Sprinting to the Olympics

Unfortunately, the title of this isn’t my announcement that I have a place in Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, or that I have qualified for the World Championships in Rotterdam, but maybe one day! I have in fact combined my first 2 triathlons of the season into one post, as they fell within 2 weeks of each other. As the title suggests, the events were different distances – Sprint and Olympic.

Race 1: Blenheim Palace Triathlon – Sprint Distance

The stunning setting of Blenheim Palace is a great way to set off the season. Covering a weekend, there are various short distances you can sign up for: Super Sprint (400m, 13km, 3km), Sprint (750m, 20km, 5.8km), a team relay, and a ‘Weekend Warrior’ challenge where participants attempt to complete as many sprint distance triathlons as they can over the entire weekend. The grounds offer a swim in the Great Lake, a cycle following a wider loop of the Great Lake, and finishing with a run round the outside of the Queen Pool.

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View of lake, bike out, transition and some of the course

Race packs were sent out a few weeks before the race, and entry to the grounds was discounted for spectators by a considerable amount. My boyfriend was kind enough to deliver me to the race, and spectate. We met with my friend, who had brought her team of supporters with her, also. The Palace is an amazing venue to host this event, and it certainly was made to feel like a big thing to be a part of.

Transition is a royal affair, here. The Palace courtyard was covered in a huge red mat, or carpet if you will, and a ridiculous amount of bikes were racked up – row upon row of tightly crammed push bikes of all shapes and sizes lined up with one purpose: to race.

There were loads of stalls around with the latest gear, charities including the main event charity Bloodwise, and even a stall with some freebies courtesy of Science in Sport. Lots of gels and recovery powders to stock up on.

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My wave jumping into the lake

The race starts with a briefing just behind the pontoon in the lake, a good 10 minute walk from transition. Here we received our green swim caps, and a run through of what to expect. In the background, you could see the mighty Weekend Warrior triathletes coming round for another triathlon, and the total racking up on a big board. It was very inspiring to watch. Then, a jump into the lake, a paddle to the start line and it was time to go.

I was actually really pleased with the swim section. Previously, I have found the mass starts quite stressful and panicked a little, almost forgetting how to swim, which is always silly, in hindsight. After a lot more practise this year, getting used to swimming close to other people, and although I didn’t necessarily practise swimming in a group, I just felt more confident in the whole affair. I completed it in 15:53, a time I was pleased with, and even got right in the mix, surrounded by lots of swimmers most of the way through. Box ticked!

T1 (Transition 1 from swim to bike) was where it all went wrong. I knew this wasn’t a PB course by any stretch – it’s a hilly route, the bike course, I was told, was tough for handling, and the transition runs were long and tough. I had heard others speak of the T1 run, which was a 400-600m uphill climb straight out of the lake, and up to the palace. I survived, just about, found my row in transition, and then must have run up and down past my bike a couple of times, because I just couldn’t spot it! It is against the rules to put a flag or anything up, and I just went bike blind – I could not see wood for trees. After a minute or so panicking, I located my bike, and tried to finish transition as quick as possible afterwards, but I think it was nearing 8 minutes by the time I had got through transition from hell!

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One of 3 laps on the bike

The bike went alright. I was on my cyclocross, as I had not quite got used to my new TT bike and I had been advised that I should be comfortable on that if I was going to ride it on this course. I took the more sensible option and stuck it out on the cyclocross. It was a tough, hilly route that you covered 3 times. The grounds of the palace truly are stunning and I tried to absorb the beauty of them, whilst pushing myself to go that little bit quicker each time. My only real mistake was grabbing the brake instead of switching gear going up the one of the hills, but I recovered that, and somehow stayed upright and pushed on to the top of the climb.

T2 went pretty smoothly and I was happy with my new Xtenex laces, which allowed me to slide my feet into my trainers and head off sharp-ish! The run was 2 laps of a slightly less hilly course, but undulating all the same. My only upset on the run was on the second lap, when a large group of people wandered onto the course in single file and blocked the whole route, despite there being a marshalled ‘official crossing point’ about 10 metres away, who did not move when I said excuse me, and caused me to almost grind to a halt. I gratefully accepted some water on the route, after going through a little bit of anger management, as it had been a warm day, and pushed through for a sprint finish down the last straight to finish in a time of 1:46:07. Mission accomplished!

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Happy finishers

Race 2: Royal Windsor Triathlon – Standard/Olympic Distance

Two weeks later, I found myself at sparrow fart listening to another race briefing, this time with an orange swim cap on, waiting to take the plunge into the River Thames. This would be my first ever Olympic distance triathlon and my first river swim. The water temperature had been measured the day before at 20°C, and it had been a warm day, so I knew we were in for a scorcher. In a way, I was glad of the 6:28am start!

Racking for this event is done the day before, unless you have paid a premium. My bike had been dropped off in transition on Saturday with my helmet, and I had tried to familiarise myself with all the ins and outs for the different disciplines. Race numbers are picked up on the Saturday as well, attached onto bikes, helmets and the like. All that was left to do on race day was to bring yourself and the rest of your kit along to swim 1500m, cycle 41km and run 10km. (There was a sprint distance available as well.)

No sooner had I really jumped into the Thames in my wetsuit for a predictably warm swim (and stubbed my toe on the bottom in true style), than the race had started – there really wasn’t long at all to familiarise yourself with the water. I ended up in the middle of the pack, with my goggles fogging up, swimming into the sun towards Eton Bridge, hoping that I was following the right people, and not the ones doing the sprint distance. The vision issues caused me a couple of diversions off-course, and some confusion when I got to the turn-around point and there were people in kayaks yelling at me to swim under the rope that was in front of me, but I was soon swimming the last third or so of the route upstream towards transition. I survived the swim in a time of 30:19 minutes.

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I’m too tight to buy the official race pictures, but here’s the Roo for you all to admire

T1 was good. It was again a long one, but thankfully flat. I ran into the entrance at halfway, where you then run up to the top, then all the way back down to the exit where my bike was (which I found no problem this time – wahoo!). I had a smooth change-over and then ran the long exit out the other side. The bike was my favourite part of this triathlon. I was riding the TT bike for the first time in a race – my Quintana Roo, and I was hungry for pace. The bike route is a 2 lap course, where you cover the top section of the route a second time before you head back towards Windsor. It’s mostly on country roads, and certainly a lot flatter than Blenheim. I really enjoy being on the road on two wheels and this race was no exception. I covered the 41km distance in 1:22:01, averaging 18.6mph, which I was very pleased with.

It was starting to get warm, even at 8:30am, as I racked my bike, ran the loop out of T2, and began the 3 lap run I had left to finish the race. The run route takes you from Alexandra Gardens next to the river, up past the castle, and onto the Long Walk, before turning around and running back on yourself, and completing it again. It was a tough end to a race: the sun was beating down and there wasn’t a whole lot of shade, it was going to be mentally tough to complete 3 out-and-back loops, and my body was getting a little tired by the third go.

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New shoelaces ready for action!

It was nice if you were racing someone else, as I was able to high-five and offer encouragement to my friend who was also doing the standard distance race that day, but it was still a tricky time. There is a fine line between over- and under-hydrating, and at first I was concerned about over-doing it, but I soon found myself needing to hydrate at almost every water station with little cups of water. I was determined not to let the heat get to me, and I hadn’t set myself a goal time, just to make sure I finished.

I had a nice surprise on the second lap, when I spotted some friends who had come out by the castle on the nasty climb and offered some support for me to crawl up the hill. That really gave me a boost, and they had moved down to the finish straight to cheer me through to the finish. I decided I could push myself to break the hour for the run, and just came through with a time of 59:47 for the run, and a total triathlon time of 03:03:16. Not bad for a first go! I have signed up for next year already(!) to try to break the 3 hour mark now. Bring it on!

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Super happy, proud, first-time Olympic distance finishers!

I would say, that despite the heat, I enjoyed the longer distance more, and would definitely choose a standard distance event in the future over a sprint, if the opportunity is there. Eventually I would like to build up to longer distances, but I’m in no rush, as I am enjoying it. My next race is a sprint distance that I already had booked for the 23rd July in London, so I will try to bring my time down there (once I have got over the cold I am nursing this week).

Thanks for reading,

Amanda x

Busting a Gut

New Year’s Eve 2016 had my focus diverted to The Gut Buster. This is an event that I have previously participated in and had thoroughly enjoyed . It is also the third and final part of the Winter Trail Series I had entered; this one known as ‘The Classic’. There are 2 distances on offer in this race – 10km or 10 miles – and it usually sells out before race day, so if you are looking at running this one next time, make sure you get signed up in advance! The 10km race is 50/50 off-road/road, whereas the 10 mile race is 60/40. The course is over various terrains, including roads, trails, woodland paths, tracks, a ford, and various types of fields.

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A photo from last year’s event, running up the final hill through the famous cabbage patch!

Those of you who have been following me closely, or know me personally, may know that I have been struggling the last few weeks with a knee injury. I will touch on that as briefly as I can, although there is a relevant point to it all and it has been a big part of my training complications for a few weeks! I had a pain in the outer lower corner of my left knee that manifested as a small niggle originally on my push bike attached to the turbo trainer at the beginning of the month. I rested it off and thought nothing more of it. It then developed into a slightly more annoying niggle, until it has become a pain and irritation to me, and my training. Strangely enough, it gets worse with swimming and doesn’t seem to bother me too much when I run. I had rested off before the Muddy Welly run, as I had explained in my previous post (managing an 8 mile run on 11th December, because I thought it was a 10 mile event, not a 10k (doh!) – my last long run), and it had not improved with rest.

I visited a physio on 21st December – nothing says happy birthday like a physiotherapist bending your legs in ways I am fairly sure they shouldn’t go – and they advised me that since they couldn’t find a physical problem, to keep training on it and come back when it was worse. I was informed that my left glute was weaker than my right (only I could get one weak arse cheek, much to the ridicule of a few friends), and was given some exercises to strengthen it, as well as foam rolling every day, in case it was ITBS (illiotibial band syndrome). I also had to try and find a pattern in my pain; something I had attempted the couple of weeks before going, but to no avail. I made a pain table, which I have been filling out like a weirdo in a lot of detail and I am yet to find a pattern.

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My wonderful birthday cake from a friend (me in cake form!)

I had some advice from a friend as well that my patella tendon could be tight, and she showed me a little exercise you can do to ease this. Don’t read the next couple of sentences if you are easily grossed out by this kind of thing, as my co-workers have been pulling vomiting faces when I do it – skip to the next paragraph – if not, read on! You have to have your leg straight, knee exposed, on a flat surface, with your quad relaxed, and you need to find the kneecap (it should move around a little with your fingers). Then, the idea is to gently move it up and down, then side to side, 30 times for each direction. It can feel weird, but I think it has been helping me out a bit.

The swimming pool shifted into its Christmas opening hours by the time I had seen a physio, so I am not sure if the pain is still there swimming (I am lucky enough to work all through the festive period, so no midday swims for me!). It has not been too much of an issue running, although I have been so cautious over increasing distance, getting obsessive over my running form and how my legs are tracking when I run, that I haven’t necessarily made much of a training gain over the last 10 days before The Gut Buster.

My mileage had dropped off almost completely for a week, had been low for others, and I knew that it would be a mistake to pile the miles on hard, especially over a mixed terrain course, as this could lead to further injury. With that in mind, I had a difficult decision to make. Something that went against every fibre of my being, and something that I had never done before. After a discussion with my sensible swimming partner, it was decided – I would be dropping down a distance on race day and running the 10k event, not the 10 mile. It was a decision I thought long and hard about, and one that was not easy to make, however I convinced myself it was the right one and that I hadn’t actually run the 10k route, so it would be a different challenge to the previous year.

Back to race day. It was a 6°C morning, the race start was 11am for 10 milers, and 11:05 for 10k runners, leaving plenty of time for a lie-in, or to do your local Parkrun! I had been interested, before injury, in running the local Reading Parkrun and then participating in the 10 mile event, but now I was downgrading the distance, I had to put my sensible head on and resist running a 5k on top of the 10 I had planned for later on.

All race parking was off-site this year. It doesn’t sound as bad as it does at first. You can park your car for free in the Mereoak Park & Ride, which is just off Junction 11 of the M4, where free shuttle buses run every 10 minutes to Butlers Land Farm, where the race is. They run from 8:50am to 10:20am, giving you plenty of time to get there, and the journey is only about 10 minutes long. There are portaloos galore upon arrival, a huge barn space to drop your bags off so they stay nice and dry, as well as a food stall and a couple of registration tents. This is all dotted about the farm courtyard and adjacent area.

I arrived at the farm with my wonderfully supportive boyfriend just before 10am, having had an enjoyable lay in and a pleasant, easy journey to the race. I picked up my number from the 10 mile tent, and headed over to the 10k one to let them know I would be doing the shorter distance; also feeling the need to protect my pride and explain that I had a knee injury (not that I had given up on training and got scared), although I am sure the lady did not have that much interest in it! Having successfully picked up my race pack, I headed into a corner of the courtyard sheltered from the wind to attach the necessary race bits. Number on, chip attached to laces, watch on, warm clothes attached to me until I needed to warm up – all good to go!

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Race briefing in the farm courtyard. Spot a familiar face?

40 minutes and a trip to the ‘luxury loos’ later, I went for a warm up along the road and found a track (Byways on the signpost), which I thought would be a good woodland trail to get my legs moving in the right way for the race. I ran half a mile down there, encountering several male entrants of the race who had taken a liking to the trail for a slightly different use (a urinal) and then turned around and headed back to the farm, where I did a few exercises (high knees, etc.). It was plenty warm enough when you were running, although I was still glad to have a compression top on under my club vest for the cold air and compression tights on for my dodgy legs/knees.

Immediately after my warm up, I stretched and went over to the race briefing, which would start imminently, with an impressive collection of 632 runners huddled together. An entertaining breifing awaited us, as always with My Sporting Times, as we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to one of the race organisers, who ran through the usual bits and pieces, with promise of lots of mud (there would be no complaints of a lack of mud this year, they claimed) and unfortunately, for the first time for this event, a ford empty of water! After being reminded that ‘only a moron could get lost’, that it is meant to be fun, and that there was a couple of changes in the route, they were ready to unleash us all a little bit later than planned with an “Oggy oggy oggy, oi oi oi!”.

The start was at the same point as the finish this year, whereas we had walked up the road to the start line last year. I watched jealously as the 10 mile lot set off, wishing it were me (I must be mad), and then lined up near the front of the pack for the 10k race, hoping to get away from the mud/puddle dodgers before the bottleneck mentioned at the briefing happened near the start.

We were set off to a short count down into the first field, with a man playing a comical trombone tune, the likes of which you would find someone doing a silly walk to on a comedy sketch show. I giggled to msyelf as I pushed on through the mud, trying not to slip around too much – luckily my trusty Salomons were doing their job well. Turning a few corners in the fields, we soon reached a spot I was familiar with from last year as I ran a short distance across the road. Ahead, was a juicy hill to sink my teeth into. I recalled that it was fairly steep, offroad, and went on for a little while until it curves up and round a bend, leading to a lovely descent. I gritted my teeth, determined not to have to walk and pushed on to the top. I even passed the woman running with her extremely excited dog, giving myself a little pat on the back as I extended the gap between us.

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A happy face, pushing on at the start, before the first hill!

You reach another road through the farm at this point, which winds round the beautiful countryside, passing some horses and eventually meeting the disappointingly dry ford. The chap that had turned up to film everyone running through, or avoiding the ford – shame on those of you – expressed his disinterest in filming it, and switched his camera off. I knuckled down and pushed on. There was another tasty hill up ahead and I was determined to keep moving.

I knew not to go too hard too fast, in case I encountered some knee problems and we were just shy of 2 miles into the race when the 2nd climb started. I remembered this one from last year, where my hamstrings had tightened up and it had been a real struggle. I was going to make it up there in one clean swoop this time. I plodded up, focusing not on speed, but just one foot in front of the other, and the next 50m of road. Soon I could see the brow of the hill and hear the marshals cheering everyone on, congratulating every runner who made it to the top. I certainly wouldn’t miss out on that!

Opposite the top of this hill, I spotted a faster runner leaving a trail and heading out to my right, whilst I turned to my left and was treated with the view of a downhill. I would be where that other runner was in no time, I thought. The downwards trot soon joined another muddy path  with another little hill (see a pattern here?), but also a water station. I gratefully accepted a cup of water, downed it and continued up, feeling clumps of mud getting displaced by the tread of my shoes and hitting the backs of my legs. As you peak the top of the small incline, you are greeted by 2 points of interest – a 5km marker on the left (the halfway point – HOORAY!), and to the right, some ruins of a Roman town with some supporters cheering everyone on. I didn’t stop to read the historical sign, but chewed up the mud back down into a woodland trail, taking advantage of my shoes on this terrain.

The route through the woodland was undulating but fairly wide, which was quite pleasant as you could still manage to overtake, where people in their road shoes started to struggle with the mud-caked treads of their shoes. The path wound round for a while and then met a wide, gravel private road through some gates. There are quite a few gates in this race, which cause a short stop to squeeze through, and you can get a little bundled up here, but it didn’t put me off at all today. The gravel track meets another road breifly, before getting back onto a footpath, bringing me out where I had spotted that runner earlier and also the 4 mile point – excellent!

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Awaiting us all at the finish. The medal/bottle opener!

A short spell of tarmac lead me through another gate and into a long, rolling field, heading out onto a road. I gained some speed up here, overtaking people on the rougher parts of the fields, my shoes churning up the mud. As I hurtled further down the mudslide, more and more people were running wider, trying to find a grassier, sturdier piece of land to plant their feet into. I opted to stand my ground and positively plough through, which served me well until about 100m from the end of the field, where it was so muddy that I just had to trust my footing and glide through the mud.

I faced another familiar incline as I turned left out of the field, which again, I was determined to conquer. I took it in my stride, trying my best to stamp the mud out of the bottoms of my shoes for traction, and as I reached the top, bee-lining for a line of supporters with young children holding their hands out for some high-fives. I urged a man to keep running as I could see the familiar slump of I’ve-had-enough-of-running-uphill, but he was so close to the summit, that I urged him to continue: “well done, you’re almost there”. I got my high-fives in with the small supporters and earnt my downhill drop. The man came back past me, but I would see him again later on.

As you turn a corner here, round the long, winding lane, there is a further water station, where the 10 mile route re-joins the 10k route – a point I remembered from last year, where a cup of water at the top of a climb was a lovely little boost to get me going again around the 8 mile mark, if I recall correctly –  and you could also hear the tannoy at race HQ booming across the countryside. We were close! As I descended again, I thought to myself, “Maybe I could have managed with the 10 mile route. This is half of that and I feel absolutely fine in my legs. My knee has hardly complained. It is going well!”.

That thought was put to rest a mere kilometer later, on the nose. I entered a field that was flat and could see the last split for the 2 distances. I took the right hand one for the 10k, through a gate, up a short, sharp hill onto a concrete bridge and spotted the 9km marker. As I reached this point, I entered another extremely lumpy field that twisted and turned your lower half every which way it could. My knee twanged. NO! I was on target for a sub-hour time, which I was feeling pleased about for a hilly cross country event. I was now in a battle against myself: “It’s only a kilometer; just push on! Grin and bear it – you will be fine!”, one part of me was saying. The other part was screaming at me, “There’s no point in injuring yourself further for the sake of a minute or so!”.

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A photo that does not do the final climb any justice! Panting my way to the bitter end.

I opted for a sort of middle ground. Not crawling pace, but not racing. Enough to get me out of the lumpy field and onto the last finish straight through the famous cabbage patch that wasn’t looking too cabbage-y. This was it, the last 400m! It is a tough finish, but I find that makes it all the more rewarding. There is a camber to the climb, as you are going up the field on a bit of a diagonal. It is farmed into rows and super muddy, as well as pretty steep! But that close to the finish, you can’t give up! Or so I thought….

Don’t worry, it wasn’t me – I’m made of tougher stuff – but the man I had egged on earlier had slowed to a walk. I huffed and puffed, “Come on, you’re finishing wih me”, and with that he started running again with a thank you. We pushed each other on, trying to keep up and he caught my hand to finish together, but realised it was too soon and it was making running up the field awkward. We stopped after about 10 seconds, and just focused on reaching the top for a photo finish.

A few more grunts and groans and a lot more effort and we were crowned with our finishers medals; doubling up as a bottle opener for the evening’s celebrations (it did get some use!). There was also some mulled wine, mince pies and a bottle of water if we fancied. Soon me and my boyfriend were on the bus back to the car park, and on our way home.

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Extremely happy and proud with my medal, in the warm bus to the car park.

I love this event and will definitely look at coming back again, as I seem to have a score to settle with both distances now! The 10 mile is definitely one that I would love to complete again, when I am in a better condition to do so. I think that since I had had such a good year, especially the last 6 months, it was disappointing to have to rein things in a little at the end, rather than go out with a bang, and I was also disappointed to not have been in the perfect position for marathon training in January. I will still be able to pick things up, having been cautious, and I have definitely made the right decisions so far, as the knee appears to be holding up OK and dare I say it, feeling better?!

A quick recap of the year sees me gain these PBs in the following distances:
1 mile: 00:07:34
5 km: 00:25:51
10km: 00:53:34
13.1 mi: 01:59:32

Here’s to a hopefully good and maybe even better year of sport in 2017!

Thanks for reading, as always.

Amanda x

Sweat Or Regret – You Decide!

It’s  that busy time of year again, where there are festive parties and gatherings to attend left, right and centre; various events and celebrations cropping up and you have promised yourself that this year will be different! You won’t stop training, grow a belly, lose all your fitness before the New Year, and drink yourself into oblivion with all your loved ones. There are a few things that I find helpful to combat the inevitable December decline, that may help you along if you wish to avoid it – maybe you don’t and want a rest!

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Try and stick to your training schedule

You have probably got a social calendar bursting with parties, catch-ups, shopping trips, etc. this month, but one of the best (and hardest) things you can do is to balance all of these events, whilst maintaining your training schedule as much as possible. It goes without saying that with friends and family travelling to see each other, you don’t want to miss out on seeing those close to you. However, if you are prepared to be a little bit busy, fairly committed and flexible, you can keep it all up. I will use my weekly training schedule as it stands at the moment to begin to explain. See below.

Monday: Rest from racing or long distance training at the weekend.

Tuesday: Morning – swimming pace training in the pool (between 2000-2500m). Evening – running pace training with Burnham Joggers (if training for longer distance events, I will run to the track/club, so between 5-10 miles).

Wednesday: Evening – turbo trainer session at home (approx. 10 miles hard effort).

Thursday: Evening – running with Burnham Joggers (sometimes hill sessions, 5-10 miles).

Friday: Morning – swimming pace session at the pool (2000-2500m).

Saturday: Morning – Parkrun (if I am not working, or have a race at the weekend; 3 miles), event, or long run.

Sunday: Morning: Event, cross country, or long run.

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As you can see, my training schedule is fairly busy, and I am training almost every day. I have to fit my training in around a physical 8-5 job, and although I am no pro and still have a lot to learn, I have become quite good at juggling 3 sports, a full-time job, running club committee commitments and my social life.

The best thing to do around the festive period is to try and plan ahead as much as possible. When the dates get announced for work do’s and get-togethers with friends and family, put them in your calendar and then work your training in around them. If you know you are out Saturday night, try and get a session, or a brick session, in before you go out. A late Sunday workout can be your compromise if you are feeling a bit worse for wear the next day. Whatever it is, make your plan and stick to it. Or, if you don’t mind having a quiet one every now and again, offer to drive, or just have a couple, so that you have a clear head the next day. The choice is yours. You know what you need to do!

Have someone to train with

An important part in continuing with any kind of training any time of the year is staying motivated. One of the best ways that you can achieve this is by finding a person, some people, or a club to train with. It is so much harder to stay in bed early in the morning, or remain cuddled under a blanket with the central heating, when you know that there is someone else waiting to train with you.

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Swimming sessions for me are now all indoors, as the lakes have closed down for the winter. So in the pool, my training partner is my friend, Andy. He’s been swim training with me from the start of my triathlon journey, and is a great motivator, making sure that I stay on pace. He has got to know how I train and the best ways to keep my attention on the pace when I need it. For example, when we train at 6am, there are usually the same people in the pool and you get to know who is running at what pace and you can work around this.

Most people just get in and swim for an hour, then get out, however this is not useful training for a triathlete. We do sets of varying distances to keep it interesting from session to session, but focused with a finish goal, as well as technique sessions. As I am training for sprint distance, I need to focus on a 750m swim. The plan is to work over an 800m distance, to give me a little extra in the bag and it is more manageable to divide, e.g. 8 x 100m, 4 x 200m, 2 x 400m, 1 x 800m.

This can work to  our advantage as well as our disadvantage. I like to train around one lady in particular, who is now running at a similar pace to me as someone to chase, or keep off my tail and I think the feeling is mutual with her. However, others can get in the way at a slower pace sometimes, and unfortunately don’t always want to let you pass, which can eat at your session sometimes. Additionally, if you wanted to train 8 x 100m on 2:00 – that is to complete 100m in under 2 minutes, and the remaining amount of time left is your rest, i.e. a 1:45 100m earns you a 15 second rest, whereas a 1:52 will only earn you 8 seconds – you can sometimes get caught either behind a slower swimmer, or you can’t find the right gap to go again in. We are currently looking for a solution to this, as the faster lane is even busier than the one we use so that may not be the solution either.

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Cycling training is something that goes slightly against what I have just spoken about, but is something I can get on with because of my background. Cycling is something I have always done since I was younger – we would go on camping holidays as a family and would go on day rides around the area, as well as around the campsites in the day. I have done a few 100km (62 miles) bike rides as organised events and some just for fun(!), as well as Ride London this year – a 100 mile cycling event around London and Surrey hills. Some members of my running club have also formed a little group that go out for rides between 30-60 miles on average at the weekends which is generally really good fun, sociable and usually involves a nice stop somewhere like the “no car café”!

On top of all of this, when I joined the gym a couple of years ago, I got talked into partaking in an indoor cycling class. It made you sweat loads, I could get my teeth stuck in, it was tough and made me sore; so naturally, I couldn’t get enough of it! I got involved in going to those probably 2-3 times a week, until the instructor announced he was leaving to have a career change. With a slight fear of the dreaded unknown instructor that might come along, and a thirst for new skills, I inquired about becoming an instructor. Within a month I was sat on a 2 day Spinning® course one weekend, trying to qualify to be an instructor. I passed the clinic, spent a few weeks practicing by bullying my work colleagues and boyfriend into coming along to the gym out of class hours to help me practice, and soon I had my own class.

I was an instructor at the gym for a year, until there was an unfortunate falling out with the management, when they started messing me around, and I decided my time could be spent training for other things, like 100 mile bike rides! I never regret that year, though, as it gave me the tools to create training sessions that are relevant to what I need, more information and a better skill set for exercise physiology and cycling in general and it gave me more confidence as a life skill. I can now apply all of this over the winter with my turbo trainer.

I know, *groan*, the turbo trainer! Unfortunately for me, this is a staple for the winter, unless I stop cycling for a few months, as I suffer with Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is a condition of which my understanding is that the blood vessels in my hands and feet are too small, so when they get cold, or it gets cold outside (I don’t always feel the cold when it happens), I lose blood circulation in my extremities. This means that when I am cycling, the first point of contact with the air is my hands, which, believe it or not, will still lose circulation through 3 pairs of warm gloves, which is no good if you are trying to brake or change gear! My feet go numb and are much more difficult to pedal, then eventually start to burn – it will probably take an hour of gradually warming them up and walking on them before they go back to normal.

Anyway, all of this means that for the winter, rather than repeating last year and attempting a 30 mile bike ride and only managing 8 before turning around because I couldn’t use my hands or feet (in October!), I have to retire to the indoors. I have adapted many of my Spinning®  designed classes to work on my turbo trainer. It’s something I can quite happily grind away at, and the one thing that for a few months, I will self-motivate to complete. There are various training aids that are used by several people I know with their turbo trainers, which seem to be quite effective, but I have never used them myself, so would not like to comment on their effectiveness. Joining a cycling club is also the other option for those of you who can get away with putting on extra layers!

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Running is a very easy one in my opinion. I used to run by myself, in the dark, alone and struggled to stay motivated. I had enough last year and joined a local running club, Burnham Joggers. It is the best thing I could have done for motivating myself over the winter and for training from then on. I never knew how many things there were to get involved in other than races! We participate in a cross country league from November into February, as well as the Staggered Jog once a month, various members doing different Parkruns every Saturday, lots of members entering local (as well as not-so-local events), and a club championship, where a huge amount of club members descent upon 15 chosen races to compete for the title.

Not only that, but in the Summer, there is a 5k series competing against other clubs, and social events such as Running Scrabble (we will get to that one one day)! How can you stay bored with all of that going on? There are so many wonderful, encouraging and lovely people in my club, that I can just never look back. Also, there is always someone that you can talk into participating in some silly race you have found, coming along to support you, or others who are training with the same goals as you are. What could go wrong?

Have a goal or target

Another important thing is to have something to reach for. Whether it is to complete a distance by a certain time (8 weeks to 5k, for example), complete a race, beat a PB, or even shift a bit of weight; there is always something for you to aim for. Having a purpose will e7bc1f480d9a6834a5cb29871d1f3de2.jpgalways help drive you along and telling people about it as well will push you to completing it, so make sure it is both achievable and something you want!

Studies have proven that if you tell people what you are trying to achieve, you are more likely to succeed, as you don’t want to appear as a failure to the people you have told. It is important to enjoy your training, in addition to having your mind set on something. If you are sore, injured or ill, listen to your body and don’t worry too much about missing one workout. You will recover faster from resting off and coming back to it. Do not try and bump up the mileage too much because you have missed sessions, either. Continue with the plan, and you will do just as well.

Reward yourself

This part may have peaked your interest slightly, however I am not just talking about pigging out. Although there is nothing wrong with doing this every now and again, it is not good for reaching your goals if you have poor nutrition. Sometimes, it is nice to say to yourself, “when I finish this training session, I can have this chocolate bar”, or whatever your preferred treat is, but it is equally as important to stay on track.

You can reward yourself in so many other ways. If you are fixated on food rewards, choose a favourite healthy/healthier snack of yours, such as avocado on toast, a home-blended smoothie with your favourite fruits/vegetables in, or peanut butter and apple. If you aren’t too worried about filling up on snacks to give b9f6411171db73bded59843b6c248d59yourself a pat on the back, there are still other ways you can reward yourself.

Some people have been known to put money in a pot based on mileage, e.g. for running, 10p a mile if you are running high mileage, or maybe 50p a mile if you don’t head out too far. Once you have a nice kitty stored up, you can splash out on a new pair of trainers, or some new sports gear.  Another idea is to book in for a massage, or to delay your rewards over a week or month, so that when you have completed a certain distance, or met your criteria, you can treat yourself to a bubble bath, a day out, a gift to yourself, etc. This will help not only to power you on during your training, but improve your motivational skills.

Connect

There are so many websites to help keep you motivated nowadays, as well as various brands of watches. Watch-wise, I am rather biased towards Garmin, although there are plenty of other good brands, such as Tom Tom, Suunto, Polar, and for some a FitBit (although that is the only one I am not a fan of). Garmin has an online community called Connect, where you can follow others using Garmin watches, compare and read all of your activity data, rank PBs and much more.

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The most popular website, I think is Strava – here is a brief look at it (I do not have the premium function). On here, you can create and join clubs, where you can compete in a leaderboard for distance, time on your feet and climbs. You can upload your content automatically from your watch software, which is pretty handy, and then you can give and receive ‘kudos’ (a thumbs up to someone) and comment too. There are also segments, which are parts of routes that people have selected, where you can race against yourself and others. The final motivational feature on here that I think is a highlight, is the monthly challenges, covering distances and climbing feet.

Another I have used is Map My Run. This is similar to Strava, however the challenges on here earn you badges and come in all forms. This can be from covering distance to completing a number of activities of all kinds, and you can pit yourself against your friends to complete them first.

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My other personal favourite is Running Heroes. This is another website that can upload straight from all of the above mentioned applications and a few others. You earn points for every run (and bike ride) that you complete, which you can redeem for discounts off events, sports brands (Speedo, 2XU, Adidas, etc.) nutrition, and various other items/services such as magazine subscriptions, hotel rooms, etc. They offer 2 challenges per week, where you are required to either earn a number of points, or run a set distance over the week. You can win various things including but not limited to sports clothing and gear, race entries and food/nutrition products. So far, after joining this year, I have won some Bamboo socks, a tub of Oppo ice cream and a free entry into Ride London 100. There are also sometimes limited offers to use a large number of points to gain a free entry into a race, such as London Winter Run, New York or Paris Marathons, and lots more.

I hope this helps at least one person over the winter!

Happy training!

Amanda x

If You Go Down To The Woods Today, You’re Sure Of A Big Surprise

It’s been a bit chillier this week, and the frost did not hold back on Sunday for the Maple Durham 10. You have a choice of a 10km or 10 mile course, which goes through the lovely grounds of Mapledurham House, as well as Chazey and Bottom woods, across a multi-terrain route. As I had signed up for a marathon next year and needed to get some miles under my belt, I had opted for the 10 mile course. Not only that, but this would be the first of a series of three 10 mile trail runs that I had entered earlier in the year. As a self-confessed medal addict, I was very excited to be earning my first medal of the series, and in quite a few weeks!
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The routes for the Maple Durham 10
According to my running buddies, I am a late riser in terms of races, so I stuck to what I knew. I got up at 8am, with a 40 minute drive ahead of me and a 10 o’clock race start. Unlike a typical female, I don’t take that long to get ready, so I was happy to leave at 8:30, after a brief de-icing of the MR2 and a quick wholemeal muffin. This morning I was pleased to be wearing my new 2XU compression shorts and socks, with my club top, and many, many layers of clothing over the top! Numbers were to be collected at the start, and it was all pleasantly close together (car park, number collection, toilets and start line). I picked up my number without a hitch – today I would be number 8 – and it was a lovely designed one with a picture of the start from a previous year as a background. I immediately decided it was best to hide in the warm in my car with a banana, as I was quite early! Soon it would be time to strip the layers down, use the toilet and line up at the start.
I felt a bit sorry for the man attempting to give the race briefing, as the PA system kept on cutting out, but he soldiered on and informed us of the usual things – look out for course signage so you don’t go wrong (especially important today, as the course split twice for the different distances), listen to the marshals, be careful of the ice and mud, etc. He then informed us of The Big One of the day, nicknamed ‘Tourette’s Hill’, for reasons I was sure would become clear! We all nervously giggled at that joke, and when the system let him down for the last time, he gave up with it and just screamed “GO!”. That was our cue to get moving; something I think everyone was grateful for in the cold conditions.
The start of the race is a good mile or so on concrete, following the road back out of the house, turning off onto a service road and off into the countryside. I tried to hold the pace back a little on the first mile and not shoot off, as the tarmac was very slippery from the ice that had still not melted from last night. Soon enough, the 1 mile marker appeared and there was the first split of the race, where the 10k runners headed off up a hill I would soon become familiar with. That certainly thinned the field out – clearly some more sensible people had put on their running shoes today! We continued along a pretty flat stretch, winding along, until we reached the trails – much better! We headed up the first hill, with a good amount of support and not too much mud, just a lot of fallen leaves. The trail then squeezed everyone into a single file, which unfortunately pulled my pace back, as I got caught behind a few slower runners suffering from the first incline.
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The beautiful view from the race headquarters
One of my favourite things about this course was that the route turned a lot, so you never got fixated on one long stretch. You were either going up or down (in a way you couldn’t see too far ahead), turning off, or following a winding part of the route more often than not, so you could just absorb the natural beauty. The terrain would change pretty frequently too, between country lanes, private road, footpaths, bridleways, fields and woodland paths. I really enjoyed those aspects of it, especially the woodland parts – they were stunning, and the best bit for me. I would say the course was approximately 60-40 divide between soft and hard ground.
The route looped back round through some wide woodland bridleways, passing lots of dog walkers the whole way round, to head back round towards the hill we had spotted the 10k group disappear up earlier. It didn’t look like much at first , and I was glad it was in the first half of the run, but it soon started chipping away at you, as the hill went on and on around every corner. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by another Burnham Jogger zooming past me up the hill with her son, giving words of encouragement. Wherever I go, I always seem to discover a club member at a race, but this was something I had forgotten, and was not at all expecting to find someone at the race today. (There was a Thames Valley cross country event on the same day in High Wycombe, as well as a Santa themed run in Marlow, which is where I had assumed the rest of the club had dispersed themselves.) Anyway, I kept on trying to chase after Alison and co. up the aforementioned ‘Tourette’s Hill’. I think everyone around me was struggling so much to get to the top, that they didn’t have the breath to curse!
After the hill from hell, which I would have much preferred to have been on the mud, we were greeted with a small descent into the woods, through a farmer’s field. A fair bit of the off-road sections were still frozen in the first half of the race, and were not like the grass I had run on at the club on Thursday night – I had described it as running on cornflakes then, much to the bemusement of everyone else – the fields today were solid!  My fell shoes would come in handy here, for sure. My favourite part of the run soon came up in Bottom Wood, twisting and turning towards the first water stop of the day at 4 miles. I often find songs popping into my head when I am running, and as I ran through the woodland, I smiled to myself as I plodded along to the ‘Teddy Bear’s picnic’ song. This was followed by another mile on a road, which would lead us most of the way towards the other 10k turn off point, where we passed some horses galloping around a field. There was a beautiful trail section coming up. The woodland floor was coated in brown, orange and red leaves, whilst above you, evergreen trees reached over the top of the trail, cocooning you into a gorgeous autumn tunnel. Then we headed out onto the road and swiftly back round to re-join the lovely soft trails at mile 7. The trial squeezed in to single file again, but this was not an issue as everyone had spread out over the distance.
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All smiles after finishing
The woodland tunnel soon dragged me back to reality, once I had reached the top, as a long slow incline through some farm houses awaited me, but also the other water stop! I rehydrated and continued on, knowing I had less than 2 miles to go. A long winding descent leads you back towards the last mile, and I was shocked to find an older lady running with her husband who had fallen and her nose was bleeding. I offered some help, and to find the next marshal to let them know, but she said, “It’s fine, I haven’t got far to go now.”. Amazed by her determination, I wished them both well and continued towards the finish.
Mile 9 lead me up a steady incline towards the last trail of the day, which was a struggle to get to grips with, as the sun was still quite low, so you couldn’t really see where you were putting your feet. I could hear the sound system with other runners being congratulated along the finish straight and I knew that I would be one of them in a few minutes. After stumbling over rocks embedded in the trail through flashing beams of sunlight, a marshal appeared at the end of the path directing me right into a field. I was almost home! As I turned the corner out of the field, the finish tunnel started and I spotted my fellow Burnham Joggers, cheering me on, as well as the man on the PA system calling my name out. I pushed to the finish with a big smile on my face, grateful they had waited for me. I was met at the finish with a wonderful medal and a bottle of water.
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An extra big picture of my number and medal for your enjoyment!
 This was such a beautiful race and one that I will definitely be revisiting. The race headquarters was positioned next to the Thames, which made for a beautiful start and the rest of the race, as you have read, was fantastic. Well worth an entry if you fancy it next year, and I would say that the 10k would be just as enjoyable as the 10 mile event.
I am waiting on some photos from the event, but will be sure to upload them on here when I get my paws on them!
Thanks for reading,
Amanda x

Fluorescent Pride

Let’s get this bit out of the way – this morning’s run was Herbert’s Hole 10k. Everyone have a snigger, I certainly did! “She’s doing Herbert’s Hole tomorrow!”, laughed some members of the club last night at our Awards Dinner/Dance. Needless to say, I had had a bit of a late night on Saturday but luckily the race had a late 11am start, which I was most grateful for! This race is organised by Chiltern Harriers and was its 23rd year running. It is a multi-terrain event starting in Lowndes Park in Chesham, with a couple of twists and turns around the park before heading to the hills in the Chiltern countryside.

After a delightful lie-in until 9am and a 40 minute drive over to Chesham, I headed up to the race HQ at the guides hut on the park edge to collect my number before 10:30. Today’s number was a nice round one – 400! Pleased with this, I searched the hut in the warmth for some fellow Burnham Joggers and sought out Mark, the only person from the club I knew would be there. We sheltered in there until it was finally time to head out for a warm-up. I sacrificed my 2 layers of coats to my boyfriend, Chris, who took care of them whilst I was running.

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Line-up at the start

I had a quick warm-up in the park with Mark, up and down a small slope and the start hill, followed by a stretch. We sheltered under the umbrella my boyfriend had taken out of the car to hide under  – it was still raining a bit at the start line, but it had stopped by the time we got going – until we were swallowed up into a crowd of mud-hungry runners. A quick announcement about the treacherous paths ahead and the klaxon had sounded. We pushed en-mass up the hill to the top of the park, around the top, before dropping off on a cambered zig-zag finishing in the woods. I spotted Chris along here, who was fighting with the umbrella I had loaned him that had turned itself inside out. I laughed and thought, “that will get me round some of this race!”. At first, when everyone had ground to a halt, my inner chimp had a little grumble, but I soon had to admire the dedication of the race organisers. They had not only appointed marshals to advise the safest route through the mud, but had spray-painted those nasty ankle-turning tree roots through the woodland a bright orange colour so you could spot them really easily. I think that this was going the extra mile to take care of all the runners.

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Fleeing up the hill at the start

We emerged from the woodland and were faced with a mud-slide downhill, where those fantastic marshals were there guiding us the best possible way down without breaking our legs. I was amazed at how many people were wearing road shoes throughout the course, especially with all the rain there had been. It was so slippery! This followed onto a long stretch of road running, up a steep hill and back down again, trying not to slide about on the wet surface with my muddy fell shoes. A brief race hello to another Burnham Jogger and we were soon back where we needed to be – on the trails full of mud and puddles. Fitness-wise I felt fine, but my legs were so heavy and it was all I could do to keep moving. I am always the last to admit it, but this was, of course a sign that I may be in need of a bit of rest. (Dougie, if you are reading this, you were right!)

After another burst of tarmac, the route headed down through a gate onto the flat, where a small stream ran through the middle of the course, and we were greeted by a water station. I gratefully accepted a plastic cup of water, before continuing on along the trail. This gave me a second wind, which I was very happy about, as my legs had been screaming at me to stop for the last 4 miles. I had ignored them and pushed on, and now I felt like I was flying along! I felt like I could push harder and I knew that what had kept me going was not only my own pride but the pride of the club. Being able to say I am a part of Burnham Joggers and that I can finish this makes me very proud indeed and I compared us to a pride of lions in fluorescent yellow as I ran down the next slippery tarmac hill. Wearing the club top makes me feel proud every time I start a race and it is a great feeling to get a “well done Burnham” from the marshals. It can give you the boost you need.

Puddle dodgers were out in full force today, which cleared the way for me down the middle of the pathway, whilst they all ran awkwardly up the sides through thick mud, leaves and roots, trying to avoid all the low-hanging branches. You only get wet once! That’s my philosophy and I stuck to it, landing in the biggest puddles I could find – it’s cross country, after all! Why avoid the things that make it what it is? I was extremely pleased with all the mud splashing everywhere, all the way up to my thighs and my feet rythmically squelching through the trails. I started overtaking those that were sliding all over the mud in their road shoes with my new-found burst of energy to tackle the rest of the course.

A few kissing gates slowed us down with a bit of stop-start but I was determined to climb back up the mud-slide in what resembled a run. I pushed hard up it, realising I needed to aim for the sides where it was a bit less slippy and made it to the top in one piece. A final spurt sideways across the hill back into the park and then I could see it was downhill back to the start. “Sweet!”, I thought, as I was greeted by Mark cheering me on to the end and advising me to go for it, but just watch my footing. I flew down the hill, spotted Chris who cheered me along as I headed for the finish straight. Sprint time! I heard someone on the side shout, “he’s just behind you!”, and I found an extra bit of energy to maintain my position. Those track sessions had paid off! I was grateful for the cheers and advice from the runners who had already finished, and for the tip off that someone was on my tail!

Buzzing from the race, I joined the other finishers in grabbing some water and my coveted finishers’ t-shirt. All in all, I had a good second half of the race and was glad my legs had picked up a bit but I might take it easy over the next few days, ready to have another stab at the Staggered Jog next Sunday!

This was a great race put on by Chiltern Harriers. A special thank you for holding this event and to all the wonderful marshals as always, who dedicate their time to making sure we go the right way, ensuring our safety and cheering us along on cold, wet mornings. This is a race I am sure I will be visiting again.

Amanda x

Brocas: You, But on a Really Good Day

It’s that time of year again where our trainers get swapped once a week for our trail shoes and we venture into the fields and forests for cross country (XC) season. As part of Burnham Joggers, I participate in the Thames Valley Cross Country League; (all going to plan) an 8-race Sunday league between 15 different clubs across the Thames Valley. The events are great fun and a good bit of friendly competition, as well as being quite a sociable occasion. Not to mention, if you can stomach eating straight after a run (I know I can’t always), a buffet put on by the hosting club with sandwiches, fruit, sweet treats and things, as well as teas and coffees. The races are generally between 5 and 6 miles, the first of which was today, in Eton at the Brocas. It’s a beautiful setting starting next to the river with Windsor Castle in view, and heading out along the tow path, through plenty of fairly muddy fields to finish back in the picturesque opening we started in. As a bonus, the race is as flat as it can get and even more so where cross country is concerned. A real gentle start into the new race season.

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The Brocas, Eton

These races have a luxury late start at 11am, which allows the chance for a bit of a lie-in, whilst still enjoying a race outing with the club. This race is also the first of our Club Championship, which is an inter-club competition over the running season. You must compete in 7 out of the 15 listed races (or 6 and any full marathon), where 1st club member across the line receives 1 point, 2nd 2 points, and so on. The runners with the least amount of points from their 7 best events will win the championship. It is a great way to support local clubs, as well as gain support in return for our races. There is usually a fantastic turnout from club members for these events too, which I find makes them more enjoyable due to racing against fellow club members, and the support from everyone is wonderful, especially for the slower runners across the line.

I got up at 9am for this race, had a quick Ovaltine (my favourite morning drink!), a small piece of toast, grabbing my banana of course, and dragged my boyfriend out of bed to reach the race HQ for about 10:15. The Burnham Joggers flag was flying high on the other side of the field this morning, amongst a sea of other club flags and many runners! We were very lucky with the weather at a warm 10°C, so I adorned my club vest, shorts, compression socks, a thin pair of gloves (a must for my doomed hands in the winter), and my trusty Salomons. Everyone was buzzing and ready to get stuck into the mud – hopefully not literally – with a really good turnout from all clubs. It was soon time to gather at the start line for a race briefing, where we observed a two minute silence to honour those who fought so bravely in the First World War, as well as a special tribute to two young runners who lost their lives this week in a tragic incident.

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Race splits

The race began at 11:02, with an amazing sight of hundreds of eager runners circling round the Brocas, then streaming onto the Thames Path. The route, as I said, is very pretty, as I find a lot of cross country routes are, especially when you run parallel with the river. I don’t say this very often – in fact, I think the last time was back in April at Reading half marathon – but I struggled in today’s race. Maybe I set out too fast, as you can see that all my splits are positive ones (not great). It was just a massive struggle after about 4 miles. I do tend to find that I have to continuously exercise to attain good results, and unfortunately, I had to miss out on Thursday’s run this week, meaning my previous run to this had been on Tuesday, which could explain the lapse. Times like these (as the Foo Fighters sang) are when you have to dig deep and use your mental strength to push through to the end and hopefully at a resasonable pace. However, despite a “bad run”, I still  took a small amount of time off last year’s result, which was 53:13, a 43 second improvement. It’s not all bad, I suppose. Several people from the club had some great results, and I know that one member achieved a 6 minute course PB! Incredible! My boyfriend, after not wanting to get out of bed this morning, achieved 6th male position in the club, which is an excellent achievement. He is very pleased with his time.

I enjoyed 2 cups of tea and managed a sandwich, a biscuit and some orange slices about half an hour after the run, discussing the race with everyone and setting the world to rights, before heading back to the car park in Home Park. That was when my boyfriend came out with this gem: “I’ve been here before but I didn’t know it was called the Beroccas.” A couple of us laughed and said, “It’s the Brocas, not you on a really good day!” A constant source of entertainment, that boy.

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Team photo with most members present today

A huge thank you to Datchet Dashers for a fantastically organised and marshalled event. I look forward to the next XC race I can make. Also, loads of Joggers love out to a wonderful team out in the field today – your support was well received!

Amanda x

Hilly Halves

This morning was time for Marlow half marathon. Hosted by Marlow Striders since 1989, it is a well established event. I have to admit at this point that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with half marathons – I love running them but it is still a bloody long way on two little legs! You will get to know that I am a bit of a “Muttley”, as I get called at work (from Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races), due to my love for collecting medals. I think the current medal count is around 50! Anyway, I am very pleased to say that this morning has leant in favour of the love. I absolutely adored this half marathon!

Let’s start at the begining. I woke up at 8am, nudged my boyfriend, who looked a little worse for wear from the bonfire night celebrations we had had the previous evening, and got started on breakfast. I go for a simple couple of pieces of toast coupled with a cup of Ovaltine and load a compulsory pre-race banana in my rucksack for munching about 20-30 minutes before the start. He tells me he thinks he is still drunk(!) but has sorted out a lift for me to replace his non-functioning self. So I left him at home with his head pounding more than my feet would be shortly.

Race number pick-up was a little busy and confusing, and I prefer having them posted out to me in all truth, but I successfully got hold of my pack and had a little giggle to myself at the number. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always get excited to find out what my number is for a race. Whether it’s a low number like 1 or 7, or a number of meaning to you personally. This morning, I was gifted with the number 69, and I giggled like a child the whole way round the course about it – whatever gets you round!

I managed to meet up with a few people from my club, Burnham Joggers, before they rounded us up to head to the start line. I really loved the start of this race, in the lovely Higginson Park. We were lined up at the exit to the park towards the high street, and due to the time of year, awaited a man dressed as Guy Fawkes to light a firework, instead of a start gun! A great little detail. Everyone was buzzing, despite the knowledge of the hills that awaited us. I planned just to get round this one, as the last long run I had done was approximately 10 miles a couple of weeks ago, after facing a cold.

I was feeling good, even after the first couple of miles uphill from the start, although I knew the real hills were coming at 7 and 10 miles. I have to say I was generally pleased with my pace throughout and tackled the hills as best as I could – believe me, there were a few of them! (see below)

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Elevation chart

I really enjoyed the route, which went through mostly through the beautiful countryside through Marlow and the surrounding areas, out towards Freith and back towards Hambleden. There were 3 water stations at 2.5, 6 and 10.5 miles, which seemed very well suited to the course. The marshals were fantastic all the way round, especially at 10 miles on one of the nastier hills, and I couldn’t have asked for a better race. I had a good finish with a couple of Burnham Joggers ladies, which made for a special touch to the race. All in all, I finished with an official time of 2:04:37, which is my second best time. Not bad, considering all those hills! (My PB on a flat course is currently 1:59:32.) Goodies at the finish included a medal (pictured below), long sleeve top for all that winter training, a banana, and a chocolate bar.

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Today’s number on my club top with the half marathon medal

A big thank you to Marlow Striders for a great race. I will be looking to participate again next year.

Thanks for reading!

Amanda x