Trail Running with Berghaus

It’s that time of year again, when I pull on my trail shoes and get good and muddy. For now I’m exploring new local routes (and looking forward to the Petts Wood 10k again – what a super muddy experience I had last year!). But, if you are travelling or exploring further afield, you might find these route recommendations useful. I would say the Moel Eilio route in North Wales is possibly the most beautiful, but then I might be a bit biased 😉

favourite uk trail runs infographic
Favourite UK Trail Runs Infographic

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Race the Cake

There’s Race the Train, Race the Horse and now Race the Cake. I knew I wanted to get out and run this morning while Edward and Hector headed off for a swim. Edward was mixing up a marble cake as I left and asked if I would be in to take it out of the oven…er, no! ‘It takes an hour’ he said ‘Ok, I’ll be back in an hour’ I replied.

I legged it off down the Waterlink Way. I wanted to go slightly further than my other runs this week, so had 10k in mind – just within the cake removal time-slot. The sun shone, the earth was frosty and I saw runners at every turn. First of all I was greeted by friendly ‘Hello’s from running club friends, then I stopped for a chat with a group of Parkrun friends who were having a sociable run together. After a brief ‘how should we keep our shoes clean after a muddy Hilly Fields run?’ pause, I went on my way. Yesterday I ran Hilly Fields for a change. It was tough. It was muddy (see new image at the top of this page). I pushed myself hard, I skidded around, trying not to fall, I struggled up the steep hill, my feet failing to get a grip, and I pushed myself and others on to the finish. According to my watch I had a (Hilly Fields) PB, but my official time shows a second slower 😦 I might just run again next week and see if I can crack it.

Even with this heavy run in my legs I still managed to fly this morning, I hadn’t expected much, just a slow run, but I felt good, strong and flew along the path with ease. It feels great when a run gives you that buzz. As I reached home, I expected to be greeted by the smell of baking, but found a note saying: ‘I didn’t want to leave the oven on, can you put the cake in?’ One of the many reasons I have to run:

Marble

Marble

So, this was my fifth run this week – one more than I ‘pledged’ to complete on the Jantastic website. I also managed two swims, but no ride. I think I need to get out and go, see how far I get, see if my legs like the sensation of spin, spin, spin…

Distance: 6.23 miles
Time: 56.18 minutes
Average Pace: 9.02 minute miles
Calories: 626

New Goals

Happy New Year! Usually about this time, I am fighting a continual battle with myself to get out of the door and work off some of that holiday indulgence bulge in the name of Janathon. This time I didn’t really think about it, I just didn’t fancy making myself feel guilty if I didn’t get out, and to just enjoy my running (and other activities) for the sake of it. I do enjoy following everyone’s progress though and was prompted to write a blog post after reading this from Running Matters… This morning, as I gathered up some very muddy cones from the Hilly Fields Parkrun course, I had a quick conversation with regular runner Jez about Janathon. He mentioned how hard it is to keep up with the blogging and I proudly informed him that I was one of the early Juneathoners…and even ‘won’ it one year! It’s hard to imagine that now, with hundreds taking part, and some hard-core types clocking more miles in a day than I could run in a week. Good luck to everyone taking part, and enjoy!

During 2013 I ran simply for the fun of it, leaving bigger goals aside for a while and just making the most of the buzz and encouragement I feel from volunteering as Run Director at Hilly Fields. Almost every week I cheer people on to achieve their own goals and sometimes push myself around the course and see if I can beat my PB. In the past few months I have entered a couple of local 10k races and loved every second. First was the Petts Wood 10k, which was more of a mud-slide than a run and then I enjoyed the company of the Run Dem Crew at the Greenwich Movember 10k. The pace I found myself running at has prompted me to enter a few more races and see if I can crack the 10k PB I set about ten years ago, of 52 minutes. My other goal for 2014 is to branch out a bit and try a tri. Yup, I’m going for it! I think a good one to aim for is the local Crystal Palace Triathlon, which usually takes place in May – enough time to get my head, and my body, around it…and the swim bit is in a pool. I know, I know, I’m wussying out, but I think I need to ease into that crazy ‘pile in all together, arms flailing and get your head kicked as you aim for a distant buoy’ thing. So this will be a year of three disciplines, and seeing how well I can divide my time to find enough proficiency in all three to do a triathlon justice.

On New Year’s Eve, we were very sad to hear that a fellow Parkrunner and blogger, Zoe had passed away. We had the pleasure of meeting Zoe and her husband Stephen a couple of times in the past few months (both at Parkruns) and kept up with her determination to reach her 50th Parkrun whilst visiting many new runs as a ‘tourist’ along the way. I am sure that those who have been lucky enough to meet Zoe and Stephen were inspired by Zoe’s spirit of adventure (she and Stephen have also been on many Geocaching adventures in recent times), determination and the support and encouragement she has offered other runners over the years. I had intended to ‘dedicate’ my New Year’s Day Parkrun to Zoe but, as I found myself lost and wandering around unfamiliar streets in Manchester (in the rain), I put this on hold. I think it fitting that I dedicate today’s Hilly Fields Parkrun to Zoe: this time I was volunteering, cheering people on, surrounded by friends in the mud and the rain, something I know Zoe has found so enjoyable in the past year.

Autumn fun

Last time I wrote I was still crawling back from the depths of a cold, which seems such a long time ago now (sorry, I’ve been busy having fun!). I booked myself a place at the Petts Wood 10k ages ago, prompted by my Parkrun buddies Siggy and Stephen, who belong to the Petts Wood Runners, and were dutifully positioned around the course to shout out encouragement and generally say nice stuff to make you feel good and not like the wet, muddy mess you really were. Of course, in true FitArtist style, I had good intentions of training hard towards the 10k distance, but in reality I ran a few hills, did a few longer runs and succumbed to The Cold in the weeks leading up to the race. Race day dawned and it was absolutely chucking it down and had been all night. Not the light, refreshing sort of rain, but the heavy, sideways, not-going-to-let-up kind of rain. ‘Oh well’ I thought as I worked out a long-winded bus journey to get there during Sunday engineering work hell.

Eventually, I made my way onto the cricket ground that plays host to the start and finish of the race, and nodded knowingly to other hardy souls who ploughed on, heads down. I must say, I was immediately impressed by the slick organisation of the event, which was apparent even through the sheeting rain and across the slide of mud. Once registered and rid of bag, coat and umbrella, I huddled under a gazebo with a shivering group, who talked mostly about the weather and what might lie ahead, accompanied by the tempting smells wafting over from the bacon roll tent. Before long we edged reluctantly to the start line and cheered each wave as they set off (yes, this small race even has a wave start and chip timing!). This was where my smiles began. I couldn’t help but break into a wide grin as I splashed through puddles and avoided slipping all over the place as we made our way onto the residential road and out towards the woods. You might imagine that a 10k run in these conditions would be hell, but I would go as far as to say that the rain added to the fun: I had no time to think about how far I had run or how fast (or rather slow) I was going as I kept my eye on the deep, dark puddles beneath my feet and avoided tripping on tree roots and rocks.

A couple of years ago I did Grim in Aldershot with Grant and Tom, and I would say that this race was on a par with that, but on my doorstep and way cheaper to enter! I quickly realised that there was no point in trying to go round the mud and puddles, so leapt in them with abandon, often squealing with delight. Around the route were the friendliest marshals you are ever likely to encounter in the rain, and I thanked every one of them as I went. Lovely people. Before I knew it I was heading out of the woods and back towards the recreation ground, encouraged by a few determined locals, who happily urged us on from their driveways. I managed a sprint finish of sorts, my shoes heavy and full of water and, once across the line, I was handed a medal, a banana (by a gorilla, really) and a warm samosa (excellent post-race food) and I quickly joined the queue to retrieve my belongings so I could buy a steaming cup of tea to ward off blue lips. I will be entering this race again next year for sure, but only if they arrange rain for me.

I rode the bus home like this...

I rode the bus home like this…

I am loving this gorgeous Autumn weather (though I have got annoyingly wet pretty much every time I’ve left the house in the past few days), especially the leaves and the bright skies.

Coordinating with nature

Coordinating with nature

With half-term coming up next week, I will be making the most of the warm weather and glowing trees, pulling on my walking shoes and doing some conker-gathering and bat spotting (a cool Halloween event we’re looking forward to…).

Coming next: a return to club night.

I feel good…

Da-da-da-da-da-da-dum! There I was, in the school playground, surrounded by umbrellas and rain-coated parents, embracing the drizzle in my lycra running gear when a fellow mum tapped me on the shoulder:

“You’re dedicated!” she said “You can do it for all of us!”

Good and grimy

Good and grimy

So I did.

I don’t put a great deal of thought into my school run runs, I just turn up in my gear, drop Hector off and run away(!) in a randomly chosen direction. Today it was upwards towards Hilly Fields. On Saturday I am run director for our pre-Christmas Parkrun, so wanted to check out the course and see just how muddy it is. We have asked people to don their Christmassy gear to get into the festive spirit, but I think it might be wise to choose wellies over running shoes this time! I pushed hard up the hills and slightly wussed out along the off-road paths that our course takes, choosing the pavement over the ‘pond’. I did, however, head up ‘The Hill’ and splashed through a mud-slide with a big smile on my face. I’m just glad I had on my trusty trail shoes and not my pretty purple ones:

Squelch, squelch

Squelch, squelch

I was absolutely drenched when I got back, but felt great: there’s nothing like a wet, muddy morning run to lift you out of the doldrums. It looks like the rain is here to stay, no white Christmas for us Londoners, so I should get used to it, especially as January approaches and we have JogBlog on our backs, nagging encouraging us to sign up for Janathon 2013. If you don’t already know about Janathon, it’s the slightly evil twin sister of the warmer and less gritty Juneathon, where a growing group of runners/joggers/plodders get together in virtual and real space to share their love of getting out and about in running shoes. The idea is that you get out every day for the month of January and run/walk/cycle/spin/gym/skip/whatever it is that gets your heart pumping and then blog about it. You can find out all the ins and outs and sign your life away up here. Watch out though, it’s addictive and you will find yourself getting up in the middle of the night or running home from the pub to fit in a run. Really.

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 35 minutes 47 seconds

Average Pace: 10.52

Best Pace: 7.44

Calories: 432

Janathon Day 15: GRIM

Our alarm went off at a weekday sort of time, and Hector popped up with: ‘Today is going to be a very fun day!’ How can you roll over and try for a few more minutes with such enthusiasm?! So, off we headed after our porridge, towards Aldershot for Grim, which had been postponed from December due to it being way too icy and snowy to even get there. We spent a bit of time keeping warm before the start,

and Hector eyed up this little puddle:

fun for all the family 🙂

We then met up with fellow running bloggers and Juneathon participants, Hauling my Carcass and Eating Trees, who very kindly said they would run with me – I’m sure they could have gone faster, but Grim is about more than racing.

And so to the start. We soon encountered a little puddle and noticed the other runners going around it, not wishing to miss out, we ran straight through it. Oh, how I gasped! This became the default noise for me at each encounter with water: a gasping, gulping, yelping scream…of joy! We then carried on to bigger, deeper puddles and through squelchy mud. I soon realised that I might just spend the whole of this race with a big grin on my face. Having run the race last time, the boys were able to tell me what was coming up, and knew just which points we needed to give each other support and when we could run with abandonment. I found myself putting out a helping hand to a woman who was suddenly submerged next to me, a look of horror on her face.

There were sections that I found quite challenging, areas of open ground with rocks under foot and a head wind to slow me down, it was these bits that verged on the grim for me, the puddles and the mud were an absolute joy. Possibly my favourite moment was the muddy pool where we lifted a scramble net over our heads (possibly more for support than anything). We waited patiently for the people ahead of us to go through and gradually sunk deeper and deeper into the mud and, each time I tried to lift my foot out, I feared that it would come out minus the shoe! So off we went into the muddiest, squelchiest pool of oozing brown sludge that I have ever seen. What fun! I had wished that Edward and Hector had witnessed this moment, but they saw us after we’d had a wash in a rather deep puddle…

After this point we went on to slippery, muddy hills (up and down), more exposed running and some deliciously cold and refreshing puddles – I started to find these quite cooling as my legs and feet began to suffer. Next came a long run, through woods and up and down man-made sand dunes, I even began to feel my toes here, and feel quite warm. It’s interesting that this approximately eight mile run (I heard people saying it was nearer nine miles) actually felt more like a half-marathon – once you are soaked through and have put your legs through this extreme challenge, it all seems so much harder. Just as one final treat, we were given the opportunity to wash off all the mud with one last puddle before the finish line.

We look quite clean don’t we? I promise you, we did actually get very dirty!

I didn’t wear my Garmin, I even popped my wedding ring onto Edward’s little finger, but my chip time on the website is:

01:46:30

Thank you to my lovely team-mates for encouraging me to keep on going and for generally being a pair of lovelies and a BIG thank you to Edward and Hector for traipsing around the country so I can do my running thing.

Would I do it again? Maybe 😉