November Round-Up

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.

Me and Roni

Me and Roni

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 😉


PB or not PB?

That is the question. I ran around the track this morning. I wanted to see how fast I could run 5k. My legs have been a bit heavy since Tuesday so I wasn’t expecting much. I set off and, at the end of the first lap I glanced at my Garmin, which wasn’t registering distance or pace, so I fiddled around for a moment and still nothing was happening so I just kept going. Part way round lap 2 it picked up a signal but the pace was something daft like 24 minute miles. On I went, gritting my teeth, slightly disheartened by the lack of cooperation from my wrist mate, but determined to stick to the pace I had reached. When I finished my 5k I was slightly disappointed with the time as it appeared on my watch, but boosted by the kind comments from the gym manager who was marvelling at how ‘strong’ I had looked all the way around 🙂

Now I’m back home I’ve uploaded the run and this is what it says:

So, any ideas? Did I run under 26 minutes? I’m hoping the 25.45 ‘moving time’ is the one. If so, I’m getting there, if not, must work harder.

Toughing it out

Yesterday I managed to over-commit slightly in the running department: a friend has decided to start an informal running group for beginners on a Tuesday morning and I offered to help by joining in. When I thought about this it occurred to me that Tuesday in my new world is also Running Club Night. Oh dear. So, being a committed sort of person, I found myself in the park first thing and last thing, pounding the paths. It was nice to run with Helen, who has been out with an injury for months, so needed the motivation to test her body and see if things really are ready to go again. The sun was shining and the park looked gorgeous with its golden autumnal glow. For some reason I was out in the cold in capri tights, my lower legs all cold and goosebumpy, when really I should be thinking about wrapping myself up in something like this (and maybe even wearing these under my jeans on Parkrun duty – all that standing around cheering people on is limb-numbing on a frosty morning!).

I had tried to take it easy on my first run, knowing I would need some miles in my legs for the evening session, there were moments where I wished I hadn’t ventured out in lycra that morning, this club run was possibly the toughest session I have ever done. Now I like a hill, it’s in my Welsh blood, I am a mountain goat, but this was a Proper Hill Session, none of that thing I do by myself, where I run up a hill and jog back down, repeat, then saunter along on the flat. Did I mention it was tough? We started with a mile around the track to warm up, then we ran up to Hilly Fields, where we gathered at the bottom of a hill (the one by the phone box, for anyone who knows the area) where we were informed of our fate. We were to run up this hill, take a left and run down the hill on the other side, that’s run down the hill, no holding back, heel to toe. We would wait at the far corner for three minutes and come back the other way. This was to be repeated four times on each side. Yes really. Then off everyone went, fast. On the first one I wondered if this was going to be the session that would make me vomit (it didn’t), and wondered if my legs would have felt this bad if I had missed the morning run (probably), I also found that running fast down hill in the dark whilst avoiding other runners, potholes and the odd wandering dog out for its evening pee is scary. As the session went on I wondered if I really had it in me to complete the task in hand, my legs felt like lead, my chest hurt and I momentarily hated running, but things kind of warmed up a bit. The thing I like about repeating a lap is the moment where you are not sure how many you’ve done and (hopefully) you’ve under-counted, so the last two seemed to come round fairly fast. Not wishing to be overtaken at the end by the woman who had overtaken me without fail at the same point each lap, I legged it, arms pumping, face tense and it felt good. Just look at these stats!


Breakfast with Champions

Well, I am one very lucky lady! I simply clicked ‘Like’ on the Holiday Inn Facebook page and won the chance to run with Paula Radcliffe and Shelly Woods. The strangest thing about all of this for me, other than running alongside my heroine, was peeling myself quietly away from the boys as they slept and venturing out into the commuter world in the early hours. I watched as a steady stream of regulars took up their everyday spot on the platform and headed to the doors as the train sneaked up silently in the dark. I was amazed to see that the train was full, at 6am! Emerging from Charing Cross I noticed sleepers huddled in doorways, something I don’t usually see in my sheltered south London world, and I wondered if these commuters still notice them as they pass the same shop doorways every day.

As I arrived at the Holiday Inn Bloomsbury I was greeted by other eager-looking runners who were milling about expectantly, awaiting the arrival of our Olympic stars. I was slightly disappointed that Shanaze wasn’t riding her BMX around the foyer…then Paula strolled in. She’s tiny, really, you could blow her over, and so elegant, oh how I wish I could roll up at the end of a marathon looking as fresh as she does!

We were walked over to Russell Square where we tried our best to keep warm while Paula was interviewed by ITV Daybreak (I have had a scan through on the Player, but can’t see anything, maybe it’s going to be on tomorrow’s show) while we did some ‘stretching’ and jumping up and down in the background.

Paula being prepared for interview. And yes, that's her body guard!

The event was all very well organised, with security people and even St John’s Ambulance on bikes!

Thankfully, his services were not needed!

Before we set off we did some – much-needed – warming-up with Paula and Shelly.

Warming up

We then set off around Russell Square for a mile run. Here I was, next to the woman who has been my heroine for such a very long time, and actually keeping up!

Race ya Paula!

Suddenly I found myself next to Paula and simply didn’t know what to say, but she really is as lovely as she seems and we chatted easily for a while. I was interested in what happens next and she told me she is off to the Pyrenees to train with the other athletes. I asked her when she gets to see her family in this busy schedule and she said they will be with her. I told her about how I used to run with Hector in the running buggy and we chatted about how odd it is to run with a buggy. Just like talking to any other running mum really! On our last lap of the square we took a turn down a tree-lined path and broke the tape of the finish line, arms in the air, cheers all round.

Back at the hotel we were warmed up with hot drinks and a lovely breakfast (not porridge!) and Paula and Shelly very kindly signed things for us and posed for photos (in which I look a right gormless duh) then held a quick Q&A session. I talked to other runners, all with different goals and experiences, some running London this weekend, some with 100 marathons in their sight.

Paula and me

Shelly and me!

Shelly is competing in this Sunday’s London Marathon (which she has previously won) and seemed calm and relaxed in the run up to the Olympic Games. When asked who inspired her, she said ‘This lady here’ and pointed at Paula Radcliffe.

Right now I am buzzing from this experience. I got to run alongside a world record holder, and two London Marathon winners both heading towards London 2012. What a start to a drizzly Thursday morning!

Best wishes

Distance run: 1.01 miles

Time: 9 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 9.34

Best Pace: 7.22

Calories: 69

(and Shelly and Paula didn’t even break a sweat!)


Give Blood Tuesday

This morning I gave blood for the first time. I had intended to do so during Janathon, prompted by Cassie, who is a regular donor, but I couldn’t go due to the lurgy and then I couldn’t go in February because I was STILL full of lurgy so today it was: Give Blood Tuesday. I found myself in a big lorry on Lewisham Market, squished in with all the other eager blood-givers, answering questions in a cupboard then lying on a bed listening to golden oldies on the radio and pumping my hand in and out (and trying to remember to squeeze my thighs and buttocks – I must have looked like a very obvious first-timer!). I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment (they were seeing over 100 people today!) but I managed to get one within the hour and was then in and out within 45 minutes. And you get to drink squash and eat biscuits (or crisps) though I felt rude taking the biscuits without being offered, so just sipped my squash quietly. I’m booked in for July now and will try to give blood whenever I can. If you would like to know more visit the website here.

The school run is going well, though the runs are not that eventful, hence the lack of blog. I did do a sort of double last Friday: our neighbour happened to be taking her daughter by car and offered us a lift as we were stepping out of the house but, as they weren’t leaving for a while, Hector took off his coat. Of course, when we got to school in the nice warm car, I realised we’d left the coat at home. To avert a meltdown I promised to run to school with it as quickly as I could. So I got a lift home, grabbed the coat, ran to school with it under my arm and then ran home again at a more leisurely pace! This morning I felt good and offered a friendly smile and a jolly ‘Hi!’ to a woman I saw stretching in the park. I wasn’t expecting such a contemptuous look in return. I know other runners sometimes like to keep to themselves, but I do like to call out ‘Morning!’ to dog-walkers, runners and anyone I see regularly on my route, and I am often met with a blank expression or completely ignored, but this was downright rude! I always think of this greeting as being an offer of support, like saying ‘well done on getting out’ or ‘keep going’ to a fellow exerciser so I will continue to be a friendly runner and, if I see her again, I will make the smile even bigger. How annoying!

Distance: 3.01 miles

Time: 30 minutes 25 seconds

Average Pace: 10.06

Best Pace: 5.59

Calories: 312


In the pink

This morning’s run was the first in over a month where I have felt fit, strong and healthy. My breathing was good and I felt able to push myself up hill and still have enough breath in my lungs to turn and go up another hill. It felt good. I was out running again last week, fulfilling my school run duties, but each run was accompanied by a soundtrack of coughing and spluttering, so much so that it prompted a man with a very strong Sarf Lahndon accent to comment: ‘Come on love, cough it up, it sounds like you need another fag!’ That’s not the impression I aim to give whilst running!

Once I’d got home and had a shower, I was off out on my bike, running errands. On my ride I noticed two women running on the pavement and also noticed they were wearing ‘barefoot shoes’, one was in Vibrams and one in what looked like some really rather fetching green NBs (I think they must have been these). I was struck by how comfortably they both ran, chatting and moving smoothly along. I am guessing they have been barefoot running for a while because they seemed to be running along the Waterlink Way and not just a quick ‘test run’. I found it inspiring to see how easily they ran and thought about my own Vibram Five Fingers, gathering dust in my wardrobe (I won the Vibrams when I ‘won’ Juneathon a few years ago). I do like the idea of running ‘barefoot’, but have never committed myself to really going for it, unlike Eating Trees, who has even run races in his. I have been running in a lighter shoe and have found it really comfortable and far less cumbersome than my usual Asics. I was sent these lovely pink Puma Faas shoes months ago now, and have had so many comments about how lovely they look, they have become a favourite footwear of choice.

When they were bright and new!

Mine are the Faas 500 shoes, lightweight and good for shorter runs and races of around 5k. The Faas range does have a lighter racing shoe, the Faas 200 and at the other end of the scale, for longer distances, is the Faas 800. I’ve never really thought about the weight of my shoe much, I just go to a running shop and take advice from the assistant there. I am usually training for fairly long distances, so I end up with quite a hefty shoe with lots of cushioning, but I am beginning to wonder if this is what I really need. My runs in the lovely pink Faas 500s have been nippier and I feel far more sprightly and springy of heel. Maybe I should keep going with these for a while then try some short runs in the Vibrams…we’ll see!

Distance: 3.05 miles

Time: 30 minutes 14 seconds

Average Pace: 9.55

Best Pace: 4.44

Calories: 339

Only a week late

It’s been a busy week, but not for running. It has been Hector’s half-term holiday, so mostly spent playing with Lego, being bossed about by someone very small and queueing up for an hour and a half at the South Bank Centre for a children’s super-hero workshop (really, they need to rethink how they run these events, you can’t make children queue up for ANY length of time!). I did go for a run last Sunday and have been mostly recovering from this bloody chest infection thingie that is just not going away – we have both been ill for weeks now but will hopefully be back to full health soon.

I have to cast my mind back a week now. It was cold, I even put on a hat for the first time this winter. It didn’t look snowy or icy but, as soon as I stepped out of our front door, I realised it was incredibly icy. The whole run was a sheet of black ice ahead of me, not great for speed, but I wasn’t looking for speed. I wanted to run further than the school run three miles I’ve been doing recently, but also wanted to spot trolleys and take photos (during Janathon, Travelling Hopefully featured a trolley photo in my honour, so I needed to return the photographic favour).

I was treading very carefully as I headed out towards Greenwich, taking in the Waterlink Way that snakes alongside the DLR line out of Lewisham, a prime Trolley Spotting stretch. Every so often my feet would slip from under me and I was reminded to take it easy and, as I turned around in Greenwich and ran alongside the water, I had to hold onto the railings to stop myself from falling! I thought I might struggle to extend my distance after sticking to short runs for so long (and with a chesty cough still restricting all attempts to breathe deeply), but I found it pleasantly easy and returned feeling refreshed and happy as I saw what the boys had been up to in my absence.

Check out the concentration

Distance: 6.17 miles

Time: 1 hour 3 minutes 39 seconds

Average Pace: 10.19

Best Pace: 8.03

Calories: 703

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