Posts Tagged With: trail running

Sheffield Way Relay – Recce Leg 1, the sculpture trail

Digested Read:  The Sheffield Way Relay SWR is a September run that requires teams of ten people to run in five pairs, with each pair running one leg, each of which comprise a ten-mile section round the trails and roads of Sheffield.  However, the separate legs are complex, confusing even.  Hence, some intrepid Smilies plan to go off a-navigating each in turn, to check them out terrifyingly far in advance, in order to build the collective hive knowledge of the whole route in anticipation of next year’s challenge.  Today was Leg 1.  I went too. Hurrah.  Fine yomping was had.  We got lost, we had fun, there were autumn leaves, rainbows and, most importantly of all, sculptures and a pigeon loft.  Hurrah!  We shall do it all again for other legs soon.  Are you coming? The more the merrier, so please do.  Build the Smiley Hive mind and have fun on the way! 🙂

 

sculpture

I think it’s a sculpture.  It might be a fossilised high-fiving spectator from a previous Sheffield Way Relay event to be fair. Captured in time after a load of bonfire ash covered him/her in some freak accident some years ago.  It’s hard to tell.   Whatever, I’m reasonably confident it will still be in situ come next September, which may or may not be the case for all landmarks referred to in the route notes referenced today.  We clung to such notable sites today, to help us internalize the route, it’s not easy finding your way round this Sheffield Way Relay route, not easy at all.  Pressure….

It’s a very serious business running in general and doing recces for race runs in particular. That’s why it’s so important to focus, work together and not get distracted by posing for photos all the time for example, that way leads to chaos, anarchy and quite possibly the end of the world as we know it. It’s also lots of fun though, so it makes sense – in my world anyway – sometimes to throw caution to the wind, inhibitions to the wayside and jump for joy as only Smilies en masse can.  I think we need to work a bit on our synchronisation, but it’s not a bad start. That’s why these recces early on are so important, we still have time to iron out such little blips.  We’ll all be looking like a chorus line a year from now.  Riverdance will have nothing on us.  Nothing I tell you, members of the Smiley Paces Sheffield Women’s Running club are coming, and leaps and waving will occur and fun will be had, ready or not.

farewell to focus

Mind you, I really do wish I’d taken a photo of that dead rat on the bridge now.  It just took a while for me to realise that I wasn’t only at this Smiley Recce of Leg 1 of the Sheffield Way Relay to tick the ‘inclusivity’ box in relation to catering for slower runner for the club run, but also to document the route for other Smilies that might choose to come in our wake.  It was quite a responsibility really, many would have baulked at the task, but then as the saying goes, cometh the hour, cometh the woman.  Someone had to step up, and today that person was to be me. You’re welcome.  I tried to take photos of key landmarks on the route, the decaying rodent was a good one, very obvious, and judging by other directional reference points in the original instructions about the right degree of tantalizingly likely to have disappeared by next year versus could have been fossilised and become a permanent fixture.  It wouldn’t be the SWR if there wasn’t some element of tension in relation to finding your way.  In the event, the rat was decaying on a bit that wasn’t on the route at all, so it wasn’t a disaster, we were lost before we started, literally…. but I’ll come to that later.

To the uninitiated, the Sheffield Way Relay is something of a Sheffield Running institution, albeit a niche, invitation only one.  It’s a Steel City Striders club event in essence, and their website blah de blah explains:

The Sheffield Way is one of the most popular events on the club calendar and has been held every year since 1997. It is run as a team event and is open to Striders teams and selected guest teams by invitation. Since 2013, we also hold an ultra event on the same course on the same day. For details of the 2015 ultra event, have a look at the Sheffield Way Ultra page.

The race covers 50 miles, in 5 legs of approximately 10 miles each, of an off road route around the perimeter of Sheffield. Each team is made up of 10 runners, with a pair running together on each leg.

Taking place in late September each year, for the past few years Smiley Paces have also taken part, fielding a number of different teams.  However, also over the past few years there have been last minute panics as people drop out due to injury or inertia, I forget which and other runners have had to fill in at short notice. This can mean situations arise where neither of the running pair really know the route, and as this is not a mass participation event you can’t rely on following other runners, and nor are their any marshals to guide you on your merry way.  The route, whilst not exactly ‘secret’, is a bit obscure to those who have not run it before.  Instructions do exist, but they are somewhat idiosyncratic and some years’ old, not reflecting changes in infrastructure or shifting landscapes.  This is not a run to be undertaken without having previously recced it.  Indeed, this is part of the considerable appeal of taking part. What is not to like about a good yomp out with Smiley buddies (other running clubs are available)?  Quite.  Recces of the Sheffield Way Relay are just another opportunity for a grand yomp out and about.

In an ostentatious display of goal-orientation, leadership and forward planning, it was mooted (I’ve decided to give that word an airing today, as it doesn’t get out much, and seems apt if pretentious here), that it would be grand to start doing monthly recces of the various legs between now and next September so as to build the collective Smiley  hive mind in relation to knowledge of the routes. The more Smileys know the more legs, the greater number of possible teams can be fielded on the day. Plus, it’s a great way to see some different running trails and parts of our amazing city.  Speaking personally, I love the trails local to me, but there is a whole wide world out there of city and woodland running trails to explore as the outdoor city initiatives remind us.

Fired up with post Lakeland Trails enthusiasm, today was the day for Smilies in abundance to head off on a Leg 1 recce.  Fun would be had, routes would be found, friendships flourish and above all else laughter would be in abundance. There would be some running too, apparently, but I tried not to let that deter me.  You have to try these things.

The Steel City Striders webpage provides a map of sorts, and instructions, but these should be considered as impressionistic rather than literal.  We couldn’t even find the start as the Don Valley Stadium doesn’t exist any more, but hey ho, a minor detail!

Leg1-Map

So, it was a blustery, autumnal morning.  Despite the significance sacrifice of missing out on parkrun, I was nevertheless looking forward to my first proper autumnal run of the year!  Perfect running conditions were promised.  I was scooped up by  fellow Smiley who drove me and another to our woodland rendezvous point in Grenoside Woods (S35 8RS postcode for future reference). The plan was to meet there and then drive to the start at the site of the old Don Valley Stadium.  A note for future recces would be to include a statistician in the scouting party who could take the lead in supervising this part of logistical operations. Even though we were only 7 – with one in a car meeting us back at the start, we seemed to have enormous difficulties working out which cars needed to be where. In our collective defence, some Smilies were needing to rush off afterwards, some were going back for coffee, and some (me mainly) just stood blinking and confused, unable to offer sentient or helpful opinions on anything, and distracted by needing the loo. It was like those nightmare logic puzzles where you have to get a chicken, a fox and some seed across a river in a boat and only two things at a time can travel and you don’t want the passengers left unattended or they will eat each other. Apart from the seed, that doesn’t eat anything, basically I have no idea how a decision was made regarding porterage, but made it was.  My contribution was to be entirely passive, and follow instructions as best as I could.

We piled into a car and headed to Ice Sheffield  where we were rendezvousing with another Smiley who’d gone straight there. Navigation was mysterious, as I thought we’d be maybe using satnav, but instead we just headed ‘that way’ following gradients and compass points, until mysteriously we ended up where we supposed to. I love it when that happens. The overflow car park where we met was so derserted it was hard to know where to park, no white lines to aid decision-making.   We headed into the ice place to use the loos.  Oh my goodness!  I’ve never been before, I mean I’ve been to the loo before, obviously, but not into the ice place.  It was amazing. Not one, but two enormous ice rinks with skaters flying around(ish) and I had a brief moment of wondering if we could abandon the route recce idea in favour of a spin on the ice. That was before I remembered that the last time I ventured out onto ice was when I was still at junior school, and I spent pretty much the whole time clinging to the rail on the outside of the arena.  I had one brief sojourn away from the edge, only to find myself stranded in the middle of the ice, just as announcement went out to clear the ice so the pros could have uninterrupted use of the rink for the next half hour.  Complete panic ensued. It was messy.  How succesful do you imagine a ten-year old who can’t skate might be trying to get off an ice rink whilst panicking?  Well precisely.  That’s right, about that much.  Not a happy memory.  Just another to add to the list of childhood humiliations that punctuated my early years.

Eventually, I was prised away from the cavorting skaters, and we headed out from the car park along the canal.  It was all a bit sudden and frenetic and I was mightily confused. We darted along a bit of road, dived down by the canal and emerged at a sort of landing-place for boats, where the lead runner stopped.  Why?  This was the start of the SWR apparently.  Only it wasn’t.  This wasn’t the start at all. We had gone wrong already.  In fact, it was an epic fail from the off.  A shout went off and we all trailed off in the opposite direction, back the way we’d come, past the dead rat for the second time, and along until we got to a bridge, ran under that, and then, back again!  It was a bit like doing shuttle runs I imagine.  Our leader Smiley made an attempt to restore order, and showed us the point to look out for where we officially left the canal, or possibly went down onto it. I have very little idea really.

It is terrifying really, how quickly I got disoriented and confused.  It was extremely fortunate that Doctor Smiley had brought along some printed out instructions for leg 1.  Although disappointingly not on a clip board. She had also got with her a device for deterring aggressive dogs as well as potentially rounding up wayward smilies. I’d hoped it was some sort of  taser but disappointingly it was actually a humane high frequency sound emitter.  Aggressive dogs hear it, and it stops them in their tracks apparently…. In her defence, she is probably bound by the Hippocratic Oath or something.  Shame, but there you go. In a way, it shows how going for a run mirrors life in microcosm.  One disappointment follows another in sequence.  Such is the nature of our existence.  Best not to dwell on in too much, put that truth to one side, and go run in the autumn leaves instead.  Here are her accessories, for future reference.  The dog silencer is humane by the way, the leg one instructions may not be.

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We must have gone onto the canal, because that’s my main memory of the beginning, yomping along the side of the canal. It was unexpectedly pretty and calm, given that we’d just left the consumerist enclave of EIS and IceSheffield.  The sun was shining, the grass was green, the canal water still.   We jogged along and the instructions here seemed pretty accurate, if we just concentrated on what we were doing:

Continue on the left of the canal for about 1.5 miles passing below several bridges at Broughton Lane (new bridge), Tinsley Locks, Tinsley Wire Industries, Sheffield Road and Tinsley Viaduct. Continue forward on the towpath with the River Don on your left and after 2 locks cross the river by a concrete footbridge. Enter a pleasant wooded area and pass below a railbridge with a metal perimeter fence on your left. Over to your left is the hillside that you are going up and over on your way to Ecclesfield.

Pass below another railbridge where the path narrows. Continue to follow the river bank path until the river turns sharply east over a large weir. Ignore the signed Public footpath at the end of the perimeter fence and in 50 yards take the narrow concealed path sharp left.

The path rises to a footbridge across the railway and then climbs the hill up to Meadowbank Road

 

The next bit worked too:

On reaching Meadowbank Road turn left and cross over to the right hand side. In 350 yards and about 20 yards before a large advertising hoarding take the narrow path diagonally up the bank to a stile at the top. Climb, the stile and continue up the footpath and then a lane which climbs to Meadowhall Road. Cross the road and climb the bank to the left of the electricity pylon to a gap in the hedge at the top of the bank. Turn right to join a path towards the housing estate at Hill Top.

What the instructions completely fail to convey though, is how amazing the views are if you just turn and look behind you.  The juxtaposition of city and green spaces here is particularly pronounced.  One minute you might be on quite a grotty bit of road, the next you are snaking through unexpected patches of woodland rich in autumn colours, with the urban landscape stretching out behind you.  As most runners snaked ahead, this seemed to me a great place to try to coach a fellow smiley in the art of posing for jumping shots.  There’s a knack to it. The main trick is not to really care what you look like on launching, because in the early days it won’t be good.  Not a bad effort demonstrated here, somewhat balletic in parts it’s true, but almost definitely both feet off the ground third time round. So progress was made.  She showed me hers:

so I showed her mine:

CF out of the mist

So we were quits.  Nice wasn’t it?  I didn’t know any of these trails before, and it is genuinely a fantastic way to explore the city environs. We are soooooooooooooooo very lucky to have all this on our doorstep.  Delight gave way to reveal further even more delightful delights.  As we passed down a narrow track at the back of some houses at Hill Top there was even the fine sight of a full pigeon loft, with birds flapping their wings in the morning sunshine. As a nesh southerner, the sight of this fine northern cliché pleased me mightily. If only someone had come out to tend them wearing a flat cap with a whippet at his side I could have dropped dead happy there and then, sadly that was not to be, but on the plus side, it meant I was alive for the impromptu sculpture inspired group pilates and core work session out later on.

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Onwards and upwards. There was a magical moment when we espied a perfectly red apple all on its own hanging teasingly in a wayside tree.  Definitely like something out of a dark fairy tale.  I was tempted, but yomped on.  That can be an adventure into a parallel universe for another day….

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From here, we emerged again onto an unexpectedly busy road.  My running buddies were getting the hang of posing for photos to sign the way now.  Look at them smile and point here.  Like professionals. Note though, these photos are for illustrative purposes only. On the day, it is highly unlikely that there will be a line of smiling smilies like sirens calling you onward. You will need to navigate yourself, and look out for the GoLocal store and road turning all on your own.

Those yellow tees are from the Lakeland Trails Ullswater route last weekend by the way.  Good aren’t they?  We Smilies sure do get out and about.

From Poucher Street, it was indeed on to open country.  Through a little gate, then into a big field where there was a fork in the track. The lead runners headed off to the right, but, for future reference, the correct route is hugging the treeline on the left hand side.  It makes little difference in that both tracks end up at the same point, a style out into a bit of woodland, but the left hand track would be speedier and fractionally shorter.

In any event, once we got into the woods again, this is where the fun factory really picked up speed. To our amazement and joy, we met the first of our sculpture buddies.  Now I know not everyone gets my approach to ‘running’ I use the term loosely of course, some do think runs should involve extended periods of uninterrupted running say, but I defy anyone not to pause to admire this guy or guy-ess if they saw him/ her en route to anywhere.  Obviously, this required more group photos, and emulation of such magnificent core strengthening exercises.

It might have been around this point that I overheard one amongst us declaim ‘for goodness sake, this is like being at a children’s birthday party’, but I took that to be  good thing. We were having a riot out there.  In my world, running should always be fun, otherwise what’s the point.  Plus, it’s important to work on your core at any opportunity, and it is a well-known fact that running is basically a one-legged sport, so really we were just being very hard-core in undertaking spontaneous cross training here and not just messing around at all. Glad I’ve cleared that potential misunderstanding up before it went too far.  The green tee shirts are from the Lakeland Trails Helvellyn route last weekend by the way.  Good aren’t they?  We Smilies sure do get out and about. (Deja vu anyone?)

Workout session one concluded, we yomped onwards. …. only to come upon high-fiving man/man-ess.  This Leg 1 of the SWR just got better and better.  How come the sculpture trail isn’t noted in the route notes. They were awesome!  It was like stumbling across some hidden treasure:

well hello there

AFter this woodland interlude, we were spat out again onto another bit of slightly grotty tarmac road.  Depressingly, there was fly tipping here, but bizarrely, turned out the curtains were known to one of our number.  I hasten to say she had not herself been responsible for the anti-social disposal of them.  Rather she’d gifted them to a charity shop and now here they were by the road side wrapped around rubble.  It was as if they had been calling to her.  It was too big a pile for us to do more than look at dispiritedly.  We passed other examples of fly tipping in this area.  It really makes me mad, people go to some effort to drive to these places and dump waste, would it really be that much more effort to drive it to a tip?

There was a roady bit, and then we were off down a bridleway, into the woods, and looking out for rhododendron bushes along the way. Which there were.  Though as rhododendrons are a massively damaging invasive species we probably shouldn’t celebrate them, impressive as they may seem at first glance.  Probably worse for the natural habitat than fly tipping really, which is a sorry thought.  Oh well, it was still pretty in the woods.

Hilariously, (but then again I am easily amused) we reached a minor impasse at a point where the paths diverged. Which way to go?  Instinct said the wider more pronounced path, but straight on felt more in keeping.  At just this moment, having seen not a single other person out and about on the trails all morning (apart from fishermen by the river but clearly for running related anecdote purposes they don’t count), a cheery group of runners jogged towards us.  ‘Are you looking for the Sheffield Way Relay route?’ one asked, seeing us looking a bit lost.  He then cheerily directed us on our way before sprinting on to join his mates. Aren’t runners lovely?  Not just Smiley Paces runners (though we are the loveliest, naturally) but pretty much all of them. That was a happy chance and handy bit of navigational assistance. We went onwards.  Pausing to note the spectacular views along the way. Oh, actually, maybe that was just me.  Still, done now, and they did wait. Sorry smilies.  I did warn you I’m slooooooooooooooow.

You emerge onto a ‘road’ which actually isn’t. It’s the private road that leads to an extremely grand looking building which apparently (according to our Smiley historian) used to be some sort of children’s home but is now converted into Fantasy Flats. They may not technically be called that to be fair, but they should be, bet they are amazing inside.

Down to the actual road, then off again, down a less than salubrious looking turn – I have no idea how our Doctor Smiley leader was able to navigate at this point, but we followed her, sort of, in a Smiley Paces, might-as-well-try-to-herd-some-cats kind of way.  It worked mostly though, so that was good.  Maybe bring a PE whistle along next time, just as a back up…

The next memorable bit was along past a diary farm.  Nope I mean dairy, well, I presume dairy, because there was a lot of cow poo to negotiate, so presumable cattle toing and froing for milking.  There was also an unusually friendly farm dog that posed rather beautifully amongst the geraniums lining the walls of Butterthwaite Farm. All very lovely, and another completely different bit of Sheffield scenery – we’d had canal and riversides; road and back alleys; woodland and open fields; and now a working farm.  Excellent!

Somehow, through skips and runs we ended up spat out again onto a really main road, past a fitness garage, which seemed to have signage personally aimed at me, sharp right past Morrisons (opportunity to get fine breadcakes there apparently, if you weren’t having to run 10 miles instead), and then across the road into Ecclesfield Park.

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This was another place I’ve never been to. It is amazing how many parks there are around Sheffield. This one was in good use, with walkers and a football match in progress as we scampered along the tree-lined avenue that took us across the path and out onto Church street.  There was a bit of dissent at road crossing strategies, but we were more traffic aware than the pictorial record suggests.  Even so, keep safe out there people.  Whether you are a disciple of Tufty or more a Green Cross Code Man kind of road crosser, be true to your road safety guru.  Rospa will thank you for it.

From the park you are spat out into Church Street.  Here, by some extraordinary coincidence, you will eventually come upon Ecclesfield Parish Church which is just up on the right and the Ecclesfield Village centre with its old stone houses and pubs.  It was all incredibly picturesque, though for the record I had no real sense of where I was in relation to anywhere I actually knew. There was also a bit of a road crossing stand-off it has to be said. Every Smiley for themself at this juncture.  It also started to rain a bit.  ‘Thank goodness I have my waterproof with me‘ exclaimed at least one smug Smiley, clambering into her cagoule, before being shamed for her ostentatious bragging by another responding ‘well, I haven’t‘ with a just a tad of an edge in the voice.   Bit tense back there.  I did have my waterproof with me, but it seemed too much of a faff to put on .  The route requires you to continue up and just after the church turn right up Priory Road.  However, as we had historian Smiley with us, we took a short detour to admire a monument to some distant relative from way back, and pause to look at the exterior of the church, which it must be acknowledged looks very grand indeed.

On from the church, and back on track.  Down a path that took us back into woodlands, up and down, over a little bridge (that was disappointingly completely devoid of both trolls underneath and billy goats gruff trotting above).  This was a very pretty part of the route, but one that future SWR should treat with respect.  It would be really easy to be carried away literally as well as metaphorically with the lovely, bouncy, woodland trails and whizz by the turnings off to the side. Oh well. We didn’t, and we most definitely weren’t racing today, only yomping, so that was fine.  Loved that beautiful old Gatty building on the way past the church by the way, no idea what it was.  Quite some memorial though.

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Around this point, the route started to ascend again.  Eventually we came across a field with horses in it. They snorted appreciatively and came over to investigate as we trekked through, and emerged via a narrow stone style at the far end.

We emerged onto quite a wide tarmac road and found from here a rainbow guided our way. We just had to head towards the end of that, though again, maybe not a landmark to count on on the day, but never say never, hope over experience is not a bad way to pass through life. Admittedly disappointment may forever stalk you, but at least you don’t dwell on it, carrying on in the misguided belief that things are bound to get better in time. Good for you and your pointless optimism!  Bravo!  That’s rainbows for you.  Love ’em.

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Along the road, past a farm and off to the right.  I can’t quite remember why now, but I’m sure there was a really good reason why this became a designated Smiley posing point.  I’d worked out (slowly, admittedly) that some of my ‘helpful’ photos to remind us of the route were entirely pointless, because they were basically pictures of trees standign amongst autumn leaves.  They are much more useful if there is a responsible adult within the frame helpfully pointing the way. If one person is helpful, logically more people would be even more helpful, and at the very least show solidarity. So this is what we were trying to achieve. Great team work do you not agree? (This is a rhetorical question, no answers on a postcard please).

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Into the woods.  Here my compatriots warmed to their responsibilities in relation to the photo documentary of the route.  New innovations were introduced.  It was no longer enough to point the way, but others needed to ‘just say no!’ and signify a cross where there were no go areas.  I say a ‘no’ but really, I think by the end of this mornings shenanigans we all knew pretty much for certain who had the x-factor and who did not. The camera never lies. Draw your own conclusions in your own time.  Work individually, and own your decisions.  It’s a harsh lesson, but a useful one.  Well done all!

I think that’s what was happening.  Now I look again i wonder if the joke was on me. Is this perhaps semaphore?  I wouldn’t know, I don’t know any… aren’t there supposed to be flags?  Maybe that’s another advantage of wearing skorts.  Not just that they cover  up any accidents (although absolutely nobody wears them for that reason) nor even that they have lots of pockets (even though if you fill them the skorts will rapidly end up around your ankles) but also they can be whipped of in an instant to improvise a flag for either semaphore communication purposes, or to stop a train without having to take your actual knickers off a la The Railway Children. Must ask her next time our paths cross…

KN: Railway Children

There followed a TERRIFYING road crossing, a super busy road, Penistone road no less (or Penis Stone road if you are listening to sat nav), you take your life in your hands across there.

Back into the wood for serious exploration and yomping. The directions did fail us here. They sort of make sense once you’ve gone wrong a bit, but suffer significantly from new trails and loops having been constructed in the woods since the first instructions were put together.

Cross Penistone Road (EXTREME CARE REQUIRED HERE).  Just a little way to the right re enter the woods along the main path (painted SLOW on the road). Pass between a tree and some wooden poles and then in 20 yards bear right to follow a path along the edge of the wood (stone wall on the right). At the first cross path turn left to carry straight forward along the Trans Pennine Trail and in 100 yards bear right up a narrow stoney path.

The first bit was OK, we found a stone wall, albeit one that a random black horse was hiding behind.  I thought it was a wolf, which I concede is a bizarre misidentification.  However, before long, as we scampered back and forth in search of the ‘stoney path’, rejecting the signs for the ‘loop trail’ in favour of the short cut and correct route.  At some point, one amongst us spotted what I will refer to with some use of irony as ‘the path’, to be fair there was a massively overgrown footpath sign somewhere within. It was agreed this was probably the correct route, but it didn’t look like it had been used recently, not even for the September race.  We sort of bush whacked through it.  There was some shrieking.  At least one participant was heard to say ‘I’ve never spent this long on a run this distance before ever‘ I didn’t vocalise the thought in my head which was along the lines of ‘that’s strange, because pretty much all my exploratory runs follow exactly this format‘.  It wasn’t even that the other Smiley was making a complaint, it was more an observation, it’s just that when I heard it I came to reflect on whether or not my outward bound yomping excursions follow any recognised running training format at all.  Not to worry, I’m sure it means I’m a pioneer, not an oddity. Yes, that must be it! Makes perfect sense.

Another remarked ‘I feel like David Bellamy‘ I understand what she was saying, but I felt it was more Dian Fossey country  – you’ll have to go and find out for yourself.  We emerged eventually onto a trail, that looked very suspiciously like the loop trail we’d earlier rejected.  Two of us went back sheepishly retracing our steps to check.  Oh yes, that was it, you do follow the loop trail.  Note to self for next time, and helpful pointing shot by way of confirmation:

The others headed off, which created a bit of last-minute confusion, as we got to a junction where there was one path following a stone wall, and a wider path that went straight on and up ahead.  It was fifty-fifty, the instructions directed thus:

Continue on the wide path that climbs slowly up towards the road and after the wall follows a wire fence.

We went with the wider path, despite no sign of a wire fence, or fellow Smilies.  Turns out, we should have clung to the wall.  Unbeknownst to us, that’s what our running buddies had done, but as they’d not waited for us we got separated. Curses.

It doesn’t look very steep, but this was a bit of an uphill slog. I did try and run, but 10 miles in I was flagging.  I tried to explain to Doctor Smiley and we ran a bit despite me protesting I can’t talk and run at the same time, although, mysteriously, it seems I can run uphill and complain a lot really quite well.  I ran out of steam eventually though.  Doctor Smiley rang one of the others and we realised where we’d diverged paths. However, we emerged from our lane, and we were pretty much back at the car park where we’d started.

I’m not going to lie, it was a tad annoying to have gone wrong at the critical end point. This means that this recce would have to be classified as good in parts in relation to actually learning the route because both the start and finish will need to be revisited.  However, all is not lost, because I had a lovely time anyway, and surely the whole purpose of the activity was basically to provide an enrichment activity for me as I don’t get out much.  We yomped together splendidly, and as there is unfinished business with leg one, this is basically a good thing, as it means we get to do it all again another time. Everyone’s a winner.

This is what the car park rendezvous looked like in case you don’t know what a carpark looks like:

Not that special to be fair.

Smilies reunited, we scrambled back into our various modes of transport, parasitising lifts where possible (me) and back to the start to collect other vehicles.  Some Smilies were waved away, others of us went to Costa wehere you can get toast and marmite for £1.40 which I consider a boon to breakfast eating options at a venue I normally discount for being both too expensive and too corporate.  Just four of us made this final stand, but the rules are (apparently) them as that make the post run coffee option, get to decide the date for the next recce.

So smiley people, look out on our facebook page for an announcement of the Recce for Leg 3, happening on a weekend in November sometime soon.

For your infomration, despite the lack of a statistician at this point, we did collectivelyr ealise that strictly speaking SWR Leg 2 should follow Leg 1, but thats already been recced apparently, so the next collective yomp out will be for SWR Leg 3 will meet at the end of that leg i.e. the Cricket Inn, Totley, so we can go back to the Rivelin Head Dam start  and take it from there.

Be there, or miss out massively.

Oh my strava by the way (TomTom is once again functional, maybe it just wasn’t feeling it in the Lakes):

strava leg one first recce

So there we have it. Still some unfinished business perhaps, but a fine collective adventure all the same. Thank you SMiley buddies.  Let’s do it all again soon, the more the merrier.  I will try to run a bit faster and bit more continuously next time, but will also ensure inclusively is maintained but acting as a perpetual drag on the speedier runners.

You’re welcome.

🙂

 

 

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

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

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

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

ullswater steamer 2012

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

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

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

rude awakening

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

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

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

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

skipping games

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

hiding under table

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 three peaks yacht race

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

DOUGAL-AND-THE-BLUE-CAT-006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF9391

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woodrun spies

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

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

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

happy innocence

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

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

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

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

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

Filthy Foursome

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

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

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

Ullswater non sailing route

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

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

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

If you just want visual snapshot of the day(s), and you don’t suffer from migraines, this video fly by is quite cool. Cheers innov8.  The longer inno8 video of the Lakeland Trails Dirty Double weekend (which is officially brilliant because I say so by the way) is here.

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

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

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That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.

🙂

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

Categories: off road, race, running, running clubs | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The power of ten – TenTenTen 2017

Digested read:  It was the TenTenTen last Sunday.  The quintessential Sheffield Trail 10k no less.  I went.  I ran (sort of) it was very nice thank you for asking.  There were some moment of high drama like when the toilets didn’t materialise but crisis was averted, bladder infections avoided and all’s well that ends well.  For those that lingered there were extra bananas!  What’s not to like. Are you coming same time next year? Do so, you won’t regret it.

Is the re-writing of history ever completely innocuous?  I don’t honestly know, but it certainly seems to be the case that ‘facts’ are often evolving and fluid and not as nailed down as some might choose to believe.  Case in point. I thought (knew even), that the 101010 was so called, because the inaugural event took place on 10th October 2010. So in a genius bit of race naming, the TenTenTen was born.  (You can see what they’ve done there 10/10/10, smart eh?).  Hurrah!

tententen logo

It may have been genius, but it was unfortunately short-sighted genius, as what was a rousing and apt name choice in 2010, lost some of its relevance when you get to 2011 and beyond. This is harsh, as the very success of the event, and its longevity, made the naming of it potentially problematic.  No worries, just a little tweak of history, and now the accepted wisdom has become ‘well, it’s a 10k, and it takes place in October (tenth month everyone, keep up) and it always starts at 10.00 a.m. so hence TenTenTen!  Voila!’  I accept it is the prerogative of race/run organisers everywhere to name races as they choose, but it does mess with my head a bit.  I have now heard disbelief from others as I state my recollection of the origins of this classic Sheffield trail run.  Is that how easy it is to reframe history?  We should all be scared.  Just saying.

Even with this factual re-write, the name is confusing to some.  It’s a problem with a lot of runs round here that unless you’ve experienced them the name doesn’t immediately communicate what they are.  Trunce anyone?  Dark and White series? I rest my case.  Only last night I met a friend who was really impressed I’d done the 101010 (and rather surprised) as she’d thought it was called the TenTenTen because you run 10k three times. Three times!  I ask you. Blimey, imagine doing 6 laps from Endcliffe park to get to the 30k, diminishing fun quotient I feel.   Though I did like the marshal who on lap two was proclaiming ‘8 more laps to go’ insisting it is a ten lap course, hence it’s nomenclature.  The possibilities for interpretation are seemingly endless.  More so if I understood binary numbering systems.  It’s probably computer code for something even more mysterious if I but only knew…

In any event, we can all agree that it is a 10k run, it started in 2010 and has become a (hopefully) permanent fixture since.  Another from the kandoo stables of event conjury, it is described as ‘the quintessential 10k running race‘ this tag line makes me happy.  ‘Quintessential’ is a fine adjective that gets not nearly enough exposure.  It makes  me love the event even more.  For those of you not in the know, the TenTenTen website blah de blah describes the event as follows:

What is the Sheffield TENTENTEN?

It’s an exciting and creative multi-terrain trail 10k,  attracting over 1000 runners each year the event has a great atmosphere, and is well supported. The first edition was on the 10th October 2010, hence the funny name!

Who is it for?

This is an all-inclusive event, anyone from 4 upwards can compete in the 2.5k Fun Run, and 15 upwards for the 10k. All abilities are represented, many have started their running journey at this event. The range is wide we have even had international standard representation (see course record). Then there is the rest of the family, bring them along to soak up the atmosphere and support. 

The Course

The course has been created with a twist of creativity and innovation. It’s not your regular road race, it is run on grass, road, paved paths and woodland trails. It’s a really balanced mix, and introduces novices to the world of trail running gently. The course does have a few lumps and bumps, twists and turns, and all adds to the fun

So for the record, the official line seems to be that the naming of the TenTenTen is a indeed a reference to its historical origins, and those who spin other truths risk being branded purveyors of fake news, and that never ends well.  The Kandoo team is very good at organising running events, but I wouldn’t necessarily have them at as the headline act topping the bill at an international comedy festival say. The name is novel, but not really side-splittingly hilarious to be fair.  Perhaps funny-peculiar rather than funny ha-ha? They do have a sense of humour though, they must have to have initiated the doggy dash amongst other innovations.  Plus all running events are inherently hilarious. So all is not lost. Well, I think they are anyway.  On a personal level I sure as hell don’t participate in any running endeavour to experience individual sporting glory, but rather for the intrinsic merriment of what is essentially a pointless collective endeavour.  It is completely illogical and ridiculous to just run round in two big circles for no particular reason if you stop to think about it.  But you mustn’t stop, because then it wouldn’t bea  10k run.  That’s not to say there aren’t members of the sporting elite at these events, only that the race caters for both ends of the running spectrum.  If my experience is anything to go by, they are genuinely inclusive and celebrate the social side of running whilst applauding and rewarding running excellence as well.  Quite an organisational coup to pull off I’d say.  It all takes place starting in Endcliffe Park.  Here is the park looking lovely, before the event village made camp, thereafter it still looked lovely, but in a very different way.

ten calm endcliffe

By the way, one of the attention to detail things they typically do is to make TenTenTen run photos freely available via their Facebook page, but request that if you use them, you make a donation to their nominated charity  The photos are always excellent and pop up on profile pages everywhere, so here’s hoping if you enjoy them, you’ll be minded to make a contribution too.  It’s not so very much to ask, as the organisers put it …

Some inspiring Finish pics from Race Image Photography – Ian has very kindly decided to donate his photography fee to Weston Park Cancer Charity If you do end up using your pics do consider a small donation www.justgiving.com/tententen2017 Photos also supplied by True Glass Photography and Ben Lumley Photography

So there were plenty of snappers on hand for runners to direct their ‘seen a photographer face’ at.  Always a boon.  This is my favourite photo of the day by the way:

ten hill fun VHR

I’m guessing swift up that hill but I’m thinking fractionally slow on the uptake in spotting the paparazzi, but the result is a gift to us all in the form of this photo that is a joy to behold.  So can we have a shout out to all the photographers on the day for fabulous photographing throughout?  I thank you.

That might be my favourite photo of the day, but this was my favourite sight:

beautiful sight indeed

Sometimes you don’t really appreciate a thing until you think it has been taken away from you.  More of this later.

I will out myself now. I do have a bit of a soft spot for the TenTenTen.  When I first moved to Sheffield as a complete non-runner (as opposed to the pretend runner I pass myself off as currently), I saw signs for the forthcoming 10k trail run and marveled that people did such a thing and hankered after being able to do such a seemingly impossible thing myself one day too.  On the day itself, it was torrential rain, really, a lot of water out there.  All coming out the sky (unsurprisingly) and bouncing back at ya from the ground as well.  I happened to see my bedraggled next door neighbour returning from having run it sporting his bling and looking hardcore.  I was very impressed. Six miles running on a trail in that was clearly not for the faint hearted.  Fast forward, and it still seems extraordinary to me that I can now count myself as one of its participants. I’ve only run it a couple of times, and last year volunteered in return for a free place this time round (an enjoyable option if you fancy a year off or can’t run because injured some time). Through volunteering I made two new friends and so sourced some outstanding running buddies, and you can never have too many of them.  However, the event has a symbolism that goes beyond what it is, which is a basically a very nice 10k trail in two laps from Endcliffe park. As I could in theory at least run that any time, it’s appeal is perhaps a bit disproportionate, but it is the camaraderie and added value that being able to access a proper coffee and pizza wedge afterwards that elevates the event beyond the ordinary.  I was looking forward to it.

Well,  I was looking forwards to it, and then the unthinkable happened.  Not in this instance the realisation that I’d be expected to run.  But when I had my pre-event peak at Facebook in case of any updates I saw this:

Morning guys – we have a bit of an issue this morning – our toilets have been cancelled on us at 3am this morning! As a result there are very limited toilets onsite – we are trying to rectify the problem quickly!
Please try and arrive Having done your business! Please bear with us!

ten loo alert

They tried to ease the pain with a nice photo, but really.  It was all very well saying ‘fingers crossed’ it’ll be sorted, but I had visions of having to run the whole event with my legs crossed!  That was my whole pre-race ritual out of the window.  I must have a multitude of precautionary pees before any organised event.  This was bad.  I imagine though, my horror, was as nothing to that of the organisers.  What good is a 3 a.m. cancellation to anyone. Co-incidentally, that is about the time that always wake spontaneously for my night-time pee.  We must all be synchronised to do so across the land, if this is when cancellation emails are sent and received.

I’ve no idea how they got it sorted, but amazingly they did.  An hour later, new loos were in situ.  Not just any loos, but luxury ones with fluffy white hand towels, gold-plated taps and a spa whirlpool annexe round the back.  (Not really, but it was such a joy to behold them, they may as well have done).

luxury loo

Presumably Mr Kandoo has a batphone link to emergency toilet purveyors. I suppose they get helicoptered (or bat-dropped) in on demand if you have the right contacts.  I so wish I did, that would be such a boon at events when you are desperate for the loo and there is ne’er a toilet cubicle in sight.  Mind you, I can’t help but think if they had gone ahead with the Doggy Dash plan (doggy run as a prelude to the main event), then most people present would have come with a supply of poop bags for their canines and incontinence products for themselves as a precautionary measure in case they wet themselves with either fear or laughter during the K9 run proceedings.  This has all been documented previously..  In that case the lack of loos would have been less of an issue as runners would have been prepared. Just some helpful feedback for the race team to take on board there.

Even so, I would welcome that as a super power quite frankly, the ability to conjure up a loo any time, any place, anywhere.  Would be great if you could extend it to introducing sanitation into areas of the world where there is none, I wouldn’t only use it out of narrow self-interest, though I can’t lie, I’d probably do that too.

helicopter portaloo drop

I decided against an early show at Endcliffe Park, delaying departure as long as possible.  I’d picked up my number in advance from Front Runner anyways so no particular need to go early other than to queue up perpetually for the loos.  Once a Facebook update indicated the problem was sorted, I ambled down.

It was a glorious running day, perfect autumnal weather.  No rain, cool but a little promise of sunshine to come perhaps.  It was fun walking down and enjoying the familiar rituals of the event, the ‘road closed’ signs and coned off entrance to Bingham park ahead of The Hill.

 

Better yet there were familiar faces in their expected marshaling points.  This particular marshal pretty much owns this mini-roundabout.  It wouldn’t be the TenTenTen without her in place.  Apparently this marshalling  post requires someone arsey, gobby and with a voice like a fog-horn who is not to be messed with with excellent leadership and negotiation skills as it can be a bit challenging being situated where the road is blocked off.  Fortunately, cometh the hour, cometh the woman who can. Shout out to one of our very own Sheffield Hallam parkrun run directors and volunteer par excellence strutting her funky stuff.  We who are about to run salute you!

 

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Then you start to encounter the first of many red arrows – not quite as exciting as I first thought to be fair, being more earth-bound than flight bound, but nevertheless, leading the way.

 

As I went through the park, I met with the first of the 2.5km fun runners.  I had a bit of a pang that I was missing Graves junior parkrun today, but this was almost as good.  Some of the young runners really do sprint by, but there were a few merrily making their way with miscellaneous adults in tow which was quite sweet.  And I was delighted to spot a Smiley out and about so soon as well. Go Smilies!  I didn’t think the adults on bikes was entirely sporting, but then again, you have to stay ahead/ keep up with those speeding juniors somehow!

 

I missed the communal warm up for the junior event, but the photos made that look well impressive. It was led by the amazing levitating man from Trib3, but even more impressively, he had some of those juniors levitating too!  What do they get up to at that gym?

ten levitating man

Coming into the event village, there was a joyous sight for sore eyes to soak up before taking in the glories of the other facilities on offer.

sight for sore eyes

I did get to see some of the juniors return victorious.  Cute quotient of junior runners for a Sunday was thus fulfilled.  Phew.  You’d have to be in possession of an ice-cold heart not to smile and share the joy in some of these shots.  I like the use of a personal trainer at the finish and the hand holding over the line.  Altogether now …. ‘aaaah!’

 

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After cheering back some of the juniors, then it was milling and chilling time.  Trying to find other smilies mainly.  I did a circuit to say some hellos to the great and the good and then joined the perpetual motion immersion experience that is queuing for the loos.

 

ten venue

I didn’t find all that many smilies to be fair, but enough for a couple of pre-run selfies which was the main thing.  Other smilies were volunteering, and there were plenty of familiar faces from other clubs in general and parkrun in particular.  It’s great doing local events in that respect, you can’t fail to recognise loads of people and it makes the whole thing feel supportive and friendly. Well I find it to be so anyway.  Depends how you feel about the value of anonymity when running.  I had to field a few disappointed queries from those wondering why I was solo ‘what no giraffe‘ but I explained about Geronimo resting up at the moment.  I think I did a bit too much with her a couple of months back what with Vitality Move and the Round Sheffield Run so I’m keeping her rested up til Christmas now probably.  Maybe next year though. We’ll see.

 

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It is perhaps a little unfortunate that the group shot was snapped at the precise moment one of our number spotted the Endcliffe Park flasher, but these things happen.  At least it gives the photo an authenticity it might otherwise have lacked.  Can’t accuse us motley crew of being too posed!

Photos snapped, gossip shared, bags dropped. There was a warm up for the main event, but I took the precaution of not joining in too much for fear of wearing myself out.  Instead, I took my place in the starting pens alongside new best friends from TNT who let me peer inside their tops for sizing purposes.  I seem to have accidentally signed up to do some cross country with them next month, and needed to know about kit. Those tops look tight though, even by running top standards.  Could be a squeeze.  I love that it’s OK in running start line ups to ask such questions, you aren’t normally allowed to put such posers when queuing in the post office say, but in a running context, completely acceptable behaviour.  Discussions on moisture management socks are probably OK too, but I’d generally make my opening question about choice of running shoes to be on the safe side.

 

So after milling and chilling, there was warm up, hanging about and then ‘suddenly’ we were off.  Actually, it was a bit slow going over the starting mats, but no worries, it’s all chip timed anyway, so only the purists focusing on gun times would have had an issue, and I expect they all started at the front anyway.

The first obstacle of the morning was an impromptu lake.  This was before we’d even left the park, and it was hilarious how many of us tried to pick our way around it, as if this would be the only water we’d encounter en route.  I am learning that it’s best to get your feet soaked early on in trail events so you stop pussy footing around and just plough through.  You’ll get wet feet anyway, but surrendering to the inevitable early on, you gain confidence and a more direct route round.  A sound investment if you are but bold enough to take it!  Here is the puddle, and some gratuitous trainer shots, courtesy of the TenTenTen photography team, who know the power of such titillating running shoe images.  Well I think it’s the shoes, not the calf shots.  Each to their own though.  That water feature would have been quite good for the doggy dash incidentally … maybe next year that fantasy will become a reality.  We can cross our fingers for that, now we don’t have to keep our legs crossed any  more.

 

Out of the park, onto Rustlings Road.  Lawks a-lordy how I hate running on roads, especially in my trail shoes. Not anywhere near enough cushioning, I could feel my feet splintering.  I need to go to Trib3 and learn to levitate, or concentrate more at Accelerate trail runs so I can be lighter on my feet.  Meantime, I’ll just wince a lot.  And complain.

AFter the road, it’s pretty much straight away The Hill.  It’s only a really short section, but it’s a steep grassy bank of exceptional slipperiness.  You are supposed to cycle up it according to the signage, maybe that’s part of the problem.

The Hill

The photo makes it seem pretty innocuous, but it is like trying to ascend a greased up slide.  Have you ever watched  Total Wipeout?  Pleasingly, I learned from Front Runner on a recce of the course some years ago that it is legitimate race craft to just walk up this hill. Why exhaust yourself over such a short distance, only to be thwarted by a bottle neck as you enter the woods down a narrow path at the top of it. For all but the elite, running up it is pretty much futile, though it is massively entertaining for spectators, so it comes down to how much of an exhibitionist crowd pleaser slash competitive athlete you are on the day. Great photos though.  On a serious note, I have no idea at all how the lead bike got up it, it was a mud slide by lap two…

 

Mercifully, I was spared a photo of myself tackling the hill.  Possibly because I crawled up on my hands and knees, and therefore was under the sight line of the photographer throughout.

This hill is probably the worst/best bit, depending on your point of view.  On reaching the top, you duck into the wood and it’s a lovely sheltered woodland trail. You have to watch out for tree roots, and it is narrow, so pretty much impossible to overtake.  Again, that doesn’t worry me, but it did slow me quite a bit, maybe I should have gone a bit further forward in the starting line up after all.  It was a nice yomp through, periodically marshals appeared to point and cheer and warn of any particular hazards ahead.  It all feels very well supported and safe. There was one moment in the trails where I heard the tell-tale shriek that signified we had a runner down, a woman had taken a tumble in the woods.  By the time I got there a number of people were helping, I asked if any help was needed but was told not. A bit further on there was a marshal who had obviously been alerted to the incident and was making their way back to her clutching a first aid kit.  Hope it was a first aid kit with something more than a sling and an elastoplast or it might have been a challenge. Joking apart, she was walking wounded, so even if a regrettable DNF, which seems likely, I don’t think it was too serious.  Hope not anyway, recover soon whoever you are.

The 10k is in two 5k laps, so you emerge from the woods at intervals onto road crossings, so there are plenty of opportunities for supporters to cheer you around, and in between are smiling clapping marshals.  Here’s one by way of illustration, but other marshals were available to. Thank you all for being all-round awesome.  Much appreciated – which isn’t an observation I’d automatically make to any random man loitering in the woods in the expectation of runners coming by shortly.  So much etiquette in life is context specific don’t you agree?

hi viz hero

Have I mentioned already how brilliant it is doing a local race because you’ll know so may people out and about on the day?  I did?  Well, every silver lining has its cloud. The downside of being part of the local vibrant running community is that there is really nowhere to hide.  It was like running under surveillance, every time I nursed even a distant thought of slacking off a smiley or woodrun supporter would pop out from behind a tree and shout some words of encouragement and support.  It would be rude to be caught out walking in such scenarios.  If I saw them first I was able to implement my ‘I’ve been doing perfect running form all the way round‘ mode, and knock out a few strides of graceful (by my standards) bounding.  If they saw me first, I had to do an apologetic little spurt of ‘honestly, this is the first time I’ve backed off the whole time‘, not sure how convincing either performance was…  With some I just stopped and went in for the hug or the shameless wave.  It’s quite a complex social interaction to be fair.  We all have our own tactics when running under observation.  It’s not just me, it’s well documented.  Have you never heard of the Hawthorne effect?  Nevertheless, it was unconditionally brilliant to be cheered round. You almost feel like a celebrity if you hear the Go Smiley shout out, and as for an actual name call, well, that’s the ultimate accolade. So thanks everyone who popped up.  I applaud you all.  Whether you bounced out from behind the railings on Rustlings Road; gave a post- Tissington hug in Endcliffe Park; shooed me round the mini-roundabout at Oakbrook road; high-fived me in a family quartet near the lake; cheered me on the road as I turned back for home; enquired about my party hat at the road crossing or cajoled me up the hill.  You are appreciated.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Running buddies are The Best.  Fact.

Known supporters are particularly welcome, but you know what, I’m shallow, I’ll take encouragement from wherever it comes.  There was lots.  A few children offered up high-fives which is always a boon.  I made one miscalculation though, going in for a high-five with a little girl who seemed up for it, but then the sight of me bearing down on her caused her to have a change of heart.  I fear I may have left her mildly traumatized even though I aborted my manoeuvre just in time.  Feeling guilt ridden, I was therefore massively cheered to see as I cornered a family quartet of known supporters, positioning themselves so I could go for the full monty of a perfect four high fives on passing.  Reader I did it.  I couldn’t have been more impressed by our co-operation and co-ordination if I had indeed been part of a red arrow fly past display.  We were genius, and far better in terms of CO2 omissions too.  I mean no family experiences that much fatulence surely, even with the excitement of procuring cumulative high fives factored in?

Alarmingly early on in my first lap a bike started to push through.  I was initially annoyed, ‘why is a cyclist being so assertive in the midst of a load of runners?’ then I realised it was the lead bike. The first runner home was way ahead of the pack.  Admittedly I have been lapped previously at the TenTenTen, but only just at the half way point, this was much earlier on. He led by a good few minutes, it was impressive, but almost disturbing, that’s got to be super-human speed surely.  It’s not a massively challenging course, but it isn’t as predictable as road running, he was super fast.

ten how its done

By the time I got to half way, there were a few more runners streaming to the finish.  I contemplated joining them, but figured first woman home was a bit of a stretch, and what’s the point.  I headed on round and to the water station, where a fellow smiley was on the bottles so to speak.  I haven’t sussed drinking and running, so stopped to drink and walked on for a bit.  I really do need to work out how to hydrate on longer runs, it isn’t efficient to just zone out for a while, though it is fun watching other runners pass.

Soon I was back at the hill.  It was even more slidey now, and I struggled to get up it even with my grippy innov8 shoes.  I didn’t mind too much that I was struggling up as other runners were similarly cautiously trying to pick their way through the mud.  Less supportively, and more mysteriously, by the time we came round for the second lap there were some kids playing by just running up and down the hill apparently entirely effortlessly.   I could have wept.  How do they do that?  How come it’s even possible?  They were veritably skipping up it I tell you. SKIPPING!

The field spread out a bit more in the second lap, and weirdly I found this second 5km much easier than the first.  It seems to take me 5k to warm up.  Maybe I should try doing an actual warm up before a run one day and see if that helps.  High risk though, don’t want to use up all my stored carbohydrate supplies too early on in proceedings.  It was fun seeing the same marshals the next time round. All of them kept up a constant stream of words of encouragement.  Well maybe the ‘only eight laps to go‘ quip wasn’t entirely encouraging, but it was funny, and that marshal did correctly inform us this was the highest point of the run so kudos to him.

Oh yes, and there were the race photographers too, they took some great photos (make your donation to Weston park people, it’s the least you can do).  Now might be a good time to put some more in:

 

Whilst the photographers did a grand job of taking photos (not entirely unexpectedly, that is sort of their area of expertise I suppose) also out on the course was the Selfie Queen and back marker for the day.  Injury limiting her running plans, she was making the most of taking it relatively steady en route.  Bonding, sharing the joy of running and documenting the occasion. Plus, on flag removal duty on the second lap, that’s a lot of multi-tasking going on there.  I have been accompanied by a back marker on fell runs. On one particular occassion (Bamford Sheep Dog Trials) the tail runner kept disappearing into the bushes every few hundred metres or so.  I spent a long time thinking he really should get his prostate checked out before I twigged he was dismantling the course behind me!  Anyway, I give you the perfected running selfie.  I know, impressive.  I don’t know how she does it, she hasn’t even got a selfie stick, or go pro or anything, just a natural I suppose…

backmarking and selfie queen

So then almost suddenly, it was the final loop and back in the park towards the finish funnel. There was still a crowd to cheer runners home, and it is wonderful to experience that.  There is such an outpouring of goodwill at the kandoo events.  For that moment you can really believe that running is fun, and be all enthused about doing it all again as soon as possible!

 

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So you pass through the finish, get your bling (always excellent at this event, though the fun runners are under a directive only to use the bottle opener feature for ginger pop opening unless they are catering for the needs of their adult supervisors).  You could queue up for a DIY goodie bag (crisps, banana, rather good peanut butter and caramel or something bar, water, voucher for Trib3 all within a Sainsburys bag for life).  Better yet, there were smilies about and even a Smiley supporter (and my high-five quartet) who was distributing slices of pizza!  I know. Oh my god that was brilliant.  I felt a bit guilty accepting (didn’t want the family to go hungry) but I got over that pretty quick, and then further exploited the child labour on hand by getting them to take some post run shots.  Well, in for a penny eh? Thanks though 🙂

smiley finishers

Then I joined a short queue to get an instantaneous print out of my time, before rejoining my Smiley buddies ahead of the prize giving because one of our own was champion V60 Smiley. Back and on it after an injury induced absence.  Yay!  We gathered by the podium for the awards.  It was a very cheery spectacle.  It was also the occasion of the annual moss family photo as between them they won just about everything in all categories.  I wonder if that is a genetic coincidence or the product of a captive breeding programme.  I didn’t like to ask.  Well done though, very impressive.

The awards are great,  not just the cash vouchers which were no doubt welcome, but the silver trainer trophies with writing on the side. Very good.

 

As the awards ceremony was underway, a shout went up for the final finisher and back marker coming in.  We broke off to go and cheer them home. It was quite emotional watching them come across the finish holding hands.  They’d had a ball out there.  Congratulatory hugs all round and new running buddies forged.

 

I might have had something in my eye watching that.

More prizes, and then it was foraging for coffee, massages, post run anecdotes.  All needs were catered for!

 

So I lingered for post run coffee with awesome running buddies. And then just when we thought things couldn’t get any better, there were bananas being gifted in abundance, like they grew on trees or something.  We final few went home laden.  Hurrah.

So that was that, goodbye TenTenTen for another year.  Thanks everyone, organisers, volunteers, running buddies all.  All ended apart from the chafing.  I do so wish they did enormous g cup compeed plasters, then there would be no more bra related injuries for me.  I’ll add that to my wish list of sponsored goods for when I’m a famous sporting personality and get to commission my own gear.

Oh I nearly forgot, for them of you as care about such things, the TenTenTen results from over the years are here.

You’re welcome.

Happy running til next time.

This could be you in the frame same time next year. Just saying.  🙂

 

For all my TenTenTen related posts click here, scroll down for older entries

For Kandoo Round Sheffield Run related posts click here, scroll down for older entries.

Like the pictures?  Go on, make a donation, every little helps, and the feel good factor will make you run faster next year www.justgiving.com/tententen2017

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

Oh what a beautiful morning! Dark and White Autumn Series 2017 event 1. Carsington Water.

Digested read: first time at a Dark and White series event.  It was lovely.  17km of fantastic views with brilliant organisation. Worth the horror of getting up in the dark.    You get cake!  No really, and you don’t have to navigate and it was super-friendly.  I was sad there was no teleporter as I first thought, but otherwise would recommend.

Peak distric trail run series

I can’t lie.  There were quite a few less than charitable words being exchanged in the car on the way to Carsington water yesterday morning.  The topic under debate was ‘whose fault’ it was that we’d had to all get up at stupid o’clock, when it was actually IN THE DARK to go and run round in a great big circle somewhere.   Accusations flew around the dark interior of the car where our not-so-merry quartet had gathered en route to Derbyshire. Finger pointing isn’t pretty, but it does sometimes happen during the angst-ridden journeys into the unknown. Bet it was exactly the same when people first set out to circumnavigate the world, which is basically the same thing as setting off to do a new trail run.  Accusations and counter accusations were in play, with some reference to ‘you need to take personal responsibility for your actions’ alongside alternative tactics of blaming people who weren’t even there.  I wonder if this is what it will be like when the world ends.  Bickering about how we got into this mess, rather than trying to extricate ourselves from it?  Probably. Don’t worry, we made up, and by the end it wasn’t a question of allocating blame, it was more a question of celebrating whosoever it was that inspired us to take on the challenge, but that was later.   All happy and friends again. Aren’t we lovely?

Arent we lovely and foot photobomb

I’ve only just noticed the foot photo-bomb, but I like that. Did you know that in many South-East Asian countries pointing a foot like that would be considered really offensive?  It’s OK in Derbyshire though, so no need for retaliation or retribution on this occasion even if we did know whose foot it was.

Where was I?  And more importantly, where were we going?  Oh, erm, it was the first race of the Dark and White Autumn event series.  Pre going myself, I was disproportionately confused by what these runs actually are.  Basically, it’s a series of three runs organised over the Autumn, you can enter them individually or as a series for a discount. Each of the three events offers a choice of two routes: long (14-17 km) and short (5-7 km), all in and around the Peak District National Park.  They are very well organised, well-signed and supported, with water stations mid-point and cake at the end.  Yes, you read that right. Cake.  At the end.

For reasons that had become lost in the mists of time, four of us had made a misguidedall for one and one for all‘ sort of pact to do the long route.  Which at 17km was actually further than I’d expected, because it didn’t sound too far in kilometres as I still can’t really fathom what they are, but is actually 10.5 miles, but hey ho, bit late to be backing down at this stage.  Hence we were now in a car at 6.30 in the morning, bickering and blaming one another, albeit in a good-humoured, smiley sort of way.  Fortunately, because, Smileys are all basically lovely, the squabbling died down pretty quickly, and we became distracted by the gorgeousness of the route in the early morning.

This is where we were heading. Carsington water.  I did actually steal this photo from their events  website, but it did honestly look like this.  Blooming lovely out there.

dark and white cover shot

It was a cold, but it gave way to brilliant sunshine and it was like being on a safari drive heading out of Sheffield. There was mist rising from Longshaw as we passed by, then we saw two huge fallow deer just chilling on a road somewhere. Our next sighting was of a fox, slinking across our path, a common enough sight in urban areas, but it’s years since I’ve seen one in the countryside.  And then a more disputed sighting, but I reckon was a stoat (or possibly a weasel), others thought maybe a juvenile squirrel, but it’s tale was too long and anyway it’s the wrong time of year for a young squirrel and one that small wouldn’t be crossing roads on its own anyway. Plus, deciding factor, my blog, my rules.  It was stoatally a stoat.  Because I say so.  Personally, I also got very excited at the sight of a sign for somewhere called The Pudding Room, but it would  have been shallow to have drawn too much attention to it whilst surrounded by my sporting elite buddies.  I feared they would shudder at the thought of such Dionysian access to free range carb unless it was already built into their current training plan’s gantt chart under the ‘nutrition’ column.  Then again, I should have credited them with a bit more of a capacity for reason.  17km romp or face plant into a smorgasbord of cakes and pastries?  Hmm, tough call, though to be fair it wasn’t open yet, another day, another mission perhaps…

pudding room delights

With only one minor detour, we arrived at Carsington Water about 7.45 a.m. ish.  I’ve never been before, but it was an impressive venue.  There was a massive car park which was basically empty, and flags were up denoting the start of race and there was a posse of marshals in hi-viz doing purposeful things.   In a run event first, we actually managed to park directly opposite the registration area.  Closer than the usual bag drop at an event.  Nice.  This would be  a great place to go for a run anytime really, as the facilities are great.  A huge visitors centre, loos, lots of parking, well-marked easy-going trails. Well, they say ‘easy-going’ I didn’t find the going altogether easy to be fair, but then I was trying to run faster than usual, you don’t have to.

You can pay for either 2 hours or all day parking.  We opted for a day at £4.70 so we knew we’d have until midnight to get round.  Well we had all gone for the long route and no point in putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure.  There are loads of pay and display machines around but – user alert – you have to  put in the last three digits of your car registration number when you get a ticket. That nearly defeated me, it not being my car, but we got there in the end.  Buying a ticket is harder than you might think these days, if you are parked a long way from a machine and getting a ticket for the driver you might want to bring a pen and paper with you to avoid purchasing mishaps yourself.

Once we’d got over marvelling at how well parked we were, we went to explore.  Outside the registration area were lots of signs clarifying kit requirements and the route.  The website also gave a pretty detailed course description of the Carsington Water Dark & White route to be fair. The blah de blah stated:

The run starts and finishes at Carsington Watersports Centre, see here for more information www.carsingtonwater.com

Both routes set off on the initially pan flat reservoir perimeter track in a southerly direction – the track is a smooth, hardcore surface making for fast, flowing trail running; after crossing the dam the routes split at the 2km point and the shorter route then completes a slightly undulating route back ‘under’ the dam before returning to the finish. The long route continues on the super smooth surface round the reservoir but the going becomes a bit more ‘rolling’ from now on so expect to start getting a bit of a sweat on!

At the 8km point the long route crosses a main road and the character of the course changes as it starts to gradually climb to a high point on the High Peak Trail. At the east of Hopton village a field path is taken and this is good, grassy running but on a steady, energy sapping incline off and on for around 2km; after crossing a lane there is a ‘dip’ in the track with a sharp little ascent to meet the High Peak Trail (which is on old railway line converted to a cycling/walking track). We’re now back on a smooth, fast, hardcore trail – flat to start with then it’s climbing again as we ascend the Hopton Incline which has a gradient of around 6% for nearly 1km. The high point of the route (330m above sea level) is reached at the 12km point – if you haven’t noticed already the views from here are amazing albeit blighted somewhat by the massive wind turbines nearby…

We now turn south for ‘home’ on an excellent field path – come over a brow and the best view of the day pops up i.e. the whole of Carsington Water in all it’s glory – now that’s got to be worth getting out of bed for! A steep grassy descent (care needed) follows into Carsington village then it’s a nip through the houses, cross the main road again and we’re back on the fast reservoir track for a 2km blast back to the finish. 17.1km/230m of climb – done and dusted – time for tea and cake!

So if you just wanted the route information you are done with this blog post now and are excused. Go do something more useful with your life and less time-vampirish than hanging out here with me.

It was extremely clear. There was also a scary kit requirement warning along the lines of ‘don’t even think of turning up at the start line without’ kind of thing.  They had relaxed the requirement for waterproof trousers and another top though, so that was good.  The kit requirements and other information are given out in detail on the information section of their website. Worth a browse.  Helpful stuff for a first timer like myself, even if I didn’t have the wit to follow all of it through.

Inside the registration are was a tight-knit team of friendly marshals on hand.  Again, I was an epic fail at this, as the first question was ‘do you have your disclaimer form with you?’ and I didn’t.  I explained about having it sat on the printer at home but that doesn’t count apparently. Fortunately the hi-viz heroes seemed a non-judgemental and patient lot. They also had a big stash of disclaimer forms for people like me to sign in a hidden room at the back of the sign up area  – the officials were extremely keen everyone did sign away as much as possible, which is fair enough. At your own risk and everything.  Then you gave your name in return for a dibber (or dabber, I still don’t know what it is really.)  There was a brief opportunity to admire the purple top of another of the race organisation team. It had a particularly appealing tactile and textured finish, and as a reward for our sighs of admiration and expressions of longing, we were allowed a little chaste stroke of the garment’s arm to express our admiration and appreciation,  before turning to the next table where we got given our numbers.  I got 22, which pleased me.  You also got a map, with the route on one side and emergency contact details and procedures on the other.  I forgot to get this and had to go back again.  Doh.

Race registration HQ

Next stop was the women’s changing rooms to attach our numbers with the aid of a mirror. Then of course the first of the precautionary pees of the morning.  There were loads of loos.  Only one in the changing room, but I rejected that, because alongside all my other neurosis is my affliction of bashful bladder, I knew I wouldn’t perform if my Smiley buddies were waiting for me directly outside the cubicle. I know how irrational that is, but it is also true.  I went in search of other loos, there are some in the visitors centre, but that doesn’t open until 10.00 a.m. but there were loads of clean and well equipped toilets in a couple of blocks alongside.  It was great venue for a race HQ.  Also, as I ambled over to these I got to appreciate the first of many amazing views across the reservoir as the sun rose, and a fine owl. I like owls.  Not a real one though.  Still nice.

This wasn’t a big event, and it starts in waves so it was all pretty relaxed.  We mootled about, admired the scenery and chatted a bit to other runners whilst faffing about with our kits.  I was taken with a Sparkhill Harriers running club vest.  Great name Sparkhill – fortunately the vest wearer was friendly, Sparkhill is a region outside Birmingham (sort of) apparently.  I think I should have known that, maybe did one time.  Still, no harm in being reminded of it.  This is a really low-pressure event. I’d already decided just to treat it as a yomp out, like a marked training run.  Of course it catered for speedy souls who wanted to bomb round, but it is also, in my view at least, inclusive in how it’s set up.  Friendly, no navigation and lots of support, generous cut off times and a nice milling and chilling start line.

The first wave, which we’d signed up for, was due to set off at 8.30.  A little bit before we gathered round the start flag for a briefing.  Straightforward, we were shown the route markers, advised to look out for each other and the CARE signs on the way.  Reminded of dibbing protocol – the beginning, the end and the mid-pointish feed station…

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and that was it.  We were on our way.  Gorgeous weather, the sunshine was almost too bright.  My new Sparkhill friend was in a different wave as I saw him jogging towards the start as we were heading out, he gave a cheery wave.  Within seconds I was distracted by the stunning views.  I was taking my time and I’ve just got my camera back from being mended so was soon on task pausing to take some shots along the way. This is not good for running times, but it is good for appreciating where you are.  This route was  rather more manicured than I expected from a trail run, but it was stunning.

Just as we set off, there was a duo on bikes heading off down the track simultaneously.  One struck up a conversation with me, first asking me about what we were thinking doing and then when I told her it was  a 17km run offered me a lift.  Which I politely declined.  It got me thinking though. Did you know that’s the third time I’ve been offered a bike ride by way of assistance whilst I’m participating in an organised race?  I’ve also previously been stopped by someone wanting directions!  That’s quite a high number of outside interventions to contend with I think. I don’t know anyone else whose fessed up to having the same offer made even once.  I can’t work out quite why this is, but I think it is a combination of one or all of the following:

  1. I must look in desperate need of outside assistance
  2. I must look highly corruptible, the sort of person who would give in to temptation and climb aboard
  3. I look friendly and approachable and up for a chat, or …
  4. (most likely) I look like I’m ambling along so half-heartedly I can’t possibly be engaged in any competitive endeavour, so free for a natter before I continue

None of these people have got the memo which states most categorically that I cannot talk and run simultaneously.  It’s very annoying.  They were nice though, these cyclists, and after a bit they got bored crawling along at my pace so they went on ahead, weaving through the runners with care, occasionally giving their bells a good old ding (not a euphemism) to let them know they were nearby.

It was quite roady to start with, a tarmac track around the perimeter of the reservoir.  I did wonder if I might have been better in road shoes, those hard surfaces are really hard on my poor arthritic feet.  I can feel all those bones inside them shattering on impact.  According to Wikipedia there are 26 bones in the foot.  I think I have must have more than that as I swear I can feel bits breaking off inside as I run.  Oh well.  It’s a tough call.  This route was majority hard compact surfaces, and I’d have loved more cushioning in my shoes, but for those muddy and steep off road sections, short as they were, I do think trail shoes were essential.  My innov-8s were probably the right call on balance, though I did have a moment of angst I’ve not really run them in properly.  I’ve only done one parkrun and one 6.5 mile run in them previously, I was a bit worried they might be so new I’d get blisters.  I did in fact, but only one, and right at the end, so OK.  On the subject of parkrun, did you know that as Exodus are now parkrun partners you can get a free apricot tee if you quote your parkrun ID when booking one of their holidays?  Me neither until last week.

The next bit of early on excitement was the presence of Chris Meads, official race photographer, who took some shots of runners heading out with the reservoir backdrop.  Official photos were £5.50 which isn’t bad I think, although in Sheffield we are very fortunate that some races have given up charging for photos in favour of a donation.  Here is one of mine, proof I made it out on the course.  Also, I like that you can see the boats.  I am so far in the lead of all the other runners there is no-one else in sight!  I know, who’d have believed it!

Chris Meads official photo

I was soon settled into the back of my wave, gazing around.  It was pretty flat, and so I was able to get into a bit of a rhythm.  I decided to just try to run continuously for 5k, because if I can do that at a parkrun I can do it at an event.  The field was quite spread out, and I couldn’t see runners ahead or behind.  This meant I ran long sections on my own with my thoughts, but that was fine.  There were some dog walkers, a few people on bikes.  Fabulous views.  An early sign for cake!  Oh no, too soon, it actually said ‘care’ ahead of some particularly sudden turn or other hazards.

One disconcerting aspect of the signage, was signs warning cyclists to take care which were particularly graphic in nature. The first one I saw made me gasp out loud.  It showed a cyclist being flung into the air.  I presume these signs were to warn cyclists not to advertise the spectacle we’d expect to see as we cornered by way of a tourist attraction.  In all seriousness, I  imagine these signs would be pretty effective, no ambiguity about them. Towards the end of the course was one that had been ‘enhanced’ by those with local knowledge perhaps.  Naturally, I don’t normally approve of such vandalism, but then again, good to know if you end up in the reservoir there will be sharks to contend with, forewarned is forearmed and all that.

The route was scenic, lots of gorgeous views on the way round.  I surprised myself by keeping running for a fair while, but inevitably, eventually there was an uphill bit which thwarted my ‘just keep on running’ aspirations.  Some runners from the next wave started to overtake me after about mile 2.  They were all unfailingly friendly, we exchanged breathless greetings.  I trotted out clichéd words of encouragement, I was going for a supportive but non-patronising yet not too sycophantic riff.  Mostly this became ‘good job!’. Which isn’t great, but you must have something pithy or there isn’t time to complete the sentiment.  To a  few I remarked (hilariously) ‘I’m going to chase you now!’ which most understood to be a joke, but a couple fled away with such speed I can only conclude that it seemed a very real threat.  Sorry about that, wasn’t intending to deliver threats with menace on the trails.

It might sound strange, but I quite like being overtaken by the faster runners. It’s inspiring to see some of them whizz by, apparently weightless and effortless eating up the miles with grace.  It’s also encouraging as most did have a word of positivity as they passed, and it adds interest to proceedings too.  It motivated me to run a bit more, as I’d have a bit of lope when I could hear them coming up behind and then try to run on again after them for a bit more before relapsing  back into a walk at times.

It seemed to go quickly, not that I was especially fast, but I suppose the terrain was pretty easy-going and it was a lot less challenging than the 12.12 which is my most recent event, so by comparison the miles flew by.  Even so, I didn’t need all that much encouragement to STOP when I got near the first of two busy road crossings.  A cheery marshal was on had to open the gate so I had no reason to slow too much as I went through.  Photo’s not great is it, oh well you get the idea…

Stop

From there, it didn’t seem too far to get to the nearly mid-point feed station.  It was up a bit of a hill.  There were a couple of marshals, one of whom I’d swear had earlier been at the registration HQ but a few minutes before. Either they had teleported up, or I hadn’t been traveling forward quite as fast as I imagined.

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Your path was blocked by a hi-viz hero in possession of a dibber, so no danger of going through unrecorded.  The feed station had water and some energy gels I think and some cups of squash.  I went for the squash as I suddenly realised it might be a good idea to have a top of sugar and I didn’t fancy my naked bar and can’t tolerate gels.  I gulped it down, but it tasted funny.  Like cold lemsip. I gulped down some water afterwards, and then fretted as I felt all that liquid sloshing around that I’d maybe had an electrolyte drink by accident and what if that made me sick?  At the end I found out it was just sugar-free squash I think.  Lesson learned though, I’m not drinking anything at a drink station ever again without knowing what it is.   I walked for a bit to let things settle, and then after a short road section (very short) it was a sharp right over a slightly concealed wall style and continuing up a steep hill.

This was way too distracting for me.  I paused to breathe in the view and stood aside to let some faster runners past as I lined up what I hoped was a nice shot.  It’s hard to capture on film, especially when you have zero aptitude behind the lens at the best of times and have injected a still further element of surprise into the proceedings by not wearing your glasses whilst you snap away either.  I think you’ll get the idea though.  I noticed hardly any of the later waves of runners were carrying kit.  There weren’t any kit inspections that I was aware of today, but the inside word is they may be relaxed on a lovely sunny day like this, but in inclement weather the kit police will be crawling all over you, so be prepared!  This did seem a benign environment, but once you get high, weather can change quickly.  Gear is carried for a reason.  It isn’t just to make all your race photos deeply unflattering it seems.  You don’t want to end up like that pants man on Snowdon now do you?  Superman knickers were insufficient protection against the elements for him it seems.

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As I still had a lot of water sloshing, and there was still quite a bit of upwardness, I walked a fair distance from here.  I really do need to crack my ‘hydration and fueling’ strategies if I’m serious about doing longer distances.  I think I get away with things up to half marathon, but I’m sure I could save a lot of time and faffing if I worked out a more efficient way of doing things.

Onwards and upwards.  The next ‘excitement’ was more excitement than I’d have ideally liked.  I found myself running ‘on my own’ i.e. no runners in sight ahead or behind.  I crossed a minor road and there was a sign pointing straight ahead as you went over a stone wall. Thing is, as I ran ahead, the terrain got rougher and there were no more arrows.  I felt sure I’d gone wrong.  I looked back, and another two runners were following me.  I called out to them, but one said confidently ‘no, the arrow is definitely straight on’ so we continued, until we saw a sort of collapsed stone building and barbed wire and there was no doubt this was wrong.  Behind us, cresting over the hill, and gloriously back-lit by bright early morning sunshine was a veritable stampede of other runners, each following the one in front and all wrong, all because of me (sort of).  We frantically gestured at them back down the field and people variously romped round the wet grass in all directions.  At this point I felt the comedic value of the situation far outweighed the couple of hundred metres added to our course.  I decided to take some runners in action shots, as most of the field sped by, leaving me literally, as well as metaphorically standing.  It was a hoot though, and where’s the fun in a run if you don’t have a mini-adventure on the way round.  Plus, for clarity, this was a real anomaly on the course, the route was fantastically well signed, so well signed, that as soon as the arrows disappeared I knew I must have gone wrong. You didn’t need to navigate, though we did have our A4 maps in case of need.

I like my photos at this point, especially the one of the colourful snake of runners heading onwards and upwards up that hill.  Unstoppable, fearless, and still fresh as daisies they were, all the way to the top!  Well probably, possibly then.  I never got to see the state of them at that point to be fair.

I followed in their wake.  It was lovely.  The next unexpected bit of enrichment on the course was a tunnel!  It wasn’t a particularly long stretch, but I wasn’t expecting it, and I found out something about myself.  I found out that running through a tunnel all on your own is ridiculously fun!  You can hear the echoes of your own feet reverberating off the walls, and because of the contrast between the bright sunshine outside and the unlit tunnel interior, there is a brief section in the middle when you can’t see your feet or your body really even, so it feels like you are levitating. It was amazing.  Granted, I probably need to get out more given that I have found myself raving so much about what basically took a few seconds, but I would really recommend it as a running aspiration if you have not yet done so.  Find a long dark stretch of tunnel somewhere and run down it. Maybe not a London underpass in the small hours, choose wisely. You’ll work it out.  I might get you to sign a disclaimer form first though, because you have to own your choices if you are going for subterranean options I know not yet of, and haven’t had an opportunity to risk assess for myself.  My sample survey is of just the one tunnel.  it could be not all tunnel running is quite so much fun.  Or quite so safe.  Was it Indiana Jones who had some boulder issues when he was tunnel running?  Just use your common sense, that’s all I’m saying.

By now we were nearing the high point of the run. The extraordinary wind turbines came into startling view. I know some people hate them, but I’ve always rather liked them. They seem sort of sculptural to me.  So yes, I stopped to take some photos of these too, as correctly speculated on by one of my Smiley buddies, who was guessing my photo stops at the end of the route.  Seems my movements are entirely transparent.  It was around this point that my Sparkhill friend romped past.  I waved him on.

Around the wind turbines there was an enormous temptation to take a short cut across a road, but I was very good and followed the trail correctly.  A couple of fairly fiendish walls to clamber over. There were steepish stone steps sticking out of the walls to aid ascent and descent, but they were slippery and my legs were more tired than I realised and not impressed by having to shift into clambering mode.  There was another hill to traipse up, and my enthusiasm temporarily waned.  I let some other runners pass.  I told them I was there to supervise and they were doing well and should keep on moving through.  I don’t expect they believed me though.  At the top, more amazing views, right back across the reservoir.  It was gorgeous.

That was lovely.  But, what goes up, must come down, and my, this certainly knew how to come down steeply. The downhill bit that followed was practically like stepping off the end of the earth.  I was very glad of the grip on my shoes and I gingerly wended my way down.  The views were fabulous, but even what looked like naturally speedy runners seemed to stop and pick their way down quite hesitantly.  There was a big CAKE no, not cake, that was just me hallucinating, CARE sign, and it was very much needed. It wasn’t a long section at all, but I think it must have been the most hazardous section of the course.

After this alarming plummet from the summit, there were two further marshaling points.  The first one, greeted me with a cheery smile ‘did you enjoy that’ he said. Which I had, up until this point, but I had a brief moment of confusion as it sort of implied I was near the end, which I wasn’t really. I explained that I was having a lovely time and taking photos along the way, so he obliged by posing for one for me too, before waving me on my way. Thank you marshal!

cheery marshal

Then it was down some windy, tree-lined paths a bit more and down to another road crossing.  Just as a I approached a motorbike screamed past at extraordinary speed.  I would not have wanted to be trying to cross when that came by, it was insane.  Me and the marshal blinked at each other in shock.  ‘Has it been like that all morning?’ I enquired.  Apparently not, that was the first one.  Terrifying.  Knobhead.  (he motorcyclist, not the marshal).  I assiduously followed my green cross code and Tufty club directives several times before stepping out on the tarmac myself to venture to the other side.   Phew, made it across unsquashed.

scary road crossing marshal

From here it really was nearly at the end. Just a gentle yomp.  As we were back near the visitors centre there were more walkers and families pushing buggies, most of whom gave a smile or word of encouragement.  One couple shouted after me ‘what are you all running for?‘  ‘I have no idea‘ I replied, truthfully.  This satisfied them greatly, I was happy to oblige.  At this point I was feeling a lot fresher than I’d expected, my stop / start approach taking photos along the way clearly works for me, but I was aware of a blister developing on my little toe.  I know why.  I’ve had a mysterious foot pain on the top of my foot for a while now which I’ve been ignoring.  It affects how I land and I suppose after 10 miles of weird gait it was bound to take it’s toil on me.

I think it might be time for me to share my Strava map of the route – here we go:

Carsington route Dark and White Autumn series 2017

Maybe not an actual circle shape to be fair, but you do basically run round the reservoir and an extra hilly bit for good measure.

‘Suddenly’ there was a sign just 1km to go, and then I saw a familiar – well I was going to say ‘face’ but actually it was ‘back’ just a few metres ahead.  A smiley buddy and fellow Dig Deep graduate to boot!  We must have been really closely paced the whole way round.  I slowly closed, but as we got to the finish she sprinted ahead.  Who can blame her. I’m not competitive particularly, but if I’d been her and led all the way round I’d have felt mightily aggrieved if someone like me popped up apparently from nowhere and zipped in front.

Very pleasingly, our lovely smiley buddies were there to cheer us in. We had a dib in finish, and were reunited with fleeces before going back into race HQ.  Here your dibber was carefully removed (and I lurve this attention to detail) with a pair of surgical scissors which have one side blunted to avoid cutting accidentally.  This was put in the magic computer, and then you got an instantaneous print out of your time (because some people care about these apparently)  and a certificate too no less!

My final memory of the actual running part of the event is in the last 100 metres where in response to someone cheering me on as I mustered up the energy for my version of a sprint finish I shouted back ‘they’ve promised me coffee at the end’ and I heard behind me him calling out ‘there is!  Cake too!’  And you know what? There really was!  There was a table with a selection of biscuits, some bought lemon drizzle cakes, an urn with water for tea and coffee and lots of squash.  Best of all, a savoury fix.  A platter of mini cheese thins and crisps.  Brilliant.

cake definitely cake

It was lovely in the sun, so we drank coffee and had a mutual Smiley debrief about best bits of the run.  We’d all had a good time.  Two of our number had made new best friends, one more convincingly than the other.  It seems both had found similarly matched individuals to yomp round with and bonded not so much in adversity as in running, as so often happens.  One had hung on to her friend and was able to parade her to the rest of us by way of evidence. The other had only tales to relate about her new best friend, but she was nowhere to be seen.  We must all believe what we choose to believe I suppose…

Just time for photo posing, and lingering farewells.  As we supped our coffee and shared our tales, the hi-viz super marshal who had been at registration and then the mid-point feed station was now in evidence clearing up.  How was that possible.  ‘Is it a teleportation device?’ I queried.  Apparently not, the secret of such rapid transportation is in fact a big white van.  I was gutted.  To be fair, that was the only disappointment of the day, so not a bad satisfaction score overall…

and that was it.  Job done.

Wasn’t that great?  Whose idea was it?  That person should henceforth be feted. This series is wonderful.  I bet the sun always shines at these events.

Conclusion.  A great way to enjoy some stunning scenery at a really well run event. The organisers have set out to create  ‘events that are sociable and relaxed … which you can make as easy or as tough as you like – they are suitable for most ages and abilities’.  Based on my experience I’d say they have succeeded.  Yay. Check out their Peak District Trail Running website for more, but I’d definitely go again, they have a ‘doable’ feel to them.  Super friendly.  Thank you nice people who worked hard to put on a great day out.

On the way home there was one moment of nervous laughter at disaster evaded.  We found another event was also taking place, also very well signed. Our lovely morning yomping could have gone horribly wrong!  Phew, we were lucky to live to run another day!  You know when people say ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ Well, for me, frankly, with my navigational skills it would be inadvertantly going off piste and being faced with this. Accidentally having to run a 160k route just because I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. I mean those arrows look awfully familiar don’t you think…  Still, all’s well that ends well eh?

the worst that can happen

Oh you want to know the results?  How very obsessive, there you go, for those that care the results of the Autumn Series 2017 are all here but really, ask yourself, are you missing the point.  Mind you, respect to the speed merchants who clearly went for it.  Different choices.

I’d recommend, for what that’s worth. See you at the next ones?  Online entry here

Round 2 | Calver | Sunday 22nd October  2017 – car share advised limited parking

Round 3 | Monyash | Sunday 26th November 2017

Happy yomping out and about til then!

 

 

 

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

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

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

ATR team photo

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

The website blah de blah states:

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

About Us

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

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

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

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

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

New beginner group!

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

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

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

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

running buddies

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

trail runners in sunshine

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

running in rain

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

 

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

Cinderella-prod-1-1024x684

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nope, didn’t see anything like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

low bradfield run

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

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

not even me

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

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

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

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

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

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

give it a go

Bring it on.

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

anyone?  😦

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

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

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

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

DD joy of running

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Route

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

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

PeakTrails30Map

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

Body glide services available at registration

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

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

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

Parking

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

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

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

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

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

Route Descriptions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DD 12 starting out

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

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

leg one marshal

If it was intended as a dire warning for what lay ahead, no-one took any notice.  Incidentally, I’ve since heard that other people aren’t in the habit of stopping to take photos on their way round in a race.  How bizarre.  Don’t they want to stop to fully absorb their surroundings en route?  Might as well be on a treadmill otherwise.  Imagine doing a