I ran 100 miles! (Part 3)

(You can find the first two parts of my Robin Hood 100 mile recap here… Part one * Part two)

Knowing that I had arrived at mile 84.28 (every point 2-8 counted after 24 hours of running!) was a nice boost.

Seeing Dan and Oscar and knowing that they would be following me round the course until the end now was nice to know, and by now I had heard word that Kev and Amanda who had run 50 miles at the Centurion Chiltern Wonderland race (160 miles South!) on Saturday were at the finish line, grabbing a quick sleep before coming out on the course to see me finish.

Hitting the canal path on the return leg of the route was hard going.  I’d forgotten how rough the terrain had been.  Tufts of grass sticking up everywhere and really uneven ground underneath on such a narrow path at times.  I was glad that I wasn’t one of the faster runners who would have had to complete this section at nighttime in the dark.  Although it was bad enough running it after 12 minutes sleep in the past 26 hours or so.  I felt rather bad for Guy here as so much of this section I had to walk.  My feet were in tatters by now.  The small stones I had accumulated in my trainers earlier on had rubbed slightly and the bottoms of my feet were very tender.  Every footfall that wasn’t on flat ground was agony and at times I couldn’t stop a whimper from sneaking out of my mouth.

We had a brief panic as we headed up over a bridge that crossed the road and could no longer see reflective tape marking the way back down and along the canal the other side.  I knew that I had come following the canal, and was sure that the route followed the path in reverse until we nearly reached the finish, but I doubted myself on such little sleep.  Guy jogged up the road to see if he could see any tape in either direction but there was none, so nervously we agreed to follow the canal path in reverse of the way I had run out.  I texted Gary to see if he could check on the tracker that we were still on course and after a few minutes, he confirmed that we were.  A kilometre or so up the track we came across some reflective tape and I could relax again!

When I had last seen Gary and Dan they had both told me that they would be at the next checkpoint.  They both misspoke.  For a good two miles before the aid station I was eagerly coming round every turn expecting to see Gary with pasta pot in hand and Oscar running up to me.  What felt like hours later Guy and I turned the corner to come across the checkpoint, only for nobody to be there waiting for us.  I slumped down into a deckchair shouting really dejectedly “Gary! Gary! Where are you?!”  Apparently one of the marshals at the checkpoint was called Gary, but he wasn’t the Gary I was after!  Another volunteer told me that he hadn’t seen my toddler at this checkpoint…my crew weren’t here.  I spent a good minute or so feeling sorry for myself before shovelling in some ready salted crisps and announcing to Guy that we had to get going again.  I needed to find where Gary and my pasta were…I wasn’t stopping!  Afterwards we worked out my crew had meant to say that they would be at the next CREW station, not checkpoint.  This checkpoint was one of two where crews could not attend due to the lack of parking in the surrounding area.

We traipsed on and a brief glimmer of hope began to grow as I remembered that I had seen Helen, Grant and Val somewhere near to this point on the way out at the start of the race.  Perhaps everybody would be at this point on the return instead?  The race course is twenty miles out, two thirty mile loops and then twenty miles back again to the start/finish, so each section of the course is run twice which is reassuring as you cover the same paths twice.  Although, on that towpath I swear every turn looked the same!

Eventually, at 93 miles I heard shouts of my name and I looked to see Kev and Dan with Oscar all shouting at me in the distance.  That got me to pick up my pace and as I got closer I also spotted Amanda.  Kev hurriedly rushed off to heat up a Pot Noodle for me, which I demolished, absolutely starving by now!  Gary had set off for home, as his son had a football match later that afternoon, but he had passed over my bag to Kev and Amanda who were going to crew me for the final ten miles of the race.

The Pot Noodle went down easily, although I decided I needed to get moving again so took the remainder with me as I headed off in the direction of the finish along the towpath.  Seeing everybody here had given me the big boost I needed to get going and after dropping my empty Pot Noodle cup in a nearby bin and passing my fork to Guy I managed to get some more running in again in short bursts.

The last aid station and crew point was at 97 miles and those four miles went on for what felt like forever.  The sun had really picked up by now and I was regretting not packing my running cap – feeling the sun burning down on the top of my head.  With nearly a mile still to go to the aid station, Amanda came walking along back along the path declaring that there were only three bridges left for me to walk under before coming across the checkpoint.  I really needed to get another sleep by now.  All I could think about was sleeping.  Although Amanda was carrying a plastic pint cup and when she mentioned that her and Kev had been waiting in the pub for me to arrive, my thoughts changed to what lovely beer garden weather it was that day and how much I would like a nice cool cider…why hadn’t they brought me a cider?!

Turns out Amanda lied (although she swears she just miscounted!) but there were actually four bridges.  I may have had a minor melt down when I realised that the third bridge I counted wasn’t in fact where the aid station was!  Finally though we did arrive and I ran over to Kev to say I really needed to sleep in his van for just 10 minutes.  Kev took me by the shoulders and very matter-of-fact told me that I could sleep for five minutes – no longer – on the floor of the aid station.  Then they would be moving me on.  I agreed and quickly clambered down onto the floor for a brief sleep.  The last thing I remember was the heat of the sun on my bare legs sticking out from under the aid tent and worrying that I had no suncream on them!

I don’t remember anybody waking me, but I do remember leaving the checkpoint and checking repeatedly with the marshal that it was no more than three miles now until the finish.  (Another lie which I was told!)

We had a steepish climb up from this checkpoint but I knew the finish would soon be in sight now.  With just over an hour to go I knew all I had to do was to keep moving until the end and I would finish it.  In the bag!

My watch battery had grown low around mile 60 the night before.  Following the battery death of my watch at the South Downs Way in June I had been told that I could continue to run whilst charging my watch from a battery pack, so had come prepared this time.  On leaving the aid station at mile 62 I had attached the battery pack to my watch and hooked this into my bag.  I realised after about a mile that the display on my watch was now blank though.  Had the battery died completely?  James had suggested turning it on again and my watch flashed something on the display and beeped.  I realised later though, that by pressing the on/off button I had actually been turning my watch OFF and stopping the recording annoyingly!  I removed the battery pack at mile 77 and turned the now fully-charged watch back on to record the final section of my race, but have no watch data from those middle miles unfortunately.

As my watch now showed mileage that was really out with how many miles I had actually run I made a mental note of the mileage it showed as I left the final checkpoint the moment the marshal confirmed with me for the second time that it was no further than three miles until the end.  Perfect.  Three miles.  I can cover three miles in that time.  Easy!

Guy and I passed two runners sat on the floor at mile 98.  Guy had a few words and reported back to me that they had decided to pull at mile 98 of the race.  How gutted would you be?!  Things must be bad though if there isn’t enough in you to walk the final two miles of a 100 mile race.

We crossed back over the horrible, horrible ploughed field.  It thought it was bad at mile 5…it was a million times worse at mile 98.  I couldn’t stop the whimpers of pain escaping with almost every footfall now.  My feet were so sore and every time they fell on the really uneven ground I was in agony!

Finally we made it out on the other side though and it wasn’t long before in the far, far distance I could see the building which I was sure we had come from!  The end was in sight!  Only, my watch said that there was only a mile to go.  That building was still much further than a mile away.  I suddenly began to panic.  Time was ticking down to the finish and I realised that the ‘three miles to the finish’ had been incorrect.  It was clearly further.  I started to pick the pace up again, panic creeping into my voice as I told Guy ‘We have to make it to the finish.  I can’t finish in over 30 hours.  I can’t run the distance and not be given a time because I didn’t make cut-off!’  I began to jog.  I could see Kev and Amanda again.  They had run back along the course to meet me.  Were they running to me because I was going to miss the cut-off?  My jog turned into a run, momentarily forgetting about the pain in my feet and allowing me to pass a number of other runners who had all been reduced to a walk for the final few miles.  Kev told me that I needed to run.  Not to panic, but to carry on running.  They wouldn’t let me miss the cut-off.  I would get there in time.  It was so hard not to look at my watch, although I knew it wouldn’t do any good.  The numbers made no sense anymore anyway.  I had no idea how many miles I’d run now or how far there was to go.  Kev’s declaration that it wasn’t far meant nothing and to tell the truth I didn’t trust anyone by this point now anyway!

I ran and ran and ran.  A few cries came from my mouth when I hit particularly hard stones with my now very-blistered feet but I was getting to that finish!  As I ran down into the village hall car park I couldn’t spot a finisher gantry and realised that I had no idea where I needed to go!  I shouted to Kev who told me that I needed to run inside the building.  I threw a wave to Dan who was getting Oscar out of the car, and to John and Lynn who stood near the entrance to the building and pushed on through the doorway.  Now where?!  It wasn’t obvious!  Somebody shouted that I needed to run through the door to the right and so I continued, bursting into a small room to instant applause.  I could see rows of chairs around the room where those who had finished before me now sat, drinking hot drinks and relaxing with family.  Somebody appeared from nowhere to hand me my finisher t-shirt, engraved medal (such a nice touch!) and to pass Dan a bottle of beer.

100 mile Hobo Pace Robin Hood 100 medal

They asked if I would like a hot drink and I started to make my way to a seat, although for some reason I no longer had the urge to sit down.  More runners burst into the room and I joined everyone in clapping.  It was several minutes later before a woman came up and asked if I had handed in my timing chip and given my name to a guy with a board.  I hadn’t and hadn’t realised I needed to do so, so I think my official time is probably a few minutes out.  The provisional results show that I finished at the same time as two other runners (which I didn’t) in 77th place with 29:48:11 for my time.  I would imagine that my time was actually closer to 29:45, but what is three minutes when I know that I made it before cut-off?!  And besides, it will just make it easier to beat my time when it comes to running my next 100 mile race, right?!  😉

100 mile finisher face! (Robin Hood 100)

113 runners started the race, and 79 runners made the finish within cut-off, with a further two runners completing the distance 52 minutes past the 30 allowed hours.

My race absolutely wouldn’t have been the success that it was if it wasn’t for the following people though…
* John and Lynn for agreeing to house Oscar and Dan for the weekend and for filling my belly with pizza the night before the race and cider at the end!
* James for coming out on early morning training runs with me during the few months leading up to the race and then running the dark scary miles from 52-82 with me during the race.  For putting up with my panicking when I totally miscalculated the amount of time I had left at 1am on Sunday morning and for letting me have a little kip on his space blanket when I got tired.
* Guy for crewing me up to mile 82 where he took over from James as pacer and put up with all my shrieks as the stones destroyed the blisters on my feet!
* Helen for organising a superb team of support and for popping up at several of the crew points along the way.
* Grant for his support out on the course.
* Gary for crewing the majority of my race, taking my sock and shoe off to shake the stones out and heading out to buy a much needed Pot Noodle for me mid race. Hopefully I didn’t make too much of a mess in his car!
* Laura for helping crew a large section of the race and for sharing the buggy pushing with Dan at Clumber Park parkrun!
* Kevin and Amanda for running me into the finish despite having run their own 50 mile race on the Saturday, then driving 160 miles up to Nottingham on Saturday night to see me run mine!  For putting up with me when I sobbed that I just wanted to nap and when I had a melt down because Amanda had miscounted the number of bridges to the next checkpoint!
* Dan for putting up with months and months of 5am alarms and numerous evenings when I was out running instead of staying home.  Also for chasing me round the course with Oscar over the weekend.
* Everybody that wished me good luck or gave me advice in the build up to race day. I felt so supported and honoured to have such lovely friends and family who were willing to do so much to help me achieve my goal.  I still cannot get over the fact that so many people went out of their way on so many levels to help ensure I completed my 100 miles.  I am so grateful to all of my friends for their support.

I took nine days off completely after the Robin Hood 100, and did feel a little lost with what to aim for next, although I have started to construct a plan for 2019 this week.  More to follow soon…!

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

More parkrun tourism and a new PB

I’ve managed to get to two more new-to-me parkrun locations and also tick off a brand new 5k PB since I last wrote about my parkrun adventures.  I’ve got just one more location to run before the year is out in order to tick off ‘Run 20 different parkrun events by the end of 2017′ on my to-do-list and five more parkruns before I hit the magic 100.
After that I’ll have to start thinking about what goals I want to set for 2018…
How is it nearly 2018 already?!  This year has gone by so fast!  Volunteering as a pacer is going to feature on my goals list for next year somewhere, but I still need to carve out some more goals for the rest of  the year.

Rugby – #93

The last weekend in October I headed off to Rugby with Laura for my 93rd parkrun.  Course number 18 for me and I believe it was Laura’s 17th one.

Now I’m going to be honest and admit that as I hadn’t run with anyone in a while I spent most of the first lap chatting away and not taking a huge amount of notice of the course itself.  I do remember from that from the briefing it sounded like we would be going out for 5 or 6 miles though!  It was a case of ‘just run round the edge of this field, then that field, then round the back of there, and then up this hill and around another field…and then go round for lap number two!’  Laura and I looked at each other and wondered just how far we would be going that morning!

The course was mainly off-road, and it did have one nasty, steep, muddy hill in it which we ran twice.  The marshals were all super friendly (as all parkrun marshals are) and offered lots of encouragement whilst out on the course.

Laura and I at Rugby parkrun

We thought we might just dip under 30 minutes despite the chatting, mud and hills, but ended up a few seconds out.

Rugby parkrun has a ‘Token of Shame’ which they present to the runner who finishes in position 112 each week.  The organisers were getting rather fed up of continually replacing barcodes which people mistakenly took home with them, and had had to replace token 112 on more than one occasion, so ended up creating a large ‘Token of Shame’ to be photographed with the runner finishing in position 112 each week as a reminder that you should be leaving your barcode in the box at parkrun, not taking it home with you!
Having not brushed my hair that morning I was a little concerned that I would finish in position 112 – that’s the kind of luck I have(!)  Laura and I fought between us over who was going to cross the line first, but luckily neither of us were in the running for the Token of Shame, as it had already been distributed a minute or so earlier.

Rugby parkrun Token of Shame

Official time: 30:26
Position: 128/175
Gender position: 37/71
Age category position: 5/8
Following parkrun, Laura and I made our way to the parkrun recommended café.  I decided to go for a toasted marshmallow milkshake, although almost didn’t get my milkshake at all when they didn’t take cards in the café.  I managed to scrimp around for some change in my car to discover that the pound coins I was able to find had been discontinued the previous week and the emergency fiver I had transferred from my ultra bag a couple of weeks back was also an old one.  Luckily, the café accepted the five pound note as payment, although promptly paid it straight back to Laura as part of her change!
Marshmallow milkshake

Kings Lynn

Kings Lynn is a course that has been on my radar for a little while now.  I pass through the outskirts of Kings Lynn every time I head back to Norfolk, so it made sense to time a visit to Kings Lynn parkrun along with a trip to my parents one week.  It did mean loading up the car the night before heading back and eating breakfast during the drive to save time, but it was worth it!
It poured down with rain during the whole journey to Kings Lynn.  Despite leaving with plenty of time to spare, and arriving at the postcode shown on the website for parking I struggled to then find the actual park.  I debated for a while whether it would be classed as child cruelty to take Oscar out in his buggy with the rain as heavy as it was, before deciding to heave him up into his buggy and firmly secured his waterproof cover over the top.  I was already soaked through by this point!

Luckily I spotted a couple of runners in parkrun t-shirts jogging by and so I promptly followed them in the direction they had headed and soon arrived at the park.  There must have been bonfire celebrations held there the previous night as there were several guys in reflective jackets stood around a large mound which was still smouldering, and trucks came to tow a collection of portaloos away whilst we were running.
Rainy days at Kings Lynn parkrun
I attended the new runner briefing to get a feel for the course.  When questioned, I was the only person at the new runner briefing who had run parkrun before, so was quite impressed to see that the others who all stood around had all turned up for their very first parkrun despite the heavy rain!
The course was three and a bit laps around the park, with a long out and back section where you had to spin around a lamppost at the end.  Not knowing the course, I moved Oscar and I to start near to the back, but in actual fact it was a fairly straight forward and speedy course (if you don’t count the 180 degree spin at least!  I thought I managed to spin Oscar round quite well each time though! 😉 )
Once you have run your third lap you take a turn off the wide path and the final 100 metres of the event is off-road on the grass.  I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fit the buggy along the taped track, but we managed it!
Rainy days at Kings Lynn parkrun
As I crossed the line I was directed towards one of the barcode scanners and then another volunteer handed me a Kings Lynn parkrun newsletter, which I thought was a fantastic idea, especially for those runners who weren’t so familiar with how parkrun worked.  The newsletter/notices sheet was double sided and contained both general parkrun information and also information about how to get involved with volunteering.
Kings Lynn parkrun leaflet
Kings Lynn, like Wimpole Estate, have a barcode board, where runners are expected to hang up their own barcodes following their run.  Whilst initially thinking this is a good idea, I can definitely see how it would be possible for some parkrun barcodes to go missing following a run – the board was a little way away from the barcode scanners and there were several runners around it trying to slot their barcode onto the correct peg.  I imagine it would be fairly easy to forget about handing your barcode back in again.  Still, it saves a volunteer having to organise all of the barcodes at the end of the run.
Kings Lynn parkrun token board
Official time: 30:12
Position: 132/189
Gender position: 39/77
Age category position: 5/6
Rainy days at Kings Lynn parkrun
Not too shabby for a buggy run when I started at the back in the pouring rain!
I was absolutely drenched by the time I returned to the car, dripping all over Oscar as I returned him to the warmth of his car seat.  He didn’t seem to care though, and thought it was hilarious that my cap was dripping water from the peak onto his lap as I strapped him in!
Rainy days at Kings Lynn parkrunI have never known my shorts to be so wet that they clung to me the way they did that morning!
Rainy days at Kings Lynn parkrun

Northampton

I had a really strong, easy run last Friday afternoon.  I was absolutely shocked to look at my watch a couple of miles into the 10k I had planned and to see my pace hovering around the 9mm mark.  That evening, Laura checked in to see if I had made any parkrun plans yet for the following day.  We often parkrun together and have a catch up afterwards, as I’m not able to get to club very often since having Oscar.  Laura had to keep her parkrun plans fairly local, as she was off out in the afternoon, and I had to run from Northampton, as Dan was heading to Reading for the Wolves football match later in the day, so I had promised to drop him at the service station in Northampton for his Dad to collect on the way through to the game.
Oscar and Dan spectating at Northampton parkrunAs Dan would be there to take Oscar from me, Laura offered to pace me for my run.  I had casually dropped into conversation a few weeks back that I would like to try and target a faster 5k time before really focusing on training for the 100 a little closer to Christmas, but to be honest hadn’t really done much work towards specifically targeting a faster 5k time.  I’ve been gradually changing my running style just lately and have done a fair amount of core work, but nothing specific for a 5k distance as such.
After a brief twitter chat we decided that Laura would help me to achieve a sub 27 minute parkrun the following morning.  My PB stood at 26:37, but my fastest time since having Oscar over a year ago stood at 27:10, from Blickling parkrun which I ran back in the Summer.  Being able to run a sub 27 parkrun would hopefully increase my confidence levels going in to the Winter.
The weather was rather miserable when we arrived.  It was the kind of slight drizzly rain where you never really notice it’s raining at all.  As Laura, Dan, Oscar and I made our way over to the start line I saw a familiar face heading towards us as part of a warm up.  Phil was the guy I had stopped to help at the Dusk ’til Dawn ultra in 2013.  He has gone on to add to a fantastic running portfolio, including completing the Grand Slam of Centurion 100 mile races earlier this year.  He doesn’t live anywhere near Northampton though, hence my shock at seeing him on the start line last weekend!
We stopped to have a quick chat on the path.  Turns out Phil was actually down in the area to support another runner in a race later that weekend.  (Figures.  Runners support runners.)
As Laura and I stood on the start line for the parkrun to begin, I felt fairly confident that I would be able to achieve a sub 27 minute parkrun time.  I had been running stronger, and I had run a great 10k the night before.  Laura had ensured we made our way further towards the front of the race line (I would normally have started much further back, but to be fair, we didn’t have a huge amount of runners overtake us once we began).
Northampton parkrun
The only downside to aiming for a time was that Laura and I didn’t really get an opportunity to have any catch-up chat!  Laura had said at the start that she was going to aim for 8m 40s per mile, and as her watch beeped to indicate the first mile, she stated that we had run it in 8m 39s (showing slightly different to my watch, which indicated a slightly quicker time).
Northampton parkrun
I had found the first mile fairly easy.  We did a fair bit of weaving in and out of other runners, but I believe I could still have maintained a conversation if I hadn’t planned to stay so focused.
Mile two, and we had slightly picked up speed.  I occasionally checked my watch, although relied on Laura to set the pace, refusing to let my head work out anything.
Somewhere around the back end of the racecourse on the second lap, Laura told me that we would easily achieve the sub 27.  That we still had nine minutes to complete the ru
On one hand, nine minutes sounds like hardly any time at all, but on the other hand, the end was still nowhere in sight!  Just before we began the final mile Laura shouted back to me that I could actually be on for a PB.  I had worked this out moments earlier, and so began to pick up my pace to try and ensure that I did hit a new PB.  I couldn’t have held a conversation for this last bit of the run!
Over the line and time to check my watch…
Northampton parkrun
26:35…a new PB by 2 seconds, and 35 seconds faster than any time I had run since having Oscar!  I was super chuffed with that!
Official time: 26:35 << New PB! :)
Position: 231/528
Gender position: 33/192
Age category position: 5/31
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Ugh, a new PB and cake

dsfI’m pretty sure that the three of us came away with food poisoning last weekend. We’d taken Oscar out to a large indoor play area on Sunday afternoon. He was having so much fun, and we were having so much fun watching him enjoy himself that we completely didn’t realise how quickly the afternoon had flown by until Oscar started to whine that he was hungry, and we realised restaurant feeding options were minimal in the area.
It was a quick trip to the nearest one we could find, where Oscar sleepily, but thoroughly enjoyed chicken skewers with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob. Dan also went for chicken, and I demolished a mushroom burger.
Oscar with cornBecause Oscar was so tired he left quite a bit of his meal, which is unheard of for him, so we got it boxed up to take home for his lunch the following day.

The next morning, Dan groggily appeared downstairs for breakfast. By that point Oscar had already been through two nappies, and was about to fill his third. Dan managed to force some cereal down but Oscar just moved his breakfast around his tray looking rather sorry for himself.
Fast forward to lunch and, having not yet sussed out the link between the meal from the previous night and our poorly household, I pulled out the remainder of Oscar’s meal for him to have for lunch. When he once again, did not seem too fussed about eating any of it, I placed it onto my plate instead. Sweet potato fries are my favourite!

Ugh.

They are not my favourite any more. And neither is chicken.  :(

I spent the start of last week feeling rough, with a painful crampy stomach and zero energy. I sensibly decided to take a few days off from running until I fully recovered.  It was frustrating not getting out to run during the first week of the Summer holidays, but I knew that there was a good chance that I wouldn’t be able to hit any of my training paces, and would feel rubbish for attempting to do so in the first place.

The Thursday before had been our club’s annual Pre-Welly 5 BBQ run.  Always held 10 days before our club 5 mile road race, the idea is to check over the course, practice our marshaling and to give everybody a chance to run the event who might not be able to on the day if they were marshaling instead.

After a couple of rubbish BBQ runs in previous years I had a great run last year and set a new 5 mile PB of 45:55.  Although it’s not an official race – but instead more of a social event for our club, it is run on the race route, so I’m counting it as a PB!

Having run really strongly since starting my training using the Hanson’s Marathon Method, and having already achieved PBs in 6 mile and 10k events over recent weeks, I was hoping for another PB this year.

It didn’t start well when I arrived feeling knackered and hungry though.  I instantly had doubts for the run and began to talk myself out of it.

When we first set off I looked around and instantly felt like I had placed myself way too far forward, with runners usually much faster than me.  But my heart rate monitor told me that I could run faster, so I carried on.

Pre Welly 5 BBQ run

I chatted to a couple of people early on in the first mile.  Again, projecting my doubts about a decent time to them.  Kev came alongside me and commented on how well I had been running just lately.  I told him that I was hoping for a good time again that day – perhaps something around 9 minute mile pace.  I could see him trying to work out the math!  We spent several minutes talking before he nipped into a bush following the pre-run pint of Guinness he’d enjoyed in the bar before setting off!

I had sat behind the same people for the whole run until we hit the slight hill at mile 3.5.  Here, still feeling strong, I managed to gradually pull past other runners one by one.  I probably wouldn’t have been able to hold a full on conversation any more, and this ended up being my slowest mile at 9:07.  (So happy that I can say a mile at this pace was my slowest mile now!)

In fact, I ran really consistently for the whole run.  My mile splits were 9:01, 9:06, 8:49, 9:07, 8:50 and then 7:20mm pace for the final 0.09 recorded on my Garmin.

I overtook a couple more runners who I never would have been able to overtake normally in the final mile and then opened up my stride to power through to the finish.  As I headed towards the finish line I struggled to remember my exact PB time, but knew I was in with a shot of hitting it, and so commented to the Group 4 running coach as I came alongside him, who then insisted we run through the finish holding hands.

Pre Welly 5 finish line pic

Watch stopped, 45:33.  A full 24 seconds faster than my previous best!

Despite not really looking it in this pic, I was completely comfortable and was barely breathing heavily at all, able to chat and laugh with other runners whilst heading down the finishing chute.  I guess this picture must have been taken literally as I pulled back from a run to a walk.  You can see the official finish line drawn on the floor just behind me.

Although initially disappointed that I didn’t come very close to 45 minutes, having set myself a rough target of 9 minute miling, I soon cheered up when I checked my watch to discover that with the slight over-distance run I had actually ran an average of 8:57 minute miling!  Hanson’s is definitely doing me some good!

For the first time since the BBQ run has been taking place, we didn’t actually have any BBQs.  Instead, a pizza van.  So I waited in line for my turn to demolish a hot, veggie pizza and sit nursing a drink at the bar.  Very satisfying mid-week and with just one day left of the school term.

So that was last week – poorly sick following a good 5 mile race.  This weekend was a little different again.

I started off this weekend by running Kettering parkrun with Laura whilst pushing Oscar in the buggy.

Kettering parkrun start(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

This was parkrun #87 for me and I completed it in 34:25.  I should really count the amount of parkruns Oscar has been to.  He must be coming up to 20 now?
{Position: 196/255 Gender position: 67/108 Age category position: 10/12 }

Kettering parkrun midrun

(Picture taken as a still from a video which was shared with the Kettering Facebook page)

Having come right from the very back of the run and Kettering being a very difficult course to overtake with a buggy, I’m fine with that.  Oscar stayed wide awake for the whole run, gripping onto his Sophie giraffe toy.  Good job, because I didn’t really want to have to keep stopping to pick her up along the way!

I’m hoping that at some point during August I will be able to run a parkrun hard and see what time I am currently capable of.  It’s been a while since I raced a parkrun and I’d like to think I’m a little quicker now.

In the afternoon I headed over to The Garden Deli with Laura and Steph for cake and a catch up.  The cake there is a good.  I went for this lemon and ginger sponge.  I don’t even really like lemon flavoured things.  I can’t stand it when bartenders add a lemon slice in your drink when you go out, but this looked too good not to try.

Lemon and ginger sponge cake

The drinks are also amazing!  I went for a strawberry and vanilla fruit crush and was not disappointed!

Strawberry and vanilla fruit crush

Then yesterday was the actual Wellingborough 5 race.

For the last few years my role at the race has been to direct cars down the driveway and onto the car park before the race begins.  I then take photos of the runners along the first 100 metres of the race, again in the final 200m as well as ensure runners turn safely into the final section along the field at the very end of the race.  There were a couple of other marshals with me at the end this year, which meant that I could take pictures without worrying about where runners were headed.

I love taking photos of the event.

Last year a runner suffered a cardiac arrest during the race and was air lifted to hospital, so it was a sigh of relief when all runners were back safe and sound this year.  The club invited Tom, the runner who had been hospitalised following the race last year to our BBQ run the other week, and he finished at a run/walk along with his wife and one of our members who happened to be a doctor who had stopped and helped him on the day.  He finally got the chance to finish the race route!

Wellingborough 5 trophies

This year I also took pictures of all of the prize winners.  Prize giving always seems to go on for ages.  I couldn’t even dream of ever being good enough to receive a prize at a race.

Welly 5 winnersHow did you spend your weekend?