A pacer for 35 miles and a life update

This might be a bit of a shorter race recap to my usual double posts(!) but I want to finally get something down on the blog about the Shires and Spires 35 mile race from the 20th May (six weeks ago!) before I forget all the details of the day.

The last few months have been absolutely insane when it comes to work and sleep and at times I have felt like I’m just existing and getting through the days, rather than actually living them.  Picking up 15 schools to mark coursework for an exam board and working extra night shifts unfortunately both fell at the same time that Oscar dropped his two hour daytime naps and began to kick up a fuss about going to bed.  This meant that some of his bed times dragged on for more than three hours before he was asleep and I could finally head downstairs to tidy up after the day before heading out for a nightshift/collapsing into bed myself.

We had it so easy for so long that it made it feel all the more difficult.  I wrote about Oscar’s eighteen month routine here – he used to be fast asleep by 7:45pm back then and it already seems like a lifetime ago, not just the three months that it actually is!  We’ve switched him out of his cot into a toddler bed now and this seems to have helped somewhat thankfully.

I’ve also handed my notice in at Tesco to finish at the end of the current rota (three more weeks), which is a relief (in some ways, but also a worry over the lack of guaranteed regular money coming in).  But it will allow for more family time, more me time, more running time, more relaxation time, less stress and upset and other opportunities to provide an income.  All in all, I know it’s for the best, but that extra guaranteed £1000 a month is going to be hard to do without until we settle into a new routine.

Tesco was never going to be forever though.  When Mum was very sick last year Oscar and I drove the 200 mile round trip to visit 3-4 days each week.  This is obviously something I do not regret, but our savings took a massive hit and after Mum died and I began visiting less I had to take action to try and replenish our savings again, which I have now been able to do.

Anyway, enough of the life update, more of the running…I’ve run a parkrun, 35 mile race and ran 78 miles of my first 100 mile attempt since I last blogged, so I’m hoping to have a bit of a catch-up blogging day today before my brain becomes mush and I forget all the details from the past six weeks!

The Shires & Spires 35 mile race fell the day before I returned to work following my maternity leave last year and so I never got a chance to write a proper recap of the race and still regret that now.

I love the Shires and Spires event.  35 miles of Northamptonshire countryside with lots of rolling hills and beautiful scenery.  It’s a Go Beyond event and with the start just a few miles from my running club base, checkpoints are often well stocked with W&DAC runners so it’s lovely to see so many friendly faces not only out running the event on the day, but also manning the checkpoints on route.

Shires and Spires was my first ultramarathon in 2013 and I have run it every year since apart from 2016 when I was 6 months pregnant with Oscar.  (2014 * 2015 recaps) With this being my fifth year running the event, and having run numerous training runs out on the course I know the route better than I know the back of my hand.  With my goal race (South Downs Way 100) just three weeks later, I knew I didn’t want to run Shires hard this year, and so instead offered to pace anyone who would like to complete the 35 miles in about 8 hours, as this was a time I knew I should easily be able to achieve without pushing myself too hard on the day.

One person took me up on my offer.  Somebody who regularly walks long distance events (of 100+ miles!) but who until recently has not really been doing a huge amount of running.  She had run the event the previous year with a group of runners who had just intended on getting round within the 9 hour cut-off, but knew she was capable of completing the race in a faster time than this, although not yet confident enough to navigate the race on her own.

It was a hot day (it seems like we haven’t had anything else for the last few months now!) and so I thoroughly applied a thick layer of suncream before setting off for Lamport Hall.  Although, in typical Mary fashion I rocked up just ten minutes before the pre-race briefing having still to pack my bag, collect my number and having to forfeit my pre-race trip to the loo!  After dropping my t-shirt from registration back at the car I even had to jog back to the start line in order to make it on time for the starting horn!  I was fairly relaxed with no pressure on this race – knowing the course so well and without any time expectations for the day.  Probably a little too relaxed in the morning to be honest!

The first few miles of Shires are all trail and easy running.  The first checkpoint falling about 4.5 miles in to the race.  This year for the first time alongside gels and cake, Go Beyond were also offering fruit and the cold watermelon slices went down incredibly well at each of the checkpoints in the heat of the day.

I took some nuun tablets with me.  I tend to have one bottle with just water and one with electrolytes when I run an ultra and so popped a tablet into the bottle on my right at the first checkpoint and off we ran again.  100 metres or so along the road I heard what I thought was someone making ‘shhhhh’ noises right behind me, so spun round to see nothing, only for the pressure inside my water bottle from the still-fizzing nuun tab to become too much and for liquid to shoot out of the top all over Vikki!  Haha!  It definitely made us jump!Shires and Spires 35m

The next checkpoint at 9 miles came round just as quickly and we were soon heading off on our way again.  There is a long section of road in the middle of the Shires course, and although the road is good going it is still super hilly.  I was told Northamptonshire was flat when I moved here!

Truth be told I expected Vikki to break into power-walk quite often.  She comes from a long-distance walking background and so I know she can cover the ground when she walks.  Turns out though, she can also cover the ground when she runs, and I am sure she would have quite happily have run much more of the course if it wasn’t for me walking the hills and through checkpoints, etc as per my usual game plan.

Shires and Spires 35mThe heat began to get to me after the third checkpoint and although I was still going strong I then needed to include more walk breaks in the open sections than I would have done had it been an overcast day.  We were moving at a pace much faster than the 8 hours I had intended to run which I knew I needed to rein back in anyway.

Salted up after Shires and SpiresI was replacing the salts I lost with the food I was eating and my nuun tabs but it always concerns me when I lose so much.  This is a photo of my shorts at the end of the event!Shires and Spires 35mMy legs were beginning to turn red, despite the coating of suncream I’d applied that morning and so I nicked suncream from a friend at the final checkpoint before we began the last long uphill slog to the finish and the final 10k.

By mile 31 I could tell that Vikki was capable of running much faster and more than I wanted to at that point and so I encouraged her to go ahead.  It had been a long while since we weren’t surrounded by other runners and I quickly reminded her of the directions to the finish, reassuring her that she would probably pass plenty of other runners along the way so never be far from others.  Her main concern for the day had been navigational issues.

Shires and Spires 35m

(My official finish photo from Adrian Howes)Shires and Spires 35m

Four miles later and I found myself running through the finish funnel.  Go Beyond had an announcer for the finish who was doing a fantastic job of announcing runners as they crossed the line.  Many club runners were still stood on the sidelines cheering us in, along with many others from our club who had just come to cheer at the end.  Always a lovely touch.
Shires and Spires 35m cheering Lorraine through the finish

(Photo by Adrian Howes)

I made sure to join our club members on the sidelines to see everyone else through the finish line.

Vikki rushed over to tell me that she had come in as third V45 female, so even received a trophy for her run, which was fantastic news to finish to!

Shires and Spires 35m timeI can’t believe how close my Garmin read to the 35 miles!

Official time: 7:47:47
Position: 131/164
Gender position: 28/41
Age category position: 14/17

It actually ended up being my second best Shires time, despite pulling myself back a fair bit, chatting to lots of people and not racing the event.  I’m sure I’ll be back in 2019 to see what I’m actually capable of!  😉Shires and Spires 35m medalThe medal was another lovely one detailing the route of the course through the Northamptonshire villages…Shires and Spires 35m medal on Oscar…although it was soon stolen by my child on returning home!At the end of Shires and Spires with Dan and OscarI managed to sit and chill with Dan and Oscar for a little while before heading up for a shower and pre-work hour-long nap.  Unfortunately I couldn’t book the night off, so still headed off to work that evening for a 10pm-7am night shift following running the 35 miles in the day.  All good training for the 100 mile event, right?!

Do you salt up when running in the sun?
Have you ever paced someone during a race before?
How early do you like to turn up before the start of a race?

Falling back in love with ultra running

Over the past few months there have been times where I think I’m starting to fall out of love with running.  In the early days, running was such an easy thing to do…throw on some running clothes, lace up my trainers, strap my watch to my wrist and just get out there.  I really never appreciated just how easy running was back then.  Now getting out on a run can become a military operation, planned weeks in advance for a run which might end up being cut short due to lack of sleep (Me) or the spotting of a park on route (Oscar) !

This Saturday, running the South Downs Way 50 reminded me of everything I love about running though, and everything I love about running ultra distances in particular.

I was always going to sign up for the SDW50 this year.  The event had been my main running goal for 2017 – my comeback race from having a baby, booking the race was incentive to return to running and to hopefully feel more like ‘Me’ again once the baby had arrived, rather than just a ‘Mum’.  It worked.  I had a great race last year and, despite having to stop for 25 minutes on route to express(!) I continued to book races into my calendar, including the South Downs Way 100 for this year.

Knowing that the SDW100 was firmly booked in for June, it only made sense to enter the SDW50 again.  Those 50 miles (give or take a couple) are the last 50 miles of the 100 mile race – and miles which I’ll likely be running in darkness next time round.  Having refreshed my memory of the route this weekend I feel confident that I can navigate the miles again in nine weeks time in the dark along with the help of a strong headtorch!

I haven’t really been focusing on the SDW50 this year to be honest.  I’ve actually been a little blase about it all, with my main focus as the 100, closely followed by Milton Keynes Marathon at the start of May where I hope to PB.  I’ve run the 50 before, and know that I can complete the distance.  However, I was a little on edge going in to this event as so many runners from my club of a similar speed to me would also be running the race, with six of them going for the Grand Slam of four Centurion 50 mile events across the year.  Last year I didn’t feel pressured to run at anybody’s pace or to perform a certain way, but this year I worried that I would end up running with one of the other runners from my club or would stress myself into trying to keep up with them.  I’m much slower over road races than all of the others who were there.  Don’t get me wrong – I love chatting to other runners when out on the course, but I hate feeling like I need to keep up with somebody’s pace, or hang back with them when actually that section suits me really well and I can run easily along it.  I race much better when I’m running on my own, even though I always find other runners to chat to along the way.

Friends Kev and Gary were crewing us all and so Kev arrived in his van outside my house to collect me a little before 4:30am on Saturday morning.  I’d set my alarm for 3:30am that morning but definitely hit the snooze button after Oscar decided to wake for a (very unlike him) two hour party at 12:30am.  Tip number one if you’re thinking about running an ultra…don’t live with a toddler!

After picking up another three runners along the way we arrived with the perfect amount of time before the start.  Kit check, numbers on, loo trip, drink, snack, bags on and a walk to the start.

South Downs Way 50 startline

It was lovely to finally meet Lauren properly after having cheering her on at Milton Keynes Marathon a few years back and also to bump into Ally as well, who I also saw at the finish for a chat.  Both ran amazing races in super fast times.  Lauren is also running the 100 later on this year like me and Ally is running the next Centurion 50 mile event in a few week’s time – the North Downs Way.

South Downs Way 50 startline

There was time for a quick photo of our club runners before the off and then followed a gentle jog to the gap in the field, with a bottleneck!South Downs Way 50 WDAC lineup

I felt good from the get go and having started right at the back, the pace was easy.  I didn’t rush to get past anyone, although I saw plenty of others jostling for positions.

South Downs Way 50 starting at the back

(Screenshot of the bottleneck taken from a video shared on the Centurion Facebook group)

About a mile in I started to regret having a peanut butter smothered bagel as a snack less than an hour before the race start.  I had eaten a bowl of porridge with blueberries when I first woke but knew I would need a top-up snack before the run, as I had already been up for so long that morning.  Turns out, a bagel was not the snack I required and I needed a loo stop from early on, on a course when I knew there was barely any course coverage!

Other than the first couple of miles (when everyone was stuck behind other runners along narrow sections anyway), it is fairly easy going until the first checkpoint at mile 11.  My strategy at checkpoints is to grab what food I need, have the lid of my water bottle unscrewed ready for topping up if needed and get in and out as quickly as possible.  Why hang around when you could be moving?!  It wastes time and means you end up getting stiff.  At this first checkpoint I grabbed a couple of grapes and some cheese sandwiches before moving on.  Fruit and cheese sandwiches are always winners for me during an event!  I’d already eaten half of a cocoa orange nakd bar on the way to this checkpoint, and grabbed a carton of chocolate milk out of my bag as I made my way up the hill along the other side of the road.

South Downs Way 50 the first big hillI’m aware that these pictures don’t make the hill look too ‘hilly’, but trust me, it was!  And, just like last year, the photographer was perched up at the top taking photographs!South Downs Way 50 the first big hillAnother runner struck up conversation when he spotted I was wearing the event t-shirt from last year and I ran with him for a few miles until he told me he needed to slow down.
Mile 15 was our first crew ‘checkpoint’ and I felt slightly guilty for not stopping as I waved at Kev and Gary as they stood cheering me by.  I passed two of the runners from my club here as they had stopped to top up on supplies from our crew.  There was just one from my club ahead now, which really surprised me and I knew wouldn’t last.  (Although I later surprised myself by coming in as 3rd runner of our 7).

Not long after this we headed slightly downhill through a small wooded section and I almost ran into the back of another runner who had squatted down on the path to pee!

Checkpoint two at mile 16 was in a slightly different location this year and I walked in, got some Tailwind, watermelon, more cheese sandwiches and made my way back out again in less than 30 seconds.  Smooth going!  I still felt good.

There were a couple of rather steep hills between checkpoints two and three at 26 miles.  There were also several runnable sections too which I made sure to take advantage of.  The course really suits me as it has rolling hills – dictating which sections to walk.  I usually really struggle mentally and also with my consistency over long flat sections, but had no problems with these this time round, which I’m putting down to the large number of miles logged on my treadmill this Winter!

South Downs Way 50

The third checkpoint was where I had stopped to express last year and this year, where I finally spotted a portaloo to use!  I grabbed some chocolate chip cookies, MORE cheese sandwiches and watermelon, Tailwind and topped up my water.  All in all I think I stopped for about 5 minutes here, but it was 5 minutes well spent.

South Downs Way 50

I knew I was having a good race and used the climb following this aid station to check in with Dan.  He hadn’t realised that he could track me online and so I let him know how to do this.  He also let me know that ‘Oscar’ had sent me a good luck video earlier that morning.  I had turned my internet off in order to save battery but after hanging up with Dan I quickly checked WhatsApp to find a lovely little video where Oscar waved madly at me, said “Sit down Mumma!” and then gave the camera a kiss!  It definitely made me smile.

South Downs Way 50

For the next aid station you have to cross over a set of railway tracks.  Oh how I’m going to love all those steps at mile 84 of the 100 mile version of the race(!)  I knew I needed more Tailwind here but couldn’t see any on display so asked one of the volunteers for some.  She told me that I was lucky, and they had just a little left.  Taking a few gulps from my bottle after being topped up I spluttered out that she could definitely make it go further by watering it down more…it was super strong!

I nicknamed the next section ‘Australia’ last year as the views, with the sun disappearing behind the hills reminded me of scenes I’ve only seen in programs about Australia.  This year though, the sun was still high in the sky (albeit hidden behind clouds!)

South Downs Way 50 It also definitely looked less Australia-like this year!South Downs Way 50The last two checkpoints follow in quick succession; starting with a lovely little pitstop in Alfriston at 41.6 miles with indoor seats to perch on for a few minutes.  This checkpoint is quickly followed by the final checkpoint at Jevington just four miles later.  It’s perched high up some steps alongside the road and I felt rather bad that I just called up the hill to thank the volunteers, continuing on my way rather than stopping in, but I didn’t need anything with only four miles to go and thought it better to keep moving at this point.

I strongly made the final climb up to the Trig point and started to make my way along the narrow, slippy path back down towards Eastbourne.  The clouds were threatening to rain at this point, and we’d been very lucky with the weather until now.  I had twice put on my jacket for the odd spitting shower but the temperature was fairly warm, and the rain never really stuck around.  It had made the rocks on this section rather slippery though.  This being the most technical section on the whole course.  My hamstrings had a few spasms along this section and out loud I told my legs they needed to co-operate for just a little longer…pretty please!

In my head I had secretly hoped to run 25 minutes faster than my time last year (12h 06m).  25 minutes was the amount of time I had stopped to express so I thought it was probably fairly achievable for me to gain back those minutes in my finishing time this year.  As I reached the bottom of the hill though and broke into a faster run I realised I would most likely go sub 11h 30m.

Running and maths never work and despite being just two miles from the finish now and having been out on the course for 10h 40m I was convinced I would have to run really fast to go sub 11h 30m.  Mile 48 ticked by starting with a 12:xx and I realised that actually, I should probably be targeting 11:15 instead.

I still felt really good.  No pains, no aches, I’d fuelled well, I was still running!  In fact, other than road crossings and twice when I walked a handful of steps, I ran pretty much the whole of the last two miles, passing several other runners along the way and changing my target at the last minute to 11:10 – coming into the stadium to the most glorious sunset.  It was honestly the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen and I really regret not asking somebody to take a photo of me in front of it after crossing the finish line.  Unfortunately my official finisher photo, despite showing colour, definitely does not do the sky justice as the photographer was using a flash so that I was the focus of the photo.

I could not stop beaming as I ran around the track!  I’d picked the pace up for the track finish, although definitely not enough to be considered a sprint finish!

As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stadium I noticed that opposite the gorgeous sunset, was a gigantic rainbow.  What a lovely finish arch!

South Downs Way 50 finish archI took this shot a few minutes after I finished but I wish I had taken more pictures, and actually of something, rather than just randomly pointing in the direction of the sun!

Looking on the Centurion Running Community Facebook page yesterday, I found these two images which another runner had taken which give a much better impression of the view we finished to…

SDW50 sky pictures

South Downs Way 50 sunset

It tipped it down not long after I finished and I was glad to bump into Nic, who had finished about ten minutes ahead of me and who had the keys to Kev’s van so that I could grab some warm clothes.  I took a quick picture with my medal in the fading light and queued up for my free sausage bap and hot drink, unsure of how long the other 4 runners from my club would take to come in.

South Downs Way 50 medalOfficial time: 11h 7m 22s
Position: 277/353
Gender position: 52/81
Category (senior female) position: 21/35

Turns out I took quite a lot of steps that day(!)

South Downs Way 50 Garmin step count

Pacing at the 300th Northampton parkrun

Last Saturday was the 300th parkrun held at the Northampton Racecourse.  I’ve run 45 of my parkruns at the Northampton event and it’s the place I would still consider my ‘home’ course.

Training hadn’t gone to plan during the week and I’d ended up missing a few of my planned runs.  I was back in Norfolk for the Tuesday-Thursday as I had another family funeral to attend on the Thursday.  The first night I was back I managed 15 lengths of the road my Dad lives on before my Garmin beeped to show 6 miles.  A very boring, dark and windy run.  But miles done, nonetheless.

The next two days I was quite poorly, and even had to return to bed for several hours on Wednesday afternoon as I really just did not feel well at all.

My Dad did make me and Oscar a lovely salad to share on the Wednesday to try and make me feel better.  I do love a big salad with lots of different elements to it!

Friday – back in Northamptonshire once more and I was all geared up for my long run.  Oscar attends a full day at nursery on a Friday and it has become my getting-things-done day.  I usually spend a fair bit of time catching up on life admin – essentially computer life and typed work – as getting onto the computer whilst watching a toddler is becoming rather an impossible task!

Because I’d been away for three days though, and Dan had been working away in Basingstoke from Monday to Wednesday so had also been away, I spent the first three hours of the day desperately trying to get our house back in check.  Washing done, post sorted, bins out, all the usual stuff that gets forgotten about when you factor in time spent away from home.  I had just changed into my running clothes with the intention of heading out for a long run, catching up on a few blogs over lunch and then getting tea in the slow cooker before sorting the life admin out when nursery called to ask me if I would collect Oscar and book a doctor’s appointment for him as he had very gunky eyes and they felt he needed to have drops prescribed.  I still had so much I needed to get done that day, and having been poorly myself that week, and attending another funeral the day before I ended up bursting into tears.  I just wanted to feel as though I’d caught up a little!  Is that even possible?  I don’t think I ever sit down and relax, and am so jealous of those who can.

I had already rung the doctors that morning to try and get a set of my test results back, but been ‘in the queue’ to speak to a receptionist for 45 minutes before giving up.  Thank goodness for the speakerphone option on a phone because I would not have sat still with the phone to my ear for that length of time!  As the doctor surgery is on the way to nursery I stopped by to book an appointment on the way to collect Oscar.  After his (less than three minute long) appointment that afternoon we then had an hour’s wait for the prescription and so spent some time at the nearby park, which Oscar loved and really did not want to leave!

As Wednesday-Friday had all ended up as non-running days for me that week I decided to turn Saturday into my long run day for a change.  I had already volunteered as 30 minute pacer at Northampton parkrun that morning, and I would be finishing my nightshift at 7am just a few miles up the road.  Therefore it made sense for me to get some extra miles in before the parkrun rather than just hang around in the car for that extra time.  There was no football match on Saturday afternoon so Dan would be around to have Oscar so that I could catch up on a little sleep on my return before I had another shift that evening.

In the end, Laura mentioned that she was planning on running from her home to the parkrun that morning as she was also volunteering that day and so I invited myself along.  We ended up running four miles before our volunteer brief, then 5k at parkrun, followed by a further two miles back again, totalling just over 9 miles for the morning which I was happy with.

A little after we arrived at the briefing location, Rachael, one of the other Milton Keynes Marathon ambassadors, turned up with her boyfriend.  He was down to volunteer as photographer that day.  We had a chat as we’d not met before and as it had been a little while since Rachael had run the course Laura and I filled her in on the course changes.

Tim managed to capture my face perfectly when I was told that I would have to climb up a step ladder to wave at the 700+ parkrunners whilst it was announced I was the pacemaker for 30 minutes!

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Tim Bullard

The thought of climbing up those steps was probably more nerve-wracking than having other runners rely on me to pace a time!

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Tim Bullard

A quick briefing for parkrun volunteers acting in new roles for the day and then to our places ready for the start!

Northampton parkrun volunteersPicture credit: Tim Bullard

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Tim Bullard

I knew that to run a 30 minute 5k, I needed to be running at 9:39mm pace – a pace I can run at fairly comfortably.  I aimed to run at around 9:30s to allow for weaving or over-distance.

After giving the New Runner Briefing, Laura had offered to run with me with the intention that between us we should hopefully be able to keep on target to run the time required.

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Tim Bullard

The first mile is always a little slow at Northampton – it’s such a mad rush from a wide start onto narrow paths.  We still managed to run the mile in 9:39 though.  Worried that I perhaps needed to pick up the pace by a few seconds to allow for the weaving I inevitably had to do I pulled forward a little and ran the second mile in 9:20.  As I had printed out and worn ’30 mins’ on my back, we had several comments as we passed other runners.  Some I could hear were using me as an incentive to pick up the pace and stay at that speed and others just using it as a guide to what time they would achieve.  One guy had a chat to me about how I managed to stay so consistent throughout and I told him it was due to the constant checking of my watch!

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Tim Bullard

As we began the final mile I could feel Laura picking up the pace a little and so called out that I needed to stay steady to not beat the 30 minute mark by a huge amount.  A man running past told me that we were running way too fast and that he was on for 29 minutes, which I found rather frustrating, as he definitely didn’t finish in 29 minutes that day and I knew we would be fairly close to the 30 minutes I had set out to run.  Final mile: 9:37.

Northampton parkrun pacer

Picture credit: Northampton parkrun Facebook

We could see the funnel in the distance wasn’t holding everybody and runners had begun to spill out back onto the track – queuing to get through the finish line.  When I reached the final stretch I had planned on shouting out to those nearby to stick with me if they were aiming for a sub 30 minute parkrun, but I lost my confidence a little when I could see the finish line was backlogged, unsure of what time I would officially record so remained quiet and instead just hoped that those who had wanted a 30 minute time had been following me as they saw the sign I was wearing go by.

My last little nubbin was run at 9:38 pace, although it was then several seconds before the volunteer with the clicker walked back along the line to click us through as finishers.  It took me a few seconds to remember to stop my watch afterwards as well so I wasn’t sure what my official time would be when the results came out.  I was really happy to see how close I got to 30 minutes in the end though!

Official time: 29:58
Position: 410/703
Gender position: 99/292
Age category position: 18/49

There was plenty of cake laid out on a nearby table as Northampton parkrun were celebrating their 300th run that day.  It was my 45 run on the course, which sounds like so many when I think back to last year and how I was really looking forward to achieving my 50th parkrun goal.

After refuelling with a slice of cake each, we were starting to get chilly and I was starting to feel very tired.  Laura and I set off for a final two miles back to hers where I jumped in the car to head home for a post-work/parkrun nap.  I was so ready for that nap!

Have you paced an event before?
Or used a pacer yourself?

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?