18 August 2015

(Mis)Adventures in Running at The Rugby Rover

Sunday saw me joining a couple of running club friends for an interesting event that none of us had done before--The Belper Rugby Rover, 30 kilometres of undulating mixed terrain fun. We are going to blame this one on a Tesco car park conversation with a member of a neighbouring running club who claimed she was going to run it slow then went and thrashed all of us!

We started out together but since my training has been so poorly due to the damned allergies plaguing me I told the other 2 that I would just see them at the end and hoped they wouldn't have to wait around too terribly long for me (turned out to be around 16 minutes).  My plan was to walk every uphill because despite taking clarityn nearly every hard effort is resulting in hellacious sinus pressure headaches--better to be a slowpoke rather than having to get a lift back to the finish line due to not being able to focus on the path.

Picture courtesy of SL Images. Cheesy grin and thumbs up courtesy of moi

Anyway enough whingeing, I actually was able to keep my friends in sight with the power hike up the hills and bombing back down them up for the first few miles until I decided to strip down to my crop top (hey, it was actually warm for once!).  That involved having to unpin my bib, take off the hydration pack, pull off the vest, fold the bib to fit onto my shorts, repin said bib, wrestle the pack back over my shoulders, realise I hadn't closed the top of the pack so had to take it back off, decided I wanted to eat something, put the pack back on AND finally back to moving forward. Whew, that was a workout all on its own!

What was good:

*Stiles. Wasn't bothered about the time so enjoyed the slowdowns at the stiles in the beginning and middle.  Towards the end it seemed like the gaps kept getting narrower though and those rocks don't give any!

*Multi-Terrain:  Nice mix of road, trail, footpaths, and fields. Keeps it from getting boring although I know some don't like it because it's impossible to maintain a steadyish pace. There were even some technical bits to 'dance' over.

*The views: Absolutely gorgeous vistas, I'm still oohing over the section where I glanced over and could see the Crich Monument in all its glory on the next hill over.  Shining Cliff Woods also warrants a return trip for a more laid back exploration.

*Chatting with other runners/walkers:  Fell/trail races are far more laid-back generally so there's always laughter and chatter at least amongst those of us towards the back of the pack.

*No litter:  Everybody was VERY good about not throwing their cups down too far from the water stops and I didn't spy any gel packets about

*The water stops/check stations:  Awesome volunteers! I didn't stop for water because I had the hydration pack but the jelly babies, crisps, and encouragement were very welcome.

*Race marking:  This is going to be in the good and not so good.  99% of it was very well marked but there were a few instances towards the end that I questioned if I was going in the correct direction.  Part of that appeared to be other trail users messing about with the signage though.

Not so good:

*Nothing in this section that pertains to how the race was set-up except for there being a couple of spots near the end that should have been marked better for those of us that are directionally challenged--like the section where the path splits 2 ways at the water treatment plant.  Yes, I was the dumbass that went the wrong way here and ended up with bonus mileage and I also couldn't remember the where we turned into the rugby club carpark for the finish.

*Wearing the hydration pack which coincidentally is the amount of weight I need to lose right now! It's a pain in the arse wearing it but I NEED to get used to it before the 30 miler in November.

*Catching a sharp rock with the side of my foot in such a way that the rock went under the big toenail on my left foot.  I was afraid I'd torn the nail off but thankfully it only loosened it, bad thing is it's still extremely tender today.

*Of course there was a fall, only the one though and there was no blood so not sure it even counts.

*I am listed as a male in the results! Still debating on whether to bother contacting them to change it or not.

The aftermath! I look peeved because I was still fuming about going the wrong direction so close to the finish :-) 

10 August 2015

The post where I whinge a little

I was hoping to be writing a recap of Nordic Walking 33k at the Salisbury 54321 event but alas it ended up being a big fat DNS (did not start) due to a resurgence of an allergy-induced migraine that was determined to hang about.  It had started Friday afternoon, eased up Saturday midday then made a comeback in the wee morning hours Sunday.  There was no way I was in shape to endure a 3.5 hour drive down to Wiltshire to be at the start line before 8:45, I am aggravated to the nth degree about this because I had been looking forward to it so much!

Training overall has been extremely lacklustre due to the allergies and the fatigue/headaches that comes along with them but the only thing I can do is plaster a smile on, pull on my big girl pants and keep plodding forward. Oh and take naps, lots and lots of naps!
Like the logo? Get a hoodie, tank, or tee here :-) 

08 August 2015

Nordic Walking parkrun tourist

It's only a week late but I Nordic Walked another parkrun with a large group of Midlands Nordic Walkers last Saturday to support one who was completing her 50th.  Such an amazing achievement! Thank you as always to the wonderful Colwick parkrun volunteers and well done to everyone who participated.

I was slightly slower than the previous one but wasn't near as sore afterwards either! It did give me a chance to test out the new trail trainers and Dirty Girl gaiters before the 33k challenge at Salisbury--it worked brilliantly so hoping tomorrow goes well, wish me luck please.  

06 August 2015

Running kit review: Montane Bite 1

Way back in June I won a competition from Accelerate UK for some Montane kit which consisted of a Featherlite jacket, hydration belt, t-shirt, and 3/4 tights. The jacket is awesome, I've worn it several times but as of yet I've not tried out the shirt or tights--it's summer (sort of) so I'm wearing vests and shorts or running skirts as much as possible right now.  The Bite 1 hydration belt also didn't get tested out until last week because I've not gone on any runs long enough to justify the use of one since it arrived.  I finally decided that I should take it out for a spin on a short run to find out if it would cause any issues on a longer one.

Montane bite 1 hydration belt

First impressions:  It looks heavy.  Even my friend who I was meeting for a run the day I tested it out commented that it looked heavy.  It doesn't feel it once you get moving but it's hard to get past the psychology of it appearing that way.

Looks like I'm getting ready for a quick draw!

Next thing you notice is the pocket material, it's crinkly. And noisy as you are loading up whatever gear you are taking along.  Again, once you are moving it's not noticeable until you need to get something out and then you are reminded of the crinkliness (yes I know that's not really a word) and noisiness.

Roomy pocket

The pocket is nice and large though, big enough for a phone, gels, tissue, keys, a peanut butter sandwich, whatever you think you might need. It's large enough to fold up the Featherlite jacket and stow it away as well if you omit the sandwich from the aforementioned items.  But there is a downside to that roominess, it needs a smaller pocket within to kind of separate things out otherwise it's like a bottomless purse where things disappear never to be seen again unless you dump everything out.

Fiddly bottle

Is it going in yet?

Still trying to get it in place

Last step! But still not quite fully seated

I also wasn't impressed with the water bottle, it has a flat side that is meant to fit flush against your back but while on the run it's fiddly trying to get it back into place because it isn't different enough from the other sides by feel. It also started leaking around the lid during today's picture taking session. Amphipod totally wins with their shaped bottles because you don't have to take too much attention away from running to get the bottle back in place, if I decide to keep the Montane belt I will simply use those bottles with it rather than the one that came with it.

Excess belt

What I did really like about the Bite 1 is that it stayed in placed while running thanks to the stretch belt.  Only very minimal adjustments were needed which is miles better than the majority of belts I've tried out.  I have the excess bit of belt looped over and tucked under in the photos but there is a bit of blue strapping there to loop it through--something I didn't notice the first 2 times I wore it! Definitely a d'oh moment for me.

Belt wrapped over and tucked in

The mesh fabric on the inside of the belt is quite comfortable and according to the hang tag it is coated with an antibacterial treatment (no stink!).  Haven't tested it out enough to find out if the anti-stink actually works though.

Mesh on the inside of the Bite 1

One last thing that isn't normally an issue for the UK is that the black version can feel hot if you are running on a warmish day.  Normally not a problem for here but if you live where it stays warm I would suggest opting for the light blue version of the belt because the black absorbed the heat quite rapidly.

As of right now I'm not sure if I will keep the belt, I do like that the pocket is waterproof and large enough to fill with the necessities of a longer run but the water bottle being so fiddly might be a deal breaker if my amphipod bottle doesn't work with it.  The Bite 1 also rides further up on the waist than I usually prefer but at least it didn't bobble about like a Salomon belt does that I have.

Thank you again Accelerate for running such awesome contests! 

20 July 2015

A visit to The Great Yorkshire Show


Graham and I 

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend The Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate in a sort of working capacity--talking about and demonstrating Nordic Walking with British Nordic Walking in the Discovery Zone courtesy of the fabulous North Yorkshire Sport.  It was an incredibly fun experience!  For those in the states I would compare the GYS to a state fair, with carnival rides, animal exhibitions/shows, food, agricultural displays, different branches of the military, fashion shows and so on.  Unlike a state fair which usually goes on for 1-3 weeks the GYS is on for 3 days only: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

While there are cultural differences between the US and UK the thing that struck me as the most interesting is that farmers are pretty much the same in both countries! I am not saying that in a derogatory way because a good portion of my family comes from agricultural backgrounds just remarking there is a certain demeanour and no-nonsense attitude that comes through quite strongly.

Because of being there in a working capacity and needing to get back to tend to the mutts I wasn't able to explore as much of the GYS as I would have liked. If I'm invited back next year with the team I hope to be able to be there for all 3 days.

A taste of home 

A few more traditional styles of walking sticks

19 July 2015

Nordic Walking a parkrun and Crich Monument Race

@BritNordicWalk I've become a nordic walking convert! & we would love to see more of your members at @parkrunUK! Can I contact you re this?
— Chrissie Wellington (@chrissiesmiles) July 3, 2015

As most everyone who reads the blog knows I am a huge fan of Nordic Walking, it tends to not get much respect from the running community but that's slowly changing.  Turns out that a triathlete I respect and admire greatly is also a fan of Nordic Walking--Chrissie Wellington!
Our group minus one who had to leave right after finishing, we all got Nordic Walking pbs!

As a result of this several of us decided to NW one of our local parkruns yesterday morning instead of running it as usual, we ended up with 6 altogether at Long Eaton.  We were welcomed quite warmly and when it came go time we gathered up at the very back of the start line because there had been some concern expressed by one person about the poles being in the way on facebook (not by any of the parkrun organisers or volunteers, just a participant of one).  I had two goals for yesterday, to get sub-40 and to demonstrate that Nordic Walking can be quite fast if that's what you want out of it, I think I succeeded at both :-). My official time was 38:23 and my mile splits were progressively faster (12:27, 12:15, 12:10 and 11:13 for the last tenth of a mile).  I am paying for that today though! You activate your glutes and shoulders far more than running and stairs are a bit of a challenge for me to get up and down after pushing that hard.

As if that wasn't enough for the day a running club mate posted up that she couldn't do the Crich Monument Race and offered up her spot if anyone wanted it.  Totally spur of the moment decision to ask if I could have it but I don't regret it at all, this one has been on my 'that looks interesting, I want to run it someday' list.

Crich Monument on the hill

Since I was already feeling the effects of pushing it hard on the walk earlier my plan was to just go out and enjoy myself, I even briefly considered taking along the camera.  There's a bit of regret that I didn't but I ended up with a much faster race than expected (not saying it was fast, just faster than I thought it would be). In the beginning we have a series of stile crossings in fields which causes bottlenecks to form--one of the perils of not starting close to the front but I kind of like the chance to catch my breath and chat with those around so long as it's not an extended pause.

Crazy hair, don't care :-)

After the fields we hit my favourite part of the course, a technical downhill through the forest, again there were areas of slowing and stopping as people not used to tree roots and rocks navigated this section with caution but I love bombing down those! It's almost like a dance when you get it right but it can go very wrong if you misjudge foot placement.

The slog along the canal almost seems endless after the fun of the forest but I ended up pacing out fairly well there and it was at that point I realised I didn't actually know how far the race was! I considered asking the woman who was running just behind me but figured the question might be better kept to myself. Once we started the uphill climb up to the monument I switched to power hiking because I figured it would be best to conserve my energy rather than trying to run the steep inclines.

I look happy, the others around me not so much!

After we got to the top though there was no more walking! It was a mostly downhill bomb that took us through a few more narrow stile crossings (3 I think), through a graveyard, across a busy road, through another field, and 3 more turns on the streets of Crich back into the Village Green and down a short but wicked steep downhill to the finish line chute.

I can't think of anything bad to say about the Crich Monument Race, it was well-marked, they allowed us to switch numbers, there was a banana AND a bottle of beer in the goody bag, it's very reasonably priced, food and cake is available to purchase before and after, the course is interesting and if you remember to give your email address and pay your £1 they will email the race photos to you (I forgot to do so though).  This one is a definite do again event!

2 thumbs up! 

A few photos from the event are here including the last two I have used in this post.

Beer, a Tree, and a Horse

This will be the final post about our Great British Tree road trip back in June.  To be honest I've about let it go so long that I nearly forgot there was one more tree to add to the list! Note to self: write down your thoughts before you forget them!!!!!!!

Village of Beer

After visiting the Darley Oak tree near Upton-Cross we made our way up to Honiton to fuel up and I asked my partner how far we were from Beer, a village on the Jurassic Coast that he raved about.  Turns out we weren't that far and I coerced him into a detour so I could visit it as well.  Well worth the diversion, it's GORGEOUS.  There is something about the water especially oceans that calms and fascinates me--I am a Pisces so there must be a little something to the astrology stuff--and I could have spent hours on that stone beach. As it was we were there for little over an hour walking about and sitting in the sun enjoying an ice-cream. Hopefully we will be able to go back for an extended visit before my time in the UK ends.

Walking down to the beach

The mutts and I walking over to the chalk cliffs, yes I *had* to touch them

The walkways were quite handy because the stones were difficult to walk on, it was one step forward and 2 or 3 back

Deck chairs at Ducky's where we enjoyed our ice creams, even Ben and Elsie got to partake

Our 'detours' didn't end with Beer though, I'd spotted a picture on the web of an interesting sign posted on a bridge so of course we needed to stop and get one of our own! 

Dorset bridge 

That's one way to get to Australia, eh? This is located just outside the town of Sturminster Newton, the afternoon sun was beginning to make the driver sleepy so while he took a catnap the mutts and I went out for a walk along part of the North Dorset Trailway--adding another place to the bucket list of areas I want to run.  It was quite a friendly place and everyone was willing to allow their dogs to say 'hello' to each other which is becoming quite rare nowadays.  

Finally we were on our way to the last planned stopping place for our road trip, Savernake Forest, home of The Big Belly Oak or Big Bellied Oak depending on what you read.  The forest is actually home to quite a few interesting trees but a full day needs to be allocated to exploring the area and we didn't have time to go for a proper walk there.  The Big Belly Oak is located right next to the A346 and while we knew that there was no place to park nearby we didn't realise just how busy the road actually was so our picture was taken on the move from the passenger seat of the car.  

The Big Belly Oak

Because of being limited to 'drive-by' photography there is no picture of the Great British Trees plaque.  The undergrowth appeared to be so tall that I'm not sure we would have found it even if we could have stopped. 

The Uffington White Horse

One final stop on the trek back home found us eating burgers at the base of the White Horse Hill near Uffington, another place that is on the list of must visit again spots since I didn't get to actually walk along it (the partner and I have very differing views on what constitutes a visit to a place!).  

Me being pouty because I was so close yet so far away from the White Horse

As you can see we packed quite a bit into a one day road trip! Hopefully we can go on another soon before we lose all the wonderful summer sun. 

13 July 2015

Let the (last minute) training begin!

After much deliberation (and discussing it with the partner) I have finally signed up for the Salisbury 5-4-3-2-1 event but rather than running it I will be Nordic Walking the 33k distance option.  I was initially considering the 50k option but the aforementioned partner talked me down off the wall for that one.  I'm fairly sure I could run it slowly but going for the walk only option is another ball game altogether because it will be using muscles in a way they aren't accustomed to for that far.

Bristol 2014

To be honest now that the registration form is filled out and submitted the enormity of WALKING 20 miles has just hit me.  Yes, I know it's weird to not be bothered about running that far but scared sh*tless about Nordic Walking it!!!!!!!!  Wish me luck please :-)

07 July 2015

Adios Juneathon

Hello blog, apologies for having neglected you and missing the end of Juneathon.  Yep, despite good intentions I yet again didn't complete the move/blog every day challenge.  I have quite enjoyed catching up on with the blogs and reports of the other participants but I have fallen into the habit of reading them on my tablet using the feedly app at bedtime and it doesn't lend to easy commenting sometimes.  Oh sure I will think to myself I need to go back and comment but 99% of the time I fail to do so, my memory is like a sieve nowadays.  On the upside I have finally started familiarising myself with google calendar and actually USING it!

Activity wise I have dialled back the running slightly in order to get back into the habit of cross training because I have been neglecting the weights and they are oh so important for women of a certain age to help prevent osteoporosis...Not saying they aren't important for everyone but once you hit the point when you are closer to 50 than 40 then it does become a bit more of an issue with the bone density loss (this loss generally starts around age 35).  Of course you also have the added benefits of preventing injuries and keeping the weight at a healthy level, so yeah pumping some iron is kind of important.  I know I certainly run better if I do a full body weight workout at least twice a week.

Last week's running had some interesting twists.  Tuesday's club run was on a gorgeously hot evening that I think I enjoyed more than most of the others but then again I was out for a laid back trot and stayed at the back of the group and I think some took off at a balls to the wall pace for the temp so there was some suffering happening.

My new friend 

Thursday most of the club was doing one race or another so a handful of us went out on a bit of an offroad adventure recce run.  Parts of it was absolutely gorgeous but there were some mishaps of the sort I usually find myself on when I'm exploring by myself.  There was a two mile detour to avoid a pasture of cows and a machete wouldn't have gone amiss in order to cut our way through the nettles, thistles, and brambles!  Some awesome views though and I don't regret a moment of it --well there might have been a WTF have we gotten ourselves into a couple of times, lol. The pics above and below were taken on the run by a club mate (Hi Richard!).

Looks more like a jungle path rather than an English one!

Saturday I made a last minute decision to make the drive over for parkrun despite it being unbearably humid and experiencing some hellacious DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from Friday's weight session. It's not a good sign when you are covered in sweat from your 1 mile warmup slog!  This time around I seeded myself closer to the front of the pack despite knowing it would cause me to run my first mile too fast (no discipline!).  Of course I jackrabbited and it felt hard from the very first step...what I didn't expect to see was 7:10 flash up for the first mile.

I did my best to push on but miles 2 and 3 were both 7:40 and I ended up having 2 women pass me in the last mile.  The first went on to finish in 22:54 and was running so strong that I had absolutely no chance of reeling her back in, the 2nd I managed to sprint by in the last .10 of a mile and finished ONE second ahead of her. That's why you always run through to the finish, no celebrating or relaxing as the guy in the Peachtree 10k found out over the weekend!

Despite the pacing mishap, I managed to get a pb (UK times) of 23:10, Still need to get those splits into a more even keel though. Let's see if I can match that time at tonight's club handicap!

Start of 2nd lap, don't let the smile fool you, I was suffering

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!