Taper week. never have two words looked so beautiful on a scruffy bit of paper than these! After three very heavy race weekends on the bounce, the realisation that I wasn’t going to have to do as much running this week was a joy to behold. It meant I could spend my Monday having a lie-in, resting my aching body with all its cuts and bruises from it’s weekend of OCR without feeling guilty.
In all honesty this taper week was more well planned than I could have anticipated as I have been shattered all week, to the point where twice I came home from work, sat on the bed to take off my work clothes and found myself waking up an hour later in that bemused state of “What year is this, what planet am I on?” that comes from an unexpected nap… and I don’t nap! I clearly needed a rest.
I made it a light training week, with just two Bootcamp sessions, and it’s fair to say I struggled with these, a bruised rib making some exercises nearly impossible and leaving me feeling a bit pathetic! I managed a couple of kilometres of running during these sessions but nothing crazy, so I should have been going into Friday well rested, but I still felt sluggish and tired.
Friday evening I travelled with the hubby to Rye Harbour for the first of the three races that make up the Rye Summer Series with a sense of trepidation. I had won the series last year but am well aware that my running is not where it was, I was curious to see, in race conditions and on this flat course, exactly how much slower I’ve actually gotten!
It was a really hot evening, as we set off out of the harbour and along the road, before turning into the nature reserve. The wind was fairly strong pushing back at you as you ran, and It was already feeling like a struggle, it felt like my brain was having an argument with itself as I ran, the pessimistic side telling me “You can’t do this, you’ll never make 10km, You’re already struggling” against the side of me that stubbornly refuses to ever give up “you’ve got this, don’t stop running, it doesn’t matter what time you do, just get it done”
The race directors had made the decision to move the water station from the end of the out and back course, to the 3km mark meaning you would hit it twice due to the hot conditions, and the hit of cool water was quite reviving. I had a bit of a stitch from the off and my knee was aching, I was being passed fairly regularly and really felt like I was struggling out to the 5km point. Round the cone and back the way we had came, I started finally to get into my stride, picked the pace up a bit and began to feel a bit more comfortable despite the heat feeling 10 times worse now the wind was at your back and not in your face. Back past the water station most of the second cup went over my head, as I started to pick a few people off again, turning into the final straight and finishing seconds after one of my bootcamp friends who I’d not quite been able to catch. After a quick breather I jogged to the end of the harbour and back to make up the 10km that my watch had clocked slightly short and ended up clocking it as just over 52 mins although my race time was less than this due to my extra little jog. This was 4mins slower than last year, which feels a little disappointing despite knowing I would be slower, but I had still managed a top 10 ladies finish and it’s given me a time to aim to beat next month!
I finished my week with a personal training session where we did a short run then lifted weights and had a really long stretch giving me a slightly shorter than planned distance for the week, and brought my well needed “rest week” to a close. This week no excuses, time to get back out on those long runs!
As I sit writing this, it’s getting towards the end of the month and so far all I’ve done is one race. I’ve done a lot of socialising, and spent a week sitting in the sunshine and exploring the Greek Island of Kefalonia and getting fatter by the day, but very little running!
The Rye Classic Summer Series July 10k
Doing this race was a last minute decision after my friend Kevin messaged me and invited me along as there was space in the car, so I agreed, and tagged along with him and another friend Ashley, unrested and a little un-well.
Ordinarily I would take at least one rest day, and usually two, if I was planning on racing seriously, but as this was a spur of the moment thing far from being well rested I had done two tough training sessions the day before. I had also come down with some kind of chesty cough a few days before that had left me finding it hard to breath when exercising. I was told this was a nice flat course that is a good one to chase a PB, but I wasn’t hopeful and just figured it was something to do and a chance to have a run and get a medal.
Despite all this, at the start line I got swept up and set off way too fast, I over took a few people, and found myself neck and neck with another lady for quite a while, and was worried I was going to be battling her the whole way, knowing I couldn’t really go much faster to overtake, but suddenly she wasn’t there anymore and had dropped behind me. I had settled into the race and snuck a glance at my watch and realised I was still holding a good pace, as I came up to the turn around point of this out and back run and the front runners were coming back towards me I started counting the women in front of me, one, two, three… three, that was it, I was sitting in 4th place, I couldn’t quite believe it. This spurred me on to carry on pushing it and not give up, whats more the next lady was quite a way behind me. I held on, but by mile 5 my chesty cough was catching up with me, and I was wheezing, I was also overheating as once we turned around the wind dropped and the humidity seemed to treble, with only a mile to go though I didn’t want to give up, I could see by my watch that a PB might actually be in my grasp, I pushed on, and there was the finish line, I stopped my watch and beep, beep, I had done it, new 5k PB, new 10k PB and at under 50mins I was ecstatic, remembering back a year or so when I didn’t believe that would ever be in my grasp, I had also held onto 4th place lady and had come 2nd in my age category as well. Ash and Kev also hit new PBs so it was a great evening run all round.
So after this triumph I was out of races for July, with every weekend taken up with holidays and social engagements that left me this morning with the highest number on the scales that I’ve seen since January, so this last week in July is all about training hard and eating right to try and pull this back to something I’m happier with (not liking my mirror or scales at the moment!) I’m also going to look to see if I can find and squeeze in another last second race entry this weekend, if there is one that I can work around my crazy social life, we’ll see…
… So despite there only being one week left this month I managed to find not one, but two last minute races. The first of these was the final in a series of 5km races run on Bexhill seafront in the summer, although this is the first one I’ve been able to get to. I went along with my friend Jac, and decided to pace her rather than try and push for a PB of my own, and had a lovely time doing the three up and down laps of the short stretch of seafront at a pace that was comfortable in the heat of the July evening. This was a nice little run out on a Wednesday evening and it was great to help Jac get a new 5km PB in the process.
Brighton Trailblazer 10km
The second race I found to do was a 10km trail run near Brighton, on the final Sunday of the month, which I convinced my husband that we should do before returning for our friends birthday celebrations later in the day. We also took Kev along with us, to take on this hilly course set over a section of the South Downs.
The start of the race was very crowded, and if you are at all competitive I would suggest getting as close to the start line as possible. The start was up a narrow track where we were basically queued up to cross the line, and we were near the back of the line, once we were off it stayed very narrow for about a mile and it was really difficult to overtake people.
The scenery during this race was nothing short of beautiful. Running over hills, overlooking the sea, which was a deep blue on a gorgeous summers day, through shady wooded paths, and over grassy farmland.
The race finished with a nice downhill section and offers you a medal and a selection of cakes at the finish. It comes up slightly short of 10km and doesn’t include a water stop on route but both of these things were clear on the website before you signed up so there were no surprises. It seemed well organised, and really was a lovely pretty run.
And that brings July to a close, as with this month, I’ve not got anything booked in yet for August, but it’s unlikely to stay that way for long!
An absolutely beautiful weekend dawned in mid July bringing with it a double race weekend at Pippingford Park for Judgement Day. A 10km race for Saturday, followed by a 20km race on the Sunday. Since I couldn’t decide which race I should do, I opted to run both over the two days.
We arrived really early at the race site having had a really good journey to Pippingford, so we hung around in the sunshine doing what we usually do, taking selfies and chatting to whoever was around, until it was time to (pretend to) warm up and take our place on the start line.
I set off running with Kevin Coda, my running buddy for the day, down a short hill, before turning and coming back up and encountering the first obstacle, as the course weaved up and down the field there were a set of low hurdles, Kev slightly ahead of me, as I cleared the first hurdle I looked up and found Kev on the floor clutching his ankle. It was looking a bad, he couldn’t stand, one of the people on the sidelines called over a medic while I watched feeling helpless. After a quick assessment by the fantastic medic, Kev decided to get up and see if he could walk, we walked down to the end of the field, at this point now last in our wave, jogged slowly back up the other side and got over the next hurdle without any more drama and Kev decided he could continue.
We slowly started picking up the pace again as much as Kevin’s ankle would allow, and as we were directed into the first section of water we had caught back up to the end of our wave. We picked our way though the water and clambered out the other side, up a bank to be greeted with what turned out to be a very long tyre carry. We hitched the tyres onto our shoulders and started weaving around the side of the hill in what felt like a random way, but turned out to map the JD trident logo if you had on GPS to track the route.
The tyre carry was followed by a bit more running, and water wades before coming back around into the event village where you had to jump into and clamber out of a set of deep water filled ditches, a slurp of water and then it was a crawl through a muddy, watery trench covered with a cargo net, then through a pond before heading back out of the event village again.
As we were running through a section of bracken by the side of a lake though disaster struck for a second time as Kevin rolled his ankle for a second time, and this time the pain wouldn’t subside. As we helplessly watched all the people we had managed to overtake run back past us, some people offered to tell the next marshal, and once Kev could stand again I helped him to hobble onwards. We slowly managed to get out of the bracken and onto a wider path, where we were met by a marshal in a golf cart. I waited while Kev chatted to the guy and decided what he wanted to do. We were not even half way yet, Kev told me to go on but I refused to leave him if he was staying on the course, he decided to carry on, but two steps past the golf buggy and it was clear this would be a massive mistake. I stepped in and told him he had to stop. Eventually he agreed and good thing too as we later found out it was a break. Now I was on my own.
I jogged down to the next obstacle which was a sandbag hoist and got on with the job at hand. Since hurting my own ankle my personal trainer has had me slinging a lot of weights around, and this had clearly payed off a bit, as I was able to hoist the snadbag fairly quickly without help (at Copehill, I had needed the help of my friend Dom to get it off the ground).
A slackline over a river was followed by what felt like a long slog with a sandbag on my shoulders up a hill and down the other side, with a hop over a low wall, and a couple of trenches, before eventually coming to a lake crossing where you had to swim out to a high platform, hoist yourself up a net then down a ladder the otherside.
A set of monkey bars earned me my first time penalty, Judgement Day had decided that for some obstacles there would be a 2min time penalty added if you could not complete it, as this was a qualifying race for the UK OCR championships. I like this idea for fairness but it still has its drawbacks, in this case I managed to get halfway across the bars and was so proud of this as it was the furthest I have ever got in a race on the monkey bars, but was happy to give my number to take my penalty for failing, what irritated me though was a woman I had managed to catch up again after stopping with Kev just walked up to them went “nah I cant do them” took her time penalty and just ran off without even attempting it, leaving me to catch her again, but both with the same amount of time added, this is just a small irritation though.
There were a set of overhang walls, and later an 8ft wall, that I managed to get a boost over, some under and over walls and a drag of a tyre up a hill before running it back down, then it was the last loop back into the event village again.
The end of the race included a low rope traverse over a pit, followed by a rope climb out of a muddy, water filled pit. I gave it a go, but as usual was unable to hoist myself up the rope so took another time penalty here. Up a tall mound of loose dirt, and down the other side, and then finally a set of hang tough rings to take you to the finish. I swung straight off the rings to take my final time penalty then ran over the finish line.
The next day it was another early start back to Pippingford for the second day of racing. Again we arrived nice and early so registration was quick and we spent some time chatting as the sun began to come out.
In this race I was going to be running with Dom Wright, Lee Cote and Syz Goss, with the plan of taking it easy and having fun while we got around the 20km course.
The start of the 20km race was the same as the day before over the hurdles and into the muddy water before hitting the tyre carry, taking this at a fast walk rather than a run and still finding time to pose with our tyres as we made our way around the trident.
In short order we were back into the event village taking on the trenches and wading through the pond, where Syz and I decided to do a bit of tongue in cheek posing in our Mudstacle and Muddy Race t-shirts.
After this it was back into the woods, through the bracken where I had lost Kev the day before, back round to the hoist, slack line over the river and in what felt like no time at all we were at the sandbag carry. If I had thought this was long and tough yesterday I had seen nothing yet! The distance had been extended, quite significantly. At the top of the hill, it was with longing that we looked at where the day before it had been back down the hill, before turning up instead and traipsing with the heavy bags through a section of bracken, into a ditch that was hard to get back out of with a sandbag on my back, and eventually into a log strewn pond.
After this is was mercifully back down the hill, until eventually it was over the wall, elbows and arms protesting heavily, and then down to the sweet relief of dropping the sandbag back onto the pile.
A section of running followed feeling free and light after losing the sandbag, then it was back into the lake for the swim and cargo net climb, which was followed by a river wade, made technical by all the debris – broken rocks and branches – in the water, I nearly made it out unscathed, but ended up taking a small gash to my leg from a submerged rock.
The course now diverged and we eventually came to a long rig made up of hanging rings, chains and ropes, I fell straight off the rings, but Dom and Syz both made it as far as the chain before falling off, and we all took a time penalty here. This was followed by a nice downhill running section, sadly though at Pippingford it seems what goes down must come back up, and more hills quickly followed burning the legs, followed by a section of high walls.
We next came to the monkey bars, where again I made it to the middle before falling down and taking another time hit, and another section of up and downhill running.
At the top of this section came two hang-over walls, the catch being that one was the opposite way round to the norm, giving a new challenge, but with the help of the guys I was up and over both without any problems. Yet more running then we came to a wooden beam set high up, another time penalty obstacle, this time though, again with a little help from my friends I was up and over and didn’t need to add any more time to my tally.
Some more running and we came to a long rope traverse over a lake, which once completed you had to climb out and round a tree, then swim back to the opposite bank and then hoist yourself out of the lake and up a rope. This earned me another time penalty, as I couldn’t even get onto the rope.
Once out of the lake and after a quick water stop, we were off again, across some parallel bars and then down and over the 8ft wall. Here Dom got cramp in his leg, so we took 5 mins to help him stretch it out and massage it back to life before setting off and coming to the over and under walls. After this was the tyre drag and then finally back to the event village for the final section of rope traverse, rope climb (time penalty for me) mound to run up, and hang tough to finish (another swing and a miss on my part)
By the time I crossed the line I was exhausted. This race had really delivered, it was tough, fun with great obstacles and a good atmosphere.