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Friday, 20 July 2018

10 Lessons I Learned from Triathlon Training Camp Les Stables

1. You’re never too pissed or too nettle-stung to finish a brick session … even if you crashed your bike on the way home.

2. Being able to hum the waltz helps your swim technique … unless you try to sing it and sink.

3. You CAN have too many lentils if that’s the only recipe you can remember away from home … and your room mate will make pointed remarks about air freshener. **Parp**

4. You can always do one more hill rep ... especially if you get told you can have one pint for every hill rep. See Note 1: bike crashes.

5. Sibs is able to turn even the most 'Shark Attack' style swim techniques into something glorious. 

6. You will get told to “Stop fucking freewheeling on the front” by Mark at some point in the group ride … don't argue, just don't freewheel.

7. French drivers don't seem to want to kill all cyclists like British drivers … not with their vehicles anyway. 

8. Get a copy of the bike box key because it WILL hide and panic you … and you'll magically only find it the day before you have to return the box.

9. You can ALWAYS go fastest in the last rep on your run technique session ... especially if you're getting shouted at.

10. Morning swims in the pool at Les Stables with the steam rising from the water will spoil you for any pool or lake ever again … and it's worth it. 

Had the most AMAZING week at Les Stables and can't recommend it enough. The training was hard work but it was fantastic to be able to concentrate on triathlon without having to fit it in between work, chores and coordinating everyday life. I swam like I'd never believed I could, cycled like I wished I could and ran like I was running towards a pub. 

When can I come back? 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Rawlinson Bracket 2018: THE CLAW

Rich was moaning about being too hot. Granted, we were in the car wearing 5 layers of clothes plus thermal underwear and the heating up to full whack but today was not the day to be moaning about being too warm. 

Outside, temperatures were hovering between -5*c and -2*c, the wind was howling and the roads were covered in a sheet of ice. And we had  60 miles of the Rawlinson Bracket sportive to do on our road bikes. Hooray. Hoo-fucking-ray.  

Last year I'd enjoyed it SO much (link) I'd cried, tamtrumed and made up new swear words before I was rescued by Linda and Fiona. So why on earth had I entered it again? Because in my infinite wisdom, I'd thought it couldn't possibly be as bad as I'd remembered and roped Rich, Paul and Annette into it. At least if it was as dreadful as I remembered I'd have company in my misery and people to stop me entering it again next year. 

We'd all arranged to meet up about a hour before the rolling start closed so we had time to visit the loos multiple times, sort the last minute mechanical problems that always happen when a bike gets thrown into the back of a car and still have time to get to the aid stations before the cakes ran out. It sounded like the perfect plan.

Rich and I travelled down together and we met Paul fairly early on in the registration area. We couldn't find Annette and had had no communication from her apart from one tentative text mentioning the cold. After several calls and texts without a response we came to the conclusion that we had been ditched in favour of a lie-in which was probably a sensible decision. It was now 10 minutes before the start line closed so we made our way over to find Annette waiting there patiently asking us where we'd all been.

We set off into the headwind. It was -5*c and we had massive hills ahead. Oh good.

At least judging by last year we'd have green, unpeelable bananas waiting for us at 35 miles. Oh good.

Well at least I could stick 2 fingers up at the cold. Well a claw. 

I detest being cold so had invested in Crab Claw gloves. And just in case the cold got through those I'd put neoprene gloves on my hands underneath. Frostbite could sod off. I might look like Dr Zoidberg from Futurama but I'd have the last laugh when I had warm fingers. Warm claws.   

On my feet were thick thermal wool socks, fleecey insoles, tin foil inside my shoes, neoprene overshoes over the top and waterproof overshoes over the top of these. I couldn't feel the pedals through this lot. Or my toes. But who would be laughing at the end when everyone else couldn't feel their feet from the cold, hey? I'd just be unable to feel MY feet because of the sheer amount of kit I was wearing. Winner. I think.

It was tough work in the wind and Annette wasn't feeling 100% so she made the decision to head back to the start when we reached about mile 10. It was a wise decision, no point staying out in the cold and hitting the hills if you weren't feeling great. So long as she didn't get to and scoff all the cakes before we got there.

Rich and Paul were good company despite them giving me grief for taking the hills at a steady pace. After the shambles of last year's attempts on the hills I was just making sure I kept an even pace and effort the whole way up. I'd completely cocked up one of the hills last year after attacking too early and had done something I'd never done before …  walk up the hill. The shame. There were mitigating circumstances but even so … This year this was NOT HAPPENING.

I got to the top of Edge Hill which was one of the more challenging hills on the route and proudly said to Paul:

“I didn’t walk up any part of that  hill and even overtook people.” (I may have done Smug Face at this point.)
Paul promptly asked: “Well were THEY walking?” Which of course, both lads thought was hilarious.

Gits. I was also unable to give them the bird due to the aforementioned crab claw gloves and had to be content with motioning threateningly over my shoulder instead in a crabby kind of a way.

Despite Rich moaning about the heat in the car on the way up, every time I even mentioned that it might be a tad chilly I got reminded of Velominati Rule 5. **huff**

Stylish as ever. I was warm, ok. WARM.

I smashed all the hills. In a sedate, non-smashing kind of a way. Read: didn't walk. And spotted a few friends on route too. Lorraine, owner of an identical bike and the fluffiest dog EVER and Jane, a triathlete friend and focused cyclist who was completing the event with her friend Ann. Nice to see friendly faces. Especially ones who didn't tell me I was moving at a sloth speed on the hills. Yes. I'm looking at YOU, Paul and Rich.

The aid station had, similar to last year run out of energy drink, no doubt squandered to the cyclists doing the shorter route, but at least the bananas were peelable this year. 

No those aren't smiles. Those are frostbite gurns.

After the aid station, the last part of the ride goes quickly with just a couple of interesting climbs left. I'd enjoyed the sportive but there's only so long you can cycle in such cold and wind without dreaming mournfully of a time where you had feeling in all of your limbs and icicle bogies weren't a definitive part of your face. We all looked like walruses. Most of all I was looking forward to a hot black coffee. There's nothing like a coffee to keep your spirits up and warm your hands.

After 4 hours of ice, bogies and banshee-winds, we made it back to the finish at the Gaydon Motor Museum where there were tons of cakes waiting for us … and no coffee. No coffee. They had run out of coffee.

So I had to console myself with another 2 cakes instead. 

Fair dos.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Secret Vegan

The problem was that it was my SISTER daring me to do it. My LITTLE sister. And if there’s anything a big sister can’t take, it’s being beaten in something by a little sister. It’s pretty much against the laws of the universe.

However, what she was challenging me to sounded if not impossible, then very nearly so. It sounded miserable, torturous and a downright slog. In fact it sounded a DREADFUL idea. 

But it was my little sister daring me to do it.

Ah crap. I was going to have to give it a go. With 31 days of misery ahead of me, I notified my triathlon coach, organised a nutritional check 3 weeks in (in case I was dying or could bribe her to provide me with a valid excuse to back out), stocked up on things that had never appeared on my grocery list before (what the actual frog is TOFU and is it supposed to taste like a mix of frogspawn and scrambled eggs?) and bought a veritable Holland & Barretts worth of supplements, vitamins and pills.

So what was this awful challenge that I was dreading? Veganuary. Yep, me a self-confessed creme-egg addict and cheese devotee was considering giving up all things animal based for 31 days. There were caveats however; part of my work uniform is leather  (no - I’m NOT some sort of bondage mistress before you even consider asking that) and I was still cooking animal products for my daughter so I wasn’t a ‘proper’ vegan by the strict terms as I was still using some animal products even if I wasn’t eating them. 

So how did I get on?

The Downsides:

  • Farting. Oh my God, the farting. I got away with it for the first few days as no-one could believe that the stench was from an actual person rather than roadkill, a sewage plant or some truly appalling drain problems. I actually had to check that I hadn't inadvertently crapped myself several times. 
  • Eating Out. I was panicking that I wouldn't be able to eat out at all but actually most places I've been to have have offered at least one vegan meal option. And if I was really stuck, then there was always chips. Mmm chips. However one thing I HAVE needed to check was that the place I was going to offered options that were not only vegan but also had no gluten in as should that happen I'd probably dissolve into a puddle of farts and actual manure. 
  • Code Browns. Every single bloody time I've run a speed session in January, l had a code brown. In other words I had a 3 minute warning either during or immediately after that I needed a poo. An urgent poo. However I'm not sure I can blame this entirely on Veganuary as this is a standard January thing for me. No idea why. It's possibly my body complaining about having to run fast after a nice long sit down for the entirety of December. 
  • Meal Planning. Rather than just being able to stick the contents of my freezer drawer into the steamer and press the on-button, I was having to actually plan my meals in advance unless I was prepared to live off tins of baked beans and bourbons (I don’t believe in living off salad - it’s not real food - this was what I was concerned about when my sister first suggested it. I thought my diet would be brown rice and lettuce which sounds joyless and quite frankly shit.) This meant I was having to bulk cook and pot everything up in little plastic pots in the fridge. The microwave was my new best friend.  
  • No Creme Eggs. No cheese. These two alone were almost deal breakers for the 30 days. 

The Upsides:

  • Proper Athletes. There are PROPER athletes who are vegan. Scott Jurek is vegan. He doesn't seem to have any problems smashing out the miles and winning all the things.Rich Roll, ultrarunner and triathlete is vegan and other notable vegan Brits include Fiona Oakes, Sally Eastall and Jack Maitland. Doesn't seem to be holding this lot back at all.
  • I Learned To Cook. I had to learn to make food. Things were no longer as simple as chucking a bit of fish and some veg into the steamer. I went through a phase where I was eating curry for every meal. Actually it’s not a phase. I’m still doing this. It’s fucking awesome. 
  • Eating Less Crap. I didn't realise quite how much shit I ate until I couldn't eat it in January. I almost had a melt down when I realised that there would be crème eggs and no cheese. But then again they're not really top of the list when I think of things likely to improve my triathlon performance. However surprisingly I found out that most dark chocolate was vegan as were doritos, peanut butter, party rings, Fox’s custard, pringles, a lot of the Mr Kipling cakes, several of the haribo (phew!), bourbons and most importantly Aspalls Cider was also vegan. 
  • I Like Animals. And I don't just mean in a sizzling pan. I've always been a bit unsure why my cat dying was a tragedy to me but I was happily eating pigs, cows and sheep without a second thought. I've always avoided watching anything on intensive farming too as it's something I'd rather not know about. At least this month I was actually being the person I probably should be all the time. 
  • Tummy Friendly. I don’t get bloating. Yes I’m farting like a … I’m not quite sure what actually. But my family are appalled at the smell and I’ve become shameless at farting on the treadmill at the gym which means the snow really does need to hurry up and go away as the gym will be charging me for people leaving soon. It was interesting to have a flat tummy for the first time in years though even if that comes at a cost of trumping like a whoopee cushion. 

I kept the fact that I was doing Veganuary quiet as it was a personal challenge for me. Well .. between me and my sister anyway. It was interesting seeing the judgement from both sides - from the vegans who were calling people eating animal products ‘murderers’ and from the omnivores commenting on the vegan posts and getting quite affronted at people eschewing bacon and cheese. It made me see that it wasn’t just a diet choice, but a lifestyle and one that made people feel very strongly on both sides. 

However, what really shocked me was the in-fighting in some of the groups. People asking each other who was the ‘most vegan’ and telling others that they weren’t ‘proper’ vegans. As far as I could see, for whatever reasons people choose to follow a plant-based diet or lifestyle, we should be supporting each other, shouldn’t we? It’s all contributing to less animal deaths and promoting better health, isn’t it? I could see how vegans get given a bad name if this infighting is how they behave towards each other before even starting on people who eat meat.  

However, it was a positive experience for me. I learned how to cook some cracking curries, I cut out a lot of junk food for a month and I’ve discovered I have the ability to simultaneously clear a room and toot a tune with a fart. 

Winner, winner, lentil dinner.    

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Winter Kit Picks: Sweaty Hands, Warm Bums and Being Seen

I love winter in photos. Especially when I'm looking at the photos from a nice warm house or even better, in bed. But training in winter? Brrrrrrr. It's cold. There's ice. There's snow. And after eating the world at Christmas, I have to get out into that cold and buckle down with the training. 

But it's cold. It's just so cold. And the gyms are packed and treadmills are dire … so I have to take my training outside. In the cold. Did I mention the cold?

However one thing that helps is decent kit. And it can make the difference between a successful training session … and one that's not. 

I've added a few of my winter kit picks below. Pieces of kit that have helped me through this cold weather and have allowed me to concentrate on my training rather than have to worry about what I'm wearing. Be aware, that this post is weighted towards ASICS kit as tha's what I've been wearing for the majority of this winter. 

My top picks for Winter kit:

ASICS Basic Performance Gloves

I'm fussy about gloves. My hands are usually either too cold or too hot without a nice in-between and wearing one glove on one hand and no glove on the other hand doesn't appear to work. And makes me look as though I've sacrificed one to the long-run-toilet-gods.

Warm hands (pic by @carelduplessis)
However I've been using these gloves this winter and they've been decent. As they're lightweight, I get protection from the wind chill without getting the sweaty hands of a pognophile at the approach of Santa. 

A handy addition to them is the clip on each glove which attaches them together. This is  useful for me as I tend to leave a trail of kit wherever I go like breadcrumbs from Hansel and Gretel. And I'm more likely to notice a pair of gloves dropping out of a pocket then one glove. Although saying this I DID leave them on a bush the other day and ended up running an extra mile to go and retrieve them.

They've got smartphone tips which mean you can mess about with your phone without taking them off and and they're pretty nice to look at too, with reflective strips and coloured stripes. They're also a decent price for run kit, especially performance race kit. Can't balk at £15 for a pair of run gloves. 

Available here:

My 'I'm going on a bike ride and there will be cake' face

TUVIZO Reflective Belt

Just because I'm a runner it doesn't mean that ALL my kit is in retina-burning neon. Sorry. 

However wearing muted colours does make me a bit less visible, especially at this time of year. I find this belt handy as it means I don't need to pick my training kit around what time of day I'm heading out to train. As the neon is very bright and the reflective strips give me some extra visibility it's a great addition to my winter kit. I use it for both cycling and running and as it packs down small, it's an easy addition if you need to travel light. It's a couple of years old now but still nice and garish and there's no real signs of wear and tear despite being put through the wash multiple times. It's very adjustable and the clip is nice and big which saves me accidentally clipping my fingers which is something I do tend to do fairly regularly with everything else including handbags, utility belts and seatbelts. *sigh* 

Available here:

This *may* be 'I'm running after a curry' face

ASICS Beanie Graphics Hat

I don't tend to suit hats but I do wear them on the basis that they keep my ears warm and my hair out of the way. Lightweight and in a nice colour, this hat does both AND I can pretend I'm a gnome at the same time. Winning all round. Hand me that plastic fishing rod, will you?

Available here:

ASICS Windstopper Tights

I am loving these. They look like my normal comfy tights BUT THEY HAVE FLEECE INSIDE. Warm legs. Cannot recommend warm legs enough when the temperature is in single digits. Have been refusing to wear any other tights for long runs outdoors as who needs cold legs? Not me. 

Available here:

I haven't included any tops in this blog post as I've been mixing it up with the what I'm wearing on my top half depending on the session whereas the items I've mentioned above have been staples of pretty much every training I've done outside. 

However if you're interested I've been wearing mainly tech t-shirts with arm warmers (so I can remove them if I get too warm) with a wind proof jacket over the top. Socks have been mainly wool this winter as I detest having cold feet and I've got a range from multiple brands and places from Sports Direct to ASICS to Salomon. 

Happy training!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

ASICS FrontRunner UK: A Year of Smiles

So … ASICS FrontRunner applications have opened for 2018. 

It seems funny that it was only a year ago that I applied to be a FrontRunner because so much has happened in the team since. People who I'd previously only seen on social media or in the pages of running magazines have become firm friends. Team members have become parents for the first time. Races have been won … and lost. Course records broken and new PBs won.

It's been a year of smiles. 

And that's why ASICS FrontRunner is important to me. It's about smiles and about having fun and enjoying our sports. In the FrontRunner team we all share a passion for running – and socialising, but there's no comparison in times, goals or years of sports. It's all about the people. And about the love of a good run. And sometimes the stories of the bad runs. Because they're important too. 

"But these race instructions don't tell me how to ask for a beer in German"! 
We're a group of people with completely different backgrounds, different goals and different race distances and disciplines but we all share a love of running and movement and have a common goal which is to encourage others to participate too. 

Meeting the locals ...

Being the locals ... (at Holly's local parkrun)

Does this sound like something you'd enjoy? Then I'd recommend you to apply to be a FrontRunner. It's been such a positive experience for me. New friends made, new sports tried (SUP rugby anyone?) and some amazing memories. Not forgetting Pete dressed up as a banana in Germany trying to win a 5k … or Marcus pole dancing … or Becca and Corey warming up my feet with a hairdryer after a cold run in Bath! 
ANOTHER costume, Pete??

Fancy some new friends? Some AMAZING friends? Who also like running (it's totally a win/win, right??) And some AMAZING kit? 

Becca: "So we just have to hold hands and cross the line together?"
Marcus: *practises sprint start*

Apply HERE  

... And don't forget your smiley photo!  

Sunday, 31 December 2017

7 Reasons Why Running Is Better Than Cycling

1. The cleaning. Dear God … ALL THE CLEANING!!
Run: You go for a run, you chuck your dirty kit in the washing machine, you chuck the dirty you in the shower.
Bike: They take AGES to clean. And there's always a bit you've missed. And then you still have to clean yourself. Only solution is to put BOTH of you in the shower. And then you still have to put oil on the important bits. 

2. Squeak! Excuse me!
Run: Irritating noise. Oh it's my arse. Easy to sort. Avoid high fibre & caffeine before run.
Bike: Irritating noise. Not easy to sort. There is ALWAYS an irritating noise. You might have cleaned, oiled and tightened every screw. But there's always a noise. And you can never locate it. And it never does it when you're in the bike shop. Disclaimer: it might still be my arse.  

3. Aeroplane arms make EVERYTHING better. Except cycling. 
Run: Aeroplane arms down the hills and around the corners.
Bike: Aeroplane arms. Splat. Extricate bike and gravel from flesh.

4. New kit day … oh. 
Run: You always want another pair of trainers. Ok. £80.
Bike: You always want another bike. Not ok. £1000 … at least. 

5. The Rules. 
Run: The rules are don't snot rocket at another runner. Don't run into them. Share snacks.
Bike: It's Bike Club. You don't talk about the rules but are expected to know them. Sleeves are mandatory. Tan lines must be strictly adhered to and be razor edged. Kit should match bike. What?

6. It has 2 wheels and some of those round things. You know. Pedals. Well, they GO round, don't they?
Run: Jargon. There's a bit but it's mainly about pacing and splits. Preferably gap between snacks and banana. 
Bike: Jargon. What is a gearset?  A crank? Seriously just call it a cog and a pedal. But not to me. I have no interest and no technical knowledge and will immediately say something like “Pedals? Yes I have those.” Before inwardly groaning and receiving either a (wo)mansplain or a patronising look. Probably both. 

7. Targets on 2 wheels
Run: Cars dislike runners. But at least there's usually a pavement you can run on or handy hedge you can leap into.
Bike: Car drivers REALLY don't like cyclists and as soon as they see cyclists cycling 2 abreast immediately lose their shit and start behaving as though they don't have control of a dangerous 2-tonne piece of metal. Seriously pensioners and Ocado lorries. Sort it out. 

And this is precisely why running is better than cycling. If you disagree, you might enjoy 6 Reasons Why Cycling is Better Than Running ... 

On the 12th Day of Christmas ...

On the 12th day of Christmas my Tri coach gave to me:

12 Hills a-sprinting
11 progressive swim sets
10 Laps of drowning 
9 days French Tri Camp Training 
8 miles of tempo
7 sportives suffering

6 time trials puking 
5 single arms drillsssss …..
4 mile reps
3 turbo seasons
2 loooong swims 
And the potential to qualify for GB ...

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Run Traitor: 6 Reasons Why Cycling is Better Than Running ...

Recently I've become a bit of a traitor. Running, always my first love has been shunned in favour of my bike. And in Winter too. No … I don't know why either. But here are a few of my guesses ...

1. Cake Vs No Cake
When I run, I just go for a run. I run around. Often in circles, sometimes out and back but I rarely have an end destination. When I go for a bike ride I go somewhere. Usually to a cake shop. Which is a bloody good incentive. Cake is one of my strongest motivators.

Or sometimes it's ice cream ...

2. Have a nice sit down, love
When I'm cycling I can kid myself that I'm actually having a nice sit down. Yes. I know I'm going up a hill and my quads are screaming at me but I'm sitting down. It's practically a rest, right?

3. I can stop having to do it downhills
When you go for a run you have to keep going or you stop. Or fall over. On my bike I can have a nice rest going down the hills. While shouting “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Which helps.

4. Strava
While I'm not a bitch for Strava *cough*, when I go for a run I might cover 6 or 7 segments. On a bike ride, especially in an area I haven't cycled in before I'm picking up 40 or 50 new shiny little cups. Yes they're not real. And yes they're only because I haven't cycled that route before, but I like shiny things. I'm basically a cycling magpie. Even for 'virtual' bling.

Nope. Totally not EXTREMELY envious of Annette's new bike *cough*

5. Wheely good gossip
Cycling is more sociable than running. I don't know whether it's because the suggestion of cake attracts more people to bike rides than a run, but cycling seem to be made for groups. I tend to run on my own but bike rides – it's basically an excuse for a massive group chat and a stop at a farm shop for a coffee *cough* cake *cough*. Also it's a good excuse for eyeing up your friend's new bike and cycling kit and wondering which child / pet / family heirloom you can sell for a bit more cash to spend on new bike / new bike kit. 

My beauty. Only had to sell 2 children and a cat to afford her ...

6. Cake
Did I mention the cake?

Earning those pudding miles
They all sound like pretty valid reasons to me. I'm certainly not stopping running but I definitely think there's a place for more cake stops in my long runs. 

New run group: Who's up for 20 miles and 3 cakes? 

Monday, 6 November 2017

ASICS RoadHawk FF Review: Better for speedwork than marathons ...

If you've seen any of my recent running photos it'll come as no surprise to you that I like the ASICS Roadhawk FF shoes. 

I received a pair from ASICS when I went to one of their events (BENEFITS!!! WOOO!) but quite frankly I wasn't too sure about when I would actually wear them. I'm a long distance runner, right? Unless there are multiple aid (edit: cake) stations, lots of miles of rolling trails and some nice hills to plan my strategy on (edit: walk up) then I'm not really that interested.

But when you've got a pair of shoes that look like trainers, perform like trainers but feel like slippers, then it's a whole different story. 

I planned to be sensible and wear them only for events less than 10k on roads or club speed sessions. Use them for how they were intended, right?

And yet here I am dressed as a Ghostbuster at Bacchus Marathon in the Roadhawk FF shoes. But at least I was a Ghostbuster with comfortable feet. My friends laughed at me when I told them I was doing a trail race in road shoes, specifically lightweight racing shoes … but who was laughing when I was first to the wine and the sweets at the marathon aid station? That would be me. Dressed as a Ghostbuster and eating all the sweets.

The shoes are designed for neutral pronation road runners and the tongue is attached to the interior of the shoe with a sockliner which means you don't have to wear socks with them. I still do, however as am one of those paranoid triathletes who is convinced her toes will fall off if she doesn't wear socks at all times. However that probably says more about me and my feet than about the shoes. 

They are however, super comfy and I'm yet to get a blister with them unlike my road shoes which took about 35 miles before they were truly comfortable. Another benefit is that they're very light. I really do have no excuse for falling into my go-to ultra runners shuffle with these on my feet as they weigh 190g which is the same as:

  • Almost 4 mini jars of coffee (camping size)
  • A bottle and a bit of soy sauce
  • Half a jar of chocolate spread
  • 2 tins of tuna (responsibility sourced of course)

I had quite a lot of fun running around the kitchen trying to find things the same weight as the trainers but needless to say, these are LIGHT shoes with the Flytefoam midsole weighing 55% less than the industry standard foam used in running shoes.

Flying over the finish line in the Roadhawk FF

I really like these shoes and I've run quite a few miles in them, however despite me having no ill-effects (apart from sugar overdose from all the checkpoints during the marathon) I probably wouldn't recommend you run a marathon in them but I highly recommend them for speedwork. I use them for all of my running club interval sessions and speedwork and can't really fault them. 

 (Photo from instagram of @marathonmarcus. Photo taken by @teddymorellec)

Only thing I'd offer guidance in is to try them first if you've got very narrow feet. I've got wide feet and they fit perfectly so there might be some movement if you've got a more delicate bone structure as opposed to my flipper-style feet.

Speedwork or a trail drinking marathon ... either way they worked for me! 

ASICS gave me the trainers but didn't request that I review them. As usually I've said exactly what I thought (bouncy, comfy and feel like slippers) and took no payment (not even in creme eggs). 

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Autumn Wolfrun: Unmentionable Stuff in My Hair & Why Fake Nails are an OCR MUST

So this Autumn I was to take part in The Wolf Run. I’d like to clarify that this doesn’t involve being chased by actual wolves … I’m not quite that desperate to improve my 10k PB. Yet. Or to end my days being savaged like the Mum out of Cujo. If I’m to end my days dribbling and crying, I’d to prefer it to be from copious amounts of alcohol and a really sad book, not a ravenous canine.

W.O.L.F actually stands for Woods, Obstacles, Lakes & Fields and the Wolf Run is designed to simulate some of the obstacles that you’d meet in the wild, running as a wolf. Although not all … I haven’t yet seen a wolf on a slide. Although should anyone have any handy YouTube clips …?

Registration was as slick as the Fonz’s hair. There were lots of extremely enthusiastic marshals available to help in the large tent and it was easy to pick up a waiver form and get it signed ready to collect my registration pack. Unfortunately my morning handwriting wasn't up to scratch so I did have to decipher what appeared to be particularly badly formed runes. I’m just not a morning person.

Luckily I’d not even had to drive myself as my husband had been put in the position of Chief Supporter. Which sounds very grand but basically involves standing in the (usually) cold, being berated for taking sub-par photos and being taxi. So not even a pint at the end. I probably should make him a badge or a hat or something. 

Pack picked up, number pinned on and portaloo visited and sharpie applied to my head branding me with my race number all done. I love having a bit of time before a race starts - not an awful lot worse than having to rush on race morning. As it was a warm morning I even got a bit of late-season sun basking done … and spotted one of my friends from work in LONDON who was marshalling the race. I can never get over what a small world the running one actually is. *Waves at Sophie*

Decided that pre-race relaxing just isn’t the same without needing a wee most of the way around the run and paid £2 for the privilege of some murky black water masquerading as coffee. I was quite happy with this until I spotted the sign on the stall next door offering coffee for £1 … gutted. I could have needed a wee TWICE as desperately while running as could have had TWO cups …

The Wolf Run is a sociable run, which puts a lot of emphasis on teamwork and at the start of each of the waves of their events, they run an extremely enthusiastic warmup. The comperes shout if you’re not trying hard enough and basically get everyone doing a 5 minute equivalent of HIIT. Mainly commando crawling, high knees and bear crawls which basically involved sticking your butt in the air and crawling. Like a cat getting it’s back scratched. But with more mud, grass and lycra.

I was exhausted before we started.

However, that didn’t mean I didn’t get caught up in the start line enthusiasm and was off like a shot like the rest of my fellow lunatics. Usually I’m pretty strict with my pacing. I know what distance I’m running, what pace I’m aiming for and where my heart rate should be. Wolf run pace? No idea. Whatever feels like a good idea at the time. And I’m not sure I HAVE a target heart rate for rope climbing, pond jumping or bog wading. Except for avoiding flatline I was happy to be moving forward.

I did discover an unexpected talent. Turns out I can climb ropes like a monkey. Not sure when I would be using this skill in the future now that I’ve grown out of primary school and gym classes but should I ever need to escape from something that can’t climb ropes (worms? hippos?) and there should be a rope handy … then I’m the girl who will be escaping THAT imaginary predator. 

However I was RUBBISH at the pipes. These were slick plastic pipes and I JUST fitted. There was no room to commando crawl or use my legs so I had to drag myself along with my arms and shoulders. It was hard work and I was exhausted at end. You remember that bit in Ace Ventura where he crawls out of the robot rhino’s arse? It was like that. And in case you haven’t seen the film, there’s a recommendation right there. It was how I imagine being born like … but without the drugs. And while wearing lycra.

I thoroughly enjoyed the submerged tunnels and discovered I had a rather unfair advantage. I like having nice nails but due to all the sports I do they need to be practically bulletproof and not chip so I go to a nail place where they make them as Wolverine-like as possible. My secret advantage was being able to dig my nails into the mud and muck at the bottom of the tunnel and drag myself along like a zombie but with better nails. It was surprisingly speedy and I overtook the lad I’d been leapfrogging with on the last few obstacles. He soon caught up again but I noticed that HIS nails weren’t wolverine-esque so should there be another muddy tunnel, bets were on me.

Ended up having a chatter and it turned out that only a few years previously, my new running buddy, Anton been a very overweight man. You’d never guess with the way he was running now but he’d turned his fitness around and was now smashing out obstacle runs like a pro! Inspiring stuff!

I’m obviously the perfect height … *cough*. Ok short. I’m short. And I did find that being vertically-challenged makes some of the obstacles tougher. There are some felled trees and while the lads with long legs and big strides made short work of these, it was almost faster for me to crawl underneath them than to go over them. However, I would have the last laugh as should I trip I wouldn’t have far to fall.

I do find the bog and pond wades tough work. While I enjoy doing these, I lose a lot of time in the field. On the lad, the water was around their knees and they could raise their feet out of the water. For me - the water was around my thighs. However, being lighter on the muddy bog sections if I could get enough speed up beforehand I could pretty much run across the top if the mud was solid enough. Not quite Legolas on the snow, more like Bog Monster in the Marsh but it gave me an advantage. 

There are quite a lot of jumps in the Wolf Run. Lots of fun and a bit of gamble especially as you never quite knew how deep they were! On one of the sections, I should have spotted the mischievous look on the marshal’s face before I leapt in … to 6 inches of muddy water. And promptly stuck fast in the thick mud at the bottom. I was loathe to leave my new and rather striking ASICS Gel Fuji Trabuco 5s in the bog so I struggled and wallowed until I could finally pull my feet free and drag myself out of the bog. 

I also learned a new trick. Seeing a few people early on in the race commando rolling under the cargo nets, I gave it a try. It was surprisingly fast and effective! Much quicker than clambering over or crawling under them however I wasn’t sure that the vertigo immediately afterwards took away from the benefit as I probably wasted time bouncing off the trees that I could have spent crawling and running. 

While the Wolf Run is totally not a race the marshals were telling me I was the 2nd placed lady in the event. At this stage of unfitness I was TOTALLY keeping that!

There’s an open water swim in the event which I was looking forward to after all the triathlon training of the last couple of years, however despite being confident in the water, I had completely underestimated quite how tough swimming in trainers and full running kit is. I did thoroughly enjoy it however and even did a bit of backstroke to get the benefit of the sunshine! Plus it washed off some of the more fragrant mud which appeared to have been kindly donated by some local cows with dreadfully runny tummies. 

While I enjoy ALL of the obstacles at the Wolf Run (even the giving-birth-simulating-pipes), the absolute highlight has to be the MASSIVE WATER SLIDE! I don’t know how long it is as I spend my whole time on it shouting “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”  but it does seem to reach from the top of a very long field all the way down to the bottom. At least 30 seconds of “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” anyway. It puts any park waterslide to shame. Plus as I was in the first wave there was no queue to get on it so I could leap up the steps and taking a run up to get a better launch at it! I was airborne for about the first 10 metres. TOTALLY worth it!

I’m not quite sure why I look quite so serious on it. Maybe I’m concentrating on “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!” rather than weeeeeeeeeeeee after those cups of coffee. Or more likely calculating where my next snack is coming from.

After this section, it seemed only a very short run to the end. There were plenty more obstacles than I’ve mentioned (did I mention the Monkey Bars? The Nutcracker? The massive A-Frame Cargo nets?) but who am I to spoil the surprise for you? It would be like telling you the end of a good book, right?

Running up though the last half a mile, you can hear the crowd and the announcer and it adds an additional adrenaline boost. Your legs are tired, you’re covered in rather fragrant mud and there’s something unmentionable in your hair … but there’s something very special about The Wolf Run. You climb the last A-Frame, swinging your legs over the 25-odd foot high top bar and slide down the other side and run as fast as you can towards the inflatable finish arch you can just see the top of over the last hillock. You climb the last hillock … and there in front of you is a massive bog full of filthy mud.

So you do a star jump. As is perfectly normal at the end of a race, right?

Thanks Wolf Run. Loved it. I’ll be back.

The Wolf Run very kindly offered me a free spot if I wrote a blog about it. As usually I wrote exactly what I thought of it (lots of mud, lots of obstacles and cider!!) and I took no payment for this post.