand this ‘path’ couldnt be right.  I continued to follow it, until it seemingly disappeared altogether, into bog and then finally ended up at a stream.  Not a major river crossing,  but I didn’t expect it, and I’m sure you wouldn’t send a race route this way.  I went across a little gingerly. Some rocks had been put there to make sort of mini stepping-stones, but they were rather wobbly.  Some other walkers appeared out of the bracken behind me and pronounced this was indeed a path, but I wasn’t too sure.

I paused to take it in and try to make sense of the map.  Then, out of corner of my eye I saw …. (drum roll)  ….. a water vole!  Much excitement.   I haven’t seen a water vole in decades, literally.  I didn’t even know they lived out on the moor, I’ve only ever seen them in canal banks to be honest.  I sat myself down on a handy boulder and waited and watched for a good 20 minutes.  Periodically it swam back and forth from bank to bank.  It was a little distance away, and I tried to get a photo.  The good news is that I did, the bad news is that I’m not a contender for wildlife photographer of the year, but I did get a video that I don’t how to upload onto WordPress so is lost to the world. Here though, for your delectation, amazement and edification is my portrait of a water vole and its habitat:

Maybe you just had to be there.  Perhaps it will make you happy just to know it is out there, apparently happily doing its own thing.  I hope so.

I had no chance of joining whatever the official path was I was supposed to be on, but I recognised where I was and eventually romped onwards.  After a little while, I met the two men with their dog again who were clearly circling round the other way. This time we paused and chatted a bit, well, rude not to, seeing how we had met before.  ‘So you’re a fell runner too?’ said one, companionably as an opener.  I was confused.  Oh! Turns out I was wearing my Dig Deep Blue Tee-shirt from last year.  Well, whilst on the one hand I am peeved as it is inevitably a men’s fitting, on the other, it is the same Tee for the ultra 60 mile, 30 mile, 12.12 mile and 10k runs.  Whilst I got it for the 10k, this chap had no way of knowing which one I’d done, and so had just assumed I was a ‘proper’ fell runner.  I thought nothing could top the water vole sighting quite honestly, but this interaction did.  It was a much-needed reminder that, whatever self-doubt I am experiencing, to the outside eye I’m just another runner out there, and in context (fells) therefore a fell runner.  People are a lot nicer and less judgemental than I (we) sometimes give them credit for.  We chatted about fell running, laughed about the joyful leveling anarchy of a run out in the great outdoors with all the dizzying cocktail of unpredictable terrain, inclement weather, death-wish runners and vertical slopes all for £1.50 – £5 a throw.  It was affirming.  Maybe if I just get in the habit of running in my blue dig deep top people will continue to assume I’m an ultra-runner out there on the hills and I’ll fake it til I make it as the saying goes…

We said our farewells, and I jogged onwards, in a much better mood when I finished than when I started.   So it seems, whilst I finished the recce, my running’s not quite finished yet, even if my quest for kit continues.

It’s complicated this running malarkey, but it is worth sticking with.  How does the saying go?  “‘I really regret that run‘ said no-one ever.”  Not even me.

not even me

I still hate sports bra manufacturers though.

For all my Dig Deep related blog posts click here – scroll down for older entries.

Categories: motivation, off road, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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