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Monday, January 19, 2015

FREE cats for all! *May be a catch* And no cats.

Free CAT to everyone who votes for Dreaming of Footpaths in the Running Awards 2015! 
I'm not going to win by my shoddy tales of running into trees and having to poo in hedges so I'll bribe you with felines instead. (I'm sneaky like that, plus I'm planning on being an old mad cat lady so I'll have lots of cats spare when I'm 80 - just remind me I owe you a cat in 50 years)

 Click HERE to Vote

Please click HERE to vote for me (don't vote for the other blogs, THEY won't save you a sausage roll)

I'm in  'Publications & Online', 
'Blog', 
'Dreaming of Footpaths'.



p.s. Will actually NOT give you a cat. I can't get the stamps to stay on and they keep getting out of the envelopes.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I Am A Night Runner

My runs are on black roads. Sometimes dry, sometimes glistening with rain or sparkling with ice. They are lit by orange sodium lights. And at times by a white circle from the headtorch I wear. The circle bobs if I am tired but it lights my way and illuminates the eyes of cats, rabbits and foxes. The eyes glow green as the animals hide in the hedges or disappear as they run from my footsteps which pat, pat, pat on the road. 

The road scrolls away under my feet, as though the black asphalt surface is moving rather than my feet. The world is my treadmill. 


I know I am a night runner. When it is dark outside, this is my time to run. I am surefooted. Night sighted. And I have a badge of my night running membership: a small blister on my right ear where the buckle on my headtorch rubs on long runs. 

I do not care about fashion. Who is there to see me? My clothes are hardwearing, comfortable, warm. When it is cold I wear a buff over my head with my face peeking out, like a balaclava, or like a turtle peeking out from its shell. I would probably look silly, if there was someone there to see me. But there is not.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I've Started Tri Training ... I Suck.

This is it. The first day of my brand new sparkly training schedule. Don’t screw it up, Sarah. 
It started with an hour of easy running. Fine. I could do that. Easy sounded good. But there was a catch.

Isn’t there always?

This time the problem was in coordinating football training, a school inset day, the pool schedule and an easy run. One solution. Get up at the arse of the morning and go for a run then. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but at midnight when I was laying my running kit out and setting the alarm for a time I usually only see when catching flights, I had the first twinges of misgivings. 

I told myself that it would be so early I wouldn’t be awake and could just get on with the running. I wouldn’t have cognation to slow me down and get things confusing.

I told myself I’d be back home again before I woke up. 

I told myself I could start listening to my new audiobook that I’d been looking forward to. 

I told myself it was an EASY run. No speedwork or intervals. Just run. 

According to the specifics I nailed it. If you look at the guidelines and you let me off 5 minutes (I couldn’t face any more sodium lights and grim Monday-Morning faced motorists) then my heart rate was in the right zone, I didn’t fall over, get lost or get sweaty. It was an hour’s worth of ‘Easy Run’.

However, it was NOT an easy run. It was a shit run. 

My calves were tight. Think frozen chicken fillets. But hairier. 

My entire legs refused to wake up until mile 3. Until then it felt as though I was stumping along on planks of wood like a really unlucky pirate. But without the cool pirate clothes and parrot. (Why are pirate clothes cool? They just arrrrrr.)

My shoelaces came undone. Twice.

It was too dark to run the route I’d planned. I went to run it but it all started looking like the beginning of a horror movie where the stupid girl leaves the nice bright warm house and ventures out into the dark woods. But with the stupid girl wearing lycra in this movie. I hadn’t brought my shotgun or kitchen knife and didn’t really feel prepared to fight off Michael Myers or Freddie Krueger at this time in the morning so I ended up staying on the pavements under the orange sodium lights.

I was sulking. This time of the morning is reserved for ‘Being in Bed’. ‘Being Asleep’ and ‘Catching a Red Eye Flight’. Not running around. Certainly not Shit Running which was what I was doing. 

However, there WAS a good bit. This was getting home, having a shower and getting back into bed. I fell asleep with a smug expression having done my exercise at a time that normal people were asleep.  

I wore my Smug Face for at least 2 hours. Until I remembered that today was a double day ... the double whammy of 2 training sessions in one day. I immediately became 50% less smug. 

The evening session was a swim time trial this evening but with nice short distances: 25m, 50m and 100m.  Even I couldn’t muck this up. 

You really believe that?

I’d checked that the pool was open late. It was. It was also divided into lanes. This was all good. 

What was bad was that ¾ of the pool was booked out by the local swimming club leaving the rest of it open for a free-for-all. So 75% screaming children, 25% pensioners and families. Oh goodie. This was extremely helpful for my time trial attempt. *Cries*

When exactly does a time trial stop being a time trial and turn into a farce?
Was it when I had to swim around the teenager standing up in the middle of the lane? Or when I had to do an awkward U-turn at the end of the lane to avoid the couple holding onto the wall and using up all the kick-space? Or was it when I realised they were all just swimming normally and I was the one splashing up and down the pool in a hurry and going nowhere fast? 

My swim stroke has been politely described as enthusiastic and less politely but probably more accurately as “shark attack”. I end up moving mainly because the people get out of the way and the water recedes in fear and the remaining vacuum drags me forward.  In fact, I swim much like I play tennis, swinging my arms wildly, terrifying casual observers and smacking the occasional ball in error.

My time trial wasn’t much different. 

I managed to splash up and down the pool, propelling myself along with more willpower and enthusiasm than actual technique. I got so excited about the 25m and 50m sessions that I forgot to breathe and ended up doing a bizarre ‘4 strokes then breathe’ style which I’d never tried before and which wasn’t entirely successful. My 100m was the most comfortable of all of them but this was probably because I was suffering from oxygen deprivation by this point and didn’t care or possibly because the other users of the public swim section had moved out of my way in fear, having seen my ‘swim over and drown the #BreastrokeWankers who get in the way’ approach to time trials in the 25 and 50 metre attempts. Anyway, I survived, didn’t drown and didn’t get kicked in the head by a militant breastroker. 

A win. Well ... right up until the swimming watch refused to upload my times.

Head/Wall.


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Review: Nutella-Eating Buttocks, Reasons NOT to Date a Runner and Upside Down Tattoos

2014 has been a year full of adventures ... and misadventures. And animal attacks. 

... I'll let the numbers do the talking ...




Miles Run: 1464 ... approximately the distance from Norwich, UK to Moscow, Russia.

Races Run: 25

Arses bitten by animals: 1 arse but multiple ants 

Runs which included a blocked loo, a rubber duck and a dog: 1



Weedy bogie frequency:  High between July - September 

Number of races in which I was overtaken by a kayak: 1 



Reasons not to date a runner: 10 

Numbers of upside down number tattoos: 1 



Number of times trodden on own foot with spikes: 0 (definitely a WIN) 

Reasons to start running: 10 

Reasons to Hate Running: 10 

Races over marathon distance: 9

Trophies won: 2 … and both for beer races. I know my strengths … Whale Ale Relay & Equinox Beer Mile 



Number of buttocks eating Nutella seen: 2

Running Rules: 27 

Feet of water I nearly drowned in, in my first triathlon: 4 

Miles run at TR24: 87 



Number of reasons a wine marathon is better than a road marathon: 20 


And number of adventures I'll be having in the new year? I'll aim for 2015 and go from there ...

Happy New Year ... may it be full of adventures and lots of good numbers.

Friday, December 26, 2014

10 Reasons I HATE Running ...


1. You get a beautiful tan in summer ... but in the shape of your running kit. White sock marks are SEXY, right? Hello? Anyone ...?

2. You earn the calories to drink gallons of cocktails ... but can’t drink them as you have a 6am run the next morning. It's hard work being a dedicated fun runner. Sulk.   


Socks that cost as much as 2 bottles of vodka ...

3. Your legs have never looked better ... your feet have never looked worse.


After 87 miles at TR24 in the heat. Cankles are sexy ... right? 

4. You FEEL great post-lunchtime run  ... you LOOK terrible. Hastily brushed shower hair is horrific. As is bright-red-shower-face. Both are my standard post-lunch look. So why is MY desk in the corner behind that big board? 

5. You’re in the best shape of your life from all the running ... but your race photos STILL look horrendous. 


Sprint finish ... yes I KNOW I look like a dying goldfish. I was trying hard. 

6. You get to find secret trails and amazing views from the top of hills ... but you’re too busy checking the pace on your Garmin or trying not to vomit from having made yourself run up the hill.
Hills in the heat. Hate hills, hate heat, Sulk. *vomits*
7. You get to buy new shoes. Lots of new shoes ... But they’ll ALL have laces, rubber soles and smell like a dying kipper.

8. You have enough technology on your wrist to power a small spaceship ... but all you use it for is to beat yourself up about why you didn’t run up that hill a bit faster. Stupid hills.


Get outside and enjoy nature. Source
9. You’re saving money from not going out and not drinking ... and spending it all on trainers and socks that you'll have to replace within 3 months. 

10. You know the exact pace you have to run to get a sub-20 5k ... but you still can’t bloody do it. 

Stupid running.

Huff.

(Goes and puts trainers on and goes for a run in a sulk)



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nuun Hydration Tablet Review: Take That Hangovers! ... A Well Kept Secret

I made an amazing discovery the other day. 

I'd had a girls weekend in Manchester and as an afterthought had taken the nuun hydration tablets with me. There was cocktails, dancing … and a hydration tablet in a glass of water before bed and another one in the morning.

It was one of my best decisions that weekend. Certainly better than the '3rd-jug-of-cocktails-and-one-straw' idea at 1am.

Running hydration tablets stop hangovers. Why is this such a secret? I don't go out drinking often but this could have made several Sunday mornings this year a lot more pleasant.

It certainly made Christmas shopping a bit easier, although dancing in heels for 6 hours didn’t really do my feet much good. Maybe I should bring my trainers to the next girlie weekend ...



Taste Test … Using the 5 year old ...
I was sent the tablets by nuun to try out but I gave my usual proviso that I would try them out and say exactly what I thought. Along those lines I thought it might be interesting to try a taste test using my 5 year old.

I had the tri berry, the strawberry lemonade and the fruit punch to try out. The flavours sounded delicious and all tasted fairly similar to me, light and fruity and something I'd be happy to drink on a long run. I prefer flavoured water to plain water and having something tasty encourages me to drink.


Lily's the 5 year old's verdict:
Pink Lemonade: "Mmmmm. It tastes like healthy food. Like oranges."
Fruit Punch: "It tastes like tablets, fruit tablets. Yummy. Tastes like another orange. This one tastes the best."
Tri-Berry: "It tastes like fizzy. Tastes like carrots. Some carrots are fruit. Some carrots are vegetables."

So in conclusion, they all tasted good to Lily and as you can probably tell, she doesn't have many filters, she says exactly what she thinks!

Reasons to use nuun hydration tablets
  • nuun is just balanced electrolytes which you can lose through dehydration, water alone isn't enough.It is not a source of sugar or carbs. This means you can manage your energy needs alongside the rehydration, you don't need to take into account any extra sugar and calories from the tablets … as there are none. After all on a hot day you need to replace more fluids and electrolytes than on a cold day but you don't need all the extra sugar and carbs.


Other benefits
  • They come in a small pot which is handy if you want to take them along on a long run. I used the Fruit Punch nuun in my hydration pack on my birthday run (44 miles) and because of the small pack size I could pop the whole tube in my vest for water refills.
  • Despite drinking approximately 3 litres of water flavoured with nuun I didn't get sick of the taste and I didn't find them sickly after a few miles.
  • Because they have no sugar and are designed to be non-sticky, I felt comfortable using these in my hydration pack which can be quite awkward to clean.
  • There are 12 different flavours, most of which are fruit and all sound tempting.

Why nuun?
They invented the hydration tab over 10 years ago and the nuun tablets are used by more athletes than all the other brands combined. The company was also founded by competitive cyclists, skiers, rock climbers, runners and triathletes so they knew what they wanted from a hydration tablet.

Flavours Available:
Lemon lime, strawberry lemonade, tri berry, fruit punch, citrus fruit, grape, kona cola, lemon tea, tropical, cherry limeade, lemonade, orange.

Thanks nuun for sending them to me! I may not be doing much long distance running at the moment ... but they're certainly helping keep the hangovers at bay!!

nuun hydration tablets available from their website here

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.