Get outside and fight the winter blues!

I’m finding it very, very tempting right now to ignore my planned sessions, being pulled back inside by the call of the sofa, a cosy blanket and a mug of steaming tea. I know though, that if I don’t get outside, get some fresh air and have a change of scenery, I could start to succumb to the winter blues. Some days it doesn’t feel like the sun will ever emerge…

Where's the park gone?!

Where’s the park gone?!

My strategy for coping with the colder, darker months is to get outside each day, rain or shine. I like to try and do this early on, so I don’t have a chance to talk myself out of it! A good way for me to fit it all in, is to do a ‘School Run Run’, which usually involves heading up and down some hills…

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Hilly (Fields) Hills

Two of my weekly runs happen in the evening, not my favourite time to run (I find it difficult to fuel evening activity) but, as I lead the GoodGym Lewisham group run on a Monday evening, I have to be there, perfect, no excuses! I can also guarantee that, after running with a friendly group, chatting as we go, then making sure everyone is engaged with the task, I come home feeling a warm glow and with a big smile on my face. My other evening run is on a Tuesday with my running club. Again, I have to be there to coach the girls’ group first of all, but I have been known to slope off before my own session starts (gasp!), but the pressure to stay is strong and this doesn’t happen very often. It seems sticking to a run is much easier if you ‘make an appointment’, put it in your diary and, even better, do it with friends – you won’t want to let them down.

Another weekly ‘appointment’ is at parkrun, either running or volunteering. I’m coming up to my 100th run and, if I stick to it over the next few weeks, it will coincide with our New Year’s Day run at Hilly Fields πŸ™‚ I hate missing my parkrun and it’s about way more than running 5k, if I miss the bit in the cafe afterwards, I feel very out of sorts! Sundays often involve some volunteering at junior parkrun, so encouraging little ones to take part and getting out in the park to blow the cobwebs away.

It doesn’t have to be an outside activity either, a brisk walk (or ride) to the swimming pool for a quick swim does the trick too – I started the week with a Monday morning swim and felt much better for it (it helped that there was only one other person in the lane though!). And, if you can’t get out to run/ride/swim, a walk will definitely do the trick. At half-term, we jumped on a train and had a day out at the beach and had it pretty much to ourselves. As you can see, the ever adventurous Hector is immune to the cold and took his body board, trunks and enthusiasm to make the most of what turned out to be a beautiful day.

Enjoying an October paddle

Enjoying an October paddle

What do you do to arm yourself against the pull of the sofa?

Advertisements

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!

Juneathon, Week 1, A Round-up

Yay! Seven days done, it wasn’t that hard was it?!

My Juneathon week was a good old mix of activities:

Monday: A back-to-school run and a little swim
Tuesday: Tough track session with my running club
Wednesday: A late one! A quick swim before the pool closed…nice and quiet
Thursday: (my favourite) a swim in a pond then Assembly League race with my club
Friday: Seeing how far I could swim with one eye on Hector’s lesson (54 lengths, it turns out)
Saturday: A wheezy Hilly Fields parkrun
Sunday: Warming-up the little legs at junior parkrun then a 16km family bike ride

It’s been a wheezy sort of week. I have had asthma for years and it’s never really been a problem when I run, but recently it’s been stopping me in my tracks. After three visits to the GP, I have a pretty new purple/pink inhaler, but still find myself slowing down and sensing the heavy-legged feeling that comes with a lack of air. This spoilt all of my runs during the week and it’s getting me down. I’m hoping it’s down to this stuff, that is currently floating in the air where I live, a cotton-woolly substance scattered by the trees in the nearby park…

Fluff stuff

Fluff stuff

A highlight of my week was the swim on Thursday, a dip in the amazing King’s Cross Pond Club, a naturally filtered swimming pond just a short walk from the train stations. I also had a wonderful time yesterday with Edward and Hector when we set off on our bikes with the Thames Barrier as our goal. We weaved and pedalled our way along the Thames Path, pausing to enjoy the sights along the way and to eat our picnic at the Ecology Park, then we took a well-earned rest when we reached the Thames Barrier. This was Hector’s longest ride ever (16km) and he felt quite proud of himself after a slightly reluctant (and possibly intimidated?) start (all this after achieving a PB at the Hilly Fields junior parkrun in the morning πŸ˜‰ ).

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Thank you to Heather for the jparkrun photo.

Totals for Week 1

Running: 22.1km
Swimming: 4km 650m
Cycling: 16km (I do actually cycle every day, but don’t keep track of all the little to-and-fro rides, so this is the only ‘timed’ ride I did).

We made it!

We made it!

And the Whole30 challenge? Well, for lunch today I had scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and watercress with cherry tomatoes…so let’s just say that’s going really well!

Juneathon 2015

Errr.

You remember Juneathon? I used to throw myself wholeheartedly into this (and its colder sister, Janathon), but in recent years I have decided I need to focus on my training and not knacker myself up by trying to run every day for a month. This June I’m sticking to that plan but still participating in Juneathon. ‘How so?’ you may ask, well I normally do something active every day anyway, so why not share it with everyone else and encourage others along the way? I will be doing my usual run/swim/ride combination, but making sure I log it (mostly via Twitter, but with a weekly round-up on here) and maybe pushing myself out of the door/into the water on days where I might normally have opted for the pyjamas/sofa combo.

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have been trying to overcome my slight fear of the open-water and this has become especially pressing as I have now gone and entered an open-water triathlon in July. Eeek! Action stations! Juneathon will be about me getting my head and body around this challenge so, to really get myself closer to that goal, I have signed up for a couple of coached sessions in the Serpentine in Hyde Park (yup, where you watched those elites showing off their nerve at the weekend). If you’re one of those people who happily leaps off a tree branch into a river, cheering as you go, you might wonder what I’m so afraid of. It’s certainly not the swimming, remember I took on a 5k swim (and all the training leading up to it) in April? I’m now a strong swimmer, I can carve up and down the fast lane with my head held high (though not too high. You know). I guess I’m afraid of the unknown, the darkness of open-water, the creatures, the weeds that might curl around my ankles, the cold, not being able to breath and – in competition – the other swimmers thrashing around me. But I am going to overcome this.

I do need to get myself kitted out with a wetsuit though. My lovely friend Siggy has lent me her wetsuit, but I am yet to actually get it wet! I have taken it on tour, but it has stayed very neatly packed in its nifty bag…

Wetsuit on tour

Wetsuit on tour

If anyone has any tips on (budget) wetsuits, that would be great. I have been looking at the Wiggle DHB wetsuit, and if anyone has tried it and can recommend it, I’d love to know (though they are out of my size at the moment!).

Something else I am going to use Juneathon to focus on is my diet. I do eat healthily, I don’t drink alcohol and rarely succumb to the take-away leaflet, but my default lunch or snack seems to have become toast, which can’t be a good thing can it? I am a typical Mum: my child is well-hydrated and full of fruit and I’m parched and probably only reaching my one-a-day. I keep reading fellow bloggers experiences of the Whole30, so decided I’d try and stick to that for the month (and beyond?). It’s not about losing weight or going hungry, it’s a kind of re-boot towards a healthier diet. Since it means no bread for a month, I can see the toast-for-lunch thing getting smashed to crumbs (though this will be hard!). My book arrived today, so yesterday I just did a combination of guess-work and gleaning ideas from blogs. Now I’ve got the literature, I can try out some recipes and be a bit more informed. I shall update you on this when I write my round-up at the weekend…this will be way trickier than being active…mmmmm…toast.

Gauntlet Games, Trent Park

I was offered a place in the Gauntlet Games a little while ago and I thought ‘Nah, that’s not for me’ but, after having a look at the video and stopping myself being so stuffy, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did! So, off we all set, bright and early to get to Trent Park. As we came out at Cockfosters and followed lots of other sporty types, I commented that people seemed to be mostly in long tights and was I missing something? Eek! The park was lovely and the atmosphere was buzzing, with a group of runners setting off in one of the earlier waves as I queued for my race number and t-shirt. I noticed that there seemed to be lots of groups of friends/family and felt like a bit of a Billy-no-mates (this was ok though, because people were rather chatty and excited). Once I was numbered up and ready to go, my wave were called into the warm-up area by a muscle man in Gladiator attire. I don’t normally do pre-race warm-ups, but I wasn’t going to argue with him. I had noticed that lots of people had cool neon stripes on their faces, and worked out that there was a face-painting table near the registration, so briefly ignored the Gladiator while I prioritised my appearance. After we had done some jogging around, some lunges, squats and weird press-ups, I felt knackered it was time to go, but not before we had knelt down and done some more odd things…

Hands in the air like you just don't care

Hands in the air like you just don’t care

And we were off!

Gladiator Ready!

Gladiator Ready!

Straight away I was confused and went the wrong way. Yes, really. It was very unclear which way we were meant to go and there really should have been another marshal doing their best pointing. I was also a bit confused because there was a mixture of 5k and 10k runners and I had thought the 10k was a trail run for the first half, then obstacles, but it was obstacles, trail, more obstacles. Once I’d stood around for a bit looking blank and going through all of this in my head, I ran hard at a pile of straw bales and threw myself over. I was then pelted – very hard- with footballs as I tried to balance on a bar, then off into the woods. Trent Park is a lovely place to run – I have run there once before in a handicap race, where I think I got a PB at the time, about six or seven years ago. I enjoyed running through the trees and leaping over tree stumps, quickly leaving the other people behind. It was at this point that I realised this definitely wasn’t a running race, with many people walking between obstacles and giving me suspicious looks as I came wheezing up behind them. I had been slightly nervous about what was going to be thrown at me (and what I would have to throw myself at), but had chatted to a woman at registration, who had done this before. She told me that I would be fine and it was a lot of fun. She was right. You would be running (or walking) for a bit and then you might hear a yelp or scream, which gave you a little warning that something was coming up. These might be giant bouncy balls to work your way through, a pool of muddy water to splash around whilst avoiding being plunged by a gladiator or, possibly my favourite, a big water slide thingy going down a hill. As I approached, the Gladiator asked me to hold on while he made it good and slippy for me and that I needed to ‘take a run up’. I took a run up then very daintily got down on my knees and lay on my front. Ahem. He then had to pull me along and send me flying down the hill…towards a stuck woman. I put out my hands and gave her a shove to avoid head-butting her feet and off we both splashed into a foamy pool of very cold water. Yay! At this point I had to stop and re-attach my race number, which was a bit soggy (this makes it easier to identify yourself in the race photos afterwards).

I took on a few more obstacles, then the path forked and the 5k and 10k runners split up. I really enjoyed this trail run section, feeling good and overtaking many of the people from earlier waves, who were now walking. It was relatively easy to work out where you were going here, with red and white striped plastic dangling from trees and bushes, but there was one spot where I found myself in completely the wrong place and I’m pretty sure I and a few others went the wrong way towards the end. A few more arrows and clearer marking would be great next year πŸ™‚ After my little run, I joined the obstacle course again, this time tackling some of my fears head-on by climbing over a wall of tyres (it’s not that high, I’m just a wuss) and crawling through a pool of muddy water under a scramble net – my contact lenses even got muddy at this point and I spent quite some time blinking! Before I knew it, I could hear the music and cheering at the finish area and people were shouting ‘Nearly there!’ – I just had to play a game of British Bulldog, wade through foam, being challenged by a semi-naked man and dive through a bouncy castle thingie…

Bouncy

Bouncy

…before a quick sprint to the finish…

Foam legs

Foam legs

I was given my medal as I crossed the line, but there was no timing (Edward had my Garmin and said I did it in about 55 minutes, not bad!). As you can see, I was a bit wet, sticky, muddy and dishevelled:

Messy

Messy

I can’t imagine why Hector didn’t want a big hug…

Rrrraaaaaarrrr!!!

Rrrraaaaaarrrr!!!

If you think this looks like a load of fun (it is), there’s still time to have a go yourself. There are other events happening in the next few months in Cardiff, Brighton and Hertfordshire. Just visit the website to book your place and put aside all ideas about racing and PBs and just have a laugh.

Run It!

I became aware of the Join In campaign last summer when we looked for a parkrun local to our holiday in Devon and ended up meeting the lovely Chrissie Wellington in Barnstaple. Join In is all about encouraging people to volunteer at sports activities taking place in their local community and recognising the benefits for everyone, not just the people being supported by this generosity, but the boost to the general well-being of those who share their time to help others.

RunIt

RunIt

This is definitely something I can relate to, with my own experience through being Run Director at Hilly Fields parkrun (and now junior parkrun) and also coaching the girls’ group at my local running club. I will go as far as to say that volunteering in this way has changed my life – I can’t go far from my home now without stopping to talk to or being waved at by someone I have met through my involvement in local sport. On the few occasions where I have had to miss a session/event, I have realised how important it is for me to maintain this contact because it goes way beyond a functional organisational role and helps me to feel less isolated and to be a part of my community…we even have a book club as a result of getting together through running πŸ˜‰

I was delighted, then, to attend an event in Hyde Park on Tuesday to launch Run It, a campaign to help existing clubs to get in touch with volunteers and to build on their success and to also encourage people to start running groups in their community, either through an event such as parkrun or even on a much smaller scale, like helping a friend go from couch to 5k over the summer months and sharing with them your own enthusiasm for being active and involved.

Grow your club

Grow your club

I arrived at the event with fellow runners Helen and Geraldine and we headed over to the Serpentine Lido to be greeted very casually by none other than former 5,000m world record holder David Moorcroft, I know! Looking around the room, I thought ‘I know that face too…’ when I spotted Mara Yamauchi chatting in the corner, what great company I keep!

Mara and Dave

Mara and Dave

Once Jo Pavey (yup!) had joined us around the table, Dave went on to outline what Join In and Run It are all about. We heard how running has grown and grown in the past few years and how research shows that joining in really does make us feel happier and boosts self-esteem. Sitting around talking about running is all very well, but it wouldn’t be a successful event without some *actual* running, so out we went into Hyde Park to warm up with a gentle jog, do some drills and attempt to keep up with Jo Pavey as she gave us a taste of her 5k and 10k race pace (my sprint)…

Speedy drills

Speedy drills

We then had a bit of fun with a 5k. Being committed run-geeks, we all had GPS bling on our wrists but, for once, we had to part with our digital crutches and go ‘on feel’, which is far harder than you might imagine. To add a bit of competitive spirit, we each had to give a predicted finish time, so the winner would not be the first to cross the line necessarily, but the runner who ran closest to their predicted time (this turned out to be Geraldine πŸ™‚ ). And off we went. I felt good running through Hyde Park, keeping pace with another runner, trying to catch the runners ahead and enjoying a flat 5k for once. Around the course were marshals (of course!) who encouraged and directed but this wasn’t enough for me and a few others, who went off course and sprinted in ahead of Jo (!) in around 18 minutes. Well, that’s the only time I’ll clock a time like that! We mapped the route and worked out we’d covered 4 instead of 5k but, based on the pace we were running at, I was heading straight towards a PB. Oh well, it was fun, gave me a little boost and made me think I need to take the opportunity to run in different places more often. Once we had had a drink and got our breath back, we had a chance to chat with the athletes and take some star-struck photos (which I shared with the girls’ group later that day at the track). Join In and Run It are great initiatives that can help existing clubs and run groups, but also hopefully inspire people to share something they love.

Jo and me

Jo and me

London Duathlon, I am a Duathlete!

I had a feeling the London Duathlon might be tough, but I hadn’t realised quite how tough. As always, I found the journey to the start almost as challenging as the event itself – I get so nervous about being there on time and, with the transporting of a bike added into the mix, I stress about everything that little bit more. As it turned out, it was an easy two train rides and a pleasant walk from Barnes station to the park.

There was a real buzz as we approached the park, but it was difficult at times to work out who was a duathlete and who was just out for a Sunday ride (I get the feeling there might have been some disgruntled cyclists who turned up to find their route closed). The event village was busy, with some of the ultra, sprint and super sprint competitors already out on the course. I could tell from my event pack that this was a very well organised affair, with wrist bands for transition, a number belt and a rather humongous timing chip strap to wrap around your ankle (we looked like we were on day release).

A number for everything

A number for everything

The transition area was closely monitored by marshals, who checked your wrist band and made sure everything else corresponded, and you were only allowed in once you had your helmet firmly fastened. The different distances had allocated areas, but you could rack your bike anywhere within this, so I chose sort of middle, since the run in and bike out were on opposite sides (I would say the signs for this need to be higher up, they were big, but were not really visible once the transition area filled up with bikes and people). Once I had racked up, I wandered through the event village to the loo (that nervous-going-to-the-loo-when-you-don’t-need-to thing) and noticed all the handy stalls around – you could even ask advice and get your bike checked over while you were there (I opted for a bit of extra air in my tyres, again, nerves).

Before I knew it I was herding into a start pen with the other Classic distance athletes and getting a little wave from Edward and Hector before we were set off in waves of about thirty people – this was excellent and so well done, with a little safety advice and pep-talk before the buzzer set you off. The first stretch was on bumpy grass, peppered with deer poo, but we were soon on a lovely smooth road, with cyclists coming at us in the opposite direction. At this point I felt good, I had been so eager to start and it was reassuring to know that everything was working properly. Not having undertaken a duathlon before, I wasn’t entirely sure how to pace myself, but I knew I couldn’t run a 10k PB with a 44k cycle and an additional 5k still to come, so aimed to keep to a 5 minute per km pace. The course was lovely, with lots of twists and turns – though one loop in particular felt like a loop too far – and I even had a magnificent stag strolling alongside me at one point. I kept to my pace and ran into transition after 50 minutes. I had started to feel a stitch in my side, but thought I would lose that on the ride. A quick change into cycle helmet, gloves, shoes and a gulp of my drink, and off I went.

It felt hard, my legs felt heavy and my breathing was laboured, but it was so good to be on the bike! My only previous experience of riding in a race situation was at the Crystal Palace Triathlon back in May and, as I knew so many other people there, this was a friendly affair with lots of ‘hello’s along the way. This felt different, with some really fast riders shouting ‘Right!’ as they overtook at speed, and a need to keep your wits about you if you planned to overtake yourself. I liked this πŸ™‚ It felt serious, speedy, and I found myself pushing harder as my legs got used to the new range of movement. The bike course was pretty hard really, with a quite steep climb, some fast descents and some really tight corners (I was rubbish here and simply had to slow to an almost stop and pump hard to get going again!). On the more exposed sections it was windy and I gripped tight to attempt to stay on course. This was my chance to take on some liquid and fuel, and I now know I should have been getting something inside me at regular intervals, but instead I had my head down, enjoying the ride. One of the best moments for me was going into the second lap. I spotted Edward and Hector sitting in the grass at the side of the road, holding up a colourful sign saying ‘Go Adele!’, with lots of cheers and waves, it really does give you a boost when you feel some support πŸ™‚

The last lap of the ride went by in a flash, and I could feel some cramping in my calf muscles and a stitch-type ache in my side…keep going, keep going. There’s such a lovely sense of excitement as you turn off towards transition (all of the transitions were made really straightforward by clear signs and friendly direction from marshals), the sense of starting the next leg, getting going again on another adventure. This felt hard though. I jumped off my bike and hobbled in cycle shoes across the rough grass, my legs heavy and full of spin. Hanging my bike back up, I took a long drink, put on my running shoes and stumbled out to the run course, feeling slightly dazed.

*a little cheer from Hector, with Edward at his side, looking at the tracker on his phone*

I could see that I might make my goal of three hours if I ran a good time for this 5k, somewhere a little slower than I have been running recently, so not a problem. My legs were not hearing this though and before long I felt the cramp creeping up around my quads and decided to move over and stretch it out. Straight away my hamstrings seized up and I wished I hadn’t stopped…go, go, go! I hobbled on a bit further. Ahead of me I could see a drinks station and I thought maybe a few gulps of a sports drink might help, it did. Now, for the first time in a very long time, I found myself walking (‘To the next tree’), and slowly plodding along as best I could. I broke down the rest of the run, thinking ‘Just another fifteen minutes’, and saw people standing aside, also struck by cramp, doubled over and walking as if their knees were locked. Now, with just two kms to go, I tried to run again but my legs just couldn’t do it. A fellow runner asked if I needed a shoulder, saying he was hobbling too and another kind chap handed me an energy gel. I’m not entirely sure they work that quickly, but something did the trick and I ran those last two kms, with the finish in sight and the thought of a long drink to push me on.

Crossing the finish line (in 3 hours 4 minutes and 44 seconds) I took my medal and flopped down to have a little cry as Hector handed me a lovely medal he had made with ‘1st’ in silver sparkly stuff. The relief at finishing was overwhelming, it was so tough dealing with cramp and I quickly drank anything I could get my hands on and forced down two bananas before collecting my bike. Once again the organisation was excellent as my wrist band was cut off once they had checked I had the right bike, and off I went to enjoy a berry smoothie.

Two medals!

Two medals!

This was where I started to feel quite unwell. Not having taken on fuel at regular intervals, and then downing as much as I could stomach in a short space of time, I felt dreadful. Numerous trips to the portaloo, a lie down on the ground, and I felt able to start walking towards the station. We decided a stop at the park cafe might help and I watched the boys disappear into the distance as I bent over and publicly ‘shared’ my smoothie. Still, people were kind and a few asked if I needed help. On I went. It was decided that I should cycle to the station and the boys would catch me up, cycling seemed easier than walking at this point. At the station I bumped into my friend Roni, who had also been taking part in the Classic challenge, we exchanged stories of grit and determination and the colour started to gradually move back into my cheeks. In an attempt to get me back up and running and get some nutrients in my body, Edward suggested a big pub lunch…which really did the trick πŸ™‚

Meat!

Meat!

You might think that someone who found themselves stopped by cramp, doubled over with stomach pain and vomiting into the grass would give such an event a wide berth, but I can’t wait until next year, I really want to do it again. This time I will work out a fuelling strategy (I have a year and other events to work this out – and any advice would be great) and I want to be able to give it my all right up to the finish line. And of course, my position of 12th woman in my age group needs to be beaten, top ten next time!

Entries are now open for next year, with early bird prices if you’re quick!