28 June 2015

Footpath Relays Recap

Shadow pic while I was waiting for my turn to run

After much hemming and hawing I finally succumbed to the lure of participating in the Footpath Relays in the Peak District that our running club fielded two teams for and I am glad I did! It was quite fun even though I was slightly stressed about getting lost (understatement) and letting the team down.

Map, notes, and team number

The format of this event is different to most other relays that I've done in that there's self-navigation involved across a mix of terrain--a route recce is highly recommended! Legs 1, 3, 6, and 9 start from the event centre and legs 2, 5, 8, and 10 finish there with legs 1 and 6 starting at the same time.*  Teams are made up of a mix of ages and sexes and there is a handicap system to ensure that each has this mix, for example since I'm a VW45 (VW=veteran woman, the equivalent in the states is masters female) I counted for 2 points toward the minimum 14 required.  The below screenshot shows the different leg information.

Click to enlarge

I was the 10th leg on Ilkeston Running Club Team B which gave me a LOT of time to worry about getting lost despite having recce'ed the route with Rachel the previous week.  However I did relish the opportunity to soak in the warmth of the day (slightly sunburned!) and being able to cheer on the others.

Legs 1 and 6 at the start line

As I mentioned in a post last week the route is gorgeous but I had no time to enjoy it once Paul handed off to me.  A slap of hands and I was off through the first stile and across the fields trying to catch Rachel who had set off just minutes earlier...it wasn't until I cleared the 2nd field before entering the woods that I realised I had forgotten to start my garmin, frustration! I made it to the single track after the farm and B&B before I heard footsteps pounding from behind and one of the guys from another team flew by me.

From the recce day, the downhill side of this is where I was overtaken

In the next section of woods I nearly missed a turn, I had a fairly decent head of steam and overshot where the path divided but it was just a few seconds to slow down and go the proper direction towards where we had our first bit of confusion on the recce but thanks to that I knew just where to go yesterday.  Past the bench and across a stile into another wooded area which led out into the fields where we had the 2nd bit of trouble last week. I still ended up coming down to the road at the wrong place and had to climb a fence instead of the stile and it meant more of the steep uphill on the lane to get up.  A few more valuable seconds lost there... 

The last section in Bow Woods is where I lost the most time though, the route instruction notes read to stay with the main path as it bore left but just before a clearing in the centre the path divides and they are the exact same size.  This is NOT where I was supposed to bear left! I'd gone the wrong way and it wasn't until I glimpsed the clearing on my right when it was meant to be on my left that I realised my mistake.  Instead of continuing on I backtracked and of course this cost me at least a minute.  While I was fairly sure the way I went would bring me back in to the path I needed I couldn't take the chance it wouldn't.  

After this it was fairly straightforward to get back to the finish, over the gate and across the main road (had to wait for traffic to clear on this one), around the bend and left to the canal footpath.  By now it was fairly heaving with people also out enjoying the day so there was some dodging and weaving happening and trying to maintain some semblance of speed while grunting out thank you to everyone who stepped aside.  To get over to the Rugby field from the canal path for our finish involved trying to find an opening to the right that quite a few people missed--by the time I'd gotten there someone had drew a large arrow on the ground pointing to it but it was still easy to overlook.  Thankfully we had double-checked on this earlier so I didn't shoot by but it did involve a very short but steep scramble over rocks and tree roots so it behooved you to watch your step. 

Garmin Connect details

I can't wait until next year! Hopefully my navigation skills will have improved even more before then.  If you can muster up a team I heartily recommend doing this one. There are no medals or prizes or even cake unless you bring it but it's definitely fun and challenging and a veritable bargain at £20 per team.

After the relays, I'd already changed out of my club vest

*If you are wondering what happened to legs 4 and 7 they started and finished out in the middle of nowhere! 

26 June 2015

Expat Adventures: 2nd Stop in the Great British Tree Road Trip

The bridges at Saltash

Part II of the insane road trip on the 10th of June had us travelling south-east from Exeter to just north of the village of Upton-Cross in Cornwall in search of the Darley Oak Tree.  This one was quite difficult to find and the sat-nav took us on some amazingly tiny roads to get there...tiny as in there was barely enough room for our Mondeo to squeeze through without brushing the mirrors against the hedgerows and there were times when the mirrors had to be brought in to avoid this.  Miles and miles of this! I am just glad I wasn't driving especially for the section where we had to reverse for a quarter of a mile to find a place wide enough to move over so an oncoming tractor could get by us.  We really should have had the windscreen mount set up for the camera to film but alas there is no photographic evidence for y'all to enjoy.  The below pic is one of the wider sections of road we travelled and where we stopped to ask a woman on horseback if we were indeed going in the correct direction.

One of the wider sections of road

The tree is located in the front garden of a group of farmhouses and from the description on various sites we were wondering if it would be easily accessible.  There was no need to worry though because it is situated right next to the drive and my partner even struck up a conversation with one of the farmers about the tree.  It was quite interesting listening to him speak because he sounded like a pirate! I'm not sure either of us understood half of what he said but it didn't seem to matter because they were over half an hour chatting.  The British reserve stereotype does not hold true once you get away from the cities! 

The Darley Oak

The Darley Oak is massive of course and is estimated to be over a 1000 years old.  While it looks like some of the branches would break off in a stiff breeze it didn't give off the air of dejection that Major Oak in Notts seems to have.  If anything it had quite a cheerful aura and I'm not one to usually ascribe such characteristics to trees.  

The 50 Great British Trees Plaque

Don't you wonder how many children have climbed and hid in this tree over the centuries?

We didn't stay there but the Oak Barn B&B across from the Darley Oak looked quite lovely if you are looking for a getaway location and if the proprietors are half as friendly as the man we spoke to then you are in for a pleasant stay.


22 June 2015

Adventure Challenge and Juneathon Day 22


Today was a bit unusual for a Monday in that I didn't run solo, a friend from the running club agreed to go on one of my rambles and while I enjoyed sharing one of my favourite routes, I'm not so sure he was as impressed! We did get in a solid 10 miles and I felt better than I have in quite a while on a longish run.  It also unlocked the Adventure Challenge badge on Strava where it gives me the opportunity to buy an exclusive tank top for the bargain basement price of $28 plus shipping charges of $15 and taxes of $5.60 for a grand total of $48.60/£30.69. Ummm, no. I can't afford race entries right now so I'm certainly not buying a branded shirt that is the equivalent to 2 or more races! I do highly recommend the Strava site if you like tracking stats and participating in fun competitions although it can become addicting--not that I'm obsessed with getting QOMs or course records or anything like that (read: totally addicted).

The Limited Edition top I am not buying 

Juneathon Day 22: 10 miles of hills, roads, trails, fields, woods, canals, rain, wind, sun, and poppies.  We had it all today!

A run in the fields with the mutts at the end of yesterday's run, change the quality to 720HD for the best viewing.

21 June 2015

Juneathon Day 21


Welcome summer solstice! Now can we have a wee bit more of the warm stuff please? Yes I know we don't have any air conditioning but I would love to have a chance to wear my cute summer dresses and sandals without shivering at least a few times this year.


Today's Juneathon activity consisted of a late afternoon run where I optimistically wore a tank top.  That would have been fine but I'd also brought along the go-pro to see if I could get some decent video again (that would be a negative) and every time I stopped to get a picture I would get cold again.

Run selfie where it looks like I have a freakishly long arm


"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to" said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go" said the Cat
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE" Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

For some reason this picture reminded me of 'Alice in Wonderland'

20 June 2015

I jinxed the weather and Juneathon Days 17-20

Going that way

The warmth was gorgeous while it lasted but it's been back to almost needing my gloves again, hard to believe that tomorrow is the summer solstice! I've also lapsed on the move and blog every day but I think I've made it further along than I usually do with Juneathon/Janathon.

Maps at the ready!

Wednesday was a road trip up to Riber/Matlock to recce routes with a couple of mates for the upcoming Footpath Relays and while I have a fairly straightforward section I am glad we ran it because there were a couple of places that might have been tricky on the navigation (Read I would have gotten my ass lost!).  It is a beautiful area of the country and some of it was technical enough to remind me of trail running back in Arkansas.  Afterwards we sat and ate a delicious picnic lunch they had prepared (I wasn't near that organised!) while enjoying the views.

Watch your head!

Today's parkrun marked the second Long Eaton event and the kids with the cowbells were even more enthusiastic than last weekend! Of course that might have had a little bit to do with me whooping and hollering along with them on the first lap then yelling 'More cowbell please!!!!' on the second. As far as the run I certainly wasn't expecting to do much better but somehow managed to eke out a 3 second personal best for my UK times.  I do seem to be stuck in the 23ish minute range again, but it is dropping and hopefully I will be able to whittle that down to sub-23 soon. The splits were not a pretty picture though! 7:17 (waaaaaaaay too fast), 7:26, 7:33, and 1:06.6 (6:22 pace) for the last .18 mile.  The club had another good result with one of ours being 4th place overall and we also had the first and third females. Well done all!

How can you not love running somewhere that has a castle in the background?

Wednesday: 3.71 miles
Thursday: Club run 7.77 miles
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 5 miles including parkrun

parkrun stats:
23:23
50/211 overall
8/94 female
1/24 VW45-49

I couldn't find a decent quality vid of the skit so this one will have to suffice

17 June 2015

The heat is on for Juneathon!

Apologies in advance for the earworm but I have been humming 'The Heat Is On' since posting an article about hot weather and how it affects your running on the Of Runsound Mind page yesterday. Gotta love the 80s!


Last night we had what was our first properly HOT run of the year, there have been a handful of warmish ones but this was the first where I came home and after peeling off the jogbra could have wrung the sweat out of it.  Oddly, I quite enjoyed the feeling of running in the heat and humidity but unlike Arkansas it won't be an everyday occurrence from now until October.  


The ashmei socks have been some of the most comfortable socks I've ever worn but unfortunately I have already worn holes into the toe area--so incredibly disappointed. I had hopes of these lasting at least a year which is around the time frame my socks generally make it to before the toe wear-through happens and this is at 3 months.  I'm in a quandary as to whether to make an issue of it since these were a gift rather than something I purchased for myself.  

Juneathon Day 15: No walk or run, short kettlebell workout
Juneathon Day 16: 4.8 miles Nordic Walking class, 9.2 miles club run

14 June 2015

Expat Adventures: The Road Trip in Search of...

One of the best and worst things about an English summer is the extended daylight hours.  In late May it starts getting light around 3:45 am and there is a little glow in the sky until around 11 pm. This makes getting a decent amount of sleep for someone like me who rises whenever the sun does a bit tricky unless you have blackout curtains but it does make planning for outdoor activities much easier.  There is still the need to layer up because the temperatures are on the chilly side but at least you have daylight to play in!

This is what made Wednesday's epic road trip possible, we covered 712 miles down south and back home with only about 2 hours of it driven in the dark--yes our drive started at the unholy hour of 5:30 am! There was a lot of ground covered and while we didn't get to spend much time at any one place the objectives of the trip were accomplished: my partner got to do something he loves--drive through places at speed while pointing out interesting landmarks in passing, put some miles on the new front tyres, and we took a few photos of historic trees.  Yes, the objective of the trip was to visit a couple of the 50 Great British Trees.

First stop not counting the Starbucks refueling (where they oohed and ahhed over my American issued personalised gold rewards card) and to allow the dogs to do their business was the Heavitree Yew in Exeter...or it would have been but for some reason we thought the tree was at the Heavitree Pleasure Grounds.  It is quite a pretty and bustling park and we did find a historic tree, just not the one we were in search of!  Oh well, it got us out of the car and Ben got to frolic off leash (Elsie doesn't get that privilege because she has NO recall whatsoever and likes to put her front paws on people's legs) while we figured out where we should have been.

The 'other' tree

Quite old but not the green plaque we were looking for


The arch in the picture above is apparently quite controversial because of the amount of money spent in upkeep, it seems to be a target of frequent vandalism/graffiti as well.  What I do want to point out is the sign on the building for The Gun and Sport Shop.  Quite a few people are under the impression that ALL guns are illegal in the UK and that simply isn't true.  There is certainly a more stringent licensing and certification process but it isn't impossible to own a firearm. Anyway back to the tree!

The church through the daisies

The Heavitree Yew is in the churchyard of St. Michael and All Angels, like most here it is a very pretty church but it also has a air of being very busy and cluttered! The yew is right next to the entry and when we were walking up we were almost bowled over by a man rushing out 'in search of a body'! He was very apologetic and it was almost like a scene out of a television programme. 

The Heavitree Yew

50 Great British Trees Commemoration Plaque

I wonder how many people have sat in or climbed this tree

Quick pic of the Church interior

Beautiful sky

Always love the gargoyles

Water spout above an entry

So that was the first planned stop of our one day road trip southwards, what we didn't take time to see was the Exeter Cathedral, perhaps another day we will stop to see it but honestly I much prefer the smaller churches to the massive cathedrals so I wasn't terribly disappointed about skipping it. There will be another post or 3 about our insane drive soonish! 

All image editing courtesy of Real World Image Retouching





13 June 2015

Hairy Helmet Relays and Long Eaton parkrun


Hello folks, yes it's another Juneathon update post for the 12th and 13th! I ended up taking yesterday as a rest day but did show up to support the Ilkeston Running Club at the Hairy Helmet Relays.  While I was in my running kit to step in in case someone couldn't make it at the last minute I was glad to not have to run because of lingering GI issues.  Lots of fun getting to cheer everyone on and actually being able to spectate the entire thing! The fancy dress is always fun to see, the Pirates of the Caribbean team was my favourite, well done them for running in full costume.

The club!

Hanging out at the Hairy Helmet 

Today was the inaugural Long Eaton parkrun and what a great event it was! Exceptional volunteers and despite the rain it was a good day to run because West Park is normally very windy and today it was only slightly breezy. It's a 2 lap course and they don't come much flatter so it is excellent for chasing after a personal best.  Lots of parking and there are changing rooms available for afterwards. Amongst the volunteers today was some very enthusiastic cow-bell ringers! I hope they had enough fun to continue coming out because it certainly put a smile on everyone's face that was running by (at least those in my proximity). 

Start pic from the facebook page

Despite me saying it is a pb course there wasn't one in the cards for me, I was thankful to have even made it through at a steady pace because of the continuing GI problems (yes still! grrrrrrrrr), heavy legs (4th 'speed' session this week) and a very achy lower back.  Getting old sucks! 

Stats:
5k time: 23:55
Splits: 7:31, 7:51, 7:46, 0:46 (6:48 pace)
70/242 overall
10/104 female
1/18 VW 45-49 category

If you aren't signed up for parkrun yet, whatever are you waiting for??? It's free, it's friendly and you don't have to be fast! And if you are very lucky there is cowbell!!!  




11 June 2015

Juneathon Interrupted.

Juneathon Day 10 had an interruption in the form of an epic road trip which culminated in us eating dinner in the shadow of the Uffington White Horse--there will be at least one post on our adventures later! It wasn't a total wash because while my partner took a power nap in the afternoon the mutts and I took a 1 mile stroll on a footpath at Sturminster Newton.

Uffington

712 miles in the car has taken a toll on my back though, nice little back spasms and a burger (road trip food) taking its revenge on me during tonight's run.  Since I had to make 2 emergency pit-stops on the run up to the club I opted for the track session because at least I would always be close to a loo.  Made it through 2 of the mile repeats before my GI system acted up again and had to quit halfway through the 3rd. Yes, verging on TMI territory here!

Day 10: 1.23 mile walk
Day 11: 6.75 miles run

09 June 2015

Juneathon Day 9 and Denby BDL

I hate seasonal allergies, there has been an over-abundance of grouchiness and lethargy this week thanks to them.  I slept quite a bit of the day yesterday and ended up back in bed for over two hours this afternoon and have been fighting a headache that keeps trying to edge over into migraine territory...It was this that almost made me stay home and skip tonight's BDL race but I figured a run would hopefully knock it out.  No joy on the cure though, it seems determined to hang about.

Despite the sore head I managed to do somewhat ok although per my garmin I was 11 seconds slower than last year.  My splits were reasonable, the first mile was the slowest but the first section on this course is terrible, it's way too narrow for a herd of competitive road runners. At the stile where we have to go single file through there are always a few runners that aren't content with holding their place and try to shove through ahead of the rest of us and I have a nice little scrape just above the knee where someone kicked up a stick into my leg.  While I'm not happy about my placement (206) I can honestly say that I left it all on the course today, I had no kick left on the last uphill push to the finish line and several runners sprinted past me like I was stuck in black strap molasses.

It took me far longer to recover than normal but once I did I headed back out to find Sue and run with her on the final section, it was here when my grouchiness reared its head again...Several runners who had finished earlier were walking back to the car park and while most were stepping aside for those still on the course there were a handful that weren't quite as polite.  Come on people, it's the same distance and just because you finished it quicker doesn't mean that the rest of us aren't entitled to some courtesy as well...There certainly isn't any call for snarkiness either!

The final push, see all those guys behind me? Yeah they all passed me after this!

Juneathon Day 9:
*2.6 mile Tuesday Nordic Walking class
*4.84 miles Denby BDL race (37:48)
*Warmup and warmdown not tracked
*Far too much hoovering upstairs and downstairs, shampooed the living room and entry carpet

Looks like the race was slightly longer, last year's measured at 4.59 miles

Very grateful for the Ilkeston Running Club, I think we had the loudest and certainly the best cheering section!


08 June 2015

Juneathon Day 8

Too bad napping doesn't count as a Juneathon activity because I have certainly done my fair share of that...In between snooze sessions I had a Nordic Walking class and a short speed workout consisting of 20 x 30/30s. Gotta love the interval function of the garmin forerunners because it takes the guesswork out of wondering how long you have to run. Import your workout to the watch and listen for the countdown tones. My interval speeds were erratic though, time to get serious about consistency and train with purpose again.

07 June 2015

Juneathon Day 7

A run in the sun! Even managed to get a bit of a tan along the way.  I woke up with no back pain this morning but didn't get out until late afternoon to run--was enjoying catching up on the last few episodes of Outlander Season 1, it is certainly doing the books proud.


As for the run, it wasn't amongst my best efforts--I'm not acclimatised to heat running yet so there were a few walk breaks.  The route was chosen for staying off the road as much as possible and some of my explorations didn't go to plan but other deviations were much nicer than expected.  One farmer is doing his best to make a public footpath through one of his fields very inaccessible, I had to climb a gate and the wooden stiles had been dismantled to the point where they were almost unusable.  A dog walker had warned us about this particular area back in December and asked us to write the council but until now I hadn't found where it was.

There might have been an area where I was a wee bit lost (nothing new there) but I am learning the area well enough that I could work my way back on course without having to backtrack (yay!).  It was enough to remind me that perhaps I should carry the phone and some cash when I haven't ran the route before though.

Juneathon Week 1 totals:
Running: 38.49 miles
Cycling: 1.66 miles
Walking/Nordic Walking: 11.84 miles

51.99 miles altogether


06 June 2015

Juneathon Day 6

Run on folks because I certainly haven't...No run, no burpees but I did have a Nordic Walking class this morning where we covered 3 miles then spent the afternoon at the Hemlock Happening hanging out with Midlands Nordic Walking.  Lovely day for it even though the wind kept making it a jacket on/jacket off situation.

My allergies have made me feel like I need to be bagged and binned

05 June 2015

Juneathon Day 5.

No run and no burpees today as I seem to have tweaked my lower back somehow. Not sure what I did but guessing it's just one of those random things that comes with getting old.  Juneathon's move for the day was mowing the front garden and a 2.4 mile walk in the sunshine with the mutts. Not particularly exciting but better than nothing, eh.


One of the best covers of 'For What It's Worth' that I've come across

My thoughts on pacing

Last night's run and conversation got me thinking more in-depth about the importance of learning pacing not just for speed-work and race purposes but also in your easy runs.  So many people go out and just try to hammer each and every run full-out and then beat themselves up afterwards if they didn't hit x minute mile average.  Not only is this not beneficial to your physical health it also takes a toll mentally, you run the risk of getting discouraged and dreading each run instead of looking forward to it--there will always be those runs where you have to force yourself out the door but if it's happening more than 50% of the time then you need to re-evaluate why and how you are running (that's a completely different blogpost though!).

A recent run I did with a mate provides a good example of what I'm talking about, his goal was to hit 12ish minute miles for a 16 miler.  We ended up with a 10 minute mile average, success right? NO! That was not the goal for the pacing so we failed even though it was a very enjoyable run. Now keep in mind he has been running for years, is one of the fastest runners in our club, and a total beast when it comes to fell races of all distances, long and short so hopefully that will put it in perspective how important and difficult it is to learn how to pace across all speeds. Going slower in my opinion quite often requires more discipline than trying to run fast.

Learning how to pace is not only about keeping a certain average per mile but learning HOW that speed feels and being able to adapt it for various distances.  I realise this is somewhat abstract but practising hitting all speeds (slow, medium and fast) means that your muscle memory will kick in automatically and you no longer have to rely so heavily on your watch to monitor it.  Smarter pacing=better racing!

Pic via popsugar.com