New Firsts!

I forgot to publish this one so it’s a bit late sorry…29027524_10156268860952769_1454648944335257600_n

Every time I set myself a new distance goal I manage to pick a hilly trail route!

Today (11th March 2018)  was my first attempt at 15k and it was the Stroke Association Resolution Run at Delamere Forest that hosted my effort.  It’s always easier if you rope a bunch of buddies in to join you on your quest for success so off we trotted to our local woodland for a Mothers Day adventure!

I have to thank Eileen and Helen for sticking with me for the duration.  I struggled with even idea of running that far and I couldn’t have done it without them.  Chris kept supported us for the last bit and Dave was there cheering us on.  I was also fortunate enough to have my family half way round the lap supplying sweets and looking after jumpers for all my club buddies.  This journey would not be on going without them.

Now it’s onto the next challenge.  Half Marathon maybe?  Ooh it would be amazing if I could!

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One PB after another

Photo credit to Mick Hall PhotosKNG_3350.JPG

I am not a photogenic runner – FACT!

But I’m getting to a point where it matter to me much much less.  You see, I don’t do this crazy thing to look good.  I do it to feel good.  Friday last week (I am a bit behind with my posts sorry) I tipped up at Kingsley Cricket Club near Frodsham, Cheshire for the Mid-Cheshire 5k.  What I didn’t realise was that this event hosts the 2018 England Athletics 5k Road Champs and is a FAST field!  Having been told to expect a fast course I’d saved myself all week.   I  even begrudgingly held back at the Wirral seaside 5k, following some very smart advice from one of our fabulous mentors.

The start line was full of speedsters warming up.  We small group of “average” club runners huddled in a nervous haze (well I did anyway) and off we went.  We intended to try and stick with a few other ladies from our club but they were too fast for my fabulous running buddy Debra and I, so we stuck to our goal pace and pushed ourselves round.  Ian, our mentor had suggested we need to be hitting 4k by 26:20 to my goal of 32:30 and I’m told we passed him and his camera bang on time.  The last km is all subtly down hill and with gritted teeth we picked off a few runners who had perhaps gone off a bit quick and knocked 10 seconds off our goal!

That’s a new PB of 32:20 (official chip time) a whopping 13 minutes faster than my first 5k just over a year ago.

Don’t worry about the hideous race face photos, they are just a reminder of how awesome and determined you are.  Ian says PBs are never pretty.  He’s not flipping wrong!

 

OMG Where do I start?!?

28424737_1916068221760234_6978815208872716369_oIt’s a funny old world, I mean, we get enjoyment out of doing things that we don’t enjoy!  How does that work?

Today was the day!  The final round of the North West Sunday Cross Country League 2017-18 season.  I was really quite worried about it to be honest.  The Birchwood course has somewhat of a reputation!

I’ve completed every round this season, having started off “just having a go” at Clarke Gardens with absolutely no intention of ever doing another.  But then I was blown away by the friendliness and supportive nature of just about every runner.  Right from the first guys to lap me through to those who just about managed to scrape by in time, people from every club shared words of encouragement and motivation.  By the time I’d finished the first half I’d had enough but then I was joined by a runner (from our club) who had already finished.  I had company for the last half, I couldn’t possibly drop out!  I went home and realised that despite it being the toughest run I’d ever done and despite the fact that it had all the things I hate in a route (grass, mud and hills) I really had quite enjoyed it!  In for a penny in for a pound I figured I may as well have another go.  I was warned Skelmersdale was the toughest course so I thought if I can get through this I can get through them all.  I crawled over the finish line and vowed to finish them all!

I don’t think Skelmersdale is the toughest course, I think it is a technically challenging course but the difficulty is as much about the weather on the day.  Arrowe Park almost defeated me.  Those freezing puddles and energy sapping cold really made for a challenging run but again NRC came to the rescue with company and encouragement.  It was my first full length run in spikes and although I felt the benefit in places I should have practised in them more in advance.  I suffered from a really tight calf and hobbled round half the first lap.  I was glad to get the course done and evidenced on Strava despite half the marshals being sent back thinking I’d dropped out.  Massive thanks to those at the finish line who waited to give me my token!

Anyway, it’s all history, each round has presented its own challenges from shoes that wont stay on to lack of self belief.  Today’s course was 4 and a bit laps, a new challenge.  I don’t mind laps.  I find it actually easier to break down a run into manageable chunks, I only have to keep going for one lap at a time, once I’ve done one lap I know I can do just one more lap!  However, when you know there are people who usually lap you on a two lap course and finish before you’ve finished lap one, you know that on a 4 lap course there are people who are going to lap you more than once AND finish before you finish lap two.  The thing about this is that it’s so much more obvious how far behind everyone else you actually are.  It’s lovely that the constant stream of faster runners means you get loads of support and are never really on your own but I was really dreading passing the start finish with EVERYONE else already done.

I shouldn’t have worried.  For starters, it’s not like NRC would have left me high and dry anyway but even better fabulous Karen decided that since she ran 35 miles on Saturday, she would just come and run with me at the back on Sunday!!!  OMG she is obviously mental and fyi still ran much easier and quicker than me today BUT it’s way easier to be last with company than without.  Awesome tail runner Steph Charman was fantastic chatting on the way round, those two make it look so much easier than it is!

So I finally made it round all 4 and a bit laps, more NRC runners had of course tagged on as they finished and joined us on our yomp.  I wont embarrass anyone else by naming them but I’ve overwhelmed at the support I’ve received this year.  My spikes fell developed a huge hole after only 4 rounds so I took them back and swapped them for a different pair and I’m excited to test them out and get training.  I’ll be back next year, hopefully less of me (5 stone weight loss goal) and hopefully I’ll be a bit quicker.  I’ve hopefully encouraged a few others to give it a go.  I really hope they do as they are missing out on all the fun!

Last thing, thank you so much to the folks who decided to present me with this lovely medal.  DSC_0421.jpg

I can’t begin to put into words how nice it has been to receive such support.  Being a competitive person, coming to terms with being last has not been easy, learning to be satisfied with a finish or improvement has been tough.  I can’t take all the credit though, if wasn’t for the amazing attitude of Northwich Running Club encouraging people to just try and the awesome runners who come back or run extra laps ensuring “no man left behind” I would never have done more than one round.

I’m really looking forward to next season.  I’ve already replaced my spikes and look forward to testing them out at practice in a few weeks.  I look forward to getting good enough to offer the same support I’ve received to newer runners having a go next time.  Go on, it’s really very good fun, what have you got to lose?

I’ve lost track of what I’ve already said so thanks again to everyone at NWSCCL and see you all again in October x

 

Training goals? What next…

So the end of January has already passed (how fast???!) and there are races being advertised left right and centre.  How do you pick which ones?  How to do you train accordingly for one but rest appropriately for another?  I’ve set myself one primary goal for 2018 and that is to run a half marathon.  I’ve picked the English Half Marathon in Warrington which is scheduled for mid September and I’m trying to look ahead and increase my mileage very gradually so that I can hopefully get to September injury free and fit enough to “enjoy” my first official 13 miler.  The thing is that many Sunday’s are littered with cross country (still just about a long run for me) and then there are 10k races that I’ve entered so really it’s not always possible to fit in the training runs that I need.

Here is my process though for picking events. I ask myself the following:

  1.   How much does it cost?  I’m pretty poor so cheap is good
  2.   What do I get?  I’m a fan of a good tech t-shirt myself
  3.   Will I get a pb?  I’m still at that stage where I’m getting pbs every couple of months so flat courses are a bonus
  4.   Will I have loads of support?  I love taking part along with a whole bunch of other NRC runners
  5.   Is it near enough to not need an over night stay?  I love running but not enough to keep ditching my kid over night.

So what is a girl to do?  Do I need to do a “long run” every week or is one or two a month enough to gradually build up ready for the big one?  I’m finding it really hard to navigate the conflicting advice.  I expect there will be weeks when I work hard and increase my efforts and feel sore after.  But, when is it time to take it easy and rest and when is it time to ignore the aches and push on?  When is an ache a niggle and when is a niggle an injury?  Where do we draw the line between a bit of arthritis masked by ibuprofen and a potential long term injury?

I’ve been exceptionally lucky this last year, I haven’t really had an injury to speak of, I narrowly escaped an ankle disaster with a light twist that was fine after a few days of rest.

I’m keen to know, how do you pick your races?  How do you prepare in the run up to a race?  How do you define a “long run”?  I’d love some feedback…

One of my priority runs this year will be the Northwich Festival of Running 10k in July.  My first every 10k last year it was a tough trail with some serious ups and downs for a fatty who’d previously never exceeded 6.5km!  To add to the challenge the weather was scorching and I’m not sure how I managed to get round but the support was incredible, the marshalling and organisation were to notch.  I love the medal I came home with and I’m sure it will be a favourite for years to come.  The event is run in collaboration with local children’s cancer charity, The Joshua Tree and offers a 5k race, 10k race and 2k fun run.  You can actually enter all three as they are held one after the other throughout the day!  It took me 1:38 to get round last time (yes that’s an hour and 38 minutes) and I’ve already shaved 20 mins off that 10k time although I doubt it would be considered a pb course.

If you are interested in taking part this year you can enter at http://northwichrunningclub.niftyentries.com/Festival-of-Running-2018 I hope to see many of you there, it really is a great event and of course raises money for a fantastic charity.

I didn’t come last!!!

And the Bog of Doom didn’t defeat me…

Sorry it’s taken so long to process my thoughts, it’s been a busy week washing running gear and trying to get rid of mud from under my toe nails!  Photography credit to Ian Scouler of Northwich Running Club, we hate to admit but we love the shots of ourselves looking ridiculous 😀

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The Northwest Cross Country League took us to the delightful Croxteth Hall for Round 5 of 6.  Personally I loved the course, there I said it, I loved it, I really did!  The course was pretty flat although this was not my reason for preferring it, the mud was sloppy and slippy but not sticky.  The puddles were deep and dirty but not nearly the same hindrance as the sticky stuff at Runcorn.  I set off at the start of this round with rather less confidence but no less determined to finish.  Perhaps the somewhat warmer weather made it easier or possibly the lack of clay, who knows?  The Course consisted of 2 laps of a mixture of field and woodland including the deepest puddle, AKA the bog of doom (as photographed above).  I should explain that I was holding my hands up in fear of getting my watch wet.  If I find myself having to replace it I shall be investing in a waterproof one!

As per usual the NRC team were exceptional, Tiffany leading our ladies home and Chris not only leading our gents home the day after finishing 4th in the Warrington 5 miler (more about that event later) but then darting about checking on us slowies!  A-ha!  Plural for slow runners!  Indeed, because making her debut appearance in an NRC shirt was our Vikki.  Only recently out of couch to 5k Vikki has been un-stoppable.  She has goals set for herself through the year but none of these involved cross country.  As a valued club member she agreed to tag along and support the team at Croxteth but was cajoled into joining in the fun en-route to the venue.  I must apologise as we didn’t realise we should have asked permission in advance but there we were with a new recruit raring to go!

Vikki and I had agreed to run together and were blessed with the company of Jay from Liverpool running club (sorry if I’ve got that wrong) our tail runner for the day.  Jay was lovely, super supportive from the start, I knew Vikki was in safe hands if I was able to find my own pace and go a bit quicker (shocker I actually was by a fair bit).  So off I went on another solo jaunt hoping not to fall too far behind the back of the rest of the field and maybe even catch someone up.  Alas, I could see a few not far away but I didn’t manage to catch up with anyone (there is still a round left so who knows) but I was thrilled to get round without feeling like I might die.

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I was a fair bit further round than usual when our Chris finally caught up with me (after already finishing the race and finding his hat) so satisfied I was ok off he shot to find Vikki and offer her his support, once satisfied she was in good hands he returned to give me some much needed encouragement and actually get me to push myself a little harder on the last stretch.  I must admit, in hindsight I don’t think I put 100% effort into the course, saving myself expecting a much tougher experience I kept a bit in reserve that I actually might have been able to use to catch up those in front.  I’m still learning to pace myself and getting it wrong plenty!

I can’t believe I actually enjoyed this round, the people were marvellous, my team always encourage me when they lap me and our neighbours, Delamere Spartans have shown fantastic support also, I think every one that lapped me gave me words of encouragement, thanks chaps!

I can’t wait for the next and final round of this season.  Not just because I’ll be glad it’s over but because I really hope than by next season I’ll have managed a summer of training and healthy eating and instead of being that persistent fatty at the back I’ll be in the mix (probably sill near the back) but a bit less lonely and a bit less conspicuous.  I also really hope more average folks like me give it a try.  Mud, water, fresh air, it’s all good fun.  It seems horrid but despite the hateful conditions there is a weird enjoyment that comes from this sport and it’s not just for the crazy elites, you can actually enjoy being a bit rubbish at it too!  Not many of our club have managed every round this season so despite not contributing points I have at least won myself a place in that crazy elite squad haha see you all at Birchwood eek!

NRC visits Congleton Parkrun

27066941_10156357542522214_958784350334787037_nLast weekend, 15 of our fabulous Parkrun lovers (including me) set off to Congleton’s Astbury Mere.  A really lovely venue for a Parkrun despite the course requiring 3 and a bit laps (not everyone’s cup of tea).  This would be the second time we’ve planned to tour Congleton but ice scuppered our first attempt as the Run Director had to cancel due to ice making the course too unsafe.  A fantastic, clearly delivered run briefing explained it was a nat’s whisker from being cancelled again as there was ice on the path.  Runners were asked to take it easy at least for the first lap and cones cordoned off the particularly slippy sections using muddy grass instead.  It’s a great team running a very well organised Parkrun so no wonder 284 turned out despite the chilly start!

It is a flat course notorious for fast times although the path is narrow so don’t expect a blazing start unless you start from the very front.  Several of our club have found it a great pb venue so with this in mind I was aiming for a pb.  Lucky for me one of our fantastic club runners, David, had offered to pace me for the full distance and boy was I grateful.  Making the leap from 12 to 11 min miles hasn’t been the easiest transition.  I’ve become very comfortable with 12 min mile “chatting pace” and it has taken some time and effort to learn to push myself just a little bit beyond that and know that I can sustain a slightly more challenging pace.  I suppose with more practice this new quicker pace will, in time, become my new chatting pace, but for now, it’s almost tempo running for me!  So with Dave’s help, which I would describe as unobtrusive constructive pointers with gentle encouragement, I managed splits of 11:04, 11:12, and 11:20 which given the nature of the day – cold and slippy I went home very happy with.  I’m starting to think I might benefit from a bit more of a warm up although I’ve been reluctant in the past to “waste valuable energy”.  It seemed much easier at time trail having done 0.7km at chatting pace before the timed lap.  More experimentation required!

Anyway, less about me for a change and more about Congleton!  As I’ve mentioned the Parkrun is held at Astbury Mere.  It’s a very pretty venue and I’m sure stunning on a sunny day.  There is a small cafe with toilets accessible from outside which were open well before 09:00hrs.  They are clean and well stocked with loo roll so ladies needn’t be worried about their pre-run wee!  The course is very straight forward, 3 laps of the lake path plus 100m or so to the finish.  The course is pan flat, I honestly couldn’t detect a gradient even on lap 3 but maybe I was just too focused on keeping my pace going?  The path is firm and smooth but narrow and prone to ice in the colder months.  I would say the course is suitable for buggy runners BUT beware there is little space for passing other runners along most of the route.

I certainly look forward to visiting Congleton Parkrun again in the summer as I’m sure it will be a great place for another pb but with so many venues on the “to visit” list it may have to wait a while!  Right now we have plans to visit:  Croxteth Hall, Cheadle Hulme, Worsley Woods, Bushey Park (VLM weekend should be fun) Erddig and Watergrove.  If you have any thoughts and/or suggestions for “must visit” destinations please comment in the comments below!

 

Listening to advice pays off…

So as you can gather, I get a lot of guidance, advice and support from my club (Northwich Running Club (NRC)).  I’ve become fairly well known through my cross country efforts and supporting the new intake of c25k guys (who are all running really well now btw).  I’m fortunate that experienced runners have regularly taken the time to pace me, keep me company finishing races AND talked to me about how to improve my running.  It would be easy to dismiss the 12 min mile 7k runner as not in serious need of training guidance.  After all, if you just keep turning up to club and putting in the miles you will improve over time.  But, I’ve found it’s easy to clock up empty miles, too many miles and not make a significant improvement in any given area.  Well not entirely true, I’ve improved my distance but I run the same pace if I’m doing 4k or 10k!

When I got to the point where I could reasonably comfortably run 10k and feel like I could have carried on, but for the 100m sprint at the end, I realised I should be able to run 5k at a faster pace.  The problem I had was I had become too well trained in running at what I call  “chatting pace”.  I had become so focused on maintaining a sustainable pace that wouldn’t burn me out I panicked every time I tried to push myself to go a bit quicker.  I didn’t know how to make the right changes.  I had read about tempo intervals and various other interval training for increasing pace but hadn’t properly understood what “tempo pace” actually was.  Luckily for me our chief (Alan) lead us on a very icy run and noticing I was finding the run less challenging than some of our other runners (I’m just less afraid of falling and hurting myself because I’m stupid) he encouraged me to throw in some tempo intervals.  He explained what tempo pace means (I would define this as a bit faster than you find comfortable, breathing hard but still able to speak some words but not full sentences – correct me in the comments if you think that’s incorrect).  He helped me find my tempo pace by gradually increasing my pace and then holding it until we got to the next hill.  Then we did this again later, until we got to the trees.

I felt great for finally finding a pace that I could push myself to for short intervals and recover from while still running and not having to walk (or collapse in a heap).  Since then I’ve tried to incorporate them into most of my running weather at Parkrun or club runs, where appropriate.  It’s been about a month and my pace has gradually improved.  I’ve also got used to running at a heavier breathing pace which has allowed me to find more of a “race pace” for shorter distances.  I’ve taken my club time trial (3k) pace from 12 min miles to 11 min miles and I almost managed it for 5km at Congleton Parkrun despite the ice and mud we had to contend with.  Granted I wouldn’t have managed to sustain the pace I ran at, without the support of Dave, another of our club’s unsung heroes, but the point is that with just a little bit of knowledge and guidance I’ve managed to make an improvement of 8% to my pace!

So here’s the thing.  Even if you think you are “just” one of those slow runners who enjoys the company of a club run but isn’t very competitive.  If you want to make some improvements (8% takes you from 37:30 to 34:30 over 5km) ask your coaches and run leaders for advice.  If they are half as good as our guys they will be over the moon to help you out!

In less than I week I’ve busted out the following pbs:

1 Mile:  10:49 (15 seconds off)

Time trial (3km):  20:40 (2:20 shaved off)

Parkrun (5km):  35:25 ( 34:55 according to strava – 1:12 shaved off)

I’ve joined Slimming World (again) with the determined intention of shifting some off this lard.  I’m pretty confident that lighter should mean faster, so watch this space and lets see if I can smash these pbs by this time next month!