Spitfire Scramble 2015

Where to begin? Over the past few weeks I must have had half a dozen posts that I’ve meant to write, but they’ve all been shunted down the list after my most recent adventure. This weekend we packed up our troubles (well our tent and several changes of running kit)  in our old kit bag (well the boot of Ginge’s car) and headed off down South to meet 6 virtual strangers (and Helen) who made up the UK Fitness Bloggers team at the Spitfire Scramble. On Thursday, stuck in the office all day, I had been giddy with excitement, but come Friday morning, the anxiety kicked in with a vengeance – I was meeting up with people who I didn’t know, who all look like Proper Runners and I had no idea whether or not I could actually manage to do what was been asked of me.

What was being asked of me was to be part of a team who would be running for 24 hours, doing three laps of a 5.8 mile course on paths and trails with some kind of hill in the middle of it. Friday night was time to get the tent up and meet half of the team before a bit of a chill out as we pondered the prospect of the next day. On Saturday, I politely declined the prospect of doing the local parkrun, preferring a gentle morning eating a sausage butty and chasing Mini-Ginge around the campsite (which quite possibly involved a similar mileage to actually doing a parkrun).

I'm not the only one in the family who looks slower in photos.

I’m not the only one in the family who looks slower in photos.

You know the weird sensation of waiting for  a race to start? Spitfire was like this but multiplied by, oooh ,at least twenty-four. Even when you weren’t running, you were aware that you were going to have to run and that someone else was about to go out or be due back and would need cheering on. I have to thank Helen for planning the schedule to send out the slower runners first, this meant that I was second on the list (at about one o’clock) and wouldn’t have long to wait for my first lap. As I was following Helen, I knew that the sun would shine upon me as I would have the residual effects of her blessing/curse which brings warm weather to every event that she runs (Half marathon in Folkestone? 30 degrees? In October? Of course she can make that happen).

The first snapband baton handover - I did get faster at these.

The first snapband baton handover – I did get faster at these.

I was paced beautifully by a man in a jaunty yellow cap for the first mile and a half, but then I acquired a stone in my shoe and I lost him until the water station at three miles. The nature of the race means that unless you set off with someone running at a similar pace, you tend to be on your own for a lot of the time. I was passed by speedier runners any number of times (who were all very generous with their shouts of “well done!” as they legged it past me. In the later stages, I would pass the occasional solo runner, but quite frankly there is no satisfaction to be gained in overtaking someone who has already been on the move for half a day.

My first lap gave me chance to get to know the route and decide which bits I didn’t like (the winding, steady, energy sapping hill; the stretch along a field with the afternoon sun beating down; any of the potentially lethal trip hazards) and which bits I did (the water station; the shady, wooded bit with a lovely downhill that made me feel like a mountain goat as I hurtled down it at an unsafe speed; the two short steep uphills, because at the end of the day I am nothing but contrary).

Whilst I enjoyed myself, these were not my ideal conditions. The heat wore me down and I felt that my wheels fell off halfway round. My pacing was all over the show – setting off with wild abandon and then having to walk (my mile splits show a difference of about 2 minutes 25 seconds between my slowest and fastest laps). However, as I rounded the final corner I spotted Corey bouncing and yelling at me, and quite frankly I didn’t dare slow down. The route to the finish took you alongside two sides of the campsite which meant that there was always a lot of support from other teams as well as the welcome sight of our own team (who were easy to spot by the fabulous bright pink headbands that Corey had bought for us).


Our fabulous team, easily identifiable at a distance of several miles.
Via Mollie at www.ptmollie.com

Normally my running kit is incredibly dull and ninja-like (possibly so I blend into the tarmac) but somehow I ended up wearing a riot of neon with my headband and my new fluorescent yellow #bloodnotmoney vest (which I will talk about more in another post as I still have another two laps to bang on about).

At least I look like I'm moving!

At least I look like I’m moving!
Via Mollie at www.ptmollie.com

In between laps, I grazed on the vast quantities of snacks that people had brought with them to the race. Talk about the kindness of strangers! As well as everyone ensuring that no one would starve over the next 24 hours, Trespass had donated t-shirts, headtorches and glowsticks to the team, we had matching water bottles from Sistema (mine will enter my endless cycle of bottles that I regularly fill up and forget to take with me to work) and a Flipbelt for stashing essential bits and bobs.

I can confirm that we did have enough to eat

I can confirm that yes, we did have more than enough to eat. And this was only the start of the buffet.

I was strangely looking forward to my second lap which I was due to start around half ten. However,  due to the general speediness of the team, we had made up twenty-odd minutes which brought my start time forward a bit. It was still dark mind you. The Trespass headtorch wasn’t quite strong enough for the middle-of-the-countryside-pitch-black darkness and I had been planning to run with that and my trusty handtorch that had got me around the National Trust Night Run. However we had been joined by the Amazing Abradypus (TM) who tried to give me her spare headtorch, only for me to go all polite and protest that no I was fine, I could manage with what I had. Eventually (on the start line, literally as Corey was coming into view for the handover) Ginge told me to just take the torch, Louise stuck it on my head and off I went.

If anyone ever offers you a really bright headtorch as you’re about to run off into some woods, just say yes and take the bloody headtorch.

It was dark. Very dark. The head torch lit up the path in the distance and I used my handtorch to sweep the ground in front of me for tree roots, uneven paths and foxes (I spotted two glowing dots in front of me, thought it was the reflective bits on the heels of someone’s trainers and then realised that I could just make out a foxy pair of ears). Parts of the route seemed familiar, but I managed to convince myself that I had missed a turning and then got cocky, thought that I was feeling much stronger as I ran along my dreaded field and then realised that I had misjudged the location of the field by a mile and a half (when I ran my final lap, I couldn’t figure out where I thought the field had been the night before).

The weird thing about the night lap was that one of the hills completely disappeared. Clearly the secret to running hills is to run them in the dark as invisible hills are much more managable. Other than the vanishing hills, I think that the highlight of this lap was passing a well-lit marshalls’ station, embracing my inner Northerner and exclaiming “ooooh, it’s like the Blackpool Illuminations down here!” before running off, playing an imaginary ukelele and singing “when I’m cleaning windows” in my best George Formby voice. I really hope that nobody heard me.

Headtorch selfie!

Headtorch selfie!

It turns out that what my running has been missing is darkness. I completed my second lap two minutes faster than my first lap and at a much more consistent pace. Getting back to camp, I was bouncing with excitement and was almost offering to go out again. Almost. Instead I had a beer and a chocolate milk, talked a lot and crashed into bed for a few hours sleep before my next lap.


Tea the colour of David Dickinson, my favourite kind.

I am quite a morning person and was probably annoyingly cheerful to anyone who crossed my path on Sunday. I brewed up with Mollie’s brilliant Primus Lite stove (I spent a lot of the weekend suffering with kit envy) and stuffed her peanut butter flapjack down my neck before walking to start line with Helen. At this point I discovered that I may be cheerful at 6am, but I am also massively incompetent. Having forgotten her number, I nipped back to collect it from Helen’s tent, misidentified one of two orange tents (and bear in mind that I had helped Helen put her’s up) and it was only when a poor slumbering Alma rolled over that it dawned on me that I was in the wrong tent and I beat a hasty retreat…

Anyway… An hour or so later and it was time for my final lap. Feeling fine on the start line, as Helen handed over the baton and my foot hit the ground, I soon realised that someone had been beating my quads with a mallet. This was going to be a very plodding run. As I reached the long, slow winding hill, I found myself catching up with a power-walking solo runner and realised that if I ran past him, I would inevitably end up walking and look a bit of an arse. So I walked up, we had a nice chat, wished each other well and I bounded off down the other side.

I decided to embrace some walking and took the opportunity to thank the lovely marshall at the water station who had been there for all three of my laps. We both marvelled at the leader of the solo male category who bounded past us looking as fresh as a daisy (he would eventually complete 20 laps, running for a total of 24 hours 15 minutes. Utterly insane) and I plodded on. I was determined to run up the two short hills and as I came through my favourite wooded downhill, I spotted Mini-Ginge shoulder-riding his dad to say hello and cheer me on. This was great until I had to keep running past them and could hear a “mummy…mummy” fading behind me. Luckily I didn’t have far to go and I trotted round the campsite, crossed the finishline and took myself off for a restorative bacon butty.

Spitfire flypast – an absolutely spine tingling sight

So, three laps done, nearly 18 miles – definitely the furthest that I’ve ever run in that space of time. It’s now Tuesday and I am still grinning like an idiot at the thought of  this weekend. It was amazing to be part of such a brilliant, supportive team and to be part of this event. There were runners of all shapes, ages and abilities, and not once did I feel out of place. So many people were an inspiration and even though my times weren’t the fastest, I have been ever so proud of myself for doing this. On Monday I booked myself in for a massage and saw the therapist who treated me a few months ago for  a very wonky back that was knotted into spasm. I was struggling to get going with my running at that time and I was a bit grey around the edges, so it was wonderful to be able to go in with a huge smile on my face and ask for some post-event recovery. Poor Laura endured thirty minutes of me rabbiting on and I am fairly sure that she kept applying some extra pressure just to shut me up for a bit…

Did I mention the bling?

Did I mention the bling?

So a MASSIVE thank you to Helen for putting the team together, the rest of my awesome team mates Alma, Andrew, Corey, Kat, Mollie and Sabine just for being so awesome, Ginge for driving me to yet another event at the other end of the country and for wrangling Mini-Ginge all weekend, my mum for the loan of her gazebo and to Danny and his team (especially his mum who had the uneviable task of changing the loo roll in some not entirely fragrant portaloos) for making the whole thing happen.

Trespass, Flipbelt, Primus and Sistema sent products for the team for to review however all opinions are honest and my own.

Hello stranger.

Crikey it’s dusty round here. Are those cobwebs…?

I have been absent from the blogging for absolutely ages because of a lack of both time and inclination (I’ve felt like I’ve done nothing of interest that I can write about, but it’s suddenly dawned on me that this has never bothered me in the past). I’ve also gone back to work and am still getting used to the highly skilled art of juggling that this requires; let’s just say that many balls have been dropped during this transition.

Annoyingly, my running has been a bit like a drunk being kicked out at last orders – a definite case of one step forward and two steps back. On the one hand, I have earned my first post-baby bling (which was a bit of an adventure and defintely warrants a post of its own when I get round to writing it just three months after the event),  but on the other hand I still haven’t managed to run more than twice in a week. Or two weeks in a row. However! I am starting again (again). I’ve been inspired in part by Lipstick, Lettuce and Lycra who has managed to sum up my attitude to going back to square one with far more eloquence and positivity that I could ever muster.

My mindset has been shocking. It’s been slow progress, but finally I have gone from actively avoiding running (sample conversation in our house: “Do you want to go for a run?” “No” “Why not?” “There’s no point/I can’t do it/I’m not a runner anymore”) to passively avoiding it (basically letting the day slide away so that, oh look, there’s no time for a run) to actually getting my lazy arse out of the door.

Tonight was only 20 minutes because I had let time slide away so that there was only 25 minutes before Ginge was due to go out. It would have been very easy to let another 10 minutes escape and provide a convenient excuse for staying at home in the warm, so I think that this is progress.

Not Juneathon day 15

As has been the case for the past few Athons, I have let myself slide gently off the Juneathon wagon. I had a sudden realisation that I had started to do crap yoga, was writing increasingly boring blogs and that doing yoga in the front room has limited scope for posting photos of wildfowl. So I put my weasel pants on and weaselled on out of there. Worryingly, I actually managed a longer Juneathon last year when I was full of baby.

Ah well.

Today though, I ran. Alright, so it was after the usual procrastination (I tried to declare that my running kit was actually pyjamas. When asked, I explained that it had hi-vis on it in case of emergency. Pressed for further details I elaborated that there was a risk of “a bed emergency”) I hoofed out of the door in the opposite direction than normal. The route that I’ve been doing during the C25K is the flattest that I could think of, whereas turning left out of the front door is a slightly more undulating route.

I’m very proud to report that I managed a whole TWO miles!

One thing that I’m finding tricky is slowing down when I need to recover from a hill or a burst of misplaced enthusiasm. I know that sounds daft, especially as my pace isn’t exactly blistering right now, but all I seem to be able to do is walk or come to a standstill. What I can’t do is just plod on, moving my body in a way that looks a bit like running only much, much slower. I’m not sure if this is important (I think it is) and have a dim recollection of being advised to slow down, not walk, when I was first starting out. Is it important? Are there any tricks to getting your breath back? Preferably ones that don’t involve a nice cup of tea and a sit down (although you do know I would love to do just that).

Juneathon day eleven: on the trail of fun

While I’ve been starting to run again, I’ve been running the same route. On the one hand this has really helped me to see my progress as each session I’ve been able to see that I’ve gone just that little bit further. On the other hand, it’s quite boring.

Today I had the freedom to run during the day so I hopped in the car and went off-road. Well I went running off-road, not off-road in my car. I drive a Clio, it’s not built for that kind of thing. Anyway, I went down to Cuerden Valley (home of the Cuerden Valley parkrun) and tried to avoid the hills. Rather than take the direct route down to the main path, I adopted a policy of “oooh, where does that go?” and kept darting off down paths and tracks, sometimes tackling a little bit of hill (just to remind my legs and lungs that they exist) and sometimes discovering that they didn’t actually lead anywhere.

SAM_2932It was all very stop-start, but it was so nice being out in some scenery.

SAM_2931And I timed it perfectly to avoid clashing with a group of excited, welly-wearing schoolchildren. Which was just as well because I had an overwhelming urge to run through this.

SAM_2933So I did.

And then squelched back up the hill to the car park, pausing to take a photo of some cows (because it’s not an Athon without taking a photo of cows for JogBlog).

SAM_2936Today’s run was shorter and slower and probably completely pointless in terms of the couch 2 5k plan, but it put a massive smile on my chops and sometimes that’s far more important.

Juneathon day ten: imaginary yoga

Day ten very nearly didn’t happen. Well it would have happened, just not in the format that was planned. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to my yoga class, it was just that I’d have quite happily not gone to my yoga class. Mainly because I was very settled on the sofa watching my new favourite rubbish telly (Bondi Rescue since you ask, it’s got sharks and jellyfish and idiots nearly drowning – it’s brilliant). I was doing that thing of opting out of making a decision, I was waiting for Ginge to arrive home and had he been five minutes later, I would have shrugged my shoulders and stuck the kettle on.

I didn’t want to have to say out loud “I’m not going”, so I went.

And of course I had a lovely time.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the competitiveness of yoga. You see what other people are doing and you want to do the posture as deep or as flexed or as twisty as they do. You become so caught up in trying to make the shapes that you forget about how you are getting into them in the first place. In trying to be as fully in the posture as possible, you end up barely skimming the surface of it. This is how I came to spend part of the evening in cat pose just thinking about and imagining the movement of my arms and legs, rather than actually lifting anything up from the floor.

Then we moved onto balances and I spent the rest of the evening cheerfully falling over.