Feast or famine

This Easter has been particularly busy. I’ve had to balance running and cycling as I’ve been training for the Tour of Flanders. It’s been feast or famine and I’ve found it difficult to give time to both.

One of the tricky things is when you’re on holiday, particularly city breaks. It can be hard to know where to go in a new city to run, or maybe more importantly where to perhaps avoid.

One way of getting around this is by booking yourself a running tour. These are now available in most European cities and are easily found through social media/internet. After our cycling sportive, we had booked a couple of nights in Bruges and so I arranged for us to have a running tour of the city.

These tours generally take place before the city comes to life, we started at 8am and were joined by a German couple. The tour was around 5 miles long, with various stops to hear about places of historical, religious or cultural significance. It’s a fantastic way to get the miles in and really get to grips with a city. All for around 25 euros per person.

If you take your GPS, you can also use your route to revisit areas that you’d like to explore in more detail later on. We used ours as a handy navigation tool for the rest of the days sightseeing.

And it helped my mileage- 5 miles in the bag!

My other trick to keep the miles ticking over is to get myself booked onto an ultramarathon. This way, I can bank a few miles, have a great day on the trails and know that I can relax on the weekly target.

And I think that is what is really important about #run1000miles- it’s about a year’s worth of work, not just one week. Part of this is recognising that you will have weeks that you’ll do very little- that’s ok! You should be enjoying running, not seeing it as a chore. So by doing things like running tours and ultras, you can get a great sense of variety and before you know it, the miles are in the bag!

I ran the Kielder 50K the week after Flanders. I’d planned to take it easy but felt good and pushed on (probably too much!) and was surprised to finish as 4th female (and they gave prizes for 4th!- hurray!)

My furry running buddy Hadrian has also been helpful in motivating me to hit the trails. We’ve been carefully building him up now that he’s old enough to cope with short runs and he loves it!

It has improved my flexibility and agility as I desperately try not to trip over him every time he smells something interesting!

Last week it was a sheep jawbone- say cheese!

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The Tour of Flanders

Well, after all my training (🤥) the time finally came to begin our journey to Belgium.

Cycling has to be the biggest faff of any sport and the amount of fussing over kit was astronomical. I love new kit so I’m liking that aspect of cycling, but deciding what to wear on a ride is something else! We’d studied the weather forecast and it was looking like sunny intervals with a chance of rain.

In reality we shouldn’t have fussed because we ended up packing everything- just in case.

We took the ferry across from Hull to Oudenaarde, meeting up with Ed’s Dad Peter on the way. It was a pleasant enough crossing and we enjoyed a surprisingly ok dinner before retiring to our cabins to quietly fret about the challenge ahead.

The next day we headed to the campsite, met with the rest of our party and settled in. We needed to register for the race in Oudenaarde (10 miles from the campsite) and so we got suited up and headed off. I was keen to try out some of my spanking new kit- including my Castelli Perfetto jacket 😍.

A flat ride along cycle paths later (and some confusion about where exactly registration was) we arrived and collected our numbers. We also stopped off for some Beligian specialties- beer and frites.

I consumed my bodyweight in frites.

The ride home was wet. It poured down, soaking all of our kit. Luckily, courtesy of my Dad, we had our monster heater Rutherford on hand in the van and we spent a long afternoon nursing soppy kit in front of him. Thankfully we were dry before bed and hit the bar for a few beers and last discussions about the race ahead.

So my longest ride was around 30 miles and we had to add an additional distance of 20 miles there and back (plus the 48 of the race..) it was starting to look a bit more scary than I thought.

We had to set off in the light because we hadn’t got lights on our bikes. A somber 10miles led us to the start and over the timing mat to begin the 72km Tour of Flanders.

It was generally well spaced out and my lack of bike-craft was pretty well concealed in the first few flat miles. These flew by and before we knew it, the first of ten climbs was upon us- The Koppaberg.

We attacked it with gusto- momentum seemed to be key on the greasy cobbles. I fought my way up the climb, knowing that Ed and Peter were around me somewhere. Stopping was lethal but again and again, people did, dismounting in the middle of the narrow road and pushing their bikes. There was no respect for those battling on and again and again I had to take evasive action to dodge these people. I ground to a halt finally when two riders on a tandem crossed my path horizontally and dismounted in my path.

I pushed and then got back on a while after, feeling disappointed that I hadn’t made it. Ed and Peter had faced the same experience and none of us were able to ride the whole way- not down to fitness at all. (We rode all the other 9 climbs without stopping)

Our shared experience meant that we were able to rationalise our ‘failure’ and not let it phase us for the remaining climbs and we were all buoyed by how easy the next couple of climbs were. Ed lost the contents of his saddlebag on a flat section of cobbles with a helpful rider shouting after him ‘you have dropped many things!’ On we rode, teeth chattering and elbows rattling to the rhythm of the cobbles.

We were a great team and I can honestly say that there was no low points between us. We smashed through the other climbs- The Kwaremont and The Paterberg being the most notable. We’d learned from the Kopperberg to give no quarter and to ride with confidence through the field, carving our way through the Lycra-clad obstacles as we went.

Powered by Belgian waffles, we reached the finish line together. A final sprint across the line saw me almost take us all down as my previously mentioned bike handling skills showed their limitations. Luckily Peter had the experience stay vertical and save us all- we crossed the finish like heroes. It was such an amazing feeling and it made it truly special to share it with Ed and Peter.

Post race fuelling was burger, frites and beer. We ate like kings and rode the 10miles home- I never wanted it to end.

Final tiny preparations

The cumulation of the last few weeks went by in spectacular style. The Wilson Run is one of the oldest fell races and is at the heart of what matters here- camaraderie, resilience, perseverance and humility. 11ish miles of fell, road and trail, through beck and bog, field and track- a proper race.

The last week or so has been varied. Lots of short runs with Hadrian- he’s done Winder twice now and is loving life!

Sunday we raced. Due to weather the Carrock fell race had been pushed forward a week, meaning we could make it. Last year the weather was absolutely horrendous and I found it incredibly hard.

There’s a long climb at the beginning up to the top of Carrock, a sweeping downhill brings you to a marshy section before a drag up to the top of High Pike. The final descent is fast and goes on and on.

This year, the weather was glorious. I improved by 18 minutes from last year and came 6th Lady- I’m chuffed! but a lot of that is down to the conditions on the day and it does really show what an impact this can have.

We’ve been doing some cycling to try and get me ready for Flanders. I’m nowhere near ready but I will do my best! We’re in the van right now, driving to catch the ferry. Wish me luck!

A first ascent

We’ve been getting Hadrian used to running on a bungee lead so that he can accompany us on some of our adventures.

Because he’s still growing, we only do short distances and are slowly building up. We’re also careful that he doesn’t put too much stress on his joints by bounding downhill so we keep him on a short lead on the descents.

He’s doing really well and can be off the lead if there’s no sheep around, his recall is good and he sticks fairly close by.

We’ve started out with a few trial runs along fell wall in Spring-like weather.

I enjoyed a slow and steady couple of runs out this week as well, Arant Haw and the final Wilson qualifier in nice conditions.

Today was Hadrian’s first summit- Winder, in some really wintery weather. He was an absolute star

Ed has also been doing lots of training with the pup and I refer to them as my ‘fell wall assessors’ as they have a favourite route up and along the wall at the base of the fell and are always keen to report on the weather and ground conditions!

I’m just about on track for #run1000miles but have not been getting wrapped up in the numbers. It’s been a really busy few weeks and I’m generally feeling tired so I’m looking forward to a break!

A mountain to climb

I’ve been seriously lax and given myself a mountain of catching up to do!

So in an exercise of haste (and laziness!) here is the top pics from Jan-March.

#run1000miles is ticking away and I’m trying to balance my running with some decent rides for Flanders. Today Ed and I faced up some big(ish) hills and won- so I’m feeling ok right now!

Running is still ticking away, I’ve been rather busy and seem to have an unshakable fatigue at the moment that has impacted on my pace. Hopefully the answer is just a bit of a rest and I’m hoping that will be part of my Easter break (although I do have an ultra booked in!).

Well, looking through these pictures really does make me smile 😊. I also feel incredibly fortunate to be able to go on little adventures almost every day!

Stretched

Maybe it’s this time of year, the days are shorter in a practical sense, challenges stack up, the post Christmas glow means that we feel that pull towards loved ones more acutely and so all other things seem to be a wall between us and them. It’s still dark. It’s still grey. It’s still wet. We’re all stretched.

And yet somehow, we find that motivation within us and get out for a run. The #run1000miles challenge gives us parameters, goals and targets- just the sort of thing that we start looking for in January. Now, how do we maintain motivation and also ensure that running is not a means to an end but an end in itself?

In 1991 one of the juggernauts of the Christmas lists (first released mid 70’s, we had it in the 90’s and making yet another comeback for 2018!) was Stretch Armstrong. My childhood friend had one and we’d devise ways of stretching this guy to infinity, the fascination of course being, would he return to his previous unstretched form? He always did.

It was reassuring that whatever torture we’d inflict on Mr Armstrong, he’d always have the resilience to bounce back.

When we stretch ourselves on the track, road or trail, we do it, safe in the knowledge that we will bounce back. We’ll be ready to hit the next rep, tomorrow’s training, this weekend’s race. We might even bounce back even better, stronger, more resilient than before.

One day, I finally got hold of my own Stretch Armstrong. I wanted to know how he always bounced back so I made a small incision, to find out. He was never the same again.

I guess we can all be stretched and it can be a really positive thing- inertia is boring right? You can’t fulfil your potential if you don’t stretch yourself. And I think that’s what #run1000miles is all about- keeping some spring in your stretch!

Brought in the New Year with 8 miles of renewal. 4 miles up, 4 miles down, simple as that. And man it hurt after a Christmas of good food and drink.

The Nine Standards is an old school fell race- I reviewed it last year so I won’t spend time reinventing it- I’ll leave the reinventing to people on my Facebook timeline.

So instead of reinventing brand new resolutions this year (because come on- if your resolutions are the same every year they’re not exactly new or realistic are they!?)

I’ve had a great 2017 in so many ways and I think that I’m doing ok- so let’s just focus on keeping standards in 2018, building on my 2017 achievements and learning from mistakes.

My Nine Standards to maintain for 2018!

(In no particular order!)

1. Stay injury free: in so far as it’s in my control. That means stretching. Not racing every week. Give myself time to recover.

2. Keep things exciting. Buy myself a road bike- I’m riding the 74km Tour of Flanders in April! Run and bike.

3. Maintain 20 miles a week (ish) to represent for Trail Running Magazine’s #run1000miles!

4. Consistently update the blog. Stay up to date and make the effort to review races in detail.

5. Continue to make healthy eating choices (most of the time!)

6. Build on results so far by challenging myself to commit to more structured training and building self confidence by running as part of a group.

7. Be honest with myself: I couldn’t come up with any more standards so there we go!

Happy trails everyone and enjoy the challenge!

A Christmas Eve win and 1000 miles done!

We headed to Lancaster on Christmas Eve to have a go at the Christmas Cracker 10K. After a few social drinks the night before with family (traffic cones at the ready) I wasn’t expecting much and was just looking forward to a run out before the festivities began.

It started at the George and the Dragon pub and it was a wonderfully warm welcome (although the sight of the bar was slightly less welcome!) We hunkered down and warmed up nicely before the start.

Soon enough we were off- totally flat route. Pretty much and out and back. I could see Ed tearing off ahead and tried to keep on top of my breathing as the air was so cold. The miles soon ticked by and as I reached for my gel at around 2.5 miles, I realised that my Garmin wasn’t switched on- D’oh!

So I started it from the halfway point and hoped I could gain an insight of pacing from then. I knew that I was in the lead but I didn’t know by how much or what pace I’d been going up to then. The ultra (Tour de Helvellyn) was still in my legs from the week before so I wasn’t expecting much.

Before I knew it, I was pulling into the finish as First Lady in a respectable 43.30.

Superb race full of friendly people, excellent organisers and marshals, welcoming pub- get stuck in!

My next concern was our traditional Christmas Day 10K and making dessert- done and done!

Now the big finish- we headed to Otley to spend some time with Ed’s family, we had a wonderful time- even getting out for a bike ride!

And it was on top of Otley Chevin that I reached my 1000 mile mark for 2017- and what a 2017! And I’m also super excited to be a #run1000miles ambassador for Trail Running Magazine in 2018- so keep an eye out online and in the magazine next year!

The best year of my life so far! Made possible by Ed, my family and his. Here’s to another year of progress!