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

parkrun tourism: loping in Leamington

Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to Leamington. Royal Leamington Spa no less.   A fine and perfectly formed parkrun.  There was friendliness, there was cake, there was the wow factor. A fine example of community parkrunning in action. There was a hill, also nettles.  It rained.  I wrote a bad poem to celebrate the occassion.  Would recommend.  More loos than you can shake a stick at, no zombies.

It bodes well doesn’t it, when you are considering doing a bit of parkrun tourism and you check out the event Facebook page the night before and you see this being flaunted before you:

Leamington parkrun cake

Impressive motivational techniques in action there by Leamington parkrun, clearly they know their runners and what will get them out on a drizzly Saturday morning.  There is FREE CAKE available to those who run round their parkrun route fast enough to get there before it’s gone.  No wonder they have some impressive times on their course. Did you know that according to their newsletter for 15 July 2017 the Age Grade course record is held by Monica WILLIAMSON who recorded 91.76% (19:13) on 28th June 2014 (event number 168).  No?  Me neither, but 91%!  That’s amazing.  Hope she got some cake back at the club house.  I’m in the same age category, but unsurprisingly to those who know me,  that is where our common ground ends in relation to our running performance.  Oh well.

So, back to basics.  Last weekend, I had to go to Leamington anyway for Saturday lunchtime, so, not wanting to miss out on my parkrun, I decided to just get up early and drive from Sheffield in time to do a bit of parkrun tourism at Leamington instead.  Yay!  Although this seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m not going to lie, my enthusiasm waned a bit when my alarm went off at stupid o’clock.  Even so, I dragged my weary carcass out from under my duvet, donned my running gear and headed out into the big wild world for the drive from Sheffield.

I had a couple of anxious moments en route, there was a major diversion that I hadn’t expected and I was worried it’d make me miss the start as I chugged along side roads trying to find my way back to the motorway.  More alarmingly, in a reckless fit of optimism, I was wearing my parkrun 100 t-shirt, and in fact, the weather was looking less than sunny.  Greyer and gloomier by the mile as we approached.

Worry not dear reader, I arrived crazily early.   From a tourist point of view, the venue is easy to find, start with the satnav code and then  follow the brown signs to the leisure centre.   The leisure centre at the moment is undergoing refurbishment, so it is alarmingly like driving into a construction site as you approach, but it’s OK, hold your nerve.  More a cause for concern are the speed bumps on the approach. They look tiny and innocuous but are extraordinarily potent.  I can offer no explanation for this, but however slowly I negotiated over them, it still felt like I’d inadvertently driven over a cliff as my car bounced down the other side.  Fortunately my AA membership is up to date, but take care.

LP respect the speed bumps

As well as being easy to find, there is loads of parking. Almost too much, I couldn’t decide which of the many spaces to opt for.  The advice is to head on to the furthest car park from the main road, which is nearest to the start.  I parked up at the bottom of Observation Hill, next to some hedging and by a bin that had exploded its contents around it.  Not a great first impression, and not an altogether fair one, as generally the place was pretty immaculate.  Maybe it was foxes?  At the top of the hill, which was a pretty steep mound, there was a turret with a beacon, where a flame can be lit on key occasions.  I used to live in Leamington, many moons ago (in dark times, before parkrun was even thought of, imagine that) and I seem to remember it all being lit up for a royal wedding or maybe the millennium celebrations, something like that.  Hang on, I’ll find a better picture, so you can see what I mean. Thanks wikipedia on Newbold Comyn:

So, after peering out of the car for a bit, I went to explore, and to locate the start.  The team was there really early.  They had an impressive 31 volunteers when I was there, I didn’t count, I read it in their run report.  It’s really interesting going to other parkruns, once you get over the initial apprehension of turning up somewhere where you don’t know anyone. It’s familiar, but unfamiliar.  Leamington parkrun go big on signage, which is helpful.  I liked the welcome sign, clear and concise.

It also has quite an impressive hub as they are able to commandeer a football club house for the morning. This means they have innovations such as storage, loos a-plenty.  I mean no queuing – changing rooms even.  It was a revelation, even if following the signs to the ladies loos took me into a weirdly derelict looking place that reminded me of the set for a horror film, echoey passages, lots of doors and no natural light. I also nearly lost my nerve as the ‘ladies’ had a trough urinal in it the size of a respectable swimming pool (though not for that purpose I hope) and I thought I’d made a navigational error.  No, I think it’s just that when the facilities were built, it never occurred to anyone that women would ever need (be allowed) to access this zone.  A battle still being fought by the women in the Ambridge Cricket Club team to this very day.  No complaints from me today though, I have never previously encountered such an abundance of toilets available for use pre run. Top marks to Leamington parkrun there, and a collective sigh of relief and uncrossing of legs by parkrun tourists wannabees everywhere.  If you travel a long way to an unfamiliar parkrun venue it is hugely relevant what such facilities are around.  Come to Leamington y’all, it’s safe, it’s fine, you can have a precautionary pee pre-event as many times as you like with never a queue to contend with.  Watch out for zombies in those scary corridors though, the fact I encountered none on my visit proves nothing:

They also have a whole team running a cafe pre and post run. Tea, coffee, juice, cakes and biscuits were being laid out.  It was ‘free’ but obviously unsustainable if people don’t make a voluntary donation, which most were happy to do.   There was no pressure though, just a discrete Tupperware container on the counter.   That’s an astonishing commitment to parkrun, to offer that week in week out.  I think proceeds from it go back into the event, purchasing a defibrillator (their’s was recently bought, then immediately vandalised which is hugely depressing) and meeting other incidental expenses.

LP defrib

So, once I’d used the amenities, I did some self-conscious hanging around.  People assembled.  Although I turn up to running events on my own all the time in Sheffield I usually see someone I know quite quickly.  It felt strange to be somewhere I didn’t know a soul.  It’s good to be reminded of how that feels, I must make more of an effort to approach any outliers at my next parkrun.  People I approached were friendly, but it does take a bit of courage to make the first approach.  Just as I was feeling a bit lost, a friendly runner came up and commented on my parkrun 100 top.  ‘Wow, have you really done all those?’ she said. I was stunned.  It has never occurred to me that anything I have ever done might be the cause of someone else’s ‘wow’!  And getting the t-shirt, that’s from turning up really.  Even so, I was chuffed, it was a really encouraging and affirming opener, which led to a friendly chat about running, and getting started and the C25K.  She was really welcoming, thank you whoever you were – may work suddenly give you every Saturday morning off so you can crack your 50 speedily!  It comes round faster than you think.  Maybe we are all too hard on ourselves.  Check out this woman from Hartshill Runners who’s my ‘wow of the week‘ which might become a thing actually.  So many inspirational people out there.  We are all potentially – probably even – somebody’s wow!  Worth remembering.

LP the gathering

I found somewhere to dump my bag.  Everyone just leaves things on a couple of tables in the club house.  It’s undercover, and at your own risk, but I’m increasingly relaxed about dumping my worldly goods at the start of parkruns, we do it all the time in Sheffield.   Keys were left in another Tupperware container, I presume that was for safe-keeping rather than to secure entry to a post-parkrun swinging party, though I never actually enquired.

LP swingers group

There was a big map up of the route.  For those of you who like the official blah de blah, the course in minimally described on the Leamington parkrun course page as follows:

The start and finish are at the football pavilion on Newbold Comyn. The course starts by skirting the football pitches, before passing through the gate on to the golf course border path. Then it’s a lap and a bit before turning off to finish at the same point as the start.

I preferred the annotated picture version available on the day:

LP map and annotations

I found some regulars to chat to.  They warned me about their ‘huge hill’  I smiled indulgently, only since moving to Sheffield have I come to appreciate what real hills are, chances are this Leamington hill will be but a gentle undulation I told myself.  Pleasingly, some geniuses somewhere (jegmar, to be specific) have come up with a brilliant parkrun elevation ranking  so I have since been able to check this out.  Worth browsing, the list has many surprises….  There was a noisy first timer’s briefing, and then a full run briefing. This run briefing was impressive. It is the only time I’ve stood as part of a seemingly 100% attentive crowd.  The run director stood on a chair and had a megaphone which helped, there was also  a signer which I’d not seen before, but seems to be increasingly happening which is great.  The parkrunners were respectful which was such a refreshing change from my regular haunt. This is still a biggish run (around 400 or so), but it seems to have evolved a strong sense of both community engagement and individuals feeling a personal connection to, and ownership of the event. Announcements included not only the ‘usual’ welcomes, milestones and thank yous, but also personal welcoming back of people who’d been away; saying goodbye to people who were moving on; feeding back on recent race events.  It was really impressive.  There was a card for people to sign for a fellow parkrunner who’s not well at the moment.  There were many details about how this particular parkrun operates that I’ve not seen before and were really great. A visitors book!  (Though stupidly I forgot to sign it, or more importantly to nose through it and check out who else had). They also have a volunteer rota up for the following week so people could sign then and there; special tabards to be worn ‘I’m running my 100th/ 50th parkrun’ which were also new to me.  It was very impressive.  We were warned of low hanging trees and tall nettles, and uneven ground.  I was a bit unsure what to expect, it all looked pretty manicured from where I was standing.

So after these announcements, we all assembled at the start line, and soon enough we were off.  Cheers Simon Perkin for capturing the thrill of the initial stampede.  Brave man, standing there, I’d have moved to the side a bit more personally.   The comyn is bigger than it seems, and surprisingly scenic. You do one and bit laps, but there was lots to look at.  It did start off on quite manicured surfaces, a football pitch, but the terrain did vary.  Mostly firm tracks.  As you do a sort of out and back, I was confused at first as we’d only just started, but there were signs up saying 400 metres to go really early on. Turns out, it’s just this first/last 500 metres that you run twice.

The hill was more demanding than I’d expected, it was also narrow, I did run up most of it, but eventually hit a bottle neck of walkers, and to be honest, I was quite relieved.  The nettles were indeed high, and the tree branches low.  It could be a challenge for visually impaired runners.  I’m really short, and I still had to do some proverbial ducking and diving.  Once you’ve hoiked up the hill, you get the benefit with a long gentle downward slope. The views are really surprising, you are up higher than expected and at various points you can take in the panorama of farmland or town.  Well you could if you were like me and spent your time gazing around instead of focusing on a PB.

The course had little clusters of marshals. There seemed to be lots of high-fiving children, an initiative I applaud, whole avenues of them awaited the flagging runner.  It is a fact that a high-five gives you renewed energy and determination, so I for one was glad of them.  It is not exploitation of child labour, it is wholesome family fun!

LP team work hi viz high five heroes

The weather pretty much held out for my run, but it started drizzling soon after I’d finished.  You collect your token and then (this was odd to me) you have to walk to the barcode scanners who were sat behind desks near the club house.  I completely get why they do this, it’s definitely more comfy for scanners, and they can work together.  But I can see why some newbies might disappear with their finish tokens unscanned as it wasn’t at all obvious where to go.  It was quite a way from the finish, and because the scanners were sitting rather than standing, they were lost in a crowd of people who’d already finished surrounding them chatting.  I think a helium balloon or flag might be helpful to draw the eye and stop people absconding with tokens intentionally or otherwise.  Smiles all round though.

LP barcode scanners

Next stop, reunited with my bag, and checked out the cafe.

I had a coffee and a custard cream, and popped a couple of quid in the donations tub as I always budget for a post-run snackette, and then went to check out the people still running in. All the guts and glory of parkrun was on view.  The sprint finishers, the ambling round, the family groups, the returning volunteers coming in behind the tail runner.  Good to hear and see marshals and others cheering people back with gusto and often by name too. This is definitely a friendly parkrun. People know each other.  Go Leamington.

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Unfortunately, then just as the post run party was getting underway, the heavens opened.  Some were prepared, smiling through the rain, but others swept into action like a well-oiled machine, tables and chairs were carried into the club house and people dispersed.

Time to go.  I made it back to the car as the torrential rain finally kicked in.  Got soaked.  Oh well, it was fun whilst it lasted.  I sat in the car dripping for a bit.

LP it rained

Heading off though, I noticed some impressive local wildlife lurking on the tarmac.  Using enormous courage and skill I was able to capture it and relocate it to what I hoped was more appropriate habitat.  Like I said, full of surprises Leamington parkrun, you should check it out for yourself!

LP local wildlife

So thanks for your hospitality Leamington, was grand to join you. I have written a fine (er hem) poem to mark the occasion.  Enjoy, or not, as you wish:

The parkrunners’ outing

If you go down to the comyn today, you’re sure of a big surprise

If you go down to the comyn today, better not go in disguise

For every runner that ever there was, will gather there for certain because

Today’s the day Leam runners all have their parkrun.

 

Every runner who’s got a barcode is sure of a treat today

There’s lots of marvellous things to eat and wonderful trails to run

Beneath the trees where nobody sees, they’ll scamper and frolic however  they please

For that’s the way all-comers enjoy their parkrun

 

parkrun time for run/walk joggers

The little volunteers are having a lovely time today

Watch them, high five them with cheers, and see them speed runners on their merry way

 

See them gaily gad about

They love to run and shout

They never have any cares

At the parkrun finish the hi-viz heroes will scan them all safely in

Because they’re tired little parkrunners now

 

So you should go down to the comyn today, and you better not go alone

It’s lovely down at the comyn today, such a waste if you stayed at home

For every runner that ever there was, will gather there for certain because

Today’s the day that parkrunners all have their parkrun

 

Also, there will be cake.

 

Don’t try and speak, I know how it feels when words fail you.

Thank you kind Leamingtonians.  It was fun.  Now go find your inner wow.

 

Oh, and if you are interested, follow this link for all my parkrun related posts, you will need to scroll down for earlier entries.

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

Lost in running? Dig Deep Recce freestyle.

Digested read:  I tried to do a recce of the 12.12 Dig Deep route today.  I got lost.  I had a nice time anyway.  I ran into (see what I did there) some Smiley buddies.  Yay!  The setting was beyond spectacular, ’twas fair gorgeous out.  More working towards running than actual running today, but hey ho, it was a start.

dd recce heather

Bloomin’ Vitality pledges.  It is increasingly dawning on me I have only about 5 weeks to get fit to tackle the 12.12 mile trail race that is part of the Dig Deep series taking place next month.  I did the Whirlow 10k which was part of the event last year, and that was a little toughy. However, the setting was gorgeous, gritstone trails, fabulous views, a sea of purple heather surrounding us out under the sky.    Despite a momentary doubt brought about by seeing a blood soaked fellow runner limping back as I romped out, I nevertheless fondly imagined that I’d come back the following year. In 2017, I wouldn’t be dragging my weary flabby carcass, puffing and groaning the whole round.  Rather, renewed and trained to take account of every possible variable, I’d be stunningly toned and move across the landscape like a cross between the Duracell bunny and pyroclastic flow.  So prepared, I could take on a bolder challenge.  Fast and fearless.   That bolder, boulder challenge, would be the longer 12.12 route.  It’d be fine, it’d be great!  This time I’d do it, I really would!  That was then…

This is now.  As things stand, I’m more jumblie than bionic woman.  Jumblies may or may not be endearing, that is open to debate, what is not open to debate is their aerodynamic efficiency and running technique.  Let’s just say it isn’t looking good. I’d more or less decided not to do the run, and then post our Sheffield Hallam parkrun birthday celebrations the other week I got caught up in the buzz of goal setting, and one thing led to another, public fitness related pledges were rashly made, and caught on camera and now  I’m supposed to be running this:

PeakTrails30Map

Oops.

Not all of it, thankfully.  Only that innocuous looking bit in the bottom left hand corner. I know I can trundle round the distance in my own time, but whether or not some poor tail runner tasked with following me could cope with this duty without losing the will to live I seriously doubt.   I am soooooooooooo slow.   I am rubbish at navigating, and am assured it’s a well marshaled course, and that no such skills are needed.  Even so, I had the genius idea of purchasing a map (£3.50 pre event) so I could do a recce for myself. Today, Monday, I would take to the trails and check out the extent of my inadequacies in relation to this challenge…. It would give me some idea of what I had signed up to, what could possibly go wrong?

Spoiler alert, quite a lot went wrong actually.  The map was rubbish, it had insufficient detail,  and the marking of the route obscured the paths they were supposed to be directing me onto.  The result, epic navigational fail.  I never was ‘lost’ in that I knew how to get back to where I started, I just couldn’t fathom where I was supposed to be going for the actual race.  It was quite funny/ frustrating comparing where I actually went to where I meant to on my return as I checked out the evidence of Strava.

oops route

I know exactly where I went wrong, I will go out again in the next couple of days and try again.  Still lovely out though, and many adventures.   Apprehensive as I was about heading out, it is always worth it.  The Sheffield trails are friendly always, and not just because we have been told to be nice, but because we always are.

DD be nice

Acknowledging that I’m not fit, and it was very hot today, I drove up to the parking bay opposite the Norfolk Arms and headed off up through Lady Cannings plantation.  I was puffing from the start, but I decided not to get hung up on running, just do a leisurely walk/run recce, and see how my knee copes with the hokas.  I love their cushioning, but for whatever reason, they seem to give my knee gyp.  I do desperately need some new running shoes that don’t squash my toes and dig into my bunions and still have sufficient cushioning for my arthritic feet.  It’s a tall order.   I keep bottling it though, every pair of runners I’ve ever had has been a compromise, and whilst I’d happily fork out for some that were properly comfy and grippy under foot, I don’t want to spend £100 plus on yet another ‘not quite’ pair. I tried some altras the other week at woodrun.  They were great for roomy toe-box but I’m not sure about the zero drop thing.  Oh, who knew I’d have so much to say about shoe choices, when I can barely muster a jog out on the trails, it’s all a bit ridiculous.  I was feeling distinctly portly, and my running belt, which I’ve decided I must start using if I’m going to up my distances, was weighed down with bottles of water, my camera, a map.  Lucky I was heading out alone, wouldn’t want to be seen by anyone I knew in such unflattering attire.   You might think there are no limits to what I will where whilst running, but you’d be wrong…

Within seconds of turning into the plantation, I felt that soaring gratitude that I live in a part of the world where we can do this.  Right on my doorstep, a gorgeous and varied landscape.  It’s like entering a parallel universe.  Admittedly it’s a parallel universe populated by a disproportionate number of dog walkers, but you can see the appeal.  It’s only fair to share. There were a fair few mountain bikers out and about too.  They terrify me, not fearing for myself, they were courteous on the tracks, more I fear that they’ll come flying over the handlebars of their bikes right in front of me, and I will be the only available person on hand to provide emergency first aid.  I don’t rate their chances.  I’m not squeamish, but nor am I first aid qualified.  I did have a mobile phone with me though this time, that’s a start, I could phone a friend…

 

I pootled through the plantation, and emerged onto the dusty gravelly road and turned sharp left heading towards Houndkirk Moor and then right across Burbage.  It was just stunning out. The moor is thick with heather full of promise.  It’s not out yet, nor should it be til August. There were occasional bursts of heather, but it was so vibrant purple I wondered if it was an invasive heather, it seemed a bit early and impossible, but maybe just a sun-trap created a micro-climate so it could burst forth.  The roads were dusty, and pot-holed, but enticing too, you get a sense that you want to follow those roads as they will take you to adventures new.

 

I huffed up the hills, in the heat of the sun, but picked up a bit of a jog as the gradient helped me down. Then, joy of joys!  Ahead a glorious trio of Smileys.  If there is one thing more exciting than seeing a fellow Smiley on a run, it is seeing an unexpected Smiley, and the joy is multiplied when there is a holy trinity of awesomeness from the Smiley Paces running gene pool.  What’s more, one of them was Elder Smiley and she doesn’t even live here any more, so that was like finding a unicorn grazing on a four-leaved clover field really.  How lucky was I, here’s the proof.   Look what I found:

DD smiley celebrities

and I even took a fantastic selfie by way of proof.  I say ‘fantastic’, by this I mean I do at least have part of my anatomy within shot, which is more than I achieved when stalking Jess at the Vitality Move event the other week.

DD smiley selfie

Hilariously (but then I’m easily amused), they were also doing a Dig Deep Recce, so we had that in common. They were doing the 30 mile route though, and they seemed to be doing a lot more running as opposed to gazing around, and a little digging on Strava showed a wealth of trophies for personal bests all round as they hared over the roads turbo-charged and smiling.  I say smiling, but apparently there had been quite a lot of swearing at the hills going round.  I wondered aloud whether other more experienced runners might say (not me, of course, but running coaches) that if you have enough breath to spare to curse liberally, you probably aren’t trying enough. Then again, given we were in the presence of Smiley Elder herself at this time, I daresay she was probably just making a helpful advisory factual observation in relation to the elevation of the local terrain, not complaining about the hills at all.  It just goes to show, one shouldn’t jump to conclusions.  One should especially not jump unnecessarily, when you need that energy to get up those hills.

We shared hugs and stories and then I waved them on their way.

 

Once I got over the shock of having been seen in public wearing what is a strong contender for my ‘most unflattering running outfit ever’ award (it’s a close contest), it was really nice to see some buddies on the trail.  Plus, I was secretly pleased at having been caught out running, voluntarily.    It put quite a spring in my step as I headed off, with renewed confidence that I at least knew where to make the first turn off the path.  I was undeterred by the gravestone erected no doubt in memory of those that didn’t dig quite deep enough to survive the trails last year…  that’s not an abbreviation for millions is it?  Hope not.

dig deep dead tally

I headed off up through a gateway and over towards Burbage edge.  I made good progress for a while, and it was fantastic, long reaching views, head-high bracken. It was pretty uneven under foot, scrambly even in places.  I wasn’t confident enough to run, I felt I had to pick my way. Can’t lie though, I was enjoying soaking up my surroundings too.

 

I started off OK, but at a critical point, there was a cairn, or more accurately a rock pile rather than an official way marker.  There seemed to be a cross roads.   The map I had wasn’t detailed enough for me to fathom which way to go. I reached the cairn at the same time as a large party of DofE (probably) walkers, and it felt wrong to head off at right angles so I followed the track they’d come up. That was where I went wrong.  I should have veered right, I did for a bit, but lost my nerve and retracked.  Oops.

 

So what followed was sort of curious.  I knew I’d gone wrong, but couldn’t work out how to make it right.  I wasn’t really ‘lost’ as I knew how to get back, and could see the road ahead so had vague sense of location, what I couldn’t fathom was how this related to the race route map at all.  I made the mistake of asking some sensible looking walkers where I was.  They looked panicked, I think they had visions of seeing something on Look North later, an appeal for manic looking woman last seen wandering the moors delusional and raving.  They didn’t want to be the last people to see me alive.   I decided to just follow the trails, because they looked fun. There were sheep, there were cows, there were walkers.  Don’t know quite how I ended up at a Longshaw entrance though?

 

Oh well, at that point I decided it was prudent to head back, I glugged my water, that I’d forgotten about, but was glad of, and romped homewards.  I saw hardly anyone about on the return leg, it was like I had the whole place to myself.  I paused to take flora shots and soak it all in.  My knee seemed to be doing OK, but the heat was punishing. I did wear sunglasses, but, heaven portend, maybe I should have gone really wild and donned a hat as well!

 

Eventually, I was back by Lady Canning’s plantation, a polite guy on a noisy dirt bike came whizzing through the gate as I held it open for him.  A mountain biker genuinely said ‘ey up’ to me, by way of greeting.  I love a good northern cliche on a run.  A farmer was driving a bright red tractor, hay making in a hay-field.  It was all pretty goddarned idyllic.  Just as well, as so little running or navigation occurred, I shall have to do the whole thing again properly in the next couple of days. This was though always just a recce, so mission accomplished really.

DD rural scene

Just time for a sneaky selfie, and then back to the car, where I noticed a way-marker giving distance to Sheffield Town Hall, which has clearly been there for centuries, but which I’ve never noticed before.

 

and that was that.  Homeward bound.

I’ve felt of late I’ve really lost my way running a bit, deteriorating performance, dropping confidence, demon voices asking who am I trying to kid when my ‘running pace’ leaves me open to being overtaken by almost any animate object that isn’t actually nailed down. today I literally lost my way running too, in navigational terms.  You know what though, it was still the idea of a run that got me out the door, and I still did 7 miles and nearly 900 ft of elevation.  I found new places, met up with fellow runners, and breathed in some stunning scenery.  I even found a strange stone bowl thing that I cannot identify.  It was a mini adventure basically. Running optional.  The hardest bit of any run, is stepping out the door.  My slow and steady approach may push the boundaries of what might legitimately be called actual ‘running’ but it can tick the box of ‘working towards running’ and that ‘s a start.  Go me.  12.12 is not ruled out yet.

What is this by the way?

DD no idea

So if you go out on the trails today, or any day, prepare for a big surprise, because there are Smilies aplenty everywhere you turn. Aren’t you blessed!  And do try and get out on those Peak trails if you can, because they are there for the taking, and it would be a crying shame not to.  Just saying.

The end.

Categories: fell race, off road, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Geronimo’s Grand Day Out – VitalityMove event Chatsworth 10k 2017

Digested Read: I had no idea what to expect from the VitalityMove event at Chatsworth, and initially didn’t sign up because of the hefty price tag.  Subsequently got in on a freebie and ‘yay’, fantastic time, brilliant festival of running-related fun crammed with awesome people.   Also, finally, got the chance of a photo-op with Sheffield idol Jessica Ennis… (fail, oh well) and that was only the start of encounters with other brilliant people I met throughout the day. Would recommend.  That hill is long and steeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep though.  Be warned.  It was hot.  This could yet turn out to be the Brigadoon of running events, a one off appearance every hundred years, so you may have missed out, but I hope not.

Longer read follows.  Make a cup of coffee first, it could take a while, think more ultra-running than musical mile in reading terms.

sighting the start of the musical mile

Jessica Ennis was quite taken by Geronimo on Sunday, I’m pretty sure that was what was behind the ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe!’ comment she made, so in my book that means she and I  are now practically related.  Me and Jess, I mean, not me and Geronimo, that would be stupid. I’m now looking forward to knocking out some massively improved running times and maybe even taking up some other olympic sports by way of tribute, celebration and acknowledgement of this important new development in relation to my running network.  That is, I’m hoping by establishing tenuous connections to this demigod of sporting excellence (and local hero to boot) some of her athleticism will rub off on me.  I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that just thinking about exercise improves your muscle tone, so if you’ve had an actual interaction with an olympian gold holder that’s got to count for something surely?   If my old PE teacher could see me now eh?  Actually, if she could, she’d probably asphyxiate to be fair, I don’t think running with a giraffe would have been encouraged in our cruelly and ironically named ‘games’ sessions at school.  Fortunately, it seems times have changed.  The VitalityMove event at Chatsworth last sunday was more a joyful celebration of family activity related fun.  Giraffes and fancy dress were positively encouraged, the sun shone, and the emphasis was on having a collective go, especially getting young people running.  Very young people, you know the little ones, before the instinctive joy of running has abandoned them.  My kind of event really.  If I’d read the event guide before rejecting it out of hand on price grounds, I might have got that in advance….

event guide 2017

So, back to basics.   Before I signed up for this, and afterwards as well to be honest, I had very little idea of what to expect.  The ‘about us’ blurb on the VitalityMove website didn’t really help either.

Running is a natural activity that everyone can get involved with anywhere – it could be you run and walk the distance or train to keep going all of the way – whatever suits you, we want to cater for you. Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill is working with a team of like-minded people to create VitalityMove – two events that seek to fuse music and running and bring an energy to running that entices the reticent runner to join in. Here’s what Jessica has to say!

I have been so lucky to have got so much out of my sport – not only a career but a lifestyle. Fitness really can be enjoyable and I have teamed up with Vitality to share my passion for running and music and how the two together can make exercise fun.

We have created VitalityMove – a big day out with music and running at its heart. There will be lots of great things for families and committed runners to get involved with from 1 mile fun-runs, family relays to the more traditional 5k and 10k distances – all themed to music designed to keep you moving by DJ Trevor Nelson. Our venues are iconic; Chatsworth House and Windsor Great Park – both stunning backdrops for the event. Whether you are a first time runner or a seasoned athlete we will cater for you – and hopefully make it a day to remember.

I hope you will sign up and enjoy the journey to the events with me!

Nope, not really getting it, maybe I’m slow in processing event descriptors as I am in running.  In fairness I think this is possibly the first event of its type that I’m aware of anyway, so maybe it was inevitably hard to get across what it would involve, and therefore what participants might be paying for.  I got that you could pick a run distance and there’d be music, but honestly, and sorry if this is harsh, it was a whopping price for a 10k in this neck of the woods.  When it was first promoted I think it was about £35, when I actually came to enter it was showing around £29 for anyone over 16 (children were always free) and about £25 for the 5k and then parking (£5) on top.  It seemed a lot for a race of those distances.  We are perhaps unusually spoilt in Sheffield.  It is easy to access a Trust10 trail 10k race for free every fourth Sunday of the month at Longshaw; there are parkruns a-plenty offering free 5ks every Saturday five in Sheffield alone with a junior 2k parkrun each Sunday locally too (also free).  Then there are a wealth of reasonably local fell races starting from £1.50 for the legendary off-road Oxspring Trunce series.  Anyway, the consequence was, as soon as I saw the price tag I lost interest and didn’t bother to research the VitalityMove event any further.   I think I’m not alone in having thought it bizarre to the point of incomprehensible that an event would price a 5k or a 10k at that level.  We just aren’t accustomed to forking out for running events of those distances maybe, opportunities for running surround us.  We are blessed!  I didn’t get the USP at that point.  It seemed most peculiar!

That was then.  But circumstances change.  At the last-minute, I was lucky enough to get wind of a code that gave me free entry (cheers parkrun), and then it became a no-brainer.  Who wouldn’t want to go to a venue as lovely as Chatsworth for a 10k run and bag some fetching bling to add to their medal collection into the bargain?  So I went forth and ran.  Now I’ve actually been to the event, I get that the 10k and 5k runs were really just the icing on the cake for a much broader inter-generational running/sport festival.   A lot of thought went into the day, the planning was meticulous, I met some great people and I had a fabulous time.

Basically, the whole day far exceeded my expectations and I think it’s a bit of a shame that (in my view anyway) the pre-event publicity didn’t really communicate what would happen on the day, and I think many may have missed out as a consequence.  It would still have been very pricey, but I got the impression that the event could have managed many times the number of participants easily (apart from in the loo provision department, but then what running event has ever had enough portaloos at the critical moment).  It is/was a huge venue, I’d love to see this event become a regular fixture but more modestly priced to encourage more to come along.  I’m sure it would be a case of more the merrier.

Incidentally, in case you are worried about this, although the event is clearly aimed at families, I went on my own – well just me and the giraffe – and it was great.  Geronimo is a handy ice-breaker it’s true, but it was such a friendly and fun day, I reckon anyone standing still on their own for more than 10 seconds would end up in cheery chit-chat with a fellow attendee soon enough.  Well, unless they had seriously hostile body language.  I met some fantastic people, I’ve even launched my video career now so, you know, anything is possible if you take along your running shoes, sense of humour, broad smile and an open mind, just as in life!  (Giraffe/ fancy dress optional, but fabulous, so you should).

I’m going to tell you all about our grand day out together by way of supporting evidence.  Really you will need to triangulate my personal, and therefore subjective account, with other primary sources to be properly informed.  That’s what critical analysis is all about.  The best way to achieve this would be to get yourself along to the next one and see how our accounts tally…  There’s still VitalityMove at Windsor Great Park to come, allegedly (date tbc), so it’s doable. Well I think it’s doable, I have a slightly sinking feeling that ticket sales have been low across the two events so it might not come to pass, but maybe lessons learned from Chatsworth will help to ‘make it so’ and so spread further running happiness.

make it so

So, the event build up started on entering with my special code via the website.  That was really straightforward, I did have to pay for parking but that was fair enough in the circumstances.  Only after signing up for the 10k did I look at the course, and remember there is a massive hill at Chatsworth, it’s only 759 feet of climb according to Strava, which isn’t all that much in Sheffield terms, but it is compressed into a couple of short stretches at the early part of the course.  Oops.  I heard ‘free’ and forgot ‘huge hill’ in all the excitement.  Reading the event guide I picked up that fancy dress was ‘positively encouraged’ that’s more like it!  I was going to give Geronimo a bit of a break from running, I mean we’ve had both the Round Sheffield Run and Sheffield Hallam’s birthday parkrun outings lately, I was a bit worried it might be getting tedious.  On the other hand, what the hell.  It would be her first 10k and as I was otherwise going on my own I thought it might be a good way to get to chat to people, she could rest up later.  Plus if they are ‘positively encouraging’ fancy dress, I think it would be rude not to.  Here’s the strava profile by the way – see what I mean?  Yes, you can see I ended up walk/running the steep sections, so what, shoot me, I still did it.

Strava

Even though I was a late entrant, my pack (number and chip timer) arrived in the post with a few bits of other info promptly, and my car-park pass was duly emailed to me on the Wednesday before.  I thought that was pretty impressive.  You could also pay on the day for parking by the way, still a fiver.  No free parking for Blue Badge holders though, which I thought was poor, even possibly just a complete oversight as no dedicated parking for them either.  This didn’t impact on me, but it did on a fellow Smiley, and that wasn’t good.  As if life isn’t hard enough sometimes if you have, or care for someone who has, limited or no independent mobility.

parking voucher

Then on the Sunday morning, it was sooooooooooooo hot.  I wasn’t sure what to wear, I haven’t the body confidence, or indeed physique to wear my Smiley Paces running club vest without a T-shirt under it, but that would be stupid in such heat. Then I thought, well Vitality are one of the parkrun sponsors, so I decided to go with my parkrun top.  Good call.  I was up early, so lots of time to pin my number on Geronimo Sky, have porridge for breakfast and debate the relative merits of which running shoes to wear.  I mean  I love my Hokas for their cushioning, but they definitely have been giving me knee issues which may or may not be a temporary thing due to an inevitable change in running style that new trainers sometimes causes.  I put them on but stuffed my more hard-core trail shoes salomon fell-raisers in my backpack just in case.  Car pass printed out, water bottle filled and off I went.

It was gorgeous driving over to Chatsworth, I feel really lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world.  Yes, not great for running hot and humid as it was, but indisputably a gorgeous day.  I was quite excited pulling up to the grand golden gates of Chatsworth where a friendly marshal shooed me off in the right direction.  It was pretty quiet when I arrived.  The rolling grounds of Chatsworth were truly spectacular, sheep milled around under the trees seemingly unconcerned by the cars arriving.  There were even a few lambs cavorting. Shame they’ll all end up being eaten (not by me, I’m vegetarian) but let’s not dwell on that today.  I parked up, and you could see ahead bright pink flags and inflatables of the event camp.  Excited others were gathering.  Yep, it felt like the day was going to be fun.

I followed the pink signs to the event, I wasn’t cross at the cross point, I felt no need, but I think it is quite a good idea to have a special zone where cross people are made to gather together so they don’t spoil events for everyone else.  I might start putting that in surveymonkey responses the next time I get a post-event feedback survey emailed through to me.

As I walked down a companionable fellow runner fell into step with me.  It was only one of  the tigger runners from the Round Sheffield Run!  She hadn’t so much recognised me as Geronimo, and us fancy dress ambassadors, well,  we share a bond and need to stick together. Turns out she was at Chatsworth to do some pacing but it was good to actually meet.  Plus I found out the significance of her costume choice…. drum roll… it’s because her nickname is Tigger!  Genius is it not!

MJ tiger tiger

No tigger outfit today, so I hadn’t recognised her. That’s another amazing thing about fancy dress if you are interested, you’d think it would make you more conspicuous, but it’s actually the opposite.  People notice Geronimo but not me, so by simple dint of removing her (or previously Roger) it’s like I’ve donned a cunning disguise.  My absolutely serious and heartfelt recommendation for self-conscious runners out there is go for fancy dress.  Nobody sees you or judges your body silhouette picked out in unforgiving lycra if you have a giraffe strapped round your waist.  It’s a simple distraction technique.  Not that anyone actually cares what you look like when you’re running or judges you anyway, but them as share my anxiety about appearing in public wearing lycra will know what I mean.  Anyway, she bounded off to do whatever it is that Tiggers do as warm up for pacing, and I had a wander round the event village.  I stole this photo from the official photographers’ Facebook page, cheers AWOL event photos, I’m sure they won’t mind 🙂 It’s the view from the stage at around 8.30 a.m. on the day of the event.  Impressive eh?

awol calm before the storm

As I got nearer to the centre of it all I started to get a feel for the mood of the day.   There were colourful tents in abundance.  Areas where children could have a go at netball, or GoApe, a clearly defined food area, well signed bag-drop, registration, some event-standard portaloos set against the backdrop of the magnificent Chatsworth House.

As I approached, I had my first star-struck moment of the day. There was Jessica Ennis milling about and very graciously posing for selfies and photos with people various. On a serious note I have a lot of respect for Jessica Ennis (aside from her not having a barcode with her when she did Sheffield Hallam parkrun) and she may be an extraordinary olympian, but she is also (only) human and pregnant. Even so, she spent the whole of Sunday smiling, chatting to people and posing for photos in scorchio heat.  That was impressive.  Actually scrap that, she’s not human, she is indeed super-human.  An amazing athlete of course, but radiates down-to-earth honest-to-goodness cheery decency and tolerance too.  I wonder if she trains as hard for selfie posing  as she must have done for the high jump?

Now, as my regular reader will know, the only time I felt homesick when I was working in Cambodia earlier in the year was when I missed Jess and Paul rocking up to Hallam parkrun.  I was beyond gutted.  Two of my absolute icons, at my home parkrun and I missed it!  The pain!  Anyway, here she was, in touching distance, this was my moment, the opportunity was within my grasp.   I could let it pass and spend the rest of my life in sullen regret, or I could seize the moment!  Reader, let me report that I did indeed commandeer a bystander to act as a photographer and approached Jess to request a photo.  This was the moment when Jess complimented my Giraffe with her (unforgettable to me) ‘oh look Reggie, a giraffe‘ comment. I did some incoherent gushing about how much I admired her and how I was sorry to have missed her before when she was at Hallam.  I was not cool at all, but then in my defence when have I ever been that?  Anyway,  she patiently stood as my nominated photographer took a few snaps.  I was sooooooooooooooo happy.  Alas, as I wandered off looking at them, I realised none had been taken.  Curses.  My camera is a bit odd, you have to push the button quite hard, and sadly, this was an epic fail.  Not one shot to capture the moment.  I was disappointed, but you know what, we have our memories, and I like to think we shared a moment.

Incidentally, despite my disappointment at missing my two idols Jess and Paul when they went to Hallam and I didn’t, I have subsequently ‘met’ both.   At Chatsworth it was Jess, but I also shared an (awkward) moment with Paul Sinton-Hewitt, albeit a similarly tongue-tied one once I was back from my travels.  I suppose I’m saying that we must never give up on our dreams, as we never know what the future holds.  I was so sad to miss the hobnobbing opportunities back in February, but had my own individual encounters later on.  Dreams really do come true!  Also, there was an official photographer around at the same time as I was posing with Jess, and clearly Geronimo Sky is spectacularly photogenic, so I’m really hoping that a photo is out there somewhere.  Even if it’s not, in the absence of any photographic evidence of the encounter I can embellish the story at will for either comedic and/or dramatic effect.  Everyone’s a winner!

In a daze of celebrity awe-struckness (well it is a word now), I went to further explore my surroundings.  Geronimo was taking it all in too.  She’s pretty non-flighty for a prey animal.

exploring

There were huge deck chairs and tiny pink bean bags  scattered around, a massive event stage, and various partnership company stands.  There was a main stage at the finish, and tables groaning under the weight of frozen-themed water bottles.  There was an alarming number of ambulances in evidence, but I suppose that’s sensible.  I don’t know though, same with armed police officers, maybe it is a sensible precaution to have all that first aid/emergency cover on hand, but I find it unnerving rather than reassuring.   There weren’t any armed police at Chatsworth though, so only had to worry about the hill, not the presence of weaponry in the vicinity.

There were some friendly looking marshals/ water station people sporting the fine grey Vitality T-shirts so I had a natter with them.  They liked Geronimo too, so we played around with selfies.  They encouraged me to instagram these using such-and-such movetothemusic hash tag, I think they confused me with someone with a smart phone and a basic understanding of twitter.  Still, it was a friendly and fun encounter.  And at least I now had a selfie by way of consolation for missing out on the one with Jess earlier.  I hope their selfie technique was better than mine!

Next stop was the pledge pod.  I’d done a summer pledge photo at parkrun yesterday, but hey, the pod looked fun. A maintenance guy was just getting it going so was game to talk me through using it.  Apparently you are much more likely to complete a goal if you write it down and share it.  I don’t think it’s a substitute for training though, which is a disappointment.

You write your goal on a dry-wipe white board and get four differently posed photos opportunities.  You can then upload these to Facebook, using the touchscreen within the pod, which didn’t work for me as I obviously don’t know either my own username or log in password, on the plus side, no-one’s hacking me.  However, I did get a physical print out, and that was fun.

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Not wishing to diss Jess or anything, but I reckon my pledge was smarter, i.e. specific, measurable etc, than hers which was a bit on the vague side ‘as active as possible during pregnancy‘ isn’t very easy to pin down really is it?   I am not necessarily pleased about this, me having a more specific goal that is – since it will make it way harder for me to wriggle out of and it’s only a few weeks away.  I said ‘I will complete the Dig Deep 12.12 mile trail race at Whirlow August 2017! (Not necessarily with a giraffe).’  So we’ll see.  My training to date has consisted of entering.  Well, it does show willing at least.  You can pledge your own goal at https://mysummergoal.co.uk/ apparently and admire Jess and Ellie and that other guy making their own here.  I like Ellie Simmonds a lot too, which I’m sure would please her enormously if she but knew.  It was hearing her talking on Woman’s Hour the other day about liking to have a nap in the afternoon that clinched it for me.  I, like her, fear this particular penchant of mine will have to go when I next enter gainful more conventional employment.  Unlike her, I don’t think opportunity providers will be queuing up to find a compromise on this point.

So more milling around. Mr Kandoo (Round Sheffield Run and Kandoo events) pitched up in a tententen T-shirt (I like those, tasteful grey with Autumn Leaves logo).  Anyway, his presence gave me an opportunity to thank him for creating my favourite race of the year.  It is honestly like he sat down and thought of all the things that would make a Lucy-friendly running event and scattered then kandoo magic fairy dust all over it and so it sprang into life.  A bit like Frankenstein’s monster, only more user-friendly and less killing, more trail running related fun and (marginally) less existential angst. He made a cunningly ambiguous reference to Geronimo’s participation on the day, saying something like ‘so you and fancy dress‘.  I respect that.  I suppose just like local running shops, running event organisers have to navigate local running politics and interactions with their event participants with some care.  They mustn’t appear to have a favourite running club, or get drawn into sharing potentially controversial views.  Their business model rests and falls on their skills in diplomacy as much as event management.  The listener can put whatever interpretation they wish on such a phrase.  It might be complimentary about the wearing of fancy dress, or it might  in fact be an expression of disbelief verging on horror, but the actual phrase used? Well, read it back, and you’ll see that it gives nothing away.  Sort of ‘neither confirm nor deny’ when you see it written down.  Hopefully the listener will hear what they want to hear rather than pick up on the inconclusiveness of the statement, everyone stays friends, everyone is happy!

It’s a bit like when you see a friend in an amateur play or performance or something and you attend it nursing and apprehension bordering on terror.  You fear it will be absolutely dire and yet you will need to have some encouraging phrase to utter to them afterwards in order to maintain the friendship thereafter.  Something that isn’t an actual lie but will communicate apparent enthusiasm, and stop you from blurting out that you have just sacrificed two hours of your life that you can never get back sitting through that pretentious nonsense.  Hence, the wily audience member will have a reference pack of useful phrases to fall back on as they see their friend post show. Common one’s include ‘What can I say!’ uttered with gushing intonation as you pace towards them arms outstretched or ‘Amazing, you’ve done it again!’ similarly delivered or the old favourite ‘I knew it!’  The calculation being that hopefully the hearer will be too self-absorbed in their post-show bubble to request any further critique.  True opinions are not required.  Of course you might get lucky and see something brilliant, but still good to have a repertoire non-commital phrases at your disposal.  This ‘so, you and fancy dress‘ remark had a more neutral delivery, but worked on the same criteria, so well done, nicely played.    I choose to take it as endorsement.  Just another of my many delusional thoughts in evidence.

Next stop, precautionary pee, then I changed into my more fell shoes after all as my knee was giving me gyp.  Then to the bag drop. We’d been warned it would be really busy so best to leave bags with friends and family.  As I have neither friends nor family,  it was bag-drop all the way for me.  At that time it was really quiet, I think my number was four, which is a clue to its busy-ness.  You get a wrist tag, and a matching one was put on my bag.   There was an anxious moment when I approached, and the woman seemingly in charge stopped me proclaiming most assertively (bordering on aggression to be blunt) that they wouldn’t take responsibility for any animals whilst I was running.  As if I’d leave Geronimo in the charge of strangers!  Even nice ones like at the VitalityMove Chatsworth event bag drop!  It would be akin to leaving a dog in the car on a hot day.  I blustered indignantly protesting at the very idea, but happily the confusion was swiftly resolved and we were all soon friends again.

I made my way to the music mile start, evidenced by the presence of large blue musical notes.  I didn’t know what to expect, but my plan was to do a musical mile by way of warm up (er hem) and not at all because I wanted a trophy wrist band.  I was curious to find out what it was about, and I reckoned that it was so hot I wouldn’t feel like running  a mile once I’d done the 10k, but I knew I’d finish the 10k once started if I did it the other way around.  It was a good plan.

musical mile

Hanging around at the start I soon got chatting to a couple of other runners.  We compared running tales. They’d done the moonwalk in London which sounded amazing. You basically do the London Marathon route overnight wearing only a bra!  Brave I thought, wish they hadn’t clarified that they did actually wear jogging bottoms too.  It’s an annual event ‘united against breast cancer’ the next one is 12 May 2018.  It is £48 and you have to raise a minimum of £100 sponsorship, but these two had clearly had a ball.

As we were chatting, a woman waved at us, and called me over.  This was my modest claim to fame for the day I suppose, as it marked my video debut.  I can’t entirely take the credit, it was Geronimo who first caught their eye, but I gained glory by association, which is good enough for me. So it was that Geronimo Sky and I made the Derbyshire telegraph VitalityMove event video, it went up on their webpage, so I’m just waiting in now for a TV agent to approach me with an impossible-to-refuse lucrative sports TV presenter contract offer.   The phone’s not rung yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  I’m ex-directory so they’ll have to do a bit of research to track down my phone number. You need to click on the second video down, and wait for 8.44 mark.  I see us as a double act like Rod Hull and Emu only hopefully marginally less annoying, I’ll be really disappointed if she gets an offer and I don’t though.  Hope she’ll remember me on the way up…  Seeing the clip I do cringe at the sound of my own voice and rotund physique on the one hand, but on the other hey, local stardom!  We all have to suffer for our art I suppose.  Plus, it does give a fine glimpse of the goings on at the start of the day.

TV career launch video

A scattering of us duly assembled for the 10.00 a.m. start time, but a delay was immediately announced as they needed to get the music stations out on the course.  A crew of spectacularly attired dancers in impractical shoes were ushered past to be positioned on the course.  I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of them until the end of the day, here are two of them by way of example.  I hope they had sunblock on, that was a lot of exposed flesh to be standing out in the sun all day with.

dancing queens

It was fine, nobody minded.  A photographer posed us for some publicity shots.  Yes I did get in the frame.

musical mile not posing at all

Famous DJ Trevor Nelson pretended to sound the start horn.  If I track any of these fine images down later I’ll add them into this post in due course.  About ten minutes late, it was start time.  At this moment a little girl who was the first to arrive at the start line was chosen to do the start countdown. She was duly led off to clamber up on high atop of the crowds to do the official opening from the top of a scaffolding tower.  Check her out in the top left of this photo as the runners whizz away…

musical mile start off

Now, this was a lovely thought, but I was in earshot of her mum (I think – someone who knew her anyway) who said, words to the effect of ‘oh no, that’s a shame, she wanted to be at the front of the start line, not watching it go off‘.  To be fair, she didn’t look particularly upset, a little overwhelmed possibly, but then weren’t we all.  We were told to look out for ‘exciting things’ and ‘join in with the dancing and enjoy the music on the course’.  So finally off we went.  It was a cross-section of runners, parents/carers and children, people warming up for longer events and a few ‘what the hell’ types.  The one mile route was a flat circuit out towards the parking area, round by the river and back in a little loop.

Musical mile route

It was slightly odd, because it wasn’t really marshaled as such, although the route was obvious, you just sort of romped out.  As you ran, people just arriving at the event were ambling towards and alongside you.  At the Cross Zone were the first of the dancing troupe, a duo stood next to speakers that were blaring out music.    They were smiling and clapping, but also looking a tad self-conscious rather than encouraging dancing at this point in the day.  Friendly and fun certainly, but also fairly low-key.

The official photographers were on hand to snap away. For the record, I was in about 61 different shots, so they weren’t slacking in their paparrazzi duties.  The overwhelming majority of photos are one’s that do indeed capture the occassion, but also make me never want to be seen in public again. However, one or two were really fun – check out my jazz hands in homage to the occassion.

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I found the route incredibly hot, we were in direct sun, and although it was only a mile it was a bit of a reality check for the not flat at all 10k to come.  As we circled back along the river there were I think three more stations each with loud speakers and a couple of dancers.  One pair were up for a bit of a boogie the others less so.  I don’t normally run just for a mile so it all seemed really quick. The finish was spectacular, there was a wrist band and a huge clunking medal for everyone, which was unexpected.  Then you went up some steps which took you to the back of the huge stage, so everyone had their moment leaving via the big performance platform where you could pause for a selfie with famous DJ Trevor Nelson as you exited.  It was great, some of the children were so excited and proud of their achievements it was infectious.  Made up for missing out on the fun of volunteering at Junior parkun, this morning, seeing all those happy, joyful faces.  I don’t have any pictures of that because I didn’t have my camera but maybe some will follow. These are the medals though – different ribbon, but same bling.  Quality eh?

bling plenty of bling

Spat off the stage, you could pick up a bottle of water, and I got some sort of princess label on mine from frozen, so that was grand!  My mile done, what with the later start, the milling about etc, I took one look at the queue for the loos and decided I did have basic bladder control after all.  I wasn’t originally going to take Geronimo on the 10k, but then I bumped into familiar face (fellow Smiley and RSR recce buddy) who was there with her two daughters.  Hooray, photo op.  Aren’t we grand, this is the medal from the musical mile.  Seeing my trophy helped motivate the two young women to run and nab one for themselves.  Yay.  Whatever it takes!  Anyway, after all that chit chat, I didn’t think there was time to go back to the bag drop and leave Geronimo there, besides, given our earlier exchange it would be a bit hypocritical to dump a giraffe with them following my righteous indignation at the mere suggestion of the very idea that I would do such a thing barely an hour previously – so I just thought ‘oh well, maybe it’ll be fun doing it together‘.  And she stayed put.

friends at the start

Once we’d had a quick chat, my Smiley running buddy headed off to drop bags and check out the loos, whilst I continued my milling about.  I ended up in conversation with a couple of finely turned out TomTom pacers who were ace.  The starting point may have been mutual appreciation of dress (I don’t think that was the real hair of the guy in the kilt) but evolved into a really good chat. They had both got loads of experience of pacing the London Marathon so I basically took the opportunity to download their collective brains for top tips on how to approach it (I have a deferred ballot place for next year, which still feels unreal).  This guy is going to be one of the five hour pacers so you never know, we may yet meet again:

tomtom pacer with jess

For me, this was one of the stand out features of this Chatsworth event, I got to talk to so many brilliant people who shared hilarious and/or interesting stories, or taught me new things about running techniques and events, or simply inspired with their own efforts and motivation.  It was brilliant.  One of the TomTom guys turned out to be an olympic torch carrier no less, and promised I could go and have a hold of his big torch later!  He was nominated to carry it for a section due to charity work he has done for Barnardos.  How fabulous is that?  I did as well, go and check out his torch.  Tigger is in the shot below as well by the way, but in disguise without the outfit.  Be impressed.

There was a sort of grand warm up for the 10k led from the stage, but I didn’t want to wear myself out doing that, so I just hung out at the back and enjoyed the view.  It looked fab though, like community popmobility, something which I am inclined to feel should be encouraged at every opportunity.  Early morning (pre-dawn) moving to music happens all over the place in Cambodia by the way, it’s brilliant.  We need that ethos here too!

Grand warm up

This was much busier than the musical mile start, and ‘proper’ runners were congregated at the front.  As people moved into the start funnel there was still time to fraternise with other runners though.  I’m looking forward to seeing for myself how that sheep costume turns out at a later run event in the vicinity.  Sounds brilliant.  Jess was there to set us off.  At least I think she was, I couldn’t see what was going on, and it becomes a bit of a blur with so many different run distances and events going on almost continuously.  I do know that at some point I heard a voice put out a plea not to trample Jessica as you ran because she was pregnant.  I’m not sure if the inference that it would have been OK otherwise to trample her was intentional.  In any event, I don’t think  it is ever OK for runners to trample Jess, or anyone else for that matter, it’s easy enough to give a people a bit of a berth as you overtake, especially at an event where the focus was on fun and participation rather than flat-out racing. Because of where I was in the line up I didn’t get to high-five Jess or Trev as I was passing, but they were there, cheering us all on!  I think these photos might be of the Disney mile start, but hey ho, you get the idea.

The 11.00 a.m. 10k starting stampede was captured on film. It wasn’t a  massive turn out by local standards, but it was respectable.  The results look like there were about 1000 10k runners across the two events of the day.  ‘Serious runners’ went towards the front, there were pacers towards the back doing 60 minute and 65 minute times.

As we headed off, it dawned on me that it was indeed a long haul up that hill.  It was a steep, steep and somewhat demoralising climb.  You hoik yourself up, and after what seemed like an age, you get to the first sign (literally, it was a hi-vis poster) warning you were about to start the Ennis hill. What?  What the heck was that first killing kilometer then.  I wasn’t massively impressed.  The setting is scenic, but apart from the grassy first bit, much of the track upwards to the hunting lodge was on a sort of compressed gravel that was hot and very dusty underfoot. It wasn’t the springy woodland trail surface I’d fondly imagined and it was hard on my arthritic feet.  I did have to walk from quite early on.  I told myself this was a legitimate strategy as power walking was faster than my feeble running efforts at this point, but it did feel a bit of an epic fail to be walking so early on. I mean I can do a parkrun 5k without stopping, so I should have surely managed 2k – except it was almost vertical in ascent.  What was encouraging though, was as the tomtom pacers passed me – which inevitably they did, they shouted out cheery words of encouragement, one was playing upbeat music on some hand-held speaker, so that was fun and cheering.  Good for morale.  Another advantage of having a giraffe you see, it makes you relatively easy to spot amongst the heaving throngs!

If you like a few visuals by way of reference, then whilst we are on the theme of tenuous links (yes we were), the terrain was a bit like that at the early part of the Bushy parkrun route (you can see it really clearly from 1.45 mark). Thanks to Dean Carter for this video of his parkrun in Bushy park – the final in his epic quest to complete all 47 parkruns in the Greater London area.  (Yes, this is mainly an excuse to upload a go-pro of the iconic Bushy parkrun course, but can you blame me really?)

I’d like to say as I stormed up that hill I looked like an extra from Chariots of Fire, but unfortunately I didn’t, however, I did reach the top eventually, and then it got a lot more fun and straightforward.  Again, not many marshals, but the route was obvious, and bold kilometre markers told you how far you’d come.  I got a few cheery shouts of appreciation for Geronimo which was nice.  My favourite though was the two women running together who said the ‘you’ve got a giraffe line‘ which was fair enough, I gave my usual retort of ‘where’s yours?‘ and quick as a shot the reply whizzed back to me from one of them ‘if you’d seen me on the hill you’d know I came as a grumpy cow!’  Genius quipping there. Respect.  I like that in a fellow runner.

Here’s the route by the way – their event guide map, and my strava one, hope it helps:

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There was short part where the returning runners shared the track with those of us still heading out.  The temptation to slot in behind the front runner who I saw out of the corner of my eye was pretty strong at that point, but I had a feeling such subterfuge would not go unnoticed.  At various stages I struck up conversations with other runners, it was a very chatty event. Well it was for me, faster runners were killing themselves with different race plans.  I suspect there may have been some throwing up at the finish line by them.   I met other parkrunners, first time 10k runners, people who’d lost huge amounts of weight, charity runners,  those who’d traveled from afar, and locals too.  There weren’t many running club vests, a few I recognised, but this felt more parkrun community than race like in atmosphere and I really liked that.  Faster runners were celebrated in the prize giving at the end, but the day as a whole was inclusive.  I spent quite a bit of the route step in step with a guy in training for a marathon in a couple of months, he’d just restarted his fitness quest.  He actually did his first half-marathon as a smoker on three-weeks training, he got round, but wow, that would have been tough.  A bit of companionable chat made this part of the route pass more quickly.  I really think slower runners, of which I am one, must have more fun at longer races, whilst I can’t talk and run for a 5k, if it’s more of an endurance, then chatting to marshals or snatched conversations with other runners as you pass one another is part of the shared experience.  It’s good for morale. Those fast runners whizzing by miss out on that.   It’s all very well going for a sub two-hour marathon, but wouldn’t Eliud Kipchoge have enjoyed it all much more if he’d been able to have a natter with pacers en route.  He didn’t crack the time anyway, so he could have just had a nice morning out instead.  He seems a friendly guy, looked smiley on the telly.  I bet he’dhave  loved to have had a chat about running sock preferences on the way round – especially as his attempt was all on a track.  How dull must that be, running round in circles, much better to take your mind of it all by discussing anti-chafing strategies instead.  I might message his Facebook account and suggest it, I expect he’d be glad of the top tip.

There was a St Johns First Aid station around the 7km mark.  Hilariously, just as one of the marshals there helpfully called out to be careful of the uneven terrain, I, in turning to look at him and hear what he was saying  lost concentration and stumbled over a tree root much to the merriment of those around.  A bit further on there was a much-needed water station.  It was so hot and humid and hilly. There was only one woman tending it and she was super stressed, all the bottles she’d put out before hand had gone and she seemed a bit panicked.  It was all good-natured though.

It was a big relief to get into the shade of the trees. There are some beautiful scenic parts of the route as you are up high, you need to remember to look to the right to take in the views. We passed a water feature and a stunning cascading waterfall at one point.  I wasn’t taken with the surface under foot but that’s probably petty of me, and a reflection on my arthritic feet as much as anything.  After a while I pulled ahead of my new friend as we weren’t really pacing the same as the gradient shifted – though we did seem to leap-frog each other for a fair bit afterwards.

There were a few fun surprises en route – the unexpected steel band was completely brilliant, they were positioned so both 5k and 10k runners would pass them, but they were only in place for our return run not on the way out.  Also there were some random full fur suited chipmunks/rabbit I know not what disney-esque creatures. Clearly I thought these were great, and we shared high fives.  I wonder if a live music station at the mid point of the music mile might have been a better option than the several quieter speaker stations, but I suppose there are cost implications to doing that.  Live music was really good.  A proper party atmosphere.  If I had to choose, I’d have had them on the music mile where everyone could enjoy them even if not running, they were a hidden delight for the few up in the woods.  Grand though.  Cheers people!

Eventually we emerged from the woods onto the grass descent.  It was basically through a tall grass meadow, where they’d put a mower through to make a path for runners. The consequence was a mass of dried and drying, recently cut tall grass under foot.  Loose hay basically.  It was a timotei-esque romp through a hay field, only down a really stepp hill.  I like running through hay, kicking it up. It was fun, but also strange and unfamiliar, it felt the surface underfoot was moving, I’ve only had that sensation once before, running on a beach when a wind whipped up the sand so it was blustering round your feet and you couldn’t really see the actual ground through it – it was that same sense of your eye making you think the ground is in motion.  I liked it, surreal, but enjoyable.  Towards the end of the course there were more photographers on hand to capture the emotion of the final 1k.  Not sure what adjectives should apply here, but I’ll go with ‘determined’, and leave it at that.  In my defence, it wasn’t the easist of 10ks you know…

determination

It was still a good 2k to the end, and we ran in past newly arriving participants.  In the last 1km or so there was some tape up marking the route, and competitors who’d finished earlier or not yet run were lining the course.  I saw one Smiley who cheered me in, and a few of the people I’d struck up conversations with earlier who’d finished ahead of me also shouted out support.  It was fun. Then we veered round to the same finish point as the musical miles, so again bling (different ribbon) and onto the stage. There were photographers at the end, and a few at the early stages of the course too, so I posed appropriately.  The photographer pointed out that Geronimo had really done all the work and was the more deserving of the medal, so I repositioned it on her neck rather than mine in recognition of this.  Yay, we’d done it!  In the absence of the official photo as yet, here is my own post event selfie.  It’s a start.

And as a late addition, here are the ‘official ones’, yay!  What a team eh? What, a team?

Again there was loads of water on tables so you could help yourself (got a snowman bottle this time) also had some coconut water which was fab.  One minor gripe was that there was an enormous amount of water bottles on the day (good) but no plastic recycle bins to put the empty ones in (bad), so I really, really hope the litter did get sorted through, the thought of so much plastic ending up in landfill causes me physical pain.  Or worse, getting into our oceans – will there really be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.  I could weep.

seabird and plastic

Didn’t stop me drinking it though, and then after the run, and post-run rehydration,  I went in search of the olympic torch and copped a feel of that.  I was honoured indeed!  Just how many brushes with fame can a person manage in one short day!

having a hold

Yay, then I did some more random mingling. I sighted a few more familiar faces, but most people were on their own different trajectories so not much chatting to people I knew to be fair.  Good to see them all the same, even if at least one of them was fair sprinting away no sooner than she caught sight of me.  I cheered off the afternoon 10k people – it was even hotter then, respect to those who headed off with gusto at one o’clock in the afternoon.

I didn’t really have the energy for more running, tempting as the prospect of getting Disney mile bling was.  The musical miles went on all day, you could run as many as you liked and got a different wrist band for each themed run as far as I could tell.  Some tiny kids were romping round loads of times getting an impressive haul of wrist bands and medals.  That part of the event was pitched well I think.  Even so, I let that opportunity pass, and instead I made a new best friend.  It was an accident, I trod on her bag whilst stepping backwards trying to get this shot.   You can see why I got distracted, it being Wimbledon fortnight, I thought it would be cool to recreate that famous Athena poster again.  Definitely an eye-catching way to raise awareness for a cause!

Anyway, don’t worry, it was a happy accident, as it led to conversation. Turns out she was a marshal at the RSR and we had a fab conversation all about that, and marshaling, and body confidence issues when running, and how the ultimate aspiration is really to feel invisible when running sometimes.  As a slow runner I know others are supportive to me as they stay to cheer me through the finish when I plod home last at a fell race or whatever, and that’s great and I do really appreciate it.  However, it is possible to simultaneously hold two conflicting truths, you know nobody cares what you look like, other runners are supportive, the important thing is that you are having a go etc etc, and yet…  simultaneously you can feel self-conscious and awkward and wish yourself invisible.  I blame being picked last for the netball teams a few too many times at school to be honest.  That lingering sense of inadequacy never really goes away.   Anyway, kindred spirit, you know who you are I salute you.  See you at the TenTenTen.  We hugged, and went our separate ways.  I don’t have a photo of her, but it was like my moment with Jess, we both know what passed between us, we don’t need a  photo to prove a point!

Also, she was able to explain to me who famous celebrity DJ Trevor Nelson was, so that was good.  He did look sort of familiar, and did a great high-energy job on the day, but I’m guessing Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra aren’t really his natural habitat so we haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted previously.  Still I know now. So that’s good.  There was also a super enthusiastic side-kick/presentation buddy Vassos Alexander who bounced about doing lots of live commentary and who is a famous celebrity sports journalist apparently.   I should not jest, as a google search tells me he writes for The Guardian, so should be taken seriously.  At this inaugural (I think) VitalityMove event you could hardly move for celebrities, it was a shame I wasn’t the right demographic to necessarily appreciate it at the time. Having said that, cynicism aside, I quite liked the way Jess, Trev, and Vasso (we are all friends now) got stuck in and engaged with everyone.  This is definitely not a conventional running event… that’s both it’s selling point and it’s problem. The razzmataz/ festival feel of it all might appeal to new groups of runners, but also might deter those expecting a more traditional event.  I appreciated it though, so that was good enough for me.  I’m self-centred in that respect.

Next, I was on a mission.  A fellow runner en route had told me how he’d blagged some giant foam hands from the TomTom stand.  Good plan.  He just went and asked for them. Basic assertiveness sometimes pays off. I’ve been searching for one of those for a while (long story for another time) and this was my moment.  I went up to the first tomtom rep who made eye-contact and used immense skill and judgement to frame the wording of my request. ‘I’d like a giant foam hand please?’  Something like that, straight to the point, no messing. He nodded, and headed towards a ball pit surrounded by children and for an awful moment I thought he was just going to take a foam hand off one of them!  My mistake, there was a whole pile of them (foam hands, not children), I got not just one hand but two!  Hurrah.

handy

It seemed only polite by way of appreciation to show that I do have a tomtom and I do really like it, even though it has a few features I still don’t know how to use. Well, this turned into another brilliant chat.  Not only is my TomTom now properly set to miles, and I understand it isn’t broken when it won’t move back from a screen straight away (that’s a protective feature to stop it being over-sensitive and stopping mid-run apparently)  but also  I also got to learn a whole load about ultra running from the Australian rep.  He himself is hoping to do the Marathon des Sables in 2019 as part of a team who were the first aboriginal participants to complete the insanely challenging 251km in six days ultrarun which is basically all across desert.  I think last year.  Exasperatingly I can’t find any references to this awesome achievement on google, there is the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, which raises funds for entries to the New York Marathon for indigenous Asutralians, and is interesting but not the same at all. However, this organisation did the Marathon des Sables as a fund-raiser for the IMF at some point so that came up at the top of all the google hits, so I couldn’t locate the aboriginal team.  Oh well.   Anyway it was so interesting hearing about that, and the inspiration this runner got from reading ‘Born to Run‘ which I keep hearing about and must actually read one day.   The book that is, not the Bruce Springsteen album, different motivational sequence altogether!  Plus we talked about what it’s like living and working in a different country. It was two and a half decades ago, but I did spend a year in Australia and it was fantastic, but I missed unexpected things like radio, a shared sense of humour – which it turns out is much more culturally specific than you may think, strange things, so it was interesting to hear what it was like in reverse, an Australian living long-term in London.  Well, I enjoyed the chat anyway.  As we said farewell, I realised I’d spent the whole conversation stood up on a mini stage whilst he was standing on the ground.  It was only departing that I realised he was very tall, but I hadn’t noticed, I wonder if he had noticed my giraffe?  Thanks tomtom people, for the nice pacers, my nice watch, the foam hands, the opportunity to hold an olympic torch and the running insights.  Good to meet you and you were all great ambassadors for the brand too IMHO for what it’s worth.  Here are all the TomTom gang.  Can you spot the Marathon des Sables wannabee amongst them?  Also foam hand.  Fab eh?

tomtom team spot the Australian

I didn’t feel like leaving straight away though I was peckish by now.  I’d had more water, some coconut water (fab freebie) and splashed out on a cup of decent coffee, but the food options were a bit out of my budget, though in line with the sort of upmarket food stands you get at this kind of event.  I decided to stay for the prize giving.  Winners for 5k and 10k morning and afternoon men and women. Quite good prizes too, tomtom watches and things.  There were some stonking times.   This celebrated the competitive part of the day.  It was good, and nice to see.  I did wonder though, if given this was supposed to be a more inclusive event if they could maybe have had some more random spot prizes so celebrating the non-speedy as well.  You know like at fell races, when they have, oh I don’t know: muddiest legs; finish position same as race number; furthest traveled entrant; most radiant smile; best face-plant of the day whatever. They wouldn’t have to be particularly expensive ones – a foam hand would have done, but something to acknowledge different ways of participating were valid too.  I suppose it depends again what the target group is for this event, it still isn’t entirely clear to me, maybe that’s why it was a hard sell… Even so, it was fun cheering the winners – it was a young girl who picked up second woman for the morning 5k, or maybe even the 10k, I had very little grasp of who got what.   Awesome achievement though, super speedy run!

Oh I nearly forgot, if you care about the actual results then they are here for the VitalityMove event.  Weirdly the results for each distance are merged into one table.  I’m not fussed about my time and can see some merit in this approach for a fun event.  However, it could be a high risk strategy as I suspect more competitive types may think otherwise, if their places in one 10k are diminished in comparison to times for the other.  It will be interesting to see what the feedback about that is.  I say ‘feedback’ what I really mean though is expressions of indignation on facebook, no way of knowing how representative that is of anyone to be fair.  Some will mind though, I’m sure of that.

Prizes dolled out, I decided it was time to go home.  As I was leaving, on a whim I decided I would actually like an event T-shirt and it seemed a way to contribute to the event a bit as I hadn’t paid.  There was no-one queuing for merchandise so it was an opportunity to have a bit of a natter with the woman selling the T-shirts.  Tenner a time.  Large sizes, I think though possible all men’s fit rather than women’s.

tumbleweed corner

Anyway, to cut to the proverbial chase, it quickly became apparent that this was yet a further celebrity sighting for the day!  After debating the relative merits of the T-shirt sizing, and breaking the ice by me wrestling in and out of various sizes whilst she provided real-time feedback on their fit (she didn’t need to say anything, you could see from her facial expressions) we got onto running related story telling. Well dear reader, she is only the current Guinness World Record holder for the Fastest half marathon running backwards (female).  I know!  How exciting is that.  I have a sort of fascination for backwards running because I only found out relatively recently that it is an actual thing and it seems to me truly remarkable.  I tried to pump her for information as much as possible before someone else turned up actually wanting a T-shirt and so she was able to break eye-contact and end the conversation, and it is just as amazing as you might think.  So, to get a few things straight:

  1. Shantelle Gaston-Hird ran in aid of an anti-bullying charity at the Wimslow half earlier this year.  Running for a cause she felt really passionately about helped to motivate her.
  2. The answer to the question ‘but how do you train for a running backwards event?’ is, remarkably enough ‘by running backwards in training.’  Who knew?  The thing is – and I speak as a fancy dress wearer of some experience – I can totally see how it’s easy enough to carry off what might be (erroneously) considered to be an eccentric approach to a running as part of an event.   Half-marathons and marathons everywhere positively welcome the fun-runners and their crowd pleasing antics, but pounding the roads in the dark of winter during training running backwards, or in fancy dress – well that’s a whole new level of dedication.  However, and it’s obvious really when you think about it, the people who live near where she runs locally are so used to it apparently they don’t bat an eyelid these days.  I love that.
  3. Running backwards uses five times more effort than running forwards, so it’s very much more physically demanding
  4. She has only ever fallen over (or was it crashed into something) once in training, and that was because she was distracted by catching her long hair in a zip in her top and didn’t stop running whilst trying to disentangle herself from this mishap.  Distraction related face plant then, we’ve all had them out running.  Haven’t we?
  5. She has a running forward guide on the day to keep it all safe.  Training is a more solitary undertaking
  6. She did it in about 2 and a half hours, that’s splendid is it not?

I was so in awe, I actually remembered to ask for a photo (I’ve so regretted not getting a selfie with the mankini marathon man at London, and I’ve learned from that).  So here it is, plus one from the Wilmslow Guardian article celebrating her world record breaking run by way of further illustration of her achievement, and in case there are still some doubters out there.  A.Maz.Ing.  Fact!  Maybe I’ll try to Photoshop me in alongside her later.  First of all I have to see if I have that on my laptop and learn how to use it, so best you don’t wait up in anticipation.

So you see, this whole event was jam-packed with awesome people.  All runners are great, you just have to bother to find out their individual stories, everyone has one. You have your own too, I’m sure.

I drifted back to the car park, snapping the dancing troupes and a couple of particularly photogenic children in the throng as I left.

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So there you go. Debut VitalityMove, yep, a grand day out indeed.  Geronimo  Sky is quite tired now though, so I think she’ll have a break from running for a bit, but her medal count is pretty good to date.  Bodes well.

For my part, I think this is a model for a running event that could indeed run and run (pun intended) but whether it is a financially viable one I’m not so sure.  I gained the distinct impression that many of the people I’d met were last-minute entries who used coupons many and various to get generous discounts.  I hope they do try to offer the  event again, with a bit of tweaking there should be room in the running calendar for more days out and about like this.  However, I do fear the VitalityMove offering may instead disappear into the mists of time like the town of Brigadoon. For those of us who discovered it and were there, it will be the stuff of joyful memories and legend, but fated not to be seen again for a hundred years.  For my part though, I had a grand day out, as did Geronimo, so thanks Jess and everyone who had the imagination to think this day up and make it happen.  It was worth doing, and I for one appreciated it, which is a start.  Cheers!

So til next time, happy running y’all.  Get out there and embrace them there hills! 🙂

 

P.S.   PHOTOS: There are/will be lots of photos – you could buy a bundle in advance for £10 which was pretty good value as there were lots  of cameras around on the day – O had 61 photos of me to browse through.  Granted about 50 of them made me want to vanish off the face of the earth instantaneously, or at the very least never be seen in public again, but some were really run.  All captured the sense of occassion.  I didn’t find the website user-friendly though, it took some tenacity to get the darned photos to download and I never worked out how to get them directly onto facebook, which in retrospect is probably a massive blessing.  Otherwise it was £25 afterwards which is a bit of a jump in price.  AWOL have some in the public domain here taken from social media sites; and Jessica Ennis put loads of vidoes up on her official facebook page on the day.  Here’s one of the general atmosphere on the stage by way of example. I’m guessing more photos will follow on both the VitalityMove Facebook page and the AWOL Facebook page at some point.

and they have!  Check out this selection from the  Chatsworth Album here from VitalityMove for a start.

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Categories: 10km, off road, race, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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