Bucket List Fun part 1

IMG_2772

I love history and in particular all things Anne Boleyn and palaces so when I read about the triathlon at Hever Castle I was keen to include it on my ‘things to do in my 50th year’ bucket list. However its September date is likely to clash with daughter’s university starts for the next few years so was quickly scratched.

A few weeks later I found out that another of Anne Boleyn’s homes, Hampton Court hosts a half marathon in March and having forgotten all my ‘never agains’ after my only other attempt at a half in Blackpool in 2015 I decided it would be a good bucket compromise.

I mooted the idea of a running weekend to my group of running friends and amazingly nine agreed to also run and two decided they’d come down and support so a girly weekend away was put on the calendar.

Last Saturday after weeks of long run weekends or Monday nights for some we jumped on trains from Manchester and made our way to our Premier Inn base in Kingston upon Thames. Trains at an unGodly hour meant that we had a full afternoon to play with so a few of us set off for an afternoon of horse racing at Kempton Park with the rest of the gang choosing to make the most of a fine afternoon by walking from the hotel to Hampton Court.

I chose the races and managed to lose money well although did celebrate one winner during the day courtesy of Max Ward (names being my only method of horse choice with this one having a link to our parkrun event director’s son Max). I also celebrated as my partner in crime managed a win on the place pot having selected a placed horse in the six first races.

We all dined as a group in the hotel restaurant and risked indigestion with a relatively early night.

IMG_2789

Race day when your event is only 2 miles from your hotel and when you already have your race bib and timing chip is surprisingly calm and I didn’t get the usual pre-race jitters and nerves so an early breakfast was palatable and the Premier inn supported us with porridge on request. In fact the hotel couldn’t do enough for us, providing a couple of late check out rooms for post run showers, reserved table for dinner and ordering our cabs to get us to the race.

Hampton Court Palace is just beautiful and seeing it on our arrival along with almost 3300 other runners and their supporters was amazing.  The morning was dry and bright and we spent the 30 mins before the race wandering between the start and the event village admiring the topiary and daffodils and taking plenty of photos and attempting to find a loo without a queue!

IMG_2794

We had been allocated various start times and expected to be in pens, however it was far less formal with wave numbers being called out and and expectation that runners went in the correct wave.  When you’re a relatively slow runner there is always a concern that being in a late wave will leave you last on the course and a desire to just get going, so as a result people were definitely in waves far too fast for their ability.  In the main our group held out until wave 5 (I think officially we were in wave 6 but by that time it felt a bit like a free for all) and we were off.

I won’t go into details about the race, 13 miles is a long way especially when you are complaining about your hamstring, knee, numb toes etc etc from mile 5 with a route that wasn’t quite as pretty as I’d hoped (the river part was good, the run through the town not so).

To sum it up, I had a great weekend with fabulous friends, and whilst I finished with a time of 2:31:49 and didn’t achieve the sub 2:30 that I’d hoped for I wasn’t disappointed, just glad to have completed it. I’ve tried two half marathons and I know I won’t be doing another instead I want to concentrate on getting better times for short runs and having fun whilst I do it!

IMG_2816

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

353908F0-FF50-4B03-B8CC-2034F4F197E5

Today is International Women’s Day with this year’s theme being #BeBoldForChange

The organisers are asking women to “articulate and explain that exact moment when they themselves took bold action to help improve or develop an aspect of their own livelihood, career or business – or that of another woman’s, or women’s status overall”

I wrote a couple of days ago about my bold moment in 2013 when I decided I wanted to run and joined Burnden Road Runners running club.

That decision has brought so many things to my life. From a running perspective it’s brought structured training, parkrun, races, trophies. But it’s the by products of running that continue to surprise me, other sports such as swimming and cycling, triathlons (me taking part in a triathlon!), volunteering, organising events, inspiring other ladies, fundraising and being part of something.

The biggest thing that being bold brought to my life was friends and friendship.

Never did I think that if I said ‘does anyone fancy a run’ on a cold, dark, often wet ‘school night’ that anyone would say yes! But they do and in fact they are tonight!

I’m lucky to have bonded with a group of ladies as a result of Burnden that I can run and cycle with (swimming is parked at the moment). I can go them with my rants and moans and also to share successes and good news.

My list of Whatsapp groups is endless with Ladies who Cycle, Ladies who Run, Burnden Muppets, Hampton Court Half Ladies (they’re even helping me with a bucket list item!), Longish Run Ladies etc etc lots of groups of ladies (and some where we let the blokes in!) who share the same interests and want to have fun whilst getting fitter and healthier.

People tell me ‘I couldn’t do that’, my reply, neither could I, but I do. What’s the worst that could happen; I might be last in a race – I have been, I might fall off my bike and break my wrist – oops I did, but I survived and I’m still having a go. So be bold, don’t be scared, join in, smile and have fun and you never know what opportunities will come your way.

Ann has written about running and family here https://bellesbikesandrunningshoes.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/runs-in-the-family/

parkrun, serious running stuff?

Three years ago I made the incredibly scary, but ultimately brilliant decision to try out the New Starter Group at a local running club. The aim of the group, to get us to run a continuous 5k over a ten week course.

After a couple of weeks Sue our coach told us we should try parkrun, a weekly, timed, 5k run round Leverhulme Park.

My friend Susan and I laughed at the suggestion and told Sue we’d wait until the end of the course when we were sure we’d make it round.  But Sue continued to push us; telling us it didn’t matter how slow we were and it would give us a base line time which we’d see improve over the 10 week NSG course.

So we registered at http://www.parkrun.org.uk and on 5 October 2013 Susan and I turned up at Leverhulme Park with our barcodes printed and ready to have a go.

I can’t remember a lot about the run only how horrified we were at having to run (walk) up the aptly named Cruella de Hill TWICE and on seeing the finish line we were sent away from it by the marshal for a final out and back stretch.

One thing I do remember is how social and friendly it seemed, people warming up together, groups stood chatting (who needs a warm up?), dogs (on short leads obviously ūüėČ), children and adults of all ages shapes and sizes milling about. The scary bit, everyone knew everyone else! Well that’s how it seemed to us, how would we ever fit in?

Fast forward to March 2017 and the world of parkrun is a completely different place. Between us Susan and I have now taken part in 135 parkrun events, the majority at Bolton but we’ve had the odd spot of tourism at Burnley, Delamere, Worsley to name a few. Our first time of 35:33 has been reduced with both of us having a PB in the 28/29 minute region.

Most importantly we found our feet.  We know more people, we have our group of buddies to stand with, warm up with and run with. Sometimes we push ourselves and each other for a good time, sometimes we take a more leisurely approach (check out my time from yesterday as an example!).

img_2545
A spot of parkrun tourism
After a period of falling out of love with early Saturday alarm calls I made an effort last year to get back to regular appearances at parkrun both in a running and volunteering capacity and I couldn’t believe it when a few weeks later my co-blog author Ann and I were asked by the event directors to join the core team as run directors. Of course we said yes (or rather Ann said yes for both of us!) and in the last six months or so we’ve conquered public speaking fears (standing on a blue plastic step, holding a clip board speaking through a megaphone), we’ve made events happen in all kinds of weather and even mapped an alternative route when our beloved Cruella was out of action.

We’re now members of another fab group of folk,  although I think the musings of these two looney old women on the RD Whatsapp group have the rest of the RD team bemused!

img_2542
Some of the RD team and our loyal volunteers
I look back to October 2013 with a smile and like Sue Booth would encourage anyone to come down to parkrun. Don’t wait until you can run 5k, come and walk run if you need to, you won’t be last as we always have a lovely tailrunner

So is parkrun serious running stuff? Yes,to many it is (sometimes, even for me).  I’ve results processed and know from post event e-mails how important seconds can be but it’s not all about times and PBs, it’s not even all about running, for me it’s all about friendship, being part of something good and just having a great time on a Saturday morning.

img_2346
Never blow your nose when there’s a photographer around. Courtesy of Ali McArthur Bolton parkrun

Today went swimmingly

Training has been a bit up and down lately, and definitely more down, as that’s how my mood has been! I’m not sure whether it’s the winter blues or an age thing, but this little black cloud that keeps following me around is getting a little bit tiresome.
So today I was on a mission to lift the spirits once again, and what better way than a parkrun with all the joy that a Saturday morning run with a couple of hundred like-minded people can bring. Meeting up early with Louise and Diane added a few extra miles beforehand, so completing our weekend ‘long run’ in the most pleasant of ways.

Early afternoon saw an impromptu organising meeting for our upcoming Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM)Women on Wheels event in our local Costa after collecting the very generous goodie bags donated by the Bolton Decathlon store.

If you haven’t checked out TfGM website, it really should be on your ‘to do’ list. There’s a whole host of different cycling courses, from beginners cycling and maintenance courses, to an intermediate course I went on a few weeks ago which taught me how to replace my brake cables and fit a new gear cassette and chain! And to think it was all considered a Dark Art this time last year.

Saturday ended with me pulling my big girl pants up and finally getting in the pool for the first time since last September. It had become a massive issue, with me almost feeling scared of getting back in the water. Swimming is the weakest of the three disciplines for me, but bizarrely my favourite! I’m still not ready for the intense Tri club sessions but it felt so good to get back in the water and not have to resort to arm bands ( which was my fear!). Swimming somehow feels even more therapeutic than cycling or running; you’re just alone in the water with your thoughts, concentrating on tweaks to your stroke to make it easier to pass through the water. It’s almost mindfulness whilst training.

Saturday drew to a close with my black cloud, whilst not having disappeared completely, having definitely been shown who’s the boss.

Organising, with our honorary belle

Check out TfGM here http://cycling.tfgm.com/Pages/default.aspx

And just in case you’re in the market for something cycling related, do check out the lovely folk at Decathlon Bolton. All their products have lengthy warranties, money back options and are great value for money. You’ll get some really top notch advice too.

It’s a mad mad Mad Dog world

So today Ann and I did our first joint race of the year, taking part in the 7th MAD DOG 10K. Organised by the Round Table this event is badged as ‘a great fun event that takes place along the Southport shore line’ ‘a great run for runners of all types regardless of your experience, everybody is welcome’

 

img_2001

I’m a pretty mean runner (when it comes to entry fees rather than being a great runner!) and so took a sharp intake of breath at the entry fee of nearly ¬£27 for affiliated runners. But the event now in its 7th year must be doing something right as it has been named THE BEST 10K IN THE UK by various running organisations over the years (including Runners World and for the last 3 years at the National Running Awards).

So Ann and I forked out our hard earned cash and along with a group of Burnden and Ramsbottom Running club buddies including Ann’s daughter Alice making her race debut we waited patiently for the 2017 race to be announced and signed up quickly (thankfully before it sold out in just a couple of days).

An unnamed storm threatened to spoil our fun with high winds forecast for the day and we debated all week what clothing we’d need. We needn’t have worried as on the day the weather was exceptionally kind with blue sky and a total absence of wind and rain.

Logistically the event was just perfect, with race bibs mailed out beforehand and central parking with free buses to the registration area. Once we arrived at registration we noted all the directions and signage and the number of portaloos available!

img_2004
On the race bus
img_2018
Just some of my goodie bag!

Feedback on previous races called out ‘brilliant goodie bag’ and wow, what a goodie bag it was with bespoke T-shirt, buff, race clips, rucksack, gym towel and lots of samples and snacks all handed out efficiently and with minimal queuing.

The race itself was equally well organised with start pens (dog named of course) determined by expected finish times. Pre-race announcements that could be heard by all runners and most importantly chip timing.
The course was flat, really well marshalled and signed and we had the bonus of bands, choirs and singers (including Elvis) to distract us and provide a good beat to run to.

I’ve learned recently that my once favoured flat road races aren’t actually as nice as I’d thought and after a decent start struggled in the second half of the race walking a few times in an attempt to ease aching calves and try to persuade myself it wasn’t actually a long slog! Looking back I’m slightly irritated with myself for letting my mind win at times especially as I still finished with a time just over 1:02 and with a bit more effort could have achieved only my second sub 60 min 10k. It wasn’t to be, and there’s always next time so it’s all the more reason to crack on with my training, run more (better miles) and do some strengthening and conditioning exercises (and that might just have to be a blog post for the future!)

Overall it was a great day out and our group saw debut races, debut 10ks and PBs but most importantly friendship and fun.

img_2019
Friends and family do MAD DOG 2017

Planning

Last year Ann and I chanced our arm and put an application in for a grant from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to host an event for their Women on Wheels initiative.

We were amazed and a little thrilled that our initial 25 places were snapped up in 24 hour hours and on the day 35 novice cyclists joined us for a morning of cycling skills, bike maintenance and a park ride. Finished in true cycling style with tea, coffee and cakes!

img_7411
Last year’s Women on Wheels event

We were so chuffed and got such positive feedback that this year we’re doing it all again!

We’ve got the grant and are making plans working with British Cycling Breeze and Bolton Tri Club to hold an event that we hope will be even bigger and better, accommodating new and nervous ladies and also improvers and intermediates.

So as they say… Save the Date Sunday 26 March Leverhulme Park.

img_7406

Dusting the vest off

Sunday saw my first race of the year and more importantly the first opportunity to don my club vest in 2017.

After a somewhat lazy 2016 I’ve promised myself that I’m going to do much more running in 2017. ¬†I’ll never set the world on fire with times or distance but I do want to improve. ¬†I have some time and distance aims, but I also have a desire to appear less often on the last page of the results!

img_1949
Burnden Ladies before the Hill Runner U.K. Mast 10k Courtesy of the Bolton News

The race was the Hill Runner UK Mast 10k. An out and back run with three solid miles of uphill running to the TV transmitter at Winter Hill Bolton then a glorious three mile downhill return.

With a one thousand metre climb (starting with the seemingly endless slog up Smithills Dean Road) it was a tough race to start the year. ¬†It was however a race that gave me immense pride having avoided all club training runs up to the Mast as ‘it’s too hard!’

An icy mist had¬†settled over Bolton during the night and we couldn’t actually see the Mast from the start point (although that was perhaps a good thing!). As the route transitioned from the main road to the tarmac and gravel side road and trails I experienced just how cold it was, with patches of ice making for some hazardous sections. By luck or maybe judgement I didn’t come a cropper, but some of my fellow club runners did manage some spills. We saw bloodied knees, face and elbow (all on one runner!) and a broken rib and finger.

The faster runners skipped up and down like mountain goats with the winner taking just over 36 minutes to my one hour 22! ¬†The fact that I hadn’t even run two miles when he passed me on his downward leg blew my mind! Some of the route was on narrow paths and wooden bridges and I’d been quite concerned about possible comings together but on the day everyone was really courteous and because it was an out and back we got to see all our running friends and teammates throughout the race ¬†giving support, high fives and even a hug off a fellow parkrun run director!

The turning point was a welcome relief and was manned by the fabulous Bolton Mountain Rescue who benefitted on the day from a ¬£250 donation from the organisers and sponsors. ¬†Many of the marshals on the course were from my own running club (Burnden Road Runners) and it was great to get personalised shoutouts from them along the route. ¬† I could have hugged Carolyn at the road crossing when she shouted ‘runner coming through’ and there was no one around but me!

The dreaded Smithills Dean Road isn’t so dreaded when you’re on your way down but it’s also a memory wiper, with my mantra changing from ‘never again’ on the up to ‘next time’ on the way down!

All in all, a well organised race from Phil and Melissa from Hill Runner U.K.

A big challenge for me personally and one that has taken away the fear of the route when it’s offered on the training schedule. ¬† But what about the results? It was close, very close, but I have the evidence, I wasn’t a last page lady!

img_1933
The after!