South Coast Path Run

I like listening to the Marathon Talk podcast. I think the idea is that you listen to it on your long run, but I go ‘pah!’ to that and listen to it on the turbo trainer, get me! I was very inspired by Martin Yelling’s Long Run Home and did a little dance when I realised that it would coincide with our trip to Cornwall. Martin’s goal was epic: to raise money for three charities by running 630 miles over 21 days. This in itself is an incredible challenge, but the path is rough, narrow in places and very, very hilly. I followed Martin’s progress before we set off towards Fowey and looked on as he battled the heat, the rain, the terrain and the subsequent pain.

We were due to arrive in Cornwall the day he ran the section nearest where we were staying, so I planned to head over to the next stage on the Sunday morning. Sadly, Martin succumbed to injury and took an enforced ‘rest’ day that day. I had really looked forward to this run, so decided to cover the ten miles I had planned near our house, so Fowey out towards the west and back. It was stunning, but I soon appreciated what Martin must have been going through in the days before. First up, I found myself in a field of maize (it’s easy right? You just go along the edge of the sea and you can’t get lost?!).

Maize maze

Maize maze

Picking my way through, I was soon on a romantically named road and back in the right direction…

Love

Love

At this point it was raining and I went thump on my bum, with a loud ‘oof!’, yes, this path is really, really challenging! The thing about this kind of running is that you are so focused on the path ahead and keeping your footing, that you almost forget to look up and enjoy the view (perfect excuse to pause and get your breath back).

The view

The view

There were steep hills to conquer, with interesting structures to aim towards…

Look-out

Look-out

There were steps to scramble (imagine doing this in a 20 mile+ day, never mind on a leisurely 10-miler!).

Steep!

Steep!

I didn’t see many people, but those I did see gave me a jolly ‘Good morning!’ and one chap, who was CYCLING along the path (!), stopped to have a chat. This was not London. Every so often, I would find myself in a cove, just me and the water lapping around me. This one was the inspiration for Daphne de Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, giving it an eerie and romantic air.

Menabilly

Menabilly

As I went on, the weather changed and I was getting gradually wetter and wetter, but this felt lovely. The air smelt delicious, the cows lapped up the grass and the structures I had seen on my outward journey slowly disappeared…

Nearly.

Nearly.

I returned to the house, where people had eventually emerged from their bedrooms, feeling refreshed, invigorated and recharged. Martin went on to complete a few more legs of his run, helped along the way by runners who, like me, had wanted to share the experience. His injury put his own running on hold and others took charge of the tracker, to complete the Long Run Home, reaching his fundraising goal along the way. After a few more runs along this path, my ankles ached, my glutes ached and my cheeks ached from all the smiling. Holiday running is just wonderful!

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Hever Castle Triathlon, Olympic Distance

This was my first step into the world of the Olympic Distance triathlon; I was very nervous. The Olympic distance consists of a 1,500m swim (that’s about a mile), a 44km cycle and 10km run. At Hever Castle the swim was to be in a lake and river, a very cold lake and river. Brrrrr. In preparation for this, I took myself off to the Kings Cross Pond Club again last week and managed 30 lengths before I started shivering and had to get out, so I was a little bit nervous about having to be hauled out with hypothermia! But before I could attempt any of this we had to get there.

This was my birthday present from Edward and Hector (yes, I know my birthday is in December, but I do like to milk it!), so we were all set for a nice family day out in Kent. We hired a car (triathlon is an expensive business) and set off bright and early for my 9.45 wave start. Of course, along the way we realised we didn’t have any cash, so took a detour to find a cash machine in the countryside. We also had to pause briefly to deal with poor Hector’s travel sickness and off we went…to join a massive queue to the car park.

Jam

Jam

Due to the wet weather earlier in the week, the car parks were a slippery, muddy mess and there was a tailback of about two miles, with cars populated by twitchy triathletes, eager to get to transition. Eventually, as my start time got closer and closer, we decided to put my bike together and I would cycle down by myself. It’s a good job I did! By the time I reached transition I didn’t have any time to fret and quickly racked my bike, laid out my stuff and put on my wetsuit. The ground was muddy and squelched a bit between my toes as I headed to the water.

Lake

Lake

You see that? That’s where I swam, all the way to the last buoy (which isn’t showing in this photo, taken later in the day), sharp left, then into the river and back round! As we had all been delayed by the traffic situation, the waves were moved back fifteen minutes each (phew!) and we all gathered in our red swimming caps for the pre-race briefing, given by the race director. This was really good, with maps, and very clear but obviously a little scary. Again, this distraction stopped me getting worked up about the upcoming swim and we were soon heading away from the beautiful loggia and into the 14 degree water, gasp. It was an absolute stunner of a morning, with clear blue skies and a lovely golden glow over the water’s surface. I positioned myself near the back and let everybody else head off and do their thing before I eased forward into a tentative breaststroke, head out. I looked at the first buoy, deciding to break it all up into chunks: swim to the first buoy, count your strokes, enjoy the view, breathe out steadily. I chuckled to myself, imagining I would be last out of the water, but I soon passed other swimmers and caught up with those ahead of me, ticking off the buoys as I went. At the far end of the lake we turned towards the Japanese tea pavilion (yes, it’s a very fancy sort of a swim) and into the river Eden, under a bridge and around a bend. There was a lot of this around the bend thing in this section and I would approach each turning afresh and aim for the next corner. It was along here that I thought it might be nice to thank one of the marshals in a kayak, not a great idea when your chin has set frozen and you swallow a load of water. I overtook some more swimmers and started to hear the noise from the start/end point, I wondered if the boys had made it to the car park yet and looked out for them as I swam to the swim-out area. This was being assisted by some Speedo people, putting out a helping hand as you reached the edge. I made the mistake of putting my foot down and felt it sink into mud that was the texture of marshmallow! Climbing out, I reached for my zip and heard Edward and Hector cheering my name. I kissed Edward, feeling a great sense of relief at having completed this swim: ‘You’re so cold!’ he shouted as I ran to transition.

Relief

Relief

This was where I thought the otherwise excellent organisation was lacking, just a clear sign at the end of each row where you come in from the swim would make it so much easier. Luckily I had taken a look at what was at the end of my row, so located a big red flag at one of the stalls and tried to pick out my bike amongst the many others. I peeled off my wetsuit but couldn’t find anywhere to lay it, the bikes were all so close together, so I fumbled about for longer than I had hoped, guzzled a gel, downed some drink and ran along the exit and bike mount area, trying to stay upright in the mud. It took great concentration to exit safely, with the mud being covered by big plastic boards, which were tricky to negotiate on a road bike. Over some speed bumps, around a corner and out of the grounds to the bike leg.

Concentration

Concentration

From this point Edward and Hector had a fair bit of time to fill as I disappeared out into the Kentish countryside, so amused themselves with all the great stuff on offer…a bit of archery.

Archer

Archer

Some trampolining.

Boing!

Boing!

And even some bungee jumping πŸ™‚

Happy

Happy

Meanwhile, I was getting my head round cycling in a race along open roads. Not that I go that fast, but you really have to have your wits about you when dealing with potholes, other cyclists (some overtaking at speed) and cars. The whole two-lap bike course was well sign-posted and marshalled and I didn’t have to stop and wait at road junctions at any point. Every so often I would pass residents who had come out to cheer (thank you) and was given a boost when we cycled past the in/out area each lap – there was a woman at the roadside who called out ‘come on lady!’ each time, I think she probably did this for every female competitor (I did feel we were very much outnumbered by the men). Before I knew it I was bobbing back over the speed bumps and into T2. Here I did a double-take as a woman’s voice reached my ears from the crowds along the edge. I had just swum a mile, cycled 40k and the thing she thought to call out was: ‘Oh, snotty face’. Yes, really. Thanks for appreciating my effort.

Racking the bike in T2 is always a wobbly sort of moment, the legs were still spinning, my toes were still numb and it was a very wobbly, hobbly affair. Edward and Hector called out some encouragement and I headed off into the woods, wishing I could feel my toes. I guzzled some more gel – yuck. I felt able to run steadily and enjoyed the setting, it really is quite a lovely race. Along the route there were water/gel stations and many of the volunteers were teenagers who were so incredibly enthusiastic, you couldn’t help but pick up the pace. Briefly. This was a two-lap course and each time we encountered an incredibly muddy down-hill section. I commented to a fellow runner here that I wished I had worn my trail shoes, he said he wished he had entered the sprint! A nice straight stretch towards the beautiful castle and around then up a hill, a steep and cruel hill. I had one of those moments where I wished I hadn’t noticed someone walking and walked myself 😦 I normally love a hill, but I really was knackered by now. Through the finish area and into lap two but not before going over a cheeky little footbridge that felt like Mount Snowdon. I knew I only had a few more kilometres to go, but had to guzzle gels and neck water to get me there, I really was struggling by now, none of the nasty cramp I had at the London Duathlon last week, just sheer tiredness. As I tackled the hill for the second time, I knew it wasn’t far, so sped up to cross the line with my hands in the air.

Finished

Finished

The finish area was excellent, like a bit of a food fest! There was coconut water, cola, water water, water melon, melon, oranges, Soreen, biscuits…pretty much something for everyone! I couldn’t get enough of the watermelon, so took some time to refuel before gathering my bike from transition. It had taken me three-and-a-half hours to complete the race, quite a lot longer than I had hoped, but I was so happy to have done that swim, probably the slowest swim I’ve ever done, but still! We spent some time afterwards enjoying the beautiful grounds and refuelling before heading home for steak and chips. I would definitely recommend this race, it’s rather wonderful, if challenging. Hector asked if we would go there again, saying ‘Maybe if we do, it will be because I’m doing a triathlon’. I think he’s tempted πŸ˜‰

Hever Castle

Hever Castle

Summer Round-Up

Arrrghhgh! Where has the summer gone?! I’m braving it and trying to keep the toes out for as long as I possibly can, but I felt decidedly chilly on this morning’s first-school-run-of-year-four (I know, year four!!). It really does seem like yesterday that I was picking Hector up from school with the whole, long, warm (?!) summer holidays ahead of us, and here we are in September. It was a lovely summer holiday, with lots of fun activities, many active…

Body Boarding in Dorset

Body Boarding in Dorset

Some less active…

Crumble-bound

Crumble-bound

Some that involved getting muddy…

In Deptford Creek

In Deptford Creek

And some that involved getting wet…

Royal Victoria Docks

Royal Victoria Docks

This last image shows the Royal Victoria Docks in East London. Some readers might know this from the London Triathlon – this is the same body of water that thousands of tri-hopefuls leap into each year. You can now go swimming here on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give it a try. The opening times are limited obviously, so I found myself setting my alarm for silly o’clock one Sunday morning, in an attempt to cycle over there, swim and get back in time to volunteer at Hilly Fields junior parkrun. Phew! It was, incidentally, the same weekend as the London Triathlon and some of the roads were closed and already being sped along by eager athletes, so I sort of got lost-ish on my way. It was ok though, because I found an equally bemused cyclist heading in the same direction. We chatted open-water as we pedalled and it turned out this chap was training to swim the channel. Yes, the channel. I bowed as much as you can bow whilst riding a bike. Needless to say, he was off in his speedos as soon as we got there, whereas I, in my usual nervous-numpty mode sat sadly on the side, unable to get in. You see, the steps that are usually there were not there, they had been removed because they were not safe. I was told it was ok though “…because it’s about twenty feet deep, so you can dive in”. To many swimmers this would be an invitation to splash, but I instantly froze at the thought of:

a) twenty feet deep

and

b) dive in

and gently swished my toes in the perfectly still, calm, golden sunrise water while others jumped in and swam off into the distance. A very kind coach came over and chatted to me, giving me some tips about what to do when I got in (roll onto my back, allow some water into my wetsuit). I knew I would be fine once I got in, but I was stuck. Eventually I gave myself a good old talking to and reminded myself that there was a kayaker lifeguard there to call out to if I really couldn’t do it. And shalumph, I plopped in and rolled onto my back. It was fine. I couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful morning for it and set off towards a big red buoy at a steady heads-out breaststroke. Numpty. I had decided that I would swim the 400 or so meters around and back to the pontoon and maybe go around again if I felt good. I did and I did. Maybe trying to do this kind of thing on a tight schedule is not a good idea and I should give myself more time. To get in.

Lots more open-water swimming was done on our camping trip to Dorset, some lovely sea swims after sandy runs along the beach at Studland. I am ok once I’m in the water, I just need to be able to ease myself in slowly. Maybe diving is the next challenge, but I’ll need to be pushed…anyone?

So, what’s next?

In three weeks I will be taking on the London Duathlon again. Remember last year when I pushed so hard (and neglected hydration and fuelling so much) that I threw up at the end? Well, this year I will be finishing with a smile on my face and hopefully not needing to lie down in a crumpled heap. The following week I will be stepping up to the Olympic distance triathlon at Hever Castle. I am properly nervous about this. Every time I read about it, it’s billed as being tough, with a ‘technical’ bike course and challenging trail run. But hey, the swim is in a beautiful lake (and river!) in the grounds of a stunner of a castle! Eek! There are events following these, but I’ll just get these two out of the way first shall I?! πŸ˜‰

Summer Breeze 10k Race Report

(Almost a week after the event, whoops!)

I was intrigued by the idea of running a race that starts at 4pm and it was a good job too, it took me ages to get to Wimbledon Common from SE London! The Summer Breeze Running Festival consists of a 10k, half-marathon and a crazy 12-hour, through-the-night relay (or solo, really!). As we arrived I glanced at the hardcore few who were sitting relaxing around their tents.

Sleep-run-relayers

Sleep-run-relayers

I had imagined, with it being such a long series of events, there might be more to it and had dragged Edward and Hector along for the ride. There were a couple of stalls, a yoga tent and some live music, but it was quite low-key – this was ok because Hector soon found a piece of cordon tape to jump over for about an hour, before he and Edward moved around the course to offer some support.

Hi-five!

Hi-five!

It was great getting a (low) hi-five early on, it really made me smile and pushed me to go a little faster…

Wimbledon Wombling

Wimbledon Wombling

The course is lovely, all trail and through the woods. It had been an overcast day, but the sun had come out good and proper just as the race started, but the trees offered shade, although it was humid and this made it hard work. The course was very well sign-posted, with arrows, km markers and little hi-viz markers on the ground every-so-often. The marshals were all very friendly and encouraging, with smiles and kind comments all round. I loved the variety on the course, with lots of tree roots to negotiate and some really tough hills. One hill was long, up and up and up and another seemed to loom out of nowhere as I turned a corner. It looked like a sand dune (and felt like it in the heat) so I gritted my teeth, part grin, part grimace and went for it. Puffing and panting for air, I scrambled down the other side and enjoyed the pull of gravity back into the shade of the trees. I soon started to see the front-runners from the half-marathon passing by in the opposite direction, looking strong, so gave a few nods and well dones. At this point, the humidity was getting to me so I grabbed a cup of water and took a little slurp – not something I normally do in a 10k. As the race neared the last few kilometres, it took some interesting twists and turns – at one point I wondered where everyone had gone, only to find they had taken a sharp left and then right! We were now in the field with the finish in sight πŸ™‚ I saw the boys, Hector with his hand out for one last hi-five: “You’ll have to run with me! I’m not stopping!”. I could see a couple of women ahead of me and, out of nowhere, found it in me to give a sprint finish (no way!).

Bling shot

Bling shot

I was given a lovely medal, a t-shirt (hmmm, not sure about the colour though – men had blue, women had pink, but the *wrong* shade of pink, maybe something less pastel would be more suitable…please πŸ˜‰ ), water, coconut water, a banana and a copy of Women’s Running magazine. Lovely! Once the results were out I had a look through and found that a small field leads to some pleasing stats: tenth woman (!) and third in age group. All the more reason to run smaller, challenging races!

Juneathon, Week 2, A Round-Up

We’re half-way through, already?! What a week! A varied, hot and sticky, cold and wet, fast and furious sort of a week. I continued in my quest to overcome my open-water fears by jumping into the Serpentine Lido in my lovely new wetsuit:

Suited up

Suited up

I took part in a beginners’ session with RG Active, which saw me putting my face in the – slightly green – water and even managing to swim in a straight line! (I will write more about this in another post).

On Friday I got myself back into my date-with-the-velopark, which I missed for two weeks due to a certain Sir Bradley smashing the hour record and half-term getting in the way. I love my little trips up to Stratford with my bike. A quiet spin around the road circuit is just what I need at the end of the week, I always feel invigorated and floaty afterwards.

Post-ride feet up

Post-ride feet up

After a wet and wheely week, my weekend was all about the running. On Saturday I volunteered up at Hilly Fields parkrun then headed over to Wimbledon in the afternoon for a lovely 10k trail race (more about this in another post).

Blingy

Blingy

Sunday was all about Hector, the boy who ‘doesn’t like running’. A little while ago, if you asked Hector if he enjoyed running, he would say: ‘I like cycling and swimming, but not running’. Quite firmly. Since he started junior parkrun, he seems to have caught the bug! I had signed us all up to run the City of London Mile and, when I told Hector he would miss junior parkrun on Sunday, he left the dinner table to have a little cry. So we did both!

junior parkrunner

junior parkrunner

After some running (and volunteering from the parents), we rushed over to St Paul’s where I quickly took part in the women’s mile, then a quick number change and Edward, Hector and I ran our first race together. I was so very proud of Hector, he ran all the way, steadily keeping pace and, when I asked him in the last stretch if he wanted to hold our hands or go through by himself, he picked up the pace and said ‘By myself!’.

First race number

First race number

Monday: Last-minute before bed run, oops!
Tuesday: School run run, swim session in the Serpentine
Wednesday: Local pool swim
Thursday: Slightly feeble cycle to the station and back, too busy for anything else 😦
Friday: Ride around the Velopark circuit (sigh) and a quick swim during H’s lesson
Saturday: 10k Summer Breeze race in Wimbledon (tenth lady!!)
Sunday: Women’s Mile and Family Mile at the City of London Mile.

All in all, a lovely active week πŸ™‚

Running: 24.4km
Swimming: 3km 300m
Cycling: 43.7km

The Fit Family

The Fit Family

New Balance New Shoes

I recently had the chance to go along and see the new range of shoes and apparel from New Balance. Having tried out a few of their shoes now, I’m always keen to see what they’re bringing out and any new innovations they have up their (lycra?) sleeve.

Running shoes running track

Running shoes running track

Something that stood out were the new style Fresh Foam shoes, which feature a Fresh Foam midsole and durable blown rubber outsole, which responds to the runner’s footstrike and impact patterns. This has been carried over into the 980v1 trail shoe, to give a more natural feel under foot on varied terrain.

980v1 Trail

980v1 Trail

I was particularly interested in the underside of the shoes (yeah, I know, geek), and like what they’ve done:

Grippy

Grippy

I have found trail shoes that have too deep a groove just pick up sticky mud as you go and you end up clomping around with heavy, solid feet. These grooves are just deep enough to grip and have the teeth running towards the back for the upward climb…and they’re light. Excellent!

I’ve recently been trying out some NB trail running shoes:

Autumnal shoes

Autumnal shoes

The Leadville 1210 has been made especially for ultra runners and has a tough Vibram outsole to cope with different terrains, but has been stripped of any unnecessary extras to lessen the chance of rubbing on longer distances. I haven’t exactly been going that far in them, but have certainly put them through their paces on slippery hills and wet paths.

Box fresh

Box fresh

They’re a lovely looking shoe (not that this means a thing once they’re caked in mud) and feel light enough to be responsive. I always find NB shoes to be a bit tight, so tend to go up half a size, but this pair are one whole size bigger, which makes them a little loose for my narrow feet – I think they are roomy to allow for the inevitable swelling that happens over longer distances. I would definitely recommend trying them on and giving them a test to make sure you get the right size, so important when you’re taking on epic distances.

Petts Wood 10k, 2014

Remember this time last year, when I ran my first race in a long, long time, splashed through mud and puddles and came home with a great big smile on my face? Well, I enjoyed it so much I went back for more. The weather had been pretty much the same as last year, with lots of rain in the week and a good soaking through the night but, travelling over to the race, I knew I would just have to contend with some good muddy bits and a few tree roots this time. Thankfully the trains were running as normal and my journey was quite straightforward. Now, these 10.30 starts are a bit of a funny one and I was wondering if this might be contributing to my poor race experiences recently. For parkrun, I am up at my usual time, eating breakfast as normal and ready to get going for the 9am start, but when things are shifted back a bit, I’m thinking that maybe I need to introduce an extra drink along the way…more of this later.

Getting off the train, I started chatting to another lycra-clad woman, who was running the Petts Wood 10k for the first time, and we sauntered towards the playing fields with further running types. I could hear music as we approached, and there was a general buzz in the Petts Wood air, how lovely then to find that the music was live and the field was filled with happy faces and a feeling of excitement. There’s a real local feel to this event, with lots of families turning out to cheer people on and residents coming out into their gardens to encourage you around the course. Once I was registered and had fixed my number in place, we were soon taking our positions in the starting pens. Based on recent runs, I put myself in the 45-50 minute section and bobbed up and down on the spot to keep warm. After a once round the field, we headed out onto the road and towards the woods with cheers all the way.

Musical encouragement

Musical encouragement

Last year I had embraced the rain and simply had some fun, leaping over and into puddles, but today, as it was dry, I felt a little pressure to push harder, but wasn’t really feeling the push. It’s quite a narrow course in places, and you could find yourself stuck behind a slower runner, but people were very polite about it all (and as I felt like the slow one at times, I was glad of this!). The lovely people of Petts Wood Runners had positioned marshals throughout and had very thoughtfully pointed out tree roots and obstacles using a sprinkling of flour to catch your eye. I found the KM markers were appearing quite quickly, but was really slowed down by a long muddy hill around the 7k mark. Head down, I slogged my way up but, on reaching the top, had to duck to the side and subject those around me to a moment of hideousness as I almost threw up (what is going on?!). A few deep breaths and I was back in action.

There had been rumblings at the start that the band might reappear in the woods, so what joy to hear their jolly tones as I struggled through the trees, and they were so well placed, just before a sharp turn and one last hill. Smiling supporters and encouraging marshals pushed us onwards: ‘Just 2k to go!’ and the road felt good and steady after the uneven ground we had trodden until now. I looked at my watch and clung to the hope that I might go sub-50, but it wasn’t to be, and I rolled in after 53 minutes of determined discomfort. Compared with recent 10k times, this was a little disappointing, but I will remind myself that it’s a tough course, I wasn’t feeling great and, on looking at last year’s results, I took around seven minutes off my previous time!

On crossing the line, I was handed a medal, water, a banana and had the option of a samosa, which looked lovely, but…I collected my bag from the perfectly organised baggage area and instead bought myself a cup of tea and a piece of walnut loaf. Perfect.

Refuel

Refuel

Heading home, I felt ok and met the boys – who had been swimming – when I reached Lewisham. Hector was starving so we went in search of beans (it had to be beans) and ended up in Lewisham Wimpy (!). Everything was so much better all round after a bit of food and we did some shopping and headed home. This was where I started to feel unwell (again). I felt exhausted and my stomach wasn’t right. I was nauseous and weak, as if I’d run a marathon, not a 10k. So, what’s going wrong here? I made sure I ate well on Saturday and had plenty to drink, I had porridge for breakfast and again, had plenty to drink ahead of the race. I ate and drank straight after finishing and had lunch not long after, but still I felt awful. I have a ten mile race on Sunday, and don’t feel super confident right now! Any thoughts on why this is happening and what I can do?