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?

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:
 53:00
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:
82/118
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:
 27:38
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?!

 

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:
40:25
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:
 32:32
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:
 34:59
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?