A week of good intentions

I had such a great week of running the week before last, and then this last week all my running plans went to pot!

After the trail race on Sunday I was straight back out again with strong legs for 6.5 road miles on Monday night.  A good start to the week at least!

Tuesday was always going to be a rest day.

Wednesday was supposed to be the club trail run, but Oscar hadn’t settled at all during the entire day and I had gotten nothing done.  I really just needed to hand him over to Dan as soon as Dan walked through the door home from work so that I could catch up on life admin and cleaning, so that is what I did.  I must admit, the driving rain and wind screaming outside our porch door really didn’t make me regret my choice that evening!

Thursday was Storm Doris day.  Dan had to work late and I really didn’t fancy tackling Storm Doris in the pitch black hours after Oscar had gone to bed.  Oscar also finally spent his first night in his own bedroom, so I kind of needed to be at hand in case he didn’t agree with us that he was ready!

Friday – Dan and I were taking Oscar to meet up with some of Dan’s work colleagues at Nandos in Cambridge.Top Gun Top Son - Dan with OscarI did melt a little taking this photo on the night.  A few people pointed out that I should have a ‘Top Wife’ t-shirt to go along with the theme, but I think there’s probably a fine line between ‘cute’ and ‘loser!  Haha!
The plan was for me to run on our return from Nandos, whilst Dan watched Oscar along with the football on TV.  An accident on the A14 meant miles of tailbacks and not returning home until gone 9pm with a then-grumpy husband though as he had missed most of the football!  By the time Oscar was fed and changed I was too exhausted to even consider going out, especially knowing that I had to get up early to make parkrun the following day.  An early night for me!

Saturday – I finally managed to get a run in!  I was Oscar-free for parkrun this week so got up a little earlier and arrived at the Racecourse in Northampton with plenty of time to park (or to manage to grab the last parking space at 8:10am!) so that I could fit a few warm-up miles in to start with.  I ended up just short of 3 miles run at sub 10mm pace in the end.
I decided not to run around the park for my warm-up miles as I’ve run around the park so many times for parkrun before.  Instead, I headed off out of the far end of the park and planned to just keep turning left until I ended up back where I started.  After twenty minutes though and with me still unable to recognise any of the streets I was running down, I started to get a bit of a panic on!  As I was sporting my bright red ’50 parkruns’ t-shirt it was clear that I was out to run parkrun that morning – so if I was heading in completely the opposite direction I would have looked a bit of a wally!  Luckily I finally stumbled upon The Good Loaf and found my way back from there.  Sometimes it pays to know all the bakeries in town! 😉
There were several branches and large twigs strewn across the paths of the parkrun in places and one (fairly) large tree lay completely across the path at one point early on in the run.  I had been aware of this before rocking up to parkrun that morning as Dan had spotted it on his Facebook feed the previous evening.  The tree was runnable round, but it didn’t make for a fast course on Saturday.  This was partly what made my mind up to get some extra miles in beforehand and then take the parkrun itself fairly steadily.
So I ran round and chatted with Laura for a fairly easy 32 minutes and 7 seconds instead.

Northampton parkrun tree(Picture from the Northampton parkrun Facebook page)

Garmin time: 32:07
Official time: 
32:07
Position: 
391/549
Gender position: 
115/222
Age category position: 
26/38

Laura and I both commented on how busy the course had felt the whole way round and we only just managed to cross the finish line before the end of the funnel queue spilled out past the line.  It was another new attendance record at Northampton this week with 549 runners!
That was parkrun number 73 for me.  No bakery afterwards this week as Laura and I were meeting our friend Steph at Beckworth Emporium for cake later on after showers instead.

Berry pavlova from Beckworth Emporium

And what a cake it was!  Berry pavlova?…Yum!

Sunday – I felt rather guilty asking Dan if I could head out for an organised long run two Sundays in a row, but he did say I could!  Running from home never takes so long or is as faffy so I don’t feel quite as guilty on those days, but I much prefer running with others at the weekend.  Organised runs or races mean I end up being away for a lot longer and I need to be a little more choosy about which events/social occasions I attend now that we have Oscar to look after.
On Sunday our club trail run was headed round the course route from the half marathon we had run the previous week.  The dozen or so of us ran the two loops of the course in the opposite order though – running the 8 mile loop first, followed by the shorter 6 mile loop.  The idea was to double check that no rubbish had been left behind from the race and also clarify the route where several of us had gone wrong the week before.
I had intended on running wearing my running bag the week before (The Ultimate Direction PB vest) so that I could get used to running with it ready for my upcoming ultra and also check that it still fit over my boobs since having a baby!  Annoyingly, having not needed to wear it for the best part of a year I couldn’t put my hands on it come race morning, so had to go without.  I did manage to find it for my long run on Sunday though.


I replaced the water in the bottles and discovered two naked bars, a running cap and an emergency £5 in various pockets of the vest!  Gotta love finding emergency cash in places you’d forgotten you ever stored it!
I found running with the bag so much tougher than I remembered.  Obviously it should be tougher carrying extra weight and it was a fairly warm day on Sunday too.  I could still easily run the 14.8 miles we covered, but it wasn’t at the pace I would have run at usually.
We did manage to establish that we had gone wrong on the course the previous week though – not that someone had moved the tape as previously reported.

Where we went wrong on the Welly trail half marathon courseIt’s kind of hard to describe but using the map above to help I’ll give it a go!  Last week we came in from the right hand side of that map (the red line).  We headed right, along the outside of one of the field boundaries and all the way back up the hill towards the way we had come in.  Here (marked by a blue star above) there were a couple of pieces of red and white tape marking the course on our right so we were convinced that we were following the correct path.  We went up and back down that hill two more times before heading back out of the field to the bottom left on the map above following somebody’s instructions over the phone.  What we actually should have done on the day is followed the dark green line along the left hand side of the field, heading down the hill, with the tape on our left hand side guiding us out the other way!  Great way of adding extra race miles in though!  Whoops!

Were any of your running routes affected by Storm Doris/Ewan?

The Welly Trail race

It was two years ago when members of our club first started talking about organising a trail race at local venue, Castle Ashby.  The idea grew and grew and eventually became a reality.  Then, when places were released towards the end of last year, the event was a complete sell out within three weeks!

Welly Trail races banner

Although I would normally be one of the first to put my name down to help marshal at a club event, I decided that this event was one that I wanted to run and would be a good aim for a first race back following my pregnancy.  (In actual fact I ran two cross-country races first, but of distances of no more than 10k.)  Despite not being able to marshal on the day I helped in other ways before the event by setting up the website with online booking and helping to design the medal.

Of course, trail distances are never actual race distances, and the half marathon that I was entered for was an alleged 14.4 miles – more than a mile further than you expect of a road half!

As always, with Oscar it meant that a great deal of organisation was required in order to be able to get there in the first place.  It was a 9:30am race start which required a 5:30am get up for me in order to then express, feed Oscar, shower, change and have breakfast before heading over to register at the event.  I went for a breakfast porridge and blueberries.  Probably a bit stodgy for my liking had I been planning on running a fast road race, but it was spot on to fill me up ready for the trail race.

My Mum had asked earlier in the week if I planned on ‘racing’ the event.  I hadn’t really thought about it until she asked, but knew that I wanted to run it to the best of my ability on the day.  I always race better on my own than I do in a large group so the intention was not to run with anybody but to just enjoy being out and about in the countryside in the perfect race conditions that we were lucky enough to have last Sunday.

As it was a club event I knew that I would know all the marshals out on the course, which is always a lovely boost.  There were also several of our own out running the event who I saw on the way round.

As always seems to be the way at races, I seemed to manage to get into the background of several other people’s photos!

There was a hen party running the 10k event, and they were all fully dressed for the occasion!

Welly Trail Races - hen party

(Picture credit)

It’s a fast start down the Castle Ashby drive, before we immediately came upon heavily rutted ground alongside a row of trees.  People were still in the process of finding their place in the pack at this point so I did a fair bit of overtaking here.  There were quite a few non-trail runners who perhaps began to realise at this point the enormity of the event they had entered! Welly Trail races - start(Picture credit)

All of the half marathon and 10k runners set off at the same time, with the canicross entries setting off 5 minutes later so as not to trip up runners in the mad dash from the start! I ran an incredibly strong first 10k.  With it being a trail race my intention was to walk the steepest of hills from the beginning just as I would in an ultra so as not to tire myself out.  There were only two or three hills where I felt the need to walk and then, thanks to my long stride, I was still overtaking runners anyway.  There was a stile two miles in, but by the time I arrived at it there were only a couple of runners in front of me, so there wasn’t too much hanging around.  I never run in gloves, but decided to on Sunday, and it was at this point that I threw them to a marshal for me to pick up again later on. Welly Trail races There was a drink station just after the stile where quite a few runners had stopped.  I decided to carry on and make use of the next drink station instead, although regretted this decision not long after!  I had intended on running with my race bag as practise for my upcoming 50 miler but I could not find it anywhere on race morning so ended up going without extra nutrition on the way round.

The 10k was 6.7 miles and I would have finished in about 72 minutes (judging by the 10k runners heading off to the finish as I turned off into the field for a second, different loop).

The second loop was much tougher going, with thicker, more slippery mud and steeper, longer hills.  I stopped for a chat with the marshal on the checkpoint at 8.5 miles and downed a cup of pink liquid after enquiring what it was.  He asked if I was still breastfeeding, to which I replied that I was, and only thought afterwards as I headed off over the next hill that I probably should have paid more attention to what I could and could not take on board as a breastfeeding Mum.  I had a very minimal amount in my cup luckily anyway.

There was another runner from my club not far ahead of me, running with two other local runners who I kept in my eyeline for the next few miles.  They were always just heading round the next bend.  That’s the thing about trail races – you can sometimes go for miles and not see anybody at all – it’s not like a road race!  It doesn’t bother me as long as I know where I am going though and the guys from our club had done a good job of winding red and white tape along the route and adding arrows to the hedgerows at major turns.  At 12.5 miles I could see that Amy (the other runner from my club) had stopped at a crossroads along with four others and was motioning to me that she didn’t know where to go next with her arms in an exaggerated shrug.  I shouted that I didn’t know this section of the route and that if there wasn’t any tape marking to turn then I would presume we kept going.  So they did.

I caught them at the top of the hill as they realised that if we continued they would be running back into the field we had initially come out of, and we hadn’t seen any other half marathon runners heading back in that direction on our way in.  Amy, along with two guys attempted to bring up the course map on their phones whilst I headed back down the hill with another lady to check out the other options at the crossroads.  There was no tape marking any turn-off from the track so after a bit of debate we headed back up the hill to join the others once more who were still undecided as to which direction we should be going in.  There was tape just before the crossroads so we didn’t feel as though we had gone off course.  Annoyingly as I had ended up not taking my bag I hadn’t brought my phone along so couldn’t ring for help with directions.  About 10 minutes later a large group of about 8-9 others joined us, many of whom were from our running club.  One of them decided to give Gary, the Race Director a call and he directed us back up the hill the way we had initially come from and across a grassy field towards a stile.  It looks like somebody had moved the tape into the wrong place on the course!

In total I think we lost about 20 minutes of time with faffing and I ended up with 15.8 miles on my Garmin by the end of the course instead of the 14.4 miles that the course was advertised as.

Welly Trail races - finish

I had company for the final few miles of the course now though as by this point there was a massive group of us, although we had managed to space out a fair bit again by the time we reached the finish.

Welly Trail races - finishAs fast as the start had been – heading down the Castle Ashby drive – the finish was slow, as we had to run back up the drive on tired legs!  I made it though and was handed my medal, a cup of water and a raffle ticket to exchange for a jacket potato and hot drink in the cafe.  I needed that hot drink!

Welly Trail Race medal

Distance: 15.81m
Garmin time: 3h 17m 20s
Official time: 3h 17m 20s
Position: 65/81

My legs were a little stiff at the finish and so I managed to convince Laura (who had been marshaling) to order my jacket potato and drink whilst I found us some seats.  Here I spotted Katie and Lorraine who had also just finished so we had a quick chat whilst warming our insides with hot food!

I was really looking forward to feeding Oscar (was in desperate need by this point!), having a long warm bath and chilling out with my little family in the afternoon, but Dan was feeling poorly so handed Oscar over as soon as I walked in the door and headed off to bed.  I was still covered in mud and had to make do with sitting on the floor for the next few hours until Dan began to feel better!

I did finally manage a quick shower though and threw my compression socks on to ease my legs a little.

Compression socksMy legs felt fine the following morning and were still feeling strong when I headed out for 6.5 easy road miles later on the Monday evening.

I was not quick by any means on Sunday, but I was most definitely strong and following my Monday evening run I am finally feeling really confident about the upcoming 50 mile ultra.  I know there are people who think I am probably a little silly/crazy for entering the SDW50 in April but I am really looking forward to it.  I am incredibly stubborn and I know that I am still capable of completing that distance over that terrain.  If I end up having to DNF it will be due to Oscar/feeding logistics rather than my ability to complete the race.

Do you wear compression socks following tough runs?
Have you ever gotten lost during a race before?
Does your club put on any races?

Mud, glorious mud and lots of wool

I managed to get out with my Garmin strapped firmly on several times last week.  Always a challenge when there’s a baby involved!  I’m trying to increase my running frequency over the next couple of weeks.  I have an ultra coming up in April which presents enough challenges now that I’m a Mum without worrying that my mileage has been much lower than pre-pregnancy.

Monday was my first run of the week.  I usually get up early on a Monday morning and run before Dan heads off to work but I had already arranged to head over for the Monday evening group club run last week instead.  It’s the first time that I had run out with the group on a Monday night.  Before Oscar, Dan and I always used to head over to our local pub quiz on a Monday night, but we can no longer attend that now that O is here.

It absolutely tipped it down on Monday and at one point we were showered with freezing cold hail too.  I hate the feeling of hail hitting your face and your face being sent into completely numb shock!  I should have woken up early and got my run in first thing perhaps after all!  We didn’t bother with a cool down upon reaching our cars – it was quick goodbyes and car heaters turned up full blast for all before I drove quickly home for a nice warm bath and my tea.

Wednesday was the club trail run and we covered a further six miles across muddy fields and footpaths.  I’m feeling so strong on the Wednesday night trail runs just lately and it has really boosted my confidence to be running so far towards the front of the group of runners that I run out with.  My core strength has improved loads from carrying Oscar regularly during the day and I swear this is why my trail running has improved so much.  I would say that across trail I am definitely running back where I was pre-pregnancy, perhaps even stronger now.  (Good job my upcoming ultra will be run over trail!)

Saturday it was time for parkrun.  Annoyingly I managed to leave my breast pump at my parents’ house the day before so had to bring Oscar along, despite Dan offering to have him for the morning.

It was raining slightly, and there was even a bit of snow at one point, so I wrapped him up well with lots of layers, two blankets and a rain cover.  He was definitely very snuggly under all that lot and loved watching the other runners go by!

Going to parkrun with Oscar in the pramGarmin time: 45:08
Official time: 
45:11
Position: 
405/416
Gender position: 
154/160
Age category position: 
28/30

Quick side note to say that the blanket pictured above is the second one my friend Hollie has crocheted for Oscar.  Isn’t she super talented?!  I would love to be able to make something like this!  I did recently knit a monkey for a friend’s new baby, but I’ve never managed to master crochet or clothes.

Oliver's knitted monkey

There’s something special I think about receiving hand made gifts.  All the time and effort that went into creating them and the thought that goes along with it too.  Jane sent Oscar a lovely set of booties and a hat that she had made when he was first born in our club’s green colour.  When he gets a little bigger he will be fully decked out in WDAC green with his knitted items along with the mini club vest he was given from a friend.

Oscar's knitted hat and booties

On Sunday there was a six mile trail run organised.  I knew that if I got up early enough I would be able to feed Oscar twice before leaving, park a little way away at the local Tescos, run to the meeting point and then get in an extra couple of miles around the park before meeting up with the others.  5:30am alarm set for a 9am meet up!  I don’t think I’ll be accidentally leaving my pump at my parents’ house again!

There had been a lot of rain around these parts last week and it was fairly muddy once I hit the park.  Stupidly, I picked some of the muddiest trails for my warm-up run too.  It was down one of these muddy trails that I felt my foot slide out from under me and in slow-motion saw my right leg go down into a large muddy puddle!  Somehow I managed to keep my left leg standing so I never fully went in, but my right leg was absolutely covered!  Usually if you don’t pussy-foot around the edge of puddles and run straight through you miss the slippery mud, but on Sunday the bottom of the puddles seemed to be just as treacherous.

Muddy trail run legsAt least it was during my solo warm-up run when I fell so no-one was around to see me go down.  No hiding from it though with all that mud on my leg advertising my fall! One of the other ladies slipped over later too so it wasn’t just me.

I had to nip into Tesco for a few bits after my run so mooched around the aisles with my mud covered leg on show.  It wasn’t until I got home that I also had flecks of mud across my face – even covering my lips and eyelid!  Nobody stopped and stared at me anyway!

Annoyingly, despite feeling fine after the fall and for the remainder of my 10ish mile run my right thigh has felt rather bruised yesterday and today.  Going downstairs has been a little uncomfortable and it really doesn’t help that Oscar has been insisting on practising standing on the top of my legs this week!  Two days of rest and I’ll see how I am tomorrow evening at the trail run again.

As well as managing to fit several runs in last week, I also headed out on lots of walks with Oscar in the baby carrier.  I was gifted the We Made Me Pao Papoose 3-in-1 Front and Back Baby Carrier* from my work colleagues when I headed off on maternity leave in the Autumn and it has really come in so handy.  Once you know how to get it on and how to strap Oscar safely in, it’s so much quicker and easier than lugging a pram around.  It also means that we are able to go offroad without the worry about whether or not a buggy will fit down little tracks or if there will be any stiles to cross!

Walking with Oscar in the baby carrier

I’m really hoping that Oscar will grow up as an outdoorsy-child and not one obsessed with computer games or watching YouTube on the iPad.  Dan and I aren’t big television watchers.  I never have been really – always having preferred to be outside and doing something rather than sat down stationary in front of the box.  I hope I’m setting a good example to him with everything that I do.  I can only try my best, right?

Did you have an active childhood?
Do you mind going shopping in your running gear?

Fitting in running alongside a baby

Oscar turned four months old at the end of January.

Oscar is four months old

Man, that went fast!  Yet, at the same time, it strangely feels like he has always been here and I couldn’t imagine life without him now.

From the very beginning I was adamant that I was going to keep my own identity and not just become known as ‘Oscar’s Mum’.  Ask anyone to describe me and I’m pretty sure that somewhere in their description the words ‘runner’ and ‘teacher’ will feature.  I didn’t want to lose those parts of me when Dan and I decided to have children – especially not the runner part.

Fitting in runs has been tougher than I first thought it would be.  Luckily Dan has been very supportive and welcomed having Oscar so that I was able to run from very early on.  Unfortunately the new job Dan started after Christmas means that he is no longer back in time for me to make running club on a Tuesday or Thursday training night, but I can still make the informal Monday road and Wednesday trail club runs which don’t start until the slightly later time of 7pm.

Before Oscar, all I needed to do was throw my clothes on and nip out of the door but now there’s so much more to think about before heading out for each run.  I will never take being able to run for granted now, for sure.

Breastfeeding is the biggest issue.  I have to schedule Oscar’s feeds throughout the day so that it falls just right in that I can feed him before I leave.  Mess the feeding schedule up and it could all go to pot.

Sleep is another issue.  Since December I’ve been getting some early morning runs in before Oscar wakes up.  If I set my alarm for 4:45am I can usually express, throw some clothes on and head out for three or four miles before he wakes.  It can be a proper challenge though…Let my alarm ring for too long and he wakes.  If this is the case, sometimes I can feed him and put him back down again, but he doesn’t normally drift back off unless he can hear me breathing in the bed beside him.  If I lie down in the bed with the lights out to encourage him to return to sleep, I often then end up falling asleep myself.  Game over!

There have been a few times where I’ve gotten out the door only to realise I’m not wearing my heart rate monitor/Garmin/headband.  By this point I’m not turning around and risking opening the bedroom door again so the run goes without data/unrecorded/my head gets cold!

At the start of each week I’ve written a set of if-all-goes-OK runs in my training calendar.  The aim is to get out for at least three – hopefully four – of these runs each week.  I usually schedule five or six in order to hit this target!  I’m also back on the 10,000 steps a day train.  I just feel so much better in myself on days I move around more and I think it’s much better for Oscar to get outside at some point every day.

2017 running calendar

I’ve had to improvise when it comes to my training plan a couple of times.  Dan was late home from work on trail run night the other week and then Oscar didn’t settle on his return.  My ‘7 mile trail run with friends’ became ‘5x solo 1mile loops around the estate I live on’, so that I was near to hand if Dan needed me.  I guess that sort of run could be good for me mentally as it was rather dull and I had to power through at one point.  In a weird sort of way I actually enjoyed it.  It was nice knowing that if I wasn’t feeling it I was only ever 4 minutes away from my front door.
I have a feeling that some of my long runs are going to turn into mile loops from my front door so that I can be around if Oscar wakes up or Dan needs me.  They’re not ideal runs, and I do miss running with other people on these occasions but miles are miles at the end of the day and there is a fifty mile race fast coming up on my calendar which requires my mileage to start increasing!

The last couple of weekends have been rather manic which has made fitting runs in even more challenging.  As neither of my parents are very well at the moment I’ve made the decision to return for a visit back to Norfolk every Thursday and Friday for the remainder of my maternity leave.  A couple of weekends back we stayed in Wolverhampton for Dan’s Nan’s 90th birthday and this past weekend was once again in Wolverhampton for two 30th birthdays, having been out in Northampton for a 40th birthday the night before.  This really is the year of the big birthday!

Oscar’s head control is so much better than it was.  The guidelines for taking a baby out in a running buggy all suggest six months and full head control.  He’s getting stronger every week.  He’s not yet fully rolled over, but come very close from going back to front on more than one occasion when lying on his changing mat.  He definitely needs to remain within arm’s reach now!

It will make things infinitely easier to fit runs in once Oscar can go in a buggy as I will be able to run during the day.  Oh, daylight runs, how I have missed you!  I feel like I am forever running in the dark at the moment.  And there’s no point in me weather watching, as even the heaviest of rainfalls doesn’t stop me if that hits my time to run!


The only weather which does stop me completely in my tracks is ice first thing in the morning.  I’m not going to risk breaking my leg for three measly stupid-o’clock-in-the-morning miles.

How do you make sure you fit in your runs during the week?
Do you manage many daylight runs this time of year?