Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tally ho!

Eccleshill at Ackworth

Being a year since the last cross country race had quite clearly enabled me to erase all but a few memories of the five races in last year's Peco Cross Country League! Elves bells is one blog post I recall frequently, a constant reminder of that is the lady who dressed as the elf and overtook me in the snow and ice on a steep hill as I gasped my way to the top! She is reminiscent of an 'ever present' at the London marathon, always seems to be at the same races as me. Now, I bear no grudges - just horrific hauntings of those darn bells in the distance, coming ever closer and closer as I struggled to the summit, and of course, the humility of being overtaken by an Elf!

I felt I did go some way to redeeming myself on Sunday at the first race in this year's XC league, crossing the line in front of said lady did make me feel marginally better. The memory though, lives on. A very sunny but cold and extremely windy morning greeted us for the start of the race at Ackworth. Wondering what the blazes possessed me to don only my club vest, I shivered and shook and we had well over an hour to wait before the off, thank heaven for my ERR hoodie! Walking part of the route it didn't appear to be nearly half as muddy as I had expected given the amount of rain which had fallen over the previous few days. Thankfully the time passed fairly quickly and we were soon set off on our way, the manner in which everyone surges forward into the countryside makes you feel like shouting 'tally ho!'. A few hills were exacerbated by the immense wind in our faces, making it difficult to catch your breath. Despite crossing the line fairly near the back of the field I felt a sense of achievement, maximum effort, team spirit, cheered by and for team mates made it all worthwhile. A coffee from the 'Frothy Coffee Man' before we set off home topped off a wonderful morning!

Undeterred by the previous day's activities I went to Monday club night fully aware that the session was 'Enterprise Surprise'. I absolutely love these sessions so ignored my own advice that really I should do something less vigorous. The club provides this type of session on a monthly basis and it amazes me every time how the competitiveness surfaces in each and every one of us! It is so rewarding when the team you are in gains a victory. (We are shuffled about after each activity so everyone gets a chance to compete with and against each other.) Such fun! Next month's session cannot come around quick enough! No doubt it will be more than welcome as we try to work off the season's festivities!

Please note:
No elves were harmed in the writing of this blog!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

I predict a PB!

Am I becoming predictable I ask myself? Another PB on Sunday at the Abbey Dash didn't quite cut it in the same way as the others I've achieved recently. Did I set my sights a little high? I crossed the line in 51:52 after looking at my watch at the 9k mark it read 46 minutes... and for a few fleeting seconds I raised my hopes that I could dip under the 50 minute mark. Who was I kidding? For some unknown reason I had imagined that a kilometre was much shorter than it really was! I tried to do the maths in my head but had clearly worked very hard and my judgement was somewhat clouded! This no doubt contributed to how disheartened I felt when I learned I hadn't managed a sub 50 10k. Talk about being hard on yourself. I ran the race when just the day before I had doubted that I was well enough to run, never mind if I could bag a personal best! Thankfully I soon came to my senses and despite gaining only a few seconds on my previous 10k best I began to feel much better about it, 'maybe next year' I told myself! After the race we went to The Light to find a coffee house with my family and as we entered the shopping centre Christmas music was being played - it was all decorated ready for the festive season, for the rest of the day I repeated PB in my head to the Christmas tune!

Enterprise surprise - fitness improving at it's best! Monday club session was enough to lift anybody's mood. I don't suppose it is the most sensible thing to do following a race the day before but I really don't feel it did me any harm. Quite the opposite! I find it so uplifting and it always amazes me how it brings out the competitive streak in each and everyone of us! I went home feeling on top of the world and apart from the usual DOMS for a couple of days suffered no ill effects. I managed 6 mile run out on my own on Wednesday afternoon after circumstances beyond my control meant I couldn't get to club in the evening. Apart from a head wind all the out I found it to be a pleasant and stress busting run where I lost myself in my thoughts and in no time at all arrived at Nab Wood Cemetery to place flowers for my late grandson's 5th birthday. It wasn't the distance I was expecting so I wished I hadn't arranged a lift and run back home too. That's the beauty of running, it gives you the ability to offload your baggage and return lighter in mind, body and soul.

Due to the club's AGM there is no run tomorrow evening so I may find myself on a solo run for a second time this week if I can get myself up bright and early to get out before work. Time will tell. I may even try and take in some off road in preparation for the first race on the Peco cross country calendar this coming Sunday, no PB's there no doubt! Now where are those trail shoes........

Friday, 18 November 2011

Pudsey to the rescue!

Inter club training at Leeds based club Hyde Park Harriers on Tuesday evening very nearly turned into a disaster for some of us. After meeting up with a few other club members to travel over to 'The Edge', the sports centre at Leeds University where Hyde Park Harriers meet to train we set off over to Leeds but very soon we were caught in traffic and naturally began to panic. As we did not know exactly where we were supposed to be going when we set off we knew we would be cutting it fine anyway. Finally arriving in the region of Hyde Park we managed to accost a young lady who gave us precise directions to said sports centre. Her directions were very accurate and in no time at all we found where we were supposed to be, 13 minutes late. Unfortunately upon enquiring at reception we were informed they had already set off! Quite a lot of effort had gone into actually getting from work, to home, to the meeting place and finally to Leeds, I felt quite deflated. Fortunately Dawn suggested the five of us should run anyway. So Myself, Dawn, Alison, Kathryn and Marc had a nice steady 3 mile jog, winding round the city centre where the Christmas lights were a sight to lift anybody's mood! I would have been clueless as to where I was going around there so thanks to Dawn and Alison for their navigation skills. When we got back to The Edge our club mates and the Hyde Park Harriers had arrived back from their various runs. Shame we missed out but hopefully some time soon we can get a return visit organised, this time we'll know exactly where we need to be!

Pudsey to the rescue?!!

So I've had a very up and down week, (and I don't mean hills), three visits to the dentist and a very near visit to the doctors, I'm trying to convince myself not to go to club this evening. I've told myself all week that I felt better after a run only to find after a night's sleep that I'm coughing and barking worse than ever. It's always difficult to ascertain whether a visit to the doc is in order or whether you'll come across as a bit of whimp when you sit in the chair opposite him trying to put your best 'poorly voice' on and convince him you really are ill! I always seem to feel better once I've made the appointment. So I've avoided it so far but figure I may well benefit from putting my feet up and spending the evening with Pudsey, watching lots of money being raised for 'Children in Need'. Since the dark nights are well and truly upon us it does seem very appealing. I also have a number for the Abbey Dash on Sunday and think maybe I will benefit from a rest. I've entertained thoughts that I should really 'go for it' and try and bag another PB since the route out to Kirkstall Abbey and back is virtually pancake flat. I could of course, sit back and accompany my Sister who is running the race to raise sponsorship for a premature baby incubator awww. I'd be fibbing though if I didn't admit that I've been thinking about this race for ages. Since the Jane Tomlinson 10k in York yielded me a PB of 52 something I've been thinking that the Abbey Dash just might be the race that I could dip under 50 minutes, or is that too much to ask? I don't know, I also don't know if I'm fit enough so maybe the easy option might be kinder to my health and my ego.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

No pain, no gain!

Training has gone well again this week. Despite not getting a recovery run in I was mighty pleased on Wednesday when, even though I had already done the 10 mile Guy Fawkes race the previous Sunday, a few of us managed to complete an 11 mile run and I was able to haul myself up Carr Lane at Shipley quite near the finish! The weather has done a u turn this week though and been a little kinder to us, no hail stones at least! No doubt next week will be different story again as we are hauled head long into Winter, Bbrrrr.

It's an age old saying 'no pain, no gain'and looking at the photo Ian Watson took of me as I was running to the finish on the final third of the race track at today's YVAA race at Spenborough my face said it all!

On Saturday afternoon out of the blue my voice disappeared! Some might say that is good thing but worryingly I also began coughing uncontrollably as I tried to clear my throat in a bid to emit even just one word from my voice box! All to no avail. I went to bed that evening wondering whether I would be able to breathe let alone run in the morning! Realising it was the last race in the series and I had completed them all so far, I tried to think positive and told myself at worst I could walk now and then if it meant getting round and affording myself the accolade of having run all 8 races. As it turned out I didn't have to voluntarily walk at all, a few enforced stops to clamber over fences and stiles sufficed!

Something I did realise during the race is the value of trail shoes. I've often thought maybe I didn't need to wear them and could have probably worn my road shoes during off road races. Today as I witnessed runners around me wearing road shoes and trying their damnest to stay on their feet as they slipped from underneath them in the copious amounts of gloop, I was truly grateful I had worn my Adidas Kanadias, they certainly ensured I stayed on my feet! They also served to instil a sense of security which in turn gives you the confidence to plough through it. I was not so grateful though when it came to running on the refurbished railway section which is now tarmacked and lined with sheep fashioned from old scrap metal and adorned with plastic 'carrier bag' bows around their necks! My calves screamed as each step resembled two pieces of concrete crashing into each other. I really must do some research and see if there aren't some trail shoes on the market which also offer cushioning. If and when I find some they will be firmly placed at the top of my Christmas list.

My reward for my efforts yesterday? Nearly 7 minutes taken off my time for the same race last year!

Monday, 7 November 2011

For Fawkes Sake!

An unlikely name for a hill but along with the 'Birstwith Brute' and the 'Swinford Swine', 'For Fawkes Sake' was just that! Just where do we get the ability to block out such atrocities as how steep hills are in races we have previously taken part in? I can't think of any other reason why one would enter such a race where the naming of hills actually gives the game away other than that I've 'forgotten' just what it was like!

We awoke to frost covered cars yesterday morning but as we prepared to travel over to Ripley for the Guy Fawkes 10 mile race the sun was shining so we knew the frost would bid a hasty retreat quite soon. Chilly as it was it was most pleasant but that didn't stop my teeth chattering as we gathered at Morrisons, Five Lane Ends to travel over with fellow Eccleshill runners. I began to wonder whether I had made a mistake turning up in only a vest but there wasn't much that could be done now so off we set.

Arriving in the beautiful village of Ripley we made our way to the village hall to collect our numbers. We were greeted by impeccable organisation and joined the relevant queue marked alphabetically with the first letter of our surname. In no time at all we had our numbers and off we went to find a patch of sunshine in which to stand in a bid to keep warm. It was a little too early to consider warming up for the race. Thankfully it didn't seem too long before we were herded to the start line to begin our attack of the challenging course. A water station at Birstwith, mile 4, heralded the first hill - most runners around me were walking but I some how managed to summon the will power to keep plodding up the steep incline, it seemed never ending but I felt a great sense of relief when I got to the top and we turned left to continue along a much flatter section. Carr Lane eat your heart out!

Two more hills ensued but I really couldn't help smiling when I saw the sign at the bottom of the final hill, it read 'For Fawkes Sake'. The marshals all around the course were very encouraging, especially on the hills, their words of encouragement were a great boost.

When I finally got to the finish I felt a great sense of pride that I had completed it without having to walk at all and was rewarded with yet another personal best time. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would not better my previous 10 mile best since I had set it at the Eccup 10 which although not totally flat is no where near as challenging as Guy Fawkes so imagine my surprise when I did just that, finishing in 1:32:59!

In past years the goody bag has been second to none as the race is sponsored by Nestle and although it didn't live up to it's usual high standards it was way better than most others, containing a bounty of chocolate products, with a technical tee shirt and a bottle of water thrown in who could complain?

Tonight's club session is the monthly time trial at which I am resident timer so I won't get to run the 3 mile route as a recovery run so I'll just have to rest until Wednesday, sounds good to me - I may even indulge a little chocolate, I think I've earned it!