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?

Milton Keynes half marathon – the race for the cow

The weekend before last was a double whammy of races with the Rocket 5k on the Sunday, followed by the Milton Keynes half marathon on the Monday morning.

When I had signed up for the race several weeks earlier, I had agreed to run round with Laura, who was recovering from injury.  Laura at the time optimistically hoped for 10 minute miles, but I was doubtful she would return to full fitness in time for this, knowing also that I would no longer be able to run at 10mm pace for 13.1 miles, especially if the weather turned nice during the morning, as it seems to have done on all but the first of the Milton Keynes marathon days!

With limited long run training taking place beforehand, Laura opted for a run-walk technique for the race on the day with the aim of running for as long as possible before having to take walking breaks out on the course.

Having either raced or driven over for the race on each of the MK event days since 2012 when they first started up I knew just the sidestreet to park down so shared my insider information with Laura. Turns out though that the event organisers had shared my secret sidestreet in the race information booklet though and despite arriving with plenty of time to spare when we arrived there was no longer any spaces left!  Laura and I followed the convoy of cars which eventually led into a business estate, a short walk from the stadium start.

The weather did end up being ridiculously warm on race morning  and I was glad that shorts and a t-shirt had been my chosen race outfit.  I would have preferred just a vest rather than having to wear my club vest over my chosen t-shirt, but it wasn’t to be!  I had thought ahead, knowing that my regular fitted ladies club vest was getting rather snug over my growing pregnancy belly and boobs.  It was fine for purpose for the 5k on the Sunday but for longer distances I knew it would a) not look very attractive and b) potentially start to rub under my arms.  Therefore, I purchased a new male vest the week before the race.  The male vests have larger arm holes and are less fitted around the stomach.  I was hoping it would allow me to run without having to wear a top underneath, but on testing my new piece of race kit out a few days before the half marathon I realised that I would not be able to wear the vest on it’s own – unless I wanted the world to see the majority of my bright blue bra!

T-shirt underneath required!  I figured that with the run-walk strategy I probably wouldn’t overheat anyway, so would be fine with two layers.

We hung around for quite a while at the start.  Usually there are lots of Wellingborough runners at the Milton Keynes marathon/half, but it seems that quite a few of the regular MK runners had managed to get a slot at London instead this time round, so our numbers were much less this year.

Yasmin, Laura and Me at MK half marathonWe seemed to wait at the start for quite a while before crossing the line.  (Looking at my official start time it apparently took nearly 13 minutes!)  The advice had been to start queuing a half hour before the race start, but Laura and I cut it closer to the start time before heading over.Waiting to start Milton Keynes half marathon

The route had changed again for 2016, and whereas in previous years the first six miles were a series of out and backs along parts of dual carriageway, this section was largely condensed for the fifth year.  The heat was tough though and I was feeling the power of the sun.  If only I had remembered to lather on some suncream before setting off!

Laura set off at a fair pace and I reminded her a couple of times to slow down as she had been running at the pace of some of her most recent parkruns!  In previous weeks the furthest she had run non-stop was just over 4 miles and the furthest distance she had covered (using a run-walk technique) was the 10k of the Stanwick route we had run on Easter Monday.  Her initial aim was to try and run continuously for longer than she had done since returning from injury.  After passing the 4mile mark her target was upped to running the first 10k distance.

At mile 5 I could feel that my trainers were too tight over the top of my foot.  Something I’ve never experienced with my running trainers before, despite having super wide feet.  I told Laura to carry on and I would just nip off to the side to loosen the lace before jogging to catch her up.  Loosening the laces seemed to help, but I had to leap off the track a few miles further up the road to do the same thing again.

Laura started to drop off after getting past the 10k mark.  She was quite good at setting herself targets to get running again though, so after every walk break she would declare the next visual marker along the path where we were going to begin running again and that’s where we would break into another jog.  I favour this technique when I am finding long races tough too.

At roughly mile 8 Laura began to struggle a little, so we took a walking mile, snapping a few pics along the way.  Something you don’t often get the chance to do during a half marathon race!

Mile 8 of Milton Keynes half marathonI took advantage of the water bottles handed out every three miles and stayed well hydrated the whole way round.  This, combined with an eighteen week pregnancy bladder meant that I needed the loo by the final water station though, so again, told Laura to continue without me and that I would catch her up.  There wasn’t a queue for the portaloos so I nipped in, squirting a generous dollop of what I thought was hand sanitiser onto my hands before exiting the cubicle.  Only it wasn’t hand sanitiser.  It was very thick, gloopy soap, and there seemed to be no water left in the cubicle taps.  I had to waste most of my remaining water bottle washing off my hands before they became too itchy from the unwashed soap!

Laura was adamant that she was going to run the stadium for the finish and I convinced her that she also needed to run the car park as there would be lots of people out here cheering us round still.  Convinced, she did run from entering the car park the rest of the way to the finish line.

There was music blaring out in the car park and several people out cheering.  The atmosphere was fab and it’s not often I feel as fresh as I did at the end of 13.1miles, so I definitely picked my pace up unintentionally here.  It really made me want to run another race properly again soon.

As we entered the stadium we heard a few ‘Go Wellingborough!’ cheers and enjoyed our lap of honour before the crowds started to get really loud as we reached the finish line.  Certain the cheering was no longer for us, I turned immediately on crossing the line to be able to cheer the winning marathon lady over the finish.

Although the half marathon was by far the slowest I’ve run, it was nice for a race to feel super easy, to take several pictures and to have someone to chat to the whole way round!  Up until race day I had unofficially decided not to run another distance of more than a half marathon again before having the baby at the start of October.  Following the MK half though I was ready to sign up to another straight away and see what I could actually still run.  I’d like to think I would probably run somewhere around a 2:20-2:30 mark fairly comfortably, although time obviously isn’t important at the moment.  I just really miss the feeling of racing!

Gun time: 3:03:34
Chip time:
2:54:16
Official position:
2135/2220
Gender position:
946/1011
Age category position:
366/386

MK medals

Not only did I get the awesome green half marathon medal for running the race, I also got the fantastic blue cow medal for having run the 5k the day before followed by the half.  Definitely worth two days of running!  :)

Not quite the same, but did you ever decide that you were just going to run one half marathon/marathon but then decide to enter a few more?!
Any portaloo disasters before?  I think I’ve been fairly lucky to be honest!

Racing a trail half – Royston

On Sunday I raced a trail half marathon.  I didn’t stop to take photos along the route, I ran through drink stations and I didn’t hold any gates open for other runners (erm, sorry about that!)

Usually, I don’t race trail races but instead run them at a leisurely pace.  I walk the hills, munch at the checkpoints and take a few photos on the way round.  This time though, two weeks out from my goal marathon, I wanted to run the race hard and to feel comfortably uncomfortable the whole way round – trying my best to run on feel, not heart rate or pace.  I don’t want to run looking down at my watch every few seconds when I get to Mablethorpe and wanted to check how in-tune I was with my body.

I think I cracked it and I certainly had a fantastic race experience.  My best in a long while!

I grabbed a lift with another club runner to the race and seventeen from our club ran in total, all of varying speeds and abilities.  The race we ran was the Royston harvest trail half marathon, but there was also an option to run the Royston harvest trail quarter marathon, starting out along the same course.

Royston harvest trail run WDAC runners

I set out fairly steadily, chatting to another runner for the first mile.  Despite chatting, and the route being off-road on thick grass, I was surprised to see the mile tick by in 9:52.  The first couple of miles are on a gradual incline, with a few small bumps in the path.  At one point you have to duck underneath some racetrack fencing to get out onto a small country track.  You then head out alongside a field and onto a very narrow track that climbs steeply up through a small wood just before mile four.  Although I felt pretty strong still, I was forced into a walk here by the runners in front.  There were about 20 runners ahead of me who were all walking this section, and had I managed to squeeze past the first one, I would have had to continue asking if I could squeeze by those further ahead of me, so resigned to a fast walk here instead.  At least the majority of people were walking fairly quickly at this early point in the race.

Royston harvest trail marathon elevationI had run the race last year, so knew roughly what to expect from the elevation. (1,109ft!)

Mile 1: 9:52
Mile 2:
9:33
Mile 3:
9:57
Mile 4:
12:04

Upon reaching the top of the steep track we came out onto a road.  The quarter marathon runners turned left and the rest of us turned right to continue along our way, heading past the water station for the first time.  I took a sip from a cup before chucking it and carrying on running.  Several of the runners who had been walking in front of me stopped at the water station and I never saw them again out on the course.

There were several kissing gates out on the course, which broke up the route.  I think my body prefers the route to be naturally broken up by road crossings, gates and changes in terrain and it was nice being made to take tiny little mini breaks whilst out on the course.

Mile 5: 10:03
Mile 6:
10:13
Mile 7: 9:58
Mile 8: 10:32

I was still feeling very strong and so amazed at how consistent my running had been throughout the course so far.  I had intended on running hard, but had expected to die off a little before this point.  That feeling never came though and I remained strong throughout.  I was trying not to constantly look at my watch, but rather aim to run by feel.  If I had been running to heart rate, I would have been checking to ensure I was running just under 160 bpm.  Upon looking at my stats after the race I can see that I was spot on, at 159bpm on average during the race.

Royston harvest trail marathon heart rateAt mile 9 we ran through the second water station and it was here that I passed another runner from club, – Ian, who I ran with at Dunstable Downs 20m the previous weekend.  Ian is a much faster runner than me so I knew that I was having a good race when I glided past but had lost sight of him another mile along the track.

Mile 9: 10:18
Mile 10:
9:59
Mile 11: 10:08

With two miles until the end you reach this spectacular hill.  (Image taken from the Royston Runners Facebook page.)  This was the only point where I chose to walk rather than to run, as did the majority of entrants and I overtook several more walkers along this section with my long stride.
Royston harvest trail half hillIt was here that I passed a woman wearing sandals!  I spoke to her briefly as I went past.  Her feet looked amazing – not all battered and beaten like the feet of runners usually do!  Apparently she had been wearing sandals whilst out running for several years with the aim of encouraging her to run more on her fore-foot and discourage heel striking.  I’m not sure how the skin between her big toe and toe number two felt by the end of the race though…there was a lot of downhill just before the end so there would have been a lot of pressure where the toe piece went!

Luckily, this was quite a short (although incredibly steep!) hill and I was soon off running again, enjoying a brief bit of downhill before tackling the lumps and bumps within the final wood.  Everytime the course threw in a welcome downhill, it seemed to be followed by a steep climb the other side again, and the wood was filled with trees, with roots sticking up everywhere so even though legs were tired by this point, you had to really pick your feet up to stop from going flying.

Once out of the wood though, there is an amazing long downhill all the way round the outside of the sports fields and through to the finish line.

Mile 12: 11:48
Mile 13:
11:25
Nubbin (0.7m): 9:06

The course was a fair bit over distance.  I’ve come to expect that with trail races though and as a lot of the extra was along a lovely downhill section I didn’t mind too much!  It was nice to breeze through the finish line knowing that I had worked hard and was able to collect my certificate and cake.  Not bad for a £6 entry fee!

Royston harvest trail half marathon certificate and cake at the finish

Watch time: 2h 22m 12s
Official time:
2h 22m 16s
Position: 117/158

Following the race I was eager to check my predicted times on the Fetch website to look at what time Fetch thought I would be able to achieve over the marathon distance.  I covered 13.1 miles of the incredibly hilly course in 2h 15m 36s on Sunday, which gave me a predicted time for my future marathon of 4h 42m 44s.Marathon predictorWell below my goal of a sub 5 hour marathon!  Sunday’s half was so hilly I did wonder how I would get on in an actual road half marathon at the moment.  I haven’t raced one in a long while and I would like to think I could achieve a new PB if I were to race one right now.  Basically, racing last weekend has given me bucketloads of confidence to relax and enjoy my taper this time round, knowing that I’ve put the hard work in ready for marathon day.

11 days and counting…!

Do you use race time predictors to work out what you should be capable of achieving?
Where is the hilliest place you have ever run/walked?

Come help me marshal!

Next Sunday I shall once again be a sector lead for race company Go Beyond at Northampton Half Marathon.  I will be out on the same section of course as last year at Great Houghton between miles 7-9.5.

Yesterday afternoon I attended a briefing with the other sector leads and Race Director Steve Adams to ensure we understood what was to happen on raceday itself and that we were able to relay any information down to marshals within our section.Go Beyond crew hoodie

I am still a couple of marshals short across my stretch of the course so if you are free next Sunday (6th September), live near to Northampton and would like a race t-shirt and free entry to another Go Beyond race then please leave a comment on this post, drop me an email or send me a tweet.

Go Beyond host a variety of races across the year from 10ks to duathlons to ultras to triathlons.  The Shires and Spires 35m race is always one of the first to be added to my race calendar each year, but I have also marshaled at Coombe Abbey and Northampton Running Festivals, Mud & Mayhem Duathlon in Thetford, Thames Trot and Country to Capital.  (Click links to read my blog posts).  Take a look at the Go Beyond full events calendar to see if any events take your fancy in the upcoming year.

The marshaling itself won’t be too taxing and will involve standing on a corner and warning runners about a turn or traffic as they approach.  It would be lovely to meet some more runners from the area so if you are available to help, please let me know!  Also, entries are still being taken so if you wanted to enter and then wave at me as you zoom past somewhere along the Great Houghton stretch, I would be sure to wave back too!  :)

Changing subject slightly, has anyone downloaded the new parkrun app yet?  It’s currently only available for Apple devices annoyingly, but I have an iPad for work so I downloaded it to test it out.

iPad screenYou can set yourself targets that you wish to achieve and the app also lets you hunt out other parkruns near to you, telling you details about each of the courses so you can assess whether or not they have PB potential!parkrun app for iPadYou can keep track of all of your parkrun times and volunteering weeks.  It also lets you ‘make friends’ with other parkrunners so you can see their progress easily.

parkrun app for iPad

It’s a shame there isn’t an Android version yet, but I’m sure the demand for one will be high enough that one will be developed soon.

Are you free next Sunday for a few hours and fancy helping me marshal?
Do you have the parkrun app on your phone/iPad?