Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Trail Outlaws – Castle Eden Fun Run

It has been a while since I’ve broken out the fancy dress box for a run – I think it’s probably a parkrun over a year ago at Blackhill when I last had a rumage for an outfit! It’s like choosing your own handicap. Unless you’ve carefully selected your costume to involve as little material as possible, you’re likely to be slower in costume than in normal running gear, or we’d all be dressing up like Christmas Puddings whenever we want to go for a p.b.. When you combine ‘Trail Outlaws’ with ‘Fancy Dress’ you know you’re in for a tough time – and at least 25% of it will be self-inflicted.

Not being particularly big on Hallowe’en, my costume box doesn’t include much in the way of horror film set special effects, but it does contain a pirate costume gathered over many years. Sadly, many of the belts involved in said costume have been retired from when I was in my late teens and are a restrictive reminder of how much less-trim I am round the waist than many years ago!

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I met C at Castle Eden in Peterlee; somewhere I’ve never had occasion to go before, and we were treated to a feast of different outfits in very short order. There were some absolutely fabulous costumes on show! I honestly can’t do justice to it so I’m just going to direct you to Hippie’s hard work and send you over to the race album here to have a look for yourselves. We saw G2 at the start-line – not in costume incase he needed to pull out his Serious Face as Official Race Bossyman, which to be fair is rather difficult to do if you’ve got kid’s facepaint on – he was kind enough to be our start-zone photographer 🙂

The race didn’t start too badly terrain-wise – a good gravel path winding off with gentle undulations. And it all went downhill from there. Very downhill. And we all know what that means. In this case, it means people jumping out at you from inside holly bushes and behind rocks when you least expect them (though it must be said Hippie was much easier to spot than normal at the bridge!). There’ll be more than one person’s heart-rate data with a sudden unexplained spike in the middle of various sections!

Wikipedia has the following to say about ‘denes’:

This one is very true to the ‘steep-sided wooded valley’ part (and I recommend following the link in the caption and checking out the Castle Eden Dene link to read a bit more about this particular one). Looking at the map at the bottom, you could think we had run nicely around this nature reserve, but I can assure you this was not the case…we went down, down, dooooown to the bottom of the valley by the river, and of course then had to climb alllllll the way back up again. By the time we finished my GPS said I’d done 71 flights of stairs. No wonder my legs were knackered!

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I did very much enjoy full on jumping in some of the puddles – C possibly enjoyed my doing this slightly less but she was a good egg about it 😉 We had a good natter, and died quite a bit on the way round – it was tough going! C had also done parkrun that morning for some reason! Nutter! We did make it to the finish – very, slowly! – and were rewarded with weighty gongs (that’s a ‘g’!) for our efforts. There was even a cake and coffee stall if your post-run tummy was so inclined raising money for mental health.

When I got my muddy self through the door, I weighed myself with and without all my waist accoutrements; 3.25lb I’d been lugging around as corsetry up and down those hills – it’s a good thing the rum bottle wasn’t full – though I suspect it would have been lighter by the finish anyway if it had been!

One quick shower for this grotbag and then straight out the door again to Hexham fireworks – more standing for the ol’ legs to do. I slept like the corpse some of the costumes were depicting after all that 😮

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National Trust Dusk Run – Wallington

We have an annual tradition since moving into our house regarding Hallowe’en. It started in the first year when we’d literally just got the keys and hadn’t really moved anything in yet. We were painting the living room in our empty house when we heard the first trick-or-treaters moving up the road. We used to live in a small flat in a cul-de-sac and hadn’t had them so we hadn’t really clocked the significance of Hallowe’en to house dwellers. We did the incredibly adult thing of turning all the lights off and hiding below the sill-level of our curtain-less front windows until they moved on as we had absolutely nothing to give them!

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Since then, it’s sort of become tradition to hide with two exceptions – one where I was home alone, again with no sweets in the house (we’d probably eaten them all) and made a big batch of chocolate chip cakes in sandwich bags; these were oddly well received and the kids skipped on up the road swinging them and singing ‘choc chip cake, choc chip cake’ but god knows what the parents thought of them bringing home-baked goods back with them. The other was when we again forgot it was Hallowe’en and had ordered a pizza for delivery…so we had to hide in the house while also peering round the blind for the food chap! Very adult, mature and in the spirit of the thing I’m sure you’ll agree.

This year, Operation Hide-Away was again a go (we have curtains now!) except I’d also seen that Wallington Hall near Morpeth were doing a Dusk Run that evening; a trail run round a wooded estate in the dark? Yes, please! I’m still not up to the mileage I’d like to be so have missed a lot of races this year (or been wiped out by doing them!) so a casual 5k is just what the running soul needs right now 🙂

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I had guesstimated I would need to be wheels turning by 17:10 to get there – when I checked earlier in the day Google Maps said 40 mins to get there, which would still give me 10 mins to find people. I had not taken into account that leaving anywhere around 5pm would mean I hit rush-hour home traffic for most of the first half of the route. I did leave at 17:10 as it happened, and I flung myself into Wallington at 18:02. Not a headtorch in sight. I decided I had to at least try and find people, having come all the way there and looking forward to it all week – but not being hugely familiar with Wallington in daylight let alone the dark, had no idea where I was going. I found a sneaky path round the back of the cycle hut which brought me onto the road fronting the square. I heard voices! Fortunately, as they were waiting for one of their guide runners, I found everyone under the arch and was just in time to join them!

I really enjoyed this run – the lead runner works at Wallington and as such we got a guided tour of the site as well as a guided run route. We checked out a currently-being-excavated water mill from the early 1800’s, looked for white-tipped crawfish and otters in the Wansbeck when we crossed it, snuck over the wall of the walled garden, visited the “netty” (toilet to us non-Geordies but now used for picnics!), checked out the wildlife hide, saw videos of the local red squirrels, and saw the ice house for the main house where the family silver was hidden in WW2 incase the Nazis invaded!I’m really keen to go back in daylight and do it again where I can see a bit further than the range of my headtorch! The enthusiasm of our guides also really helped bring Wallington’s grounds to life, even in the dark.

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This run only cost me £5 to attend – and as such I wasn’t expecting to get any keepsakes for attending. Our lead guide had a very bright light on a carabiner clipped to his bag I was considering asking where he had bought it from, so was pleasantly surprised to be presented with one from said bag with the other runners at the end before we all headed off for respective cars and beds. It’s really bright and probably worth the fiver on its own!

I do like having the local National Trust site pages on my facebook feed – you never know quite what’s going to come up and I’ve had some nice surprise little adventures through them 🙂 Looking forward to whatever the next one may be 🙂

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You can download the GPX route file for this run from my Dropbox account here.

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Doing My Homework

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A month or so ago I joined an online fitness group – mostly pilates based – which Jill from Organic Pilates has started called ‘Core Club’. Recently, Jill sent out a welcome pack with a hello/thank you letter, beginner resistance band and some homework: she’s a big fan of goal setting and goal tracking, and the long term goal questions have been batting round my head for about a week now, so I thought I’d share them.

I’m not normally one for SMART targets for the future; I’m certainly not anywhere now I could have conceived of being 10 years ago, which might be why when I think of where I want to be in 1 year and 5 years what comes into my head is pictures rather than a bullet point list and timeline.

The obvious answer to all questions below is of course “to win the lottery” so I can do all the things I want to but currently can’t afford due to money or time constraints, but failing that – here’s my back-up plan!

Where do I want to be in the next year?

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Those of you who’ve been following me for a while will have seen the above picture before – as I’ve been aiming to get back to there for a while. It was taken the night before I did my first half marathon at Liverpool in 2015, and while I’ve been arguably fitter since then in terms of mileage run, I don’t think I’ve hit that balance again of being happy with both my shape and my fitness level. I felt truly capable and I want to get back to feeling that way again; even if I’m not doing exactly the same route to get there as I did 4 years ago. Pushing myself to do things I’d not done before but in a way that kept my life feeling balanced – I wasn’t losing my entire weekend running silly distances and being wiped out for two days afterwards, I was eating well and I have no memories of how work was – and I’m taking that as healthy too! I felt strong in my own skin and ready for anything 🙂

I feel like I’m heading back down this path again already – I’ve been eating a lot better (just omitting the sweets/cakes/pop etc. from my diet) though I have been sabotaging everyone else’s healthy eating by baking a lot. I’m nearly back at the weight I was then though I’m not as toned – that’s coming back too though. I’m not running as much as I’d like as I’m still only just in warm-up stages from the injury bench really, and I miss bounce a lot which is great for toning up. Even if I’ve completely lost my weekly workout routine and am still trying to find a new one, I can’t argue I’ve still been getting out there and doing stuff albeit at a lower cardio level than I’m used to: I’ve been walking quite a bit, and have even been known to have an occasional dip in the pool for a length or two! Pilates is helping and I’ve also noticed a big improvement since starting to do a short daily 10 mins stretching in the morning – most obviously when I stopped doing it for a week or two.

We’ve got developments happening at home too; I’m trying to keep things moving on plans for a kitchen extension (I’m finding our current one positively claustrophobic sometimes with three adults in the house and am very grateful to the gods of dishwashers that one graces my house with its presence and hasn’t broken yet!) – we’re hoping to start building next year but there’s still a lot to be done in the meantime with drawings, quotes, builders, mortgages…etc., etc.!

I’m spending the short-term trying to build up good habits; the stretching, the eating and the general exercise (whatever form it takes for now though I hope to be back in my trainers and bounce boots a lot more soon!), and I think I’m setting good foundations for that, though it’s not ingrained yet. I’m on the right path and I’ll get there.

Where do I want to be in five years time?

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I’ve been nursing an ambition since last year regarding my running which has had to be sidelined for now. I realised a while ago that marathon training was not for me: it requires a time commitment I’m not willing to make to be able to run that distance all in one go without stopping for a cake in the middle. Yes – you heard me, if there’s no cake-break I’m not playing! I’m aware this contradicts my one-year eating healthier plan, but exercise treats don’t count 😉

I’ve done higher mileages before of 10-20 miles in one go, both mid-week and on the weekends and particularly as my hubby-dearest does not run it essentially made him a running widow for about 3 months. He was very supportive as he is in everything I want to do, but I missed the activities we would normally do together and it felt very selfish of me ditching him every weekend to go spend hours pounding along tracks and expecting him to pick my sweaty butt up again at the end of it. Seriously, a post-long-run Sarah is a smelly creature indeed!

Instead of weekend after weekend of pavement pounding for the sake of increased mileage aiming for one particular event, I want experiences. I want to be able to keep my running mostly to 2hrs on a Sunday morning while His Lordship’s still asleep so we get time together the rest of the day and I’m not completely wiped out and sound asleep or eating us out of house and home afterwards.

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I still have things I want to work up to – the eagle-eyed among you will notice my picture for 5 years is not a pair of trainers or a race event, but a shiny new backpack and a guide book. I want to run several of the walking trails around England and Scotland in weekend bursts. I might hit marathon distances in a day, or even further, but they’ll be over 8-12hrs and I’ll be stopping any time anything takes my fancy; be it a view, a nap spot, a tearoom and then pottering back on my merry way again, just me and my backpack. I went on a walking holiday doing a section of the Wicklow Way in Ireland with a friend a few years back (the same year as Liverpool possibly!) and I absolutely loved it. My friend was completely broken for several years afterwards as it knacked her back, but I really enjoyed it.

Where do I want to be in ten years time?

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I honestly don’t know – you’ll notice my five year plan is pretty vague in terms of ‘whens’! I also have some reluctance towards completing the 12-week action plan sheet Jill’s included for us: I blame work for this (as I do for so many other things!) as I find it likes to blow up and get in the way right when I’m trying to do things! So instead, I will make four commitments to myself, which are pretty similar to the Core-Club challenges for the next few months.

  • I will concentrate on eating healthier; minimal snacking and sweet treats, and prioritising fresh food over processed. I’ve also got a cap on eating out 😉 My wallet will thank me as well as my waistline!
  • I will drink ALL the water; this one has slipped a bit lately, and with the weather getting warmer this is not the time to be compromising on this one
  • I will do some form of exercise four times a week – and I’ll not beat myself up if it’s not necessary the type of exercise I’d prefer (e.g. doing low cardio when I’d rather be dashing about). Any moving is good moving and particularly while still getting my knees sorted I need to take what I can get. It’s all good!
  • I will be happy with how I am at all stages of the journey. I can have aims to move towards, particularly regarding fitness and physical shape, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also enjoy life and appreciate everything I can do while I’m working on improving myself
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#finishformatt

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Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can feel the very pulse of a community. For the running world, you can touch on it locally simply by spectating at a race – you don’t even have to run – and watch the fliers, and the plodders; the joy, the wonder, the pride, the pain and the struggle. A whole microcosm of human emotion will pass before you in even 15 short minutes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 10k or a marathon. You won’t be able to help cheering complete strangers on and feeling part of something.

Rarely, something happens which allows you to feel the heartbeat of a national connection. In some small way you have to be part of it – even if you’re not mentally ‘there’ – or you know you’ll regret missing it.

I remember when Ben Smith of the 401 Challenge was running daily marathons around the country with people from local running clubs and communities – I’d missed him when he was in the North-East and he was working his way back down the country: Carlisle was the last weekend he would be within driving distance, and despite being on a low after my own marathon training earlier in the year, I knew I had to go. I’d seen the route and knew if I got to 5 miles, I’d be able to get back again via public transport or walking if it came to it. I went.

This month, it’s a more sombre reason the running world is pulling together: last Sunday was the London Marathon, and one runner not only didn’t make the finish line, they died in the attempt. Masterchef is one of very few TV shows P & I watch, so while it was hard reading stories about it, it was harder recognising the person featured – even though we’ve never met him. You watch a small part of someone’s journey doing something important to them and you feel a distant connection, an empathy with them. Matt Campbell had 3.7 miles left to complete the London Marathon when he collapsed; the running world’s response? Finish it for him while making donations to the charity he was fundraising for. People all over the country and further afield are running and walking 3.7 miles in Matt’s name. It won’t bring him back, but it is a powerful recognition and acknowledgement.

If you want to donate (the running’s optional!), you can find his JustGiving page for the Brathay Trust here.

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RYA Push The Boat Out – Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club

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A note before starting this – I am not Sailing People, so if I use completely the wrong terminology, I apologise in advance!!!

Pete and I have been trying something a bit new this weekend; we’ve been around the Derwent Reservoir many times over the last few years – on foot and in the car, but we’ve never actually been on it. We’ve passed the sailing club on several of these trips and mentioned several times that we’d like to try windsurfing. Hop forward a few years and we actually get around to going on the Derwent Reservoir Sailing Club website to see if they have any courses advertised. Better – in 2 weeks time is a free taster day for sailing and windsurfing. Both signed up in lightning time 🙂

We’ve both been on sailing boats before, but it was a very very long time ago and we were both much smaller – as became very obvious when we went out on one of the youth boats! We arrived armed with swimsuits, changes of clothes, Sarah’s retired running trainers, which she’d kept for some reason just incase she needed a pair to trash (or apparently soak!) and other paraphenalia, most of which we didn’t need!

Wetsuits and lifejackets were provided. Instruction on how to put them on supplied by whoever happened to be in the changing room at the time. I managed fine but I have a credible source suggesting Pete managed to put his on not only back-to-front but inside out the first time (apparently that was just how it was on the hanger…let’s not judge huh?!). The wetsuits were blessedly warm even when dry as there was an excellent wind for sailing picking up that made it rather chilly if you were in a t-shirt.

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We were picked up by a pair of sailors from the ‘Slips’ where the boats are launched, and after helping hold boats while trailors where removed, we were off, Pete in the cat (much enthusiasm from Pete when he discovered they had one available as he hasn’t been on one for years) and me in something called a Feva which was something like my friend’s Topper I used to go on as a kid.

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As the Feva was rigged with double sails, I had a job as soon as I climbed in – pull the front sail tight and swap sides when we tacked. I really don’t remember these type of boats being this small when I was on one many years ago, but I was also probably over a foot shorter! Thomas looked very at ease in it, but I felt very clumsy, often sitting in the puddles in the bottom before I got the hang of sitting on the side again, and feeling even more so when I took a hand at steering! I couldn’t get the hang of the rudder at all – every way it turned felt back to front and it was very crowded trying to get myself from one side of the boat to the other while keeping the rudder over and not knocking myself out on the boom! Thomas was very patient as I nearly tipped us both in more than once, but it was with some relief that I relinquished my control stick and returned to my front sail duties!

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Why don’t I have a six-pack yet?!

In my mind, working out should be a bit like levelling up in a videogame (can I still call them that given noone uses videos anymore?!). When you complete a workout, your body should be immediately toned up afterwards, and then it gradually atrophies back to its pre-workout state the longer you leave before your next workout. Working out too hard would give you a super-buff appearance, but also a stat penalty like ‘pulled muscle’ or ‘gym ban’ which means you have to leave a certain amount of time before you’re allowed to workout again.

I read somewhere a while ago (a forgotten and unverified, likely click-bait source!) that it takes 4 weeks of a program – food or exercise – before you notice a difference, 6 weeks before your close friends and family do, and 8 weeks for everyone else. 3 weeks into my ‘healthy me’ kick – she says while chowing down on cocopops while writing this – I guess I shouldn’t be beating myself up about not looking any different yet. I should however get back to eating healthy. Tomorrow. Gotta play the long game with this sort of thing!

Anyway, we’re only here because I wanted to give a bit more detail on my gym workout yesterday and decided it would probably end up too waffley for facebook – so knowing I’m already writing a blog post, I have made it more waffley before I even get to the bit I wanted to share!

Facebook people will already know, P bought a ‘Smart Wonder Core’ just after Christmas, after I told him how much it would be to use the local gym each session while I’m at Run England. The theory was he’d have to use it 10x and it would have paid itself off, and every session after that would be ‘free’. So far, I don’t think he’s been on it more than twice but I’m sure that’ll change now I’ve provided exercise stickers for the calendar for him 😉 Nothing motivates quite like smiley face stickers.

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I’ve had a quick low-resistance go through the exercises just to see how they feel, and a 2-circuit, 20 rep each go through of the seven exercises shown on the guide that comes with it, but last night was my first ‘proper’ session with it – and I was definitely sweating rather than glowing through it! Rather than having a rest and a reference check of what I was supposed to be doing between exercises, I made sure I had them in an order where I was not going to be doing the same muscle groups consecutively, and also chopped up the repeats so I wasn’t doing everything once and going back and doing everything again as a whole, and moved straight from one exercise to the next without a  break – I’ll explain more in a minute.

The exercises on the guide are as follows;

  1. Sit-up
  2. Scissor kicks
  3. Ab tuck
  4. Push-up
  5. Forearm & Biceps
  6. Bridge
  7. Triceps
  8. Bicycling

Prior to typing that out I would have sworn blind there were seven exercises. Apparently I was wrong on that count!

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A Year in Review – 2016

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It’s been a month and a half since my last entry here, but it feels like an awful lot longer…I was expecting to log on and see it had been months! Saying that, just this week feels like it’s lasted about 10 days for some reason. The weekend could not come soon enough!

As Christmas fast approaches, I find myself going over 2016 and I confess to having found this year incredibly frustrating. I don’t think I’ll be the only one glad to see the back of it and hoping for a fresh start in January.

Having started the year determined not to spend as much time and money on races as I did last year (which was many £’s and nearly every weekend at one point!), the races I’d booked for this year were ones I’d really wanted to try from 2015 but for whatever reason couldn’t make it, or that I really enjoyed and wanted to do again. Looking over my calendar for this year, out of a total of 19 races booked across the year I missed 7 of them due to being either ill or just not fit enough to do them (one does not do a 10 mile race when one is struggling to do a 10k for example!). Of the 12 I did make it to, I had a DNF on one and nearly a DNF on another, and really struggled on a couple more. If this were Laser Quest, I would be losing rather badly!

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is where my running limits are. My maximum running distance at peak fitness so far seems to be about 16 miles, and I shouldn’t try to run a half marathon every weekend several weeks in a row. I am however comfortable running 8-10 miles every or every-other weekend when ‘fit’. I tried to do far too much far too fast at the start of the year, and to be honest that’s over-shadowed the rest of my year.

I recovered from my post-marathon-attempt fatigue when summer was coming into full bloom – and any of you who’ve had the misfortune of being here a while will know I tend to disappear into a dark cave in the summer and don’t come out – heat and I just don’t get on and it always seems to come out on top! Something I did start doing this year was going out on the bike with one of the guys from work most Wednesday’s when work permitted – and I think this is all I can credit with me not being completely back to square one from a fitness point of view across the rest of this year, because I definitely haven’t been running frequently enough for that to have really helped! I’ve done a total of 165 miles on the bike this year, compared with 15.5 miles the year before, which is not to be sniffed at for someone who’s not really a bike fan!

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A Wander Week – Week 11

It’s now only 1.5 weeks until the marathon start line, and we are officially on the lowdown doing light exercise in an attempt to build up the steam reserves for race day; unlike week 10 where I was resting because I was ran said steam reserves to the dregs in week 9…

I was intending to have one week off, but this last week’s been pretty low key too, though I have actually had my trainers on a few times. After the race at Bamburgh, I decided to take a week off of no exercise at all – and it took until the following Saturday afternoon to be starting to feel more like myself, and the Monday week to be back in my own headspace again. I was very grumpy in my post-race week; short-tempered and much more sensitive to things I usually take more in stride and don’t let bother me so much. I had to make a real effort to bite my tongue and not say anything I might regret just because I was having a tired and grumpy few days! This must be what adulting is about…I don’t like it.

I’ve been like the supplement queen the last fortnight. I don’t think I’m in danger of becoming an addict. Iron supplements, multi-vitamin and protein shakes, and they get old really fast. The novelty of downing a water-based protein supplement every morning for breakfast for the first week lost its appeal pretty quick – I’ve gone back to just after exercise for the last week. I really think taking protein shakes after my long runs and gym sessions has been a contributor to me not having sore muscles the next day, even if I’ve been pushing my distances and doing so for consecutive weekends, but particularly when you’re making them with water so you can take them with you and leave them in the car, they’re no McDonald’s thick shake!

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I went out on Monday for a short run with Mr Speedy, who is getting very into running now! We only did the 2 mile loop again, and where we came close to my best pace on the previous try, we did beat it this time – by about 8 seconds a mile which I’m pretty happy with unsurprisingly! Unsurprisingly, we were both very out of puff by the end! C was starting to waver a bit by 1.6 mile but I yelled ahead at him to keep going – I’d told him if he was comfortable to just go on ahead and I would slog along behind. We did make it to 2 miles but he really didn’t have much left in the tank and I had to count down the last few 0.01 intervals until we hit the 2 mile. I don’t think I could have gone much further at that pace, but I will one day! Well on track for a sub-30 5k pace with that 🙂 I’ve spent so long mastering my 10-11 min/mile pace for distance as it’s very comfortable for my breathing, that I have to really push to sustain anything faster than 10min/miles for any length of time. I hope one day for this to become my comfort distance pace!

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A Scenic End to a Busy Week!

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Looking at my MapMyRun dashboard, and my stars calendar, you could be forgiven for thinking I haven’t really done much this week.

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In reality, this has been one of the most active weeks I’ve had in a long time – from what I guess would count as a ‘strength’ workout perspective if I had any idea how to book it as such. June is normally the time of the 3 day annual boiler shut at work, and it’s all hands on deck on the papermachine for maintenence work – and with a very unusual amount of work to do this year, we had an extra day and were due to start up on Thursday lunchtime after shutting down Sunday night. So, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were spent changing 300 shower nozzles (some of them in arm-aching positions and orientations!), and heaving bits of filter and buckets of powder stuff about the place. And stairs. So many stairs. Not exactly an inactive couple of days right?!

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Missing: Mojo Jojo

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You may have noticed a lack of posts lately…this is because I only post something when I’ve done some form of exercise or have some nuggets of gear-related information I want to bore the internet with. Ergo…I haven’t been doing much the last few weeks. At the tail end of April, I started really feeling just generally sapped in terms of my exercise levels and wasn’t finding it easy to motivate myself to go out, particularly for the longer distances I wanted to hit for my half marathon build-ups. It’s now under 5 weeks until I head to Liverpool, and I really need to find my stride again. Literally.

For most of this year I’ve found running to be a welcome break from, well, everything really. It’s been my me-time when work’s been busy and very changeable, my self-esteem booster as I feel fitter and a great way to meet new people after moving to a new area. Lately however I’ve only found it to be a chore. I don’t want to go out, and when I do push myself to I feel like I’ve got lead in my trainers and just want to get it over with more because I need to go than because I want to.

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