Running thoughts post-baby

Let me tell you a little about my Friday morning last week…

I woke to Oscar’s crying at 8:20am, realising that I’d slept in and missed Dan leaving for work several hours earlier.  The Health Visitor was due to arrive at 10:30 so I quickly got up and changed Oscar’s nappy before breastfeeding for half an hour.  Whilst settling Oscar over my left shoulder I managed to collect all the items for a cereal breakfast one handed and headed into the office to check my work emails amongst other things.  I’m becoming a pro at eating breakfast one handed.  In fact, the other morning, I had Oscar on one breast, was pumping from the other breast, whilst munching spoonfuls of cereal in between uploading resources for school all at the same time.  Talk about multi-tasking!

Oscar needed changing again by the time I had finished breakfast.  This time for something that Dan and I refer to as a ‘poo-nami’.  A poo-nami is the mother of all poos.  It’s messy, smelly, involves at least one item of clothing being covered in poo and more often than not I resort to placing Oscar in his bath because it’s just easier than using a mountain of cotton pads and nappy bags to clean him down.  My eyes were struggling to stay open, my head hurt from lack of sleep and my stomach was grumbling slightly as I had fallen asleep before tea the night before.  So, struggling to bath Oscar alone was not high on my list of fun activities when the Health Visitor was due to come round in little over an hour’s time.  I held his legs up so that I may clean his behind…only for Oscar to wee all over his face, and clothes which I’d changed him into just an hour before.

…I pulled out the bath.

Ten minutes later and I was in the office, breastpump on left breast, upset baby on right knee as I’d made him have a bath.  By the time I’d finished pumping, Oscar was crying for his feed.  I hurriedly screwed the teat onto the bottle and held it out for him to reach.  Only to discover that I hadn’t screwed the top on properly and my nice clean baby was now covered in breastmilk.

…Another outfit change required!

As I resurfaced from Oscar’s room for the umpteenth time that morning I noticed my wedding rings were missing from where I had left them by the baby bath.  Bella had decided whilst I’d been changing Oscar that my rings made a great cat toy and had batted them down the stairs, so I now also had to hunt for them.  Fantastic!

By this point it was now 10:20am.  I had yet to dress, go to the toilet, grab a drink or even draw back the curtains in the bedroom!  It was a looooong day!

Oscar as a newborn(Looks so innocent doesn’t he?!)

I’ve been thinking a bit about the practicalities of my return to running post-baby over the past week.  Although I’m desperate to get races booked in and to have something to look forward to, I know that I need to be sensible and also realistic.  My thoughts are currently as follows…

Breastfeeding

This is the biggest issue weighing on my mind at the moment and a huge restriction which I hadn’t initially taken into account.  Breastfeeding is currently working for Oscar and I (although more on our breastfeeding struggles to follow in another post).  Everything I read suggests that I will still need to be breastfeeding until the end of the first year, and that weaning onto solid foods (and thus cutting back on the number of feeds in a day) won’t begin until month six.  October, November, December, January, February, March.  Oscar will be six months at the end of March.  Right at the start of marathon season.  I started scouting around for marathons to enter whilst I was still in hospital, (Like I said, I need something to look forward to!) and it was then that I realised making the decision to breastfeed my baby wasn’t such a simple decision to make.  Choosing to breastfeed is incredibly restricting for anybody, even those people whose babies aren’t currently on a two-hourly Health-Visitor-invoked feeding schedule and those who won’t finish a marathon in much under 5 hours.

I have no idea how regularly I’ll need to breastfeed by next Spring when marathon season begins, or if by then I’d be able to go without feeding for five hours whilst I ran a marathon and then tack on an hour or so either side for getting to/from the start of the race.  And if I went five/six/seven hours without feeding, would I end up with massive, sore boobs/leaking milk or would I have to jump into a portaloo and express several times whilst out on the course just so that I was able to feel a little more comfortable?

Kit

I haven’t squeezed myself into a sports bra since week 39 of my pregnancy, but that’s a task for today.  Lots of people seem to swear by wearing two sports bras to hold their larger boobs in place whilst still breastfeeding to help prevent sagging.  I fear I’ll overheat though, or never be able to wriggle free again afterwards!  The rest of my kit should still fit me OK though.  In fact, I weigh less than I did pre-pregnancy now, but with bigger boobs…(I hope my shorts don’t fall down!)  An excuse to buy new kit coming my way!  😉

Injury

A Caesarean is major abdominal surgery.

I’ve had that sentence drilled into me over and over again during the past couple of weeks by a number of health care workers, friends and family members.  I had major abdominal surgery.  It was tough.  A whole lot tougher than I thought it would ever be to even walk again following my hospital stay…but I persevered, things got easier and by the time six weeks was up I had almost forgotten just how bad things had been.  The bar for what I could comfortably do just kept getting higher.

I have a scar from the surgery.  It’s about three or four inches long and it has already begun to fade to a pale pink colour.  The scar itself never caused me any problems.  I also have a small mark where a drain was placed for a blood bag.  Again, other than becoming itchy and slightly uncomfortable during the healing process, it has not been an issue.  Instead, it is much higher up across my tummy – where my muscles are, that the tension (and at times pain) has been.  I seem to be pretty much back to my pre-pregnancy capabilities again now.  Although a few weeks ago, I was still having to roll sideways out of bed each morning as it hurt my stomach too much to engage the muscles required to pull myself up from the bed.  I think I mentioned it in a previous post, but I couldn’t even engage my stomach muscles to pull the cord for the bathroom light the night I was discharged from hospital!

Running is a different matter, and something I am yet to try post-delivery.  I’ve been on several longer walks of 5k or more but that is as active as I have been since the 27th September.  I was medically given the go-ahead to run last Tuesday, (although without any kind of examination or real questioning I might add!) but am yet to do so.  I think I’m partly worried I’ll mess my body up by returning too soon and cause myself to have a real injury.  I actually ended up being sick all weekend, so I didn’t even make parkrun this week but I will be out for a test mile in the next couple of days so will report back.

Time to train

Although technically I’m on maternity leave until the end of next May, I am in a salaried position in my role as an ICT teacher.  One of my responsibilities for the year was to provide resources and a scheme of work for year 11 students within one of the core courses that I teach, for which all other members in my department may use.  Due to my maternity leave starting unexpectedly early (thanks again for being breech Oscar!) I hadn’t quite completed this task before leaving just three weeks into the new term.  Rather than rush through and do a sloppy job in the final few days, I decided to work on it from home following Oscar’s birth and make a decent job of things, uploading my resources on a weekly basis.  It’s perhaps 1-2 hours of work each week.  As always, schoolwork isn’t my only commitment, and my to-do-list remains quite long.  The only difference is, I feel like I have much more time to complete everything on it now!

Although I haven’t yet been able to manoeuvre our chunky Dyson up and down the stairs to vacuum the carpet, Dan has commented on how much cleaner, tidier and more organised our house has been over the past fortnight since I’ve started to feel better.  I hate people coming for a visit and then feeling ashamed of how messy or cluttered our house looks.  Usually with Dan and I both out to work or working from home for up to 15 hours each weekday, we often stick to the minimum amount of household chores we can get away with completing in our free time.  It’s been nice that over the past few days, a couple of people have dropped by unexpectedly and I’ve been able to invite them in, safe in the knowledge that there isn’t a stack of unopened mail still on the side with three days worth of washing up sat in the sink.  As I said earlier, I’ve become an absolute pro at completing household chores one handed whilst holding a sleepy baby too!

Oscar as a newborn

Time on feet

I am an ultra runner.  I run distances greater than marathon distance and that is what I enjoy.  Yes, I love heading to the 5k parkruns each Saturday morning, but they are much more of a social event to me than anything.  26.2+ mile distances are where my heart is.  It’s common sense that a 5k casual runner is going to be able to return to their ‘normal’ running routine much quicker than someone who regularly heads out for distances of 20+ miles on a weekend.

Poo-namis

Oscar dictates timings now, as in the previously mentioned poo-nami incident.  Although I’m getting much better at coping with whatever he throws at me, (luckily not literally yet!) getting ready to head somewhere for a certain time is now much more challenging.  I can already envisage tears when attempting to meet up with the trail group or start a race and Oscar decides to not play ball.

Lack of childcare

Before Oscar, I was always a ‘yes person’.  Especially when it came to running and races.  Enter now, think about it later.  Even when Dan and I became a one-car family I could always count on a mate from club to give me a lift, or I would arrive super early for an event so that Dan could head off for whatever it is that he wanted to use the car for.  Now, it’s a different story.  I used to train with club on a Thursday evening, but Dan’s footy training is on a Thursday evening, so I won’t be able to attend as one of us will need to stay with Oscar.  It makes me wish I’d gotten my butt into gear and made all those sessions I’d not attended because the ‘rain was a little hard’ or I ‘fancied a nap instead’!  (Oh hindsight is a wonderful thing.)  With both sets of parents and close family a good two hour drive away, we don’t have backup babysitters to hand.  Oscar is too small for a running buggy until about six months of age, so until then, my runs can only work around when Dan is home to look after him.  I can either get up super early to run before Dan leaves for work.  (Oscar currently feeds around 5am, and I am just not feeling a 4am run time through the Winter.)  Or, I can run on the nights when Dan doesn’t have anything on after work.  (This should hopefully be more realistic.)  Frustratingly, it will always be in the dark though, unless I can sneak away between Oscar’s feed and Dan going to footy on a weekend.

…So much to consider!  When I was pregnant, I naively only really thought that it would be the final few weeks of pregnancy and first few weeks following the birth that would affect my running.  I was so wrong…

Any tips for juggling baby and running?
Are you managing many daylight runs at the moment?

The Welly 5 and a 999 call

Sunday was our club’s annual road race – the Wellingborough 5, or ‘Welly 5′ as it has become known to locals.

I was down for my usual job of marshaling at the top of the track leading into the Old Grammarian’s Sports ground car park heading to the start/finish line.  This time with Nic, another lady from my club.

{Previous Welly 5 marshaling recaps: 2013 * 2014 * 2015}

For 2016 we were no longer able to park runners in the large farmer’s field opposite the Old Grammarian’s (OGs) as they have started developing this site into an industrial estate.  It meant that all marshals and all runners would need to park in the OGs (much smaller!) car park instead and this required lots of organisation!  After the stress of being placed on car parking duty at the South Downs Way 100 a few weeks back, I was glad to see that my marshal position remained at the top of the track and that I wouldn’t need to be directing cars into spaces on the day, but instead merely pointing them in the direction of Colin, who would be indicating exactly where they were to park.

As we knew there would be limited car park spaces I headed down with Tom, who needed to head out with the van and lay the signs for the course out on the route in the morning.  Because it was still too early to direct runners into OGs when I first arrived, I helped set up signs and start lists inside with those who were on registration before heading out to my marshal point a little before 8:30am.  The race didn’t begin until 10:30.

Race numbers at the Wellingborough 5

Dan had decided a few days earlier that he would quite like to run the Welly 5.  Despite not having trained for it he has been going to the gym twice a week for the past month and regularly going to footy training for several months.  He managed to snag the last remaining place of the 300 on offer.

This year the t-shirts for runners were polyester technical tops.  If you haven’t yet tried a polyester technical top I suggest that you hunt one down immediately!  They are so light-weight and cool for Summer running.  I picked one up for marshaling at Pitsford Triathlon the other week and am hoping there are still a few Welly 5 tees going spare as well next time I’m at club.

Polyester technical tops at the Wellingborough 5The road that the OGs is located on is locally known as ‘The Mad Mile’.  It is one mile of straight road with nothing on it but the turn into OGs.  Cars really pick their speed up coming down this little country road and I was surprised at how fast-moving the traffic was even at 8:30am on a Sunday morning.  There is no way that we would be able to run the race if we were disallowed a road closure for the Mad Mile for the hour the race takes place.  At times it got a little hairy when runners were waiting to turn their cars in to the car park from both directions and other road users were trying to squeeze through the middle of cars turning in!

Miraculously the car park team did a great job of slotting in all of the cars and the race began on time once the road containing the start had been closed off.  I had been asked by our Race Director if I would take photos at the start and finish from my marshal position, as I had done in previous years, so I took my camera along to get a few shots of the runners setting out.

The start at the Wellingborough 5

Tom had been posted as tail runner so jogged along behind the final two ladies as they made their way past the car park track and then the 249 runners that had turned up for the race, the lead bike and Tom disappeared off into the distance.

It was perfect race weather – quite sunny yet still with a slight breeze.  Much nicer than last year when it tipped it down for the entire race!

We had a good 23 minutes or so before we would be able to see the front runners heading back round the corner in our direction and several other supporters from the club had gathered by this point with Nic and I.

It probably wasn’t much more than 10 minutes later when a car rushed down the track from the car park towards us at full speed.  Hazard lights were flashing and the horn was honking as the car approached us.  Despite us not supposed to let any cars out of the car park until the road reopened, we could do nothing but leap out of the way of the speeding car, which then sped off to the left past us.  It wasn’t until it passed that we realised that the guy sat behind the wheel was dressed in a St. John’s Ambulance uniform.
He was driving with too much urgency for it to be something as straight forward as a sprained ankle or broken leg.  I glanced up to see Colin running from his marshal spot over to us and immediately thought that something must have happened to one of our club members.  Colin though, hadn’t been aware that it was the guy from St. Johns, and had actually been running over to remind us not to let anyone out.

A further few minutes and the car came racing back down the road in the other direction – heading towards the way the runners would be coming towards us for the finish.  Not long after, he was followed by a paramedic vehicle and closely afterwards, a police car.  We were very worried over by the finish now, especially after having seen the police car speed by.

The front runner came past, and my job as photographer began.  So that I could begin photographing the runners I passed my phone to another club runner so that she was able to call the Race Director and tell him what little information we knew – that there had been an incident on the course.  He was already aware.
Lead runner at the Wellingborough 5The first guy (Mark Ryall of Milton Keynes AC) won by a huge margin.  He had been leading from the very beginning of the race.  There had been no chance of anyone catching up with him and beating his very impressive finish time of 26m 49s.  Second place belonged to one of our green vests that you can see way back in the distance of the above photo.

The end at the Wellingborough 5

As our finishing club runners started to filter back out to cheer where we were stood it became apparent that the majority were not aware that there had been an incident, and of those that were, knew no details.  We worriedly ran through names of our own who were still out on the course and mentally ticked them off as they came past one by one.  There was one obvious runner missing, but it wasn’t until Dan came to find me after crossing the line that we learned of any further information.  (Dan had a very consistent race and had finished in 49m 51s.)

The person that had suffered a cardiac and respiratory arrest had gone down before Dan had passed through and Dan was able to inform us that it was a male runner from Northampton Running Club.  Although instantly relieved that it wasn’t the one of our own we were still missing, we were still very anxious to know that all was OK, especially as an air ambulance now droned overhead in the direction of the course.

Team Balancise at the Wellingborough 5

Our lead bike had headed out to pick up the tail runners on delivering the front runner across the line.  He returned now, along with the back runners and informed us that the road had been closed off completely so no cars were to head in that direction.  Nic and I remained at our marshal post to ensure all cars turned left out of OGs rather than headed to the right where the incident had occurred and where the road was now closed.

A gentleman came over to me and said that he hadn’t seen his friend finish the race yet.  Had all the runners arrived back now?  Only he didn’t think that his friend was normally this slow.  I asked what club vest his friend wore as a way to sound out whether or not I needed to share what limited information I had been given so far.  I was told that his friend didn’t run for a club but he couldn’t remember what colour top he had been wearing that day.  Tactfully I was then able to say that there had been an incident on the course involving a male runner, and that it had been confirmed that the incident involved a club runner from one of our local running clubs who would have been wearing club colours.  By this point I had also been told that a few runners had stopped to help when the runner first went down, including our missing club runner so I shared this information as well.  I was told by the gentleman that his friend was a policeman and he was sure that he would have stopped to help if he could.  He thanked me and left to make a phone call.

A few minutes later a marshal car came past and they could confirm that amongst those who remained helping on the course were a nurse and a policeman, so I headed over to reassure the man where his friend was.

It wasn’t until 20 minutes or so later that I saw Tom walking back towards us with another runner who was walking alongside him.  This chap was the policeman who had stopped to help.

The Northampton runner had collapsed very early into the race.  Tom was first to reach him and was able to call for help.  So many members of our club and runners out on the course were quick to think and react with everybody jumping into roles such as slowing traffic, performing CPR, reassuring the man’s wife who had also been out on the course, calming other runners and giving instructions to the ambulance crew.  They ended up performing CPR for half an hour before the Northampton Road Runner (also called Tom) was airlifted to the local cardiac unit.

Although things didn’t sound too good to begin with, we received an email from his wife on Monday afternoon and it appears that things have now started to improve.  She was able to tell us that he woke from the induced coma himself, recognised his family and when given a pen and paper managed to ask what time he had clocked for the race!  Apparently he was rather upset that he had DNFd!  Although still in intensive care and not yet ‘out of the woods’ everyone is remaining positive.

Hopefully it looks as though Tom will make a good recovery, but it made several of us think about ensuring our first aid qualifications were kept up to date and highlighted the importance of carrying a mobile phone at all times on a run.

Are you first aid qualified?
Do you take your phone out with you when you run?

Oops!…I did it again

There’s something about me and entering races.

Last year I managed to break two toes before running Milton Keynes Marathon in the Spring, and then sprain my ankle the week before running Mablethorpe Marathon in the October.  I just entered my first race for 2016 the other day (cross-country and parkruns don’t count) – The Thames Trot 50, one I have thought about running for a while now, having marshaled at the event back in 2014.  Seems that there have been an influx of entries from our club members over Christmas, and that number now includes me!
Then, on Wednesday morning I managed to break the little toe on my right foot.

This week has been such a shock to the system, returning to work and 5:15am starts again after two weeks off.  I am never a late sleeper – and was up before 7am most of the days over the holiday, but I’d gotten into the routine of being able to have 15 minute showers, or reading blogs on a daily basis and so scrambling around for spare minutes to ensure I’d organised lunch in the mornings this week was tough.  Add into that a change in marking policy and having to remark and prep work for this week after having started back meant that I had gotten barely any sleep on both Monday and Tuesday nights.

By Wednesday morning, as my alarm rang out at the slightly earlier get-up time of 4:20am for work I was knackered.  I scrabbled around on my bedside table to try and find my glasses, but couldn’t.  Not wanting to wake Dan, I headed downstairs for breakfast without the glasses, failing to notice that the Christmas tree stand which we had left out the previous night ready to go up in the loft had slipped to the side in the dining room.  I walked straight through the stand, pulling my little toe on my right foot back and out of place, hard.

Instantly I thought “Well, I won’t have to try and fit running into this manic week now as well!”  But then I immediately changed my mind and realised that I wasn’t actually very happy with being injured again at all.  I enjoy running too much!  I didn’t cry or strop or anything this time though.  Just got on with the day.  Guess I’m getting used to accepting that injury is a part of running, even when my injuries hardly ever seem to be running-induced!

Luckily, I appear to have only broken one toe this time rather than two, and have been sensible about not being on my feet for too long since Wednesday.  My toe has only slightly bruised so hopefully I’ll be rewarded with a quicker recovery time this time round!  My limp has almost disappeared and I can comfortably get my boots on and off again now already.  When I broke my toes in April I immediately ran the 7 mile trail run I had been rushing to get to (although I was in a lot of pain I genuinely thought I had only stubbed my toes at the time!), ran a 10 mile trail run that weekend and then a 20 mile road race just 10 days after breaking my toes before finally giving in and taking a couple of weeks off completely!

Luckily I had scheduled in a drop down week for my training this week to correlate with my return to work, and although I hadn’t planned on running zero miles, I banked several miles last week so can probably get away with having a week off.

Last week went as follows:

Monday: Easy 3 miles on my own keeping my heart rate below 150bpm.
Tuesday: 16 mile trail run with friends.
Wednesday: A long walk (about 7 miles) with Dan around Salcey forest.
Thursday: Rest.
Friday: 2x 5ks.  (Double parkrun day)
Saturday: Northampton parkrun, followed by a 16 mile trail run home again with friends.
Sunday: Bedford Harriers Letchworth XC 10k race.

I got my two long runs in for the week – 16 miles on Tuesday and then another 16 miles of trail immediately following the Saturday parkrun at the weekend.  Both runs with pretty much the same bunch of (clearly also quite crazy!) people.  Several of whom are also hoping to be toeing the start line at Thames Trot at the beginning of February.

Long run to HarroldThe plan for Tuesday was to drive over to our local country park in Harrold, where we had arranged to run a circular route back towards Wellingborough and then return to Harrold again for sausage baps and milk.  Incidentally though, it actually took thirty minutes for our glasses of milk to arrive after ordering them.  :(

The route was a nice one and I felt strong.  It was fairly mucky in places, but the rain didn’t really hit Northamptonshire in full force until the following day so we didn’t really run through a great deal of mud.

Long run to Harrold

I bought Dan a Fitbit (at his request) for Christmas and he has been very conscious of his activity levels ever since strapping it to his wrist on Boxing Day.  We’ve made a real effort to go out for a walk each day since (other than Wednesday evening after the toe break!) to try and up the number of steps he takes in a day and give us both a bit of a break between being at work and working from home in the evening.
Last Wednesday we decided to spend our day off together exploring the trails at Salcey Forest.  It had rained a little heavier further South from us and there were patches of the paths that were rather mucky which we had to pick our way through.  It was also super windy, although that didn’t stop us from deciding to check out the Treetop Trail.  Probably not the best day to do it as the trees all around us were blowing so hard I was convinced they were going to come down on top of us!

I took my rest day on Thursday, ready for what was to be a busy weekend; starting with the parkrun double on Friday. On Saturday a large group of us arranged to be dropped off at the Racecourse in Northampton at 8:30am, where the Northampton parkrun is held each week.  We made plans to slowly run the parkrun, with the intention of pushing our club up into second position for the parkrun club league (we succeeded) before strapping on our running vests and enjoying what was now super-slippery terrain on the run back to Irchester.

There were a few slips and falls early on, as the route we take starts out by following the river for quite a way and the heavy rain from the previous two days had seen the area become rather soggy!

Northampton parkrun then home

The parkrun itself was nice and comfortable though and in the end we didn’t have any rain.  I had hoped to run parkrun at an easy pace, coming in somewhere around 30 minutes, with the aim to go more on feel than pace.  I spent most of the run looking around me and speaking to other parkrunners that were out for the day.  When I did glance down and spot that my pace was hovering just over 9mm I was really surprised.  I genuinely felt like I could hold a conversation at that pace and run for quite some time.  Had you told me a year ago that my ‘easy’ parkrun pace at my fifth parkrun of the week would be 9minute miles I would never have believed it!

Mile 1: 9:03
Mile 2: 9:21
Mile 3: 9:07
Nubbin (0.14m): 8:26mm pace

Garmin time: 28:40
Official time:
28:41
Position: 189/323
Gender position: 33/105
Age category position: 5/15

Our long run of nineteen miles actually ended up being split into three; the parkrun, 10 miles to a cafe where we stopped for sausage baps and another glass of milk(!) and then the remaining few miles home.  Some of this route was tough.  The rainfall had been heavy and we ran through several fields, collecting several inches of mud on the bottom of our shoes as we crossed!

This post is getting rather long so I shall recap the cross-country in a separate post now.  Spoiler: it was a mucky one!

Are you injury/accident prone?
Do you ever run home/to from parkrun to get in some extra miles?

Shorts and a vest for cross-country

It really doesn’t feel like Christmas is happening this Friday at all.  I think partly because I’ve not had much to do with purchasing Christmas presents this year, and have left all the shopping to Dan.  Mainly though I think the lack of feeling Christmassy is due to the weather!

How is it so warm by the 20th December that when we turned up for the fourth cross-country race of the Three Counties league, the majority of our club were kitted out in vests and shorts?! (With the odd Santa hat here and there to remind ourselves that it was actually Christmas time!)

Letchworth cross-country WDAC turnoutI have pictures from the fourth event a few years back when it snowed the entire race…Three counties XC 2011…that wasn’t the case on Sunday though!

In fact, when I got out at the petrol station wearing just my vest and shorts at 8:30am a bunch of bikers dressed in full Santa outfits said they knew they had gotten the date wrong for their Santa ride!  ‘When was Christmas supposed to be again’?!

There wasn’t a huge turnout from our club at the Letchworth event.  The weekend before Christmas is always a tricky one for numbers, as so many runners have family commitments, or are away/fitting in last minute shopping.  This is the event furthest from our hometown as well, taking nearly an hour to get there.  There was still plenty of people to score for our team though.

Cross-country in a Santa hat

The course itself is five and a half miles long and like many of the other events in the series,- mainly run along wide verges at the edge of fields or along farm tracks.  It is essentially an out and back course, although it loops around a large field at the far end of the out and back so you are not turning directly back on yourself.

Letchworth XC

I was running strong from the start of the race and had placed myself just behind another runner from our club who is faster than me.  I was hoping to hold on to her pace for as long as possible, to give me a focus.  I knew that I did at least have a few years of regular off-road running under my belt to give me an advantage over some.

Letchworth XC

I am not a fan of this picture.  I think it looks like I have been photoshopped on – a giant compared to everyone around me!  My shoulders are too hunched up again as well.  No wonder the top of my back is always stiff after a run.

Even though we hadn’t had a huge amount of rain just lately, it seemed that there were large areas of mud out on the course.  There wasn’t any of the thick mud that clogs up the bottom of your shoes, but plenty of puddles and slippery mud at every turn.  Several times I splashed through puddles, overtaking other runners as they cautiously stepped around the edges of the track.

About a mile and a half in to the race you head through a small wood.  Just before reaching the wood the track narrows to single file.  Coming from wide grass verges there then isn’t a lot of space between the person in front, you, and the person behind.  Not my favourite when it comes to running, as I hate having a choppy stride.  From running the race the previous year, I knew there was a small ditch coming up when inside the wood and from a distance I could see the marshal placed there to warn runners of the obstacle coming up.  The ditch is no more than a foot deep and doesn’t contain water.  It is probably two strides across before you jump back out again.  For some reason this year the club had decided to fill the ditch with twigs and sticks.  Twigs and sticks which pointed from the direction we were running from to the other side of the ditch.  Several runners slowed to tackle the obstacle but I would rather push on and keep going.  The guy in front took his second step in the ditch just as I was jumping down.  His step meant that the twigs and sticks (none of which were very thick) rose up at the front to meet the top of my trainer, digging into the front of my toes and tripping me up.

I barrel-rolled into the ditch, instantly picking myself up and continuing with the race.  A guy from Stopsley Striders who was just behind had offered me his hand, but I was up again before he’d fully extended his reach.  He checked I was OK and I was fine, – just annoyed that I’d lost a couple of places from my fall, and my marker from the club was getting away!

The rest of the race went by without incident.  My splits were: 8:44, 9:42, 9:53, 10:06, 9:29, 9:36 pace (over the final nubbin of 0.46m).  A huge improvement on the previous year when my splits had been 9:22, 10:09, 10:54, 10:46, 10:05, 10:18 pace.

Despite knowing I wouldn’t reach the woman ahead of me on the finish straight and there being no other females close behind, the support of the other WDAC club members on the finish line helped me to kick off for a sprint finish over the line.  Cross-country is scored on position, not time, but it’s nice to finish on a high!

It wasn’t until I crossed the finish line and received a lovely purple bag as reward for taking part in the 100th Three Counties Cross Country race that I looked down and realised how much mud I had picked up from my fall and that I was bleeding.

Mud and blood at cross-countryThe perils of cross-country!  I’ve since discovered a lovely turquoise-coloured bruise on my left arm as well and was a little stiff yesterday, but no real damage done.

I stuck around for a roll and cake at the finish.  The event before Christmas always has Christmas-themed food so there was a great selection of salmon and cucumber, ham and mustard, turkey and cranberry rolls and then amongst the wide selection of cakes there were also some mince pies to be had.

Position: 313/376
Gender position:
88/137

If you fall when out on a run do you pick yourself up and carry on, or do you assess the situation before continuing?