Run Up To Christmas 2018

What a great challenge this was!  A brilliant way to round off a year full of running.  The idea of the challenge is to set a target distance (50km, 100km, etc) and log those miles and kilometers in your own time between 1st and 25th of December.  I set a target of 150km (about 93 miles) which was high considering the distance on my runs had tailed off somewhat following the Oxford Half Marathon in early October.  I managed to get off to a good start with a medium and a long run on the first weekend in December clocking up nearly 26km (16 miles).  The following weekend did not follow suit.  It started with some Parkrun tourism in Cardiff which was a really enjoyable course and I had a good run at it but after that the focusing switched to socialising and then ‘holiday’ mode as I stayed over in the Brecon Beacons and ended up drinking more wine than expected so didn’t manage to get the trainers on on the Sunday morning.

Cardiff Parkrun Finish Selfie

The following weekend I took myself down to the Ridgeway for some trail running practice.  That was such an amazing morning.  The forecast had been for rain but it was beautifully clear, crisp winter morning and I managed 8 miles of very enjoyable but challenging running (and photographing!).  A few less than originally planned but definitely  enough of a workout for the legs.

 

Although still managing to get some shorter runs logged on the weekdays I ended up getting towards the final weekend before Christmas with around 50km still to run.  That’s a marathon (26.2) plus just less than 5 miles.  Make or break time.  The organisers of the challenge are really flexible so at this point I had the option to call it quits, claim a medal based on having run 100km already and donate any extra to another runner falling short, or keep going.  I decided to keep going and just see if I could do it.  Saturday, after having taught classes and before going to get my nails done I squeezed a 6 mile session in.  Then on Sunday, suffering a horrible hangover from work drinks the night before I somehow jogged 7 miles.  On the Monday, thankfully no work so I had time, and had recovered enough, for a 13.5 mile slog up to Oxford and back.  I was gearing up to have a double run day and finish off the final 4 miles that evening but after seeing a message pop up that Christmas Day runs could be included in the total decided to save that for the morning.  A shorter, faster push to finish the distance.  Repeatedly refreshing Strava until the total for the month to date showed 151km.  I actually did it!  Now it’s time to relax and enjoy Christmas!

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Long Run Mis-Adventure

Over recent months I’ve been finding myself more and more inspired to do more trail and off-road running and thanks to Instagram I have access to endless beautiful pictures to fuel the obsession.  Most of my running happens on suburban roads or on the cycle network through the park but I’ve been trying to see if I can find some nice routes from home rather than having to drive to get there.  Last month I used the Garmin connect hive mind (from the data logged by other GPS watch users) to find a lovely loop to the north of Abingdon which had some great views.  This time I decided to see what lies to the south and whether or not I could get to Wittenham Clumps (local nature reserve) which feels like a long way but is about five miles away.  Used Google maps to get a route and added in a cycle path I’m already familiar with, that follows the river out of town to a local village, before going across to the Clumps giving me a roughly 15 mile round trip.

The first three miles were easy and beautiful, town (Abingdon), river, cycle path, village, then I had to pull out the phone and figure out which way to go, one brief wrong turn then back on the right track.  Started heading out of the village onto paths alongside fields, opening out onto an end of a road looking bleak and abandoned, stony underfoot, rusty looking tanker thing and a view of Didcot Power Station.  Oh well.  Keep going.

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Sounds of traffic and activity emerge and I turned a corner to find myself at a waste recycling place with huge trucks thundering past in both directions.  Drivers no doubt bemused by the site of a runner as I’m guessing no-one ever runs that way.  Tried not make eye contact and not get run over while also trying to look like I know exactly what I’m doing and where I’m going.  Start checking the phone, apparently I was on the directed route until I got past the buildings and further out along the road, suddenly I’m lost and not going the way Google is telling me to.  I think the path I needed was blocked by roadworks and, having considered scrambling through the hedges, didn’t look passable.  So, ignoring Google, I followed the road the trucks were on in the hope that it would get me out to a main road I might recognise.  It did.  The arse end of Didcot.  Not pretty, but familiar from when I lived there years ago.  Hope returned, maybe this was just a detour and I would still get where I wanted to go.  Followed the road around to the B road the map suggested.  Then, dead end. Well, sort of.  It was one of those B roads that lots of cars drive very fast on and there’s barely a grass verge let alone a footpath.  Thought about seeing if there was a way through the adjacent fields but by this point was too deflated to keep going that way.  I’d forgotten to take any money with me otherwise at this point I would have seriously considered stopping and found a bus to take me back to Abingdon (my monkey brain did wonder whether I could fake an injury and hope a kindly bus driver would take pity on me but was overruled!).  At least by this point I knew where I was and how to get home but also getting fatigued, hungry and dehydrated (so glad I thought to take two water bottles for once and, that long run staple fuel, jelly babies!).

 

As I started running back I realised the road I was on was one I used to run on way, way back when I first started running and was training for my first 10k, in Lincoln, which was before the days of social media bragging so I can’t even really remember when it was (2006, I had to look it up).   Even with the hundreds of miles I’ve run since then and being roughly three stone lighter (although, over 12 years older) it seemed as though it was just as difficult as it used to.  Kept plodding on home, past the uninspiring office job I did while doing Personal Trainer qualifications, past the post-A Levels warehouse temp job I did pre-weight gain and pre-starting smoking.   During this stage of the run walk breaks were being dictated more by refueling needs rather than map checking.  Happily after all that my thoughts were focused more on the positive side of having run so far out, with all that to cover again (as opposed my default setting of multiple loops that could be cut short at any point), which was that I would hit my target distance as long as I could keep going and could get there quicker by keeping running.

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The last three miles were the hardest, as they often will be, but today unusually uplifting.  The river winding in to where it gets closest to Abingdon, lots of anglers along the opposite bank, the Anchor pub and overflowing flowerpots along the wharf in front, St Helen’s church  were very welcome sights.  Even more welcome was the water fountain in Abbey Meadows for me to refill my flask and start to rehydrate during the walk home from there.  Contemplating.  Although I didn’t manage to find what I was looking for with this run, a nice route and the satisfaction of getting to where I wanted to go, there were bright blue skies, warm sunshine, refreshing breezes, and it was interesting.  And I’ve learned that I need to work a bit harder at route planning in future.  If I manage that I will let you know!

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Summer Running…

… had me a blast.   Unfortunately this time referring to ‘blast’ as in the destructive sense.  Throughout April and May I was feeling inspired, energised and actually getting on with running a consistent schedule achieving slightly ahead of plan.  The excitement of this and an upcoming event, the Maverick Race Gloucestershire on 30th June, encouraged me to dream up the additional challenges of running a total of 100 miles during June and doing the Kinetic Revolution 30 Day Challenge  which I then (foolishly?) committed to Instagram.

 

What I hadn’t factored in while deciding ‘now’ was the time to try these goals was that I had already agreed, saved in my diary and everything, to a mindfulness workshop, a wedding, a festival weekend, oh and my birthday, all in the early part of the month.

Let’s reflect on the positive first… I more or less managed to keep following the training plan all the way through the month and added in a couple of extra short runs to try and build up the mileage to the magic 100.  However, I missed a long run of 11 miles the day after the wedding (hello, hangover!) and was about that distance short of 100 by the end of June, so not too disappointed with that one.  This challenge is on again for August – one week in I’m at 35 miles so looking more hopeful this time! 

I started the 30 day challenge and managed to get a weeks worth done then ended up forgetting one day and it fell apart from there.  I’d expected to find this one hard to maintain and perhaps that thought pattern was setting myself up for failure.  I could have been more organised I think and set a specific time for when I would get it done each day rather than just assuming I would fit it in somehow.  The other thing I started wondering was how much of it I needed to do given that I cross-train anyway through teaching classes.

The final one, the FUN one, the Maverick Race Gloucestershire.  I was so excited about this race, getting to go out on the hills, I had my parents there for support, feeling confident about the distance, beautiful sunny day, but then it all ended up working out very differently than I had expected.  There’s a possibility I may have had one to many cups of coffee during the morning leading up to the start and that, combined with nervous excitement, worry about how hot it would get (seriously hot), and not going to the loo enough beforehand, all contributed to let’s say feeling ‘uncomfortable’ almost all the way around which seriously affected my pace (but did keep me moving forward).

Starting at Sudeley Castle main car park we set off from the beautiful stately home grounds then quickly out to the surrounding roads and onto the fields.  There were a few stiles to navigate and narrow sections where we had to go single file so more walking pace than I would have liked, but, that did give time to take in the beautiful views and catch my breath.  Most of my training does not involve any elevation at all so even a gentle slope made itself felt.  About an hour in, past the turning off for the shorter route I followed the middle route I’d signed up for, past the first aid station, feeling alright even with the high summer sun heating things up, had found somewhere to duck out for a wee, then reached the main hill.  I saw everyone else walking, I decided to march/run as much as possible.  This was my biggest mistake I think.  I heard my inner voice saying ‘I feel sick’ quite a few times and kept going at it.  Eventually decided an energy bar might help although I probably needed water more I wasn’t enjoying it when I did try to drink.  The rest of the run from here was damage limitation, run/walk much slower than I’m used but as fast as I could manage, another couple of energy bars from the next aid station and managing to get some water down, some friendly support from another runner I kept meeting and passing, and even more beautiful views.  I didn’t really think about the possibility of not finishing until very near the end when the quickest way to get back was actually just to get round.  I finished.  Medal and goodies.  Toilet.  Refuelling in the shade.  Immense amount of gratitude for having mum and dad there to get me home (unfortunately with an emergency stop, my inner voice was right).  Full of determination to go back next year and do it again and see if I can improve.  Physical discomfort aside, which is not unusual when running even at the best of times, it was totally worth it.  Oh, and check out the photos… such a beautiful summer day!

 

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