The Great British Challenge

It was my friends birthday and as it was school holiday we thought it would be a great idea to spend the at an event.

We chose the Great British Challenge run by Saxons, Vikings and Normans (SVN), you know I love these events, Ranscombe was my last one and I was really looking forward to this.

It was an early start (aren’t they all?). We made our way into Kent for the 8am start.  IMG_7212

The start was in a wooded area called Kings Wood, beautiful but hiding a secret.

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The hills!  I knew there would be some hills but I was not expecting to step elevations and quick drops.

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The theme was British and therefore we were all encouraged to dress up in red white and blue.  The sun came out in full force and I met up with friends I had met via SVN events and local clubs before the start.

The event started and my friend and I went off.  Due to the steep hills I recorded my quickest mile, I was chuffed.

In my mind I wanted to complete between 1 lap and a half marathon, my friend said she wanted to do a lap and as she had fairly recent knee surgery I was not going to push her to do anything she didn’t want to do.

After the first lap I felt good, I restocked at the aid station and waited for my friend to come in.  She came in and said she wanted to go out again, cool I was happy for her.  I went off, this time running the downhills and flats and walking the very steep uphills.  The elevation map below will see how the elevation differed.

After the second lap I was ready to go again, the third lap meant this would be a half marathon.  I waited for my mate to see if she is ok.  She came in and said now she had completed 2 laps it would be foolish to give up before the half.  I decided to support her and not go off.  The sun was out in full force and we set off.  Some gentle running to start with but the hills soon become too much for her and we walked and chatted, it was lovely.  We came to the finish and rang the bell to indicate that was it for us, collected our medals and goody bags and sat waiting in the sunshine for the rest of our party to come on in.

The next event for us will be the SVN cakeathon at the end of August, looking forward to it already but my legs need a rest first!

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A Little Local Event

After Hockley parkrun the other week my little group of running buddies, hubby and I decided to mix it up a bit.  The RAT runner in me liked the location, trails and not too far away from home.  A short distance event that means a quick shake up of the legs mid week in a new location.

Welcome to Skylarks, a 3k event in Wickford organised by a club I know really well so I know it was in good hands.

Stormy clouds over the park
Finish line ready to greet us

This event is a twice yearly event and uses Wick park for its location.  The terrain was a mix of gravel paths, grass and trails and there were runners and walkers of all ages ready to take part on a look Wednesday evening.

There was a lady there with her daughter, the daughter was running with her dad.  I was asked about “this girl can” as I was wearing my ambassador t-shirt, I explained the concept and encouraged mum to go out with her daughter next time, i indicated that exercise was for everyone, nobody should feel that they are no good enough, fast enough or whatever the concern was.  Exercise is personal and everyone is different.  I wanted to make sure I was back in to cheer the daughter on, it was a big deal for this young lady to take part and I wanted to be there to congratulate her at the end.

With my £2 entry fee paid I was ready to run, I felt good, it had been a cracking week at work and although tired with end of term preparations I was ready to get some fresh air into my lungs and get the legs moving.

I was near the back of the pack ready for the off. Go was shouted and I felt myself surging forward, I was overtaking people.  I became worried I had started off too quick but I pushed on, I wanted to see how long I could maintain the pace over the trails.

One of my running pals was up ahead so I pushed on again overtaking again and I came up beside her.  Breathing heavily I was concerned my breathing would put her off, we smiled at each other and a took my foot slightly off the pedal allowing her to surge forward.

At one point on the course the front runners are coming back on themselves so you get to see them.  I saw one of my faster mates, he looked and gave me the thumbs up.  I looked at my watch at this point and was surprised at my pace.  Sweat was dripping from me despite the cool evening.

All too soon I rounded a corner and could see the finish up ahead, I spotted hubby and some of my mates so I needed to finish strong.  I crossed that finish line excited and breathless I felt great. I ran up to my mate I had briefly caught up with earlier and congratulated her

I looked at my watch and could see that I had recorded my fastest mile yet, I was chuffed.

Soon the young lady and her dad approached the finish, I was please to be there to cheer them in, and also able to shout encouragement to others coming through.

A nice cup of tea and biscuit, prizes were given out for the first man, lady, boy and girl and it was time to go.

Details about Wick Park can be found here there is also a link on this page to Skylarks.

Disorganised Events

I had chosen a 10k event for part of the club GP series over in Gunnersbury Park for the last event before the summer break.  There were a few races to choose from but Gunnersbury appealed as I had heard good things about the park and the organisers seemed all above board running a number of events around London.  Gunnersbury appealed as it was also fairly easy to get to by public transport so those without access to a car could still take part and weather permitting it could be a nice day to take the family.

Late the day before I decided I would not go along to support, I was behind slightly on my training and I needed to get a long run in on the Sunday which I would not be able to do had I go along to the event.

I may have regretted this decision the next day.

So the Sunday dawned, weather was good for all doing their thing, whether racing, training or doing another sport.  Hubby and the rest of the club set off to Gunnersbury and I set off for my long run.

Everyone taking part int he GP arrived safely, always a good thing but the confusion started from there as reported back to me after.

Firstly the web site stated it was just two laps around the park, laps are not great and can be boring but two laps in a new area would be ok as a one off.  The organisers explained that due to recent hot weather there would be five laps not the two as it would be easier to deal with any issues.  The day was a lot cooler than recent times but I guess they didnt want to take chances.

Secondly, there was a heck of a lot of confusion over the start time.  The web site said 10am but one of the marshals said it started at 10:30am.  This meant many felt they could not warm up and was hanging about then suddenly being told that actually the start time was in fact 10am causing last minute panic and rushing about.

Thirdly, I understand that they had started to pack up the course whilst the last runners were still out there.  This is one of my biggest pet peeves I hate that with a passion.  Being a slow runner myself I would have felt very unhappy seeing the packing away, what on earth is that all about?  If you are organising a race you wait until the last person is through the finish.  Had I been there I would have certainly had said something and kicked up a fuss.  Disgraceful behaviour.

Lastly, the communication with the organisers had been appalling.  I had contacted them leading up to the event and after to clarify some things and the responses were incredibly slow at best.  Others said non existent communication was what they got.

The bling wasn’t special the souvenir t-shirt cotton so can’t be worn for exercise but we did win the team prize, I guess we can share the trophy around everyones homes.

Organising a race is not hard, I have done it myself and I did it part time on top of my day job, this organisers job is organising events – no excuse.

I won’t name and shame the organisers here, they have been called out on the club Facebook page and I certainly will not be picking another of their races.

 

 

A RAT runner

After hearing a not so nice comment one night at club that left me feeling quite negative I decided I needed to do some of my training either on my own or with people I could count on with similar goals to myself.

This has resulting in me becoming a little bit of a RAT runner (road and trail) as I discover little routes and trails near home or work.

I am really beginning to love trails especially when it is a warm day.  The trees and coolness of the ground can help keep focus which in turn takes your mind off anything else.  I am incredibly lucky living where I am with lots of green spaces nearby to use as part of my training.  The air may not be pollution free but it is cleaner than running by a main road.

As a result of mixing things up a bit I have felt stronger in myself mentally and physically and I have realised that as much as it is fun to run with others it is also quite a relief to have my own company and mash through what I need to do whilst reflecting on work and all the other things that get queued up in my head.

I will go back to club at one point but I need to steer clear of negativity and to be really honest the club have nearly 200 members and not all 200 turn up to club nights, at most 60 people so I am not alone in not always needing the club to run.  Being part of a club does benefit people but clubs also need to evolve and nurture the current members whilst still looking to increase numbers.  If they don’t numbers will decrease and there are many ways of joining EA without having to physically attend a club night.

Being a RAT runner has meant that I have revisited Hockley Woods parkrun recently and gained a PB on my more recent outing there. It is so pretty there it is always a joy to run around there.

If you have always been a road runner why not mix it up and look to run on trails especially whilst the evenings are still light.

Spitfire Scramble 2017 edition

It was the return of Spitfire Scramble, its fourth year at Hornchurch Country Park and the fourth year the club had a presence there. It was also my second year in attendance and my husband’s third. This should indicate before anything else how great this event is.

Last years review can be found here and my first take on this event can be found here.

2017 heralded a slight change to the previous years, keeping it fresh but also reflecting on how much the event had grown in the four years.

Firstly, the event was a month early, normally this was halfway through August but due to school summer holidays it always meant getting volunteers to marshal and set up was difficult. This meant for me that I was reliant on others to set up the tent on the Friday and my recovery would have to take place when back at work on the Monday, not having the luxury of being able to book time off work.

Camping was in a new field that was on the route before but was very overgrown and could be quite soggy. This was initially a worry for me but as the weather had been fairly dry and hot and the grass recently cut I thought it should be ok. The field is large and this was picked due to the sheer number of people wanting to take part last year and could not get a place with plenty of room for future expansion. The next field along was used for vehicle parking and again this took the pressure of the country parks own cark parks and therefore ensuing locals and other park users could park without issues.

This camping base change meant that although the route itself did not change the start and finish changed. The start and finish was always in the same place as the camp. This now meant that the dreaded Ingrebourne Hill part of the course was now towards the end of the route instead or part way through. This change resulted in me feeling happier about the parts I dreaded last year eg the two farmers fields that were such a long drag last year were actually ok this time round and Ingrebourne Hill, always my nemesis was almost a joy now as it indicated final part of the route.

Camp set up opened for us lucky people lunchtime Friday and hubby was able to pitch our tent as he had the day off work. We set up with the rest of the club on a corner of the field by a path that was the 4 mile point of the course. We would use this as base and a cheer point to not only cheer on our own club runners but all those taking part.

T-shirt and runners pack was collected once registration was open late on the Friday and then it was time to go home, do last minute preparations before a much needed early night, knowing there will be little sleep once spitfire starts.

Packing is always difficult for this type of event. You need enough clean clothes to ensure that you have something dry to put on after a run especially if you sweat a lot or if it had been raining but, space is at a premium in a tent. For me I always like to have a change of shoes, recovery shoes to walk about the camp when not running and a choice of road or trail to meet the conditions of the route. Some people pack food and that creates more packing as you then have to take plates, cups etc. I had decided to go for the food wristband option as I remembered not eating healthily last year and I felt jacket potato or pasta would be more benefit for me therefore I didn’t need much in the way of food but packed up a cool box of various drinks and fruit. Head torch or hand torch is a must have for this event, you could not go out on the night run without one. I always pack up a mini first aid kit that contain pain killers, tape, chafing balm, plasters and other bits that are not always used but the one time you don’t pack them is the one time they are needed, lessons learned from the previous years. The nights get chilly so my dry robe and a woolly hat was also packed up (and used believe it or not).

Saturday I was woken early by the cats but nerves had also kicked in. We packed up the car and made our way over.

Time flew very quickly and although we had left early we run out of prep time before the runners briefing. Many did not get team photos done and our whole club photo was taken once the race was underway.

The briefing completed and then it was time for the race to start. Those going out first lined up at the start line, those cheering them on to the sides. So much pressure on the first lap so many people watching but such a great atmosphere and lovely way to start.

Once the race started I went back to the tent and unpacked the rest of our stuff and started to prep for my lap.

The walk back and forth from our camp to the start was quite a distance and as a result we did not walk team members to the start to send them off. For me this wasn’t really an issue as I like to go out quietly but I felt bad for the others.

My first lap started, I had decided to wear my “this girl can” Essex ambassador shirt, my decathlon skort, CEP compression socks and my road Hokas. It didn’t look pretty but it was all about feeling comfortable and making sure nothing went wrong on the first lap. The Hokas held up well but after running Ranscombe the weekend before I realised that they were near the end of their life and had actually started to rub my feet. The Hokas did not make reappearance during this event, thank goodness I had a spare pair.

Handover went smoothly and it was back to camp for something to eat, rest and support others.

My next lap was in the dark, so with headtorch on and a change of clothes I was back out there, it was fantastic running the lap with the darkness around me. No music on (I didn’t have music for any of the laps) I could hear the sounds of the wildlife in the park mixed with the sounds of the runners around me. At the top of Ingrebourne Hill I once again looked over London lit up. Feeling proud of what I had completed so far I made my way back down the hill and back to base. Handover done I went back to bed.

Lap 3 was difficult. I was woken from a not so restful sleep. Disorientated, not eaten and not hydrated enough I went out again. I was just getting my head down and getting on with it. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed this lap, it was right on sunrise and it was wonderful seeing the park come back to life with the light but I found it difficult to keep motivated. Legs felt fine it was my mind that was the problem. I was relieved to get to mile 4 alert my team mate who was out next to start getting ready. I came in handed over the baton and gingerly made my way back to the tent and tried to sleep. Not being able to sleep I just laid there and listened to the club cheer on runners as they went past, lovely to hear.

I was ready to do a fourth lap if needs be, all the team lap times were quicker than last year so I dressed in my running gear just in case. Team mate went out and it became obvious that the forth lap was not going to happen. Therefore as my team mate got to the cheer point I run the last 2 miles with her, met with the rest of the team at the corner of the field after the hill and we ran in together. All done!

Medals collected, tropies given to worthy winners and camp packed up it was time to head home. Tiredness was all consuming, it felt like jet lag and once home I realised that I had not eaten much since the last lap. A quick unpack, bath and dinner and it was time to catch up with the sleep.

Spitfire 2017 was all done. Would I do it again? Oh yes! Once again lessons learnt from this year and I will be back.

Summer Challenge

You may recall that a few months ago I took part in a Spring challenge at Ranscombe.  If not you can read all about that here https://justanessexgirl.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/spring-challenge/

It was time for the Summer challenge so instead of back to Ranscombe nice and early for the next stage.

The week had been very humid and Saturday was no different, I knew it was going to be a lot harder this time around.  Added to which there was a slight route change compared to Spring, as a result a familiar route would now have a certain amount of surprises.

What wasn’t a surprise was the hills, I had not forgotten them from last time and they were still there to welcome us back, difference being that the colour had changed.

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The rolling hills

After the usual race briefing from Traviss and the congratulations to those reaching milestones were were off.

Each loop was 4.4 miles to complete mostly trail with about 400 metres on a road to the path. 3 loops would amount to a half, 6 a full marathon and 7 for an ultra.

The hills (have I mentioned the hills?) were butt busting but the views were breathtaking, with each loop I saw something new.

At the top of the major hill (pictured above) instead of turning right light in Spring we had to turn left, through some gates and another gentle incline taking you out into a cattle grazing field with a spooky mausoleum right at the top of a mound.  This marked the halfway point of the route.

A loop around the mausoleum then back through the gates and onto a narrow path into the forest trails, thankfully downhill.

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The reward after that hill climb

A turn right and you are following the Eurostar route for about a mile, the path here was incredibly narrow with brambles and nettles alongside the path.  Making this technically difficult and needing full concentration. Peeling off from his path you come across a steep downhill followings by a steep uphill, through another forest and then back out onto the road for the 200 meters to the start/finish and aid station.

At the end of each loop I debated on whether to go out again, but the encouragement of all around me gave me the push I needed.  Ranscombe was not going to be a one loop course for me today!

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I decided that morning I wanted to do between 1 loop and a half marathon so I knew when setting off for my second I was already on goal.

The sun was really beating down now and hydration was becoming the key element for me, although some shade a lot of the course was very open too and that sun was very strong.  I made sure I had taken on enough liquid but I still needed more.

Once I completed the third lap I knew that was it, goal obtained and it was time to ring that bell and claim the bling and goody bag.

I will be back, in fact next month I am back to Ranscombe to take part in another event.

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Spring bling now with additional Summer

Stort 5

This was on the Grand Prix list last year but thanks to the feedback received from club members when I asked I felt it appropriate to add it onto the list this year.  All trail and set in beautiful Hatfield countryside I decided that I too would take part this year.

This race is either 5 or 10 miles, the 5 miles race was the GP race for us.

The morning dawned bright and sunny and I knew we were going to be in for a warm run.  The club hosting it had been very kind and accommodating, we were the second largest club in attendance but it is really the host club that can make or break a race sometimes.  This club is a friendly club and their annual race shows them at their best here are their details should you wish to join a club in that area or join in with this race next year http://www.bsrc.org.uk/events/stort10and5/

The one and only Frank Bruno was in attendance today, we had some photos with him, he also started the race.

My training plan meant I had to cover a certain distance as an easy run.  As the race set off I almost recorded my fastest mile, I realised pretty quickly that I was not keeping to plan and I slowed back down.  The route was pretty undulating, all on grass and trails some in the shade but a heck of a lot in the sun.  I ran with some fabulous people, some from my club but also others all doing their race their run at their pace.  I was happy with my finish time I was happy how I felt and how my body worked today.

Fabulous goody bag and t-shirt awaited at the finish no medal but the shirt far more useful.

Lets hope this is on the GP again next year, may have to ask the Race Secretary lol.

Know what I mean Harry