Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Delightful Downton Half

When you're stumbling about at 09:20 with one eye that won't open properly, tripping over empty wine bottles and searching for your trainers before a 10am race, it probably won't be a personal best sort of day. However, after a raucous 30th birthday celebration and failed "few drinks and move on to water" strategy, I was happy enough just to make it to the start line.

This was my fourth outing to the Downton Half marathon; it's a brilliantly challenging course with some lovely big hills. Race New Forest are a fabulous group of people who run great series of events but I think this is my favourite. There are just the right amount of people racing, spectacular views of the New Forest and always plenty of friendly faces.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alice Holt Parkrun & The Gosport Half Marathon

Support Crew Extraordinaire
I haven't done too much since the summer of bicycle accident madness, but I've been ticking away at the running and have bizarrely found myself keeping a fairly decent level of fitness whilst doing very little. Gosport Half Marathon had been on my radar all year for an attempt at a fast (for me) half and in the last few weeks, I started to believe I might be able to do it.

A bit foggy..
The weekend started with a warm up at an extremely foggy Alice Holt parkrun. My ever-prepared sister was an amazing one-man support crew all weekend and as a result, at any time I could have had any type of layering system, a selection of shoes, snacks and hot beverages in a range of flasks. We had unwittingly timed out visit to Alice Holt on their birthday, which meant there was a higher-than-normal amount of fluorescent clothing and lit-up parkrunners on display. It also meant there was plenty of cake, always a bonus.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dartmoor Long-O 2014

Last year I entered an event that was completely beyond the limits of my general orienteering ability. This year, the two-day event which is run jointly by clubs in the Quantocks and Devon, was taking place in Dartmoor. Over the last year it is safe to say that I have developed absolutely no further navigational competence, but I was only down the road on my holidays so it seemed like a no-brainer.

I roped in/guilt-tripped a vaguely willing friend, Holly, on the proviso that it would be a really fun event to do as a pair. On the first day, Holly would be two weeks away from walking down the aisle and I was made to promise that there would definitely be no leg breaking or any activity that would result in wearing a cast on her wedding day. I agreed to the promise 87% and signed her up.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Caravan Calamity

It's always a gamble, entering a big endurance event. Months of work and build up, all for one day. It is all consuming, every weekend gets taken up with a training epic or practise race. Holidays get planned around good training locations. Toenails gradually disappear. Life becomes divided in "before and after", where "after" is really the only suitable time for hardcore socials as it won't interfere with training. Money gets spent fine-tuning your bike (okay, getting bar tape that matches your frame and helmet..) whilst your car gets abandoned and no matter which bag you go to, there will be some sort of energy bar in it, just in case.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The Inaugural Chatsworth Triathlon

A standard distance tri in a glorious country house location with a river swim? I'll have one of those please! I was looking for a race to do in combination with a visit to Chesterfield and seemed like just the ticket. At the last minute, Lizzie decided she wanted a piece of the action and entered herself into the sprint, which was to be her first ever triathlon.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Lakeland Trails Marathon 2014

I'd been trying to get my legs conditioned for proper endurance throughout this year ready for the attempt at an iron distance triathlon in September. Having had a lower limb disaster earlier in the year whilst attempting to run an ultra marathon, I needed to prove to myself that I could in fact run the distance. So, I entered what I thought was going to be a lovely trail marathon that skirted around the waterside paths of Coniston, in the Lake District.

Starting a little late...
We arrived at the start in plenty of time for a leisurely coffee, and decided to wander on over to a scenic location to enjoy it: the toilet queue. The race was due to start at 9 and we still had a good thirty minutes. The queue, however,  was not moving quickly and by 08:52 I could feel myself getting agitated. I reached the front of the line at 08:57 and felt much better, it was a worthwhile wait. Once I'd exited though I could hear the 10 second countdown commencing and pegged it across the field as fast I could. I was too late. The race started and I had to squeeze down the edge of the starting funnel against all the runners to get to the chip timing mat. The man on the megaphone excitedly announced that there was a mad girl going the wrong way. I did a u-turn at the timing mat and got a massive cheer from the crowd, he then announced that I was his favourite, which was a very positive start to the race!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Egg's Guide to the Challenge Weymouth Bike Course

I headed off to deepest Dorset with cycling buddy Sarah at the weekend for a first recce of the Challenge Weymouth bike course. I have written a basic guide to the main parts of the course below, but before you embark on a recce of your own, please note these important points:

There is only ONE proper tea shop en route as far as we could see (Pine Lodge Team Rooms, number 5) and the first time we passed it, it was closed. It's a mysterious place without a website or a Facebook page so the opening hours remain unknown. Sarah has been once before though and can vouch for their cream teas. 

Part of the route appears to require a mountain bike. A very hardy road cyclist may risk their rubber across the one hundred or so metres of gravel (3) but we picked up our steeds and shouldered them over. This was after several navigational misadventures as we couldn't believe the route actually went that way despite the GPS telling us it did. Challenge Tri have assured me it is being resurfaced though, phew!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Body Glide (for her)

With some long swimming events and triathlons coming up in the next few months, it was time to buy some Body Glide. I came across this new "for her" version on Wiggle. I couldn't imagine any possible reason why such a product required a female-specific version, but it was about a pound cheaper than the regular stuff, so I ordered it.

When it arrived, I couldn't help but notice it was considerably smaller than the normal one. Suddenly that discount made sense. On the positive side, no longer would I have to suffer the humiliation of asking my big man friends to carry it for me in their larger, masculine bags. It would fit so easily into my handbag, which - naturally - is my preferred choice of carry-on for races and the like. It would also make the application effortless as I would be able to hold onto the container more easily with my feeble lady grip.

Obviously, a bright pink lid is exactly what I wanted as a female consumer. I can't imagine the shame of buying a feminine product in a dull, grey hue.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Slateman Tri 2014

After my adventure with Ruth to the Snowman Tri last year, the Slateman was immediately added to our hit list as another brilliant event on the Always Aim High calendar. We made the obligatory overnight stop at Telford and smashed up the parkrun on the Saturday morning before ambling over to Snowdonia. The drive in to Llanberis doubled up as a recce of the end of the bike course and it looked just fine to us: easy!

At registration we realised we were in different swim starts, and couldn't figure out why or how they had organised the waves. Ruth was in the final wave which started 20 minutes after mine. This meant my whole race strategy had to change from "just enjoy the race, take it easy, you're here to have fun" to "you must absolutely rag the bike as hard as you can and pray you don't get caught on the run". We also spotted Jane Hansom at registration who is one of our favourite triathlete ladies but we were too rushed (and scared) to go and talk to her because we were keen to find the hog roast which had been promised in the race information. Sadly, it was all closed up by the time we got there but we promised ourselves a post-race hog roast instead.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Maz's First 20 (+1)

Maz is an old school friend who has never been keen on exercise. She's a friend I can always rely on if what I need to do is sit in my pyjamas drinking wine and eating brownies. So, when she told me she had entered the London Marathon, my first reaction was to laugh out loud. I wasn't being cruel, I just didn't quite believe what I was hearing. Of all the people in my life who could possibly enter, she was far, far down on the list. She had suffered the same plight as many of us do, a drunken night with silly suggestions that get taken too far. I wasn't entirely sure she would take it very seriously, but held my hands up when I saw her a few weeks later only to hear about the rigorous running regime she was on. I was amazed.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Exmoor Training Camp Part 2 - To Porlock, or not to Porlock

Ruth should know better than to let me plan a long bike route without supervision. I tapped away excitedly on a route mapper and declared that we would be riding about 70 miles around Exmoor, and that it would be "really mostly flattish but with a couple of big hills", which she already knew was a bit of a porky.

I very swiftly mentioned that one of those big hills was Porlock, then kept talking really quickly and hoped it had gone unnoticed, but she busted me. Porlock Hill is an absolute beast of a climb that features as one of the UK's toughest in the book "100 Greatest Cycle Climbs", a book Ruth foolishly bought me for my birthday last year. I suggested that we at least get there and see how we feel, as there are a couple of escape routes and she reluctantly agreed, muttering something disturbing but completely hilarious about "grinding the granny hard".

Friday, 21 March 2014

Exmoor Training Camp 2014 - Part 1 "Hills and Hot Tubs"

For the first time since the spring training camp tradition began in 2012, we were finally in Exmoor, in March, without ice, flooding, torrential rain or gales. This year there would be no excuses, and with six months to go until I attempt my first iron distance triathlon, I was itching to get some quality training in.

I was keen to ride the Wimbleball course backwards, just for a change. Emma and Susan decided to join in the adventure and as the bikes were being set up, I couldn't help being surprised by the topic of conversation. It wasn't the usual "Ooh, LOVE your new helmet, totally matches your bike!", but an insightful discussion about mechanical components. It turned out everyone else was riding a triple, the smallest ring on the front being known as "the granny ring"; a get-out clause that wussy cyclists have for when they get all scared on a tough climb. I smugly declared that I was riding a double to which Susan replied, deadpan, "Life's too short for a double". Life is too short for this discussion to go on any longer, so we set off.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Muv's Week of Health

Now that I have a sister who is well and truly on the health train, it was time to get mum aboard. I decided to take myself up to Derbyshire for a mini training week/healthy eating week/boot camp for mum week. I broke the journey up with a cheeky visit to the brilliant Braunstone parkrun, before arriving at mum's and unpacking about two sets of regular clothes and a suitcase full of sports kit. Such a lovely daughter that I am, I shared the veggie stew that I'd made for lunch, and curtailed our catch up as it was sunny outside and I was itching for a cycle.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Behold, The Running Man

Running is even better when you get the creative juices flowing. This little chap might have a triangular head and tiny dwarf legs (my legs were a bit tired, so sadly his were too) but he brought a bit of fun to the tedium of the dark, wintry Thursday jog!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

North Hill Parkrun

We were hoping to get a bit of parkrun tourism in this weekend and blow the champagne fog away with a blast at Longmeadow parkrun near Taunton. I was up, dressed, coffeed, keen and lunging about the place at 7:30 when Amie came down and gently informed me that it had been cancelled due to flooding. The next nearest, at Killerton, had also been cancelled. With parkrun plans scuppered, I decided to go out and create my own. I'm not entirely sure it will meet parkrun's rigorous risk assessment, but here it is:

Monday, 27 January 2014

Stillness and Illness

Recently I've been making a conscious effort to practise 'stillness'. Not merely the act of being physically still, but more taking a step back; giving yourself a chance to stop and reflect. It might sound very simple but in the hectic and busy lives we lead we very rarely give ourselves the opportunity to be still. I read an interesting quote the other day from someone that quite rightly suggested we should call ourselves 'human doings' rather than human beings, because we tend to define ourselves by what we do, rather than who we are.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Warming up at Brockwell

"What do you fancy doing when you visit?", my friend asked.

"Well.. I'd quite like to check out your local parkrun.. but other than that.. anything!", I replied, hopefully.

She was dubious that I was only visiting so I could tick another parkrun off the list, and she wasn't sure about this 'getting up early' business on a Saturday morning either. When you spend most of your time with runners, triathletes, cyclists and other sporty types, it's easy to forget that there are other people out there with zero interest in your sporting endeavours. My old school friend is one of these people; she generally just rolls her eyes when I tell her what I'm up to and thoughtfully serves me up an extra portion of whatever tasty meal she's making.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A Year Off, A Year On

I was going to say that "I'm not making any resolutions this year", but Google states that the definition of resolution is "a firm decision to do or not do something". Therefore anyone who insists they are "not making any resolutions" is either a liar, or silly, or too scared to share! I was very nearly silly. Surely everybody has made some sort of decision about something they do or do not want to do this year?!