A look back at 2016

2016 has been such a different year to any other.  Mainly because I spent nine months of the year growing a baby!  I love writing my look-back posts at the end of each year and rediscovering what I got up to throughout the previous twelve months, although this year has been made all the harder as I didn’t write many posts at all during the first trimester when I just felt so ill and tired at the time.

I shall do my best to sum the year up though, – starting with my 2016bestnine from Instagram:2016bestnineLast year my bestnine from Instagram were all running related, so it’s nice to see a ‘slight’ bit of variety in there with food and baby for this year too!

January:

The year kicked off with a super muddy cross-country course at Sharnbrook.

Bedford Harriers XC at Sharnbrook

I volunteered twice at Northampton parkrun as photographer whilst I was unable to run with a broken toe and also marshaled at the Country to Capital ultra. [Side note: I completely forgot I broke my toe again at the start of the year!]

Marshaling at CP2 of the Country to Capital

February:

I tackled the Thames Trot 50, choosing to pull after 20 miles due to my then unannounced pregnancy, before going on to run my first fell race the following day.

Me jumping at Charnwood hills race

March:

I didn’t seem to really write about much of anything in March it seems.  I guess morning sickness and tiredness was in full force this month!  Dan and I chose to tell both sets of parents this month about our pregnancy by giving each of them Mothers Day cards addressed to ‘Nanny’.

April:

One year I will enter the Stanwick 10k, but this year, once again I ran the route before the race, then cheered my clubmates home as has become tradition over the past few years.

Supporting WDAC on the Stanwick 10k

Along with many others I really enjoyed getting sucked in with all the parkrun April Fools statuses!

The two week break over Easter was really welcomed, and I did get out a little with a trip to MK Dons and Bletchley Park.  Although with six classes of year 11s, I spent one of the weeks of my holiday solidly marking.  Boo!

It was April before I finally announced my pregnancy on the blog following our first scan, and I was able to write about how I had found the first trimester.

Baby scan at 13w 3d

I also finally made it to 50 parkruns:)

parkrun traybake cake…and headed to London to support our runners at the London Marathon for the second year in a row.

May:

After several weeks where I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue running through my pregnancy, things started to get much easier this month and I even ran a 5k race followed by a half marathon the following day.

MK medalsI persuaded Dan to walk 25k for the Waendal Walk.  (He was sold at ‘pub stop’!)

Dan and I on the Waendel Walk

With a baby now very much on the way, this was the month we really started to get serious about working on our house and began adding our new kitchen and bathroom (amongst the million other things that needed doing!)

Dan and I were adamant that we did not want to find out the gender of our baby at our 20 week scan this month, so instead we decided to test out all of the old wives’ tales to try and predict the gender.  (Turns out most of them were correct!)

We also used the half term holiday as a chance to grab a babymoon to Prague.

Dan and me at the Rudolfinum, Prague

June:

In June I marshaled at both the Shires and Spires 35m (my first year of not running the event since 2012. :(  ) and the South Downs Way 100m.  I also missed out on the muddy Colworth Marathon Challenge weekend this year, choosing to photograph it instead.

Mud at Colworth 5(I do hope 2017 is just as muddy!)

A lot of this month seems to have been spent marking coursework and eating fine foods…no harm in that! 😉Beckworth Emporium afternoon teaJuly:

I got in a little parkrun tourism during July, with a trip to Bedford, and also a visit to the new Linford Wood course.

Linford Wood parkrunI completed the Houghton Hall Race for Life with my Mum for a second time on what was possibly the hottest day of the year and also marshaled at Pitsford Triathlon.

Houghton Hall Race4Life 2016 with MumJuly is the month of our club race, which I marshaled and photographed at.  I also helped with the timing at the club recce run of the event the Thursday beforehand.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ runAt the end of the month I went to the Grim 40/70/100 mile event to support runners from my club who were attempting the 40 and 70 mile distances.  Although disappointed I wasn’t able to run and retain my title of Ultra Queen for the club, it was lovely to be able to help support and provide supplies for those out running the event this year, just as I had relied on support from others for the previous two years when I had run the 70 miles.

August:

I volunteered to act as tailrunner at Bedford parkrun.  Why do I always get so nervous about volunteering?!  I went on to run the Huntingdon parkrun course a couple of times and also headed out on the trails round Castle Ashby to take some photos of the course for an upcoming club trail race.

Wellingborough trail race at Castle AshbyThe 9th August was my second wedding anniversary.  How have we already been married for two years?!

Anniversary cardI logged the 14 things you should know about running during pregnancy and marshaled at another triathlon – the Go Tri event.

On the bank holiday weekend I was given this amazing piece of bling from the guys at Saxons, Vikings and Normans for completing 17.6 miles at the Cakeathon event.  I was 35 weeks pregnant at the time.

Medal at the Cakeathon race

I managed to crank my parkrun course total up to 10 different events when I headed over to Market Harborough for a run.

September:

September ended up being ridiculously busy once I returned to work – madly attempting to complete my workload and handover to my replacement before heading off on maternity leave at the end of the month.

Somehow I managed to fit in crewing at the Round Norfolk Relay.

Timekeeper marshal vest for the Round Norfolk Relay

Dan and I headed to Stanwick to get our annual scarecrow fix

Stanwick scarecrows

…and I managed to make it to the inaugural Kettering parkrun

Running Kettering parkrun at 39 weeks pregnant…before returning to Kettering just three days later on the 27th.  This time to the hospital, where I was booked in for a Caesarean section to have Oscar.

Oscar's legs

October:

October was pretty much just spent attempting to recover from the C-section surgery.  You can read all about how horrific recovery was in part one or part two.

Me with Bella and Oscar

Oscar did make it out to his first parkrun at four weeks old though!

Dan, Me and Oscar at his first parkrun at 4 weeks old

November:

I was finally given permission to run again by the doctor (and Dan!)

Wendy, of Running Buggies came to Stanwick Lakes so I made the most of heading down to test out a few models one Friday morning.

Thule Glide and the Out n About Nipper Sport V4It was a sad end to the month when one of my coaches passed away.  Our running club honoured him in true WDAC style.

The Hilly Hollis

December:

I ran my first Magic Mile in December, and hope to make many more in 2017 as I believe it would be an excellent way to track progress across the year.

As always, I put in several hours creating Runner of the Year videos for my club awards evening.

WDAC Christmas do party table

And I made it out for my first cross-country race post-baby.

Christmas Eve wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without the standard club muddy Christmas Eve run…

Christmas Eve club run

…which took place before traveling back to Norfolk to spend Christmas Day with my parents.

Oscar and Me in front of the Christmas tree

Another super busy year!  Now I’m looking forward to seeing what 2017 brings!

2014 round-up  *  2015 round-up

How would you sum up your year?

So that was Christmas!

How quickly did Christmas come and go?!  I can’t believe we’re already emptying old wrapping paper out into the recycling bin and thinking about taking the tree down over the next few days.

Oscar and Me in front of the Christmas tree

As always, we managed to cram loads in over Christmas week – here’s a little run down of what we got up to…

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without my running club’s annual Christmas Eve Run.Christmas Eve club runEvery Christmas Eve, runners from our club meet first thing in the morning at Irchester Country Park before splitting off into smaller groups and running the trails, finishing at the café for a club-complimentary bacon/sausage roll and a hot drink.  As Christmas Eve fell on a weekend this year it meant that we had a huge turn out.

As always, I stuck to the trail group which Kev led – guaranteed to contain lots of mud, banter and laughs.  Somehow, the communication didn’t get back to all the members about just where we were headed and once we set off I turned to see ALL of the club members following!  They had begun to split off away from our little group before the first mile was complete though…not so sure they would have all enjoyed some of the sections we ran along, which included the death-defying gullies which we hurtled down when our legs wouldn’t stop!

It wasn’t long before the splashing began and I found myself in the middle of a mud war.  The trick is to give all puddles a wide birth and make sure you are running behind the guys, rather than in front of them!  They cheated this year though, and began picking up the mud to throw rather than just kicking it up!

Muddy Christmas Eve runI got a massive clump of mud right on the top of my head.  Muddy Christmas Eve run - mud in my hairChanged my mind about heading to Tesco for some last minute shopping after that particular hit!

Christmas Eve club runThis photo really does not do justice to just how muddy we were after the run!

After a quick shower (where I tried not to shed too many dried flakes of mud on the floor, but in actual fact anyone would have been able to follow my muddy sock prints around the house) Dan, Oscar and I headed to Norfolk where we were spending Christmas with my parents.

My Mum had been lent a cot by a friend so that when we came to visit we didn’t need to lug that back as well as the pushchair, a stash of nappies and baby clothes alongside all of the Christmas gifts we were taking back for the weekend.  Oscar has been sleeping from about 10-10:30pm each night right through until at least 6am each morning for the past month.  Whilst fantastic that I no longer have uninterrupted sleep each night, I really want to get him out of the habit of staying up so late as I never get to see Dan anymore because one of us is always having to entertain Oscar in the evenings.

For dinner on Christmas Eve, we headed over to my friend Hollie’s house for a Chinese takeaway where there were several of the people I went to sixth form with.  Oscar took a brief kip on a pile of blankets we laid out for him on the floor but ended up being very much awake when we returned to my parents’ a little after 9pm, and then continued to stay up until 1:30am the following morning!  I had to wake him up by 8am, and pointed out that it will probably be the only Christmas morning where I will have to wake him up!

My Mum had requested that Oscar and I join her in church on Sunday morning, and so Dan dropped us off with the pushchair and a bursting bag of baby ‘essentials’.  They did all end up being essential on Sunday to be fair though.  Oscar remained quiet for the first 10 minutes of the service before needing to be fed, then burped, then played with, then changed at the back of the church as his clothes were by this point covered in poo!  Oh the joys of having a baby(!)

Christmas day passed by in a blur.  We always eat lunch before retiring to the lounge by mid-afternoon to begin opening presents.  That part took slightly longer this year as between us we had to open all the presents for Oscar as well.  He had just the right amount of soft toys and books for Christmas.  I really don’t want him to end up having so many presents that he ends up opening them for several days afterwards like I’ve seen on so many Facebook statuses this week.

Dan and Oscar at Christmas

Another big meal for tea that evening.  All this food for just one day!  My belly was feeling rather full by the time we returned to Northamptonshire that night.

Christmas dinner

I managed a super long lay in on Boxing Day after Dan took over from me following the morning feed.  That lay in was required after several late nights of wrapping presents and then entertaining Oscar until late on Christmas Eve, with a whole week of setting my alarm early to express before Oscar wakes.  I felt so much better for the lazy day on Boxing Day.

Then on Tuesday morning I met with several club mates to run the course of the trail race that my club is putting on in February next year.December trail runThere were a load of guys out too, but we got a female-only shot first of all.

As there were so many of us it was rather slow to begin with as we waited for everyone to cross over stiles so that we were able to cut through to the starting point.  We soon settled into a steadier pace though and it was a gorgeous day to be out on the trails.December trail runThere were loads of hot air balloons out as the skies were so clear.  Although everyone had pointed out my bare legs at the start of the run, I was rather glad to be in shorts by the end as it wasn’t too chilly at all.

I didn’t bother with trail shoes (still not clean!) as it had been slightly frosty in the morning and so the ground was neither wet nor tacky.  Instead soft, yet firm enough to run on.

A lovely 6.8 miles to start the week off with!  :)

Have you been in a hot air balloon before?  I’ve never been but it’s something I’d love to do.
How was your Christmas?

My first post-baby cross-country

love cross-country.  The courses, the mud, the support, the rivalry.

One of the benefits of membership with my running club is that each year you get free entry into all of the Three Counties Cross-Country races, of which there are five.

When I first posted a picture of Oscar announcing his arrival on my running club Facebook page back in September, I vowed to return to running in time to make the end of cross-country season.  With two races still left in the 2016-17 series I returned for the fourth event this past Sunday.

The last race before Christmas always has a fantastic atmosphere.  Runners are adorned in Santa hats and tinsel and there are even musicians out on the course playing festive songs.  I loved the addition this year of hanging foil Christmas decorations between stakes instead of red and white tape too!  There was also something happening with baubles out marking the course – although I almost stepped on one thinking it was a mushroom! Letchworth cross-countryHaving run the course before (2014 / 2015) I knew that Letchworth cross-country, hosted by North Herts Road Runners, was a fairly straight forward one.  There were two long hills, but hills which only had a small incline.  The weather hasn’t been too wet lately, so mud would not really be an issue either.

Letchworth cross-country

I started off right at the back – although there was a bit of a confusion over which direction the back was…we ran the other way round the field last year!
I would prefer to be overtaking other runners rather than constantly be overtaken myself and it was nice to pass several runners out in the field early on.

Letchworth cross-countryWhen I first began I kept another Wellingborough runner in sight who tended to finish in similar positions to me before I became pregnant.  I had no intentions of pushing myself hard whilst out on the course, but I had no idea how well I would be able to pace things either, so thought it would be best to keep a marker in sight to focus on.

Despite having planned to clean my trail shoes on the Saturday night, I ended up too tired and it never happened.  There was no point in attempting to clean them when I woke up on Sunday morning as I would just have ended up with soggy feet, so I pulled out a pair of old trail shoes from a couple of years ago.  So trusted and worn that the fabric across the bridge of my feet is completely destroyed.

They felt incredibly heavy compared to the road shoes I’ve been sporting recently and it was a real effort to lift my feet without feeling weighed down, but the tread is still very good and I could still trust them not to slip on any of the slightly slippier trail out on the course.

The course is almost an out-and-back course, although at the far end the route loops round a couple of fields before returning on the same track that the runners headed out on.  I love it when races have a portion of the race where I am able to cheer in our front runners on their way back towards the finish line.  So often they cheer me over the line but as a slower runner I find myself missing being able to support them on so many occasions.  I managed to cheer our first four club runners up the hill here before my attention was caught by the brass player belting out a version of ‘Jingle Bells’ on my left.

As slower runners we all automatically moved over to the left of the path so that the quicker runners may pass us in the other direction.  The track was filled with large puddles, with an easy way through along the centre of the path where the quicker runners now ran.  Along the side was much harder to balance, with slanted sides sloping down to the puddles underneath!

There were a couple of minor variations to the course this year, such as traveling along the left side of a hedge instead of the right or similar.  But essentially, the course was the same as it had been the previous year.

After months of not wearing my heart rate monitor during my pregnancy, I’d forgotten to put it on that morning.  Because I didn’t want to get carried away and caught up with the crowd I decided from the beginning that I would take a walking break at any point I found myself pushing.  I took two of these short walking breaks whilst out on the course – just for a handful of strides at a time and no-one overtook me to stay in front at these points.

There is a short, sharp drop near the beginning of the race where runners drop down onto a single file track.  It was not possible to overtake along this section but because cross-country is about position rather than time, I enjoyed the steadier pace, pushing past those in front of me as the track opened out again a little further up.  Pushing up the steep slope at 5 miles was tough, but as runners were really spaced out it was easy to get a good run-up at the bank.

I really surprised myself when the Wellingborough runner marker I had chosen at the start of the race finished still in eyesight, and only five places ahead of me.  The runners finishing around me were those who would do normally, when I was at pre-pregnancy fitness.  Perhaps I did strengthen my body more than I first thought when I continued to run over the Summer.

Position: 313/337
Gender position:
 103/123
Distance: 5.59m
Time: 56m 16s

Choice of rolls at the finish included ham and mustard, turkey and cranberry or salmon and dill, with a selection of Christmas themed or decorated cakes and mince pies for dessert!

Have you been to any cross-country events this season?
School cross-country – love it or hate it?!

Running – eleven weeks post baby

I’m currently sat upstairs in my office, plate of party food on the desk next to me and with half a glass of wine in my hand.

This year, Dan and I decided to play host to the Pearson clan for a Christmas buffet.  This involved filling our house with Oscar’s grandparents, Great-Grandma, Great-Aunt, Aunt, Uncle, and three of his five cousins who are all under the age of 6.

…I think I just found cake behind the radiator, there is definitely chocolate on the sofa and I have a post-it note stuck to my sock.Christmas dinner table

Me being me I decided to make all the food.  Therefore yesterday was a frenzy of baking cheese straws, chocolate shortbread and sausage rolls in between the standard parents-are-coming cleaning and tidying of the house.  It was very lovely seeing everyone but I’m exhausted now.  My nieces and nephew have so much energy!  I’m glad we just have the one baby!
It’s OK though – Isla tells us that she’ll “look after Baby Oscar”.

Isla and Oscar

On Tuesday Oscar turned eleven weeks old.  He’s still pretty tiny and has only just started wearing size 0-3 clothes, but I still find it amazing to think he ever fitted inside my belly just a few short months ago.

This is the first week where I’ve begun to start feeling ‘strong’ again when it comes to running.  I admit, I was so nervous following my rubbish six week check-up by the doctor, (where she didn’t even check my scar or examine any part of my body) that despite having been ‘cleared to run’ at that check, I didn’t venture out until week seven and then it was with lots of apprehension.

People are quick to say “Don’t come back too soon”, “Wait six months following a caesarean”, “Be sure to stock up with supplies because your pelvic floor won’t be what it once was”, “Start back run-walking”, “Take things easy”…Everybody had a different rule to announce, with lots of them being date-related.  I’d been advised to wait everything from two weeks to six months before gentle jogging could commence, when really, what I should be doing was listening to my body and letting it tell me when I could start running again.

The facts:

  • I had run regularly up until 39 weeks of my pregnancy without any problems
  • Following my operation I had challenged myself to walk a little further each day
  • My scar had healed well and I was no longer in any discomfort

There is a mile loop by my house which I often use to test out a new pair of trainers, and it was round this mile loop that I made my comeback run four weeks ago.  I wasn’t sure what to expect on that first run, but it wasn’t as horrific as I had feared – having been in so much pain a month earlier that I was unable to turn the bathroom light on!  My insides felt rather loose, but that was to be expected.  I guess they were still sliding back to their original positions after having housed Oscar for the best part of the year.

I’ve remained sensible and started off fairly slowly with my runs – just two or three runs a week, and nothing further than a 10k until this Thursday.  No speedwork or hard sessions planned until after Christmas, although I did push slightly harder than initially planned at the Magic Mile last weekend.

Just recently Oscar has begun sleeping through the night.  For the past fortnight he has been having his last feed at around 10-10:30pm and then not waking until Dan gets up for work at 6am the following morning.
Winning!  :)

I’m not sure how or why, or even how long it will last, but I fully intend on making the most of that solid block of his sleep by getting some runs in before it becomes too icy and Wintery in the mornings.
On Monday night I headed to bed when Oscar went down, with an alarm set for 4:45am.  It seems rather wrong that as a parent of a not even three month old baby I’m setting an alarm to get up so early in the morning!  Unfortunately, choosing to breastfeed means I have to get up 20 minutes earlier so that I am able to express before leaving for my run.

Once out there though, it was wonderful!  It felt fantastic to slot my run in before anybody else in the house was up, and then knowing all day that it didn’t matter what else I did, I had already gotten my workout in that morning.  This was the first run I really felt like I was back as a runner and almost forgot that I had a child back at home.  For the first time I wasn’t aware that my insides were slightly jiggly or weak and I was able to run strong.  I’d aimed for three miles but leaving slightly later than planned at 5:35am, I cut the run short at 2.33 miles instead.  Still, better some miles than none.
Oscar, Dan and Bella were all none the wiser when I snuck back in through the bedroom door and climbed back into bed to feed Oscar 25 minutes later.

The following day I headed for my first trail run with the club since Oscar was born.  I had been nominated to lead on the 7 mile route starting out from the village next to me.  Although I got a few comments and even surprised myself when I managed to set off at an 8:xx minute mile pace.  I did feel incredibly strong on Wednesday night.

7.2 miles and 14 people.  Not bad for my first trail run back!

Despite being closer to the front for the first half of the run I could feel my body beginning to tire by mile 6 – the furthest I’d run since having Oscar.  I allowed myself a couple of walk breaks at the back during the final mile, and my legs felt rather heavy the following day.  I decided to follow the trail run up with a rest day.  Sensible = strong.  I’ve decided that will be my motto this year!

Stupidly, I hadn’t cleaned my trail shoes beforehand, so was running in an old pair of road shoes along the rather muddy in places track.  I’m hoping to head over for the fourth cross-country of the season tomorrow, so that’s just reminded me that I need to pull out my trail shoes for cleaning.  They never had a thorough hose down after my last muddy run before I was pregnant, and I’m hoping they haven’t stiffened up too much…  :S

On that note I’d better shoot off and clean my shoes before bed!

How often do you clean your trail shoes?
Have you ‘hosted’ a Christmas before?