SDW part 2

This is part 2 of my South Downs Way 50 recap.  You can read the first half of my recap here.

My aim in any ultra is always to keep moving.  It’s one of my strengths.  When others stop to eat or adjust their kit I glide by.  It’s a classic case of the hare and the tortoise.  I may not be quick, but I am fairly consistent, and the key to ultras is consistency and being strategic with your pacing; which hills to walk and at which points to eat, etc.

However, because I have always kept moving throughout races, it came as a real shock to my legs when I asked them to get moving again after my 25 minute long pumping stint at mile 27 of the race!

By mile 29 my right leg had begun to cramp up – something I’d never experienced actually during a run before.  I put it down to a lack of salt intake and having stopped for so long without stretching out.  I immediately moved over to the fence along the side of the track I was running along and stretched out, whilst reaching for some salty pretzels in my bag and vowing to try some Tailwind alongside water at the next checkpoint.  Luckily, this was the only bout of cramp I had and ten minutes later I was back running strongly again.  I actually remember thinking at this point “I’ve only got 21 miles left until the finish now so it’s not too much further.  It’s only a little bit of cramp.  I’ll be fine!”  Good old ultrarunner mentality hey?!

The next few miles were spent constantly overtaking other runners.  I’m guessing I was passing all those people who had overtaken me whilst I was back lying behind a combine harvester! 😀  I chatted to a few runners along the way, and spent a fair amount of time just soaking up the scenery.

The next checkpoint was at 34 miles.  You had to climb a large number of steps up and over the train tracks before climbing back down again on the other side.  Race numbers were noted on the approach, and I can remember being really frustrated that the tables of food and fluid stretched past the turning on the other side of the tracks, so I had to move an extra few hundred metres to top up my bottles with Tailwind and water and collect a scotch egg for munching before heading back on track for the next section of the course.

When I had set off hours earlier I begun by drinking sips evenly from each bottle, to keep my load fairly even on my back.  As the race went on though, I worked out that it made more sense to drink fully from one bottle before moving onto the second, so that if I did not need to top up two bottles, I could just hand over one to be refilled at checkpoints and move on again quickly.

Checkpoint five (41.6 miles) was at Alfriston and in a chapel just off of a tiny side street.  It would have been very easy to miss had it not been for the marshal stood outside directing runners in.  My legs were starting to feel a little weary now and I really didn’t want to stick around for too long, yet at the same time I wanted to hang out for long enough to take plenty of fuel on board.  As I arrived a fabulous marshal brought out a fresh plate of watermelon and when I commented on how delicious and appealing it looked, she piled a plate high for me, bringing it over to the pew I had perched myself on.  Had the pew been slightly wider, I would definitely have laid out at this point for a full stretch.  I really didn’t fancy my chances of getting up off the floor again though, so my stretch had to wait another few hours.

On arriving at the checkpoint I frantically asked the question “How far am I ahead of the cut-off?” to be told that I was a good hour in front of cut-off at this point and had nothing to worry about, which was great to hear!

I was walking the uphills, run/walking the flats and running the downhills where possible (a few were too technical to run).  I know that I can run 50 miles.  I’ve covered that distance before.  It no longer sounds like a long way and I know which strategies work for me over that type of distance (although I have never completed an actual 50 miler before, but I have run further).  My concern was that I would end up timed out due to the amount of time I would need to stop to express on the course so hearing that I was so far ahead of the cut-offs was such a relief.

On the climb out after this checkpoint I started chatting with a guy, Chris, and we ran together for several miles.  I lost him after a while as he was much faster than me along the flat, but I could make up some distance on the downhills and caught him again as we ran back through a wooded area.

I really dislike planning to run ultra or trail events with others, but I do enjoy chatting to people who I find end up running at a similar pace and who I often then end up leap-frogging a large majority of the race with.  Ultra runners are so very friendly, and it’s a great way to learn about other events which you might not have heard about otherwise.  There is no pressure to stick around or keep up if you haven’t agreed to run with these people, so I find the whole experience much more relaxing and enjoyable than when you feel pressured to run at somebody else’s pace because you made an agreement to do so weeks ago.

I rang Dan when I had about 7 miles to go, just to check that he had been getting on OK for his first full day with Oscar and to see if he had been tracking me online.  Things were fine obviously, but it was nice to have a bit of mental time out from the race for a few minutes.

There were some amazing views out on the South Downs, and as the sun started to set the views only got more stunning.  I really wish I could take better landscape photos on my phone, because the photos I did take really did no justice to the scenery we were privileged to see that day.

I was running with Chris again as we headed towards the final checkpoint.  The last checkpoint is less than five miles from the finish and requires you to climb some steep steps up to claim food and drink.  There was somebody out on the road taking our numbers and guiding us in though.  Neither of us needed to top up on anything for the final few miles, so agreed to carry on running along the section of road and give the steps and food station a miss, walking briefly to strap headtorches onto our foreheads as the light had started to fade by this point.  Another chap joined us as we finished our climb up the side of a steep hill that looked as though it would be more at home in Australia than the South of England.  On chatting to him we discovered that he had been the sweeper of the final section the year before so knew where we needed to turn down off for the climb back down into Eastbourne for the final few miles.  Luckily it was well lit anyway and there was somebody up on the ridge directing runners towards the narrow track that led back into the town.  Chris picked up some speed here and the other guy who had joined us held back to chat to the marshal so I was on my own again from then until the finish.

The track was through thick trees and was really very narrow, – to the extent that at some points I questioned whether it was actually a track at all, and considered that I may be better off just heading straight down the side of the hill and picking out my own path rather than struggling to squeeze through bushes and along paths my feet barely fit on.  I knew the last few miles of the race ended in a downhill, and had saved plenty of energy to run these, but they really weren’t very runnable miles at all and I ended up walking/stumbling for the best part of a mile here!

Once I reached the road I switched my headtorch off as I no longer needed it with the streetlights now shining the way for me.  I picked up the pace a little, whilst still keeping things fairly calm as I had no idea just how much further it would be to the finish.  In a short distance race you’ve probably got a fair idea of how much further you need to run judging by your Garmin, but over 50 miles, a few odd steps here and there really mount up and even if your Garmin reads 50 miles, you could still have several miles to go!

SDW50 route

Every time I turned a corner in the road, or crossed at a crossing I thought the finish gantry would be popping up at any minute, but it actually ended up still being a couple of miles away!  Eventually though, I turned into the Sports Park.  I knew that the final 400 metres were run around the track, but I wasn’t sure how to get there and ended up actually asking a marshal as I ran past!  Even then, as I headed towards where I could now see the red track, I was convinced I had to pass through a small turnstile to get there.  It wasn’t until I was almost upon it, that I discovered the side of the track was in fact open.

Immediately upon my feet touching the surface of the track I heard the other three runners from my club cheering me in.  Two of them; Mike and Guy ran across the middle of the track to pace me round to the finish line.  I still had a fair amount of energy in reserve so managed to pick up the pace here to 8mm and Mike exclaimed that he was struggling to keep up with me!  (He must have stiffened up, as he had come in hours earlier in 8h 46m!)

On crossing to a loud cheer I was given my medal and a t-shirt and asked to pose for some photos.

South Downs Way 50 finishers pic12 hours, 06 minutes and 50 seconds, six months after having a baby.  I’m very happy with that!South Downs Way 50 finishers pic

I didn’t realise quite how dirty my arm had been from getting down on the floor of the barn until I saw this photo afterwards!South Downs Way 50 medal

342/364 finishers.
30 runners dropped at checkpoints on the day, and there had been 640 runners initially signed up for the event.

I headed to the changing rooms to swap into some fresh clothes, but stiffened up fairly quickly.  In fact, the guys sent Kev’s sister in to check on me after I still had not emerged 20 minutes later.  Everything was taking so long to do!  I was muddy and grubby and really in need of more than a baby wipe wash!

It was such a satisfying feeling though, and that 100 miler I was talking about before I fell pregnant last year?  It’s definitely back on the cards again now! 😉

Have you run a point-to-point event before?  How did you handle the logistics of it?
Do you stiffen up quickly after a race?

South Downs Way 50 – part 1

My come-back race following pregnancy was a 50 miler.

That may seem daft, but I needed to set myself a real challenge – something that would be achievable if I was determined enough, yet still challenging.

Yeah, I’ve been to parkrun a handful of times since Oscar was born six months ago, and I did run our club trail half marathon back in February.  But running the trail half was just that – a ‘run’, rather than a race and, knowing so many of the other runners and marshals out on the course meant that I didn’t really push myself the way I usually would in a race environment.

I was watching the weather forecast for several days in the build up to Saturday’s 50 miles.  Somehow I always seem to pick marathons and ultras that fall on ridiculously hot days and the 2017 South Downs Way looked like it wasn’t going to be an exception.

I was traveling down with another runner from my club, – Kev – and in order to arrive in time I needed to be out my door and in my car on the way to his house by 4:10am.  I was convinced that Oscar would wake when my alarm rang at 3:40 but he slept soundly through.  Good job actually, as I barely made it round in time as it was.  When I did finally make it into the car, I got 5 minutes up the road before realising that I had forgotten my trainers!  Quick spin of the car and back down the street I went.  Luckily there isn’t too much traffic in our town at 4am on a Saturday morning!

Kev’s sister who lived nearby was going to drop us down to the start and pick us up again at the finish so that we didn’t have to worry about the logistics of returning home from a point-to-point race.  (We all know how well I manage to organise myself for those!)

I’ve run several ultras now but I think this is the only one I have ever been nervous at before the race began.  I wasn’t nervous about the running – more the ‘mumming’ and the fact that I was still breastfeeding, yet spending the best part of a day (ended up being just short of 24 hours!) away from home.  My handheld pump and two large bottles took up a large portion of my ultra bag meaning that there was no room for the leftovers from the standard pre-race takeaway pizza I’d ordered the night before.

Ultimate Direction running bagIt’s taken me several ultras to get my nutrition right (for me) Not being able to take my salty pizza, not having a bag drop on route to leave any chocolate milk, being unable to use any gels (due to breastfeeding) and without a supply of nuun tablets (they no longer stock in the UK) were all factors leaving me in the unknown for Saturday’s event.

We had our kit checked on arrival.  Centurion had opened up registration the night before to ease the load on the registration desks, and it obviously did the trick, as it never felt over-busy at the race HQ.  After carefully packing and repacking my bag numerous times the day before I was dreading have to unpack it all for somebody to check through again, but the lady on registration only wanted to see that I was carrying two headtorches and a base layer in my bag and didn’t look for any of the other kit.  Several of the items I had initially intended on taking with me on the run had ended up getting downgraded to the drop bag which I left for Centurion to transport to the finish once the race had begun.  This included my suncream – after I had coated (or so I thought) my arms, legs and face.

Expressing was done at the last possible moment and took much longer than I initially thought it would, meaning that the majority of other runners had already headed down to the starting field by the time I emerged from the toilet block.  Along with two others from our club, Kev and I listened to the race briefing whilst the sun felt like it burnt through our clothes.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was so warm, – it wasn’t even 9am yet!

South Downs Way 50 start

When the race started I presumed the running field would quickly separate and for runners to be very spaced out as I’ve come to expect from ultras.  This wasn’t the case at all though.  There was a narrow exit to the field, so within minutes we were all walking to avoid bottlenecking, and then the track the exit led out onto was narrow, rutted and stony, – causing runners to stay bunched together.  It was probably a good 18-20 miles before there was ever any stretch of the run where I wasn’t within a couple of minutes of another runner.

As it always does, the first mile went by quickly.  I don’t mean to sound like one of those people, but 50 miles doesn’t sound like a long way now.  Having covered the distance before, I have confidence in being able to complete the distance.  With ultra events it becomes so difficult to compare times as course profiles are so varied, and different weather across different years can play such a big part in how well you do on the day.  It means that I find the pressure is much less than over a fast 5k race.

South Downs Way 50 elevation

I walked the uphills, ran the downhills and ran/walked the flat depending on how technical the track was.  My aim in any ultra is just to keep moving.  Another concern for this time round, as I knew I would need to stop at some point in order to express.

Just before mile 10 I felt my sock rubbing on the heel of my right foot.  At the very last minute, I had decided to run the race in an old pair of road shoes rather than my usual trail shoes.  The thinking behind this was that it hadn’t rained for weeks, so the ground would be hard, and my feet were likely to swell in the heat – with my road shoes offering more comfort and flexibility than the trails do.  I’ve never had an issue with any of my Asics trainers (road or trail) rubbing before, and I think on Saturday the rubbing was probably due to the steep climbs combined with the heat of the day.  When I paused to readjust my sock (initially thinking it had just slipped down below the trainer line) I realised that it had rubbed right through!  The socks I was wearing were fairly thin (so that my feet didn’t sweat too much) and luckily also fairly long, so I folded down the top of the sock over the now-missing sock heel and hoped for the best.  At this point, just over 40 miles still to go did sound like a lot!

In actual fact, the left heel ended up rubbing through entirely as well.  Although I didn’t actually realise this until I made it back to the changing rooms at the end of the race.Holey socks

Kev caught up with me at this point and we ran together for perhaps a mile here before he ran on ahead.  I saw him again leaving the first checkpoint as I arrived but then not again until the finish.

The first checkpoint was at mile 11.  Those first 11 miles flew by, and felt so, so easy.  I knew the first major hill was coming up after that checkpoint.  Initially I had considered stopping to express here, but it was so manic and busy that there was no opportunity for that to happen.  There were people coming in to the checkpoint constantly and it was a flurry of activity.  I snatched a couple of slices of watermelon (so satisfying) and a handful of ready salted crisps to get my salt fix and continued on my way, having to stop for what felt like forever before I was told it was safe enough to cross over the busy main road.  I pulled out the sole mini carton of chocolate milk I’d stashed away in my bag.  I figured it would probably taste pretty horrid later on in the day by the time it had warmed up and so what better time to enjoy it than now?!  I’d already munched through two nakd bars on my way to the first checkpoint.South Downs Way 50 mile 12

There was a photographer nearing the top of the first big climb.

South Downs Way 50 mile 12It was a pretty steep climb – I couldn’t see anyone attempting to run up it although I’m sure some of the front runners must have done!

South Downs Way 50 mile 12

Along the top of this ridge was the only point which I pulled out my phone to take pictures, although I wish I’d taken more on the day.

South Downs Way 50 mile 12You can see how bright the day really was in this photo.  There is literally not a single cloud anywhere in the sky!  I could already feel the tops of my legs starting to burn by now, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  The following day it was easy to spot areas I had missed when applying the suncream!

As I hadn’t expressed at checkpoint one, I intended on expressing at checkpoint two (16 miles), and then again later on in the race, but when I reached checkpoint two, it was a very small area with nowhere to get out of the way and go unseen, so I just grabbed a couple of scotch eggs and ran on, thinking that surely there would be a wooded area or secluded spot I could stop at before the next checkpoint at mile 26.

Turns out the South Downs are the most open area of land I have ever come across.  There was nothing but track, grass and the odd gorse bush for miles and miles.  Apart from dozens of families out for a day in the sun that is.  Families who probably wouldn’t appreciate if I sat on the side of the track with a breast pump in hand!

I chatted to several other runners along the way – something I love about the more relaxed nature of trail/ultra running that you just don’t get in road races.  At one point I shouted a runner back from up ahead as he had sped off down the wrong track.  Probably saved him a few miles!

Mile 27 ticked over on my watch before I turned in for checkpoint number three.  This one was held in a barn, and I think I rather surprised the sole female marshal I could find when I stated that I was still breastfeeding, and would really appreciate if I could nip behind the combine harvester in the barn out of the way to express!  Luckily this was fine, and so I grabbed a couple of ham wraps and my recently filled water bottles and lowered myself to the dusty ground behind the machinery.  I quickly called Dan here whilst I expressed to see how he had been getting on with Oscar and to let him know that I was doing fine – much better than expected in fact and I still felt super strong.  Dan told me that he had dressed Oscar suitably for the day and sent a picture.

Oscar in his Ultra runner in training vestWith expressing and repacking my bag again afterwards I was in the back of the barn for a total of 25 minutes.  It felt like forever, and my legs agreed when I tried to get up.  I never sit down in races, especially not for that long!  One leg began to cramp, and then the other one joined in as I writhed to the opposite side.  Not an enjoyable experience!  I lay back down and fully stretched before using the combine harvester to pull myself up.  Oh, so classy!

Mile splits (up to mile 27): 12:38, 14:06, 11:03, 11:18, 12:16, 15:11, 10:48, 11:06, 10:47, 12:09, 10:29, 15:35, 17:49, 12:46, 12:38, 14:46, 10:32, 18:57, 13:18, 16:44, 14:40, 14:22, 13:59, 14:31, 13:05, 11:05, 15:23

…I had intended on writing this recap in just one post, but as I’m at a 2000 word count already, with still so much to say, why break a tradition?!  I’ll split this post into two!…

Three events in one weekend

This weekend was a busy one. For the first time since the start of the year I didn’t spend my Thursday and Friday in Norfolk with Oscar at my parents’ house. Instead, Dan joined Oscar and I for Saturday and Sunday so that we could celebrate my Mum’s 70th birthday back in Norfolk with my family.
We met up with my Mum, along with my Dad and brother at Saturday lunchtime for a lovely meal at The Hare Arms in Stow Bardolph.

I had a gorgeous vegetarian halloumi burger with fudge cake for dessert.

Halloumi burger from The Hare Arms(Best picture I could manage whilst trying to stop a five month old pulling the lettuce from my burger bun!)

The pub part of the building was fairly busy, but we were placed in the back room with just one other young family. It had a more restauranty feel in this room and Oscar really found his voice chatting and squealing with his Nanny, Grandad and Uncle Mark. There were several peacocks in the grounds of the pub and Oscar enjoyed watching them shake their feathers through the giant windows on either side of the room we were in.

Before we headed over for the meal on Saturday lunchtime I made it over to the Racecourse in Northampton for my 74th parkrun. My friend Lindsay had a baby last July. I’d helped her get into running a couple of years ago and it was great to see her progress from somebody who struggled to get round the 5k at all, to somebody who ran 10k non-stop and who achieved her first sub 30 minute 5k parkrun! She had initially been signed up to run the Milton Keynes half marathon last Autumn before finding out that she was pregnant and deciding not to continue her training through her pregnancy. Since Stanley has arrived though she has once again begun the couch to 5k program and has begun to fit in jogging with him in a buggy on the school run now that he is a little older.
So when Lindsay said that she was able to make parkrun at the weekend I offered to run with her. Initially she told me she aimed to achieve a sub 38 minute parkrun, but when I arrived she had changed her mind and said that she would be happy with anything under 40 minutes.

She smashed that time goal. AND she chatted the whole way round, so I know she’s capable of much more now!
I knew that we would roughly have to stick to 12ish minute miles to achieve Lindsay’s initial goal of under 38 minutes, and was prepared for her to walk large sections of the course, but she didn’t take a walk break until we came to the hill for the second time (at 2.2 miles) and only took three small walk breaks in total, with her pacing staying so consistent!
Mile 1: 10:51
Mile 2: 10:43
Mile 3: 10:54
Nubbin: 9:54 pace
She was pretty chuffed to finish with an official time of 33:25!  (And rightly so!)  You can read her recap on her blog.

Garmin time: 33:37
Official time: 33:30
Position: 408/542 (Just seven short of the attendance record and Northampton had problems with lots of people ducking out before the finish this week, so I’m sure they would have smashed it otherwise!)
Gender position: 134/228
Age category position: 19/29

Busy at Northampton parkrunThis is me trying to show how busy it was at parkrun, but it’s not a very good shot.  It was pretty rammed out there again this week though!

I had planned on going fairly easy at the parkrun so that I could run the Magic Mile afterwards. One of my aims this year is to run Magic Mile on the first Saturday of each month as often as possible so that I can see how my speed returns post pregnancy. I ran my first MM back in December, and annoyingly had to miss February’s event as Dan and I were away, so this was the third time of running it.
December (Month 1): 8:57
January (Month 2): 8:26
March (Month 3): 8:09

48 seconds off my mile time over three months! :)

Unfortunately there were a few problems with the timing at the event this month – I believe somebody called through to the timer’s phone mid-run! So we had to submit any Garmin times we had along with our names and positions at the finish. I submitted 8:09 before remembering that I had fumbled with my watch and not been able to stop it immediately after crossing the line, so I was probably a few seconds faster than that in reality.
It was a little frustrating as I had secretly hoped that my mile time would start with a 7, but it wasn’t meant to be obviously! Although I was so close. Fingers crossed for a 7:xx time in April!
There was still the tree across the path from Storm Doris which we had to avoid (although the majority of the smaller branches had been removed since the previous week by this point). My Garmin actually reads that I ran 1.03 miles (every 0.01 of a mile counts on a mile distance!) at an average pace of 7:55, so according to my Garmin I ran a sub 8 minute mile! :)
It’s weird, because you expect running fast to hurt but in actual fact I found it very easy to distract myself for those eight minutes and just concentrate on continuing to turn my legs over as fast as I could. It never actually ‘hurt’ as such and I felt that my legs were going at their top speed on the day which was rather satisfying!

I was exhausted on Saturday evening and left Oscar with Dan to put to bed after he had finishing watching Match of the Day.  Oscar had other ideas though.  Having been rather excited at seeing family all day, he was now overtired and not ready for bed!  I took over from Dan and got him down a little after midnight, before being woken not long after 4am the following morning!  Luckily, my Dad was up and offered to take over from me.  I gratefully accepted the offer and quickly headed back to bed for another hour or so before he could change his mind!

Dad and OscarDad apparently introduced Oscar to Peppa Pig and when I came down for the second time that morning they were both drifting in and out of sleep on the chair in the lounge!

Part of the reason I had been so eager to hand Oscar over and return to bed was that I was due to run the Hunny Bell cross-country that morning – only a few miles from where my parents live.  I’d seen the race advertised the previous year but had been a few months pregnant at the time, so decided not to enter.  I was really looking forward to it this year though, and it promised to be a muddy one!

Crazy hair on the way to the Hunny Bell cross-country #hbxc17I’m so looking forward to getting my club vest out for a few more events this year!

It was a lovely morning as I arrived at Hunworth village hall.  I’d arrived rather early (9:30ish for a 10:30am start).  I’m used to knowing loads of people at local events, and it felt rather bizarre to be stood alone sheltering under the overhang of the hall roof as the wind started to pick up.  I found somebody in the same situation as me though and we soon struck up a conversation, as I find is so easy to do with other runners.  A little later on we added two others to our loner-crowd too!

In actual fact I did end up knowing three others at the event – all people I knew through my Mum – and I happened to bump into them all before the race began.

Not knowing many people at the event has it’s good and bad points and I was looking forward to a pressure-free run without having to worry about where I placed in comparison to others.  I’d roughly estimated that it would take me about 50 minutes to finish the hilly 5ish mile course (Somewhere I read it was 4.7 miles, somewhere else said 5 and another place said 5.1, so I wasn’t really sure how far we’d be running in total!)  Both my parents, Dan and Oscar were hoping to come and see me finish.

I was a little concerned that the ground would be rough going, as the car park field at the event had been rutty with large tufts of long grass which overhung the tufts and made it difficult to judge where to place your feet.  Luckily though, the ground was very good out on the course.Hunny Bell cross-country race(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

We started with a steep grassy uphill which soon wound round back down and through into woodland.  It was narrow in places but I think there was only one real point where there was a bottleneck on the course.  Coming out of the far end of the woodland involved a climb down some steep, uneven steps, which those infront of me chose to walk.  I imagine that the front runners had ran down them and I was glad that the decision had been made for me that I was to walk, as there was no getting past the runners ahead anyway.

Hunny Bell cross-country race

(Picture from the Hunny Bell XC Facebook page)

The course was one small lap and one large lap.  As we returned towards the end of the mini lap we had to climb high to the top of a hill where there was a water station before running right back down again to the bottom and starting lap number two.

The second lap headed out on a narrow track where I did get stuck behind one lady for a little while before the path widened and I was able to overtake.  There was a also a long, steep hill which seemed to go on forever alongside the edge of a field.  There ended up only being one really muddy section out on the course and this was at this point.  I could see runners up ahead tiptoeing around a large muddy section but I just splashed straight through the middle when I reached it! 😉

The end of the second lap was the same as the first.  Although I couldn’t see the finish as I ran up the hill, I could definitely hear it and there was a woman not too far in front me.

Hunny Bell XC finishI opened up my stride and aimed to pass her, before realising that there was a really sharp and muddy corner about 100 metres before the finish!  I scaled back my stride slightly as I’d taken the corner too tight to continue at the pace I was running at.  The woman just pipped me over the line, but we had a good sprint finish for it!

Hunny Bell XC finish

It started raining literally as I crossed the finish line.  Dan had stayed in the car with Oscar but both my parents had come to see me finish which was nice as they don’t often get to see me race.

Hunny Bell XC finish

My official time was 47:54 and I came 202/310.  55/114 Senior Female.

We were chip timed for the race (hence why my left shoe is untied in these two photos!)  I’m not entirely sure there was a need for chip timing though, as the race ended up being 4.65 miles so not a ‘real’ distance and it appears to only be a gun to chip time anyway, rather than chip to chip time, so it would still have made a difference how long it took me to get over the start line.Hunny Bell XC finishIt was a great race though.  Beautiful course, friendly marshals and superb organisation.  Already penciled in for next year! 😉

What do you call your Grandparents? Do you call both sets by the same name?
Have you witnessed runners ducking out of the funnel at the finish before?
Do you make conversation with runners you don’t know at events?
Do your parents watch you race?

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?