Did Someone Say Cake?

We were back at Ranscombe for another SVN event – this time the Summer Bank Holiday Cakeathon.

This event encourages those to bake and bring cakes for some extra prizes, whilst encouraging the runners to have a slice or two of cake between laps.

Bank Holidays in the UK are traditionally damp, cold and raining, not this one.  Although the morning started off misty once the mist cleared 29 degree hit the local area and boy was it felt.

Sun beginning to show
Misty morning

I wanted to do my usual between 1 and 3 laps I didn’t have any other plans in mind, the weather told me to play it cautious.

Ready to go

The start was different to the spring and summer challenges, going across a field that had recently been cut down.  A challenging start but one I actually welcomed as it meant I had to go off slowly.  The field was slippery with the squashed remains of whatever had been growing there.

I trod carefully over the rough uneven ground until I got to a path, an uphill climb and then a beautiful downhill where I could let my legs just go.

I have described Ranscombe before so I won’t go into too much detail here about the route but suffice to say the heat and hills were as testing as ever but the feeling of accomplishment was amazing.

The theme for the run was pink in honour of one of the long standing members of SVN running her 100th marathon.  I decided on a pink tartan skirt made by running afrock which made my running shorts more feminine, a pink vest top and pink cap.  I loved this outfit and it fitted my attitude to this event well, fun and relaxed.

Last lap made me very happy
My pink get up.

 

The men in the group were able to wear their new mega marathons tops, a new scheme by SVN, they wore them with pride don’t you think?

I was also now able to earn and now wear my 100 mile shirt, something i had aspired to since the very first SVN.  Putting it on I felt proud of my achievements and this is largely down to my support crew for always being there and to those who look after us as SVN.

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My coveted 100 mile shirt.

Lastly I could not write about an SVN event without mentioning and showing off the bling.  As always these are very well thought through and and the bling nice and heavy.

The cakes at this event were amazing, different types of cakes and I wish I took pictures of the great masterpieces people had contributed to the cakeathon but I can say the ones I tried were fabulous.

The bling
Goody bag items
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Stanford-Le-Hope When Things Don’t go To Plan

After a pretty successful parkrun the day before at Valentines it was time for a 10k over at the nature reserve at Stanford-Le-Hope.  This was the first year that Phoenix running club was putting on a 10k alongside their community 5k.  It was really the only way I was going to get a long run in that weekend so we booked very last minute.

We had never visited before and upon arrival I was quite sad about this as it was a lovely place, similar to Rainham Marshes (Purfleet).  Very pretty and a fabulous mix of industrial with the docks nearby and nature with the reserve.

Sparkling Thames
Wide open space

Number collection was easy and I bumped into my friend who runs for Phoenix along with a few members from my club.

Nerves hidden
Group selfie

The weather was sunny and fairly hot and I was not really feeling it, I was regretting signing for the 10k and not switching to the 5k when I lined up on the start line.  The race did not start on time so in the few minutes of waiting for the off my mind went into over drive.

Once off I felt ok for the first mile, my pacing was on point and I was overtaking those doing the 5k.  But, it started to fall apart by mile 2.  I felt thirsty and I remembered I had not hydrated as well as I should have done for this race.  The weather was adding to this issue with every step.  As I carried on it became very clear that I was the last runner for the 10k, made even more apparent when the tail sweeper came up to join me, lovely lady and ultimately we got on fine and discovered that we had numerous things in common, but very demoralising when she announced when alongside me that I was the last of the 10k group.  With that in mind I felt rubbish, she was also very encouraging and in the end I appreciated her company but at the time I was ready to just throw that towel in.  The first loop over with I grabbed some water before setting out for the second lap. I was ready to quit but I remembered that I was not a quitter!

The second lap was tough but, I got to it. I spent most of it walking and feeling rough I could think of a million different places I would have rather had been, crazy when among the beauty of the reserve.

The final 100 meters was the most welcome sight I have seen for a long time, I dug deep and sprinted towards it indicating that I did not want cheers from hubs and mate.  I went through the finish and was given my medal but all I could think about was getting a sit down and a sugary drink.

I found a bench and laid down, feeling pretty rubbish at this point.  The sun was beating on my face but I laid there nearly in tears, feeling disappointed with my performance and with running in general.  I felt like I wanted to throw in the towel on this whole running life.

A sugary tea later as I felt less shaky but still disappointed but, I do not want this to be a pity party.  After a few hours of rest and reflection I decided that I have come a long way and one duff race/run is not the reason to give up.  I also realised that I needed to hydrate and eat appropriately for running.  Hydration has always been an issue, some days I know I don’t drink the correct amount of water.

With that in mind I booked to have my blood test, and over-hauled my fluid intake.  If I mess up another run it will not be down to nutrition or lack of hydration.

More parkrun tourism – Valentines Park

It was time for another Saturday morning trip out to parkrun.  We are truly blessed to have so many in the immediate area and as we had a busy day we opted to attend one we had not done before but was not far from home.

Welcome

After an absolute rotten week of running I was not looking forward to lacing up and getting out there but the beauty of parkrun is that it draws you in and even if you do not run you can still walk the course and you are never last.  This was the hook I needed.

The weather once again was warm but, there was some shade to give the respite needed.

A beautiful morning

We arrived early just to get our bearings and have a warm up walk.

The boating lake
The beautiful boating lake

The park is very familiar to me, having visited many times as a child, my Grandparents had lived close by.  The boating lake looked the same along with most of the park, however the park had received some enhancements like a decent cafe and a new children’s playground.

The group selfie

Before long some familiar faces arrived, it was good to see people from our second club.

I didn’t feel nervous, I knew if all else failed I would get a good walk on a Saturday morning.  A quick briefing like all the other parkruns before the start and we were off.

I had made good progress the course is flat and on tarmac but I was not sure of my pace, I looked at my watch after 3/4 of a mile and was shocked to see I had gone out really fast (for me).  I didn’t panic as I felt ok and continued that pace.  The park was pretty enough to take my mind off the running and by the start of mile 2 I was in the zone and feeling really good.  I was shocked that this feeling continued on the 2nd lap of the 2 lap course.  Towards the end of the 2nd lap I was running out of steam, I had really pushed myself but then I saw the finish line, I looked at my watch.  I picked up speed, it was a straight run and I could see it approach as I pushed more and more.  I wanted that PB after all.

I crossed the line and stopped my watch, a quick glance indicated a PB but I would need to wait until I got scanned and checked my data properly and then wait for the official results.

As I queued I looked and my watch showed that it was a parkrun PB and my fastest mile.  I was still nervous about the official results.

We headed to the cafe, the breakfasts there looked amazing but all I needed was a cup of tea and a chat with my running buddies.

Just as I finished the tea the results were in and I was pleased, relieved to see that it was indeed a parkrun PB. Phew, perhaps this is a turning point after really not liking the running this week.

As always it is thanks to the volunteers who give up their time on a Saturday morning so others can run and thanks to the support crew that were there today.

As for Valentines it is a lovely park and well worth a visit would recommend a visit even if you do not want to take part in parkrun.

http://www.parkrun.org.uk/valentines/

Burnham-On-Crouch parkrun

A new parkrun started on the 22 July at Burnham-On-Crouch, one of my favourite parts of Essex.

I have avoided this particular area since getting very painful and bad shin splints during a 10k event here.

However, I could not resist the pull of a new route and be in an area I love very much.  It was time for more parkrun tourism a visit to Burnham-on Crouch and their 4th parkrun and my 57th.

Welcome

The weather after the torrential rain mid week had been a lot nicer and the sun was already peeping through the clouds as we pulled up into the car park at Riverside.  Car parking is free here and there are plenty of spaces to park.

Riverside Park

The park is compact and has lots of little off shoots that cover a range of different activities from skate boarding to keeping fit with a 1 mile trim trail.

We had arrived early and this gave us the opportunity to walk around and get the lay of the land.  Lots of zig zags, different ground that went from grass to gravel to tarmac back to grass, some along the water front.  Looked like it was going to be an interesting run.

By the waterfront

Soon it was time for the briefing.  Making our way to the start line we were good parkrunners and listened to the briefing and clapped the volunteers, without them parkrun could not go ahead.

Briefing time

The run started off on time and I made my way over the grass towards the gravel path and a uphill zig zag path up to the water front.  I was overtaking people I thought I was going pretty easy but a quick check of my watch showed I had gone off fairly quick, I tried not to panic and decided I will continue this pace until I felt I had no more to give, my club made a few meters ahead meant I could catch her if I wanted to at this point but I wanted some energy in reserve.

A brief run along the waterfront, this was tarmac and will be a 2 way contraflow on the second lap.  A right turn just in front of the marina takes you onto the grass again and a fairly straight run with the marina on the left, at the end of this path it was a right and then a quick right again coming back onto grass and back on yourself and finally joining the contraflow by the waterfront, you see those on their second lap here coming back towards you, keep left here.

A slight left turn and a gradual downhill and a very sharp right turn (where I narrowly missed a dog on my second lap) round the skate park and approaching the start/finish area and onto the second lap.

The second lap with the exception of the dog was pleasant and without too much drama, I had slowed slightly at this point but felt ok and was pleased to put the fear of the Burnham shin splints to bed.  I finished strong and thanks the volunteers as I went through the finish.  A quick check of the watch indicated that it was one of my better parkrun times, surprising considering the course.

I collapsed onto the cool grass whilst the sun continued to shine, it was very warm.

Sweaty selfie

When I finally got up we made our way to a very nice local tea shop, I needed a drink and ended up having delicious tea and scones.  I guess I deserved it!

When I finally downloaded my stats I was pleased to see I had recorded my fastest mile to date.  I was chuffed.  This will be a revisited parkrun, it was truly lovely but I can see it will be very interesting come winter time with the open water and the chance for lots of mud.

This is a quiet parkrun but very friendly and I hope it builds on the foundations it has already started, there were 70 people there today.  If you fancy a different route in a lovely part of Essex then this is the one for you. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/burnhamoncrouch/

Being Critical

I hate having my photo taken, I am hyper critical and I am not photogenic in the least.  If I take a selfie I am often mugging up to the camera.  In a group I am the one that looks uncomfortable and not sure what to do with myself, with my face, body or how to smile (crazy eh?)  At events I am unaware of the camera unless it is someone right in front of me, therefore I am caught unawares and I look rough.  Many people, male and female look fabulous in their photos, strong, in control and bloody amazing.  I am jealous but proud of those looking great whilst smashing their goals.

Today I want to share some photos not because I have a look at me vibe about me but its a message that despite how I look and what I think I am still doing it.  Anxiety keeps trying to take a hold and I am at the moment trying to push it back but I am still doing it.

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The first picture is from Spitfire 2016, this was taken at the end of the last lap.  When I first saw this photo all I could see was my shin splint taping and how large I looked against the rest of the team.  In hindsight I look back with fondness as I had a brilliant weekend and completed a 24 running event for the first time ever.

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This second photo was from my first official half marathon in Richmond.  I was coming into the home straight and felt tired and emotional.  When I first looked at the photo I thought it was ok, I looked at my body and hated my shape, hated how I look like a fish having to breath through my mouth but the overriding feeling that I had completed 13.1 miles was more important.

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The photo above was taken at the first parkrun at Billericay.  I was showing my work friends as we were taking about hideous photos and I thought this was pretty grim.  My red face matched my top.  I was really digging myself over my body shape when my colleague said, actually its a brilliant photo, look at that focus and determination!  I still didn’t see it but I do remember that it was taken on at the finish straight so I was determined to finish. On a technical course I was pleased to finish.

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Another parkrun and again in the red top, you cannot see my tomato face because of the shade but I promise you it was there. I look at this picture and wonder what I was thinking about with my clothing.  I needed the long socks as I was trying to avoid shin splints in the lead up to spitfire 2017, but the top and short were not working together and I look shorter than my 5 foot 2.  Not a flattering angle in the least, dumpy.  On the flip side this is the final hill to the finish at Hockley, an interesting hill to say the least and I was running up it.

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The image above was taken at Stort at the finish line of the 5 mile.  I loved this event and the smile showed how happy I felt in completing it and not suffering from anxiety or injury.  My head is up and I look confident.  I still hate how my feet are not flying and that I am not super speedy but this is probably a time when I didn’t feel so self conscious and didn’t care what others thought.  I was proud to wear club colours and show that this girl can!

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A non running photo.  My trainer took this of me at my request, deep down I was feeling unsettled and anxious and not sure if I was making progress in any aspect of my fitness.  I spent a lot of time leading up to this photo questioning myself.  I did not like this picture I look tired and chunky and the workout was tough but my trainer did also point out that I was strong to be completing the circuit and I was smiling.  Also that I have come a long way in being able to achieve the things that I have so far and focus is the future.  I need to keep the focus and attempt to smile through all my workouts.

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This last image is the one I am cringing over.  Taken at Brentwood (oh please god let me have at least one glam running photo).  I had suffered heartbreak hill and anxiety up to this point and I was genuinely pleased to be racing towards the finish line.  I look like I am wobbling physically and mentally all over the place.  I cannot see where I am going and the grass is long (covering my foot) so I felt even more unsettled.

This is not a narcissistic post, as you can see my photos are pretty hideous.  I wanted to pass the message on that although I hate my photos I also see they are part of life and part of the events I take part in.  That although I look really questionable in them I am still getting out there and trying to make that change to myself and be healthier by moving more.

Any tips on how to get a great running photo would be gratefully appreciated.  I hope this post has not given you nightmares.

Brentwood parkrun

Welcome to parkrun

The parkrun tourism continued with a visit to Brentwood.  Only a few minutes down the road but I have avoided it like the plague as I knew it would be a hard one.

Overnight rain had stopped, replaced by sun

It has rained overnight so I knew trail shoes may be needed, I packed them just in case and as soon as I saw the wet grass I got them on.

A downhill start

After the new to Brentwood briefing we were good to go.  Sunlight glistened on the damp grass and nerves that were already there really kicked in.  I had heard about the hills, especially heartbreak hill and I wanted to get round in one piece.

The downhill start made it bearable but there were rabbit holes and long grass to deal with.  The course is a figure of eight and covers grass, trail and path.  After the downhill there are some inclines and the trail under the trees needed careful negotiation as the tree roots were making themselves known and I did not have my contact lenses in.

As always the marshals were helpful and friendly give encouragement to all runners, joggers and walkers.  I am always grateful to these volunteers.

My friend and I ran the downhills and flats and marched the inclines.  Catching up at the same time about her holiday that she had just returned from.

I was nervous about heartbreak hill and as we rounded a corner I saw the sign.

Welcome to heartbreak hill

A cheery marshal wished us well and I looked at the incline and its path.  It wasn’t as bad as I had pictured but it was an incline that seemed to go on and on, it was near the end of the route so legs were not thanking me.  We marched up it grateful it was over as quick as we could get up there.

A final sprint after another incline and I was done.  My slowest parkrun time in recent history.  I wasn’t worried about the time as I had got round, what I hadn’t mentioned at the start of this post was that this week I felt crippled with anxiety over this parkrun and running in general and this parkrun had been on my mind for a few days.  So much so I was having real issues with breathing, sleeping and focus.  Anxiety was taking a hold and I needed to tame it before it really took over.

As always I cannot say enough about the benefits of parkrun, it is truly for everyone and even if you are crippled with anxiety getting out in the fresh air can make all the difference.

All done, fab support

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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