Posts Tagged With: motivation

Marathon Madness? Taking on the long and lonely trails. Reet nice out though. :)

Digested read: my marathon training preparation may be lamentable in conventional terms, but I’m trying.  I did a looooooooooong walk of the Sheffield Round Walk yesterday and it was reet nice out (get me and my Sheffield riff).  We are so lucky to have all this on our doorstep in Sheffield.  Get out and make the most of it people, you will not regret it.  I promise.

It occurred to me dear reader, that you might have been wondering how my marathon training has been going.  I know I have.  It’s quite a worry.  Can’t lie.  I’m scared.  Terrified even.  I have spectacularly failed to get into any kind of running routine, which I’m pretty sure is the key to any consistency in training and getting close to achieving this goal.  I’ve been thwarted to some extent by ice, snow, house move related annoyances (who knew you have to waste whole weeks of your life waiting in for people various who may or may not come), and my confidence has taken a knock.  I have difficulty even in saying out loud ‘I’m doing the London Marathon this year‘ in case people openly laugh in my face.  I need to do so though, to make it real.  I suppose inside I must believe this is possible, or I wouldn’t be putting myself through it, but a huge cloud of self-doubt hovers overhead. I wish that would go away, it isn’t really helping, and maybe it’s that black cloud that is lowering the temperatures to such an extent that black ice makes even stepping outside the front door too hazardous to contemplate let alone venturing further afield.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

There have been some minor steps in progress along the way.  I got a London Marathon place, that’s a biggy, with the ballot odds as they are for the London Marathon.  I am not starting from nothing. I have to keep reminding myself of this.  I may be a slow runner, and generate a reaction of incredulity rather than admiration in those that see me out and about training, but I have got round a fair few events now.  Including the Sheffield Half and the Dig Deep 12.12, both of which I was pretty sure were almost impossible before I actually did them. The almost is critical here.  I knew they’d be hard, but deep down inside I thought sheer bloody-mindedness should see me through.  However, with an actual marathon I’m not so confident.  I fully appreciate that the jump from a half to a full marathon is a huge one.  I won’t be able to blag it, and I have to recognise that whilst I’ll give it my best shot, I can’t possibly know how I’ll cope until I’m doing it.   Preparation is key, but oh my, how much does life/ the elements/ injury get in the way of it.  I suppose if it wasn’t a challenge there wouldn’t be much point in doing it, but aargh, I wish I was further on that I am as we enter February.

What I did do, just before Christmas, was see a physio because I was angsty about miscellaneous niggles and stiffness, and I didn’t know if I was developing hypochondria, Munchausen’s or whether my body was actually disintegrating by the hour.  On balance, I was pretty sure it was the latter.  Whilst I didn’t want to give up before I’d started, I wasn’t over keen on having body parts fall off either on the way round the London route or during training.  I thought a check up might help.  On a serious note, my real fear at my age (50+) and with no natural sporting aptitude whatsoever, is getting injured in training.  In my heart of hearts I think if I make it to the start of the London Marathon uninjured, I’ll make it to the end.  However, I didn’t fancy embarking on a training plan when my calf was all exploding with cramp and my legs wont bend properly.  It’s no an auspicious start is it, when your body is in constant protest if you try to run, it’s hard enough overcoming my mental reluctance to set foot out of the door.

Well dear reader, the visit to the physio was a great move.  Apart from the mysterious ability of physios to do magic mendy things with their bare hands, it was very reassuring. So I went to see a local physio who I picked because I’d previously been to their ‘preventing running injuries’ workshop, and that was really good, and for me, relatable.  I’m a recreational runner, not part of a sporting elite, and I felt it had a lot of realistic, ‘common sense’ type information and advice I could understand and implement.  Probably.  So I made an appointment just before Christmas and on a chilly day limped over and then spewed out all my concerns at the feet of the poor physio.  In essence, I’m supposed to be doing the London marathon, but my knee niggles, my calf complains, my legs laugh at me, my back aches, and I’ve hardly run for a month due to, well life basically, getting in the way. Oh yes, and due to me being generally a bit crap. That too.  And I keep seeing other people posting their Strava triumphs and I’m way behind them and… well ‘what am I thinking? Who am I trying to kid?  What should I do?’  That kind of thing.

So her first question was:

Do you actually want to run the London Marathon?’

This was in fact a really good question.  Because I absolutely do, but I get that maybe some people, on receiving a ballot place that they never seriously thought they’d win, panic and feel obligated to go through with something for which they never had any real serious intent.  I’m not in that category.  I really, really want to do this.  So much so, that I can hardly breathe (and not only when I’m trying to run), but I am scared of not doing it justice and I don’t really know how to go about it. Well I do in theory I suppose, but doing it for real is another thing altogether!  Anyway, the sincerity of my response told me, as much as her, that yep, I’m absolutely up for this, but I want to avoid injury in training at all costs.  I believe if I start, I’ll finish.  Probably, well I hope so.  My main challenge is to keep injury free so I can do the training.

Yes I do!  I really do, but I just want to get around, I’m not fussed about time‘, I practically wailed.  Hopefully, she’ll have seen all this before, and I didn’t scare her (too much).  She did move offices quite soon afterwards though I noticed, but I expect that’s just a coincidence.  Anyway, her reply was quite reassuring:

That was my next question. Are you aiming for a particular time?  Because if not, then it’s completely doable, you could do it tomorrow, it might not be pretty and it might break you afterwards, but it is doable.  So right now, we just need to get you back to running regularly and build up from there

Easy.  Logical too I suppose.  It is nonsense to compare myself to other people, especially when they are inherently fit and 25 years junior to me.  I have to start where I’m at, and not be deflected too much by training schemes that aren’t relevant to me and might actually be detrimental.  So instead, she did her magic physio fairy dust and healing hands and tweaked and shifted muscles and limbs so I left with them functioning OK, and I re-set my running aspirations more realistically, and left with a plan to build up miles on my legs with walking, and just start doing what I can regularly, because frankly anything is better than nothing, and procrastination is not my friend.  Turns out I’m not broken, though I am stiff, and there is no reason why I can’t run apart from previously referenced innate inability and lack of personal motivation.  Which is what I said, not her by the way, I think most physios are trained not to pass judgements as harsh as those we pass on ourselves, even if they are true.  Well not out loud anyway.

So I need to get going, and I need to remind myself why I want to do this, and it’s actually hard to articulate without resorting to memes or clichés. What the hell, let’s use those:

 

See.  Nothing like over-worked clichés to put you back on track!  What none of these cover though, is the fear of failure.  If I blow this chance… well I shudder at the thought.  I need to hang on to the ‘why’ as that may help motivate me.  Even so, with all the motivation, and all the help at hand, I’m still struggling to put together a workable plan and put it into action.

So, my plan, such as it is, is to acknowledge, I’m not going to be able to run the whole thing, so I need to accept that, and pace myself accordingly.  It also means, there is little point in me doing ever longer long runs in my training, lengthening the distance by 10% each week (though I now know that’s an over-ambitious figure anyway) as if I waited until I could continuously run the required distances before extending, I’d never get beyond 10k.  Instead, I’m going to do some Lucy style training.  This is idiosyncratic I know, but I’m hoping not entirely without merit.  So, the plan is, accept my limitations, but put a lot of focus on miles on the legs and hours on my feet.  I am resigned to the fact it is going to take me a loooooooong time to get around the London course, well, I want to get my monies worth by being out as long as possible, obvs.  Hence, that’s what I need to replicate in training.  I’ll keep my staples, my weekly parkrun, and two other runs a week.  However, once a week, I’m going to go out and do a really long walk, the plan is just start by walking, literally, because I know I can do that. As my fitness improves, I’ll start running sections, and, the theory is, over the coming weeks, the percentage time I spend running as opposed to walking will increase, so I might not be extending my runs in the conventional way, but I will extend my running time and at the same time clock up distances without risk of injury from over-training.

It helps that I have the Sheffield Round Walk (about 15 miles) right on my doorstep. This takes in some lovely views, its a fair old hike, so that’s miles on the legs, and there’s some respectable elevation too, about 1,864 ft.  That’s got to help with cross training, surely?

sheffield round walk map

Here it is again, I give you the Round Sheffield Run Route via Strava.   Lovely 🙂

strava round sheffield run sheffield round walk route with elevation

There is a really good outdoor city guide to the route but weirdly, and I speak as someone who has done the run/ walk many times, it seems that it is only signposted if you do it in an anti-clockwise direction.  The signage is patchy to be fair, and I doubt you could to it ‘in reverse’ if you didn’t already know the route.  Anyway, I digress, the point is, I decided I needed to just test my fitness, and head out and do the 15 mile (ish) walk.  So that’s what I did.

First though, I googled ‘can I train for a marathon in 12 weeks’.  Astonishingly, google was not all that conclusive or personalised in its advice. Though I did come across a hilarious training programme that basically started from zero, assuming three runs a week.  And the first long run was 6 miles, and you kept adding 2 or 3 miles each week, until you got to 22 miles and then climaxed with the actual marathon. So that’s very easy.  Looks good on paper indeed.  I conceded, not without some reluctance, that browsing hypothetical training plans was less helpful than actually going out and getting some miles on my legs.  The day before had brought with it blizzards and biting sleet, not so much ‘wintry showers’ as shards of glass, flying at you through the sky, from all directions!  Yesterday though, there was something of a break in the weather. This was the day.  I will do this.  I deliberately wore walking rather than running shoes, so there was no pressure or temptation to run.  I’d actually been ill earlier in the week.  Properly, in bed with a temperature, so I didn’t want to overdo it, but I did want to head out.  I wrapped up in warm clothes, and took water and some cash and off I went.  Beginning with a  march down to Endcliffe Park.

It was reet nice out!  Bit nippy, but bright sunshine, some ice. Endcliffe park café was mysteriously surrounded by thick-set security guards in hi-viz and what looked like an ambulance response unit.  Also the café was shut.  Turns out they were filming something, I don’t know what, but hey ho, that was novel.  I made my way through the park and up towards forge dam and beyond up to Ringinglow. And do you know what. It was gorgeous. My legs felt strong, the air was fresh, the few people around friendly.  I feel so lucky that we in Sheffield have all this on our doorstep.  Underfoot, the terrain wasn’t great. The higher up I got, the thicker the ice and/or mud. There were some cheery exchanges with other walkers out and about debating whether or not we’d make it up or down depending on which direction we were heading off in.  I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to run in this, even if I’d been wearing my fell shoes.  Not so much the mud, but the ice, I just don’t know if my shoes would cope.

Plus, I wouldn’t have fancied getting ankle-deep in icy mud early on, on a 15 mile route march, cold feet are grim.  Wet cold feet are grimmer still!  But you know what, it was glorious.

Look at this:

reet nice out

Actually, I’m not sure the photo does it justice, but you get the general idea.

Down through Limb Valley, where tree-lined banks loom up beside you. There was no-one about, but it was truly spectacular.

tree line

Coming down towards Whirlow the light made some of the trees take on amazing silhouettes.  Check out this giant rhinoceros beetle!  I know.  Huge.

and then you are in Ecclesall woods, and there were mysterious hidden dens and some stunning pine trees. The sound of this wood is different from the march up through Whitely woods.

Emerging from here, you cross Abbeydale road, and encounter the killer steps.  Even though this is a walking section for the Round Sheffield Run, they are not for the faint hearted.  I felt my energy levels subsiding, I promised myself a drink of water when I got to the top and wished I’d brought some food with me as well.  It’s astonishing how long it takes to walk this route. Even though my ‘running’ is comically slow, it is still apparently, a lot quicker than walking the same distance. It was lovely out, but I was beginning to nurse dark thoughts. I’d not even walked 10 miles yet and I was flagging, how am I supposed to run 26 plus miles!  I tried to remind myself that I’ve still got time to train, London is flat, game’s not over yet, but the enormity of the challenge is pretty clear.  I gave a hollow inward laugh as I wondered if with training I’d find myself scampering up these same steps a few weeks from now.. Doubtful  But you know what’s really, really annoying?  It’s that in photos the steps look completely innocuous. Inviting even.  How the camera lies.

Like I said.  Really annoying.

The temperature started to drop, and truthfully, I started putting my head down and just marching through, there were fewer photo stops, and more inward cursing my lack of fitness.

On the plus side, I could still put one foot in front of the other, I would do this, and next time will be lots easier.  There were still lovely surprises to take in along the way. Catkins, I defy anyone to look at a catkin and not feel joy.

Even on the grimmest, litter strewn part of the walk, just after graves park when you go down alongside a school I think and down a steep narrow path where discarded syringes play for space alongside cans, crisp packets and other rubbish there were little moments of joy.  Like this bench, which I’d never noticed before has little carvings on it. How lovely is that.  And the bright yellow gorse, that doesn’t just attract rubbish onto its thorny foliage, but was full of bright flowers.

I’d like to think that maybe in the summer I’ll come back to this path with a bin bag and gloves and do a litter pick, it was pretty bad.  Looks like a rat run for the school perhaps, or maybe it’s just the way the landscape funnels the wind so rubbish from everywhere gathers. Depressing though.

Not depressing, was the group of walkers I found at the bottom of the hill. Raucous, not particularly appropriately dressed for the elements but having a ball.  One had lost his shoe in the mud and, to much hilarity, others were shouting advice but offering little in the way of practical assistance.  A micro adventure in the moment. That is what happens if you head out and about, running or walking or otherwise.

I can’t lie, I nipped into the co-op on my way to Meersbrook, but I was starving.  I remembered I needed to buy some loo paper too, but decided that even though the large packs were on special offer, carrying a 9 pack of toilet rolls for the remaining 3 miles of my walk might not be the best of plans, even by my low standards!

Quick check of the Bishops House, and the amazing view, which in the winter sunshine gave all the building really clear outlines.  It was like looking at a painting.  You could even see the snow on the hill tops beyond the city buildings.

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Then as I left the park, there was a curious lost creature.  I thought it was a teddy at first, but it was sort of pig like.  Very peculiar.  I hope it found its way home. The temperature was plummeting, and globules of icy rain spitting down on me.  Not nice to be out and about.

lost creature

There followed my least favourite bit of the Round Sheffield Run/ Sheffield Round Walk.  Quite urban, and something of a shock to find yourself in amongst houses and shops and the paraphernalia of daily life after the relative solitude and loveliness of being up on them there hills.  However, on this occasion, things were looking up.  I’d been inwardly debating what to do for my Smiletastic ‘find something appropriate for Valentine’s Day on your run’ in order to bagsy my individual bonus point for the w/c 12 February.  Being somewhat cynical about the whole idea of Valentine’s Day, my original idea was to write a pamphlet on why it’s a cynical capitalist construct and be done with it, but I wasn’t sure that would be accepted as being quite within the spirit of the challenge.  Imagine therefore my delight at seeing this, a symbol of the disposable nature of romantic love if ever I’ve seen one. Brilliant:

Rubbishing romance (1)

There followed more hearts, bringing new gloriousness to this part of the route.  How have I previously missed these I have no idea.  I’m quietly confident my Valentine’s Day Smiletastic claim is in the bag.  Hurrah!

I had a bit of a spring in my step after that.  Maybe because of that, I was feeling the Smiletastic love, so noticed with new eyes the colourful mural on the back of B&M.  It’s an area of Sheffield where a group have worked really hard to create a garden of sorts and a colourful picture of native wildlife – albeit not entirely to scale.  Although the grasshoppers were not evident in the picture, other Smiletastic 2018 teams (dragonflies, ladybirds and bees) are represented.  Surely a symbol of our collective endeavour?  Do you think it would be better if the hedgehog is the size of a ladybird or the ladybird is the size of a hedgehog?  I’m not sure. I’m thinking a dinky little hedgehog would be rather delightful, but a giant ladybird somewhat terrifying.   Especially if it was an invasive harlequin ladybird. They aren’t good news.  This looks like a proper native one though, so that’s OK.

From there, that was it, nearly home.  15 and a bit miles later, weary feet, but job done.

What I’ve learned.

  1. I need to do more long outings to get miles on my legs, it has to help with stamina and cross training, those hills are killers.
  2. My base line of fitness isn’t great, but nor is it the worst in the world.  I just need to stick with it and not get disheartened too quickly.
  3. Foam rollering afterwards did genuinely help with my calves.  Note to self, need to read up how to do this properly so I don’t just slide about/ off the foam cylinder, but at least I’ve now got it out of its wrapping and created a space for foam rollering. It’s only taken me two years to do this.  Progress.
  4. Food would have been a good idea, I was out for ages.  I didn’t feel weak exactly, but I think I’d have been more cheerily disposed to the second half if I’d taken some peanut butter and Marmite sandwiches with me.
  5. Sheffield is ace.  The Sheffield Round Walk is full of surprises, worth doing a bit more slowly than usual
  6. Why do the Sheffield Round Walk signs only direct you one way round? I’d like to do the route in reverse, but I think I’d get lost, the signage is pretty rubbish.
  7. At some point, I am going to have to do some actual running on my training runs.  A harsh but incontestable truth.

So, I think from yesterday’s excursion all is not completely lost in relation to the London Marathon, but I do have a very long way to go.  In summary,  this is what have I done towards the marathon so far:

  • Secured a place – that’s quite a biggy actually, and I know against the odds I have been incredibly lucky
  • Booked a train ticket and accommodation
  • Been to see a physio
  • Googled training plans ‘is it possible to train for a marathon in three months?’
  • Gone for a very long walk
  • Got angsty about what other people are doing
  • Signed up to do Smiletastic

Well, it’s a start, a small step along the way, and you know what, that’s how every journey and every run starts.  One foot in front of the other.  Then repeat.  How hard can it be?*

I hope a few short months from now to look back on this post and laugh with joy at having achieved the seemingly almost impossible.  I recognise I may have to face an alternative truth, wehre I look back on this post and laugh at my naivity for even thinking I could try.  No worries.  I’m not going to predict the outcome now and make it into a foregone conclusion. Other people have done this, why not me.  Plus, think of the bragging rights, and the getting to feel invincible, even if only for a moment. That’s some runners’ high to hold out for.

What are the odds? Who knows.  I don’t believe anyone can run a marathon, let’s face it, not everyone would even want to –  I’m not sure I even believe I can, but I do believe I can give it a darned good shot, and find out by trying.  I also know from watching the London Marathon that the people who finish aren’t necessarily those you think will.  It’s a mental strength and tenacity that carries people through. Why me?  Why should I get around? Well, why not me?  Let’s do this.  Here’s holding out for the time I can say, been there, done that got the t-shirt.  Now wouldn’t that be something…  Just so you know, if I do, this wont be me:

told noone

Run a marathon without talking about it!  Pah.  On the plus side, I’ll be way too self-absorbed to notice if you aren’t listening, even if you have your fingers in your ears shouting ‘don’t care, don’t care‘, so nothing to worry about on that score.  Plus, I’ll probably be unable to walk for months after, so you’ll have no worries getting away from me.

Also, it’s only a marathon. Not like an ultra on the Dig Deep weekend or anything.  Now that really would be a tale to tell….

*Rhetorical question.  I know the answer. I am just not ready to hear it spoken out loud.

 

For all my Round Sheffield Run related blog posts see here, scroll down for older entries.

For all my London Marathon related blog posts see here, scroll down for older entries.

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

Healing Botanicals – communal golden segment bagging by team dragonfly for Smiletastic 2018

Digested read: we dragonflies met, we ran a golden segment in the Sheffield botanical gardens together as stipulated by our running club’s Smiletastic challenge, we departed, but not before we’d taken some photos.

botanical dragonflies meaning

So that’s good to know. We, the Dragonfly Smiletastic team is pretty awesome if you believe everything that comes up in a Google search, which for the purposes of this blog post I most definitely do.  Whether or not other users of the Sheffield Botanical Gardens fully appreciated that witnessing us bagging a Smiletastic golden segment this lunchtime was an opportunity for them to move closer to self-realisation, and greater emotional and mental maturity that might bring an understanding of the meaning of life within their grasp I’m not sure.  To be honest, I’d go so far as to say I’m actually dubious.  I guess we running dragonflies were as pearls cast before swine.   We were a lovely sight to behold all the same don’t you think?

Botanical gardens dragonflies fly past

Not to worry, their loss.  Anyway, the actual meaning of life is now widely accepted as being 42, so perhaps they didn’t feel any need to engage with our running exploits. It’s a thought?

meaning of life is 42

The point is,  Elder Smiley stipulated that the Golden Segment to be run this week, was located in the Sheffield Botanical gardens, and because we Dragonflies are a social and supportive lot, those of us that were able to do so, congregated outside the Pavilion Glasshouse to run it together this Friday lunchtime.   This also involved quite a lot of companionable and nurturing chit-chat, and was followed up with a bit of a walk. But that’s OK, because walks are not only an acceptable strategy within the rules of Smiletastic, making it compatible with taking a buggy out with you, but walking is also highly recommended not just for marathon training purposes, but for actual marathon running,  so everyone’s a winner.  Hurrah!

So here we are assembling and being lovely and photogenic:

botanical gardens dragonflies

The Smiley youth movement rep wasn’t entirely feeling the love.

And here are some of us actually running it:

Which just goes to show that all:

Dragonfly

Runners

Are

Glorious.

Out

Nabbing

Fabulous

Little

Individual

Elusive

Segments

as companionably as they can. And this is where/ what we ran.  Only a short one, but by the time I’d run down and back and rambled through the Botanical Gardens it ended up being 5 miles.  Who knew?

botanical gardens segment and constitutional

The segment was the blue bit by the way, from the Pavilion, down, round the fountain at the bottom and back up to the top. Great place for doing hill reps…. in theory.  We didn’t entirely feel a need to check it out in practice.

That’s all.

Be seeing you.

Timitalia_-_dragonfly_(by)

😉

 

 

 

 

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

Snow fun or it’s no fun? You decide. Nine after nine Dragonflies as the Smiletastic contest continues in the snow.

Digested Read:  nippy out, but we nine dragonflies nabbed after nine Smiletastic points.  I nearly got hypothermia and died out on them there hills, but that was but a small price to pay in the name of snow art.  Smiley solidarity saw me through.

Oh my life.  That was unpleasant.  Smiletastic has a lot to answer for.  I was practically hypothermic by the time I got home from my run last night, but needs must when the call goes out from team dragonflies. One for all, and all for one. Ours is not to reason why, it might be dark and snowing and treacherous out there, but type 2 fun is still fun after all… of a sort.

In case you are exceptionally slow on the uptake and haven’t grasped what was going on here, once again, me and some fellow Smiley Paces buddies were on Golden Segment banging duties.  The blah de blah for this in brief, is that basically, Smiletastic is a three-month team-based challenge amongst fellow members of the Smiley Paces Women’s Running Club. Smiley Elder, founder of the initiative, summarises it most succinctly as follows: ‘SMILETASTIC is a motivational challenge to help runners to keep up their running targets throughout the winter months.’ Alongside committing to doing so many runs a week, bonus points can be nabbed by entering into the Smiletastic spirit, running before 7.00 a.m. and after 9.00 p.m. at night, and also, as in this case,  for running specified Strava sections, known as ‘golden segments’ which, to be fair, makes it sound like nabbing them should be way more fun than it actually is.  There are a number of team, but I’m a dragonfly, so that’s the most important one and you don’t need to worry about those bees, grasshoppers and erm, can’t even remember the other team – oh yes ladybirds.  Those other insects are of no consequence in this context.  Generally speaking though, insects are massively important to the world’s ecosystem and should be nurtured not swatted away.

We are in week three of the Smiletastic challenge, and after we dragonflies stormed ahead in week one we were knocked into second place in week two.  Whilst we do all claim to be non competitive, nevertheless we clearly can be goaded into collective action.  Case in point.  The weather this week has been horrendous.  I mean, seriously vile.  Whilst pristine snow glittering under a starlit sky might be appealing to run in, here we have had driving bullet like blizzards and lethal slush and ice in abundance.  Being intrepid is all very well, but in honesty, were it not for the impetus of my Smiletastic team buddies I’d favour staying in and working on perfecting the art of embracing an absolute rest day, – which is actually a recognised and important yet often neglected part of any decent training programme –  rather than venturing out anywhere possibly never to return…

The ‘Golden Segment’ was announced. When it went up it sounded innocuous enough, appealing even, but that was last week when the weather was altogether more clement and less life-threatening. Smiley Elder cheerily posted:

The Golden Segment for the week beginning 15th January 2018 is slightly further afield but is one you should all know and is not too difficult to get to (unless it snows!!). The link is https://www.strava.com/segments/14206248 and its called “Ringinglow Road -going up” which just about sums it up. If you run uphill from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms you’ll definitely go along it.

With a helpful Strava picture too, just in case:

ringinglow going up

Yep, that looked fine and dandy.  Bit of a hill, but nothing we Sheffielder’s aren’t all too familiar with.  Plus, classic stretch of the half marathon route, so not too complicated navigationally speaking, and it’s nice to make the effort to head out to the hills.  It would be grand.

I know it’s only 0.2 mile but remember dear reader we had to get up to it and back again.  For the record the snowy dash bit ended up at 3.1 miles plus I had to walk a bit over a mile to get down to meet my lift so I suppose I did about 5.5 miles out in the blizzard in total.  You see what happened was, the the weather changed, and every sinew in my body and brain cell in my head screamed at me to stay inside.  It went from being dank January to ‘run out of energy and supplies in antarctica‘ within a couple of hours.  No idea how that happened.  Vile is an understatement.  Don’t tell, but I was even thinking that I might duck out of this particular segment snatching session all together.  We’d prearranged to meet on Wednesday night last week, but that was before the ice storm came.  By Tuesday, there was a blizzard blowing and thick ice which meant I could barely venture out of the house on foot, let alone in a car to make the rendezvous point, and it’d be too far to run the whole way out there with my fitness levels even if I did think I’d survive the elements.  There was a bit of nervous chit-chat on our Facebook group (it’s closed, like a secret society, so don’t bother trying to find it anywhere to spy on us), but no-one really wanted to be the first to wimp out.  I think if anyone had though at this stage, there might have been an eager torrent of wussing out runners behind in tight formation.

And then.

This.

On the Smiletastic page, those pesky bees had only gone out in a blizzard being all smiley spirited and cheery against the odds.

bee’s braved the snow blizzards tonight to run the golden segment with an after 9pm finish 💪💪 thank you ladies for a lovely hill run with a muddy off road trial section added. #Teambees🐝

What’s more, they accomplished the task all solidarity and smiles, and returned a bit bedraggled and with a hood full of snow which was inadvertently emptied onto a hall floor in one case, but fundamentally not dead.  AND they were getting an extra bang for their buck by collectively achieving post 9.00 p.m. runs.

The bees are upping their game. Their fancy dress offering was a sight to behold.  Granted they may have done a bit of tinting post run with photoshop, but I believe this is how they rocked their look on the way round Graves parkrun last Saturday. Impressive, I mean some of those deeley boppers are pretty substantial, you’d think it would alter your centre of gravity, but maybe not as much as actually having your arms bound to your sides by black gaffer tape as at least one runner had to contend with.  Respect team bees.  Loving the personalised nature of the outfits too.   Can’t wait to see them all out and about again soon!

busy bees in fancy dress at Graves

One solitary grasshopper reported mournfully that they had limped out all alone along the segment and returned sodden.  Discovering en route that even her walking boots were insufficient protection against the elements as a previously unnoticed hole let a whole glacier pass through her footwear whilst she trudged up the hill.  It is testament to her great mental strength that she was still able to see a plus side, commenting ‘On the positive side I had a free microdermabrasion facial walking through the hail on Ringinglow road this afternoon!! #newrunner #illequippedgrasshopper #justaboutstillsmiling!‘  To be fair, I think that probably did merit a bonus point.  It’s hard enough going out in this, going out all alone is tougher still.  No wonder she was hearing voices from under the snow by the end of it.  Not sure who took these photos for her, she maybe was being tailed by a drone.

Well, that’s all very impressive and all, from the bees and one grasshopper (it’s a start) and it did rally our resolve.  We couldn’t cave in now could we, seeing as how the bees had been out in a blizzard.  Besides, we’d already agreed we would go for late points, and we’d already established most of us were free in principle at least and now we’d had the standard set by those pesky busy bees buzzing about … well,  we felt compelled to follow through what we started.  We would do this. We can do this!  What’s the worst…  Cue a flurry of ‘OH MY GAWD have you seen the weather out there!?’ posts.  And checks and double checks that we were all going through with it, no-one fancied heading off out up there on their own.

So urged on by a surge of ‘I will if you will‘ promises and counter promises, 8.00 p.m. came and I headed off on foot to a rendezvous point on Ecclesall Road at 8.25.  I was cold. It was freezing.  So cold in fact, that I abandoned the plan of running in a conventional running jacket in favour of a ‘proper’ walking coat.  I had a head torch and hi-viz and a bobble hat and also brought with me a bad attitude.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t too slippery underfoot, but then I was wearing my Irock shoes which are brilliant.  I stood shivering in the vicinity of where I thought we were meeting. I was a couple of minutes early but standing still even briefly brought with it a real risk of being frozen rigid to the spot.  As the seconds ticked by I started to lose confidence in whether I was waiting in the right place, which is better than losing consciousness due to cold I suppose but not the greatest of feelings all the same.  I don’t have a smart phone, so started to imagine ending my days here, collapsed in a foetal position outside the Trinity United Reformed Church – or whatever it is – whilst my dragonfly buddies were cavorting with cheery abandon in front of a cosy open fire somewhere, ignorant of my demise.  Fortunately, just as I was at the point of wondering what to do, always a worrying trend, the other liftee appeared and we shivered together for a few minutes.  Eventually, she had the bright idea of checking for messages on Facebook, and result.  We were indeed waiting in the wrong place, and our driver was similarly fretting in their car a short distance away, lamenting our absence.  A quick scurry across the road and we were all united and lift secured we were on our way, heading on up to the Hammer and Pincers.

Coming up the hill from Endcliffe Park, it was amazing how quickly the weather deteriorated.  You could hardly see out of the car as a combination of thick sleet, hail and snow tumbled out of the sky.  The roads which had been clear just a bit lower down were now lined with slush, and then piles of snow.  By the time we got to the car park, it was feeling ominous.  Good news, our fellow running buddies were already there, some waiting inside granted, but basically raring to go.  There were nine of us.  Yay!  That was heartening, team solidarity, go us.  I nearly had a tantrum as I wasn’t going anywhere without my GPS being picked up, but disaster was averted as my TomTom bleeped its satisfaction I was being tracked.  And that was it, off we went, heading out about 8.40 ish.

I was soon at the back, I’m always at the back anyway because I’m a slow runner, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling too confident as it was so dark, and the mix of ankle-deep snow / slush combo meant I couldn’t get a sense of what was under my feet.  The others streamed ahead and I got further behind. This was not joy-filled running.  It was head down, teeth gritted, try not to get run over venturing out.  ‘You go on without me‘ I called after them, as my voice was carried away on the wind.

mawson-wind1

There were a few cars around, most were OK, but one or two roared past, crazy.  The pavements were so deep in snow we ended up having to run on the road at some points and I felt vulnerable. This is not a run I’d have liked to do on my own.  Onwards and upwards, it was a bit of a trek to get to the segment, but then we could heave ho up from Hangram Lane to the Norfolk Arms.  We paused only when we got to the top – and then we ran on a bit just to make absolutely sure we’d gone far enough.. and then turned back again as pretty quickly, away from the light of the pub it was like we were heading into an abyss.  We bottled it. Back to outside the pub and then…  we espied virgin snow.

What can you do with virgin snow? Well, it was quite obviously still there for our merriment and as an outlet for our artistic talents.  One immediately went for a daintily drawn dragonfly in the soft white snow. I thought it looked beautiful.  Dragonflies are supportive, but we are also honest, and have integrity and are prone to giving one another unsolicited feedback.  At least you know where you stand.  ‘That looks like a gnat‘ said one of our number, who shall remain nameless.  Harsh I thought.

Meanwhile, I was engaged in my own excavation endeavour.   I was pretty pleased with it:

CM genius dragonfly

As ever, I find the non-running aspects of Smiletastic challenges play to my strengths more than the actual running challenges.  An observation which has not gone unnoticed by Smiley Elder.  Still, where would we Smiley Paces be without Smiley Spirit eh?  The thing is, genius as my creation clearly was, you couldn’t really get a sense of scale, and it was a perfectly Lucy-sized construction.  The best way to demonstrate this would be to wear the wings, a la creating a snow angel.  To be frank, I was ready for a bit of a lie down after all that strenuous running, so it didn’t seem to be such a bad idea at the time, and the dragonfly fitted me like a glove!

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A couple of astonishing things though that I noticed in retrospect. Firstly, bizarrely, none of the other dragonflies wanted to have a go at lying down in 6 inch deep melt water in the interests of a photo-opportunity and the outside chance of a Smiletastic point. I know!  How strange.  Secondly, despite our shrieking, and me lying down spreadeagled and motionless with Smilies leaning in around me like they’d come across a corpse in Midsummer Murders, no-one in the Norfolk Arms pub came out to help/investigate or even point and laugh.  Missed opportunity for all of them. Still, it goes to show just how bitter it was out there, not the kind of night you’d choose to venture out for anything at all, unless it was an emergency such as the need to honour a pledge to nab a golden segment in week three of Smiletastic.

After a bit, we were bored with the photos and messing around in the snow, so we headed off again back down the hill this time.  I had a brief moment of feeling ‘oh wow, my running’s really improved now I’m all warmed up, I feel like I’m flying now we’ve done a couple of miles’ before I remembered that having gravity on your side is a real asset in this running games malarkey.  Oh well, it was still an improvement on running up hill into driving hail.  I was in the most spectacular hi-viz, that lights me up like I’m my very own solar system if headlights hit it.  I’m even spherical by way emphasis.  I therefore ‘volunteered’ to stay at the back as others in the group had less hi-viz about them.  This was a great cover story for me too, since it implied ‘well obviously I could sprint all the way home, but I’m prepared to martyr myself and jog at a leisurely pace for the greater good.‘  On a serious note though, at the back as I was, it was quite shocking how invisible the group looked, despite head torches and a few reflective strips, they just disappeared into the night sky.  It was a timely reminder that hi-viz is essential on night runs, especially when you are having to venture on to the roads because the pavements are thick with ice, snow and slush.  Scary.

We paused for photo opps by Hangram Lane to match the one taken outside the Norfolk Arms.  I concede reluctantly, the bees might have managed better with their photos, but then – and I don’t like to rub it in too much but I’m only saying what is true here – they had only seven bees to fit in the frame whereas we were nine dragonflies.  Much more challenging on the group selfie front!

By the time we got back to our starting point of the Hammer and Pincers, it was well past 9.30.  I was sodden.  I was inwardly cursing at how poor the ventilation and waterproofing was on my jacket, before it occurred to me that it might possibly be that lying in the hill-top slush earlier could be a contributing factor.  Some departed, some of us went into the pub for post run refreshments.

I haven’t been in there for ages. Some shared a bottle of wine, I opted for a lime juice and soda.  It came with a plastic straw.  ‘Oh no, why have you done that?’ I exclaimed with a bit too much passion to the bemused looking bar staff.  I tried to explain that I’d not asked for a straw, so it was complete waste, and as a non recyclable item it will probably end up in the ocean, so giving me a straw is basically like sentencing an endangered turtle to a slow and painful death. I felt a bit guilty that I’d been so abrupt, but I was hyped from running, and hypothermic from snow.   In fact, it was a good thing, as after me another dragonfly also ordered a lime juice and soda – no straw.  He asked her ‘what’s with this plastic straw thing’ and she explained in more measured tones, and afterwards he said he’ll ask customers in future if they want one or not, which is only a very minor change, but minor shifts in behaviour do add up.  Nobody really needs a straw more than the oceans need to be plastic free, and if they do, paper or bamboo straws could always be used instead.  To be fair, I think the Blue Planet series has really raised awareness on this, and that’s grand.  I just hope it isn’t all too little too late…

plastic waste

It was nice in the pub to begin with.  Despite plastic strawgate, it was friendly and welcoming with a flame effect fire and lots of places to sit.  However, quite soon I started to shake with cold.  I was quite pleased when it was time to go home.  I was dropped off by my driver at Endcliffe and by then there was a fair old blizzard going.  It wasn’t a long walk home by any means, but I was quite shocked at how much the cold seemed to take hold inside.  By the time I got to my house I could hardly hold my house keys, and once I got in my skin was burning and red as the warmth of the house hit my frozen flesh. Brrrr.  We better have nabbed both a segment, and some post nine bonus points and some smiley spirit or I’ll… well, cry probably, but at least the hot tears running down my cheeks might help my face to thaw out a bit, ill wind and all that 🙂

The things we do for Smiletastic.  It is my primary source of running motivation for the early part of the year.  Without Smiletastic, I’d basically hibernate.

So the conclusion. Mainly type two fun, but type one in parts.  Definitely worth doing, there’s no way on earth I’d have ventured out to do that on my own. I still have three more runs to do this week, and I wasn’t feeling the love for running today either, still chilled through from yesterday.  Oh well. Resting is also part of training.  At least I have that part of the regime cracked.

Oh, by the way, the grasshoppers have got as far as new book cover for their ‘grasshoppers guide to running fun’.  I like it.  I’m hoping it will include vegan nutrition ideas.

grasshopper FGR SMiley guide

No idea what the ladybirds are up to.  I think they are keeping their Smiletastic strategy under wraps.  It will all come out in the spreadsheets at the end.  The suspense is killing me!

So next week, we get to do it all again, with another segment.  I wonder where that will take us? New adventures ahead, new runs to explore.  You know what, running is fun, mostly.  Running buddies on the other hand – they are awesome always.  I thank you all, but my dragonfly comrades in particular. We can crack this!  Probably.

By the way, hypothermia in runners is no joke – this blog post by Simon Green – hypothermia as a lifestyle choice really hit home to me, even experienced runners just need one bit of bad luck and everything changes in an instant. Sobering thought.  Always pays to be prepared. Keep safe out there!

Don’t have nightmares.

Do have a nice time out running… though be prepared for type 2!

no such thing

For all my smiletastic related posts click here.  Scroll down for older entries.

 

 

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The misterious pleasures of running round Longshaw…

Digested read: I went a-yomping round Longshaw with two running buddies.  It was very misty, but fantastic to get out on the moors damp as they were.  Wet feet all round, and some minor near death experiences.  Still, we all made it back safely. Note to self, learn to navigate.  Second note to self, make the effort to get out more on them there hills. Always fabulous.

seriously misterious

See what I did there?  Genius I know.  I wouldn’t go so far as to describe myself as a stable genius, that would be the declaration of only the most narcissistic idiot, but I’m happy with being a self-declared genius when the evidence of appropriate punning is so incontrovertible.  Misterious instead of mysterious.  I am ON FIRE!

So the deal was this. Yesterday morning I  rendezvoused with two running buddies, one previously unknown to me, to have a romp round the Longshaw 10k route.  There was a small flaw in the plan, well a couple of small flaws to be fair, maybe even several. For starters, firstly, I don’t think any of us had reckoned on such thick mist – you could hardly see your hand in front of your face at times.  Secondly, not having done the route for ages it’s amazing how different it all looks in a different season and without hi-viz marshals doing helpful directional pointing at key junctions and thirdly, we were all a bit at crossed purposes.  One set on doing the actual route, another on just an ‘in the general vicinity run‘ and another on the let’s go out yomping elsewhere and have an adventure.  Finally, we were all a bit ‘no, no, whatever way you think‘ with no-one really being assertive about the route or their plans. In the circumstances it’s a miracle we made it out at all, let alone back, yet out and back we did, and it was grand!

The day dawned.  Well, I say dawned, not much sun in sight, just dank and dismal mist.  We rendezvoused in the Fox House car park which was pretty deserted first thing.  Inevitably I arrived first (I’m invariably early because I’m paranoid about being late).  As I sat in the car waiting my compatriots I was feeling a bit less than committed to the prospect of running. Honestly, is there anything more depressing than rain beating down on a car windscreen which you can barely see through because of a near impenetrable fog outside, knowing that sooner or later there will be an expectation you venture out into the cold and gloom and voluntarily engage in physical exertion?  Not much I think.

Since I was early.  I used the time alone with my thoughts to consider whether or not rather than ploughing on with this ludicrous plan of running a marathon, I should rather be ending my running career on a high, and be announcing my retirement. The thing is dear reader. Something unlikely, unbelievable even and amazing has happened. Smiletastic results for week 1 have inexplicably placed me at the top of the leaderboard for individual performance!  I know, who knew? Who saw that coming?  No-one is more astonished than I. For clarification, it is the case that all my individual points were for timed runs, and week one of January offered up two parkruns on New Year’s Day, then the saturday following ‘usual’ parkrun  – other Smilies took advantage of all of these  – but where I snuck in an extra critical 5 points was by marshaling at Graves Junior parkrun, hardly a hardship. I love volunteering there.  Because Smiletastic is designed to be inclusive, you get points for marshaling/ volunteering at organised events, thus, on a technicality, it could be argued that my ‘winning’ status has little to do with running and rather more to do with boisterous high-fiving and directional pointing.  I concede this point entirely, but then again, it is precisely because of this I am most unlikely ever to equal let alone exceed this sporting triumph, greater athletes than I have quit whilst they were ahead.  If I did announce my retirement, I could avoid going out in the wet and cold and spend the morning with dry feet. Worth thinking about.  On the other hand, I do have my Dragonfly team-mates to consider, ‘one for all and all for one’, wouldn’t really want to turn my back on them now…  Only the day before we had been out in force, we mighty dragonflies, segment bagging again, this time round Millhouses park.  It was crazily busy.  Like Piccadily circus with runners hurtling round in all directions, with just as much in the way of illumination as the neon lights of the titular location.  Me and fell-flying Smiley who’d gone down together nearly ended up gate crashing a Totley AC run. Then when we were er hem debriefing afterwards in the Wagon and HorsesWagon and Horses there was a constant to and fro of I think hi-viz Steel City Striders doing intervals on the road outside.  A veritable plague of runners, I wonder how many of them are genuinely hardcore and how many are starting out with the outward confidence of  a newly forged New Year’s Resolutions albeit an inward shudder at the cold?

piccadily circus

Anyway, enough of my digression from the theme … in the event, I couldn’t announce my retirement, because I don’t have a smart phone, and also you can’t really announce anything unless people are listening, and/or are moderately interested in what you have to say and I’m not sure these particular pre-requisites applied in my case.  Maybe it’s like the tree falling in the forest and no-one hearing, does it make a noise dilemma, don’t think that’s been settled yet has it?  Maybe it has.  If only I could be bothered to google it, I’d be so much better informed. Sigh.  Here is a tastefully photographed fallen tree we saw out today at Longshaw (spoiler, you can see I did get out the car), in case you aren’t quite sure what a fallen tree looks like.  I’m going to put it out there that I believe this tree did make a noise when it fell, even though I personally was not on hand to hear it do so.  Not sure if that supports or counteracts my ‘I’m a genius‘ claim earlier.  Oh well.  I’m prepared to risk it.

artistic tree shot

Bottom line.  I’d be running. No retirement yet.

The others arrived, and had soon bounced out of their car, and our designated photographer for the day had us organised us into our ‘before’ selfie.

before shot

Although obviously it was a bit of a worry that this implied there’d be an ‘after’ shot, so we were expected to get out there and run, on the plus side, this recent photo might prove handy for identification persons if any of us were to get lost on them there hills.  Off we went.

I am so used to parking in the Longshaw car park, I headed off down the road leading the others through the fog, dodging cars as best we could. (Yes we were facing oncoming traffic, but it was so foggy).  Our designated photographer jokingly queried whether I was trying to kill her off as she’d done this route with someone else last week, and they took her a different entrance into the estate avoiding the road.  I jokingly brushed it off, inwardly cursing that this perceptive Smiletastic bee had unwittingly seen through my ruse.  Oh well.  There are still 11 weeks to go, and I have to concede she is a companionable running buddy and queen of the collective selfie so worth hanging onto … for now.

We set off (after our precautionary pees without which no run in my training calendar can be undertaken), and our initial plan was to follow the Longshaw Trust 10k route, which I’ve done loads of times before, albeit only once this year.  We started confidently, but very quickly got confused about whether we turned off quite so soon. Maybe it’s because of having to take important phone call on the way round.  Threw me.  Busy, busy, busy.

day at the office

scampering past the lake – it was surprisingly ice-covered, it didn’t actually feel too cold once we were out.

by the lake

Confusingly (for me, but then it doesn’t take much) they have greatly ‘improved’ signage at Longshaw.  I mean they really have, but the proliferation of previously  lacking signs threw me a bit, as they have a pink signed 5k route and I started to wonder if this was the 5k loop for the 10k.  No, none of us had a map, or had thought about the actual route much in advance. Turns out, if there is no marshal doing their directional pointing, then I don’t know where to go, particularly when there are three of us with varying degrees of confidence about the route.  It also shows how I abdicate responsibility for navigation at a marked event.  Not sensible really.  Part of how I managed to come in behind the tail-marker at my first fell race, blithely following signs.  Mind you, gotta love a Wingerworth Wobble, I’ll always have a soft spot for that crowd, go wobblers!

One of our number enthusiastically pointed ahead, we could embrace the adventure, we could head off up them there hills.  It would take us up high, we could yomp, what’s not to like!

Off we went.  Quickly we were out across the road and heading to new horizons, or what might have been new horizons if we could actually see anything very much, which we couldn’t.  However, you know what, it was completely brilliant. Despite my initial apprehension it is always fantastic to get out in the peaks. The area around Longshaw is gorgeous, it’s a different kind of atmospheric beauty in the mist, but you get to feel intrepid and hardcore venturing out and clambering over boulders when it’s like that.  Actual running was a bit tricky because the terrain was rough, the path unclear and it was really slippy in parts – I was wearing my innov8 parkclaw, which are my go-to trail shoes (size 5 if you’d like to sponsor me nice innov8 people), but actually I was wishing I’d got my Irocks on.  Oops, guess that’s blown the free pair of trail shoes from innov8 now, oh well, I daresay it’ll be their loss.  (Slight cough moment).

The thing is, you go out, and you get to see amazing things within just a couple of kilometers, if anything, the mistiness just made everything even more dramatic.

We even stumbled across this mahoosive rock formation which I like to think of as Longshaw’s Uluru (though it’s OK to climb this one, whereas you really, really shouldn’t be scampering around on the Australian original) but think it might actually be Mother Cap at Owler Tor.  Great opportunity for more exploring, scampering, gratuitous photographing and, inevitably, some very fine photobombing.  Had to be done.

Obviously we ran really, really hard in between times, but you can’t take photos when you are pushing yourself that hard, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.  It was an amazing spot. Check out these photos around Owler from a late summer photographer James Grant, pretty impressive are they not?  Any time is a good time to be out there and up high, you feel like you have the whole world to yourself.  Amazing. What the heck, here’s one of his photos, so you get the idea, it’s almost as good as our very own official photographer’s ones I’m sure you’ll agree.

Over-Owler-Tor-Sunset-Peak-District-Photography-1024x684

We found ourselves at one point with a choice between plummeting over the edge of the earth, which must therefore be flat after all, or going off-piste.

over the edge

We went off-piste.  Much scampering, a bit of hesitance, some shrieking, a few near misses and a bit of toing and froing. This is what makes off-road fun.  One of we three amigos was the official photographer (not me), one was our pathfinder and navigator (not me) and then there was me.  I’m not entirely sure what my role was.  Is ballast a role as such or just a state of being.

I did have one anxious moment when, simultaneously, both of my running companions took a tumble.  That raised the horrific possibility for the briefest of moments that I’d have to be the ‘responsible adult’ whilst my broken, fallen, crumpled and unconscious running buddies lay contorted in a heap together.  I did at least have a phone with me, and I know to call mountain rescue, but I don’t think I’d have been too good with instructions.  ‘What can you see?’ they might say ‘mist‘ I’d reply.  ‘Anything else?’ they’d prompt hopefully ‘ice-covered puddles and rocks‘ I’d add.  I was minded of a time (true story) when I worked in an open plan office.  A young recruit was driving to a venue she’d not been to before with a colleague, pre sat nav, they were lost on a motorway so rang the office for help with directions. As they had no idea where they were exactly, the person taking the call asked ‘what can you see?’ the reply they got ‘We’re following a volvo and there’s a lorry on the inside lane‘  I have never heard the team of an open plan office guffaw as one so loudly before or since.  It was quite a moment.  Even better, the caller heard us, and added ‘what are you laughing at?’  I reckon all those swivel chairs had to be professionally cleaned after that…

Anyways, panic over, they were fine, we ran onwards:

I tried to trick my buddies into a dragonflies wings pose, but it didn’t quite work, it’s hard this stealth dragonfly insertion strategy.  Surely some credit for effort.  The mist started to lift and as we descended the scenery changed again.  It was still a bit treacherous underfoot, with some ice patches.  I did slide about a bit, but as I explained to the others I’d be fine about my moment of demise being up there, and more than content to be just rolled into a ditch or whatever.  The timing would guarantee that my obituary could truthfully state that I was leading the field for the demanding Smiletastic challenge giving a huge implied truth that it was inevitable I’d have won it overall had I but lived, plus, I’m already on record as wanting the Khmer version of achy-breaky heart played at my funeral, or if I don’t have a funeral, at any associated wake.  It’s not so much of a niche offering as you might think. Very popular at the Olympic Stadium early morning workouts in Phnom Penh.  I know, educational this blog post is it not?

We descended, back onto the road, we didn’t hitch a lift, even though that’s what it looks like we were trying to do.  I’m not sure about my hat?  It’s a trust 10 one, but maybe a bit much other than for when actually doing the Longshaw 10k do you think?  Comfy, and stays put.  Very pink though.  Why is everything pink?

hitching a ride

Across the road, back into the Longshaw estate, where there was a fine waterfall.

Bit of a heave-ho in parts, but I was after miles on the legs rather than speed. I’ve only just got back into running (I use the term loosely) after various niggles and lack of routine) so I have a terror of getting injured.  Walking is grand for getting strength back. Apparently, if you run the load on your calves is about 8 – 12 times your body weight, but if you walk it’s just about twice.  To be fair, I have no idea if these figures are correct, but they ring true. My calves are the Achilles heel of my running, which is weird, as the achilles is somewhere else entirely. Still, you get my point I’m sure, or wont especially care if you don’t.  Bottom line, I want to take it slowly, and build up my distances without breaking anything other than involuntary wind during my training regime.  Any runner who claims never to have broken that when running is either a medical curiosity who should be euthanized and dissected for the greater good, or lying. You choose. Anyway, it wasn’t only me walking, though I do concede the hands on hips pose is somewhat petulant…

where now

We ended up looping round and coming in near to the fox house pub.  We still hadn’t done the 10k route though,  even though we’d been out ages, so after much debate, we agreed we’d add that on.

any which way you can

We had one wrong turn – oops, but got there in the end.  It was grand.  It is really remarkable how the landscape changes in what is a relatively short route.  We had woodland bits, and heather bits, and boggy bits, and heather bits.   All good.  You can see we were all complete naturals in front of the camera.

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I took a pause for dry-stone walling tutorial. There is a team doing amazing work rebuilding these, some of the walls on the estate go back about 400 years apparently, though this one is ‘only ‘ about 150 years old.  Looking good.   Repairing them is most definitely a labour of love, but imagine the satisfaction of getting those walls back up for maybe another 150 years of service. Quite a legacy.

dry stone walling tutorial

Also on our ‘to do’ list for the day. Yes we did have one. Was to go up the steps spotted on a previous run, and check out the view from the top. The steps are towards the end of teh 5k lap of the Trust 10k.  Embarrassingly I’d not particularly noticed these before – obviously running too fast and too focused on the finish.  But they are enticing… steep but with a pretty little tree towards the top.

steps gorgeous

Up we went.  You basically hit the road the other side, but turn around and look back from whence you came, and you get this:

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Really stunning. Also good for posing for shots so brace yourself people, here we are doing are very own version of the Barbary Lane steps of San Francisco.  Oh and a random non step photo just because I like it. See if you can tell which one it is.

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And so after the steps, it was back onto the main path, through the gate and we were soon back at Fox House.  Yomping concluded. The original plan had been to have a coffee here afterwards, but time ran out so we will have to save ourselves for next time. This is where we went by the way, about 12km in total I think, just under maybe:

misty longshaw strava route

Not strictly speaking a recreation of the Trust 10k, but pretty darned fabulous, and way better for achieving both a spontaneous bit of exploration as well as near enough one 5k loop of the 10k which is all that was required really.  Great to be reminded of what is on our doorstep, must make the effort to get out exploring it more all over again.

Oh yes, nearly forgot, here is the mandatory ‘after’ shot.  We did it, we ran, we conquered, made it onto Strava as well, everyone’s a winner.

after shot

So back on it.  I need to embrace those trails.  I recognise I will get wet feet, and never again see the natural skin colour around my toes, or for quite  a way up my legs too if you take the real extent of peat-stained splash back into account – but I consider this but a small price to pay for such adventures in the mist.

There you go, misterious joys of running demystified.  You’re welcome.

See you on the moors.  Unless you see me first.  Obviously.

 

 

Thanks Carol Speight for the photos, and thank you running buddies both. We are all awesome.  Evidently!

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

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new parkrun double for me… and I’m feeling good! (ish)*

Digested read: we’ve had an icy twixmas parkrun, then new year day double. Hurrah.  Best way to start the year. Shame some people have picked up a mysterious 24 hour bug, but hey ho, job done. Go us!  Happy New Year everyone.  Also, let Smiletastic commence. Isn’t parkrun grand?  Love parkrun.  🙂

*Strictly speaking, I was feeling a bit rough.  But that messes with both the scanning and the opportunity to link to a fine Nina Simone power ballad, so forgive the artistic licence with my edit.  Gotta love Nina

5898bc4adc8ba198a0161811b70f8639--nina-simone-best-songs

Is it true you are supposed to start the New Year as you mean to go on?  If so, I don’t know whether I have passed or failed in that respect.  I did make it to a parkrun, twice in fact (yay) but I also felt distinctly queasy, sleep deprived and as a consequence loped round the two different courses lard-arsed, and with little vestige of either personal propulsion or personal dignity.  On the plus side, awesome crowd, parkrun buddies old and new, with added Smiletastic Dragonfly vigour for good measure.  Maybe a case of good in parts.

Last time I posted about parkrun it was to reveal all about my ill-judged,  type 2 fun run out with Sophie at Concord on Christmas Day.  By mutual consent, this romp round marked both the beginning and end of our running partnership.  It’s OK, because she has decided she want’s to focus on her skiing – she thinks the photo ops with a backdrop of snow will be more flattering, and likewise I think I’ll have more flattering running photos too, without wrestling with a unicorn the whole way round.  Running with dignity – that would be a great way to start the new year would it not.

It sure as heck wasn’t how I ended it though.  Since Christmas,we’ve had our ‘twixmas run at Sheffield Hallam.  That was something of an experience.  Other parkruns local to Sheffield fell like flies, cancelled due to ice and slidy paths. Hallam gamely decided to brave it, but you know that it’s not going to be a PB run when you see the run director heading out with a shovel at the start don’t you?  I promise you, he wasn’t just heading out for a wild-camping inspired dump.  I know this, because I saw him ice breaking on Rustlings Road,  above and beyond my friend.  Respect to you.

man with shovel

It was something of a slide about,though those in the front of the line up seemed as fearless as ever…

how it started

but I like to think the mud snorkeling and iced pavements added a certain frissance to the occasion.  We had our very own arctic enemas and mud crawls. Who needs tough mudder anyway?

Personally, I didn’t mind at all having to take it really slowly, but maybe with hindsight I’d have bottled it.  You know it’s bad when dogs are being carried round rather than chased after by breathless runners.  Unless our resident photographer inadvertently snapped a 101 Dalmatians inspired dog-knapper at the very moment of the dogduction, must check Sheffield animals lost and found to clarify.

precious cargo

Weirdly, it’s the rise in temperature that made the compressed ice especially treacherous, not so much slush, as a perfect skidway with meltwater pooling on top of the ice. Still, all’s well that ends well.  They counted everyone in, and they counted everyone back, sighs of relief all round. What was not so grand, was discovering that apparently it isn’t running with a unicorn that makes me appear undignified in my gait.  It is the actual act of ‘running’.  The camera never lies, although it does have a very dry sense of humour it seems…

I have to accept I’m not a natural at this.  I don’t know why I keep on going really.  Hope over experience perhaps, or maybe the prospect of post-parkrun brunch?  Probably brunch.

Still, love parkrun. The more parkruns the better.  Hence, given that, as parkrun aficionados all over the world know:

New Year’s Day is the one day of the year where it is possible to walk, jog, run or volunteer at two parkruns on the same day! What better way to start 2018

I remain conscientious about the concept and commitment to parkrun if not always keen on the actual running component of the enterprise.  New Year’s Day promised the possibility of a parkrun double, and as a parkrun partaker, that was too good a chance to miss.  I couldn’t get to parkrun last year, but achieved the parkrun double the year before going to Nostell Priory and Pontefract parkruns and that was fab.  This year, a host of us were planning to go, but inevitably it got a bit complicated, there were those with injuries or hosting obligations on New Year’s Eve that might prove incompatible with undertaking a parkrun shuffle. Then, an added consideration for me at least, was feeling torn between my conflicting desires on the one hand to be constant to my regular parkrun partners and brunching buddies or on the other to take flight and throw my lot in with my new Smiletastic compatriots in our newly formed Dragonfly team. Dropping my longstanding, loyal and unswerving running companions as my head was turned by short-lived glory that might be achieved through association with such swarming irridescent beauties.  Tough call.  Seductive, aren’t they?  You’ve got to admit you’d have your head turned too, surely… and I’m way more suggestible and shallow than you probably are with your principles, stoicism, and fine running technique. Plus, well, it’s Smiletastic, that’s an annual game changer.  All previous alliances, allegiances and agreements are off.  It’s another new dawn, you exist for your team and they for you.  One for all and all for one, and everyone for post run coffee and cake (other foods and beverages are available).

For those of you not in the know, firstly, where have you been?  Secondly, in brief, Smiletastic is an annual team challenge for members of the Smiley Paces.  I did it a couple of years ago, and participation in that helped me to put in the necessary training which got me round the Sheffield Half, in a fashion.  It also was fairly traumatic, it’s a big responsibility pledging runs and knowing if you fail to deliver, you will bring your team down with you!  STRESS!  As with all running related stresses, after the event, trauma morphs almost seamlessly into nostalgia.  That was sooooooooooo fun and not at all pressurised and stress inducing!  No wonder we all worship Smiley Elder for bringing Smiletastic into being.  After a year off when I was in Cambodia, this year when Smiletastic came round it was Bring. It. On!

Better yet. I was in team dragonfly.  Hurrah.  Great, we would be mutually supportive we quickly agreed. This would be fun and about team motivation, and we wouldn’t let it get stressful and none of us were going to be competitive about it.  … mind you, doesn’t hurt to get in the mood, maybe we could pitch for some fun ‘getting in the Smiletastic spirit’ team points early on using the old tea-cosy on the head ruse, that might work?  Failing that the dragonfly trail find has to be a win right?  Loving your work fell flying smiley.

Then there is always the fancy dress dimension to be considered, but no spoilers regarding that today.  Patience dear reader, patience, that time will come…

The Smiletastic rules pronounced that individual points would be available to those who rock up at parkrun. Hurrah. That’s me in, twice, it being a New Year’s Day double there for the taking. Then, we see that if we can get more than 50% of our 13 strong team along to a timed run (such as parkrun) then there are more points to be had.  Well.  I mean, no pressure, but ‘just out of interest, who’s thinking of rocking up on New Year’s Day’.  Our Facebook exchanges were hilarious.  Artistry of expression, as we all tried soooooooooooo very hard to be mutually respectful of each others circumstances and decisions whilst desperately, desperately trying not to reveal that every one of us was furtively counting up the takers to date on our fingers to see if it might be doable.   Such was the swell of enthusiasm for the endeavour some of the ‘sorry, but categorically can’t make it‘ dragonflies were soon flitting back with a ‘but I have terrible fear of missing out, so maybe…‘. Anyway, dear reader, the upshot was, come New Year’s Day, we were all on the cusp of witnessing a miracle akin to that of dragonfly larvae emerging en masse from a pond and revealing their wings, were we to witness a similar magnificent display of dragonflies altogether for the New Year’s Day parkrun Double?

YES!

WE WERE!

It nearly didn’t happen though. I was out on new year’s eve, by no means a given for me.  My body is generally speaking a temple, albeit one for people who worship somewhat spherically inclined deities that have recently been dragged backwards through a hedge.  Even so, I can tell within a microgram when I have reached capacity for alcohol and need to cease drinking and withdraw from social situations.  On reaching this point about 11.30, I was ready to sneak away from the festivities but was caught in the act, persuaded to stay on, toast in the new year, less sleep, more alcohol, face-plant into a trifle (that was well worth staying up for) and to see the new year in with a ferocious display of fireworks.  When one went off a bit too close for comfort I learned about myself that in adversity I will try to save myself before others.  Oh dear.  I may be a horrible human being, but at least I am self-aware…  Anyway, it was a lovely new year’s eve celebration with fine hosts and fabulous folk all around, but it was not compatible with idealised double parkrun preparations.  I knew I’d be dehydrated, so drank loads before I went to bed, and then had to get up loads in the night so I wondered why I’d bothered to go to bed at all.

Sleep deprived, managing somehow to sport simultaneously an uncomfortably full bladder and a raging thirst, I staggered down to the rendezvous point where a group of us had pledged to meet and go together to the first parkrun of the day.  As I dragged my weary carcass down the empty streets, I saw a couple of people, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, cheerily jogging along. ‘What are they doing, are they crazy?’ I thought, a bit too loudly for comfort – where did that headache come from, who is it who’s shouting?  Before it occurred to me that in a way I was about to do the same, but with considerably less bounce, well boob bounce possibly, but spiritual bounce not so much.  It is an interesting (to me anyway, you can be bored if you like) concept, that parkrun has become so much a habit, that I actually no longer associate it with running at all.  It is just that when parkrunday comes around, I go and do it.  No thinking, no negotiation, it is just a case of ‘make it so’.  This is the great glory of parkrun  – and indeed Smiletastic, on days when I wouldn’t normally entertain the idea of running anywhere or for any distance at all I find I’m almost doing so by accident.  It is a wonderful thing.  Shame that I’d obviously eaten something that disagreed with me yesterday, no other explanation for my constantly shifting consciousness. Thank goodness I wasn’t doing the driving!

Astonishingly, four of us did make the rendezvous as planned!  We piled into the car, and off we went to Graves.  We expected to find the place heaving, but it seems on New Year’s Day parkrunners work on just-in-time principles.  Apart from the core team of hi-viz heroes who were out setting up the course whilst revelers from the night before were probably still making their way home.  Kudos to you guys, your efforts were and are appreciated.  🙂  (Nothing like an emoticon to make someone feel valued apparently, so that’s good).

NYD graves team

We sorted parking, and then some opted to sit in the car, I went in search of a loo.  Disaster, they were shut.  It would probably be unseemly to report that there was a fair exodus of wandering runners who all seemingly had dropped something in the bushes just before the run, and that something was possibly their pants.  Don’t know why, desperate times call for desperate measures though.

Soon, there was quite a gang assembled.  I found that, much like when I tried to save myself when the rogue firework went off, I was quite happy to ditch my loyal parkrunning buddies and lift providers at the first sniff of a dragonfly.  Found one, found more.  Then there was frenetic counting, would we make the 50% requirement.  … not that we cared, because it was all fun, but ooooh, so teasingly close.  We half-heartedly greeted others whilst distracted by our search for insect companions.  We achieved one selfie, of the dragonfly team, only one of the people within it isn’t, no matter, we can always photoshop on the missing fellow dragonflies later on, so that’s fine.

graves parkrun dragonflies

Then there was a call to gather and the Run Director’s briefing.

graves RD song line briefing

Impressively, the poet laureate for Graves had composed something for just this occasion.  You really should read the Graves parkrun report of the morning, because it contains not only pictures AND the note that this was a record-breaking start to the year with an attendance of 374 parkrun/jog/walkers AND an original poem to mark the occasion of the New Year but also the fabulous statistical insight that ‘of those taking part at Graves this morning, 131 then headed to Poolsbrook and a further 50 to Hillsborough’.  Hurrah, I do like a good parkrun stat.  I wonder how they number crunched that one.

These were pleasures yet to come.  I just know that when the shout went off to start, we went off.  It was a bit of a slow shuffle to be fair, a fact for which I was enormously grateful.  I pootled round.  Graves parkrun is actually my favourite of the Sheffield courses, because of the varied terrain, the scenic nature, the farm animals, but today it was a slog. Who lengthened the hill?  Even so, there were some – indeed many – highlights en route.  Specifically:

  • WAtching regal smiley pause to take a photo of the donkey on lap one and a goat on lap two, because if it isn’t instagrammed it never happened, apparently. That’s what she said, I still think she was angling for a lift from the donkey when I rumbled her, but I suppose we’ll never know now.
  • Spotting some fabulous junior parkrunners who instead of running were donned in over-sized hi-viz with matching over-sized smiles and proffering a succession of high fives. That was my favourite bit
  • REalising at some point that we had made the count re dragonflies
  • Seeing so many great people out and about, parkrun is a huge community of joy, because the double parkrun options locally are a bit limited, it seemed everyone had congregated at Graves today.  ’twas truly a wondrous sight to behold.
  • Finishing, without actually asphyxiating on the way round
  • Realising, once again, that you always have a parkrun within you somewhere, even if in your heart you’d rather be under the duvet still

On completion, people vanished pretty rapidly. Some speedy runners were aiming to do their double at 10.00 a.m. at Hillsborough – ambitious!  They had an express checkout for barcode scanning. No really, they did!  We more leisurely doublers, were headed to Poolsbrook.

Thank you fine people of Graves parkrun for your hospitality, your poetry and your fine organisation and winning smiles and ways as always.

Farewells were said, and off we went again. Not exactly in convoy. As in, not in convoy at all, it was a bit of a rural magical mystery tour to get to Poolsbrook parkrun I was just passively parasitic, I left it to other with GPS and initiative to get us there.  I only pitched in when I saw the sign for the country park, which I concede was probably a bit of a case of ‘too little too late‘ not sure they’ll buy ‘it’s the thought that counts’.

As we neared the entrance, I realised for the first time that Pools Brook is actually two words not one. Didn’t notice that when I was last here for the inaugural Poolsbrook parkrun (which was good actually, though now I understand new events try to discourage people from attending inaugurals so they have a chance to bed in first. Good point, well made.  Respect that people.)

pools brook country park

The place was heaving, and cars were being turned back from the park, so we ducked into a sort of industrial park alongside where there was space to park on the side roads.  It was freezing, and we were still quite early.  We sat for a bit, until i saw a carload of dragonflies rock up, and that, and my need for a precautionary pee, were enough for me to head up to the start.  As at Graves parkrun, the core team had been hard at work early on to make the magic happen at 10.30.  Thanks everyone 🙂  (See what I did again there with that smiley emoticon – they’ll be beside themselves with thrilledness!).

There were lots more new and familiar faces.  An enormous queue for the loos, and – a considerable boon – a sort of cafe area where an urn and biscuits was set up for post-run refreshments in return for donations. Also, a working radiator and a store cupboard where you could leave your bags. All extremely well organised, although I was slightly worried that the drop in temperature as we entered the store-room was indicative of entering some one-way anomaly into a strange, sub-zero parallel universe, but I made it out OK.  After a bit, it was announced the run start would be delayed by about 15 minutes, presumably to accommodate people who were having to park up further away and walk in.  Never ones to waste an opportunity, we put some serious work into getting into the dragonfly team spirit.  I think we did ok.  See how we’ve near enough perfected those double wings there.  I know, impressive!  I’ve only just realised that one of our number somehow lost a hand in the melee.  It was so cold I don’t think she noticed, as she never mentioned it at the time. Oh well, it was all for a good cause.

poolsbrook dragonfly

Eventually we had to venture outside, and I remembered a bit belatedly the start was slightly further away from the finish so we needed to allow time to get there. Still, plenty of time for another group dragonfly shot. We are getting better at this.   Still a learning curve, but we’ll get there…

poolsbrook dragonflies

A quick trot down to the start. Brrrrr.  Best and only option was to dive into the midst of the throng and, penguin-like, hope to benefit from the heat of huddling up with others. It’s lucky that all parkrunners are lovely and mostly accepting of such behaviours.

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We were a fair old gang!  A record Poolsbrook parkrun turnout, they put a Facebook post up declaring ‘WOW! A massive new attendance record with 473 finishers!! Last year we ‘only’ had 289!’  It felt big!  I couldn’t hear much of the briefing, but got the general idea. Milestones, thank the volunteers.  Three laps, counting to three is harder than you think by the way. They do put up kilometer markers, but that’s only helpful once you get the hang of them, to begin with they felt a bit random as I slowly registered I can’t possibly have done 4km already, I’m still on my first lap etc.  We were quite a sight though, storming round, and round, and round again…

GP poolsbrook parkrun dash

Hard to imagine, but I think I was even slower for this than at Graves, it was flat but quite congested, and frankly I just wanted it to end. It was a jolly crowd on the whole.  I did regret not hearing the end of the conversation between two runners where one said ‘so basically the kids row deteriorated into an international incident‘ and the other said ‘what did you do?’ and the first said ‘left them to it.’  I have a feeling that wasn’t the expected response.  I think it probably didn’t end there….  The marshals were all unfailingly lovely, I did try to splutter out thanks to each and everyone. I’ve since though read about another parkrunner at a different run (can’t remember where though, and it might have been on Christmas day now I come to think of it) who ran the whole parkrun with a box of chocolates, which he handed out to each and every marshal on the way round. That’s impressive!  Maybe next year, if I’m not having to use my hands to keep my unicorn under control.   I wasn’t so cheery about my proximity to the pimped up buggy that blared tinny tunes out throughout.  Kylie should be so lucky indeed, I didn’t feel it myself.  I gritted my teeth, reminding myself of the need to respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way, whilst lamenting my inability to outrun this assault on my senses…

Round and round the lake I ran.  It was quite social, or potentially so, my ability to run and talk was pretty much eroded.  I was relieved when I knew I could finally take the right hand path up the finish funnel.  Yay!  It wasn’t quite as empty as this as I approached it, but it was just as much a vision of loveliness as this early morning photo suggests!

poolsbrook finish

A bit of a queue for scanning, but that was fine, as an opportunity to mill and mingle. Then into the coffee area where a donation secured coffee and a choice of biscuits or mince pies.  Loads on offer, very impressive.  I wasn’t sure if dragonflies eat, so I checked.  Not only are the nymphs impressive predators within a pond (I knew that already) but so are the adults.  Veracious carnivores they will happily eat other winged insects according to the British Dragonfly Society.  This meant we could still tap our inner dragonflies and eat with a clear conscience, but we’d have to make some adjustment in dietary expectations to take account of veganuary, obviously.  That’s OK, we weren’t real dragonflies, only channeling them.  In case you weren’t sure….  By the way, veganuary seems particularly high profile this year – even got an article about going vegan for runners in Runners World this week.  It’s increasingly becoming ‘a thing’.

Refreshments quaffed, we were homeward bound. Some had ambitious plans for further activity.  Personally I favoured a power nap – once I’d safely submitted my ‘tell Sue’ Smiletastic forms and could sleep easy in my bed.  Well, had to be done…

Poolsbrook parkrun not only delivered up a fine event and coped with the unexpected influx of tourists from near and far, they also wrote an event report with fine pictures and stats. Read it here and be amazed, Poolsbrook parkrun news – records smashed!.  Thank you fine people of Poolsbrook, both for the warmth of your welcome and polish of your logistics.

Just for the record, there were a fair few parkrun people on the move this morning.  I have no idea how, but someone, somewhere, created this fabulous offering showing parkrunners migration paths across East Derbyshire on New Year’s Day.  I know!  You didn’t know you’d be interested in a pictorial representation of statistical information, but suddenly you are.  It’s a splendid thing.  Now if only someone could do that for South Yorkshire as well, just imagine the joy they would bring…

east midlands parkrun double migrations

Also, according to the parkrun UK Facebook page:

18,393 parkrunners completed a New Year’s Day double by walking, jogging or running around two UK parkrun events on 1 January 2018…

That’s 33% of all those who completed a UK parkrun on the day!

At what point do we become an official movement I wonder.  I mean movement is integral to the initiative is it not, maybe we are already?

I think in the circumstances, the final word should go to our founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who did us a 2017 review which you can read here.  But you know what, he also sent my mum a Christmas card to acknowledge her sterling support of Bushy parkrunners week in week out, and that’s even more exciting.  To be fair, it was another parkrunner who set that particular train in motion, but to a fine end.  Love parkrun, not just because of Mr S-H, but all the other lovely parkrunners who sent personal messages with their own parkrun stories!  Thank you all.

So that’s it.  New year’s day double done.  Thank you everyone, everywhere, who helped make it so!

Including my mum, that’s Elisabeth with an ‘s’ by the way – who was out cheering at Bushy parkrun on New Year’s Day too!

mum new years day

Phew.

Happy parkrunning into 2018.  It will bring new runs, and new adventures aplenty I’m sure.  Hurrah!  Go us. Just #dfyb.

Happy new Year y’all!

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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. There’s a whole blog post elsewhere about how they built their nuptials around the Ullswater trail. That’s commitment for you!   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.

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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, as I trotted along, a guy running alongside commented companionably – ‘so there’s a lot of you Smiley Places out and about – what sort of a club are you?‘  It wasn’t meant to be rude I’m sure, more an reflection on my less than apparent running physique – someone asked me yesterday if the Smiley Paces tops were in aid of a charity, so it seems that we aren’t immediately identifiable as a running group even when participating en masse at a running event.  ‘Erm, a running club?’ I said.  He looked mortified ‘erm, I just thought maybe… like cycling‘ he said with growing desperation, discomfort and trailing off a bit.  ‘Well we are very inclusive‘ I said, acknowledging that based on me alone it might not have been as obvious I was part of a running group as I’d have liked.  He looked relieved at this rescue ‘excellent, as it should be‘ he responded, and then dropped away.  I really wish I’d said ‘roller blading’ though or even ‘voodoo’, next time eh?

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.  The longer inno8 video of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend (which is officially brilliant because I say so by the way) is here.

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.

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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: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

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

ATR team photo

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

The website blah de blah states:

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

About Us

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

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

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

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

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

New beginner group!

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

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

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

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

running buddies

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

trail runners in sunshine

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

running in rain

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

 

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

Cinderella-prod-1-1024x684

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope, didn’t see anything like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

low bradfield run

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

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

not even me

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

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

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

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

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

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

give it a go

Bring it on.

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

anyone?  😦

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

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

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: , , , , | 10 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.