Less than four weeks to go and a possible parkrun return

It’s just 26 days now until the Autumn 100.  Another 10 days or so before I start to taper.

I’ve decided on my strategy for race day – a run/walk strategy, something I’ve not purposefully used before, but something I’ve heard and seen nothing but good words about.  I’m planning on starting the race with a 13 minute run, 2 minute walk technique.  Holding onto this as long as possible, then dropping down to a 12/3, 11/4, 10/5 as necessary.  I’ve spoken to lots of people over the past few weeks about how they chose their run/walk distance/times and I think that sticking to a 15 minute block will work well for me – I don’t want to be working out mileage or random minutes when I’m 23 hours into a race, whereas four blocks across the hour should be relatively easy to keep track of.

I’ve practised 13/2 a few times now and have found that it really helps me to keep my focus when running long runs alone.  Hopefully this will remain the case come race day.  I’ve been out for a couple of two hour blocks and my overall pace (including both the running and walking sections) has remained below 11 minute miles, so I will need to be aware of slowing the running sections down slightly come race day!

Testing out a run-walk technique

Dan is going to drive me down the morning of the race and then come back and collect me the following day, keeping an eye on the tracker to work out my rough finishing time.

No crew are allowed at Autumn 100.  This isn’t a Covid-thing, but an event thing.  Apparently no crew were allowed at last year’s event either.  Pacers are also only allowed for the last 25 miles, so from miles 75-100.  I will not be having a pacer this year.  I think I would benefit most from having a pacer during the night – so at mile 50, the point pacers are usually allowed to join on a 100 miler.  But that’s not allowed.  After getting attacked last year I’m not the most keen on running alone in the dark, but I’m just going to have to man up, get my head down and run like crazy until morning!  It’s one night.  I’m sure I’ll be fine.

I managed 51.7 training miles last week, including two complete rest days:
* MON – 3.4 mile buggy run for the nursery pickup (half with a three stone toddler, half without!)
* TUES – 4 mile easy run (AM) and 6.1 mile club run (PM)
* WED – 5.4 mile chatty run with Dan
* THURS – 11.1 miles testing out the run/walk (AM) and 5.5 mile club run (PM) which ended up being a speed session in places as I had to take a much faster group than usual out
* SUN – 5.2 mile chatty run with Dan and Oscar (in the buggy) down to the park for a picnic breakfast, immediately followed by an 11 mile run/walk (13/2)

I’m hoping for similar mileage again this week, although spread out a little more evenly this time!

Oscar is definitely too big for the buggy now – and it’s also incredibly tough going on us having to push him – especially when we reach a hill!

Oscar is too big for the buggy now

We’ve run down to Stanwick Lakes for a pancake breakfast a few times now though and I’ll be sad when we really cannot squeeze him in for the ride anymore!  Parks were just too busy for comfort over the Summer holiday, but completely empty first thing in the morning.  As long as the pancakes were cooked and we managed to get out first thing, then there is plenty of time for a run down to the playpark, to demolish the pancakes and a good couple of hours of playing before things get too busy!

Pancake breakfast Oscar eating pancakes for breakfast

One of the biggest stressors for me this week has been the possible return of parkrun.  On Monday afternoon our team at Irchester Country parkrun received an email stating that parkrun intended to return before the end of October.  I really miss my weekly parkrun – we’ve now actually had more weeks away from parkrun than at our event, since starting up last November – and totally agree that there are a whole host of mental health and physical benefits to those who take part or volunteer.  Personally though, I felt that the timeframe to return was too short, and with restrictions still in place regarding gatherings of people I didn’t understand how parkrun could return;
a) When not everybody brings along a barcode, so not all runners are known (for tracking and tracing purposes).
b) Taking the temperatures of 500+ runners at every event each week would be impossible.
c) By announcing that Wales and Scotland would not be returning in October, adding immense pressure to events bordering the country line.
d) By relying on landowners giving permission for the events to take place.  Again, if a landowner refused, parkrunners from that event would descend on other local events, increasing numbers further.
e) Without a chip timed start, it would be bedlam on the start line with no social distancing – 2 metres apart?  Some events would see the first runners finishing before all had crossed the start line if that was the case, and runners would be adding 10/15 minutes to their overall time!
f) Asking for enough volunteers each week to put themselves forward in roles such as barcode scanning and finish tokens – where they would come into contact with every single runner at the event.

Personally, I still feel uncomfortable walking around a supermarket, never mind being crammed into a starting pen, coughed on and jostling for a place out on the course.

The following day it was announced that Government restrictions were changing – groups of no more than 6 people were to be together, either inside or outside.  I relaxed slightly, assuming that parkrun’s statement would be retracted.  Only it wasn’t.  It was then clarified that this new limit didn’t apply to parkrun – that parkrun would be allowed to go ahead.

And that’s when I began to get abuse.  How was I allowed to start up parkrun again when groups of friends were no longer allowed to meet up together for a run?  Obviously not my decision, but people were clearly feeling frustrated and angry about their time being directed for them by the Government once again.  I went to bed on Thursday evening feeling very sad and unhappy over the amount of angry messages I had received, simply because I volunteer my time as Co-Event Director at a parkrun event.

Luckily(?!) on Friday, the situation was eased for us when Public Health Northamptonshire issued a statement to all parkrun EDs in the county saying that they would not be sanctioning the return of parkrun at the end of October.  I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders!  I would absolutely love to see parkrun return, but when it is safe to do so.  I feel that setting a date 5 weeks away with the current rise in cases, and with children returning to school was reckless.  As much as I would have loved to have run a parkrun on my birthday at the end of October and for Oscar to start joining in once he turns four in a few weeks time, I believe that we shouldn’t be looking at a return until at least 2021 now, however sad that may be.

Do you intend to run/volunteer at parkrun next month?  How do you feel about parkrun returning at this point?
Have you tried a run/walk technique during a race before?  How did it go?

No more nights!

I am no longer a night-shift worker!  Yay!

No more night shifts

The last few months have been tough – working full time night-shifts, trying to parent Oscar successfully during the days whilst Dan has been working (albeit from home), trying to be there for family who were struggling during difficult times and also attempting to train for the Autumn 100.

My last night shift was Saturday and this week is all change.  Dan is back in the office today (although just two days a week now going forward) and Oscar has picked up an extra morning at nursery from this term onwards to prepare him for school next year.
I’ve woken this morning feeling motivated and energised – ready to tackle the world again knowing that I haven’t got to try and fit everything into just two days before juggling fitting sleep around work and life.

I slept for maybe twenty minutes on my return from work Sunday morning and then woke up feeling dreadful – sore throat, headache, feeling sick.  Just generally run down from a lack of sleep over the previous months I think.  It’s always the way – reach a holiday or some time out and my body decides to fall apart!  But the difference is, this time I won’t be returning to night shifts so my body will hopefully be able to completely recover.

Due to the pandemic I lost a big freelance contract and there was no coursework moderation role for me over the Summer this year, as exam boards did not ask for any to be submitted for the season.  But, by working full time hours in a well paid job and being savvy with our spending Dan and I have still managed to put away the money we would have saved across the year in just six months, so I have a bit of leeway now for a little while with the time to investigate further a few projects which I currently have in the pipeline.

I’m not sure what my options would be to return to full time work anyway – basically impossible with a child I imagine?  How do full time working parents work around school?  When Oscar starts next year I will need to be able to take him to school for 9 am and pick him up at 3:15 – 37 weeks of the year.  We don’t have family in the area to help with school runs so the responsibility of school drop-off and pick-up will fall solely on me.  I don’t want to put him into before and after-school clubs for hours on end if I don’t have to (although I know this works for many) and so working for myself is the only real option I have unless I want to return to working nights again (I don’t!)

The things I’m looking forward to being able to do now that my shifts have finished include; catching up on life admin, not having to struggle to fit all of my runs in across just four consecutive days, being able to raise my sleep average above 5 hours each night, feeling alive enough to enjoy Oscar during the day, my knees no longer getting a battering from kneeling for hours on end each night, not having to break my sleep up into three naps of 1-2 hours each day, removing the duvet that has lived in my car since March, there no longer being deep cuts in my fingertips from opening boxes 8 hours every night…

I will however miss; the extra money making its way into our bank account every four weeks, the discount on my food shop, the guaranteed 15,000 steps every night and the strength work I get from lugging cages of heavy cheese off the lorries and onto the shop floor, watching the beautiful sunrises from the car park roof at leaving off time and the feeling of being able to provide for my family.

Weston Favell sunrise from the roof

I did make epic use of my last day of discounted shopping yesterday – two full trolleys filled with enough store cupboard items to last another three month lockdown!  Good job we have a big kitchen!  I was super organised, – armed with a long list Dan, Oscar and I managed to get the whole shop done and to the car within seventy minutes!  (I still need to pack most of it away in the cupboards though – a task I saved for today!)

It’s just under five weeks now until the Autumn 100 and my training is well underway.  I’m happy with how my running has been going over the past few months – I even managed a new 5k PB time of 25:46 back in July!  My running club has begun meeting for training sessions again and I am lead coach for one of the groups from this term – something I’m really looking forward to.  I have lots of ideas for the runners of Group 4.

30 minute time trial

The year is looking up!

Has your life begun to return to some kind of normality again yet following the pandemic?
Ever worked through the night before?
If you’re a working parent, how do you juggle the school run around work?