Posts Tagged With: trail running

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

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

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

ullswater steamer 2012

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

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

Lakeland Trails in Ullswater, Sunday 15th October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

rude awakening

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

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

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

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

skipping games

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

hiding under table

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2011 three peaks yacht race

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

DOUGAL-AND-THE-BLUE-CAT-006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

woodrun spies

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

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

DSCF9574

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

happy innocence

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

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

And so it ended.  With unexpected suddeness.

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

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

Filthy Foursome

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

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

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

Ullswater non sailing route

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

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

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

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

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

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

gaggle of smileys

That’s all folks.

Happy running til next time.

🙂

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

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

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: , , , , | 1 Comment

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: , , , , , | 2 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 whole ultra through a veil of blood, sweat and tears with never a pause for either a picnic or a view!  You don’t even have to imagine, you can do it all yourself next year, and trust me,  my way is more fun.

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

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

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

limb valley marshal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dibster team

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

marshal hugging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

poignant farewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ultra talks

So basically, no regrets.  A grand day out.

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

retired shoes

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

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

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

 

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

Tackling the taper… Not quite textbook tactics, but you know what? I’ll be reet! :)

Digested read:  The 12.12 mile off-road trail race is a week away.  What was I thinking when I entered it?   I’m fretting now. Tried to taper with a long walk instead of run. Epic fail. Wobbly, exhausted and confidence crushed.  However, espied something pretty darned special out on them there moors.  Have a guess.  Clue.  I got seriously lucky!  Yay, go me.  It’s a sign. It’ll be fine. Or it wont, but either way, it doesn’t matter, it’s supposed to be fun, we can all run our own race, nobody cares.  (In a good way).

Dreaming of the purple hills, this is what awaits me just a week from now.  Is it possible that the heather will be even more glorious come the 20th August?  However, between me and the Dig Deep trail challenge lies one final hurdle. The succesful taper.

nice out

The Dig Deep people keep putting up motivational posts on their Facebook page counting down to the big event.  ‘Yay, just three weeks to go’, ‘great news guys, a fortnight from now we’ll be good to go’ and now ‘final countdown to fun-land – just a few more sleeps’, I’m paraphrasing a bit but you get the idea.  This is all well and good, and no doubt very well-intentioned, but it’s really rather ratcheting up my fear levels.  What was I thinking? This happens to me a lot with off-road events.  Trouble is I’m seduced by the glorious settings, the seemingly manageable distances, and don’t factor in the challenging terrain and potentially impossible elevations.  A combination of absolute denial and hope over experience I suppose, hopefully not a fatal one.

My expertise in training protocol is rather limited, but even I know that at this late stage I’ve little hope of improving my fitness levels between now and next Sunday when I tackle the 12.12 event. 12.12 miles of off-road  (see what they’ve done with the name there?  Their creative vision team must have been working overtime to come up with that) and 633 metres of ascent.  That’s not even in feet, took me a while to realise that.   I try not to get too hung up on details at the point of entering events, it only leads to despair and sapping morale.  I’m not necessarily completely delusional when I sign up to things, it’s just that I’m ill-informed.  Upshot is, if you can’t improve your fitness at this stage, what you need to do is avoid injury, maintain fitness and carb up nicely.  That is, in my book ‘yay’ time, you get to taper!

My regular reader knows I’ve cluttered up the internet by pontificating on this point before Never underestimate the importance of a good tapir but that was a while back.  I’ve got a better understanding now, so time to revisit the topic I feel.  Why keep all that disillusion to myself?   I used to think tapering meant that you got to spend a fortnight sat on the sofa eating donuts as a sort of early consolation prize for being made to run a long way afterwards. Sadly, I now know it’s not quite the case.  It just goes to show that sometimes ignorance is indeed bliss, and greater understanding does not always bring about greater happiness.

Initially my research on ‘how to taper’  suggested that it was really, really important not to be tempted to do too much during  a taper.  I  say ‘research’, but clearly what I really mean is that I did a bit of random googling, disregarding the advice I didn’t want to follow until I came up with something I liked.  I liked this sentence from Susan Paul a lot:

Doing too much during the taper period can destroy your (event) performance. Your best bet for peak performance is to resist the urge to do more. When it comes to tapering, less really is more!

Good oh, that meant a fortnight out, after my last long run (I use the term ‘run’ loosely, yomp over 14 and a bit miles is more accurate, with quite a lot of pausing and gazing about) I settled down on the sofa fully committed to resting up properly.  Granted, I’d have to get up now and again to attend to bodily functions and check out the contents of the fridge, but otherwise me and Radio 4 (TV at a push) listening to the rain beating down outside would be the way to go.  To add creativity and interest I’d also be doing my best to improvise a ta ta bra out of a pair of recycled oven gloves.  I would have bought one, but really $45 for a bit of elasticated towel does seem a bit steep, even if it is a genius creation. Plus, they don’t seem to be available in the uk, anyway,  how hard can they be to create? (Answer, harder than you think, but you’ll have a laugh trying).

Unfortunately, further research, was emphatic about the opposite.  I didn’t like this advice nearly as much – whatever you do, don’t overdo the taper, said Coach Jeff in Runners Connect, adding for good measure:

The single biggest mistake I see in (event) tapers is that people over-taper in the last three weeks leading into the race.

This leads to feeling flat and sluggish on race day and increases the chance that you’ll come down with some type of sickness as your metabolism and immune system crash due to the sudden change in activity and demands on the body

Begrudgingly, I have to concede he may have a point.  Further research suggests tapering doesn’t mean an emergency stop, more a reduction in intensity and volume, depending on what you are preparing for.  I am left with the horrifying realisation that you are only doing a taper correctly if you feel frustrated and miserable the whole time.  That is, doing the opposite of whatever it is you are naturally drawn to doing.  Let me explain…

Scenario one:  If you are the sort of person who takes a month’s bed rest if you so much as stub your toe, when you taper you need to be doing a lot more than maintaining your natural default state of inert.  Plus, you really don’t need to start carbing up with quite such gusto, quite so far ahead.  ‘Carbing up’ only needs to happen about two days before. What’s more (and I didn’t like this message very much) you don’t even need to take in any extra calories apparently, simply change the proportion of carbs in your meal, so you are having more carb less fibrous veg say. Disappointing. No midnight pizza and pasta fests after all, so said the nutrition expert at the London Marathon Expo earlier this year.

garfield taper

Scenario two:  If you are the sort of person who gets a serious stress fracture, are given a pot and told to ‘rest’ for eight weeks but still think a 50 mile bike ride won’t count because it’s just ‘gentle cross training’ then you need to Stop.  Right.  Now!

can i run

Just to be clear on this point, I tend to fall into the ‘scenario one’ camp, in danger of doing too little.  Left to my own devices, brooding on the sofa, I started to feel increasingly fretful that this 12.12 challenge is beyond me.  I am increasingly aware of way better runners falling by the wayside.  The excuses they come up with are pitiful: ‘I can’t run I’ve dislocated my shoulder and broken my arm’; ‘I can’t run, I’m away doing a hard-core mountain marathon in Norway’; ‘I can’t run, I’ve got to have an operation’; ‘it’s not that I can’t run, I just don’t want to‘.  That kind of thing.  Maybe I needed to come up with a get-out of my own.  I know – I have a cunning plan. I can’t possibly pull out, that would be to fail, but if external circumstances were to conspire together to make my participation impossible, well, I’d have to shrug in despairing acceptance of my fate.  I can help fate along a bit though, with just a tad of initiative thrown into the mix…

I sent a private message to the Dig Deep team.  ‘Eeeerm‘, I said.  ‘bit worried‘ and then basically went on to explain I am mindful of being a tardy, lard arse, and whilst I do know I can do the distance (I do really) I will be soooooooooooooooooo slow.  Is that OK, or is there a cut off time?  Annoyingly, they sent back a speedy and cheerily encouraging response.  ‘That’s fine, all welcome‘ sort of encouraging and inclusive and generally not what I wanted to hear at all.  Oh no.  No handy external factor causing me to pull out under protest from that quarter.

I decided I needed to bite the bullet.  I would cut back, but not abandon all exertion.  I decided that I’d do one more long, endurance outing, but just keep it in walk so I didn’t get injured or too knackered, but still got miles on my legs.  Oh my gawd. This was such a bad move.  I thought I’d do one final recce that is an approximation of the 12.12 route, but coming up from Whitely Woods rather than Whirlow, and going along the top rather than the bottom of Burbage. Well, it might be more technical, but it’s gorgeous and I was really hoping I might see an adder soaking up the sun on the boulders on that slightly quieter upper path.   It’s a route I’ve yomped round several times now, and just over 14 miles, seriously beautiful.  I wanted to see how the heather was as well, given all the rain and then sun, it would be at its peak surely.

So it was beautiful, I will concede that:

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but as a final long yomp, not my best move.

There was an early warning sign, had I but realised what was happening, a fallen tree crossing my path going up the Porter Valley – surely an omen.  There were lots of trees down, I think the torrential rain had washed away a lot of earth and left roots exposed and trees vulnerable:

blocked path

Then, a bit further up, there were some misplaced sheep.  No really, in the woods.   I don’t know where they were from, but they were having an adventure.   Good for them, I wonder how long they will evade capture.  Who were those escaped pigs – the Tamworth Two?  They escaped death after many weeks on the run.  I suspect there won’t be a film and book deal and a happy ending for this trio, I don’t think they’ve even got an agent.  Oh well.

The point is though, that this was the normal order of things upturned.  I should have realised, and turned about, then again, it wouldn’t be so much of a story would it if I had. Same as with all those omens in Julius Caesar or whatever.  Ides of March anyone?

I pressed on.  It was OK to start, sunny, the heather in full bloom and a-buzz with bees. Not many others about, but lots of friendly exchanges with those who were along the lines of  ‘isn’t it gorgeous’ and the more mutually self-congratulatory ‘how lucky are we to have such beauty as this on our doorstep‘ all of which was true.  The problem was, that even though I think I run really slowly (and I really do) turns out, I’m still a lot quicker running slowly, than I am when I actually walk.  14 miles takes ages to walk.  It was hard.  I got hot, I ran out of water.  I’d taken a litre with me, and although I could have drunk from the many streams I got dehydrated without fully appreciating I had, and then it’s already too late.  I ate my chia bar quite early on, and then found I did feel my blood sugar levels dropping later on, but had nothing in reserve.  I didn’t get wobbly or anything like that, but I did get achy legs, and stop enjoying the landscape. By the time I’d been out about 4 hours I was feeling it, and didn’t have the energy to run and get the whole blooming adventure over with by that point. Plus, my feet were hurting.  A lot. My arthritis was excruciating.   Not blisters, granted,  which is something, but my fellraisers (which I do like) lack cushioning,  and Strava has been on at me for weeks to change them as they have done too many miles.  They are ok-ish.  I know they do need replacing but I didn’t want to try new shoes too close to this event, so thought they could do this one last task for me as their swan song.  On this final walk recce though I really felt they are ready to be jettisoned though.  They don’t have enough support, and weren’t comfy at all – although their grip is still good.  I started to feel pretty petulant.  I was annoyed at going out so blasse, I was too hot, and I still couldn’t find an efficient route off Higger Tor.  For future reference, doing a long walk was not, for me, a helpful tapering strategy. I’d have done much better to do a gentle run, or several shorter walks on consecutive days.  I felt pretty broken when I still had about 4 miles to go.  It’s incomprehensible to me though, surely, logic says walking should be easier than running?  I suppose it’s ‘different’, didn’t do a lot for my confidence.  If I can’t walk the distance how am I going to run it?  Aaaargh, curses. Why am I not a super-fit athlete with a coach, a nutrition plan, well-fitting sports bra, cushioned trainers and a dollop of common sense?  It’s not fair!

I traipsed on, thinking dark and brooding thoughts.

Then.

Wait for it.

Something amazing!

Something I’ve never seen before, just for me!

In amongst the landscape of purple I espied a little patch of white.  At first I wasn’t quite sure if it was what I thought. But it was!  White heather. A small clump of it, but definitely there.  I like to think if the fallen tree and the lost sheep were to warn me off my adventures, the lucky heather was to reassure me there is still a place for the unexpected and seemingly impossible.  I know you can get cultivated white heather, but seeing it in the wild, just there, was pretty amazing.  Perhaps I’m too easily impressed, but it really encouraged me.  Just look on and tell me honestly are you not moved?  You can’t be that heartless surely?

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I thought it was extraordinary.  I’m not superstitious, but I do take comfort from being reminded of the gloriousness of unexpected and unlikely discoveries.  White heather is a truly rare sight, but we can celebrate its appearance on the moors.  I too, will be an unexpected participant in the 12.12, also an uncommon sighting perhaps. However, whilst it might be a stretch too far to think of my presence on the day being exactly a cause for celebration, there’s no reason to expect to be unwelcome either.  I’ll be just another unusual thing for others to come across on a run out.  No more or less than that.

I carried on with renewed effort (I was going to say energy, but that’s pushing it).  Back through the woods I saw a comma butterfly, another incredibly rare sighting.  And a lot harder to photograph than white heather it seems.  Well I thought commas were rare, but google says otherwise.  I still haven’t seen one in years though, so made me happy, which is the important thing because this blog is at the end of the day all about me!

comma butterly,

Once I got to Forge Dam cafe, I caved in and bought an ice-cream.  I felt in genuine need as my legs were shaking by then.  Of course, I then immediately bumped into a Smiley Elder, and felt like I’d been caught out on an inappropriately wild feeding frenzy, binge eating sugar when I ought to be showing off with extra press ups at the end of my run like that Isaac Makwala at the world athletics championships trial.  Instead I was like a vampire caught with blood running down their chin, only with salted caramel ice cream instead of the blood of virgins. In fairness, she seemed approving of this replenishing of energy post run.  I genuinely find it confusing though.  How can I possibly have got such a drop in my blood sugar just by walking.  I can only conclude it is indeed hours out, not necessarily absolute exertion that is to blame.  Getting the balance right continues to be a challenge.  I want to burn calories through running, that’s part of the point, to counteract the impact of post-run brunches –  but it seems I always replenish more than I use.  In my case I don’t find running is a boon to weight loss, though it has other benefits for sure!

So, I returned from my ‘gentle tapering walk’ broken, exhausted and promptly flaked out and slept for about 5 hours solid.  The next day, which was yesterday, I could barely walk!  Today, should have been parkrun, but I still feel wobbly.  I can’t understand it, running never makes me feel that bad.  I think maybe it genuinely came down to being out way longer than usual. It wasn’t physical fitness as such, but probably nutrition and hydration.  I even wondered if I am ‘coming down with something’ it seems such an extreme reaction from walking a route I’ve yomped half a dozen times before withough any problem at all.  Oh well, lesson learned.   Presume nothing, take nothing for granted.

I’ve now got exactly a week to go.  I’ve decided (rightly or wrongly) not to push myself if I’m feeling weak (as opposed to can’t be bothered) in a nod to ‘stay injury free and preserve what you have’.  Whilst I don’t think I’m ever going to be in the over-training camp, I do think there is no point in forcing myself out if I am genuinely wobbly.    I will try for a bit more ‘out and about’ but I’m not doing anything else long or involving so much elevation.

As for next Sunday, gulp.  Oh well, I think I just have to remind myself that ultimately it’s supposed to be fun.  As long as I don’t present a risk to either myself or other runners it matters not one iota how long I take or how I tackle it.  Spoiler alert – nobody cares.  Participants will be running their own race, and I know I can do the distance in daylight at least.  I will carry a bit more food though, and weather depending, might think about wearing a T-shirt as opposed to long sleeves to avoid over-heating.  Speaking of which, the t-shirts for this event look splendid. Worth turning out for for sure!

dig deep t shirt

And as far as tapering is concerned.  I don’t like it. It’s confusing.  I have no idea what I’m doing.  I liked it much better when I thought it was just about lolling around on a sofa eating pizza.  Now I find it a confidence-sapping challenge.  Still, on the positive side, as I do want to eventually get up to a marathon distance, maybe it’s good to learn some of these lessons early on, even if it is by trial and error.  I’d rather mess up my taper for the 12.12 local event, than for the London Marathon 2018.  We run and learn. So message for today?  Running is supposed to be fun. Let’s not over complicate it.  Agreed?  Also, tapering is harder than you might think, it’s OK to be grumpy.

tapering runner

The main thing is just to try not to interact with anyone during this running chapter to avoid alientating everyone you meet, and ‘tha’ll be reet’, as the saying goes.

Yorkshire_THALL_BE_REET-500x500

This is what I’m going to keep telling myself anyway.  You must do as you think fit.  Also, I try to remember there is always somebody worse off than yourself, it could be worse, I could be doing the ultra.  Good luck to those that are. You’ll be fabulous, because you already are.  I believe in you, you just need to believe in yourselves as well.

The End.

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

 

 

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

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

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

new approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

fly higger tor

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nutrition-

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

super glue nutrition

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

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

real food option

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

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

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

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

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

nicky-fish-n-chips

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

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

look where you put your feet

Kit-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🙂

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

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

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

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

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

DD Fine sheep shot

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

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