Two parkruns and the final cross country

This post is delayed partly due to me hoping that there would have been some cross-country photos posted online, but there doesn’t seem to have been any.  (The rest of the delay is purely down to laziness!)

Last week was parkrun #69 for me.  Laura has recently undergone surgery and currently unable to run so offered to be tailrunner at Northampton parkrun.  She hadn’t walked as far as 5k since her operation, and as I ended up with Oscar in the buggy for the morning I offered to walk round with her at the back.  Not a great deal to report about the event – just chatting at the back and walking a 5k really!  Laura wrote about it in more detail than me though.

Garmin time: 53:01
Official time:
Position: 486/488
Gender position: 210/212
Age category position: 36/37

I didn’t even take a cake picture afterwards!  The only thing really note-worthy from the event was that it was ridiculously cold!  I dressed Oscar up in a vest, sleepsuit, fluffy jumper, woolly hat, snowsuit and two blankets for the parkrun and at one point I spotted a few tiny flakes of snow falling from the sky.

The following day was the final cross-country race of the Three Counties Cross-Country season.  I missed the first three of the series as they fell too soon following the birth of Oscar for me to be out racing, but I made it to the Letchworth event just before Christmas and was looking forward to the final event to be held at Sharnbrook last weekend.

With a bit of enthusiasm drummed up on social media, there was to be a much larger turn out of runners than there had been representing our club at the Christmas event, which made me a little nervous.

Frustratingly my phone battery died on arrival at the school ground where the race was to be held, and despite seeing several supporters out snapping photos, I am yet to see any posted online, bar a couple of set up shots from one of the marshals.

Sharnbrook cross-country trail

(Photo credit)

It was pretty fresh out there, although I had decided to just stick to my standard cross-country attire consisting of shorts, a t-shirt and my club vest.  It didn’t take too long to warm up though, and after a lap of the school playing field we were launching ourselves down a steep slope and out through the neighbouring fields with feeling in fingers once more!

Last year, – the first year the course had been part of the series – it had been incredibly muddy.  So, so very muddy!  This year there had been very little rain in the weeks leading up to the event, although there had been a lot of thick mist which had settled early in the mornings that week, giving everything a rather damp feel, without things getting too boggy.

The ruts were still there along the tracks, but now with added ice along the top which meant for some slippery running.

I always think that the back runners at cross-country have a much tougher time than the front runners as by the time all the front runners have been along the course it ends up churned up and much more difficult to run in.  This time round though, the front runners were all hitting the ice first.

The route was slightly different this year, and included a couple of fallen trees as jumping obstacles!  I didn’t fully trust my legs, especially as many in front of me considerably slowed for the obstacles, denying me of any real run-up.  I opted to quickly clamber over them instead.

The toughest part of this course is the final sprint across the long field at the finish.  It’s churned up from all the runners ahead of you and this year the mud was that horrible sticky type of mud which just makes your trainers become more and more heavy until you stop to pick out the mud with a strong stick.  Visibility is good across the final field so you have the rest of your clubmates cheering you in the whole way and there’s no chance of slowing down.  You must speed up for the finish, and right at the very end there’s a bit of a bank just before you cross the line requiring that last bit of effort for the finish!

Sharnbrook cross-country trail

(Photo credit – taken pre-churning!)

I’m so happy that I remained consistent and ran the entire way, finishing about where I expected to position-wise.

Position: 295/336
Gender position:
Distance: 5.75m
Garmin time: 57m 46s

Three Counties race number

As I’m sure I’ve explained before – cross-country doesn’t record times, but rather finishing positions.  The aim is to beat other runners of the same gender.  You get a certain number of points depending on your finishing position.  The higher the number points, the lower down the table you come.  Each scoring team at this league consists of eight male runners and four female runners.

I will never be fast enough to score for our club, as we have quite a strong cross-country team.  However, I am fast enough to push the scores of some of the other teams down and any clubs who cannot make the twelve runners required for scoring receive the number of points given to the final finisher plus one.  (Hope that made sense!)

This past weekend I was back to Northampton parkrun again.  This time without Oscar, as Dan had him for the morning.  It’s the first time I’ve had the opportunity to actually run the whole way at Northampton parkrun since Oscar was born and I was looking forward (although also slightly nervous!) to picking up the pace and feeling slightly uncomfortable on the run.

I perhaps didn’t set off as far forward as I should have done, erring on the side of caution, although I instantly regretted this.  It’s been a long while since I ran with the 26-27 minute runners and it has become so overcrowded at that point in the runners.  It was still perhaps 10 runners wide at the first corner of the run (about a quarter of a mile in) and I struggled to push myself into a spot onto the path from the grass verge.

Mile 1: 8:18

I planned on running to heart rate, trying to stick to about 170bpm.  As always, it took a little while for my heart rate to pick up at the beginning of the run.  I usually capitalise on this if it’s only over 5k and get in a first fast mile.  However, it was so difficult to weave in and out around the other runners that I ended up settling back a little, knowing that I could have gone a little faster.

Mile 2: 8:44

By the end of mile 2 my heart rate was getting a little higher than I would like and had sat around 175bpm for a little while.  I decided to pull it right back and walk up the final hill to ‘reset’ my heart rate before continuing the rest of the run.

Mile 3: 9:18
Nubbin (0.16m): 8mm pace

I was very happy to see a time starting with a ’27’ on my watch as I crossed the line.  My best ever parkrun time at Northampton is 26:37 so I am still a minute away from where I used to be (back in 2015) but I do feel like I’m starting to get back to where I came from now.

Garmin time: 27:37
Official time:
Position: 215/461
Gender position: 44/193
Age category position: 8/24

As I was without buggy we could go to Magees this week, the first time in ages.  I did take a picture of that cake!

Magee Street Bakery - salted caramel tart

Have you struggled with a particular pace being overcrowded on a race/parkrun?
Have you run a race where there have been tree jumps/other obstacles before?!


Running – 15 weeks post baby

I feel like I’ve managed to get into a rhythm with running again now.  I’m not entirely back to where I would like to be, but if I schedule in 5 or 6 runs for the week at the moment, I manage to get out for 3 or 4, and that’s definitely better than nothing!

The weekend before last I traveled over to Northampton with the intention of meeting Laura for the parkrun, followed by my second Magic Mile.  However, when I was only leaving the house at 7:50am (after a feed which had dragged on) I texted Laura to let her know that I would no longer be able to make it in time for the parkrun.  Stupid parking at Northampton Racecourse!

As I drove towards the Racecourse I noticed large numbers of runners along the streets.  I wondered briefly if any of them knew about parkrun, rather than having to run on their own on a Saturday morning at about the same time – before realising that they were in fact all running to the parkrun!  Turns out, with lots of football events on at the park that morning, and what turned out to be the highest attendance Northampton parkrun has ever had (516 people) there was no parking to be had anywhere near to the start.  I ended up parking a 20 minute walk from the start line, although it didn’t really matter as I knew by this point that I definitely would not be able to get out and set the pushchair up ready to go in time to run.

I cheered a few runners on out on the course before taking Oscar on a slightly longer walk round to the finish line so that we could see everyone come through at the end.  Once over the line, Laura took Oscar so that I may have another go at the Magic Mile for the second month running.

As tough as I had found the event back in December, I found it easy this month.  I was a little nervous beforehand, worried that I wouldn’t be able to better my time from the previous month and that no improvement had been made, but I needn’t have worried.  I tried not to set off too quickly, and kept a rough eye on my heart rate monitor as I ran.  I’m not entirely sure what heart rate I should be running to over a mile distance (I’ll have a look ready for next month), but knew it should be around 170-175bpm for a 5k, so tried to stick to the lower end of that as a base level.  I focused on a quicker leg turn over and, knowing that there was a gradual incline across the park towards the end of the mile distance I made sure to leave some in the tank!  This had been the part where I had struggled the previous month, but it was plain sailing across the middle this time round.  Dare I say it, but I could have gone quicker(!)

Still, I finished in 8:25 (official time 8:26) – more than 30 seconds faster than my time a month earlier.  30 seconds off a mile time?  I’ll take that!  😉

Magic Mile time with hot chocolate and brownie

Oscar joined Laura and I for a brownie and hot chocolate in The Good Loaf afterwards.

Oscar in The Good LoafJust milk for him though.  Laura has given him several desserty-pots of baby food for him to have alongside our cake when he is a little bigger so that he doesn’t feel left out!

I didn’t manage to get out for a run on Monday or Tuesday last week.  Dan was off work for the week and we had plasterers in working on our ceilings.  Evenings were spent shifting furniture between rooms and hoovering and cleaning down everything that was exposed to the dust!

Wednesday was my first run of the week.  I had planned on going along to the organised club trail run but for a couple of reasons ended up not getting round in time and so set out for a run on my own around the streets of Wellingborough instead.

Now I like to think I know Wellingborough fairly well, having regularly run round the town with my running club for the past five years.  However, it turns out I’m not that good at piecing together parts of runs, and trying to avoid dark alleyways and dodgy sidestreets that are fine to run along in large groups was an almost impossible task.  By mile four I found myself on a dual carriageway with no footpath alongside, just a footpath sign pointing to a track which headed through a field away from the lights of the road.  Without a headtorch on me, neither the dual carriageway nor the field track was an option so I ended up running back through a different housing estate and trying to use signposts to point me roughly back in the direction of Tescos, where I had parked.

Wellingborough run

The plan for the run was to head out for about 6 miles at an effortless pace.  Without a headtorch I planned to run on feel alone and I was surprised at just how easy I found the run.  It was one of those runs where you feel like you could literally run forever.  If I hadn’t needed to return for Oscar I would have turned this into a mid-week ten miler!

By mile 5 I was pretty certain where I was again and so decided to extend my stride for the final half a mile, easily averaging a 9:07mm pace.

Saturday was parkrun time again.  I was really looking forward to it last weekend.  Despite having visited parkrun numerous times since Oscar was born, I was yet to have a chance to run comfortably ‘hard’ at one.  I’ve either had the buggy with me, or been running with injured friends and I was eager to see what I was capable of now that I was able to run again.

The plan was to head to Kettering parkrun – the last event I had run before Oscar arrived.  At 39 weeks pregnant I had still easily managed a time of 33 minutes whilst chatting and I was looking forward to being able to see where my 5k time was at post-baby.  Dan had agreed to come along with Oscar so that I didn’t need to worry about driving, feeding or pushing, and being super organised that morning saw us arrive at the gates to Wickstead Park before 8:30am…Only to be greeted by the core volunteer team telling us that the route was too icy, and that they had made the decision to call off the event!

Kettering parkrun noticeThey had posted on social media earlier that morning, but I hadn’t thought to check before leaving the house as it didn’t seem too cold out.

I understood completely why they had made the decision to call off the event, but I was so disappointed.  I’d really been looking forward to running there that morning!  I hope the disappointment didn’t come across in my voice as they tried to suggest we head over to Corby for a parkrun instead.

Despite wearing my new road shoes and with trails being a much better choice for Corby parkrun, Dan decided that he would ferry Me over to Corby instead.  I still wanted to get a parkrun in and there wasn’t really another course close enough for us to make in time by this point.  Although the Corby parkrun is my favourite, it is partially off-road and with a steep climb that you repeat twice, – it definitely isn’t a fast course.

The Run Director mentioned that due to a small patch of ice on the tarmac, there would be one section of the course where runners would be guided onto the grass alongside the path, but other than that the previous night’s cold snap hadn’t affected the run.  There were to be three pacers – 25, 28 and 29 minutes.  I decided to try and stick to the 28 minute pacer but play things by ear as the run progressed.  I hoped that relying on a pacer would take the stress out of trying to remain consistent and I could just focus on enjoying the run.

As it was, the 28 minute pacer set off rather quickly.  I completed my first mile in 8m 25s – the pace for a 26:10 5k and he was still a fair way ahead of me at this point!  I decided to just carry on running at a comfortable pace after this rather than worry about where he was.Corby parkrunDan took a few shots of me out on the course.  Always handy to have a personal photographer when you write a blog! 😉  Looking through the photos I feel as though my style has improved somewhat over the past few months.  I’ve always been a very ‘lumbery’ runner – lazy with my legs – but I feel as though I now have a lot more power in every stride and the photos Dan took seem to back up this theory.

Corby parkrunI knew I was running well, but during the run I had no idea what my course PB was.  I’d forgotten my mobile in the rush out of the house that morning, and obviously had intended on going to the Kettering, rather than Corby course so hadn’t thought to look it up beforehand.

Corby parkrunI felt like I managed to pace myself well for the remainder of the run and I still had enough in the finish to kick a littl, – finishing just behind two women who I had been yo-yoing with the entire way round the course.

Corby parkrun

Mile 2: 9m 23s
Mile 3: 9m 26s
Nubbin (0.16m): 7:47mm pace

Garmin time: 28:30
Official time:
Position: 72/133
Gender position: 16/51
Age category position: 2/4

Turns out I was only 13 seconds away from my course PB.  In the wrong shoes, desperately needing a wee and fifteen weeks after having a baby.  I was rather happy with that!  :)

Have you ever turned up at a cancelled event?
Do you run along alleyways alone at night?

Late night reading – 2

So life with a new baby means I frequently find myself with random five minute slots of time (like when Oscar has just fallen asleep and I am unable to move my left arm or whilst waiting for his bottles to sterilise) that I like to fill by reading random articles and clicking on fun sounding links on the internet.

I posted Late Night Reading #1 a little while back, and #2 has taken a little longer for me to get round to typing up than I initially intended, but here it finally is in all it’s randomness!

  • With a new baby in tow we didn’t really get round to playing very many board games this holiday, although I remember frequently playing games like Scrabble and Monopoly on Sunday afternoons with my family as a child.  There was one time I remember my younger brother throwing the Monopoly board across the table – money flying up in the air and landing everywhere – as he was losing the game at that point.  He’s grown up somewhat since that day and I’d like to think that he wouldn’t repeat his actions should he lose as a twenty-nine year old(!)  However, if you have a sore loser in your family, there is now a Monopoly Helpline at hand to help clarify the rules for any family disputes!
  • I’ve been trying to make extra portions of meals to place in the freezer every time I’ve cooked over the past few months.  Especially meals which include lots of vegetables.  I find I often end up throwing out the end of boxes of mushrooms or the final pepper in a three pack.  It works out much more economical to buy larger packs, and I save so much time by peeling and slicing the produce all in one go.  If you’re new to freezing food or want to give it a go, the Mini Millionaire has put together a great guide here.
  • An American article, but a problem that the British fashion industry is just as guilty of – varied clothes sizes.  One woman posted photos of her wearing several pairs of trousers in her wardrobe ranging in size from 5 – 12 (American sizes).  All pairs fit her fine, but what message is that sending out to young females that the size they’re used to wearing has become too small?
  • If you sign in to Sisu with either Strava or Runkeeper, you can make an art print of your personal running or cycling activity routes.
    Sisu - Strave runs as artMy routes over Christmas don’t look particularly exciting.  I’d probably need to spend more time creating activities like in my next link before purchasing a print.
  • The 10 best strava pieces of artwork – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even draw a turkey as clearly as that with a pen and a piece of paper!Strava turkey
  • I’ve enjoyed dipping in and out of Tess’ If Destroyed Still True blog over the past couple of weeks.  Tess has kept a diary since turning thirteen, which she has now begun to type up and share with the world.  I kept diaries on and off as a child and teenager and have found it mortifying looking back fifteen years later to see just who I fancied or what my priorities of the day were back then.  I wouldn’t dream of sharing teenager-Mary’s diary with anyone, and I definitely wouldn’t have the balls to post it online for all to see!  Thanks for doing what I wouldn’t Tess!  😉

Did you keep diaries as a child?
Ever tried any Strava art?
Sore loser?  Or do you always win at board games?!

Three parkruns, three locations, two days

Making my way to all of the extra parkruns over Christmas break has been something I’ve looked forward to for the past few years.  Last year I ran the New Year’s Day parkrun double for the first time.  We started at the Huntingdon course, before rushing madly over to Peterborough.  I am sure most of the people sat in cars on the A1 that morning were wearing running kit!

This year was the first year since 2012 that I hadn’t been able to run parkrun on Christmas day, but I made up for it by fitting in three parkruns the following weekend instead.

#1. Bedford parkrun – New Year’s Eve

Bedford was the first of the three.  Our club men’s captain had announced on Facebook that he was headed over to Bedford for the New Year’s Eve parkrun, and several others from our club decided to follow, – me included.  With a 15k obstacle course race lined up for the end of January, Dan also decided to come along for the run.  As I wasn’t bothered about running hard, (knowing I had another two parkruns to come the following day) I offered to push Oscar round if Dan collected him from me once he finished so that I may run the final half mile or so of the event.

Having run the course before I chose to skip the briefing and find a spot right at the back with Oscar before things got too busy.  This was the first time we had taken Oscar out using the travel system – his car seat fixed into the buggy.  This meant he was sitting in a more upright position and was able to see his surroundings much better.  Oscar loved this.  He usually falls asleep within minutes of me putting him into his cot-insert, but this time he was awake well into the second mile, eagerly beaming at everybody that ran by us.  I think he was rather disappointed when people failed to stop and smile back at him.  He’ll learn the draw of a PB one day!

Oscar at Bedford parkrun on New Year's Eve

Bedford parkrun is a course of two and a half laps around the perimeter of the park.  Despite starting from the very back of the pack, Oscar and I overtook quite a few run/walkers as I power-walked past with the buggy.  The pack was rather slow to get moving to start with and I had to hold back slightly, afraid that I was going to run into the back of somebody.  Once we were moving and into a rhythm though it was fine.  Bedford parkrun is ran entirely on tarmacked paths and so it was easy to swerve out to overtake others.

Dan came sauntering back to claim Oscar just as I was coming to the end of my second lap, with less than half a mile to go.  I pushed the pram out towards him so that he was able to collect it and then picked up the pace.  I expected my legs to feel heavy and for them to struggle with the switch from walk to run but they didn’t.  Knowing that it was less than a mile to the finish now I decided to see just how quickly my legs were capable of turning over once I conquered the mini hill at the far end of the course.

Mile 1: 14m 25s
Mile 2: 14m 43s
Mile 3: 10m 32s
Nubbin (0.12m): 6m 51s pace

I was super happy to see that somehow my legs were capable of a sub 7mm pace towards the end.  Perhaps my leg turnover is starting to return again!  It’s only a couple of months now until I will be able to run whilst pushing Oscar, so it will be interesting to see what pace I can run 5k at with a buggy.

Garmin time: 40:28
Official time:
Position: 441/468
Gender position: 176/191
Age category position: 18/19

Dan, Me and Oscar at Bedford parkrun on New Year's EvePearson family photo at the finish!

#2. Linford Wood parkrun – New Year’s Day (8:45am)

Linford Wood was the second parkrun of the weekend, and the first of the two that I visited on New Year’s Day.  Several members of our club were heading over for the ‘parkrun double’ – A parkrun at Linford Wood before running the 2.3(ish) miles to Milton Keynes parkrun.  The plan was to run that course and then back to our cars at Linford Wood again.

Knowing that I was running late that morning (when am I not?!)  I headed straight to the start, missing the briefing once again.  Laura found me and we headed out at a fairly easy, chatty pace.  The last time I ran Linford Wood parkrun I had been 30 weeks pregnant, so I easily snagged myself a new course PB which again should be easy enough to beat next time I run the event.

Laura and Me at Linford Wood parkrun on New Year's Day(Unflattering shot from the parkrun Flikr group – where did my massive ears come from?!)

Garmin time: 32:34
Official time:
Position: 275/333
Gender position: 81/124
Age category position: 8/14

Myself and the seven others from our club planning on running the New Year’s Day double all followed Laura (some more trustingly than others!) to the start of the Milton Keynes parkrun through the edge of the park.  It wasn’t overly cold, but we knew we needed to keep moving so that we didn’t stiffen up between parkruns.  It ended up being about 2.3 miles between the two.

There was a nice representation from five of the six club groups, which was lovely to see.

#3. Milton Keynes parkrun – New Year’s Day (10am)

Milton Keynes parkrun on New Year's Day

Again I ran at Laura’s pace for the Milton Keynes parkrun.  Laura hadn’t run any long mileage in a while and the furthest I had run since having Oscar was only about 7.5 miles up until this point so I was in the unknown too!  My body seemed to remember how to cover distance though luckily and this was another super easy jog round.

Garmin time: 34:59
Official time:
Position: 363/422
Gender position: 114/163
Age category position: 10/14

It absolutely tipped down on the route back to our cars and our group of nine slowly diminished as people sped up and shot off back towards their cars and home again.  I was shivering by the time I arrived back, and glad that I’d remembered to leave extra layers in the car.  A shame I hadn’t thought of adding a towel to my bag though!  My contacts were on the brink of being washed out as I hadn’t been able to find my running cap that morning either.  I am considering leaving a bag of running bits in the boot of my car for days like this.

Do you keep any spare running/workout kit in your car?
Did you head out to any of the extra parkruns over the holiday?