Posts Tagged With: confidence

New beginnings, in search of my running mojo and running in the dark

Digested read:  I felt the fear and did it anyway. Venturing out into the dark and unknown I joined a new off-road running group for the first time, in an attempt to locate and reboot my running mojo.  I had a running buddy to hold hands with though, I’m not that brave.  And you know what, it was grand. Really glad I went. Thanks Accelerate Trail Runners new beginner group.  Hope to be a regular, my natural southerner nesh tendencies permitting.  You hardy northerners will venture out on days I’m too scared to even look out the window after all.  Even so, in future, I’m going to try to remember to just give it a go more than not.

ATR team photo

I’ve actually been eyeing the Accelerate Trail Runners Facebook page for a while. They have been meeting for evening trail runs over the summer months along the lines of woodrun except that the runners are more hardcore.

The website blah de blah states:

Welcome to Accelerate Trail Runners. We’re a trail running group in Sheffield that meet in Low Bradfield every Tuesday at 6:50 pm for an evening of led trail runs. There are several groups suitable for beginners and seasoned runners alike.

About Us

We normally meet at 6:50pm at the cricket pavilion in Low Bradfield for a 7:00 start. Occasionally, we may start from another location so check the announcements on this page to make sure.  Parking can be found at the public car park behind the cricket pitch.

I like this idea in principle, but honestly, my perception has been that this group of runners are a bit hard-core for me, whatever the blah de blah may say about all levels being welcome.  I imagined a crowd of elite athletes, fleet of foot and fearless of demeanor, they sprint off up mountain paths like goats on speed – or like I think goats on speed would look if they ever slowed down enough for you to be able to catch a glimpse of them.  To be fair I’ve not knowingly personally witnessed either the runners or speed-fuelled goats in action, which is a limitation of my comparison for illustrative purposes.  Still, I’m pretty confident I’m right….    They are great climbers too, just like those Accelerate whizzy fell running types who can ascend and descend vertically. Impressive certainly, but not really relatable to.

Back to the topic in hand:  I was in Accelerate the other week – getting my innov 8 parkclaws if you must know – and asked about the trail runs then.  At that time the candid feedback was that truthfully, yep at the moment the group composition was catering for speedier runners, as that’s how it had evolved with people getting fitter together over the summer, but there was talk of starting up a beginners group, so you never know…  I was torn.  Some disappointment at it not being suitable on the one hand, but this was counterbalanced on the other by huge relief that I wouldn’t therefore have to romp too far out of my comfort zone by running off-road in the dark.    That was me off the hook then.  Better yet I can truthfully claim to have tried.  Not my fault.

On the other hand, my running mojo has gone awol.  I have been fretting a lot about the legitimacy of my claim to be even a very peripheral member of the running community, whatever the motivational posters have to say on the topic of what constitutes a ‘real runner’. There have to be some limits. Leaving the house with your trainers on might be one reasonable criteria for inclusion for example.  Not even having to run in them, just getting out and about in my active wear.  And weirdly, I do like running, I like the social things that surround it and the post running high, and sometimes, astonishingly, I’ve even liked running at the time. The problem is that if I don’t run for a bit, I lose confidence, I remember how little aptitude I have and frankly I feel embarrassed at running in public again.  It’s hard when you keep sinking back to square one…

Sometimes dear reader, fate lends a hand.  Not that I really believe in fate, but hey ho, it was a timely coincidence.  Not a week later,  Accelerate Trail Runners ‘suddenly’ pronounced they were indeed recommencing a beginner group for their off-road runs round Low Bradfield on a Tuesday night, and that set in motion an almost inevitable chain of events.  Afterall, I have said for a while if they had a beginner group I’d be tempted, and so it would be rude not too when they said this:

New beginner group!

New for Tuesday evenings with Accelerate Trail Runners – a complete off-road beginner group. Nothing demanding. All very easy going. Emphasis on fun, safety and building confidence before joining the more demanding groups if so desired. Alternatively, for those already completing tougher, longer trails in general, a chance to wind down and enjoy a simple recovery run once in a while.

If not now, then when?  This was my big deciding moment.  Maybe….

Trouble is, then the running mind demons kicked in. I’m so crap at running, and even more out of practise than usual.  Also, Low Bradfield is something of a pain to get to.  My car is from the south, it can’t cope with some of those steep and winding hills en route.  It’ll be dark.  It’ll be humiliating.  Oh what’s the point in subjecting myself to yet another demoralising confirmation of my running ineptitude, as if it isn’t hard enough to muster the courage to get out the door and run when I’m on my own…

However, a particularly supportive smiley buddy had similarly expressed the sentiment of being game to ‘give it a go’ – admittedly before we knew the forecast was going to be for strong winds and torrential rain – and so somehow, we agreed we were going to go together.  I can’t lie, there may have been a bit of last-minute ‘I will if you will/ are you sure? Have you seen the forecast?’ type toing and froing via Facebook messenger in advance, but we basically committed.  Aren’t we lovely by the way?  This is the after shot that’s why we look happy, we survived! Good to know.

running buddies

Lovely or not – would we blend in with this intrepid lot?  They are wearing ultra gear.  Plus you can see the muscle definition on their calf muscles from here.  Bet there is barely a couple of percentage body fat between them.  I’ll be spotted as an imposter from half a mile a way.  Oh well, one way to find out….

trail runners in sunshine

I was apprehensive to the point of fear, which I know is ridiculous.  But my buddy scooped me up.  We set off in the car peering through the torrential rain that battered down on the windscreen.  I was satisfied that it would at the very least be an adventure, also, everyone knows running in the rain just makes you really hardcore and a ‘proper’ runner, however woeful that running performance might be.  Running in the dark as well?  Surely even more so.  Also this run felt sort of symbolic, I’m not going to get any better at running if I never run.  A new beginner off-road winter running group is a great opportunity for a fresh start and running reboot.  There couldn’t be a more auspicious  bit of timing, I must embrace this.

running in rain

Mind you there are limits. Did you see the scenes in Copenhagen for the half marathon, that’s not hardcore, that’s death wish running in the raw!

 

I was glad my buddy did the driving as her car ate the hills and twisty roads, plus she knew how to get there. We pulled into the car park and immediately spotted sporty looking types surrounded by running shoes.  In what turned out to be a mistaken belief that they knew what was going on we trooped over to introduce ourselves.  Pleasingly, they had no idea what was going on either, being Scott shoes reps along to flash their merchandise. Good – oh!  I’m always up for a shoe test. They even whisked a foam pouf out of the back of their white van to facilitate the shoe trying!  I immediately was sat on top of the comfy cube, ripping off my innov-8 s to enable hoiking on of some new treasure. My excitement however was short-lived.  The Scott shoe is so narrow I was like one of the ugly sisters trying to heave it on. I gave up rapidly, if I can’t even get my toe into it at the heel end, it doesn’t bode well for the toe box roominess test further down. It was probably for the best.  I’ve bought two new sets of trail shoes in the past month, I don’t want to be tempted by any more.  I’m sure their shoes would be great for others if you favour a precision fit, it is no reflection on Scott shoes they can’t cater for me, I’m very needy on the running shoe front I’m afraid.  What do you think of my choice of running kit by the way?  Positively understated next to the Scott shoes rep in his gold crown hat thing.  I like his running cape though. That looks practical.

Cinderella-prod-1-1024x684

As we did the shoe-trying on dances, which was a team effort. Some really serious looking runners, all zero fat and wearing ultra packs cruised through the car park.  Me and my running buddy exchanged a knowing glance which meant ‘wow, they look hardcore, glad we wont be expected to run with them‘ only to see them double back and enquire in a friendly tone whether we were for the accelerate run.  Because, if we were, then the rendezvous point is the cricket club pavilion not the car park. ‘OK, I’m properly intimidated now‘ I said in my head or possibly out loud.

We tried to delay the inevitable by offering to help carry the box of trial trail shoes into the club house, but our services were not required. We walked with some reluctance towards our fate. Inside, the place was heaving.  Lots of runners, some familiar faces, but I felt like a Lilliputian in a land of giants. Everyone seemed tall, lean and oozing athletic prowess. This was not feeling like my natural habitat. Actually, I don’t really know what my natural habitat is, but I’m pretty sure it involves me wearing an invisibility cape. Truthfully, if I hadn’t had my running buddy with me I’d have caved in and just pretended I was there for the Low Bradfield Cricket Club AGM which I think was happening later on.  As it was, I said a bit too pointedly (sorry about that) to the nice accelerate person ‘you promised a beginners group! Where are the beginners?’  Sensing my rising panic she spoke soothingly, like you would to a psychotic person in possession of an axe ‘don’t worry, there will be one‘.

Temporarily pacified, I went in search of the rep from Silva head torches.  To be honest, I already have a silva headtorch which I really like, I thought the ones we trialled today weren’t as good as the one I have, but I figured I’d try one anyway.  Especially since I’d left my headtorch in my running buddy’s car.  Turns out, putting on an unfamiliar headtorch is almost as hard as putting on a Scott shoe. On the plus side, it caused enormous merriment to my running buddy and helped to distract us temporarily from the growing terrifying and gnawing thought we might end up having to run with the elites.

Torches on, we signed our names and put our £1 coins in the tin – you give a £1 donation which goes towards putting runners through run leader courses and other similar costs.  There was quite a buzz.  Mercifully, our cheery ‘beginners’ run leader appeared, and another woman – who was by chance a one-time smiley – also identified herself as a beginner.  The group was brought to order by the esteemed proprietor of Accelerate (harder than it sounds, runners are not naturally compliant it seems) and a briefing given. There seemed to be four groups tonight. Super speedy, doing reps and awesome stuff.  Speedy runners, moderately speedy and then the beginner group.

A little pep talk for our beginner group – we had a Scott shoe rep along with us too.  The plan was to take as long as it takes to do a circuit ’90 minutes if necessary’ on a 6 mile loop.  That was fine, distance is never an issue with me (not so far anyway) it’s the speed that scares me.  90 minutes was clearly being given as an unimagineably slow time, a sentiment I appreciated whilst inwardly wincing as I knew with me along for the yomp it was quite likely to be needed.  I was a bit surprised though it was that far for a beginner group.  I don’t know why, I suppose I’d not thought it through.  I’d imagined a more parkrun type entry-level distance.

Pretty soon afterwards, everyone scattered with their respective leaders.  We five went running in the woods.  Heading off through the car park and … yep, my twin nightmares, up hill and on a road.  I was barely 50 metres in when I thought I’d break.  The first mile was really tough, partly because as with all new endeavours, we hadn’t worked out our team dynamic. I was acutely aware that with exquisite form our leader was running in what for him must have felt like slow motion, meanwhile, all the blood vessels in my head were popping in unison.  It seemed a bit soon to bail, it always takes me a while to get going, you’d think I’d know this by now. I was very definitely at the back.

A mile or so in, it levelled off, we dipped down through a gate and onto softer, wooded trails.  This was way better for me. A combination of flatter, softer ground and being warmed up meant I got a brief moment of thinking ‘maybe I can do this, maybe this will be fun?’  Ahead of us our run leader was wearing some super-bright turbo powered silva head torch offering.  It was pretty impressive, which is good, because it was like being led by someone brandishing  a search light, and bad, because from henceforth all other head torches will be a disappointment.

I was glad of my running buddy for reassurance though. She knows me and was able to vouch for my character.  At some point we paused and there was an attempt to evaluate how we were getting along.  Acknowledging I was way back tactics were discussed.  I explained that I was actually fine (which was true) it’s just that I’m always slow. I know from bitter experience if I try to sprint out of my natural rhythm on unfamiliar terrain I’ll probably either fall over; or over-stride and get injured and/or end up in tears of frustration. The alternative is to leave me be, and I’ll eventually find a yomping rhythm and all will be well.  My buddy had to affirm that I spoke the truth when I explained about being completely unable to talk and run, so my silence shouldn’t be taken as hostility.  Equally, my grumpy face doesn’t necessarily mean I’m actually grumpy, but sometimes, just to keep everyone on their toes it might mean I am indeed grumpy as well, so you have to take your chances on that one.  As it was getting dark though, you couldn’t really tell, so that was fine.

It was better after this mutual pep talk.  I was given the opportunity to run ahead, but expressed a preference to being at the back, partly because I had no idea where we were going, and partly because if I feel like I’m being chased I find running especially stressful.  Over enthusiastic sweepers jollying me along are the stuff of nightmares for me.  I appreciate it may be unnerving for run leaders if I am out of sight behind them, but honestly I’m careful and safe at the back, everyone’s a winner.  Better a slow runner than a fallen, injured, angry spitting and hissing one.  Yep, that was the choice.  Fortunately most run leaders are receptive to such incisive logic. Good to know.

As we ran, the rain started to fall.  Under the cover of the trees it got darker.  It was fun! There is something sort of exciting about being out in the countryside in the dark.  Shapes and shadows keep you alert, the ground under you seems to shift, everything looks different. There was some irony in being completely unable to see where we were.  One of my motivations for wanting to join this trail running group was to learn some new routes.  I hadn’t factored in the ‘you are running in the dark’ aspect.  Not great for orientation purposes, though rather fine for sensory stimulation.

I did do a run round here earlier in the year.  Here it is in daylight:

Nope, didn’t see anything like that.

Rather, we started imagining it as the set for horror films.  Trying to pretend scare one another for good measure.  Was that a shadowy figure lurking behind, or just an optical illusion?  Great for team building, raw fear.  Hurrah! This is not a run I would do on my own.  I inadvertently contributed to the scream quotient by steadily dropping back silently to such an extent that at one point they thought I’d actually disappeared.  Like those oh so predictable  plot lines where the protagonists start to go missing (minor characters first), unobserved one by one. If only I’d realised the disquiet I was causing I’d have found a way capitalise on this for comedic purposes by somehow overtaking them and reappearing on the trail ahead of them wide-eyed and manic to completely freak them out.

As we traced our way round the reservoirs other runners cheerily pointed out sections of the route they recognised.  ‘Here’s where I saw an abandoned child’s bike‘ quipped one, ‘this is where triathlete buddy lost two teeth doing a face plant onto a rock‘ that kind of thing.  It’s good to note recognisable landmarks on the way round, makes it easier if you have to retrace your steps. Except, this wouldn’t have worked at all as basically it was dark,so  everywhere just looked, well dark.

At some point we came upon other runners one in a group jogging in formation up the road towards us like well-drilled fire flies.  Another group were pausing before no doubt doubling back on themselves for more tough hill reps.

It was nice, sort of companionable within our little gang of five, but with a sense of a wider community of runners in the vicinity.   I’d like to get better at this.  Inevitably, my problem was not with distance, nor even terrain, although I was a bit cautious as it was my first head-torch run of the year – it’s maintaining a pace.  It is fantastic to get to run with others who have such good form, our run leader was like a human metronome running, and looked like it was entirely effortless he was so energy-efficient, but I just can’t maintain a constant speed, well not that one anyway, and especially not if there is the slightest sniff of an uphill gradient.   It’s because that’s how I’ve taught myself to run I suppose. I walk / run always.  My only continuous running is parkrun, but left to my own devices I doubt very much I run even 5k continuously in training which is pretty pathetic now I come to write it down. I mean, it is obvious isn’t it, if I can do 5k at a parkrun I should be able to do that distance whilst running on my own, if I stay steady enough.    It stands to reason.  Maybe running is indeed mostly in the mind.  Though I still maintain at some point you will actually be required to run, and that sure as hell feels like a physical process to me.

In any event, the group paused for me to catch up from time to time so we could regroup, and then there was one bit when I did express a desire to walk for a bit. Which was apparently ‘fine’ except that then we walked for ages, and I wasn’t sure if I should have said ‘I’m ok now’ to enable running to recommence or whether that was interfering with some broader plan.  I fear my fellow runners felt the cold.   Oh well, I guess the more we run out together the more we will come to understand one another’s preferences and foibles.

Then, almost suddenly, we were nearly back where we started. A fellow woodrunner was driving homeward and paused in his car to shout support through his window which I appreciated.  Then we were back into the warmth of the club house for a run debrief.

A time for candour. I’m really glad I went.  I did more than I thought I would, and it is most definitely good for me to pick up the pace.  Our run leader was supportive and encouraging, there is definitely a desire to get a beginners’ group up and running.  For my part?  Well, I’m just so acutely aware that I’m the weakest link.  I do slow things down.  Upshot is, I think we agreed that I do want to come regularly (snow and ice and scary drive there permitting) but if there comes a point where I’m impeding the progress of others, then by mutual agreement I’ll cease.  I don’t think I’m generally believed when I say I have only one pace, but it’s true. With training I can go longer, but I’ll never be a sprinter.  Then again, if I can reduce my walking time then I will end up covering distances faster, and I don’t need persuading I can learn a lot about improved technique by association with this knowledgeable lot.   If I run more efficiently, that should not only help to keep me injury free, but also I’ll surely pick up a fraction more speed along the way as well?  So it seems that, ironically enough, running in the dark literally, has maybe lifted me out of my metaphorical patch of running in the dark.  Temporarily at least.

This is where we went by the way. I’m chuffed. 6.5 miles is quite good for me on an evening run.  Plus, there is no way on earth I’d have headed out and done that on my own.  So thanks Accelerate and thanks even more so in buckets to my running buddy for getting me there.  I can only be brave on my own up to a point. I’ll go to a race event on my own because that’s not much of a commitment is it.  Going to a group in anticipation of a long-term relationship?  Now that’s frightening.

low bradfield run

Then there was a drive home debrief.  Obvs.  Guess what.  No regrets.  That irrefutable truth holds trued, no-one ever regrets a run, not ever.  Not even me and not even after a bad run.  My running buddy is awesome, but is also going to be away for a lot of winter, having selfishly arranged her annual travel plans with a complete disregard for my neediness!  The conclusion for me is that I actually coped better with the distance than expected considering how little running I’ve done of late.  I could have carried on no problem, just not at any speed. This understanding is critical, because the next race I’m eyeing is the Dark and the White.  It’s on Sunday. That’s soon, but then again why not?

Various so-called friends smilies and others have been banging on about the Autumn series.  They are apparently in amazing locations, well organised, and offer two different routes.  A short and a long.  There is a Dark and White race this Sunday, at Carsington Water.  Three people I know are doing it – not least my running buddy for this night; we can go together.  It’s just 9 miles or thereabouts, that’s the distance we’d just run and a parkrun.  I mean a parkrun!  You can always push out a parkrun, however rough you feel.  136 or whatever parkruns down the line I can vouch for that!  I’ve run parkrun come what may, in sickness and in health, in times of adversity as well as times of joy.  Granted,  it’s not always been pretty, but it’s always happened whatever pitiful physical or mental state I’ve been in at the start line.  Maybe it is mind over matter after all.  I need to build my distances, I reckon as long as I’m slow (and that’s a given) I can do that…

not even me

I know if I commit to running with others, be that parkrun or anything else, I will turn out.  I also know that if I am serious about building up to marathon distances, let alone even attempting to hold back the tide of middle-aged spread, I need to get back to into running regularly as well as more strategically.  Harsh, but true. So it was dear reader, realising that I hadn’t actually committed to volunteering at Graves junior this sunday, plus my post run high, which seemingly you get even if you havent delivered the most auspicious of runs, and the fact that I was still just in time for the deadline for registering in advance for Sunday’s run I decided  that was it.  I was in.

So you see, that’s the power of running in general and running with supportive friends and groups in particular.  Having done a run, I realised yes, I’m slower than I was, but it isn’t irretrievable. The post-run high and cheery running buddies made me remember what I was missing, and that was enough to shunt me into entering another running challenge.  Possibly back on track.  My running confidence might be fragile, but it is not irretrievable.

In conclusion, and at risk of stating the blindingly obvious, what I’ve re-learnt this week in relation to recovering my running mojo is this:

  • Of course my running gets worse if I stop running for ages, that’s not being crap that’s not having trained, to overcome this, I should try some running, just crack on and give it a go
  • If I share my running demons, other nice people will help me tackle them, because (who knew) I’m not the only person in the entire world ever to have such a complicated relationship with this running malarkey, so best just crack on and give it a go
  • Over thinking for me is unhelpful, best just crack on and give it a go
  • Weirdly, it is true, you never regret a run, ever.  Not even the horrible ones, so best just crack on and give it a go
  • Really and truly, nobody remotely cares how well or how badly I run, as long as I am not a risk to others or myself, best just give it a go
  • Signing up for events does help me focus the mind, making public those entries makes it harder to bottle it and pull out later on, so best just sign up and then give it a go
  • It’s fun to be challenged, pushing for harder/ longer routes is worth a shot, if you don’t try you’ll never know, worst case scenario of DNF is a lot more appealing than DNS so see if you can surprise yourself,  just give it a go
  • Committing to running with others works for me, conscientious if not keen, find a running buddy, agree a venue, time whatever and jointly just give it a go
  • Running in the rain is a laugh, just give it a go.

So dear reader, shall we, you and me both.  Just give it a go?

That’s what I’m doing anyway, which is why I have against my better judgement entered the long route for the Autumn Dark and White series at Carsington water this weekend.  I’m not sure it’s the best of my ideas, especially now I realise it isn’t ‘around 9 miles’ but more like 10.5 – but you know what, fear of missing out is way worse.  It’ll be fine, or not, but it will be an adventure. I’m just going to give it a go.  And if it rains, the adventure will be all the greater.

give it a go

Bring it on.

I will admit I do really hope that ‘The Dark and The White‘ isn’t in fact the name of a forthcoming low-budget snuff horror film location call, because it does sound like it might be.  Oh crap.  Nothing ventured nothing gained anyone?

anyone?  😦

UPDATE: Did it, guess what it was fine and dandy.  You can read about my Dark and White Autumn Series 1 Carsington Water trail running adventure here. But I wouldn’t click on it if I were you. It’ll take ages to wade through.  It’ll make you late for your run.

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

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

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

‘Tis ‘Round Sheffield Run Eve’ – Roger that!

So today is the evening before the race morning after.  My regular reader will know that the Round Sheffield Run is the highlight of my running year.  Not only for me, but for other Sheffielders, it is long looked forward to, and, apart from the first year when nobody knew what to expect, it sells out really, really quickly.

Uhm.  Can I be bothered to explain it all again?  Not really, but go on then.    Simply put – the Round Sheffield Run is a 20km off-road trail run, only actually it’s 24km.  Only 20km of it is timed. You do it in stages, so you only really run a couple of kilometers in one go. Teeny little stages, way less than a parkrun. As a consequence, it is easy to overlook basic arithmetic principles of the need to add all these sections together to estimate the total mileage required, it just doesn’t look that far, not really.  Hardly worth training for.

race card

Also there are trees, and friendly marshals, feed stations groaning under the weight of munchies at two points along the way.  Friendly comradely runners, lots of different start waves.  All social and jolly, and not really running at all, apart from the 24 km and the 2,121ft of elevation which is basically a flat route in Sheffield terms.  Well maybe ‘undulating’.  Oh and cows probably.  You get your own dibber!  Always a boon.  Good bling and fine music and dining options post run.  Guaranteed sunshine I seem to recall but might need to check terms and conditions for that to be fair.  I don’t know why someone has taken a bite out of the acorn they used to model the medal, bad idea.  Acorns can be really poisonous. Well for horses they are, pigs like them, and so did Eeyore, so maybe donkeys are OK with them, or possibly only Eeyore, I don’t know.  Look, stop hassling me about the acorns for goodness sake. It’s the running people you need to look at.  They haven’t officially told me, but I’m really confident they modeled those figures on me and my running buddy of previous years.  I’m fine with it, I’d have given consent freely had they asked.

Bottom line, is that this has always been to date anyway, a super fun event and a ‘must do’ occasion on the Sheffield Running Calendar.  However, just because at Hallam parkrun this morning we were all buzzing about it in eager anticipation ‘it’s like running Christmas day!’ exclaimed one running buddy (who actually likes Christmas by the way, in case you were wondering), doesn’t mean that on Round Sheffield Eve there isn’t a bit of apprehension as well.

In the spirit of getting my excuses in early, as in previous years it is now dawning on me that actually, you know what it is quite a long way. Also as in previous years I haven’t followed the diligent training regime I’d fondly imagined undertaking when I signed up some months ago.  Worse than that, I’ve even knackered my knee this time.  Hilariously, or ironically, depending on your point of view, I did this whilst doing a recce for the RSR two weeks ago. The plan had been to do the whole route at a steady trot just to remind myself of how to pace it, and give myself the confidence I’d get round fine on the day. The plan was definitely not to pick up a post race running injury a fortnight ahead of the event.  Epic fail alas.  In stead, I realised about half way round my knee was giving serious gyp (is that even a word?) and by the time I’d finished it, it was fair screaming at me never to run again.  I’ve never hurt my knee running before.  Usually it’s just my pride that suffers under any exertion.  Uh oh. RSR in doubt.

I’ve had to back off even my usual pitiful running schedule, including missing out on both woodrun and the frontrunner fell running Wednesday evenings.  Well I made one, pre-injury, and it was good fun actually, in a ‘let’s bound off boulders and try to out run the midges’ at Padley Gorge way.  I enjoyed it.  Not sure the couple who’d come out for a romantic picnic at the same spot felt entirely the same way….  But hey ho, each to their own.  The photo is stolen from Fell Running Guide by the way.  Thanks!  🙂  I’m in there somewhere… actually, I probably bounded so high I’m quite out of shot, leaping in a trajectory over the head of the photographer now I think of it. That makes sense.

fell running guide bouldering

So, upshot is, it’s the evening before the long-awaited RSR, and I’m feeling well, more towards the ‘what was I thinking‘ rather than ‘bring it on‘ end of the continuum.  This happens every year to be fair, but normally I’m only battling being ridiculously under-prepared, not usually carrying an injury as well.

I went to parkrun at Hallam today, just for a gentle trot round to see if knee was up to it.  It’s flat, and we are doing an alternative route at the moment because of road works.  It’s really nice actually, under the shade of trees and a bit more traily, though also quite narrow so not for speed  merchants.  I figured I needed to see if I can do 5km without my knee crumbling, and it seems I can, as long as I’m careful going down hills.  Me and my trotting compatriot for the day were deliberately slow as we are tapering for tomorrow, slow enough that we briefly contemplated just doing the one lap and whizzing through the finish funnel to secure new pbs.  It was  bit confused with the route and we’d already been lapped so we may well have got away with it.  Plus, added temptation, lamentable times tomorrow could be explained by this unexpected performance peak the day before!  In the end we didn’t though.  There is little point in ‘cheating’ at parkrun. None whatsoever in fact, but the little moment of enjoying a fantasy finish time spurred us round!

Well, I was, waivering about whether running the RSR tomorrow is really such a great idea, but you know what dear reader?  I’ve just finished convening with Roger, and I’m feeling a bit brighter now. Roger has been a running buddy for a while now. We were supposed to do the London Marathon together, but that didn’t happen for various reasons, and he’s been resting for most of the year.   If by ‘resting’ you mean being stuffed in a plastic carrier bag at the back of a wardrobe.  I went to find him, to explain…

DSCF7802

Roger has been a great running buddy over the years, but I just wonder if it’s a bit much to drag him out on a 24km yomp when he hasn’t done anything since Southwark parkrun back in April.  I mean, I do have a contingency giraffe (don’t we all), it would still be less embarrassing to face the event in fancy dress than in unforgiving lycra in the raw… maybe I should utilise that and let Roger retire, or at least have a season off, and then he can return restored, renewed and reinvigorated some other time after the requisite rest and relaxation has worked its magic.

Roger is wise though.  He’s given me a bit of a pep talk.  I was saying how much I wished there would be some more runners out there on the trails.  So I wont be the last one out there all alone on the trails.  I don’t mind being slowest one out there, but I’d like to get back in daylight and before the coffee place has packed up.   Lawks a lordy – I don’t even know if I can run for a bus anymore, let alone romp round 24km, feed stations a plenty or not!

Roger though is smart.  He explained you have to just find your motivation and then you can unlock your inner runner no worries.

not a runner

If there were more runners, there might be more slowbies, and if there were more marshals, that would be more motivational high-fives and sweaty hugs to give me strength.  ‘Well‘, he said, ‘don’t you dare wish for a single runner more.   There are runners enough out there – any more finishers would only dilute your achievement‘.  I paraphrase, what he actually said was this:

What’s that your wishing for?

More runners  Lucy? No! don’t think it;

If we are meant to run, we are enough

To take on Sheffield’s trails; and still to live,

The fewer run, the greater share of honour.

I mean really! I say, wish not one runner more.

FFS! I would not lose so great an honour

As one more trail runner might steal from us

It will be great! O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, to anyone who’ll listen,

That they who have no stomach for this run,

Let them depart; we’ll wave them on their way,

And jelly babies for convoy give to them;

We would not yomp in that runner’s company

They that fear they might expire out there

and so choose not to die in fellowship with us.

Fair play, they need not join us running scared.

And yet….

This race is call’d the Round Sheffield Run of well, Sheffield!

We that outrun these trails, and come safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And come alive at the very mention of the RSR

We shall tell all who’ll listen* of our triumph

And how we took on the great challenge of the day.

We that shall see this day, and live old age,

Will yearly on the vigil bore fellow runners,

And say “To-morrow is the Round Sheffield Run

I’ve done that!  Loads of times!  Go me!”

Then we will we strip our shoes and show our scars,

And say “These blisters I had up Porter Valley.

See this hamstring limp?  That’s from the limb descent”

Others may forget, but we won’t ever,

We’ll still remember, with advantages,

What feats we did that day. Then shall our club names,

Familiar in the mouth as household words—

Be newly toasted

We shall drink to Smiley Paces; Dark Peak to boot;

Cheers to Monday Mobsters and parkrunners all;

Strideout were there and Les Brutelles

Team Sloth and the lovely Barnsley Harriers too

Shout loud for Valley Hill Runners also

and the Porter Valley Plodders pounding through

all trail runners a-go-go who pulled on their shoes to run

Undaunted by the hills, or mud or the fact that ‘it’s an awfully long way to have to go now we come to think of it…’

So shall all such Round Sheffield Runners

Be each year by flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

This race shall remain the mecca trail run for all of England

And the Round Sheffield Run shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

Without all those who have ever run it being rememberèd-

We few, we happy few, we band of runners;

For they this day that pound the trails with me

Shall forever be my running buddies;

Even be they ever so vile,

This day shall gentle their condition;

And runners of the world that stay in-bed

Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

And hold their run bling cheap whilst any speaks

That ran with us upon the Round Sheffield Trails!

No honestly, he did!  It was stirring stuff.  I can hardly not rock up at the start after all that!

So are you coming out with me tomorrow then Roger?’  I asked.  ‘I’m not sure’ he said, ‘you know about the “for want of a shoe” don’t you?  Well, I’m not feeling too fabulous, and for want of a proverbial shoe you might not make it round the whole trail.  Don’t you have a back up plan?  One time only.   Any random bit of African wildlife would do?’  ‘Oh’.  I said.  ‘I’ll think about it.  It wouldn’t be the same without you, but I do take you point.’

So bottom line.  I just need to find and channel my inner runner.  When I do, if I can’t run like the wind, I shall run like the winded, which means I’ll still get to be part of it, and as a bonus, it also means I can eat the Belgian bun I have stashed away.  It was going to be to celebrate having completed the run. But who I am trying to kid. Why go for delayed gratification when really I should be focusing on carbing up.  Essential pre-event prep as any runner can tell you.

Soooooooooooooo, I expect I will be seeing you all at the start after all.  Don’t have nightmares!  And don’t forget to high-five me as you pass.  If I’m collapsed on the trails, please step over me, no stamping on my face. Thanks in anticipation.

running like the winded

*to be fair, I don’t think we’ll care if anyone in the vicinity is listening or not, we’ll just hold forth about our RSR experiences anyway, shouting louder if necessary, so they can still here us as they try to get away.

 

Oh and for all my RSR blog posts see here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

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

The glamour of Grindleford, getting stylish on the trails…

Digested read:  your personal running mojo can be elusive, but you’ll get by with the help of your friends.  You might get wet as well though, so go out prepared.  That’s my experience anyway.  Running buddies are awesome. Just go run.

You’ll have to wait for the visual punchline to fully understand and appreciate the  ‘getting stylish’ reference of the heading.  I’m not suggesting by the way, it will necessarily be worth the wait, only pointing out that the delay is unavoidable. It’s just the way the cookie crumbles.  Proverbially that is, there are no actual cookies available to readers of this post unless you have taken the precaution of sourcing your own.  Which would be sensible to be fair, but is beyond my area of control or influence.

So.  I’ve been feeling really wobbly about what I euphemistically refer to as my ‘running’ of late. This isn’t only in the literal sense.  Whilst it is true that I increasingly find it impossible-to-ignore the independent motion of my extra layers of adipose tissue that jiggle unbidden whenever I attempt any turn of speed.  I swear parts of my anatomy have developed a life of their own, whole colonies are boiling beneath.  I refer also to my metaphorical negative and wobbly state of mind.  I’m currently in utterly disheartened mode, my ‘running career’ (if that isn’t the ultimate oxymoron of all time) braked completely in Cambodia, and since I’ve returned to the UK I seem to be slower and more lumbering than ever before.  My running mojo has evaporated.  I am too shamed to show my face at running club, and feel more intimidated than ever by ‘proper runners’ bounding by at organised events, or ostentatiously stretching and warming up at the startlines.  To be fair, this latter issue is I know mine not theirs.  In the main ‘proper runners’ have only ever been supportive and encouraging to me.  Perhaps it is just human nature.  Whether or not it is a universal truth, it’s definitely an individual one.  Whatever, my personal paranoia, ensures it is only ever the notable exceptions whose actions and voices spring into my mind.  My negative self-talk hardly needs a mocking chorus of others to reinforce it.   I can be loud enough all on my own. This dear reader, is how negative running cycles start.  Not in the ‘now I must undertake a duathlon as this cycle is so compelling and it’s all running round me as well‘ sense, more in the ‘this sofa is a way preferable option to humiliating myself in public by running‘ one.  Only, with great irony, it usually isn’t. The sofa I mean, really being the better option.  There is no great mystery to running, the only way to get back into it (injuries and over-training aside) is to get back into it.  That is, to go out and run.  Stop/start slow/ fast or otherwise.   It remains true that once completed, I have never regretted a run ever (though I will concede that I have sometimes deeply regretted undertaking a run at the time).  Short term memory failings, brought about by post-run endorphins are in this respect the runner’s friend.

never run again

So it was, that feeling really crap about life the universe and everything in general and running in particular, when a suggestion of hooking up with some slow and steady trail explorers popped into my inbox I hesitated before swiping left.  What if?

In the end, I decided not to over-think it, just go out and try. After all, it was a lovely day, full of promise for evening sunshine in verdant countryside. What’s the worst? ‘Yes please‘ I said, adding a ‘Simon’s Cat’ emoticon for good measure and hitting send… and then I did my research….

So the plan was to do a recce for the Grindleford Fell Race.  I’ve not actually entered this year, well not yet anyway.  But lots of lovely smiley-by-name and smiley-by-nature smiley paces comrades have.  It’s 15th June this year, and not many spaces left at the time of writing.  I know nothing about this event.  I decided to have a little look at the route.  This induced near apoplectic paralytic panic, as I inadvertently happened on the route for the Grindleford Gallop instead.  The Grindleford Gallop is 21 miles and 3000ft of ascent, and requires navigation.  Not at all the gentle confidence-building romp out I’d fondly imagined I’d signed up to.  Cripes!  Fortunately, once I’d mopped up the puddles of tea spat out in shock and disbelief earlier, I was able to find the actual fell race route. That was much more encouraging.  4.5 miles, and ideal for newcomers. The Grindleford Fell race website tells us that:

The Grindleford Fell Race takes place over a 4.5miles route starting on the playing fields. The route takes you up through Hay Wood, the Longshore Estate and back through Padley Gorge. The celebrated river crossing within site of the finishing line offers excellent spectating opportunities (!).

The route is well marshalled and partially taped.

This race is suitable for newcomers to fell racing and requires no local knowledge or navigational skills.

Phew, that’s OK then.

So it was, at the appointed hour, I stood outside waiting for my pick up just as the heavens opened and freezing torrential rain started to pour out of the sky. This was not the plan.  However, dear reader, this is also a learning point potentially. For the conscientious-if-not-keen runner such as myself, making an agreement to meet is half the battle.  I’d never have gone out for a run in my own in the face of such inclement weather, but we’d agreed, so what can you do?  You have to turn out don’t you.

Thank you running buddy for sweeping me up and out of the rain. We peered through the rain beating down on the windscreen and squinted through the mist as we headed out to Grindleford.  The rendezvous point was at the Cricket Club Pavilion, where at 7.30 on a Tuesday evening there was ample parking. We sat waiting for our other Smiley compatriots to appear.  We didn’t risk venturing out the car. Who’d want to step out into that?  Besides, seated where we were, we had a great view of a rather intrepid ground maintenance guy. He was mowing the near vertiginous slopes of grass that were alongside and behind the clubhouse with what looked alarmingly like an electric powered lawnmower.  I seem to remember something in my science O levels about the perils of eletricity and water mixing  in the proximity of a person.  Or was that Frankenstein?  Anyway it was pretty impressive.  It seemed to me reminiscent of that sport of extreme ironing.  You know where people take ironing boards to remote and inaccessible places and then iron random items of clothing. To be fair, this extreme mowing looked more hazardous. Wet slippery slope, and storm overhead.  High adrenalin inducing activity I’d say.  There are no photos of the extreme mowing in action, so here is an extreme ironing one instead.  Enjoy.

440px-Extermeironingrivelin

After a bit, four of us assembled, and we had to leave the sanctuary of the car.  Fortuitously, we had all got some sort of wet weather gear with us, even though we’d all been caught out by the elements.  Beyond my running jacket, I rather stupidly hadn’t brought anything else.  I know it’s summer but it got darker than I expected and with hindsight a head torch, whilst not necessary this time, would probably have been sensible just in case.  I hadn’t even worn my fell shoes.   This is my problem.   Hope over experience.  I have done a few fell races now, but I still am astonished to find that they all involve rough terrain and… a hill! Why is that always such a surprise?  I think I just block out the bad memories otherwise I really would never venture out in the peaks again.

This run was no exception.   We set off at a steady pace down a little road, over a wooden foot bridge and then almost immediately off down a footpath into the woods.  I say down a footpath, but you know what?  It was definitely UP.  A lot of up.  I was puffing and feeling hopeless in next no time, just like I was doing a ‘proper run’.  Fell races have hills, there is a clue in the name.  To be fair, in the grand scheme of things this was by no means the steepest or longest of available hauls heavenwards.  But, it was enough of a challenge to me, trying to drag my weary carcass contrary to the pull of gravity that I was seriously wondering if this ‘joyfully venturing out with others’ was just romantic nonsense.  Running uphill is hard, and this wasn’t the most auspicious of starts.  One of our quartet sped by like a little rocket. Impressive.  I caved in and started walking.  I will concede it was beautiful though. The rain was heavy enough that it penetrated the tree canopy, but it was so green.  Full of moss and ferns, and, unsurprisingly perhaps, we had the place to ourselves.

grindleford moss

As we reached the top of the path, I realised I’d made the rookie error of not having started my tomtom, so all that elevation was completely wasted on me.  It wont be on strava so it never happened, whatever my calves might be telling me the day after.  Oh well.  I had no idea of the route, seeing my role here as follower rather than leader.  The consensus of those in the know was that the fell race would probably carry on through the woods for a bit, but that might take us into private land and no-one was really confident about the exact path.  Instead, we headed off through a little gate and along a path in green, green fields.  Heading towards Longshaw. To my embarrassment, I didn’t realise how these paths all connect together.  It’s in fact ridiculously close.  The fields were beautiful, and this was a gentler gradient albeit still uphill.  I can’t really talk and run, which, made me feel as if I was being a bit antisocial. On reflection though, it was – and indeed perhaps always is – probably a blessing for those compelled to run alongside me!

I don’t really know where we went exactly, but we did end up at Longshaw, and seeing spring lambs cavorting and staring cattle and calves silently observing our progress.  It was a gorgeous route.  With a good flat section on fairly solid paths for those who wished to stretch out.  Hang on, I’ll get the strava route for you. It’s incomplete, but you’ll get the idea.  See if you can spot the missing section?  Not exactly a mensa challenge is it?

grindleford recce route.jpg

We emerged and crossed a road towards Padley Gorge, where we thought we’d have to paddle across a stream, but were able to pick our way across on stepping-stones staying pretty dry. Into more lovely woodland.  Maybe because the uphill bit was now behind me, or maybe because my legs were warmed up by now, or maybe I’d just settled into the new running company this was bit was the most fun.  We hopped and picked our way over the bouncy woodland tracks, and tried to remember to look up and around us not just down at the tree roots and random stones.  We took time to pose for selfies (very important) and agreed how lovely it was to be out and about.  We weren’t out for very long really, but it does transport you to a seemingly parallel universe.  The rain had stopped.  The gradient was in our favour, as the paths ahead led down, ironically, things were looking up.

We emerged, more road.  And then I got very confused about where we went.  We sort of cut across what must have been a very over-grown footpath, alarming various sheep that were clearly unused to pathfinders emerging from the nettles and thistles at all, let alone at seemingly superhuman (er hem) speed.  We ended up on a lovely green, flat flood plain, alongside the river.  My faster companions sprinted ahead.  I take seriously my role in life as ballast at the back, so didn’t deviate too much from that.  I caught them up as they stopped, staring at the alarmingly fast flowing river.  We had to cross it.  The irony that we’d endeavoured to stay dry up top, only to now plunge in water and get completely soaked was striking. Even so, there was little alternative.  Our pathfinder leader espied some steps on the opposite bank, that she declared to be ‘familiar’.  Good enough for the rest of us.

Like the billy goats gruff, we took it in turns to wade across.  It wasn’t massively deep, though a lot deeper than I’d anticipated for sure, well over  my knees.   It also felt pretty firm underfoot – but what was more disconcerting was the current.  I don’t know how experienced fell runners sprint through such crossings. I’m built for solidity, but I felt like my legs were going to be swept from underneath me.  It was fun though.  You feel kind of intrepid, but it’s actually pretty tame in the grand scheme of things.  Even so, I did rather regret my choice of shoes. Inexplicably, despite the fact this was a fell race recce, as referenced earlier, I hadn’t thought to wear my fell shoes, but instead was wearing my new hoka trail ones.  I do really like them, but my fell raisers would have been better.  Water went into my hokas alright, but doesn’t drain out in the effortless fountain I’ve come to expect as the standard response from my fellraisers.  Ah well, we live and learn I suppose.  I may be slower than others on the uptake at time, but I daresay I’ll get there eventually.

The river crossing complete, there were a few short steps and then, the moment you were waiting for, a style!  We aren’t completely stupid, the style was padlocked, necessitating a clamber over.  I’m not sure quite why. We weren’t doing it just for fun or ostentatious ‘tough mudder’ training.   Probably we had committed an inadvertent trespass, but there was no-one standing with a gun making us retrace our steps so that was OK.  Rather just our lovely pathfinder with her phone to capture the exact moment of our stylish exit from the trail.  You can judge for yourself exactly how much the camera loves us!  I know. A thing of wonder indeed!

Inevitably, as I’d spent the whole run completely clueless as to our exact whereabouts, I was a bit surprised to find we were pretty much back where we started.  Just the playing fields themselves to cover with an optional sprint finish.  In the middle of it sat a somewhat incongruously placed mandarin duck.  It pointedly ignored us I felt. This was a duck that would not be moved. It sat motionless, and fearless as we ran by.  I don’t have a picture of the actual duck, but here is one for illustrative purposes, they can sort of make themselves all small and tucked up.  Amazing creatures really.  Gotta love a duck.

george mandarin duck1

And that was it. Run over.  Game over. We were back with the cars.  Grindleford yomp concluded.  By the way, the extreme mowing cycle had been completed in our absence. I must say the ground looked splendid. The mower operative was pushing his mower across the car park and both appeared intact. On this occasion at least it seemed he had survived the challenge and neither tumbled in front of the roaring blades of his run away mower at any critical point, nor been struck by lightning.  He lives to mow another day….. this time.

The conclusion dear reader?  Despite my initial reluctance, poor shoe choice and the inclement weather you know what.  It WAS fun.  My running buddies were supportive, encouraging and great company.   And you know what – sometimes they have running demons to wrestle with too!  Who knew.  I’m not the only person in the world ever to be riddled with self-doubt over running, or to have misplaced their running mojo.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say my confidence to get out and get running has returned.  But I would say that my desire to try to find my running mojo again has.  It is true it seems that:  ‘I really regret that run’ said no-one ever.

regret

So if your running mojo currently seems AWOL.   Worry not, like a long forgotten missing sock, it is probably still out there somewhere, and you can expect to be unexpectedly reunited in time.  No-one expects the unexpected of course, so you won’t believe me.  I’m not sure I do myself.  But in the meantime, surely there is no harm in yomping out in search of it.  The search is part of the fun.

So thank you for the unexpected yomp out and about Smiley running buddies.  You are smiling, shining stars indeed.  Go you!  Go us! Go everyone! Don’t think, just run. There will be cake!

dont-think-about-it

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