Fell Fun :-)

*Touch wood* but I finally seem to be over the recurring colds that have been plaguing me since October! As a result, I have been enjoying my running and have managed to fit in more fell runs. Currently, I’ve been able to hit the fells once a week and, as a result, I am beginning to feel stronger on the hills. I’m still slow but you have to start somewhere!

The last 3 fell runs have seen me ascend Dodd, Whinlatter (a new Wainwright for me!) and Latrigg.

I found the climb up Dodd agonising! The ascent was relentless and calf crushingly steep! I made it up to the top and, despite some low cloud, the view was amazing.

Dodd elevation

Dodd elevation

Dodd summit

Dodd summit

It took just over 30 minutes to get up to the top and less than 10 minutes to get back down!

My next fell run was up Whinlatter to bag another Wainwright. It was a truly beautiful morning and so Tristan and Thea came down to the visitor centre to play on the park and entertain themselves in the cafe while I ran. The climb was arduous but nowhere near as tough as Dodd. As a result, I managed to maintain a run, albeit slow, up to the stile. After climbing the stile, it was an almost vertical ascent for about 50 yards before the path veered to the left and I was able to regain my running momentum.

It was incredibly boggy on the tops and it was hard work to keep on going. It wasn’t long before I reached Whinlatter Top and headed across to Brown How. This used to be thought of as the highest point but it’s been proven that Whinlatter Top is the higher point. Being such a clear, sunny day, the views were breathtaking! I stood for a while, alone, on Brown How, just soaking up the views and feeling so privileged to have this on our doorstep.

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Looking across to Brown How from Whinlatter Top

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Whinlatter elevation

Whinlatter elevation

At the summit shelter on Brown How

At the summit shelter on Brown How

I then headed back to Whinlatter Top to begin the descent back to the car. On a particularly boggy section, my left leg disappeared up to the knee and I managed to twist my right knee. Luckily, it wasn’t too severe and I was able to continue . I then made up the miles with some loops on the tracks and met up with Tristan and Thea who’d both had a lovely time enjoying the weather.

My third fell run in 3 weeks was up and round Latrigg. This time I was joined by Sam and Dave and it really helped having them there in order to drag me round. The ascent starts almost as soon as we’re out of the car. The first part of the climb up to the second gate is definitely the toughest part of this route. I kept plodding away, slow and steady, and managed to hold off a walk break for some time. Once past the second gate, I managed to maintain a run all the way to the summit, distracted from the pain by the chat! Again, despite some low cloud, the views were, as ever, amazing.

View from the summit of Latrigg

View from the summit of Latrigg

We headed back to Gale Road carpark, veering right at the gates in order to head down to the old railway line. The descent was a lot dryer than the last time I was there. The run along the old railway was a slog and I had to dig in to maintain a steady pace. Again, having Sam and Dave with me really helped keep me going as the path seemed endless!

We picked up the pace for the final half a mile and I was pleased to find that we’d averaged just over 10 minute miles for the whole route. I’m hoping that my efforts on the hills will help me increase my speed on the flat and help me achieve my goal of a quicker 10k time this year.

Latrigg elevation

Latrigg elevation

I’m really loving hitting the fells right now and hope I can continue heading to the hills as often as I can. Running up fells is tough, really tough but I feel so lucky that the fells are on my doorstep and I am fit and healthy enough to enjoy them. the effort of the climb is always repaid by the glorious views and the real sense of achievement you feel from being able to say ‘I did it’.

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Where The Heart Is…

Again, Tuesday saw me battling the inner demons in order to get myself out to the track session. Every week I have to drag myself there. It was cold, I was tired, I’d been sneezing all day. The sofa looked so appealing that it took a huge amount of persuasion from both myself and the other half to get ready and get out there. Besides, I had a new sports bra to try and I was eager to see how it performed! After a recommendation from a fellow member on the Facebook group Run Mummy Run, I was keen to try the ‘La Isla Run Sports Bra’. I usually use the Shock Absorber Run bra and this looked very similar but only £15 including P&P. It also came in blue and yellow, the colour of Leeds United!

La Isla Run Sports Bra. In the colours of Leeds United!

La Isla Run Sports Bra. In the colours of Leeds United!

I don’t know why I have this mental battle every week as I invariably feel much better after going. It was another good turnout for the session and, after a three lap warm up, we began the session with 4x100m. The main set was a parlauf which meant grabbing a partner. The parlauf involved a 300m hard effort followed by a 100m slow jog recovery. As you finish your hard effort, you hand the baton to your partner and, while they do their 300m, you jog slowly back 100m before meeting up with them again. We did this 7 times. It was hard work as we were aiming for a relative perceived effort of 8/10.

I was happy that my efforts were relatively consistent throughout the session – the timings recorded were a little out as I struggled to press my button whilst handing over the baton! It was another good run and I’m glad I went. It does hurt pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, running at a much quicker pace than usual. However, to progress, you need to keep pushing your perceived limits. I was pleased to note that my new sports bra performed really well and it’ll be interesting to see how it compares to the Shock Absorber Run bra with regards to its durability and ongoing performance.

4x100m: Parlauf 300m, 100m recovery

4x100m: Parlauf 300m, 100m recovery

I took Wednesday afternoon off work to go and cheer on the girls as they took part in their first cross country competition for their school. They were very nervous beforehand. The weather was horrendous! Heavy rain and winds meant that this wasn’t going to be easy and, along with the muddy ground, this was a baptism of fire into the world of cross country running!

Erin was due to run first and we headed out into the rain to watch her. She had one lap of the playing field to cover. It seemed such a long way for their little legs. As she approached the finish line, you could see her digging in and her competitive spirit kicked in. She looked so determined!The nerves that she’d had beforehand had evaporated and she was desperate to do it again!

As Shannon lined up at the start, there’d been no let up in the intensity of the rain. It was thoroughly miserable. Her group had two laps to do!! Shannon settled into her pace and, although it was clear that she was finding it hard, she kept on going. What great spirit! As she neared the line, you could tell she was exhausted but she was beaming! She loved it! All the runners that day showed such heart to keep going despite the awful weather.

Happy girls :-)

Happy girls 🙂

On Thursday, I took the whole day off work. The other half was going away and, with the girls at school/pre-school, it was the ideal opportunity to head to the hills. After dropping the girls off at school and Tristan off in Carlisle, I headed down to Latrigg. I arrived in Keswick at about 10:30 and, although the sky was dark, it was dry. Very unusual for Keswick!

Latrigg route

Latrigg route

After a change of shoes and a check of my Camelbak, I set off at a steady pace for the slog up Latrigg along Spooney Green Lane. I found this tough going today. My quads were still feeling the effects of Tuesday’s faster running and so I had to do the segment up until the gate through a mixture of run/walking. After passing through the gate, I made sure that I just kept plodding forwards, managing to run the rest of the way. As I neared the top, the wind grew in intensity offering extra resistance training! Despite some low cloud, the view was still breathtaking and I had to stop to take some pictures. I didn’t linger long, however, as it was a really biting wind.

At the top!

At the top!

View down to Derwentwater

View down to Derwentwater

On the summit of Latrigg

On the summit of Latrigg

I then headed back the way I’d come, diverting on to the path that headed to Gale Road car park. It was then on to a heavenly downhill section and, although my Speedcrosses generally cope well on soggy paths, some of the grassy areas were extremely muddy and I had to take care in order to prevent ending up flat on my back! It was then on to a little road section before hitting the old railway line. While mainly flat, there are some sneaky little inclines along the way which are quite testing when your calf muscles and quads have already been overworked!

Elevation

Elevation

However, I managed to maintain a pace I was happy with and it wasn’t long before I was back to where I started. I had to run a few yards past the car to round it up to 6.5 miles. I like nice, round numbers.

Pace

Pace

Latrigg looming in the background

Latrigg looming in the background

Top Strava Results!

Top Strava Results!

Despite the sluggish start, I was happy with today’s run. I love heading to the hills whenever I have the opportunity. Physically, running up hills is an awesome workout. But it’s so much more than that. Surrounded by such natural beauty, there is nothing more cleansing for the soul than the raw, challenging beauty of the fells.

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Keeping It In The Family

I’ve had another good, but tough, week of running. On Tuesday, I went to the club track session. As usual, I had to drag myself there. It was oh, so cold and a night tucked up on the sofa wrapped in my blanket looked like a much better alternative. It’s always difficult dragging myself to track as you know it’s going to be at least 40 minutes of pain! Why do I keep going back? The feeling I get when I’ve crossed the finish line after the final rep is unbeatable. It means I’ve survived a punishing session. When I thought I’d used up all my available energy on the 2nd rep and still had 8 reps to go, I’d managed to silence that voice in my head telling me to throw in the towel and made it to the end. How awesome is that! If nothing else, running teaches us that we are capable of so much more than we ever imagined.

Tonight’s session was 2x400m with 400m jog recovery followed by 4x800m, again with 400m recovery. The focus was on even pacing throughout the whole distance ie, no starting off like a Cheetah and finishing like a tortoise!

trackpaceI was pleased with the consistency of the reps; the first 3x 800m were all within 4 seconds. The final lap, I just wanted the pain to end and blasted it a bit hence the 3min 26! Defeated the purpose of keeping the reps consistent but, the end was in sight and I wanted it to finish as soon as possible!

Thursday’s club session was a little bit different to usual. We had a mile warm up before a tempo session. The idea was to run at 20 seconds slower than race pace. I just ran as fast as I was able for the duration of the tempo session. Those 4 miles at a quick-for-me pace was punishing but I felt good. I often feel a bit of a one pace pony but I felt there was a real difference between my warm up pace, tempo pace and cool down. It’s so much easier to do a tough session when you’re surrounded by others going through the same ordeal. Suffering with you but also reveling in a job done well at the end of a grueling session.

morton tempoOn Saturday morning, I met up with my sister Jacqui at Chance’s Park ready for her first ever parkrun. It was a real family affair as my daughters Shannon and Erin were both keen to run along with us. It was bitterly cold with a biting wind but, as the horn sounded, we soon settled into a steady pace. Due to the ground still being rather wet, it was the winter route that we tackled. 5 laps is hard psychologically but, with a mixture of walk running at a pace to suit the girls, we made it to the final lap. Shannon asked for her barcode so that she could run off ahead and record a faster time than us. Erin stuck with her Auntie Jacqui and guided her to the finish of her first, but certainly not the last, parkrun. It was then over to the cafe for a well earned hot chocolate. The community that parkrun offers makes everyone feel welcome no matter what their ability. It is for this reason that I’m positive that a new parkrunning addict was born today!

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Picture courtesy of Tristan Reid

Sunday runday, a long run with Ali. Ali is, once again, in training for the London Marathon in April. As part of this schedule, she’d planned a 15 miler. Because this year I have decided not to run a marathon, I’m not going to be doing runs that are over half marathon distance. I do intend to keep my long run to a minimum of 10 miles, though, just because it’s a good base for building up the miles in future, if necessary.

Ali planned to park at Rosley before running the 5 miles to mine. I’d then join her for the remaining 10 miles back to her car. A text off Ali just before 8:25am revealed that she’d be at mine for around 9:10am. At 9:05, I headed out the door in order to give my Garmin time to find a signal. It was so cold and the wind was cutting through me. I decided to start my Garmin off and jog up and down the road until she arrived. Still no sign of her and so I just kept running down the road until I spotted her coming out of a junction. The next 2 miles were into a headwind, an icily strong headwind that Ali had been battling with up to this point. It was a real relief when we turned out of it and for the majority of the remaining route the wind was behind us.

We had cold rain and some hail to contend with but, apart from some severe hills, it was an enjoyable run that was completed at a comfortable pace.

rosley 11

rosley 11 hillsSo, with running with my girls and my twin on Saturday followed by a run with my cousin, Ali, on Sunday, running really is a family affair!

 

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Sport in Action Resolution 10K

After dropping the girls off with Grandma and Auntie Karen, we made our way through to Carlisle Racecourse for the Resolution 10k. This run is perfectly timed to assess the damage of the excessive indulgence over the Christmas period and inspire you to, once again, get back on the fitness wagon.

This was a sell out event and it’s easy to understand why. There is such a friendly atmosphere from the organisers of this event and from the other runners. Following registration, we hung around in the warm hall to await the safety announcement.

resolution 10k route

Conditions were perfect for running but I felt so nervous about this event that I just couldn’t relax at all. I do need to learn to chill out more as nerves can easily work against you.

As 11am approached, we were led out to the start and it wasn’t long before the starting hooter had gone and we were away. As usual, I set off a tad fast. The first 2 miles felt like a long drag with a long, gradual incline. It was with some relief that we turned off and had some relative flat to take a breather. The next couple of miles were on narrow country roads with some undulations. It was just before mile 4 that my earlier pace caught up with me and thoughts of stopping entered my mind! That nagging voice telling me to quit keeps coming back but I did manage to ignore it to some extent. My pace eased off during miles 4 to 5 as I battled with thoughts of stopping and walking in order to halt the hurt.

At mile 4, Ali passed me looking strong. I need to take pacing lessons off her as she’s very good at getting it right! Nearing mile 5 was a great relief – the end was in sight. A guy had just passed me but I was determined to stay with him and managed to get some focus back. My breathing was comfortable and, for the most part, my legs felt OK. It was only my mind telling me that I’d done enough and couldn’t give any more! I dug in and made the lady about 50 yards ahead of me my new target. Having something else to focus on really helped distract me from  the pain in my calf, a niggle that had developed after Tuesday’s track session.

As I started reeling in the lady in front of me, I found some renewed energy and managed a to pick up the pace to the finish. Despite no PB, I was pleased to find that I’d at least achieved my fastest time for this course. I’d finished in 52:14. This now gives me a benchmark for the rest of the year and, I hope, I’ll be able to achieve a new 10k PB at some point this year. It wasn’t long before Tristan came storming over the line achieving his fastest time for this route.

resolution 10k pace

 

Overall, this was a fantastic event. Great organisation and friendly, supportive marshals. For only £9 to enter, this was a real value for money event, especially considering it was chip timed and everyone got a medal!

resolution medal

To achieve a PB, I need to do a lot of work and the run on Sunday has renewed my motivation and desire to do it. Importantly, I need to find methods to mute out the voice in my head that tells me I can’t do it as I do believe I have it in me to go faster. It’s just the self doubt keeps creeping in.

resolution 10k smiles

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Running Plans

The last few weeks, it seems to have rained incessantly and the high winds have been a constant feature in the majority of my runs. It was, therefore, a pleasant surprise to have Thursday’s club run in almost perfect conditions. There was a big turnout of 30 runners for the session; it was good to see.

Tonight’s run was up Kingstown with laps of the industrial estate up there. The long drag up Scotland Road was as arduous as ever – the climb up Stanwix Bank is energy sapping. I felt pretty good and managed to keep to a decent-for-me pace. As we reached Kingstown, I managed two full laps of the estate. This involves running past McDonald’s twice. Unusually, there was no heckling and no cries of ‘Run, Forrest’ from those inside. It’s usually a dead certainty that you’ll get some clever comment ‘Knees up’ from someone.

As we headed back down Scotland Road, my legs were beginning to feel heavy, especially as we ran back up Stanwix. However, I kept plugging away. It’s so much easier to dig in and keep going when you’re surrounded by other runners. It almost seems like you can draw on their strength, find something deep inside yourself that enables you to keep going. If I was on my own it would be all too easy to stop when it starts hurting!

I managed 7.3 miles in 59:56, which gives an average pace of 8’15 min/mile. I’m very happy with that effort as I’m getting closer to the 8’00 min/mile pace that I’d love to achieve over these distances.

On Sunday, 12th January, I headed out to Carlisle to meet with Ali and get our longest run of the year so far in. It was cold, very cold and so we wrapped up well. We headed up London Road, always a long drag up there, and turned off on to Cumwhinton Road. More hills were waiting as we made the climb up into Cumwhinton. This is part of the Cumbrian Run route and these hills never get easier! As we hit the smaller country roads, the ice became a real problem. I think there were several occasions where we found ourselves stranded in the middle of a sheet of ice and had to take tentative steps off. On some occasions, we failed to stop ourselves and had to make daring leaps into the verge in order to remain up right. Miles 8 and 9 were the most problematic and our pace dropped off. Packing our ice skates would have been a good idea!

As we headed back into town and hit the paths, the ice was less of an issue and so we were able to pick up the pace again. We kept to a comfortable, steady pace as this is part of Ali’s training for the Virgin London Marathon in April.

We neared Ali’s house and stopped our Garmin’s at 14.2 miles. The furthest run so far this year and we both felt comfortable afterwards. We did it in 2 hours 17 minutes, giving an average pace of 9’42 min/mile. It’s a good confidence booster to be able to do a distance like that so early in the year. Indeed, I haven’t run more than half marathon distance since my marathon last July!

As thoughts turn to my running plans for the year, I’m still undecided as to which direction to go in. Do I do another marathon or make this the year where I attempt to get a new 10k PB? I also want to do more fell / trail running. Hmmm, decisions, decision. Do I focus on going long, or short and sweet?

What are your running plans for the year ahead?

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Fell Fit

The good thing about being off work is that fitting in my runs is a lot easier and heading to the fells becomes more frequent. Throughout December I managed to fit in several visits to Sale Fell. Compared to other fells, Sale Fell may be diminutive in size but it still offers a real challenge, and a breathtaking view!

On Sunday, 29th December, a year to the day that we lost dad, I headed to the fells with Ali. It was just what I needed. The plan was to ascend both High Pike and Carrock Fell. Carrock offered us both the chance to bag another Wainwright. We parked in a layby at Calebrek and piled on the layers. There was a biting wind and the low cloud meant we couldn’t even see the top of Carrock! We headed upwards, the ground saturated with water. As we climbed higher, visibility reduced significantly. It actually felt great! Our world is usually so big and chaotic but here, it was just us contained in a world of only a few meters. Very peaceful.

Eventually, we reached Lingy Hut and carried on further. It wasn’t long before we realised we’d gone too far as we were looking down the valley with Carrock on our left and Bowscale Tarn just below us. We headed back the way we’d come, got our bearings, and headed up High Pike. A very light dusting of snow greeted us and, after a quick photo shoot, we headed back down and onwards to Carrock. The wind had picked up and it wasn’t a day for lingering on the tops!!

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The run across to Carrock was very, very soggy. At one point I disappeared knee deep into a pool of ice cold water.

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We made the scramble up to the cairn and bagged another Wainwright. We then headed back down to the car and thawed ourselves out. We’d covered 10.6 miles in 2 hours 18. Fell running is hard work! There is nothing that makes me feel more unfit than heading up these hills. It never gets easier! However, I am now beginning to see the benefits from flogging myself on the fells.

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On Saturday, 4th January I headed out intending to do a steady half marathon distance. It was raining quite heavily but the wind had dropped significantly from the previous day making pretty perfect running conditions.

It was one of those days where everything feels right. Despite the long, miserable climb up into Fletchertown, I was still feeling strong. Approaching the halfway point, I realised that, if I kept plugging away, I could get under the magical 2 hours. I used a Clif Shot Blok at mile 6 and another at mile 9. Usually, things start going wrong at mile 10. I have this thought in my head whenever I do this distance and it’s become a real psychological block. I expect things to go wrong and so they inevitably do.

Mindful of this, I made a real effort to just keep going. I tuned into my body. I was breathing well and my legs were still feeling strong. I could do this. I could achieve a sub-2 hour half. In training. I tried not to get carried away, to keep focusing on where I was. I still had 3 miles to go and anything could happen. Approaching mile 12, I put my foot down. So close to the sub-2, there was no way I was letting it slip away.

I stopped my Garmin and was delighted to find I’d covered 13.1 miles in 1 hour 58 minutes and 39 seconds. My second fastest time for a half and only the second time I’ve gone sub-2 hours. It turned out that my desire to get that sub-2 meant that my last mile was my quickest of the day: 8’26!

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Since my partner, Tristan, started running last February, my own running has become more consistent. His enthusiasm for running has seriously increased my own motivation and we each know how important it is for us to run. Not only is it great for physical health, running is brilliant for maintaining sanity!

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The Cumberland Fell Runners Christmas Pudding Race

The Cumberland Fell Runners Christmas Pudding Run was held on the 15th December 2013. I’m finally getting round to blogging about it as it was a good little event. Better late than never, as they say.

The day before this run, the weather was truly awful. High winds and heavy rain. I was seriously beginning to doubt whether I’d actually make it to the event. As it happened, race day was perfect running weather. It was sunny, cool but, most importantly, the wind had abated considerably from the previous day.

After dropping the older two girls off at mum’s, Tristan and Thea came down to support me during the run. Amazingly, we found the place easily enough and there was already a long line of cars parked along the roadside. We had a little time to kill so, after registration, we wandered up and down the road in an effort to get warmed up and ready to tackle the fearsome hill.

The hill in question appears in Derwent AC’s Isel Cross run and so I’ve tackled it 3 times already over the years. It keeps drawing me back, though, as I’m determined to tame this beast! During the Isel Cross run, this hill appears at about mile 4. The CFR pudding run began at the foot of the hill and so I thought it’d be good to be able to run up on (relatively) fresh legs. The 5.5k route followed a path up the monstrous hill and then a loop round Setmurphy Woods with a total ascent/descent of 460ft.

At 11am, a total of 87 runners set off. At precisely that moment, an impatient farmer on a quad bike also set off up the narrow track worming his way past the runners, narrowly missing some! To begin with, the ascent is gentle and I was able to maintain an even pace despite the rather wet underfoot conditions.

It wasn’t long before we started the tough climb up and my pace slowed considerably. It would probably have been quicker to walk but I was determined to run all the way up. As I neared what I thought was the top, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’d made it! However, what is the top in the Isel Cross run, isn’t the top of the climb on this route! A marshal was directing us round to the left and another climb. This part was very muddy and, once at the top and out of the trees, we were exposed to a bitter headwind. It wasn’t long before the descent began, although there were still some sneaky climbs to contend with. My legs were beginning to protest at this point – it was day 15 of my Advent runstreak afterall!

*That* hill!

*That* hill!

I kept plugging away, my legs seeming to keep turning although they no longer felt like they belonged to me. Finally, I could see the finish and attempted to pick up the pace for the last few yards. It felt like I was running faster but in reality I was probably just running imperceptibly faster than before!

I was handed my Christmas Pudding and I was delighted to find I’d gone sub-30. Still suffering from a lingering cold, I wasn’t expecting much of myself. My Garmin read 27:31, giving an average pace of 8’41min/mile.

cfrtheaOverall, this was a well organised and well attended event. Definitely one I will do again, despite that evil hill. I know it’ll never get easier as, hopefully, I’ll just keep trying to go faster up it!

cfrshoesResults

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