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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Running the Coventry Way: 35 years, 35 miles. A birthday in Numbers and Mud.

35 years
43.76 miles
11:40 hours 
5 runners, 7 runners, then 3, then 5, then 3, then 4, then 3 again.
1 cider, 1 mulled wine
2 creme eggs
3 pubs
10 sudocremed toes 
0 blisters
89,222 footsteps
1 brilliant birthday

Prior Preparation Prevents Pustulating Putrid Blisters
On the 8th of December, I was 35. A new race age category. Scary stuff. 

But birthdays are awesome. I bloody love birthdays. There’s presents and cake. But there could also be running ...

I decided to celebrate my birthday in a way I wouldn’t forget. 35 miles for 35 years. 

The Coventry Way is a 40 mile circle of remote footpaths looping around Coventry. There is sheep poo, cow pats and mud aplenty. Stiles beyond counting. Silly amounts of kissing gates. And fields and fields and fields. It seemed a shame not to ...

The Starting Five ...

There was getting friends from the station, getting to the pub,  getting muddy, getting cold, getting cider, getting the giggles at Lozza, getting hugs from Liz, getting support from Simon and Nick, getting lost, getting some sense and letting Richard navigate, getting some great training run ideas from Claudie, getting some headtorches and a crème egg from Simon ...


You've been holding the map upside down, Sarah ...

... And having a BRILLIANT birthday.

Whaddaya mean they've closed our footpaths ...

And just for the record I’m 35 years old not 43 ... but we got a bit lost and then decided we’d done most of the Coventry Way so we may as well carry on and finish it. 

7 miles in ... (Pic by Lozza)


And we got to the pub just in time to get a round in. Win.

The Final Three ... and drinks 


Friday, December 5, 2014

Asics262: Back to Bootcamp with Runners World

I had a treat on Friday. A sneak peek as it were. I got invited by Runners World back to the #Asics262 bootcamp day.

If you don’t know, Runners World and Asics choose 5 people every year to kit out, train and prepare for the Paris Marathon in April. You get trained by amazing coaches (Steve Smythe and Sam Murphy), kitted out by Asics in their gorgeous running clothes, a personal and scary (but lovely) nutritionist Ruth,  Sarah-Connors-of-the-Pointy-Elbows, the brilliant physiotherapist and Sports Psychologist Victor; “So WHY do you want to run everywhere then, Sarah?” ... “Well for the crème eggs ... obviously!”


Photography by Tom Miles

I was invited back along with Roger, Ady and Malcs to chat to the 50 bootcampers from among whom the lucky 5 would be selected. Our role was to put them at their ease and to tell them what exactly was involved in the campaign. The prize is amazing and wonderful and exciting ... but it was also the hardest 4.5 months of my life. It’s not to be taken lightly! As Ady joked “If it had lasted another month it might have cost me my marriage.”  

It’s an intense 4.5 months. Every training session, every workout is scrutinised, not only by the coaches, but by the people following you on the Runners World forums, in the magazines and on social media. You have to report back on your progress, on each individual session and reply to any questions that might be raised. Even if the question was “So why do you wear such awful neon pink socks?”


Photography by Tom Miles

You have to track your food ... and post every morsel, mouthful and crème egg online. And be judged and corrected or condemned by both the nutritionist and the forumites. I had to cut down on crème eggs AND got told off for my all-you-can-eat chilli nights ... but I learned the proper way to fuel and to carb load. Carb loading for me included pick’n’mix sweeties. I LOVE Ruth. 

You’re an ambassador, both for Runners World and Asics and have to behave accordingly. Lots of running, lots of photos, lots of behaving self.

And hardest of all is the responsibility. 3000 people wanted this. You were lucky enough to be chosen. You have to prove to yourself that you deserve this. That you are going to make the most of this.  You are NEVER going to get this opportunity again. This is your one opportunity. Make the most of it. 

It’s hard. It’s really hard. I remember being up to midnight most nights as I was running 5 or 6 days a week, then posting about it on the forum, answering questions on the forum, checking what I was eating, following the training schedule and trying not to panic about the thought of knocking a huge amount off of my marathon time. 

But it’s brilliant. You become good friends with the other 4 people going through the same thing.  You achieve times, paces you never thought possible. You learn how to fuel for a race. You have a coach you can put your absolute trust in.  And most of all you get belief.

Belief that you can do this. 

And then you do.

It was a crazy, hard, AMAZING 4 months. One of the toughest things I’ve done.

But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. 




And if you want to help a fellow runner get to Paris with Asics262, you can vote for Lindsay here. She's completely bonkers and goes by the name of Tigger as she's always so incredibly enthusiastic. Especially about wine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cross Country Hatred: Earthworms, Mountains & AWESOME Spectating

Rain is pelting down and our feet are sinking into the already sodden grass. Huddled in the Club tent, we try to stop the worms getting into our bags. Actual wriggly worms. And as we’re all wearing spiked running shoes, it’s going to be worm-kebab time when we start running on the mushy grass. Poor Jim

Northbrook post-race legs. Spoiler: We all survived.

However it’s not all earthworm-death and torrential rain, I get some good news too. 

The race is 4 miles long, not the 5 miles I’d thought. So just once around the fields, a bit of a trot up a hill and then a cup of coffee. It’s sounding pretty good. Apart from the rain. And the worms. And the having-to-run.  

There had better be cake afterwards. 

Waiting until the last minute due to the downpour, I miss my warm-up. I’ll be fine. I’m sure I’ll be fine. It has to be better to warm up on the run, than be out in that freezing rain? In fact, running in that would be more likely to be a ‘cool down’ rather than a ‘warm up, right’? Huddling in a nice warm tent is much more sensible, I tell myself. I ignore the little voice that tells me ‘You realise you’re talking crap, right?’

It’s time.

The girls all pour out of the tiny Northbrook gazebo like clowns out of a tiny car. The men’s race is half an hour later so they’re staying in the warm and dry. I don’t blame them. I’d stay in the tent too. If someone removed the worms for me that is.  

It’s nice though at the start. Despite the rain. There is a sea of green and gold sunburst vests. The feeling of camaraderie makes me forget, just for a moment, that very soon I’ll be running around a field, covered in mud and feeling like hell. 

The girls at the front in their tiny pants and crop tops, bend forward for a good start, the ones in the middle including me, try to coordinate our starts so we don’t get mown down by the over-enthusiastic girls behind us. The girls at the back put on their best ‘mowing down the girls in front’ faces. We all look serious and dedicated and as though our very lives depend on getting a good start.

Then the gun goes off and the entire crowd of ladies do a very girly “Oooh!”. It would have been highly amusing if I wasn’t running for my life, trying to avoid being trampled into the mud by the girls behind me wearing spiked shoes. 

The whole field rushes past me. Like the WHOLE field. Did I miss some sort of energy drink given out at the start? Maybe there’s something really special at the end? Maybe they’re giving out free trainers to the first 50 finishers or something. Or maybe it’s just the thought of finishing quickly and being able to stop running through ankle deep mud. 

I try to run a bit faster but my legs aren’t having any of it.

Picture by the lovely Sarah McNaney

I try to think of excuses. My legs are tired from bike ride yesterday. My spikes aren’t spiky enough. Maybe I’m ill. (Tries a fake cough). Maybe they’re all going too fast and then I can overtake them all at the end. I didn’t warm up because it’s raining. Also I’m not wearing clothes that make me look as though I’ve forgotten my PE kit and am being made to run in my pants and vest. Everyone knows that crop top and pants are the best thing to race cross country in ...  

Ah crap. I’m just going to have to get on with it. *Puff, pant.* This SUCKS.

How can I enjoy trail running, but not cross country? Maybe it’s the spikes. I must be allergic to spiky shoes. That’s it. That must be what’s slowing me down so much as well. Stupid spikes. 

This course is fairly flat, although I am slightly suspicious of the fact that we are running towards Beacon Hill. Beacon Hill which has its own name and is so stupidly steep we have run hill repeats up it. And it has a freaking massive beacon up the top. I can remember Lord of the Rings. You remember that MASSIVE mountain the hobbits had to run up to light the beacon? It was EXACTLY like that. But without the hobbits. 

But I overtook a few people going up the hill. Ha ha! I thought. My hill reps here in the past have helped! I am like Queen of the Hill! I bounded up the hill, wearing my imaginary crown shooting scornful looks at everyone else. I am WINNING at running up hills! 

But the girls I was overtaking? They knew something I didn’t know. They knew we had to go up Beacon Hill TWICE. 

The second time? I wasn’t overtaking anyone. Queen of the Hill? More like Over the Hill. I plodded up, doing what can only be calling ‘running’ by the generous minded. 

I dragged myself around the field, mud up my legs, earthworm murder under my shoes and despair in my heart. Why are the miles taking so long to go? I check my Garmin ... how can I ONLY have gone that far? I’ve got MILES to go before I finish. 

Run ... Run ... Run ... 

I check my Garmin again. 0.06miles have gone past since I last checked it. Oh this is rubbish. At this rate I’ll be here ALL day. AND there isn’t even a medal at the end. There had better be cake or I’m going to be REALLY grumpy. GrumpIER. 

Then the ground disappears.

There’s a ditch. A massive ditch. Filled with mud. The taller women in front are jumping it. Some are landing in it. This doesn’t bode well for a vertically-challenged girl like me. I summon up my best gazelle-like leap and throw my arms out at the same time, pushing the girl over next to me. 

Whoops.

I land on the other side of the ditch and a quick glance shows me, that luckily my accidental push-ee made it over too. Phew. I probably wouldn’t have waded back in to save her but I WOULD have shouted an apology. I’m thoughtful like that. 

Picture by the lovely Sarah McNaney

Run up the hill and back onto the trails and there’s slippery mud everywhere. It’s like ice skating, but dirtier. My spikes are thoroughly clogged up and I can’t claim the grace of Bambi-on-Ice but I manage Bog-Monster-Emerging-From-Toilet. It’s carnage, people are slipping all over the place, my legs are skating around but I manage to avoid the one thing I’m most scared of in cross-country ... stepping on my own foot in spiked shoes. I don’t even get trodden on by anyone else’s spiked shoes.

Am obviously over-achiever. 

We emerge from the slippery mud and back onto the grass and leaves of the playing fields. We circle the field. This is promising. This is towards the finish! ... And past the finish. 

Stupid cross country. 

And guess what. Just to top off the muddy, mucky horror, we get a 2nd go at the ditch jump. 

2 goals: Don’t fall in. Don’t fall in. 

I can’t quite manage my gazelle-leap of before, making do with a cat-startled-by-hoover jump but am grateful not to have ended up in the dirt soup. I’m on the last muddy, grassy bit now, just one more corner and it’s the final straight. It’s not been my race and my legs – and heart – just haven’t enjoyed it.

But it’s nearly done and ... hang on! The girl I’ve been leapfrogging with the whole time has just put on a burst of speed to try and overtake me in a sprint finish! Can’t have that! My legs, thoroughly unimpressed at the whole cross country thing, decide that they DO have something left and whisk me along to the finish chute ... a hair ahead. I hope it’s not ditch-jump-pushed-girl or she is going to beat me to DEATH with the finish token at this final injustice. 

Northbrook ladies. I'm on the far right. (Pic source unknown)

I am relieved to be finished, but am disappointed with how I’ve done. I UNDERSTAND that I can’t be good at things I haven’t trained for. But I don’t have to LIKE it. 

I’ve trained for ultras this year. This involves running really, really slowly, eating snacks and by staying entertained by bushes. And not murdering chickens. I can’t expect to go from that to running like a mud-crazy-cheetah in spiky shoes. They’re opposite things but with running.

Like expecting to be good at bobsleigh because you’ve practised sitting.

I know I can’t EXPECT to be good. But I want to be. Dammit, Running Gods!!! (Howled)

So I take my sulky self and my over-expectations-of-cross-country-running over to spectate the mens’ race. Now this is where cross country makes up for all previous ills. This made up for the rain. This made up for the earthworms. This even made up for running up Massive-Stupid-Mountain-Beacon-Hill twice.

It was carnage.

There were men falling over in the ditch. There were men sliding into the ditch on their bottoms. There was even one poor man who lost his shoe in the ditch.

In fact, I felt so sorry for him, I videoed it. And I definitely don’t watch it when I’m sad just to laugh at this poor man and his hopeless eyes as he searches or his missing shoe.



Cross country running to watch this?

TOTALLY WORTH IT. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

10 Reasons to Start Running You Never Considered ... Zombie Attacks & Moving Picnics ...

1. Zombie Apocalypse.
When the zombie apocalypse comes you’ll be glad you dragged your arse out for all those runs. You may not have any toenails, but you’re not going to be a snack for the groaning undead. Cardio, cardio, cardio. Oh and double-tap. Remember to practise your intervals though. They’ll eat the slow ones first.

Source

2. Party Preparation.
Should there be a last minute 80s party, you’ve already got all the lycra and neon you’ll ever need. And we know you listen to the Fame soundtrack while you’re running. Don’t deny it.

3. Concentration.
Running makes you really, really focused. Nothing focuses the mind more than the thought of a really cold pint at the end of a really hot marathon.

4. It hurts less when you stub your toe.
There are less toenails to actually knock off and quite frankly your toes have lost all sensitivity by the time you actually get around to kicking the doorframe. Likewise standing on Lego will never hurt quite the same again.

5. Stat Attack
You know how boring spreadsheets are? Well when they show your run in great details including cadence, heart rates and teeny tiny hills you won’t be able to get enough information. Trust me. AND you’ll be able to prove it was all the fault of that energy gel you had at 8.67 miles that you started feeling nauseous and had to stop running. And definitely not the bottle of wine the night before. Cough.

6. Open Season at Buffet Bar
People won’t judge when you go back for 4ths and 5ths at the buffet. They’ll just assume you ran a marathon the day before.

7. Recovery, Recovery
You can pass off drinking gallons of chocolate milkshake as ‘recovery fuel’.




8. Moving Picnic.
Ultra marathons have CAKE stops. And no-one judges you for eating an entire pizza en-route. And you walk up the hills. Basically they’re a massive buffet with a bit of jogging thrown in.

9. Maths Mastermind
Your maths becomes amazing. You know exactly what pace you have to do to hit that personal best and be able to calculate kilometres per hour into minute miles in seconds. It’s like being an idiot savant. Unable to add up the groceries in the trolley but with the ability to tell anyone your 5k pace when asked.

10. MI5? Pah ...
You can talk a whole new language with other runners. Negative splits? Yasso 800s? Kenyan Hills? It’s like being a secret agent. But one dressed entirely in neon lycra.
 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fuelify: Running Snacks! Through the Post!




 
When I first heard about Fuelify, I was intrigued. A monthly box of 6-8 different fitness goodies tailored to your requirements and sent through the post straight to your doormat. And for less than the price of a cup of coffee a week ... It sounded too good to be true.

There is an enormous variety of gels and bars and shakes and fitness goodies out there that I want to try ... but unless I fancy paying a fortune for postage for just one or two items or if I’m absolutely sure I’ll use an entire pack, I don’t really get to experiment.

So when Fuelify contacted me to ask if I’d review one of their boxes if they sent me one I immediately said YES! Snacks? Specifically fitness snacks? I can try for free? Hell yeah!

When the box hit my doormat, I immediately opened it carefully and gently. Well ... ripped it open and started ingesting running fuel at the speed of Usain Bolt.

 

When I came out of my sugar-induced coma, I sat back and considered.

The sports nutrition snacks were packed well and although there were some well known brands such as Clif Bar and High 5, there were some other products I hadn’t heard of such as the Mule Bar. And I certainly hadn’t known Lucozade made jelly beans.

I was also impressed that an Osmo ‘Active Hydration for Women’ product had been included. This was another aspect of the Fuelify box that was interesting. The boxes are tailored to YOU.

And not only to gender, but to the specific type of training that you do. You can choose from Cardio Training, Weight Training, High Intensity Circuits and Muscle Endurance packages.
 
There are also 3 options depending on how often you want to treat yourself: a one-off box, a fortnightly box or a monthly box.


Pros
  • Nice long expiry dates. Even if I don’t use all of the products in a specific cycle, thanks to the long expiry dates, they’ll keep.
  • Packed well. Well packed in shredded paper, everything was in perfect condition when it arrived - no squished gels!
  • Good value. For a monthly package, it will cost you less than a cup of coffee a week.
  • My treat to myself. Sports goodies every month? Yes please!
  • Compact package. The box is small enough to come through the letterbox. No traipsing to pick it up from the post office.

Downsides
  • Stockpile. I’m not sure that I’ll use each product I’ve been sent this month, so the treats might pile up a bit. But, thanks to the long expiry dates I can keep them for winter training.
  • Allergy Problems. There doesn’t appear to be an options to say if you have an allergy or intolerances e.g. gluten or if there are products you can’t or wouldn’t use.
 
I really enjoyed getting the box and suspect I’ll be signing myself up for one every month. Do you fancy some fitness treats every month? Sign up here: www.fuelify.com

And because I’m nice, here’s a 50% discount code for your first box: DOF50
 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Run with a Friend. And a Biscuit.

Through the gate and past the horses, our feet flying across the wet grass. Enjoying the rain against our faces. The horses come towards us but we run away, on through the field. No carrots today, horses.

Jump the electric fence – over in one leap, fence and grass sailing beneath me – and down on the grass the other side. She jumps after me in an ungainly way almost catching her feet in the fence. We run on. On to the bottom of the field.

Through the gate and out into the muddy rutted earth on the other side, wide puddles made by massive tractor tyres. The water is dark and murky, raindrops making ripples.

Splash – through the puddles at top speed! Splash! Jump the thick mud! This is great fun! Why can’t all my runs be like this? The water and mud make patterns up my legs.

On, on! Run, run!

Under the railway bridge, my feet and breathing echoing harshly back from the dark dripping stones as we pass.

Across the field ... and cows! I’ve avoided cows since a recent incident and subsequent cow chase – with me at the front - which ended in a dash and slide under a fence. Quick! But the cows watch us, their faces bovine and dull. They don’t move towards us, don’t think about chasing us, just turn their heavy heads to watch our progress.

Uh-oh. A kissing gate. I HATE these. I try to get under the fence but am called back and we go through the kissing gate together.
 


The mud is up to my knees now, brown splashes on my face. 

Through a ploughed field, a single smooth path through the middle, worn flat by other feet than ours. I take the lead and she follows on behind, running, her feet kicking up clods of earth.

Pheasants clatter up in front of us. Over the hedge and gone before I have a chance to react.

Ugh. Another kissing gate, another pause to get through it before we can run again.

2 tall grey birds in the field, standing tall. They flap away slowly and ponderously as we come towards them. So slowly, I think I could catch one.

We run towards the woods, the long wet grass washing the mud from my legs and we are up to (another!) kissing gate and into the dark of the woods. The path is covered by fallen autumn leaves, damp and slick and I want to run along the banks, where the grip is better and there are no paths but I cannot. I stay on the path and run, run hard, jumping the fallen branches and looking for the next trail.

The rain is dripping on my face from the tree canopy overhead, the ground slick under my feet. I feel alive and I am running. Running fast. This is how running should be. The dimness of the woods all around me, the falling leaves flickering between branches, the rain making everything smell fresh and earthy.

I start as a squirrel runs across the path and disappears into the undergrowth. Squirrel! I love squirrels! I want to follow it, to chase it, to find it! But I am aware that she is behind me and would not be happy about going through the undergrowth. I have to share my run today so I stay on the path.

Out of the woods and down a paved road, wide enough for us to run side by side. Around the corner, under the apple trees. I know she wants to stop and scrump an apple but she does not, can not as a group of walkers are clustered at the corner. We exchange greetings and run past. I put my nose in the air. I am RUNNING not walking today.

Through – sigh, would you believe another kissing gate? – and across the fields, the sheep are scattering before us, but I resist the temptation to scare them, to make them run properly. They scatter and come back, staring at us, running through their field. Their plump woolly bodies quivering with indignation at the interlopers, running across THEIR grass.

Another gate, I wait for her - these things are complicated – and up a hill. The grass is short here, rabbit-nibbled and scattered with leaves from the oak trees. We run a bit, walk a bit. The steepness of the hill and the mud has robbed her legs of the strength they had earlier. Me? I could run for miles. Miles and miles.

Through another gate and down a narrow trail. It’s muddy and slippery and there’s only room for moving in single-file here. She follows behind, running but treading carefully. I’m fine. My feet are sure and steady.



 

A rabbit! A rabbit! Across the path! I jump forward and almost knock her off her feet.

“Wait!” I wait but I REALLY want to run faster. Through the woods, through the puddles and the drifts of leaves. But I wait.

We run together, our feet making hardly any sound on the leaves and we quicken our pace through the woods. It’s spooky here, there’s the remains of a path between the dark shadowy trees but it doesn’t feel nice here. There were buildings here once but the trees have grown up since making dark places and shadows. We move faster and we are soon out into the sunshine.

A view of the town, the houses small and doll-like in the distance and we are running down the hill, down the trail, the grass growing through the middle of the road. The hill sharpens and our legs take us fast down to the fields, past the hunting lodge. Down the sweeping hills with gravel underfoot, past the castle and the lake gleaming dimly silver under the dark grey skies. We run together and it’s nice. Nice to run, nice to have company.

The final grassy uphill is waterlogged and muddy. Our feet splash in the puddles and the mud. It’s slippery and our legs are filthy again.

Onto the road, I stay on the pavement between her and the hedge. She is in bright neon yellow and is easy to see. In my cream coat I am not so visible so I stay in, tight. I hate the cars coming past, the blast of damp air into my face and the spray from the road. We are still running, but next to a busy road is not the same as the soft trails and the calm of the fields and woods.

The pavement ends, but I can see our house at the top of the hill. The road is narrow, the houses widely spaced. We dash from gateway to gateway avoiding the traffic speeding past and a final sprint brings us to the 5-barred-gate and home, off the road. Safe from the traffic. Home.

She looks down at me and pats me. “Good dog.”

AND I get a biscuit.

Today has been a good day.



 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pattingham Bell & a weekend of PBs ... but not for me!

Today was Rach’s race. I’d run my ultra last weekend, had a swim in the dark last night. Today was about chatting to friends and enjoying the hills and trails of a scenic run. And trying not to weep as my ill-used legs were being asked to run again for the first time since Saltmarsh 75.

The drive to the village of Pattingham had been through lanes, winding and misty. Under ancient oak trees and hemmed in by high hedges. Rabbits darting into hedges and squawking pheasants flying up in alarm as I passed.

I met Rach at the village hall and we were told by a marshal to look out for the mass exodus a few minutes before the start. With about 10 minutes to go, the runners, drawn by some lemming-like instinct started to move forward. There didn’t appear to be any signal or sign, but the people in front of us started moving and we followed them. And the ones behind us followed Rach’s socks:
 

Left Leg            Right Leg
DO                   ES
M                     Y
BU                   M
LO                   OK
BI                     G
I                       N
THE                 SE?

 
We followed the crowd through the field, down the lane and into the mist. There were lots of club vests and fast-looking racing snakes, but today, Rach and I were going to be enjoying the running. If we weren’t talking, we were running too fast.



 
We spotted another friend, Frank, in the crowd at the start and had a quick chat before he disappeared up front and off into the mist. He was running this one hard. I was relieved to be with my friend. Today wasn’t a day for racing, but enjoying. For laughing at jokes, catching up with news, not eyeballing the competition and worrying about pacing. Not for us. Not today.

At the noise of the gun, the pack surged off into the mist, we couldn’t see far ahead – just bobbing heads and colourful club vests disappearing off into the mist. The ground beneath our feet was long grass and uneven mud, trampled by the runners ahead but wet and dewy. Soaking our feet. There were plenty of large puddles and I laughed at Rach, the open water swimming coach avoiding these.

Splash! She’d taken the bait and jumped with 2 feet into the largest, soaking everyone in the vicinity. We may have damp feet ... and damp legs ... and mud splashes on our faces, but we were having fun!


 

The route was gorgeous, twisting over different terrain and up hills which made it interesting. It wound around fields, up gravelled hills, over sandy paths and past lakes and secret pools.
 
The trails were soft under our feet and as the bright Autumn sun burned off the mist, the views across the fields opened up. It was a beautiful day. How lucky we were to have this as our running route this Sunday morning.

We passed a scout camp, tents up and a pow-wow circle under the trees, rows of logs. I remembered being sent to a camp while younger and being given a pan, a lump of lard and some raw sausages. Our small camping stove had burst into flames so we’d sat there eating raw sausages. I was 11. Old enough to know better but not knowing what else to do. Not convinced my cooking has improved much since. Anyone fancy coming over for dinner?

Running through one of the fields we met Debs who was running her first race. She’d not run further than 5 miles previously so this was to be a great achievement. She was doing brilliantly and chatting as she ran. We ran together, all three of us, enjoying the scenery.  

The route circled the village, up a final hill and came back to the playing fields to finish to applause, a beautiful horse brass, a welcome cup of coffee and a 7 mile race PB for Rach.




A weekend of two halves

I’d also promised to take The Bear out for a run. The weather on the Monday was appalling, a complete contrast to the Pattingham Bells Run the previous day. Sideways rain, wind, horrendous. My choice of route wasn’t much better especially not for someone with a recently dislocated ankle.

We splashed through the mud.

We’d aimed for a pace of about 8 min/miles but had got carried away running. The quicker we finished these 3 miles, the quicker we’d be out of the rain.

“We’re going too fast!” I shouted through the wind. “I know!” He shouted back. Rach was following behind on the mountain bike, rain dripping down her neck.

 We got to the first kissing gate, The Bear was through it, splashing across the puddles, I followed and then realised that Rach would have to get the bike through. I paused until she came into sight, letting Bear go on ahead. I waved and pointed the direction we were going.

Over a bridge, through the mud, over another bridge, through a kissing gate ... I paused ... Sorry Rach!

I kept running, across the field, to be met by another kissing gate. Rach was going to KILL me ... and end up with massively strong arms lifting my bike over this lot. My route choice was NOT looking good.

The Hill. Capitals deserved. I followed The Bear up the hill almost catching him on the climb, keeping an eye behind us for Rach. No sign. He got to the top of the road. “Turn right!” I bellowed! “WHAT?” “Right!” I howled through the wind. He turned right.

Turning around, there was no sign of Rach. Crap. She hadn’t visited before and didn’t know the area. Who do I let get lost? Rach or Bear? I waited for Rach. I would have to put on a burst of speed to try and catch Bear before he got to the bottom of the hill and the drop down onto the canal. Where was Rach? Peering through the wind and rain, she finally appeared. I jumped up and down to get her attention and pointed right.

Sprinting to the road edge, I waited for the cars and crossed, putting on a burst of speed down the hill. No sign of Bear. I kept going expecting him to pop up any moment. No Bear.

Rach caught me up on the bike and we moved down the hill. At the bottom, where we had to turn right, there was no sign of Bear. Split up – he’ll have gone one of these ways: I went right on the canal and Rach went right on the road. One of us would catch him.

We met at the end. No sign of Bear.

He’s got a good sense of direction. He’ll probably be waiting for us at the house looking smug and asking us where we’d been, we told ourselves.

At the house. No sign of Bear.

We were a bit worried now. He’d dislocated his ankle about 2 weeks previously, had a nasty virus and now I’d taken him for a cross country run and promptly lost him.

Rach went into the house to put the kettle on and keep an eye on her phone and I got onto the bike to retrace the route. Rach suggested she drive around but there was no point losing both of them in Rugby and if we did that the house would be locked if he returned.

Cycling around in the rain, I retraced the route in reverse. No Bear. Then back the other way. Still no Bear. Then around the town. It was Bear-less.

Called Rach. He hadn’t turned up.

The rain dripping into my eyes and running down my neck I cycled on. A cross country run and now a bike ride in what was practically a river. I was TOTALLY counting this as a triathlon.

Phone beeped. He’s back. Cycled home and there was a smiling Rach and Bear drinking coffee in the house.

Smug git had netted himself a PB.