Trail on trial!

I’m continuing my year of firsts, different races and event, something new for the mojo so a trail race seemed and exciting idea. I’ve been prepared since I purchased some sexy looking Asics trail shoes in the January sales. I even drummed up the support of Ellie and Susie for a bit of off road action as we entered the Beacon Hill Solstice Run to give us something sunny to look forward to in the murky depths of winter. The summer solstice we thought, the countryside in beautiful June we thought, a glorious introduction to trail running we thought, a cheeky Friday evening countryside trot we thought, we thought wrong! Those who know me or my blog know that I don’t do mud, don’t like getting my trainers mucky, so grassy slopes in June sounded idyllic. Not only that, but organised by ‘Jack Rabbit Events’ there’s always the added lure of an epic medal.

The amazing Beacon Hill 2016 medal

The amazing Beacon Hill 2016 medal

As we almost missed the entrance the car park the rain was so heavy the visibility was almost zero. We bleakly followed the poor marshals huddled by the gate in their emergency rain ponchos and found a great spot in the field near the start and finish points as we were rather early. Despite being only 35 minutes from where we live, I’d never heard of and certainly never been to Beacon Hill which is near to Loughborough in Leicestershire so we’d been generous allowing extra drive time. All wasn’t lost, the three of sat in the car nattering, steaming it up as the rain passed over and things brightened up ……a smidge. It might not have been raining but it was humid, no way I was running in a jacket.

It was a soggy plod to the tent to get our numbers but the mood brightened as we saw more familiar faces of the ‘purple army’ arriving. There were ladies with flower garlands around their heads in homage to the sunny solstice….would there be naked dancing around the beacon we panicked ?

It was a cani-cross race too, not something we’d encountered before. Dogs of all shapes and sizes were being harnessed to runners. We saw a lady pass us pulled by a large Doberman ….’she’s got a PB in the bag’ we thought. Do dogs look like their owners ? It’s a good place to test the theory.

We braved the loo queue, not too bad and big thumbs up go to Loughborough council, there was loads of loo roll, hand towel and warm water in a public loo block. Positively luxurious compared to the usual facilities for a pre run piddle.

The dogs had a 5 minute head start, there was so much yapping and woofing on the start line as they all lined up I was waiting for the words ‘mush’ to be shouted but off they went barking into the distance.

The first mile was straight up hill to the Beacon and I mean ‘up hill’ the first part wooded and wet as newly created streams ran down from what has actually been a week of heavy rain. Runners were walking within 100 yrds of the start, come on folks, give it a go. There was a bit of poor runner etiquette as these walkers didn’t make much of an effort to move to the side of the path so the braking through was tough. Sadly it was mainly groups of ladies talking and walking right across the path ( I bet you’d swim up a lane yakking in the same way too !)

Despite the earlier murk, the view from the rocky outcrop at the top was spectacular, worth the arduous climb that put my officially lazy, middle aged glutes to the test. Mile 2 started in spectacular downhill fashion. I’m not used to that kind of speed of descent, I had to trust in the trail shoes to hold firm on the wet path. That mile bordered on mild middle aged panic that falling over is just not an option once you’re past 30, to the toddler like pleasure of hurtling down hill, almost out of control legs moving without effort. The difference in those mile splits, a 10.5 minute mile, followed by a 7.3 minute mile. WWWWWWeeeeeeee !!

Mile 3 undulated beautifully through the Charnwood forest and by this point we’d caught up with many cani-cross runners for some it seemed like a Friday evening dog walk as the dogs sniffed the soggy vegetation and frolicked in the newly made puddles. Mile 4 looked steady but contained yet another deceptive final climb. One of those hills where at the bottom you think you can see the top but when you get there it bloody goes up again and then turns sharply right and goes up even more! No wonder at the bottom a runner next to me said ‘I hate this hill’ when at that point I was thinking it didn’t look too bad.

And on to the final mile, another hurtle downhill this time buoyed with the added enthusiasm of knowing the finish was within reach. Descending back into woodland the newly sprung streams across the path stopped no one as we splashed enthusiastically through them keeping a firm eye on the floor for tree routes and stones. There was a near catastrophe point as marshals desperately shouted ‘Right turn’ towards the finish and it was a sharp right, now very muddy and wet. The marshals at that point needed danger money seeing runners flying downhill straight at them.

I belted to the finish ….. 44.54, happy with that as it was my first (and I don’t think last ) trail run and proved to be some tough going for my old lady legs. Awesome medal received and a bottle of beer in the goody bag. I stuck to the water and the chocolate biscuit though as I waited to shout in Ellie and Susie and assorted purple vests. They came in at 52, Ellie’s first race since foot surgery in December and what a race!

There was beer at the finish, now that's a goody bag !

There was beer at the finish, now that’s a goody bag !

I don’t do mud, but look at me……..

...and I don't do mud. These are new trail shoes OMG

…and I don’t do mud. These are new trail shoes OMG

Will we be back next year? Hell yes and we’ll hope for better weather and we’ll be bringing a picnic. No trail fail for this LCA.

Science in Sport


Run Slut – if you’ve got trainers, I’ll run with you!

Actually that would be a good T shirt slogan.  So Ellie was busy with her Monday night shuttle to the Leicester Tigers. Her talented boys are clearly getting in the way of training; I hate how life does that.

Dark nights can sap my motivation and for once an unusual Monday working from home finally gave me a chance to get to Trent Bridge and the Sweatshop running group for 6pm. I’ve been meaning to for a while but it’s a push to get there in time from work. Now I’ve run with Sweatshop before down in super posh Teddington while I was on a training course last year. It seemed safest as I didn’t know the area and I had a couple of great runs through beautiful Bushey Park and some great ‘run chats’ too. Trent Bridge turned out to be more of a mixed experience than I’d imagined. I was there at 5.50pm as I don’t know the drill. A friendly face greeted me for signing in, I remembered the lady who works in the store and she clearly remembered my surname from orders I’ve collected. I was embarrassed to have just ‘rocked up’ in my kit as I know it’s free, but I couldn’t muster the £1 to park which I didn’t realise I needed. I even scurried back to the car to hunt out an ‘emergency pound’ but couldn’t even find one of those! I really thought she was going to ask me to move and go and find an on street space. It’s dark, it’s the ‘meadows’ (sounds nice to those not from Nottingham , trust me, it’s not). Blimey, it’s a quid, I’m new, slack please.

So I sat and watched as other runners arrived. Definitely more of an ‘eclectic’ group than HPP. I concentrated hard on looking new, looking approachable and ensuring I avoided ‘bitchy resting face’ at all costs. Don’t laugh, its a condition, I don’t think I’m afflicted (see important information video below)

It didn’t work, I stayed alone. A couple of large, loud ladies joined…very loud actually. Enthusiastic chaps, post work and full of weekend running exploits sat near me. No, I couldn’t catch an eye or grab an ‘in’ to the conversation….awkward.

We went outside for the briefing, why, it was bloody freezing, couldn’t we have done it inside ? Simple option, 3, 4 or 5 miles, pick a group…why 5 miles of course. So off we went, no chat, no hellos, just follow the group. We headed back towards my house, oh no, I was going to run my usual routes, I might as well have done that on my own. People chatted in front, people chatted behind, billy no mates just ran in the middle. Now in a race, it happens, who needs the distraction, but come on this is a club night, no one has seen my face before, where’s the runners camaraderie ?

The lady in front of me was fascinating, she had the most amazing things on her legs. She had the runners shorts and looked very good in them for another LCA like me, I’m not brave enough for them. But she wore these amazing black and white stripy things that were neither compression socks nor were they leg warmers. They had charms on them, must be Vivienne Westwood run wear (she looked wealthy somehow ???) Anyway they fascinated me for a good half mile before she split off with the shorter run group.

I knuckled in with the blokes at the front, that’s a good confidence boost for your running. I’m always in the slowest or second slowest group at HPP. By the last mile, I decided I was having a conversation or there really was no point rocking up, really I’m not that shy, so I collared the poor chap next to me. When he asked who I ran with and I said I was HPP he amused me with his ‘oh that lot’ response and comments about ‘that lot’ at races. Well in honour of ‘that lot’ I decided I was beating him in a sudden increase in pace back to the bridge and I’d like to say that ‘that lot’ were unbelievably welcoming when I first ran with them despite being terrified of risking a club and not being the total ‘run slut’ I am now. I got back and slipped back into my car without a second glance from my group. I said bye, but I don’t think anyone noticed.

Four more runs with Sweatshop and I get a T-shirt, hhmmmm…..need to think about that one. Sadly some of the lovely Facebook ladies run there but typically not on the night I went. My tri friend says I must have morphed into an intimidating pro looking runner ( I don’t think so, but I’ll take that as a compliment). Whether you’re a pro or not, being the new face on your own is never easy.

Ellie’s around next Monday.

Leaping beyond my comfort zone

Now all you runners know the inspirational poster “nothing good or bad ever happens in the comfort zone”. Well I can now with confidence say that if you stride monumentally beyond the safe haven of your comfort zone it’s a total roller-coaster of good and bad!

Just a week ago I sat enthusiastically in bed with laptop and cuppa and boldly joined Holme Pierpoint Running Club and entered their four race Grand Prix. It seemed a bold and exciting step to add something new to my running, plus there’s a T-shirt in it! I was thrilled that Ellie and Susie signed up for the Grand Prix too ( Susie having never donned a race number before but reassured that she’d be fine and not last by another running pal).  The first event, a 4 mile jaunt around Rushcliffe Country Park didn’t sound too daunting, it’s the same location as our annual 10km every March. The weather was warm, not too hot and we know a great place to park the car.

Work was so stressful though, I worried every minute of the afternoon about leaving on time, about too much traffic, about breaking down on the way home, about being given a crisis job to sort out, I virtually sprinted out the door at 4.45pm without saying goodbye or catching anyone’s eye, just in case.  We found the start in the same spot as the March run, but the atmosphere wasn’t quite the same. No DJ, no music, no band, no fancy dress, no crazy warm up, nobody in it just for the hell of it. It was runners, all runners, real runners and lots of running club vests and shorts. Lots of men too, I felt outnumbered. Still, I can handle this I thought, if I’d have been Susie and never really ran an event before, I might possibly have just gone home. I know I’m more than capable of 4 miles but I’m no good at this mile pacing lark, I’ve only just converted my Garmin to miles, I also know I’m not very good at pushing myself, really don’t know what I’m capable of and I’m definitely a bit too afraid to find out. So with Ellie, in my migraine mode, having agreed to run with Susie, I decided to start with the front pack.

In a line, well a sort of bunch of 265 entrants, in the middle of ‘The Field of Hope’…………..I never knew it was called that, field of ‘Hope this isn’t a bad idea’ might have been better, a fog horn started us off. In my rough mental calculations I figured I could aim for 35 minutes. I don’t know how people start so fast, it takes me at least a kilometre to get going, settle down, breathe right but were off like greyhounds out the trap and like a lemming, so was I.

The Field of hope, Rushcliffe Country Park

The Field of hope, Rushcliffe Country Park

It nearly killed me, I tried so hard, but by the 1 mile mark at 7 minutes I literally thought I might die, heart attack, collapse. This LCA had to ease back a bit there were 3 more miles to go. As soon as I did it felt like the entire field passed me, I tried to look calm past the race photographer, but trust me, I was far from calm. I did settle down a little by mile 2 but felt totally out of sorts. At mile three, a chunky legged lady was by my side on the path, she looked like the sort of runner I could follow, not one of the lithe limbed gazelles who had long since breezed ahead. If I could just run with her, she could bring me in. As we approached the end, you could see the finishers buzzing round large vats of squash, it couldn’t come soon enough and it was with horror that I realised it wasn’t quite around the corner and with even more horror the the thunder-thighed lady began to pull ahead. I simply had nothing left to offer. In every event I’ve run to date, there’s been just something left in the tank to ‘sprint’ to the finish. Please accept the word ‘sprint’  as loosely representing a pick up in my pace. I am aware to an onlooker a ‘sprint’ probability isn’t what it looks like!  I remembered to finish to the right. I’ve never seen that before, no chip timing at this event. I made it to the altar of the squash table, I just didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, throw up, sit down…….I finally saw Ellie and Susie coming along the path and shouted them on. I didn’t say, “don’t get excited its ages from there” and I was finally more composed as they came round to the finish and I took a photo of them approaching the finish line.

So the good bits were my time 30.39 !! That was 6th place in the LCA, sorry FV40, category and there were over 40 of us! I was impressed the results and the photos were online so quickly, a very professional job. I wasn’t sure if I’d show as competing as part of Holme Pierpoint running club, but I did, that felt rather serious. There was a great photo of me clearly passing a bloke who looked perturbed by it…..if only he knew how I was feeling!

Rushcliffe 4 miles

Rushcliffe 4 miles

Ellie and Susie came in at 36 minutes which felt like a lifetime after but, good on them, they talked all the way round much to the horror of many of the marshals!

Ellie and Susie chat to the finish

Ellie and Susie chat to the finish

The bad bits, I felt completely traumatised, I felt exhausted, I woke up in the night with achy legs and I couldn’t contemplate competing  again two days later. But I did…….. Feeling more positive and rested the next run at Colwick Park was still nerve racking, despite it being on my doorstep, I’ve never been there which perhaps makes it more exciting. I actually used a race portaloo for the first time ever before a race, but the queue was small and I’d clearly taken my hydration strategy too seriously during the day. Ellie and Susie felt calmer too, it was 5 miles, still well within our capability levels.

Two ladies introduced themselves from local running social media groups I’ve recently joined. Now that’s weird. I’m too old to have ever encountered online dating but that’s what it felt like. Being really pleased to see people you feel you know as kindred spirits that you’ve been talking to but never met.

We were off, no going off with the front pack, more of a plan to hit the 45 minute mark. A push on pace but not until I’d settled down, a group clocking along at a pace right for me. I almost felt overjoyed with relief, I enjoyed the new scenery. Ironically, but she didn’t know it, Katie, one of those new kindred spirits and fellow LCA kept me at pace. 8 minute miles, just under was enough without being too much and at the right time in the last mile I felt able to push and broke away. I crossed the finish at 39.55, elated and happy, how it should be. Ellie and Susie were exactly 6 minutes behind again but Susie struggled at the finish and we were briefly worried.

Now the best bit. The results obviously collate over the 4 races, by category and by club. I have no idea if its a straight add up of time or how it works but going into the weekend, I am Holme Pierpoint’s no.3 lady! A position, who’d have thought it? It won’t last,  it’s 5km next week, my nemesis. What secretly makes me chuckle is knowing that if even I wasn’t sure if I was even part of the club for this event and having only been out with them 3 times is that anyone except Katie that looks at the results this weekend will be thinking “Who the f–k is Justine Squitieri” !! Awesome.

Womens Teams after 2 races 26 June 2014

Feeling Brave – ran with a club

OK so I’ve toyed with the idea of going out with a running club for ages. I keep reading evangelical stories in my running magazine and I need to change up my Monday night routine now the summer evenings are coming. Ellie and I agreed we might try the local running club, but somehow a natter and our usual route always seem more appealing. So when Ellie had to be elsewhere (we’ve four active teenagers between us so as chief chauffeurs we frequently have to be elsewhere! ) and the weather encouraged  springlike enthusiasm, I though ‘now or never’ just go, how bad can it be?

They weren’t hard to find…..just follow the Lycra. They were very friendly and bizarrely only talked in miles when my running is done in kilometres. I guessed my pace was 9 minute miles which didn’t put me in the slowest group. It certainly wasn’t a place of youngsters, there was many an LCA, all looking good of course… fact many MCA’s too (Men of a Certain Age, never used that before). Most importantly the fellow LCAs were all not too thin or gorgeous,  just  honed by running as expected. In my locality, home of the lady that does lunch, but not too often , usually after a gym visit and always carb free, LCA competition can be tough. One glamorous young thing appeared, sweaty and breathless like she’d ran 10 miles to get there (probably had!) I didn’t see which group she left with or see her come back. She must have got home and got the dinner on by time us old dears got back.

The route was glorious, down lanes, across fields, along the canal and across the A52 dual carriageway…..but hey, I’m always up for death defying activity. Parts of the route I’d run with Ellie before, some were just pleasurable discoveries in my own locality that I hope I can remember to show Ellie without getting us lost. Still, I owe her a tortuous run after she planned a route on Saturday that was supposed to be about 12km which turned out to be 15km.

Although around 40 runners showed up to run, after keeping together for a short time the different paced groups went separate ways as each leader had a route and pace in mind, all doing around 5 miles. I felt the pace kick in on my chosen group, it certainly wasn’t the easy chatting pace I’ve trained at recently and my nominated partner who kindly offered to run with me noted we were under 8 minute miling. I was caught in between the pace of the group leads and my partner who had nudged back a bit (she had run the London marathon 3 weeks ago with an injury) so I was a bit ‘billy no mates’ in the middle. We were back at the gloriously located National Watersports Centre in 50 minutes after 5 miles (9km), not bad.

Would I go again, yes, it would do me and Ellie good just to keep that pressure on a little and stop us getting too lazy. It’s not a beginners club, but I think familiarity with a few faces would make the runs even more enjoyable… what are the joining arrangements ?

Holme Pierpoint main lake

Holme Pierpoint main lake