Sunday, 20 January 2013

Cake........cake......and more cake.......

Not the warmest day...

January can be a very flat time of the year.......the excitement of Christmas and New Year has faded.....and the longed for warmth and longer days of Spring still seem to be a long time coming! Most people are getting stuck into their training plans for spring races but the races themselves are still away on a distant horizon.
I used to hate having a birthday so soon after Christmas as then there was nothing big to look forward to for the rest of the year, and also because people used to "accidentally" tell you that they'd bought your present in the January sales. This year, however, I loved my birthday weekend as I got to do 3 of my favourite, hang out with friends, and eat lots of cake and chocolate! The only negative thing was that my parents couldn't come over as planned due to all the snow in the Northeast.


Buggy Running
Luckily I hadn't had too late a night at our practice night out at the local Indian restaurant on the Friday night, so I managed to get up early enough on Saturday morning to drive down to Carlisle for the inaugural running of the Carlisle parkrun at Chances Park. Parkruns are free, weekly, timed 5K runs that occur on Saturday mornings around the world. They are for people of any ability and experience, though I think they are especially good for those new to running, returning from injury, or juggling family time with running. There are no parkruns very close to Dumfries, but I sometimes run them if I'm away visiting family or friends, as it means there are always people to run with (and have coffee&cake with afterwards). It's also nice to take a step back from training and just have a fun run with friends......and Carlisle parkrun was just that. It isn't what I'd describe as a fast course as it is about 50% on grass, and consists of 3 laps with some tight corners, but I had a fun steady run round. I also really enjoyed a cool down pushing my friends' 15month old daughter round in her babyjogger. It was great to run with (both on and off road), and doesn't seem to slow you down much.....though admittedly I didn't go up any major hills!
Tullie House Triple Layer Cake

Morton Manor opened up their cafe for us to have post-run coffee and snacks, so I had my first cake of the day courtesy of Russ and Pip Maddams (who are looking forward to the arrival of their daughter this week.....hopefully). Never being one to turn down cake, I had some more at Tullie House with Doug...and then later went out to a cafe in Dumfries for more treats with Audrey.......which was definitely a good thing as every cafe in the area seemed to be shut on Sunday (either that or they knew I was coming!!!). What more can a girl ask for?
(parkrun photos courtesy of Steve Angus)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Supermarket Sweep

The Central Lancashire Half Marathon is a great run to start the year with. I have done it for the past 3 years.......though admittedly the first time I did it, it was delayed until March due to ice and snow!

Race Route

It's a good fast course if conditions are favourable as it fairly flat, though there are some inclines due to the road crossing the motorway on 4 occasions......and a cheeky sharp humpbacked bridge to finish off tired legs in the last half mile of the race.
I was hoping for a good solid run to see where my fitness was at, but I really had my doubts as I drove up from Manchester through thick fog - the visibility got down to about 30m on the motorway - but luckily it cleared before the 10am race start. Paul Carroll (from Clydesdale Harriers) and I went for a warm-up jog and debated our prospective race positions. He had beaten me in the 2011 race, but I'd pipped him last year, so today was anyone's race. We both hoped that feeling tired and sluggish in the warm-up would lead to a good race, but weren't too confident as we took our places on the start-line.
The race had sold out in early December and the field seemed much larger than usual, so I had to concentrate in order not to get dragged out too fast. The field stretched out straight away as the race winner disappeared off ahead, and I gradually moved up places over the first few miles. It was quite flattering when the "lead lady's cyclist" caught up with us saying he'd had to chase me down! I felt quite comfortable running along and, as the conditions were favourable, suddenly found myself in 2nd position overall after 4 miles. I wondered how long it would take before all the men shot past me, but didn't expect it to be natural obstacles that caused the biggest upset to my run!

After the finish!
The race is all on open roads, so we made sure we kept as tight as we could to the left-hand side of the road, but after about 9.5miles, there was a 90 degree right-hand turn at a t-junction onto a main road. My cyclist told me to keep to the right-hand side to avoid crossing over directly in front of an oncoming van, but the main problem soon became apparent. Behind the van were 4 goats running towards me in the road. The cyclist said he would deal with them, so I could just ignore it and get on with the race, but the goats had other ideas. As he tried to head them over to the left away from me, the goats wheeled around and headed straight across in front of me. I had to significantly shorten my stride and shout at them in order to get past without running into them, but then they started chasing me......and one even headbutted my back leg. I didn't realise how much such an interruption would affect me, but I found it hard to get back into my rhythm for the next mile and started to struggle. Paul shot past me at the 11mile mark, looking as strong as if he was running a 10K, but I tried to ignore that and focus on finishing my own run. I had wanted a strong run, but at this point I thought that as long as I could keep my legs turning over well, then I'd be close to my PB.

In the last halfmile there is a steep sharp humpbacked bridge over the canal, but as I knew the finish was close, I unconsciously relaxed. Unfortunately this meant that my stomach muscles started to spasm, and so I was unable to push at all in the last 200m as I thought I was going to end up depositing my breakfast in a hedge. It's never nice to be overtaken at the death of a race, but there was nothing I could do, and I later apologised to both the man that sprinted past me, and to my cyclist for my dry retching.

I got the shock of my life looking up at the clock over the entrance to the carpark (though it did turn out that we had to run down the length of the carpark to the hall to finish) as it turned out that I'd taken over 20seconds off my PB!!

Kitchen appliance anyone?
Paul and I ran back down the course to cheer his clubmates in and reflected that we were spot-on in saying that a rubbish warm-up DID indeed foretell of a good race, and what a great start to the year it was for both of us (with new PBs)....and I congratulated him on the well-deserved victory over me! 

OK, OK so it's not quite Supermarket Sweep, but the prizes for the race have always caused amusement back at my they seem to be trying to stock up my kitchen. In the past 3 years, I've won a mini-cooker, a sandwich toaster and an electric mini-chopper.......and this year I added a handblender to the collection.........smoothies anyone???