Posts Tagged With: motivation

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

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

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

ullswater steamer 2012

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

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

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

rude awakening

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

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

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

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

skipping games

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

hiding under table

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 three peaks yacht race

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

DOUGAL-AND-THE-BLUE-CAT-006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woodrun spies

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

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

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

happy innocence

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

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

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

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

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

Filthy Foursome

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

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

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

Ullswater non sailing route

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

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

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

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

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

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

gaggle of smileys

That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.

🙂

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

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

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.

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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

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

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

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

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

parkrunning in the rain

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

right idea clothing wise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Naked-Running-Races-1.png

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

make it so

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

running in rain

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

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

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

aah go on

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

For Sheffield Hallam parkrun seventh birthday post see here.

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

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

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

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

DD joy of running

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

PeakTrails30Map

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

Body glide services available at registration

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

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

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

Parking

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

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

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

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

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

Route Descriptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DD 12 starting out

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

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

leg one marshal

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

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

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

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

limb valley marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dibster team

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

marshal hugging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poignant farewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ultra talks

So basically, no regrets.  A grand day out.

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

retired shoes

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

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

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

 

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

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

Longshaw Revisited: Resolute Romping Round the Rear

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

Loving Longshaw

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

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

pledge photos

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

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

chicken licken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kit requirements

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

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

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

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

sign up form

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

running buddy

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

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

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

everyones favourite marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valley Hill Runners

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

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

Happy running til next time.  🙂

flags out

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

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

Lost in running? Dig Deep Recce freestyle.

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

dd recce heather

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

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

PeakTrails30Map

Oops.

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

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

oops route

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

DD be nice

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

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

 

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

 

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

DD smiley celebrities

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

DD smiley selfie

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

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

 

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

dig deep dead tally

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

DD rural scene

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

 

and that was that.  Homeward bound.

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

What is this by the way?

DD no idea

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

The end.

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

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

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

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

sighting the start of the musical mile

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

event guide 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

make it so

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

Strava

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

parking voucher

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

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

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

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

MJ tiger tiger

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

awol calm before the storm

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

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

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

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

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

exploring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

musical mile

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

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

TV career launch video

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

dancing queens

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

musical mile not posing at all

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

musical mile start off

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

Musical mile route

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

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

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

bling plenty of bling

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

friends at the start

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

tomtom pacer with jess

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

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

Grand warm up

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

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

As we headed off, it dawned on me that it was indeed a long haul up that hill.  It was a steep, steep and somewhat demoralising climb.  You hoik yourself up, and after what seemed like an age, you get to the first sign (literally, it was a hi-vis poster) warning