A Round-Up and a Look Ahead

Well, that flew by, didn’t it?! I really can’t believe it’s 2016 tomorrow. It’s been another great year, in my own running and multi-sports, but most excitingly in helping others reach their goals. 2015 has been another busy year, with lots of races and times smashed, starting with a new half-marathon PB in February.

Big Medal

Big Medal

In April, I went beyond my own expectations by swimming my furthest distance yet, in the 5k Swimathon. Having only swum a mile at most, I trained steadily and reached my goal with a little help and support from my friends.

Happy Hug

Happy Hug

Watch this space to hear more about my Swimathon plans for 2016, it’s going to be another exciting swimming year.

After months of training and dipping my toes – tentatively – in open water, I went for it and had a brilliant time in my first open-water triathlon at the Lidl Bananaman Triathlon. It makes me smile so much when I re-read this race report and look at the happy photos, what a brilliant day we had.

Easy Riders

Easy Riders

September saw me taking on the London Duathlon again, under less than perfect conditions (I was full of cold and should probably have stayed in bed, but…).

Will run for roasties

Will run for roasties

One of my proudest race moments of the year was the Hever Castle Triathlon, my first go at the Olympic Distance. I was so nervous about the swim in a lake and river, it felt amazing to exit the water with a smile on my face.

Cold, but happy

Cold, but happy

So, what have I got planned for 2016? It’s going to be a big year! I will be taking my running coaching to another level, in my new role as trainer with GoodGym Lewisham πŸ™‚ We will be running to do good, from January 18th, making a difference all over the borough and getting fit in the process. My own goals are to continue on my triathlon and duathlon journey, with the next level being tackled in July at the Outlaw Holkham Half-Ironman. Yes. Bugger. I blame my friend Siggy, who twisted my arm, at least I know she will train as hard as me and we’ll smash it together. FitArtist is ten in 2016! I will be working out a celebratory plan-of-action, so keep an eye out for any special events. And, of course, I will be spending lots of time running and cheering at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun and junior parkrun.

It was my birthday yesterday. I always run on my birthday and thought it might be nice to see if any of my friends wanted to join me. This is what happened:

Lovely friends

Lovely friends

Two more friends joined us en route and they were all very well-behaved when they came home for tea and cake…

House-trained

House-trained

That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Have a brilliant 2016 and I look forward to your support, encouragement and ideas throughout the year x

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Juneathon Week 3, A Round-Up

Are we really into the last full week of Juneathon?! It’s flown by! I always find June flies and start to feel particularly pressured at this stage, as Hector’s birthday approaches. Looking back over last week, it was another varied and fun week of activities, with a good mix of run/ride and swim.

Some highlights of the week were the fun club session on Tuesday evening, where coach Adrian had us sprinting around the park, doing step-ups in the playground, running fast hill repeats over the spirally footbridge, doing *ten* planks in a row and some relays in pairs πŸ™‚ On Thursday I ventured out with my wetsuit to see if I could get into the Serpentine without getting right back out again. I did – my coached session the week before had given me so much confidence – and found myself really enjoying it and pushing myself to swim 2k of the 100m lido (with the occasional flip over to bob around and enjoy the view).

Lido

Lido

As always I loved my ride around the road circuit at the Olympic Velopark, I pretty much smile all the way…Saturday saw me jumping on my bike and heading over to Burgess parkrun as Hilly Fields was cancelled because of the fayre. A whole load of HF runners were there, so a great atmosphere and lots of chatter at the start. It’s very different from Hilly Fields that’s for sure…flat as a pancake! As a result, I found myself pushing hard and running my fastest time this year (not a PB, but so lovely to see I’ve ‘still got it’).

Hilly Fields on tour

Hilly Fields on tour

The most fun of the week probably happened yesterday, with a trip up to the Olympic Park (again, I certainly make use of its ‘legacy’!) with our bikes for a Father’s Day present of a ride on the mountain bike circuit. Edward hired a mountain bike because his hybrid road wheels wouldn’t have withstood such a bashing and off we went.

Happy Father

Happy Father

I think Hector was pleased that it was less ‘mountain’ and more ‘bumps’ – he told me he hadn’t been sure about coming, good for him for going for it anyway! So, we bobbed up and down with lots of whoops and joyous sounds and found a nice little spot to enjoy our picnic in the sun. As we rode around, Hector kept looking over to the road circuit and asked if we could go on there. Of course, I was overjoyed to be able to share this with him, so we left Edward to enjoy the rough and tumble of the mountain course and headed onto the smooth road for a quick three miles. I did feel a bit odd on my mountain bike and wearing jeans, but so lovely to show Hector around.

Smooth

Smooth

We even decided to go there together over the summer holidays and do some road riding πŸ™‚

Monday: A quick lunchtime swim, not a good idea (lane hoggers and ladies-bouncing-up-and-down class)
Tuesday: My favourite summer time club session, with planks, bridge repeats and relays, fun
Wednesday: Lovely evening run with a friend
Thursday: My first solo swim in the Serpentine πŸ™‚
Friday: My weekly date with the Velopark
Saturday: parkrun tourism with friends
Sunday: Super family Father’s Day fun on bikes

All in all, a lovely active week πŸ™‚

Running: 19.2km
Swimming: 3km
Cycling: 56.5km

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

A Week in the Life of a parkrun

parkrun is big. There are now events happening every Saturday morning all over the UK and in other parts of the world, even as far away as Australia! There are also Junior parkruns taking place on Sunday mornings, encouraging youngsters to try a 2k run with their friends. I’ve been closely involved with Hilly Fields parkrun for the two years it’s been running, and have made some lovely friends and would even say it’s changed my life, so I was a bit disheartened recently when a friend said on Facebook that parkrun had messed up her time again. Of course, I jumped in and got all defensive and it seemed that people were saying this is a common problem at many events. I’ve run at a few different events around the country and have never had a problem with my time, in fact the only problem is my own eagerness in pressing my Garmin too quickly at the start. I thought, as a Run Director, it might be a good opportunity for me to show you what goes into a parkrun, how we make it happen every week (and on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day!).

*waves*

*waves*

**Warning! I do go on a bit, go into lots of detail, but I really wanted to illustrate a week in the life…It’s my own personal experience, and each run is different, with different needs and approaches.**

On Saturday I ran, I didn’t have a good run, it was windy, muddy and I wasn’t feeling too healthy. After the run, we packed up the finish funnel, thanked our volunteers and sauntered over to the cafe to process the results. It’s always heaving in the Hilly Fields cafe, lots of smiling faces, hands cupped around a hot drink, talk of PBs, goals and life in general. We grab a table, place our order and the Run Director gets to work on uploading the data to the system. When you cross the finish line, you are given a finish token. This has your position and a barcode on it, we scan this and your own, personal barcode and these are (magically?) matched up to the time on the stopwatch. Usually, one of the volunteers will grab all the tokens and spread them out on a table in the cafe, where they are carefully put back into number order and rethreaded onto a long cable-tie (for some reason, this is a really popular job!). In the meantime, we locate the leads in the rucksack and connect the stopwatch and scanners, which load the data onto the computer. To make parkrun happen, we enlist the help of volunteers, we couldn’t do it without them so, before the run data is sent to HQ, we submit the names of our volunteers for the day and they will be allocated any points owed to them.

Finish token

Finish token

Once the barcode and timer data is in the system, we can have a look at the results table to check for any errors. At this point, we might notice ‘unknown runners’ (people who haven’t brought a barcode), and we will have the opportunity to rectify any problems that may have occurred at the finish funnel – this might be something straightforward, like a sweaty barcode that won’t scan, or something more puzzling like someone running through the funnel again with their partner/child/mum but being counted on the timer, or a ‘funnel dodger’ – someone who runs through, is counted, but doesn’t get scanned. These sorts of things happen all the time and you get to spot them quite easily but, occasionally, there might be something a little more perplexing and this is where you would ring up HQ and speak to the person on duty that day (sometimes you’ll even get through to Paul Sinton-Hewitt himself, the founder of parkrun!). Once everything is ok, we will send the data and it’s processed at head office (remember, there are hundreds of events all doing this at the same time…there is a queue). As we update Facebook and Twitter and get to drink our coffee, we start to hear phones pinging around the cafe as people enjoy seeing their official results. Result!

Encouragement

Encouragement

If everything seems ok, it’s time to gather up all the kit and head home. Every so often, someone might come up and say ‘My time seems a bit out’, so it’s back on the computer to see what’s happening. Again, this could be something like a funnel dodger or similar, and can be easily rectified and the data resubmitted (in this case the person would not receive another text, they would need to look at the results on the website). There’s quite a lot of kit to make up a parkrun (though they are all different, and have different needs depending on the course and the preference of the Event Director). We have managed to condense it down into a Sainsburys bag, a rucksack and a bundle of finish funnel poles, quite a lot for one person to carry! This week I was on my bike, so Stephen, our Event Director kindly offered to take the finish funnel poles home πŸ™‚ When I get home, I keep an eye on the Hilly Fields email, in case there are any queries, lost property concerns or offers from prospective volunteers. I will also check the kit bag, fold up the hi-viz vests (and wash any that have got muddy!) and, if there is any lost property, I might put up a message/photo on the Facebook page to let people know (the bag gets very heavy over the winter!).

Early in the week I will send out an email to all registered volunteers asking if they would like to help out. Our event runs with around ten volunteers and we generally don’t have too much trouble in recruiting people: once you’ve done it, you realise what a buzz you get and people often commit to running regularly and volunteering every few weeks – we even have volunteers who don’t run! If the roster is looking a bit empty, I might mention this on Facebook or Twitter and we usually have a few more people coming forward. By the time we get to Friday, the roster will be nice and full, and I check the rucksack to make sure the computer has performed any updates, clear and charge up the scanners and clear and reset the stopwatches. Ready to go!

We love volunteers!

We love volunteers!

I set the alarm clock early for Saturday morning, it wouldn’t happen if I overslept! A quick breakfast and I might head up the hill by myself, or have Edward and Hector to help me set up if they’re not stuck into Lego. It’s all uphill from our house, so I’m usually a bit hot by the time I get there, carrying all that kit. It’s great if there is an early runner or volunteer around, so I can enlist their help in putting out cones and arrows. There are two key spots on our course that need to be carefully marked out with cones, so that needs doing first, other areas need just a few cones and maybe an arrow, depending on how many marshals we have that day. At the top of the hill we put out the finish funnel and the parkrun flag for all to see, and slowly more and more people begin to gather and it gets a bit noisier as people greet their friends and catch up on the week. Volunteers arrive and I hand them their vest and any equipment they might need (stopwatch etc) and tell them where they need to be during the run. As we near nine o’clock, I call everyone to the start and we have our pre-run briefing. This is where we welcome any first-timers (big cheer), say hello to any tourists (big cheer), thank our volunteers (even bigger cheer), present any 50 or 100 t-shirts (another cheer), go over the course details and any things to look out for such as dogs, park users, potholes. We might congratulate anyone running their 50th or 100th parkrun (more cheering) and maybe sing happy birthday and, of course, mention any cake that might be shared at the end. I will then hand over to the timer, and off we go!

Cake!

Cake!

We have a spot where the course forks, not far from the finish, and a few volunteers and family/friends might gather here to cheer people on. When I’m Run Director, I like to chat with people at this point and usually have a walk around the course to speak to other marshals and encourage people as they pass. We often have dog walkers and other park users coming up and asking what’s going on, sometimes you’ll see them a few weeks later, in brightly coloured kit, joining in πŸ™‚ Quite quickly, we assemble at the finish to cheer the first runners across the line (our course records are men: 15.39 and women: 18.56). The people on the stopwatch and finish tokens will keep communicating with each other to make sure they are in synch, so we can keep track of any missed tokens and so on. We now have a steady stream of runners at all different paces, it might be that a regular runner is trying to achieve a PB, so we will shout that little bit louder to encourage them up the hill. Faster runners might head over and cheer other runners on, and friends mill around, stretching and finding out how they got on. After around 40-50 minutes after the start, we are congratulating the last few finishers, collecting up the cones and arrows and leaving the park as we found it (if slightly muddier in places!). Smiling runners thank us as they head home and others join us in the cafe, where we do it all over again.

Support

Support

*Thank you to Natalie, Lisa and Paul for taking such lovely photos time and time again*

Summer Round-up and Duathlon Nerves

After a summer of lots of this:

Mine!

Mine!

and enough running, swimming and riding to fend off ice-cream belly (just), I need to get myself back into a routine and back in action for some autumn race fun. I had hoped to keep to my routine, but holidays, chickenpox (Hector, not me) and a lack of time meant things went a bit off-course. I did plenty of running on holiday, with sand-dunes and rocky paths to keep me on my toes, and even squeezed in a parkrun in Barnstaple…

Hero

Hero

I was delighted to discover that one of my heroes, Chrissie Wellington, was running at Barnstaple, so we made an extra special effort to get there (which involved a very rushed sprint along the river to find a footbridge as cheers rose up on the opposite bank – eek!). I also climbed elegantly into a wetsuit to make the most of the Devonshire sea…

Tight fit

Tight fit

Erm, I found the wetsuit excellent insulation against the roaring Atlantic, but I am at a loss as to how people jump in and out of these at a triathlon. More practice needed I think! So, many Adventures in Open Water Swimming took place in the North Sea, the Atlantic and also the Bude Sea Pool. Brrrr.

Now, of course, I’m back in action and getting my head down for some serious training. How lovely to be back at the running club, grinding up and down hills at Hilly Fields parkrun and also heading out solo for a brick session.

Quick change

Quick change

Because on Sunday, I will be gathering together a collection of running and cycling attire, my bike and various drinks and snacks and heading over to Richmond Park for the London Duathlon. I’m very, very excited and maybe a little bit nervous about this! 10k run, 44k ride and 5k run. Gulp. My session at the weekend really helped my confidence. I rode out into Kent (avoiding almost being crushed by idiot drivers on two occasions 😦 ), rode 42k, parked my bike in the hall at home and swapped to my running shoes to head out for a quick 5k. My legs felt surprisingly good at first, with a nice spin to them from the bike leg, but I soon started to feel a cramp setting in…I wonder how things will feel with an additional 10k in my legs this Sunday. There will be various distances being covered on the day, from Super Sprint right up to Ultra. Richmond Park is a great place to spend a day admiring the athletic prowess passing by, ahem. Watch this space next week for a full report on my own experience of my first duathlon.

A Weekend of 100s

What a great weekend! On Saturday we celebrated our 100th Hilly Fields parkrun.Β It’s hard to believe that 100 runs have been and gone, it’s flown by! So that’s 300 times up The Hill!

The Hill in Lego :)

The Hill in Lego πŸ™‚

We don’t have anyone who has run all 100, but we do have many of our regulars reaching their 50th parkrun and receiving their 50 t-shirt (I’m one of them, with just four runs to go until I reach 50, more celebrations!). On Saturday I headed up the hill with Hector and we helped to set up the course. We took some chunky chalk with us and set about writing some motivational messages on the downward slope that heads towards one of the hardest parts of our course. As we put cones out we heard rumbles of thunder, saw flashes of lightning and found ourselves sheltering from the rain under the trees as it poured down, washing away our chalk 😦 There is something magical that happens at parkrun though…at about 8.55 the clouds part and the sun comes out, or at least the rain stops long enough for people to run 5k! Once the runners had set off, I quickly re-wrote the chalk messages and cheered people on.

To the finish

To the finish

As people pushed on in the humid conditions, we gradually cheered runners across the finish line and were delighted to present a spot prize to our 100th runner Jez, who has been supporting us almost since the start. Jez is (sadly for us) heading off on an adventure with his family in the next few weeks, I wish Jez all the luck in the world and hope to see him crossing our finish line when he visits in the future.

100th finisher!

100th finisher!

As is usual at our celebrations, people were very generous in sharing their baking skills and we were able to offer a choice of truly delicious cakes.

Refuel

Refuel

One of the best things about being involved with parkrun has been the friends I have made. I love the feeling of community I now have in my area, stopping in the street to chat to people I hadn’t met before parkrun. This friendship now extends to meeting each other at running events, racing together and also enjoying our other shared interests. Yesterday I found myself spinning through the Kent countryside with Sally, Siggy and Stephen. We have been on long rides together before, and I wanted to make sure we fixed a date in our diary for another, which happened to coincide with a challenge on Strava, the Rapha Women’s 100k Challenge. This challenge aimed to encourage as many women as possible around the world to cycle 100km on Sunday July 20th, so we had to join in!

We met early and took the train to Hayes to cut out the grim bit at the beginning. We then pedalled hard, pushed up steep and steeper hills, whizzed down the other side, paused to enjoy the view and counted the kilometres as we went. Stephen had very kindly worked out a route which – amazingly – turned out to be spot on, he had included some pretty tough hills though, so it certainly wasn’t easy going! I love a hill and can happily zoom up them but, on a 100km ride, even I was starting to feel it. The wonderful thing about these rides is having time to chat and get to know each other better, getting to know each other’s strengths, supporting and encouraging and also the amazing things you see along the way (we were taken aback when we turned a corner and were greeted by fields covered in lavender in full bloom – the smell! – and were also somewhat surprised to see a field of rhea (they’re a bit like ostriches) fluffing their feathers and showing us their splendour). I’m not sure how I would manage on a solo ride of this distance, it certainly makes a difference having friends around you, and we pushed, cajoled and boosted each other on the way round until we arrived back home with a hefty time on our clocks (my longest ride ever!).

 

Hilly Fields on Tour

Hilly Fields on Tour

PB smashing

Oh my. A few months ago I had a streak of PB smashing runs up at my beloved Hilly Fields parkrun. I just had a look at my parkrun stats, and it seems that my best time in 2012 was 28.33, my best in 2013 was 27.17 and, until Saturday, my best time for 2014 was 25.01. I never, ever thought I’d run a 25 minute 5k (especially not up and down those hills), so am still slightly in shock that I have achieved a time of 24.09! People were asking what I’d had for breakfast, but I hadn’t done anything new, just my usual, but there are so many factors that can give you a good or bad run. I had trained hard during the week, even going for a 10k run and a swim the day before, and had fitted in five swims over five days, so I wasn’t exactly rested! Maybe it’s the swimming, the cross training and the core work I’ve been doing, all helping me power my arms to push me up the hills.

Whatever it is, it feels great to have an enjoyable run with friends and to feel I can push myself faster, a marked contrast to last Saturday’s run where I felt like I was dragging myself around the course in the hideous humidity! I will keep up the training, eat as I always eat, try and keep up my positive mindset and enjoy each run as it comes πŸ™‚