Posts Tagged With: Sports Bras

Brooking at Bushy parkrun and seeing what comes out in the wash…

Digested read: test run for the Brooks Juno Sports bra at Bushy parkrun.  Hmm, some promise, but I’m reserving judgement until I’ve done a longer and more strenuous run. For now, good in parts.  Which is still significant progress in my world.  🙂

This is the bra I was wearing (not the actual bra, but a stock image of one)

brooks bra front

and this is the actual parkrun on the actual day I was running in it.  A view from the back of the early stages of the course.  I might even be in this photo, in fact I most definitely am… it’s just I’m not quite sure where.  I’ll be wearing a bright orange beanie hat and my purple running coat.  Good luck spotting me!  Nice though, isn’t it?  #loveparkrun #bushyparkrunisepic

MDH parkrun start

I’m taking my product review responsibilities extremely seriously. If Brooks ill-advisedly want feedback on their bra, than I’m up for it, and not just on any old run either.  This brasserie brassiere would have it’s debut outing at that iconic site of pilgrimage for parkrunners everywhere, Bushy parkrun.  Where it all began.  This is the narrative I’m going with anyway, even though it is stretching it a bit.  The truth is since collecting my sample bra I’d not really been able to face the workout of putting it on again, but fair dos, there’s no point in having it if I don’t give it a whirl, and given I was to be at Bushy parkrun this weekend anyway, why not.  One should never get the absolute truth get in the way of a good story.  Besides, I’m not sure there is any such thing as objective truth, though I do think the claim of ‘alternative facts’ in some quarters is cynical and tenuous at the very least.  Anyway, bottom line, or more accurately top line on this occasion is that my Brooks Bra was in situ at Bushy parkrun last Saturday.

It was pretty cool at Bushy parkrun, but that’s another (long) story, however, suffice to say it was brilliant winter sunshine, ice underfoot but the warmth of a mass descent by Tralee parkrunners on Tour was surely enough to warm the cockles of anyone’s heart.  As part of their migration to Bushy parkrun, they were going to greet my mum – celebrity honorary parkrun marshal of Elisabeth’s corner fame – and that point is significant later on, because it meant that I maybe didn’t test my bra to its full workout potential, don’t worry though, there’ll be other runs.

Anyway, you are distracting me. Where was I?  Oh yes, Saturday morning, and I eyed my Brooks bra with some suspicion.  It has considerable heft, and even looks like some sort of alien life form all of its own.  After the heave ho shenanigans whilst trying the darned thing on I was hoping I’d allowed enough time to wrestle my way into it and still make the start line in good time to greet my Irish friends.

In case you haven’t been concentrating, this is the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, it is available in different colours apparently, but I was given the one in black as a sample to try. Frankly though, I’m so desperate for a decent sports bra, if and when I find one that does the job, I don’t care what colour it comes in. It could have sequins and pom poms and a guard of honour of a hundred unicorns escorting me at all times whilst wearing it and I wouldn’t even notice, let alone query it, I’d be so transfixed by its supportive and cosseting properties.  To be fair, if I did notice, that would be quite a cool range of accessories though I don’t know if that’s in Brooks production plans just at the moment.  If I can’t have a hundred unicorns I’d settle for one, or maybe a pair of dragons. Either would be fine…  I suppose if it went for branding along the lines of ‘Make America Great Again’ that would be taking things a bit too far and I’d have to bow out at that stage,  but I’m going to stick my neck out here and say I don’t think that’s a planned initiative either.  Really hoping not.

This is how the Brooks Juno gets described on their website:

Juno £40 – £5040.00GBP
High Impact
For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racer back powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit

Now normally, I’d run a mile (ironically) from a racer back, because unless you have staff on hand to assist you daily I can’t imagine how anyone can get into them.  This bra has a cunning design though,  so that  although the racing back style is present, you still have a bra strap to do up to the correct tightness after you’ve got the darned thing over your head, so that requires considerably less contortion than the ‘usual’ racer back.  You pull it over your head, do up the underband and then finally lob the shoulder straps, which are loose, over your shoulders a few times until you’ve succesfully wrangled them, and then you just slip them through a hole at the front and can tighten them to the required tension.

The wrestling the bra over my head bit was way less stressful this time out.  Turns out, it’s a hell of a lot easier to achieve this physical feat when you have a whole room to thrash about it, as opposed to the rather restrictive confines of a bijou running shop changing room.  Basically, you just hoik the underband into position and then do up the catch as you would on a conventional bra.

 

 

So far, so good.

Of course that is only half the battle.  Then you have the straps flailing about.  It is a genuinely good idea that these are hanging loose, as it does make it a lot easier to get into the darned thing. However, a consequence of this design decision is you have to work out a way to propel the straps back over your shoulder to the front so you can slip them through the hole and fasten the little velcro strap to the appropriate tightness to give the security required, thus:

front strap

I suppose there is a knack to this too, albeit one I have yet to acquire, I basically let gravity do the work and leaned forwards until I had the straps dangling to my prow and then you can reach for them and loop them through.  It was easier than I remembered.  I’m not sure what my actual maximum heart rate was whilst dressing, as I had forgotten to set my Polar watch going, but you know what, I’m going to do that next time just to see, it can be incredibly stressful getting into a sports bra unaided, would be interesting to see if that does typically end up being the most strenuous part of any work out.  We’ll all have to wait and see.  Actually, getting off a sweaty sports bra is even harder, I know of at least one friend who confided in me that they had a brilliantly supportive bra that they’d ended up jettisoning, because after they ran in it they were trapped in it mid removal, helpless until someone (I can’t remember if it was a fellow runner, passer by, known family member or a paramedic) came and offered outside assistance to free them.  That ended up in the bin.  It just seems ridiculous that, for better or worse human kind has put people on the moon and into space, yet for many of us a functional sports bra seems to remain elusive.   …  This bra, does pass the putting it on unaided test, which is a good thing.  I don’t know if that design is unique to Brooks, but I hadn’t seen it before.

Just in case you are in any doubt. These photos are not of me.  It’s much more of a performance and test of character when I’m getting ensconced in my breast armour than these models seem to be experiencing.  I have always had the good foresight not to allow photographers to be present whilst I’m dressing, but strongly suspect my expression would be somewhat other than serene during my attiring manoeuvres.  That model does look extraordinarily pleased with herself for being able to successfully operate a velcro fastening though does she not?  I can’t make up my mind whether I find that annoying, and patronising because being able to dress yourself independently is quite a modest life goal and the picture suggests this woman is pleasantly surprised to find herself smart enough to operate velcro without outside help, or whether it reflects accurately the degree of challenge presented by most sports bra, so hence her relief and delight is not only palpable but proportionate in this instance. You’ll need to decide for yourself.

Once on, I remain somewhat undecided about what to make of the bra.  It feels erm, rather substantial.  It claims not to be padded, but rather ‘cushioned’ I don’t know what the difference is.  Because it doesn’t have differentiated breast cups in the way say my current shock absorber does (it describes itself as ‘unicup’ a bit of vocab that is new to me) it is comfy, but I didn’t feel all that supported.  Now this might be a question of what you are used to.  I’m used to feeling a bit more squished in.  My initial reaction to being less squished is that surely this bra would allow for too much movement for comfort.  Granted, bras that squish you in aren’t comfortable, but you do at least feel like nothing is going to shift.

crush your boobs

Actually, it can be positively uncomfortable in honesty, but less movement. The Brooks is much more comfortable than my current shock absorber, but I’m not sure I felt really held in place.  Maybe I’m not used to the style, maybe the cup size isn’t quite right for me. Hmm.

Anyway, off I trotted to Bushy parkrun with my perforated unicup design purporting to give me shape and modesty.  It definitely gives modesty, I felt like I had a futon strapped to my front, and it does give shape, just not necessarily a desirable one. However, I am at the point I don’t care too much any more about whether a bra is flattering or not – won’t lie, it would be great if it was  – but much more precious is whether it is functional for sporting use.

What I would say is that I very quickly forgot I was wearing it. If  I consciously thought about the bra, I did feel that it was still allowing a bit too much jiggling for my liking, but in truth whilst I was running, I wasn’t aware of any excessive movement at all and it is definitely a comfy bra, and I like the racing strap for security.  I was also a bit dubious about whether a velcro fitting would be strong enough to stay in place once I got going, but that didn’t move at all once fastened, and the velcro strip is long enough you have quite a bit of choice as to your preferred fitting.  Result.

In terms of my ‘run’ well, it was a bit of a special day at Bushy parkrun, because a huge contingent had come over from Tralee parkrun in Ireland and they had kindly brought some birthday cards for my mum in recognition of her recent ninetieth birthday, which they gave to her mid run. She is an honorary marshal/ parkrun celebrity who sits and cheers parkrunners at the 2.5 km point on the course.  Obviously, I stopped to say hello, and then got chatting with other parkrunners of all possible running clubs and parkrun event denominations as they too paused for selfies, birthday wishes whatever.  The upshot was I ended up pausing here, and only starting up again to finish off the route with the tail walkers, which was highly social and a lot of fun, but not really a proper test of my Brooks bra.

Nice selection of parkrun pics though:

 

 

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You can see why it took a while… paused there.

So basically, I only really ran 2.5 km and then just did a stop/ start walk /run to the finish.  I had a lovely time, which was fine and dandy, but got an all time pw (personal worst) and record breakingly high number finish token to boot!  Yes, I do indeed belong to parkrun. Isn’t that lovely!

DSCF7399

But it wasn’t a proper full on run test.  I did power walk about 7 miles in total, and the bra was comfy for that. It claims to have ‘breathable cups’ with (warning, another made-up word fast approaching) ‘drilayer fabric’ and ‘chafe-free bonded seams’.  Now, you need to put this in context of it being  a minus a squillion degrees out there, however I was wearing a lot of layers.  It didn’t chafe, and yeah, maybe I didn’t run all that much, but another professionally fitted underwired sports bra I tried onec had my boobs bleeding, literally, within 30 minutes of first wearing, so full marks for this one for not only not drawing blood, but also for leaving no permanent scaring and even being seemingly comfy.  Not a bad hat trick to pull.

Further more, this bra did indeed feel like it stayed pretty dry, so maybe the breathable unicup drilayer fabric thing has some merit despite its stupid pseudo scientific nomenclature –  and I basically forgot all about the trauma of trying out a new bra. So, my intermediate impression is that this is a bra that merits being worn again, and on a ‘proper run’ which is way further up the food chain than most bras I try get to venture.  It’s still in the running (see what I did there) as a potentially really good sports bra.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, yet, but I am open minded about it, and it could yet be a significant improvement on my Shock Absorber which I wear because it fits basically, but feels like the least worst of available options rather than an item I would evangelise about or actively like.  My plan is, to do a proper long run in the next couple of days and see if I can properly put it through it’s paces.  Before that though, there was another big test for this asset protector to pass.  The Wash Test.

One problem, I am no domestic goddess.

Now, I want to be really, really clear about some things.  Two things actually:

First, I’d never deliberately put an octopus through a wash cycle, not only because it would be a catastrophe for my smalls but also because octopuses are beautiful, intelligent and curious creatures, that can escape aquariums, use jets of water to short circuit light switches and open jars .  They have even been reported undertaking trekking holidays in Devon.  Though, for the record, I don’t believe they can forecast the result of international sporting fixtures. Well, they probably could, but why would they be interested in doing so?  Just too smart to take an interest I say.

 

 

Second: I have better things to do with my life than hand wash sports bras, yeah, yeah, I get that I’m supposed to but life is too short and used sports kit too potentially rank for me to faffing about with warm basins of gentle bubbles every time I need clean gear.  Anyone who claims religiously to do so, either has someone else to do this for them, or is lying.  All my clothing has to take it’s chances in the same wash cycle.  Even so, I concede I probably do need to refine my technique if this Brooks Bra and I are to have any conceivable future together.

So what happened is this:

Bra got chucked in with everything else on usual wash cycle, but then my wash emerged in one huge knot, not dissimilar to a rat king in fact, though with less animal matter and more polyester and spandex.

rat king

Basically, if you chuck this bra in your wash without a bit of prep then you realise too late, that basically it’s all tentacles that twist and clutch.  To be frank, I might as well have lobbed a couple of octopuses and a giant squid in with my leggings and sports tops for the Gordian knot of intertwined fabric that came out in one enormous clump at the end of the spin cycle.  Oops.  The problem is, you have not only those two loose straps each with velcro fastenings, which have enormous potential to appropriate any other items of clothing they share a washing machine drum with, but also the two loose ends of the hook clasp function as well.  What with that, and my running leggings, and my thermal tights, and my long sleeve thermal jumper and my long sleeve running top it was just one huge knot-tying party in there.  Terriffic,  NOT.  Or Terrific knot more accurately…  Very tempting to get the scissors out, or at least have a major tantrum.

This is an actual picture of my wash:

cutting the gordian knot

I was miffed with myself, although I was able to disentangle all garments eventually, it took an age.  Reluctantly, I have to concede that it would have made life a lot easier if I’d taken the precaution of re-securing the straps and doing up the back clasp before tossing it in the wash, I could even have put the boat out, and kept it separate in one of those net delicate wash baggy things.  Exasperatingly, I’m sure I’ve got one somewhere, no idea where though. Considering how expensive sports bras are, it would probably be a good investment for me to get a couple more.  Maybe, canny sports bra manufacturers would like to start giving these away as freebies to accompany a bra purchase instead of running buffs, which I’ve had as freebies over the years. I’ve got loads of running buffs now, and I do like them, but some bra wash bags would be fab.  Thank you for asking.  I’m not proud, I’d welcome a freebie! Send lots.john lewis brabantia wash bags

So I spent hours of my life I’ll never get back disentangling the contents of my wash,  so be warned.  I’ve sacrificed my time so you don’t have to.  The result was OK, but not as rewarding as rescuing squirrels from tail entanglement and super frustrating because it could have been avoided.

 

 

Afterwards, because I like to torment myself in this way, I did read the actual washing instructions. Now fair play to Brooks, they do concede that you don’t always hand wash your bras.  Hallelujah, some basic pragmatism, they suggest the following:

Care Instructions
Hand washing is ideal, but not always possible. Fasten all hooks and straps, place in a lingerie bag, and use the gentle or delicate cycle. Always line dry, and never use dryer sheets or fabric softeners—they can clog the fabric and shorten the life of the bra.

Whatever, hindsight.  Thanks.

Despite its ordeal by rat king and octopus tentacle, the actual bra seems to have emerged relatively unscathed.  I’m torn between feeling a bit guilty if I’ve trashed it through not observing the washing instructions correctly and thinking you know what, the reality for this sports bra is that’s how it’s going to be treated if it shares a life with me.  For my road testing to have any merit, I should replicate my honest care routine otherwise what’s the point.  Precisely dear reader.  None whatsoever.

The plan now is to let it air dry, and then I’ll don it again for a long and harder run as soon as I get a day when I don’t have to stay in for hours waiting for builders or painters or whatever it is.  It will be genuinely interesting to see what I make of it second time out.

So in conclusion?

I’m reserving judgement, I can put it on unaided, it’s comfy when worn and seems to have survived my less than idealised laundry routine.  It didn’t get me a PB at parkrun, but I suppose I might have to meet my bra half way and actually make an effort to try to run a bit faster through voluntarily moving my legs more quickly to make that a thing in my world again.  The bra hasn’t caused any chafing as yet and it shows promise.  On the less positive side, it seems very bulky, isn’t very flattering and I don’t quite feel supported. … then again the only times I ever do is if I run with one breast cupped in each hand, and I have resorted to that technique on occasion.   I am not alone in this.  FACT.

running bust

Maybe if I could have some sort of genetic modification to enable me to  sprout a couple of extra arms purely for boob holding purposes whilst running – detachable ones would be even better – then that would be fine and dandy and problem solved.  Alternatively, it may be I need to tweak my cup size, though I don’t think so, the fit is good.  Maybe it’s a question of racheting up the tightness on the shoulder straps instead.  Upshot, I’ll stick with it for now and keep it all under review.  Watch this space, or not, it’s up to you.

Also this, can’t resist:

The ladies’ bras – not yet something to sing about, but one day… meantime, who can forget this mesmerising top of the pops number?

 

That’s right.  Everyone, but not any more, it’ll stay with you for days now!

You’re welcome.

I wonder if they could do a follow up on sports bras specifically, if I do get one that truly works, I’ll definitely be up for singing about it!

‘Til next time, hold onto your assets and run, run I say!  And don’t forget to report back with your experiences.  This woman’s bra seems pretty solidly in place, but I can’t help thinking she should maybe look where she’s going a bit more.  Then again, maybe she’s running away from someone playing a medley version of The Ladies’ Bras on a mouth organ or accompanied by ukuleles or something, and you’d need to keep your wits about you and your eyes on your pursuer to stay safe in those circumstances.  This is why we should support one another, and respect each others running choices, you never really know someone’s circumstances do you. So don’t judge, just run!

Run-E-Cop-HoldingShot-920x613

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.

Categories: parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest – the quest for a perfect sports bra

Digested read:  I’m trying out a new sports bra, a Brooks Juno to be specific, and provided as a freebie conditional on me giving feedback to them about what I make of it.  Oh don’t  fret, I will.  We only got introduced today, so it’s early days, but I will run out in hope (literally potentially, Hope isn’t that far away) and report back in due course

Undigested read: this is how it all began

I’m hardly a digital influencer, but then again, if that means I can duck the pressure and desperation that might otherwise compel me to have Harry Styles tattoed on my face that can be only a good thing.  I mean really, how desperate would you have to be?  It really is taking attention seeking to a whole new level.

kelsey harry face tattoo

So, enough about her, anyway disappointingly, she didn’t even do it, it was all just a publicity stunt – fake news, such a shame it would have been way more fun if she’d been permanently disfigured, oh well.  Anyway, let’s get’s back to all about me.  Today has been quite exciting, for lots of reasons.  Specifically:

  1. Anticipation of snow (I’ve got mixed feelings about that one to be honest, but it’s still exciting).  Mainly so far this has  taken the form of it being unbearably bitterly cold and exceedingly wet sleet under foot
  2. I am now in possession of a new polar watch which is cleverer than me, but could be a boon to my future training sessions
  3. I am officially a sponsored athlete! (sort of) – despite not being an actual digital influencer, so it just shows dear reader, that miracles can happen (but not the one about the perfect bra)

The watch thing has been brewing since last summer.  My dearly beloved TomTom just doesn’t have the battery life I need now I’m looking at longer distances.  I mean in fairness, it probably would for most people, but I’m so slow it just bales on me.  I find this quite traumatic. I’ve loved my TomTom, we’ve shared all my running milestones and adventures from early parkruns (didn’t have a watch when I very first started) to the London Marathon, and the first third of my first (and to date only) ultra.    It feels like an act of betrayal to be retiring it.  Still, it had to happen, and today was the day.  I’ve gone for a Polar Vantage purely on the battery life (30 hours), it has way more functionality than I really need, but so far dear reader, I can report that it’s a hit!  I’ve only worn it for one walk back from the running shop and I’m already alarmingly entranced by graphs about my heart rate, and somewhat miffed by it’s slightly dismissive summary of my efforts.

This watch will leave me nowhere to hide.  When I first had a go with the settings in the shop it queried whether I really wanted to record this (by implication) pitiful level of activity with the incredulous phrasing of  ‘save this short training’ ?  You can feel its contempt.  My TomTom wasn’t passive aggressive in this way, then again, it never talked to me at all.   The Polar is also lamenting the fact that I’ve not done enough today for it to really draw any conclusions about anything.  ‘not enough data to show status’ it says.  I think me and my Polar will have a more purposeful relationship, and it will probably hold me accountable which is good for training purposes, but I feel in casting aside my TomTom I’ve lost a bit of my joyful running innocence too.  My TomTom was my unfailingly supportive, shared fun times, running buddy whereas I think my Polar Vantage is more of a critical friend.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it all feels a bit more serious.  We shall see.  Exciting though…  Still, further commentary on this is for another time.

Onto item three.  Yes, that’s right!  I am officially a sponsored athlete.  Well, sort of. I’ve got a free bra to review, but you have to start somewhere.  A sports bra, specifically a Brooks Juno Sports Bra.  I got an invite to go down to my local running shop and pick one up, conditional on me giving some feedback about it…  Ha ha.   I feel a bit sorry for the Brooks rep, he has (as yet) no idea how opinionated I can be on the subject of sports bras, and how comprehensive my feedback on the topic will therefore be.   There is just sooooooooooooooooooooooo very much I want to get off my chest about bras in general and sports bras in particular.  Bring.  It.  On!  After all, it would surely constitute  contributory negligence on his part if he feels overwhelmed by it, just shows, you should be careful what you wish for and even more cautious in stating that desire out loud.

So the email came, and I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was to think ‘yay, a freebie’ and then my second reaction was to feel highly dubious there’d be anything at all I’d be able to test drive.  I went to a Brooks Bra fitting once before, a couple of years ago and at a different shop.  Despite me having said in advance that I required a larger than average cup size when I went there was absolutely nothing to accommodate me, with the biggest size available being a D cup.  A D cup FFS!  Whilst there are many svelte runners out there, there are a fair few of us with more ample assets in dire need of brassieres that will banish the bounce.  It was not only humiliating but made me increasingly angry.  I felt like a freak of nature.   And was in tears by the time I got home, of frustration more than anything else.  There was a whole presentation about how essential it was that women have proper support when exercising which I found incredibly patronising, I KNOW, this is why I am forever on the quest for a perfect bra, one that supports, doesn’t chafe and isn’t too horribly sweaty.  I’ve given up on flattering, that’s never going to happen.  Also, one that I can put on unaided.  Many sports bras seem to assume you have a team of staff on hand to dress you of a morning, FYI, astonishing as it may seem, I don’t.  So, top tip for all bra manufacturers, it isn’t giving a lecture on the importance of wearing a decent bra that will sell your product to me, it’s providing a bra that actually fits.   Why is that so hard for many bra manufacturers to grasp?  Whilst I was partially pacified by a complementary prosecco and a discount on some road shoes, I was still spitting tacks.  The average woman’s cup size in the UK is often cited as a D or double D – and if that’s the average it surely follows some will be bigger as well as some smaller.  It just seems such a cop out for sports bra manufacturers to claim they have amazing sports bras when they can only accommodate cup sizes A – C  that doesn’t seem to me to be such an engineering challenge, yet judging from the conversations I have with my female friends, a decent bra eludes us all…

sports bra problems

I feel sports bra manufacturers are decades behind what they could be offering, Bravissimo was a game changer for me and many other women I think …  what sports companies might learn from their approach.

Inspiring big boobed women to feel amazing!
Since Bravissimo was founded in 1995, our mission has remained the same: to inspire women with big boobs to feel amazing, to celebrate our figures and to offer a wide choice of beautiful styles to uplift big boobed women in every way!

Not sure that Bravissimo products actually made me feel amazing, but they did at least stop me from feeling like a freak of nature, as when they came on the scene it was the first time I’d ever had a bra that actually fitted.   I spent an absolute fortune with them the first time I visited their shop and binned every other bra I owned.  Bravissimo was a significant step in the right direction.

Every silver lining has a cloud though.  Confidence was quickly overtaken by public humiliation as is so often the way…. I was so keen on Bravissimo as a company, that I used the women who set it up and their business success as a ‘real life’ example for a lecture I was delivering on entrepreneurship to a group of about 300 undergraduate engineering students.  My logic was that it would be could to have some women to use as role models alongside the usual cliches of successful entrepreneurs like – at that time – Richard Branson and James Dyson.  Plus, I was working at Coventry University at the time, and Bravissimo started in Leamington Spa, just round the corner.  Local too.  Brilliant. What could possibly go wrong?  On reflection, uttering the phrase ‘their, genius, was in identifying and exploiting a gap in the market to cater for bigger breasted women such as myself‘ to this audience that was comprised of about 98% male youths was possibly not my wisest hour.   Still, that’s how you learn isn’t it.  Also, alas, doesn’t even close to my most embarrassing moment, not by a country mile, but those stories are for another time.

After all, even this svelte marathon runner said running for 19 miles carrying a puppy with her made running  feel twice as hard.   You missed that story?  Where have you been?  Basically:

Runner Khemjira Klongsanun was seven miles into the Chombueng marathon in Ratchaburi, Western Thailand, when she saw runners dodging a puppy. Stopping at the side of the road, Klongsanun attempted to coax the trembling puppy over to her.

With no houses nearby, Klongsanun concluded that the pup must have been abandoned. Rather than leaving it behind, she carried it for the next 19-miles, crossing the finish line with the pup in her arms.

and she added – wisely

“Running almost 20 miles carrying dog was truly a challenge. It was two times tiring than a normal marathon but I did it anyway just because he is adorable.

I’m sure it was a challenge, easily two times harder than a normal marathon. So imagine what it’s like carrying my two puppies with me on my long runs?  And they aren’t anything like as adorable as an abandoned actual puppy, so yep, it can be a problem.  Also, look at the state of the poor pup after being bounced around for 19 + miles.  No wonder many women get put off running by lack of suitable boob support.  Hence my fantasy about one day having my own bespoke sports bra that meets all my criteria, and which saves the work out for the run rather than elevating the heart rate to an alarming degree just trying to get the damned thing on!

Hmmm, I’m still not sure I ever have, but I’ll keep an open mind.

Anyway, this is why I was very keen to try out a sports bra freebie, even if I wasn’t massively confident it would be up to the task in hand.  You have to try these things.

So, went down to Front Runner.  And was greeted by the enthusiastic Brooks Bra rep.  He actually does bras and shoes, but this was a bra day.  The bra in question was the Brooks Juno, which apparently retails from £40 – £50.  It is apparently High Impact and ‘For women who prefer a controlled fit, our best-selling racerback powerhouse has it all — it’s the ultimate in support and shape with a customizable fit.’  Well, we shall see.

brooks bra front

So first things first, the rep tried to talk me through a set piece on why it’s so important for women to have a correctly fitting sports bra.  I must admit I was a bit impatient about this.  See above. I know exactly what the issues are, I am on a perpetual quest for the elusive holy grail of a well fitted sports bra.  However, credit where credit is due, after I’d rolled my eyes at this, the speech was truncated and we cut to the chase.

Now, I’m just going to be honest about this, because it is only fair to be so. The rep was very good, clearly knew his product and is sufficiently experienced to be apparently devoid of embarrassment whilst discussing cup sizes, bra fitting and the relative merits of the various options on offer.  However, I’m not sure I was entirely comfortable having a man doing the fitting.  I think it’s just that bras are an emotive issue, and I think that there is something about the lived experience of running in an ill-fitting bra, the shame of not being able to wrestle in to one, the body shaming that seems to go hand in hand with the impractical, seemingly misogynistic, styles presented so often that are literally, not just figuratively impossible to get into on your own, that I just don’t know if it is possible to empathise with if you haven’t been through it.  I did ask him if he’d ever actually tried to put on a bra.  Well he had, but only over a T-shirt and frankly, whilst I fully accept moobs are a thing he wasn’t in possession of them, barely an A cup.  Now I’m quite shallow, and also quite desperate for a bra, so I got over my concerns pretty fast as a necessary hurdle to obtain the test vehicle on offer, but there’s no doubting it could be a barrier for many.  It may be though, it isn’t even necessarily a gender thing.  I’m mindful that this experience was way more positive than my last Brooks Bra Fitting disaster which was with an extremely petite, androgynously shaped  and youthful woman, who (I’m sure unintentionally) made me feel like an entirely different life form to her.  I said I was worried about them not having my size, and she assured me they were a very responsive company catering for all sizes ‘up to a D cup even!’ and then looked horror struck and aghast when I pointed out what I’d have thought was self evident to a bra fitter worth their mustard,  that I’m often busting out of a F if it’s a mean cup fitting.  She looked embarrassed on my behalf and then frankly disgusted. It was a horrible experience.  I would credit the fitter on this occasion with being less judgmental, more sympathetic and honestly very sincere and helpful.  but I don’t think either of the fitters I’ve encountered could speak from personal experience.  Back to Bravissimo, all of their fitters are candidates for the products they sell, that inspired not only confidence, but grateful relief. Finally a fitter that understands me!  There is such a gap in the sports manufacturing market for women with any kind of curves let alone an actual rack up front.

The next challenge was being given a tape measure and heading off to the little telephone box sized changing room to measure my ‘rib cage’ (are there ribs under there somewhere?) and then the widest part of my chest.  You can measure over your current bra he said, but I’m not convinced as if that isn’t a decent fit you’ll just replicate that error surely?  In any event,  I was wearing a sports bra anyway (my current one is a rather worn out Shock Absorber) so the suggestion was to measure without anything on up top.  This is not in and of itself a challenging task, but my those changing rooms are hard to manoeuvre around in. There is a large square pouffe thing which takes up most of the floor space, and then a free hanging full length mirror I ended up squashed up against, and I seemed to keep crashing into it as I tried to get the blooming tape measure round, and I hadn’t got my glasses with me and my it was hard to read those numbers off the tape without them.  Maybe if they are going to have male sales reps, which is fair enough, and I don’t dispute they know their products, but perhaps encourage women coming for one of their mass bra fitting evenings to buddy up so they can help measure each other.  Have the prosecco first too maybe!

phone box

Interestingly, the size he came up with for me based on my measurements,  was the same as that for the Shock Absorber model I came wearing.  One was found for me in black (all the samples were black, but there do seem to be a wide range of pretty cool colours on the website which was a pleasant surprise, though I doubt the average running shop would be able to carry such a wide range.)  I liked the purple, which I was told is actually midnight blue or something.  Errant nonsense on their part obviously, but don’t worry the important thing is the colour was fab.

My first impression of the bra  though, as it was handed to me, was its heft. Although described as ‘unpadded’ – I later read they call it ‘cushioned’ it was extraordinarily thickened fabric, almost like slapping a memory foam mattress on your chest.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  I’m quite self-conscious about my bust size as it is, and this bra initially felt like I was nailing a figurehead to the front of ship with an already substantial bow!   A whole new category of buxomness was in danger of being sported here.  I mean, I know it needs to be pretty substantial to offer support, but this is fairly unforgiving in form.  Still, if it works, I’ve always known a flattering bra is a hope too far.  Maybe I need to channel my inner figurehead, these women are not apologetic about their physiques, though at least one of them is looking pretty pissed off, and clearly having similarly failed to find any suitable corselette is going commando. Good for her, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t we indeed, desperate times call for desperate measures..

Anyway, I was duly dispatched back to the changing room to try it on.  Oh my gawd. It has quite novel fittings, which in theory should make it easier to get on, but it was unfamiliar.  This was like doing a personal challenge on the krypton factor.  The challenge required a cool head, stamina and intelligence as well as physical agility.

This bra has a racing back, but with a twist.  The band that goes under your boobs actually includes an eye and hook fastening  on that bra strap as well, meaning it can be put on without being at maximum tightness which is very good news.  Also, the shoulder straps are unattached to the front, so you can therefore hoik the bra over your head before tightening everything up once your breasts are in situ.  Blimey, what a performance.  I’m surprised they didn’t send a rescue party in to see what had happened to me.  Bet they were thinking about it, but just probably panicking about the etiquette of who to send in first.  The problem was the dimensions of the changing room. You need quite a bit of flailing around space to get into a sports bra, and this changing room was most definitely not bigger on the inside. How superman manages to twirl round in a phone box and emerge in his cape and all I can’t imagine.  I mean it probably helps that he has super powers, but I bet he wouldn’t be able to do that if he had to include donning a sports bra as part of his wardrobe.

1940s-PhoneBooth

There was much cursing under my breath, breaking out into hot and cold sweats and crashing into the mirror going on.  Another top tip for shops selling sports bras, is have a changing room big enough for women to contort themselves into the required shapes that pulling on a sports bra necessitates.  For this one, once you have it over your head and done up (relatively OK because of the design, which yes, is innovative) the next step is to some how hurl the straps that are now dangling down your back, so they hook back over your shoulders.  Eventually I worked out the way to do this is to lean forward and reach up and grab the straps from over your shoulders and then pull them over and hook through where they fasten with velcro.  I liked the velcro fastening option by the way, it feels like it will stay put, which was surprising, and allows you to alter the strap length with ease.  I didn’t look anything like as serene as this model whilst dressing.  I was all blotchy skin, fine film of sweat, bedraggled hair and blood shot eyes by the time I was safely in.  I emerged from the changing room looking like I’d done ten rounds with a mountain lion, only with me the mountain lion won.  Good really though, got to be sad about the demise of an endangered species whatever the provocation.

_105492823_gettyimages-1061398502 mountain lion

Oh well.  Practice makes perfect possibly … perhaps …

The bra definitely has some interesting features, but I’m not yet sure the extent to which they will deliver on promises, plus it is still a ridiculous performance to get it on unaided first time of trying.  It’s no wonder so many women are put off from ever starting running.  It’s a complete fantasy that you just cheerily pull on your shoes and off you go, all carefree and at one with the world…

Once on, first impressions were, that the under strap was a good fit and overall it felt comfy.  I wasn’t sure about the level of support though.  It has a unicup rather than a separate cup for each breast, and I felt this leaves more potential for movement.  I’m used to feeling more held in place.  On the other hand, there is less extra fabric strips as in the Shock Absorber so it feels smoother against the skin. I queried the fit, but the rep said that these bras might just feel different as they are supposed to support you without squishing you, so maybe it is a question of getting used to it.  I did try a smaller cup size, which I consider was pretty tenacious of me, as getting the darned things on and off it is a mighty deterrent to trying all over again. This is why I could never do triathlon, all that faffing around and changing of gear.  Oh, yes and I’ve remembered the other reason I can’t do triathlon, I can barely swim and I have none of the required fitness, and also it has zero appeal, but other than that, it’s the faffing around with changing that puts me off.

To those who have not been through this process, it might sound improbable, but by the time I’d got the smaller cup size on and off, and back to the original again I had no idea which was the better fit. The smaller cup size was too restrictive, but the larger one has so much fabric to it.  In the end, as it’s a trial, I went with the size that is the same as my existing bra, and I’ll see how it goes.  Fair play to the Brooks rep he was very patient and did seem to understand the issues, but the real test comes when I’m out and running does it not…

First impressions then. Well, some interesting features, it was still a struggle to get into but it was doable, whereas I’ve tried other sports bras that I could hardly get over my head.  The fabric feels soft and I like that you can adjust the straps with ease.  I do find the absolute bulk of it off putting, and weirdly because it’s comfy on, it makes me doubt whether it will provide sufficient support. I think it’s fair to say it isn’t love at first sight, but then again, I’d be the first to admit that I’m so jaded by my forty plus years of trying to get a bra that fits I’m highly doubtful anything will do the job however supposedly ‘new’ or ‘innovative’.  Having said that, I am quite looking forward to trying it out on an actual run, I want to be proved wrong on this.

Calvin-and-Hobbes-Running

The good news is that the request for feedback appears genuine, and I really do welcome that.  I wonder if some sports companies are guilty of getting feedback in an echo chamber, if they only provide bras for smaller cup sizes then of course there will be no demand for larger ones, because they don’t sell them.  And I think those of us with more generous proportions are of course going to have different requirements to others.  So we’ll see.

Here’s to new bounce-free bounding across the [parkrun trails and my beautiful backyard peaks.

out on the trails

What do you reckon dear reader?  Worth a punt?  Will I end up casting off all my existing bras in favour of this new offer?

Honestly, right now I have no idea.  No idea at all.

Oh, by the way, quick plug for ‘Smalls for All‘ if you dear reader are also sorting your bras and ditching the ones you know you should never have bought in the first place, and jettisoning all that don’t fit in favour of a newly discovered comfy and practical option then why not consider gifting any that are ‘lightly worn’ to have a new life with the beneficiaries of Smalls for all.

Would be great if Sports Bra manufacturers could organise bra amnesties and collect clean lightly worn bras from their customers who are persuaded to move over to their particular products and ditch their own kits….

smalls for all

Smalls for All is a Scottish Charity which collects and distributes underwear to help women and children in Africa. We help those living in orphanages, slums, IDP camps and schools, as well as providing underwear to hospitals to help those suffering from medical conditions like obstetric fistula.

If you’d like to donate underwear, here’s the brief – All you have to do is buy a packet of ladies’ or children’s pants and send them to us. They must be new and while we collect all sizes, those we need the most are for children aged 3-15 or ladies size 8-14. And while we collect all colours, the ladies’ pants in greatest demand are black – in full brief, midi, mini or high leg (in the smaller sizes).

We also accept new or ‘gently worn’ bras which can be any size, including sports and nursing bras, but not teen, cropped-top style or bikini tops. (By ‘gently worn’ we mean bras that are in good condition and still have good wear left in them.)

Please send your smalls to:

Smalls for All
108 Buchanan Crescent
Eliburn, Livingston, EH54 7EF
United Kingdom

Please enclose your email address so that we can acknowledge safe receipt of your donation.

Or you can order online

We’ve set up an Amazon wish list for new pants, so you can order online and have them delivered directly to Smalls for All if that’s easier. Go to our Amazon wish list.

Just a thought.

So there we go. Glad to have got all that off my chest so to speak.  I did warn them I could be very opinionated and candid on this topic, I expect the nice people at Brooks will be completely thrilled!

feedback

Be careful what you ask for…

For all my comments on Brooks Bras see here – scroll down for older entries

 

 

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

Seems I’m not as nesh as I thought – Sheffield Hallam parkrun in the snow.

Digested read: amazingly, Sheffield Hallam parkrun went ahead despite the snow. Even more amazingly, despite being a nesh southerner, I went ahead and ran it too. It was fun. Do wish I’d remembered to change into a sports bra though.

Of course anyone that takes part in a parkrun anywhere is a winner, but we all know that parkrun/walk/ joggers and hi-viz heroes that head out in rain, ice and snow are extra hardcore and even more worthy of celebration. Even so, it did seem apt that at today’s Sheffield Hallam parkrun, the first finisher was a certain Mr Frost.  No really, it was!  Isn’t that splendid?  Even if he did possibly have a slight competitive advantage given the ice and snow based elements of the course it matters not.  It pleases me and amuses me in equal measure. Here he is in action – impressive eh?  The volunteers got a bit chilly standing around as you can see.  Their hi-viz tabards didn’t make it down this week, which is why they are just in mufti in this illustration.

jack frost running

Here he is again, pretending he’s not going to be first finisher and proceeding with stealth at this stage.  Those Dark Peak Runner in their vintage homage kit are super impressive, they defy nature as they sprint across the fells, parkrun is less their natural habitat, they tend to be more creatures of the rocks and heather.  We were lucky to see one in action in the park.  Awesome.  Kudos to you Mr Frost.  Much kudos.

GC jack frost stealth finish

Not everyone was amused though. Queen Victoria looked most unimpressed, but then again, she’s been out in inclement weather since first being sited on this spot in – well, whenever that was – 1887 most probably, looking at the history of Endcliffe Park, and to think people nowadays take to twitter after but a few hours stuck on a snow bound train or motorway.  What a nesh lot we all are!

 

The hi-viz tabards were snowed in, all nicely laundered and no doubt smelling of lavender fabric softener in a Sheffield home. Somewhere nice and warm, but surrounded by snow drifts this high:

sheffield landscape

Fair point.  Conditions have been somewhat at the extreme end of the is it wise to run in a snow globe continuum.  An adventure in the snow is all very well and good, but sometimes a reality check is in order too.

So where was I, oh yes, Sheffield Hallam parkrun, in the snow.  Here in Sheffield, like everywhere else, we’ve had a fair old dumping of snow. The novelty of this has most definitely worn off.  I’m scared venturing out of my house even as I live on a steep hill, and loads of events have been cancelled in the last week.  I was supposed to be doing a Dark and White 10 miler in Bakewell on Sunday, but to be honest, I was relieved more than anything when that got cancelled. No idea how I’d have got there, and even if I had, as a slow runner, I’d have been hypothermic by the half way point. Good call race organiser people.  As for parkruns? Well, we are pretty spoilt in Sheffield, with a fair few in the vicinity to choose from, however, these were soon dropping like flies. Why do we say dropping like flies I wonder. … ok, I’ve just googled this so you don’t have to, and am told ‘The origin of this phrase isn’t known. It is clearly a simple allusion to the transitory and fragile nature of an insect’s life. It is known from around the turn of the 20th century. The earliest printed version I have found is in The Atlanta Constitution newspaper, May 1902‘, so there we all are, none the wiser.  Some Sheffield parkruns called early, Bakewell fell, Sheffield Castle fell, Rother Valley fell, Graves parkrun too, even Hillsborough parkrun made a sorrowful and unusual cancellation late on Saturday morning.  Concord parkrun and Sheffield Hallam though declared it to be game on!

Still quite a white out in Endcliffe park though … those venturing out would need to go prepared.

 

Whoa, that I was not expecting.  I was so not expecting this, that I was all kitted out in my walking gear, as I’d decided I’d do a slow, snow plod and get my 10 miles in that way.  At the last-minute though, they announced the course to be snow-covered but runnable, as long as you weren’t in search of a pb (I’ve not seen one of those in years, so no worries on my part with regard to that).  If they were going to go to all that effort of putting it on, it would seem rude not to, so I did a lightening (for me) change into running shoes and headed off.  I say ‘lightening change’ but it’s nigh on impossible to do anything in lightening speed when you are wearing as many layers as I was.  I could hardly move.  Don’t know why I’m so scared of falling over, I was so wrapped up it’s like wearing a complete protective fat suit, having said that, the real worry would be if I do fall down, how on earth would I get up again, what with having no limbs capable of reaching the ground raised up as I would be from layers of clothing.

stuck on back

So it was I stepped gingerly out of the house, and made my way to Endcliffe Park.  It takes ages trying to get anywhere in the snow, it’s ankle-deep in places.  However, mercifully, fresh snow having covered the ice, it wasn’t nearly as slippery as it has been in the last couple of days.  The roads were quite, and I didn’t see many people until I got right to the park gates. Then I espied a ladybird, honestly, they are decorative and cheery and everything, but I feel they have practically reached plague proportions in these parts lately.  She was sprinting on ahead, with her significant other – well I presume it was her significant other, does that make him a ladyboy?  I’m hoping it wasnt  some random guy she’d accosted just because he happened to have the misfortune to be wearing a red top and therefore was deemed ripe for the picking in terms of conscription into the ladybird/ ladyboy cult fold.  I went to join them in a little jog. Aaaargh. Rookie error.  In my expectation of doing a walk this morning I remembered belatedly that I was wearing a non-sports bra!  Disaster, this was very bad.  I watched them disappear off, whilst I debated what to do.  Hanging on to my assets as best I could.  On the plus side, I suppose this prooves my sports bra has been more supportive than I appreciated, I’ve been thinking for a while now it’s a bit rubbish on longer runs…

ladybird and significant other sprinting ahead

I recalled Regal Smiley sharing a tale of how she dealt with just such an eventuality by donning two bras instead. All well and good, but where was I going to source one at this late stage?  I shared my dilemma, and in true Smiley Spirit, the ladybird’s significant other immediately offered me the loan of his, but I didn’t feel able to accept, it wouldn’t be fair to simple transfer the problem to someone else, tempting as the thought was.  I’d just have to do the run of shame hanging onto my assets as best I could.  It’s been done before, it wouldn’t be a first, and maybe that would count as weight training?  A boon to my otherwise lamentable marathon training routine for this week, I’m sure upper body strength will be an asset in seven week’s time.

Still, late as I was, there wasn’t time for any alternative trouble shooting.  Rather I just joined the cheery throng.

 

 

I was only just in time for the start, we were a much reduced line-up, but an upbeat one.  Our official photographer was also in place, so that was good.  Whilst it is true that running is naturally its own reward, it’s fantastic to have unusual events like this one documented for posterity.  Unfortunately, because I’m not a very good photographer, and have failed to include any runners in this portrait of our esteemed photographer, I’ve made him look like either a stalker or a flasher in his big coat, which is a shame, he deserves better.  Oh well, too late now.

official photographer

This is what he was facing.  Brave man our George, staring this lot in the eye week after week.  Respect.  Mind you, I still think junior parkrunners are even more unpredictable, you’ve never stood in the line of fire unless you’ve braved the start line of Graves junior on a Sunday morning.

 

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The hardcore volunteers were all assembled, one had even brought their own high viz – very proactive.  Bravo.  Great signage holding technique there.  If you have never held a sign aloft for the whole duration of a parkrun yourself, you can’t fully appreciate what a test of endurance it is to do so successfully.  Hi-viz hero, I thank you.

After a quick briefing we were off.  Amazingly, it really wasn’t too bad running on compacted snow.  I was glad of my trail shoes, but it was fine.  I’ve had way scarier runs at Sheffield Hallam parkrun on days there have been patches of ice.  Because of the much smaller turn out, it was also a much smaller field, and that created some serious novelty.  Usually I end up in quite a crowd, this time I was running on my own for some sections, to the extent that it felt that I was leading the throng at times (yes, fantasy I know),  but really and truly, if the camera never lies, and you didn’t know any better, you might think I was leading the pack, and not just left behind after everyone else had long lapped me, wouldn’t you? How else can you account for my apparent good cheer whilst running?  Exactly.

GC finally first finisher at parkrun

Plus, in other good news, as it was less crowded you could take your time and high-five marshals of your choice on the way round without fear of causing a pile up behind you.  My apprenticeship as a marshal at Graves junior parkrun has given me not only an appreciation of the art of cheering, clapping and high-fiving others, but some not inconsiderable skill at this too.  If you don’t believe me, let me tell you that only this week I was an extra on a drama series which required me to clap and cheer in a town hall audience and I was particularly singled out and complimented on set by the assistant director for my excellent cheering and clapping techniques.  No really I was! I’m not even bragging, just stating a fact.  I must update my LinkedIn profile to reflect this.  Potential recruiters will want to know.

So I plodded round. The first lap was really hard, my calves are so tight.  But the second lap was lovely, meditative and quiet.  Maybe I’m not as nesh as I think, I was fine running on compacted snow, but other routes I’ve done lately I’ve found myself sliding everywhere.   One weird thing though, I’ve not done that much running on snow, and it made my vision go a bit weird, like there was an anomaly developing in my peripheral vision, like when you look through a lens and it distorts the image. Really strange.  Is that snow blindness, or an early warning of a build up to a heart attack?  Not sure, no conclusive evidence either way as yet.  I did crack on for a boob-clutching sprint finish though.  Had to be done!  I think that the photo editing process has spared the world a picture of me running clutching my assets.  Be thankful.

GC not the boob clutching shot

This is what it looks like as you are coming in to the finish funnel, unless you are one of the front finishers, I guess for them it’s a pretty empty skyline…

 

I was not quite last in, but still got the lowest ever finish token number for me at Hallam parkrun, alongside my personal worst.  So that was good.  I resisted the temptation of keeping my finish token as souvenir, in favour of having my run recorded and so securing 1/250th of a milestone t-shirt.  It’s getting closer, albeit not quite within my reach for a good couple of years yet!  154 down, 96 left to go…

You know what, once I’d got over the fear factor, running on the compacted snow was a lot of fun.  Other people seemed to be having a lot of fun too.  Look at all these smiley faces out there making the most of it. What great parkrunners we all are.  I’m not sure the shorts would have been my kit of choice, but you know how it is?  That’s right people, respect the right of everyone to participate in parkrun in their own way.

 

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In other news, some parkrunners espied the kingfisher which hangs on in Endcliffe park.  Personally, I missed it, but I think this might be he.  Photo taken today and posted on the Friends of Porter Valley Facebook page.  That’s good enough credentials for me…

kingfisher

Once I’d finished, just the little matter of finding a barcode scanner, harder to spot without the high vis – and then some Smiley bonding.  Also, some comparison of running footwear. Yaktrax versus nano spikes etc.  I really need to get something.  Yaktrax seem recommended, but I’m confused about the different types. The ‘pro’ ones with the velcro were most popular this morning.  The nanospikes are fantastic if really icy, but hard on the feet giving them a tenderising pummeling if the surface doesn’t require them.  I’m not sure I’m any closer to a decision about which to get, but I did enjoy making runners contort into uncomfortable balance poses under the pretext of checking out their shoe treads. Sometimes you just have to make your own entertainment, and often you’ll get away with doing this at the expense of others if you look needy enough and can think of some potential plausible albeit spurious excuse, as the photos show.

A few of us Dragonflies had made it out so in the interests of bagging Smiletastic points, we naturally had to secure a photo of ourselves together.  Posing first:

 

 

We had to enlist the help of a few non-dragonflies to get the synchronised Nazcanesque line in the snow dragonfly shape, so it may be disallowed under the rules of our Smiley Paces winter running Smiletastic challenge, but you have to admit it is a splendid effort.  We waved off our Smiley compatriot who’d obliged us by taking our team shot.  Possibly she was never to be seen again – it was looking pretty gloomy out there, but hey ho, she’d had a nice smiley morning so fond memories eh?

bye bye smiley

Ladybirds and ladyboys were also flying away home after a lovely run.  Well done all!

 

We then did the obligatory selfie. Obviously we were quite worried about the potential for double chins with this as taking group selfies is really hard, but we were saved by both our intrinsic loveliness (my team buddies) and the fortuitous placing of a smiley buff (me) so that was grand too.

obligatory selfie

Job done.  Just remained to get breakfast.  Only two of us, but we headed to Pom Kitchen, their vegan breakfast board is epic.  Just what is needed to provide fortification before the long uphill trudge home through the snow.  Some merriment en route was provided by watching a 4×4 sliding ever backwards as it attempted to navigate uphill. There was some injustice in this, in that the driver had been doing just fine maintaining a constant speed, but the trouble started when they stopped to give way to some elderly pedestrians. I’m sure there is a moral in there somewhere.  Something along the lines of no good deed goes unpunished.  Not the truth we want to believe in, but perhaps a truth all the same…

So, just to summarise.  Running in the snow was officially fun.  So too is sledging.  I really hope I’m still game to hit the slopes if I make it to 86!

never too old to sledge

🙂

By the way, official parkrun advice for those of you not blessed with an operational parkrun today, is to recreate your own by following these simple instructions:

‘for those that can’t attend due to bad weather – pop up parkrun in your living room. 278 laps of a standard size living room = one 5k parkrun.’

Good to know.  Looking out for each other, that’s the parkrun way.  No parkrunner wants to miss out on their weekly fix!  The parkrun cancellation map  for today suggests a fair few would have had to improvise.  That is a lot of living rooms being run around in a frenzy of parkrun re-enactment behind a closed door near you. Worth thinking about.

parkrun cancellations

Wonder what next week has in store?  Bring it on eh?  Bring.  It.  On.  We’ll be up and at it whatever the weather.  You can’t stop us now, because we’re having a good time.

penguin run

gotta love penguins running

seriously though, dont stop us now,

So don’t stop me now don’t stop me
‘Cause I’m having a good time having a good time
I’m a shooting star leaping through the sky
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I’m a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I’m gonna go go go
There’s no stopping me

At the very least, I’m like a parkrunner yomping through the park, and I wont be stopping until I’ve found a table for post parkrun brunch.   That’s non negotiable.  Some traditions should never be broken.

So I leave you with action shots of Sheffield Hallam parkrunners running down parkrun in the snow.

 

Thanks George Carman for the photos – your logo hasn’t appeared on the photos this week for some reason, but the glory and acknowledgement goes to you all the same.  Ready or not!

Oh and here is regal smiley of the ‘No sports bra? No problem‘ running trouble shooting consultancy.  No idea how many bras she’s wearing here, or of what type, but she looks happy out there which is the most important thing.  And she’s not having to run clutching her boobs or anything, so she’s clearly doing something right.  Bravo.

GC bra consultant in action

Yeah, it was fun out there. Type one and Type two.  Result!

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

 

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

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

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

new approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

fly higger tor

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nutrition-

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

super glue nutrition

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

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

real food option

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

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

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

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

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

nicky-fish-n-chips

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

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

look where you put your feet

Kit-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

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

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

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

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

DD Fine sheep shot

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

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

 

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

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

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

2016-08-21 12.01.03

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

 

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

Bra related rant starteth here:

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

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

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

brooks bra fitting

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

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

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

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

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

bra lesson.jpg

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

up and running

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

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

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

Bra-related rant endeth here

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

not even me

I still hate sports bra manufacturers though.

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

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

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