Blimmin’ ‘eck, November went by in a flash and I got good and sweaty – and very, very muddy – in a few races along the way. First up was my second duathlon of the year, the Velopark Women’s Duathlon. I picked this one for a few reasons: another chance at a duathlon over a shorter distance, so a speedier event, women-only, so it might be interesting to see what this kind of event is like without the mix (this is not essential to me, just curious), small field, and the opportunity to whiz around the road track at the Olympic Park on my bike 🙂 As usual, I was itching to get out and to the start, so arrived stupidly early, which gave me enough time to get very excited about being at the Velopark, check out the lovely, smooth road and also begin to get very cold. Gradually, more and more women with bikes started arriving and nervously leant them up against the fence in the transition area (this is quite a relaxed affair!).
We were soon being talked through our pre-race briefing and applauding volunteers, organisers and a woman who was celebrating her birthday (she went on to win, nice birthday present!). Our first leg was two laps (so two miles) of running. Since I had allowed myself to get cold, my lungs decided to pack up at this point and I huffed and puffed my way round. I had imagined it to be flat, but there were lots of twists and turns and a few – small – hills. As always, I felt a rush of pure joy when I jumped on my bike for the ten miles of riding. Straight away I was overtaking and shouting: ‘On your right!’. It’s really very hard keeping track of how many laps you’ve done so, every time I crossed the line, I shouted out the number of the lap I had just completed, this didn’t stop me getting confused when I started to see faster women going into transition…’Better just do another lap, just in case then’.
When I was sure I had completed my ten, I jumped off, changed my shoes and did the transition run, ie wobble, wobble, ouch, drag…That last mile of running felt like hard work, but I really pushed myself because I wanted to finish in under an hour. My time by my Garmin was 57.36, so I was very pleased with that. Once all the women were in, it was time for the presentations. There was even a podium for the winning competitors to bask in the glory! I cheered as they took their places, then made my way home, trying hard to warm up again. Later on in the day, I found out that I had come third in my age group, but a different competitor had been called up to the podium by mistake, my moment of fame taken away! I’ll have to go back and try again, maybe go up a step on that podium next time 😉
Next up, I was invited to run through some mud by my friends Siggy and Stephen. They run with Petts Wood Runners (you may remember them from the Petts Wood 10k not so long ago) and take part in the Kent Fitness League series of events. They knew I would enjoy getting myself grubby over at Oxleas Wood. I hadn’t counted on it being quite so wet though, with flooding happening in Lewisham and a steady downpour leading up to and throughout the run. Yay! When we arrived, we huddled into the tent with the other PW runners and tried to keep warm until the start. As I was running as a ‘second claim’, Siggy kindly lent me a vest to wear (though white didn’t seem like a good idea given the conditions). It was lovely stepping out onto the grass and seeing a stream of coloured club vests heading towards the start, which took us straight up a hill. From here we headed across to the first part of the woods and immediately encountered deep brown pools of icy cold water. Some people ahead were trying to avoid these by scrambling up the sides of the path – never a good idea – but I just went for it and filled my shoes to the brim.
There was no room for sight-seeing on this course, with the ground ahead of you and over-hanging branches being the main concern for the next five miles. Parts of this section were narrow and I found myself walking for a while where slower runners struggled with a particularly steep hill. Before long we were running behind the cafe and into the next section of the woods. Now this was really, really muddy, with some puddles reaching over my knees and trying their best to pull me over. Once we had negotiated steep sections, some steps, tree roots and fallen branches, we were back over to the other side, to do it all again. Siggy and I were having a little unplanned race with each other: she would urge me up the hills then catch me on the flat or downhill, calling out: ‘You’ll catch me on the up hill!’. During the last jaunt around the deeply muddy second section, Siggy overtook me again and I knew I couldn’t quite catch her this time, as I tried my best to stay upright. As I came out into the open once more, I attempted to get a grip on the now slippery grass and pushed to the finish. By my watch, I got 48.16 and quickly wrapped up and grabbed a hot chocolate from the cafe. What a fantastic race! I hope to run again next year.
And finally – yes, it’s been a race-dense month again – I took part in the MoRunning 10k at Greenwich Park again on Saturday. I really enjoyed this last year and, as my friend Glenn was getting together as many runners as possible to join his Run Dem Crew team, I thought I’d give it another go this year. I hadn’t had a very good week leading up to it and felt so generally crap and unwell that I hadn’t run at all, not the best preparation for a hilly 10k! I pulled myself together, gave myself a good talking to, got on my bike and cycled over to Greenwich Park where I met lots of other people with dodgy moustaches.
After a big group photo we jogged over to the start and slowly made our way across the line. I somehow found my legs were picking up and I was overtaking slower runners, realising that maybe the rest had done me good. It’s a tough course, but it was a beautiful day and the support from the crowd – and especially the Run Dem Crew – was fantastic and really gave me a push. I had hoped to beat last year’s time (I secretly had a 50 minute figure in my head) and happily crossed the finish in 49.48, so three minutes faster than last year 🙂 So, November was a good month, another one filled with really varied races and goals achieved. I’m entering December with no races in the diary and an #adventrunning challenge to run 25 runs in 25 days…so far so good…and so much more hungry for mince pies 😉