Janathon day nineteen: snowed

After complaining that it hadn’t snowed and with the Met Office forecast being ‘cloudy’, it only went and flipping snowed yesterday. I was very relieved to have got my Athoning out of the way in the morning.

Today I procrastinated by building a snowpenguin…

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And when I did put my running kit on, I realised I was rocking a very stylish look of black trail shoes, white socks and knee-length tights…

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Feeling like a dodgy bloke on the pull in an 80s nitespot, I took myself down to the valley for a play in the snow. I used to run down here with my old running buddy and it’s where I ran the Badger 10k last Juneathon, but as a rule it feels a bit too lonely to do on my own.

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There was nothing to worry about today as it was packed with excitable sledge-towing children and hundreds of dog-walkers…

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There were some nattily dressed hounds, including a black labrador wearing a jaunty red scarf knotted around his neck and a quartet of greyhounds in matching jackets…

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Passing all these people made me realise that running in the snow wearing knee-length tights generates several types of response. 1) I will not make eye contact with you – If I look at you, you will infect me with your madness 2) I will look at you but disapprovingly – You are clearly a mad woman and we should not encourage this sort of behaviour 3) I will look at you and beam at you with delight – You are clearly mad but it looks bloody brilliant. Number three was rare but lovely when it happened.

SAM_2123After misjudging a path I went bounding off into the undergrowth and was crossing my fingers that I would be able to cross the river without having to do an embarrassing U-turn… When I did reach a crossing point, my heart sank to see stepping-stones. Those of you who know me will now that this was a potentially cold and wet disaster in the making.

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Luckily, I scampered across like an agile mountain goat and was able to get back to the path I know before looping back to the car park to make it three miles.

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I’m faced with the opportunity to go on a group trail run in the morning, but am a little afeared of this. We shall see…

In which I end up caked in mud to review my new trail shoes

Today’s run wouldn’t win any prizes for speed, but it was bloody good fun! We’re lucky enough to have a lot of fields, woodland and nature reserves round our way, and today seemed like a good opportunity to make my shiny new New Balance trail shoes a little less shiny and new.

I’ve only ever run through the fields when it’s been dry (I don’t think that I went through them at all this summer) and with the company of Ginge (due to fears about a. getting lost and b. men with dishonourable intentions). With the new shoes, the previous night’s rain wasn’t going to be a problem. I took Ginge because he knew where we should go (having spent his formative years climbing trees and causing mischief in these parts) and is excellent company (so you can rest assured that I don’t just take him as a bodyguard/satnav).

Fields.

We have to do about half a mile on the road, to reach the fields and while we both missed the cushioning of our usual trainers, it was surprisingly comfortable. Especially as I had expected to be clattering along like a goat across a tea tray.

Low cloud over Rivington, there's a telly mast under all of that.

As we hit the mud (almost immediately after leaving the pavement), the next adjustment was learning to trust the grip of my shoes. I have never had a problem getting wet or muddy when I run, I just worry about the potential embarassment/A&E attendance involved with falling on my arse. Apart from one incredibly squelchy and slidey bit of field, where it all went a bit Bambi on ice, I felt pretty confident that I was going to stay upright throughout the run.

That way to London

Ginge’s local knowledge took us into one of the nature reserves (where our planned loop was blocked by the presence of great crested newts), across the railway, through some fields, back through a bit of woodland, through some more fields, along a lane, back into the original fields and then home. It was a mix of paths, nearly paths and mud. There were quite a few stops to look at things, a few to marvel at how much more knackered we both felt (Ginge’s official verdict was that 4 miles off road felt like 10 on pavement) and a couple for me to question whether Ginge’s 25 year old mental maps were correct (they were). The running bits in between felt fantastic.

Ginge takes me to the nicest places.......

When we were nearly home, we passed two girls walking their dogs. They were wearing wellies and carefully picking their way through the field, occasionally squealing at the drama of being surrounded by mud. As we splashed past, I overheard one of them say “uuurgh, look at them”, but I think that she was just jealous.

This bridge is deemed a danger to the public. Health and Safety gone mad.

Shoe-wise, my 749s felt comfy and supportive. When I’d tried other shoes on, my ankles had immediately felt precarious but after this first trial I would heartily recommend these to any fellow over-pronator looking for a trail shoe.

Ginge's feet post-run. Note the whiteness of the Gortex clad socks.

Ginge (who’s more of a neutral to under-pronator) also loved his 573s. When we bought them, he was offered versions with or without Gortex and only went for the Gortex because he had no choice (they didn’t have his size in the others). With hindsight, he is extremely happy about this and says they’re really good because you can “run through what you want; the deepest puddle, the muddiest puddle – your feet will be dry, even if they seem as if they shouldn’t be”. Apparently the Gortex sock inside the shoe makes it a bit more snug and takes some getting used to, but it’s definitely worth the extra money. I wouldn’t know…

Compare and contrast the above with my non-Gortexed feet.

I’m struggling to convey the utter joy that I felt in just pelting along, not caring about anything (especially not pace or distance). I felt free and happy and childishly giddy. Even hills didn’t seem so bad. I honestly don’t think that I have ever grinned so much whilst out running.

Marvel at the amazing over pronating lady! Gasp at the fact that she ended up even muddier than this by the end of the run!

 

A better day’s shopping

Last week’s miserable attempts at shopping have been completely forgotten. The mood in the house has changed to giddy excitement, tempered with a little bit of finger crossing and optimism.

Today we ventured north on our biannual trip to the New Balance factory shop at Shap. I love the New Balance factory shop at Shap. Apart from a brief but disastrous flirtation with a pair of Brooks (which turned out to be so heavy and over stable that they put me off running for months), I have been entirely faithful to NB since I started running. Luckily, they forgave my infidelity (honestly it meant nothing, I’ll never stray again) and I’ve been back in them ever since.

As I’ve mentioned before, I wasn’t really built for running so I need the shoe equivalent of a hug from a matronly dinnerlady – nice and squashy, but also solid and supportive. It turns out that this really narrows my choice of shoes (how I envy all of you with neutral, dainty lady sized feet). My first purchase from NB was a 1225, then an upgrade to 1226, then back to a 1225 because they were cheap on Amazon.

So, today in the shop, I announced confidently that I need a 1226 in a 7 and a half in a B width, but didn’t know where to start with trail shoes. Due the aforementioned wonkiness, it turns out that I have to finish where I start as there is only one shoe for me (obviously there are two shoes, a left and a right, I believe that’s the standard arrangement). I tried on the trails, paced around, prodded my toes, did some nervous bouncing, all the essential shoe-trying behaviours. They felt good, no obvious ankle rolling, comfy around my foot, not too high on the ankle…but my toes were right at the end. Into an 8 I went… Lovely.

749 - my new trail shoes

But all this made me doubt my trusty 1226 sizing. On they went and lo and behold, too snug. “Your feet must have grown” suggested Ginge. “I’m 32!” I yelped back. No problem. Apart from the fact that they didn’t have an 8 in a B width. I was given a wide fitting, which I thought would be ok (what I haven’t admitted is that my trail shoes are a men’s 8 and thus wider fitting), but no. Despite me tightening my laces tighter than a swooning lady’s corset, my feet slid around in them. Another shoe was produced, it had the same stability as my precious 1226s but less cushioning. I peered at them suspiciously. On they went, I paced, bounced and prodded. Something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on what. I paced, bounced and prodded again. My heels felt weird.

The lovely assistant advised me that I should leave it if I wasn’t 100% certain, especially as the 1260 (the uber souped up new version of 1220s) would be in their shops very soon. OK, I sighed and abandoned the quest. This is where excellent customer service kicked in. I must have looked heartbroken because he offered to ring the Keswick branch for me (they will post shoes out), oh and he knew they have had some 1260s in. He rang. I held my breath. No joy. He rang Flimby. They had a 1225 AND A 1260. Or did they? It went quiet. They just had to check something. It wasn’t a B width in the box. It went quiet again. The B width was in the D width box and the D width in the B width box! Panic over. They will be mine!

My beautiful new 1260s. Take care of them Mr Postman.

I finished up with my trail shoes, Ginge got some road shoes and some trail shoes and my shiny new 1260s will be in the post on Monday. Best of all, there was 50% off all shoes, so my shiny new Runners World reviewed 5 star in every category 1260s cost me just over £60 including postage.

I just hope they fit.

573 - Ginge's new trail shoes

Ginge's 1080s - I have taken to calling him Dorothy

New Balance Factory Shops are at Shap, Keswick, Flimby and Murton. I would heartily recommend them for their friendly, knowledgable and generally lovely staff, their range of kit and their bargain prices (even when there’s no sale on). They have not paid me to say any of this, but if they want to send me some stuff I won’t argue.

On the trail of trail shoes

Lots of people I know (in real life and via blogging/twitter) are great enthusiasts for trail running. I have never knowingly run a trail. Well there was that time I got lost in a wood during Juneathon, and Ginge periodically makes me run through a field or two, but I don’t think those experiences count for much. Despite this, I find that I have a strange fascination with having a go. I love the idea of running through wooded glades, bounding giddily across the countryside and coming home all knackered and muddy. Having said that, I like the idea of lots of things, it doesn’t mean to say that I’ll actually do them.

The point to all this is that I decided to invest in some entry level trail shoes so that I could have a dabble, but not waste too much money if they end up living in the bottom of the wardrobe. At Saturday’s Parkrun, we were handed a flyer for 20% off trail shoes at Sweatshop, which combined with the £5 voucher for doing the Folkestone Half, seemed like A Sign. And so on Sunday, I popped down to my local branch.

At this point I will confess that I’m rubbish in running shops. I’m fine if I’m buying a top, but if I’m looking to invest in something more complicated (like shoes. Or a hat.) it’s as if I’ve only ever heard about running from the friend of a friend of someone whose sister’s mother-in-law’s, cousin’s nephew’s godmother’s next door neighbour once ran a fun run dressed as a chicken.

I will admit, on this occasion I was a bit of an awkward customer. Let me explain. Leg-wise, I am a bit of a wonky donkey. (I over-pronate, my ligaments are a bit lax, bits of me stay still when they should rotate and rotate when they should stay still… Trail shoes are not renowned for support, cushion or stability). I was looking for something at the lower end of the price scale and I have have no experience or knowledge about trail running (as I’ve already said). Ideal trail shoe shopper, I am not.

So I explained what I wanted (as well as I could do) and off the assistant popped to bring out a couple of pairs, which is where it all went a bit self-service. Unfortunately, he was caught up with a phone call while bringing me my shoes, so I just helped myself to them. The first pair of Adidas were far too small (in a bloody 8! For what kind of hoofed creatures are these people making shoes?) and far too pink. The second pair were Inov-8’s and felt lovely, although something wasn’t quite right. I was brought a pair of men’s Adidas, shown how to use the treadmill and off I went, wishing all the while that I had worn either (a) a sports bra or (b) a more modest top.

After a couple of minutes on the treadmill, the Adidas had set off my hip and knee more than the whole half had done. I figured that this was A Bad Thing. Off with the Adidas, on with the Inov-8s. These were lusciously comfortable, except…. they rubbed around my ankles. Bah. Last chance saloon was a pair of Asics, but these were way too big and didn’t even make it onto the treadmill. At this stage I decided that trail shoes and I were not to be acquainted.

I bought a top.