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Bluebell Trail is a 10mile race organised by Stainland Lions. It was one of those that I signed up for months in advance because it just sounded so lovely, and didn’t train specifically for because it was a) ages away and b) only 10 miles(!).

The day dawned soon enough, and was actually pretty decent for running. But on arrival (thanks to a lift from the ever-lovely Glover-Longfellow trio) I wasn’t really feeling up for it. I still don’t know why – I just wasn’t in race mode and could quite happily have gone back to bed and stayed curled up all day. There was no real doubt that I would run, of course, and I’m glad I did, but neither my heart  nor my head were really in it at first.

The start of the race heads up into the woods and early on you go through a little gap in a wall, so we had a bit of a wait at the back, but the pack soon spread out again as we ran on.

I turned on my feet, put them in charge and gave the instruction: “find your way”.

I detached my legs from my mind so my muscles could concentrate on what they had to do.

I filed my brain away and let my mind go where it wanted. I sang to myself, did some writing in my head (this blog post mostly), meditated and simply enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells.

I soared up to the tops of the trees and the hills to enjoy the views. I thanked the birds as they cheeped and cheered me on. I leapt about in time with the bluebells and the dandelions.

It was all incredibly joyful. Almost as soon as I started I felt much better, and the further I ran the better I felt (as is usually the case). The route and terrain was quite varied – forest, towpath, road, cobbles, field, muddy track and even river bed! Happily, I felt that I was running really rather well. Having told my body what it needed to do and allowed my mind to go where it pleased I was able to switch off where necessary and switch on where necessary. I felt that my form was good and that I adapted to the different terrain without too much hard work.

Even the massive hill of Trooper Lane didn’t faze me. I knew about it before signing up and it hadn’t put me off. I don’t mind hills. I don’t train on them enough, but I do what I can whenever I meet them. When I see a big hill in races (that is, when I can’t see the top of it) I walk. Or rather, I march. I’ve never been a slow walker, so when it comes to hills I am better off marching up than huffing and puffing and trying to keep to a run, which will inevitably become a jog-shuffle anyway.

So I smiled when I saw the Trooper Lane sign at the bottom, changed gear and kept my head up. I overtook several people marching up there, and stopped to enjoy some spectacular views over Halifax. And at the top, after a cup of water, I was able to get straight back into running. You can see what all the Trooper Lane fuss is about on this blog I came across: The Hell of the Worth.

It wasn’t quite all downhill after that – we were up and down right until the last mile, and there were many more tricky bits with loose rocks, muddy, narrow paths and so on. The section through the bluebell woods was absolutely stunning – they were everywhere and looked and smelled gorgeous. It was quite magical.

As I came back down on to the canal towpath for the final stretch I was rather warm and incredibly happy – and what better way to cool the legs and celebrate a gorgeous run out than by splashing across a river?! It wasn’t very deep so I wasn’t scared (I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with water) and it was the perfect refreshment after 10-and-a-bit miles. I strolled in to the biggest cheers I have ever heard from my fellow Harriers, who had all finished and were stood on the other side watching. The marshal in the middle of the river told me that I should run and pick my knees right up, so I did as I was told and splashed through. So much fun!

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A final scrabble up the bank and a sprint on the playing field and I was done! We got a goody bag with choccy, water and banana, plus a bar towel with the Bluebell Trail logo.

A fantastic race all round and definitely on my list for next year and beyond. Many thanks to the Lions organisers and marshals, and big thanks to Geoff Matthews for the fantastic photos of me crossing the river. What a happy runner I am!

 

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Sunday was the Snake Lane 10mi, hosted by Pocklington Runners. I had in mind to get a massive PB, but it all went very wrong. My current record at the distance is 1:38:46 from Harewood 10mi Trail last year, so I figured there would be a huge margin to knock off on a flat road race. Nope.

The temperature and the colour of the sky were pretty much perfect for a race, but the wind was a complete nightmare. I wrote myself an appropriate race mantra.

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I went to the race with my good friends Vikki, Bethan and Jill and we had a lot of laughs along the way, not to mention much support for each other before, during and afterwards.

The start was simple enough – off we went and settled in. Vikki was soon off, and although Jill, Bethan and I were targeting similar times they were ahead of me quite quickly. But not to worry, my first few miles were slower than the ultimate dream target but still good enough for a PB, so I just got on with it. Miles three to six were also steady enough and I was skipping along, but then the wind hit.

As we wound our way through open fields we were blown in every direction. At times it was all I could do to stay upright and going forward, let alone get any speed going. I quickly realised it was hopeless to keep thinking of a PB and I felt pretty awful. By mile 8 I had had enough and just wanted a cup of coffee and a sit down. I did a lot of meditating (my headphones had died by this point so no banging choons to distract me) and kept bringing myself back to my feet and my breath. I felt wonky and all over the place with the gales battering me, but I just had to keep going forward, no matter how slow the progress.

I fought back tears in the final mile and, after what seemed like days, got to the finish line. It wasn’t quite a personal worst, but not far off.

The course was fab and the marshals lovely, but whoever ordered wind is off my Christmas card list! I cheered myself up with a massive four-shot skinny hazelnut latte from the Costa and scoffed my peanut butter KitKat Chunky in about three mouthfuls.

We all got a lovely mug as a memento and headed home looking quite disheveled! Once again I have to thank Jill for being an absolute rock. She kept looking back to check I was OK, and every time I got that thumbs-up I chuckled and felt a little better.

I will definitely be back to tackle this one again, but hopefully the wind will stay away next year.

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Week 9 has been rather eventful. I have run seven times (yes, really) and racked up a total of 38.5miles. Some runs were great, some were pretty rubbish.

Monday was a lovely slow recovery run, followed by another lovely run home the long way from Leeds on Tuesday morning. Wednesday I ran twice – first with two ladies from Up & Running along the canal, then I went straight on to Harriers and ran with the beginners’ group. Unsurprisingly, I rested on Thursday!

I felt like running on Friday, so I did, then Saturday I headed to Nottingham in the Kirkstall Harriers Funbus for the National Cross Country Championships, which was fab. Sunday was less fab, with a windy Snake Lane 10mile race not going to plan.

Total: 38.5 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 10

Monday: rest

Tuesday: cross train

Wednesday: 5

Thursday: 8 (race pace)

Friday: rest

Saturday: 3

Sunday: 13.1 (Silverstone Half Marathon)

Sometimes, running is crap. Yes, it is. But only sometimes.

Yesterday afternoon I headed out for a short, sharp interval session. I’m supposed to have been doing intervals once a week or so since the start of my marathon training plan a few weeks ago. But for one reason or another they haven’t happened. I used to do them all the time, and enjoyed them, and they worked, but it seems my speed has definitely taken a backseat to endurance.

As I ran, and later in the bath, I thought about why the session wasn’t going to plan, and this is what I came up with.

  • Time of day

Afternoons aren’t a great time for me to run. Although I don’t have afternoon naps anywhere near as often as I used to, I’m not at my best in that post-lunch lull. The sun was out and it was a mild day, but my head says “go back to bed” and my tummy says “I’m still digesting” so it just doesn’t feel quite right.

  • Too tough

In all honesty I think this session, and the other interval sessions in my plan, are probably just that little bit too tough for a marathon plan. The plan I am using is a mix of RunKeeper and Hal Higdon, and the intervals come from the former. I have loved them in the past when training for 10k and half marathon races, but when combined with so many miles they’re just not working.

  • Form

For reasons I can’t fathom my form felt awful. My arms weren’t working properly, my legs wouldn’t pick up and my whole body felt like I was twisting and jiggling around. I tried to reset my body and practice some mindful breathing to get back into a decent style but it just wouldn’t happen. Nothing was painful though, which is a relief.

I did the first fast interval. But even though it was downhill I didn’t hit the target pace. I had the short recovery and tried for the second, but half way through I just stopped and walked. I didn’t even have time to talk myself out of it – it just happened. I jogged on and decided to abandon the plan and simply take a slow meander back home. I covered 3.5miles in the end and I’m not beating myself up about it. But I am re-assessing the other interval sessions in my plan. By which I mean I’m removing them.

The focus now will be on three key runs – long slow run, race pace run and recovery run with strides. I still want to run five times a week, so I’ll have one as a sort-of fartlek/interval/hill session and the other will be a run with friends where anything goes.

I hope that I am being sensible by re-jigging my plan and that it won’t scupper my goals.

 

I am very happy to report that I am back on the wagon and running to plan. The back of knee/calf thing has eased off and I’m feeling good and getting out there. I’ve even been getting in several cross training (swimming and static cycling and rowing) plus regular stretch and strength sessions. I’m also upping the yoga and meditation/mindfulness. Luvvly jubbly!

The week has been pleasant enough with some easy, steady and enjoyable runs, a tough Temple Newsam parkrun and a grand day out in my home village with some Harrier friends for the Four Villages Half Marathon (race review to follow).

Total: 28.2 miles

(all distances in miles)

Week 5

Monday: rest

Tuesday: cross train

Wednesday: 5

Thursday: 6.5 intervals

Friday: rest

Saturday: 5 – Northern Cross Country Championships

Sunday: 16

The first in an occasional series on things I ponder while running.

Long slow runs are an excellent opportunity to have a think. I also debate with myself and write poems in my head. It’s not always deep and meaningful, or even interesting, but I try to remember at least some of it.

Today I did 9.5 miles on the footpaths, up to Rodley and back along the A65. Not a particularly inspiring landscape it has to be said, and for the most part I was tuned out of everything except the movement of my body, but I did have a few thoughts.

  • How much “stuff” is there in the world? How many people are in factories and workshops right now, making stuff for other people?
  • Why do some people think that rules/common sense don’t apply to them?
  • Why is this hill so damn long?
  • What’s for tea?
  • What does it feel like to be transported on Star Trek?
  • A squirrel!