Photo of race number

DNS

Photo of race number

My EMF race number that will not see any action😔

This is my race number for Edinburgh half marathon which I am not now going to be pinning to my Mersey Tri top and not lining up with a host of other runners on Regent Road in Edinburgh. After much soul searching and time spent trying to make a decision whether to run or not, I have concluded that I am just not well enough nor am I race ready with all the demands that the race will bring.

So how did we end up here? If you remember my post about Liverpool Half Marathon, I was keen to put my woes at not going under 2 hours behind me and focus on Edinburgh half marathon where I thought I had a good chance of finally attaining the sub 2 hours that has eluded me in 4 half marathons to date. Missing out on that time by 4 seconds at Wirral half marathon last September was particularly disappointing.

At Chirk Tri, I had some low level virus which affected my performance. I then had a period of about 3 weeks where I felt back on form and running felt free and easy; like running with the  brakes off. I picked up the mileage in preparation for the half marathon. Just as I was building up to my last long run of 12-13 miles before Edinburgh, I developed a cold. No matter, I thought, I will skip this run so as not to make the cold worse. The cold went on to develop into a right nasty stinker without any help from me!

Next thing I develop a nasty cough (which I don’t have very often) but also some of the signs of sinusitis (which I am prone to). The doctor gave me  antibiotics to help with clearing both. I had a few days where I felt dreadful and could barely go to work. By this time, I hadn’t exercised for nearly 2 weeks and was getting a bit anxious about losing fitness but I told myself to be patient and it would all be ok. I got my hopes up on Thursday afternoon as I definitely felt a lot better.

This morning I put on my running gear for the first time in 2 weeks and went for a gentle 3.5 km run to see how it would feel. While running I didn’t feel too bad but I knew I wasn’t on best form. Since then I have had a terrible headache. The sun is now shining in Edinburgh so we went out for a walk. I saw a few people with their finishers T shirts and medals from the 5k and 10k races earlier today and I felt a real stab of jealousy and then a wobbly chin.

I entered this race a long time ago and it was part of my challenge to myself to do a half marathon in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. I may have to rethink my challenge. So the disappointment is high and feels worse because I feel so unwell.

So to look on the positive, in hopefully getting some more rest, I will be fit and ready to take on Leeds Triathlon in 2 weeks. I really want to do a pontoon swim start and run on the same blue carpet at the finish as the elites do!

So I will curl up In front of the TV tonight, have a long lie tomorrow and chalk this one up to experience: my first ever Did Not Start.

Music to my ears

When Phil and I were discussing the possibility that he might do a blog post for me, he mentioned that there are two types of runner; one who responds to external stimuli and takes their cue from the world around them and the other who retreats within themselves to get through the run. Phil is obviously the first type as he likes to run with others and chat with them. I am very much the second type as I prefer to run alone, plugged into my headphones, lost in thought (usually planning my next blog post or thinking about what to eat for dinner!). That’s not to say that I don’t look around me; I like spotting wildlife and looking at nice views. I reckon it’s a 70:30 split for me internal/external.

Photo of AM at Worral 10k

No headphones at Wirral 10k in 2014 – note both feet in the air!

I don’t wear headphones when I am racing as most races don’t permit it for safety reasons (you need to be able to hear the marshals and not all races are on closed roads). When it comes to a race, I like soaking up the race atmosphere.  That’s when it is useful to at least be partly an external runner and perhaps do some training runs without headphones.

With my hearing loss, I do have a great pair of headphones. They hook round my ear and when I put my hearing aids to the T setting (the loop system that you often see in theatres), I can hear the music right in my hearing aid. It’s much safer as I can hear some background noise such as cars and people talking to me. The miracle is that there is no sound for others to hear, it seems to be right inside my hearing aid.

 

photo of ipod

My old skool ipod and miraculous headphones

So, definitely for me, one of life’s little pleasures is going for a run with your favourite music. I have always loved my pop music, from buying Smash Hits (I am giving my age away now!) to going to HMV to buy the latest 12 inch single. My taste is fairly mainstream but it is at the pop and rock end of the spectrum. So my running playlist simply has up tempo songs from my favourite bands.  Songs like Dog Days by Florence and the Machine, Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen and Beautiful Day by U2 are fairly obvious choices for running but I also have Take On Me by A-ha, Wages Day by Deacon Blue and The Way I Tend To Be by Frank Turner. I have just added Magnetised by Tom Odell, Payphone by Maroon 5 and Ghost by Ella Henderson.

Keep your head up by Ben Howard is another less obvious choice but it was out around the time I was going for my black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I was told repeatedly to look up by my instructor so I downloaded this song to remind me! I love the lyrics which are a good mantra for life; “keep your head up, keep your heart strong.” I always think of my weekend in Bristol grading for my black belt when I hear it.

Interestingly, after I wrote the first draft of this post, I forgot to take my Ipod on a run, and I noted that despite the lack of music, I am still mainly an internal runner as I focused on my breathing and I still retreated into my thoughts (what’s for dinner? and I need to amend that blog post now!)

I’d love to broaden my running playlist so if you have any tracks you like running to please share them in the comments below or we could start a conversation on my Facebook page. What do you run to?

Marine Lakes and Mountain Tops

I have a relatively quiet month in May, “just”  the Edinburgh Half Marathon on 29th May. I am building back up my running mileage in preparation for that. As my race number recently arrived, it is becoming reality.

So we will have to be content with some mini-adventures and what better than the start of the open water swimming season!

Photo of AM at Marine Liake

Dryrobe: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…with apologies to Shakespeare…

Bear in mind that the previous session of open water swimming was cancelled over the bank holiday weekend because of high winds and low temperatures. So the fact that the swimming took place at all was a minor miracle (as was the fact that the weather went from Arctic to tropical in the blink in an eye).  I was convinced that I would simply get in the water and it would be so painful that I would simply dash out again!

I kitted up as much as possible: neoprene socks and cap and took my dry robe to stay warm pre and post swim (bought at the Tri expo). I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could get in without too much pain. I then tried to put my face in the water and whoa! Instant ice cream head! I pulled my cap further down my forehead and that seemed to do the trick. I managed a kilometre before I lost the feeling in my hands. Note to self: take gloves next time! I still loved it, looking up to the sky and across the broad expanse of sea (well, across the marine lake at West Kirby where we train.)

I felt inexplicably happy all day after that and I can only put this down to the open water swimming. Probably down to the adrenaline rush that open water swimming brings!

Not normally one for looking back, I thought I would also reflect on my climb up Goatfell on Arran during our Easter holiday. I wrote a brief Facebook post about reaching the top but thought I’d expand on it slightly as not everyone reading this blog follows my page on Facebook.

Arran is a wonderful island off the west coast of Scotland, reached by ferry from Ardrossan. It’s where my husband’s late father came from and where my husband spent his childhood holidays. It holds a very special place in his heart and I have fallen in love with it too. None of the family are left on the island but we go back every 2 years or so.

When we went to Arran, back in the days before we had the children, we always stayed with Adventurous Husband’s Aunt Flora who was a wonderful character and had great stories about island life. On one of these visits, we decided to climb Goatfell, the highest mountain on Arran, standing at 2,866 ft. Not quite a Munro (a mountain over 3,000 ft), but as the climb starts at sea level, a fair hike. We took a long route in from Brodick Castle. By the time we got to near the top,  I felt exhausted and felt unable to scramble up the rocks to the top. I recall that I was a bit overweight and had had back problems on and off during this time but I think the biggest problem was simply a lack of confidence about scrambling over rocks. Adventurous Husband went on to the top without me.

I thought about that day quite a lot over the years. When we climbed Scafell Pike, there was some scrambling to do, I remember being apprehensive but in a better place for fitness levels and managing it no problem.

AM and AD on Goatfell

Me, mini me and Teddy on our way up Goatfell

Now that children are older, we are trying to encourage them to do some more hill walking with us so we hatched a plan that we would all walk it. We had access to some guide books that recommended that we start the walk at Corrie, a shorter route overall.

On the day, we had nice sunny weather although in some places it was quite windy. Unfortunately Adventurous Daughter said that she did not feel 100%  about just over half way up so they went back down. I carried on with my sister in law and niece Meagan.

Photo of AM at the top of Goatfell

Finally at the top of Goatfell

And we made it! It really wasn’t that hard a scramble after all but it is amazing the difference that the level of fitness makes to confidence. On the way back down, I kept vowing to myself never to get unfit again.

Top of Goatfell

I could almost reach up and touch the clouds; the view from the top of Goatfell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hiking and open water swimming are two of my favourite mini adventures you can have all the time and are relatively inexpensive. Being close to nature is supposed to be one of the best tonics for our busy plugged in lives so I urge you to try one or both!

Have you had any hiking or swimming adventures to share?

 

Running with and guiding a blind runner

Adventurous Mum asked me to write a guest blog about what it is like to guide and run with a blind person. My name is Phillip Stanley, an average runner and novice triathlete. (Adventurous Mum says: Phil is being modest here as he can run a sub 47 min 10k. And he’s a 2nd Dan Black belt in Tae Kwon Do where we first met!)

Phil and Ben at parkrun

All smiles before parkrun

My friend, Ben Darby lost his sight when he was 3 years old although he does retain a little vision. The first thing to say is that running with Ben is a pleasure and, while it comes with responsibilities, it has many benefits for me. Ben is approaching his mid-30s and I am moving too quickly towards my mid-50s. He is stronger and faster – and has run all distances including two marathons.

Ben estimates that through training and races he’s had 30+ guides, including a number of attractive ladies – what an operator! Ben likes running with me because he trusts that I will keep him safe and give him the space and support to do what he loves most doing – running. Building that level of trust, helped by constant communication provides the foundations of guiding.

We are both members of Run Wirral, and use routes very familiar to Ben so he has computed road layouts and potential hazards. My job is to remind him of kerbsides, wheelie bins, overhanging branches, lamp posts, animals, and what people are doing around him. He holds onto my elbow so that as necessary I can pull him the right direction (well most of the time). Along the way I describe the route or street name. This is vital when it is dark.

At races, his main worry is making sure that we meet in good time so that he can drop off his bag, go to the toilet and get into the runners’ corral. I let him know when we are about to go and as we approach the start line to start his watch. He obsesses about times like most runners.

Phil and Ben at Liverpool HM

Phil and Ben at mile 9 of the Liverpool Half Marathon

The first part of any race is to find space and get into a rhythm, and of course it is crowded, so we could take about 10 minutes to get settled. Apart from alerting Ben to any potential dangers, I describe landmarks we pass or people we know just to say hello. We are easily recognisable with our names on the front of our vests along with Ben’s ‘Blind Runner’. We hear lots of encouraging remarks, and Ben laughs when people say how wonderful it is he can run – little knowing how fast he can be.

Apart from the business end of being a guide, the friendship has developed by the things we talk about when we are running. Ben is a warm, caring person but has a mischievous sense of humour. We cover everything from sports; family; the people we know; or what we have been up to in the past week. Since I love the sound of my voice, Ben listens patiently to my long stories which go off on tangents – and my stressful day at work. It’s good to share stuff and the time passes. You really get to know a person when running with them. As we approach the finishing line and I see space, it’s like letting a dog off the lead as he sprints to the finish – and that lad can run quickly.

Ben and I have made a lot of friends through running. We are a community. He has helped me to get stronger and his encouragement has meant I have achieved some great times. He keeps me going when I feel tired, as pictures of us show – him, smiling, happy to be running; me grimacing, digging in at times. What did I say earlier? There are mutual benefits to this relationship. I am the type of runner who thrives better on reacting to external stimuli and as I run past scenery, fellow runners or act as a guide, I perform better.

In my life, I meet negative people who moan about things. I would like to introduce them to Ben to show how he has to overcome barriers every day. He is happy when he can run and I am happy to guide him. Long may it continue – and hopefully more PBs along the way.

Chirk Triathlon – A Tale of the Unexpected

Chirk Triathlon is a favourite race among the North West triathlon community. It’s an early season pool triathlon in picturesque North Wales.

I did this triathlon waaay back. The exact year is lost in the mists of time (and probably my race number with the finishing time scrawled on the back is lost in our attic – imagine the last scene in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark where the box containing the Ark is stored away- that’s our attic) but it was probably 2003 or 2004. I did the race on my mountain bike fitted with road tyres and a swimsuit with a T shirt over it. Not so much as a sniff of a high tech watch in those days!

Photo of Chirk Buff and race belt

The answer to my transition prayers (and a useful buff!)

I also did the race last year and had so much fun with my Mersey Tri buddies that we all entered again. I always like to try and improve but my main aims were better transitions and a better bike time. For some reason I didn’t use my Tri race belt last year and pinned my number to my top. Big mistake!  I forgot that you have to display the number on the back during the cycle leg and turn it round to the front during the run. I wasted valuable minutes in transition unpinning the numbers.

Not this year. Although I took my race belt with me, Wrecsam Tri gave out race belts and a buff as part of the goody bag in registration. Theirs was much easier to use than my existing one so it was the race belt of choice.

There was a change to the registration process this year too. We were given a time to register and once you had done that and put your bike in transition, you had to be at the pool side within 30 min ready to start.

I had an early ish start time of 9.57 by the time I joined the queue at the poolside.  I managed a nice solid swim of 9 minutes and 13 seconds (includes running out to the timing mat) and into T1 to collect my bike. All went smoothly so I was feeling good as I headed out.

Photo of AM on bike at Chirk Tri

A genuine smile – relieved to be finished the bike leg!

From last year’s experience, I knew that the bike leg is an out and back run of 23km. It is a little deceptive because it looks as if you are going downhill when in fact it is an slight uphill all the way out to Glyn Ceiriog and then a nice solid downhill ride back apart from the final hill back into Chirk. I was a bit disappointed to get held up by some cars at the roundabout at the top of said hill. However, worse was to come because I noticed an air ambulance in the field as I approached the town and then lots of blue lights from about 3 ambulances and 2 police cars. I had to slow right down and, further down the road, avoid a tanker that was parked part of the way across the road. I later learned that one of the competitors, who was said to be 72, had had a cardiac arrest and was airlifted to hospital. While he was being treated, the race was stopped.

I didn’t know this at the time though and I was therefore confused when I got back to transition and my friend Lisa came over to talk to me. She should have been out on her bike leg but as the race had stopped, she had to hang around (wet and cold) until it re-started. I was lucky enough that I could carry on the run leg as it was away from the accident scene.

Photo of AM finishing

Grimacing this time…

It’s a really hilly run to test your mettle. I managed not to stop running last year but this year, I just couldn’t make it up the really steep hill towards the end of the run and resorted to walking.

Despite that, I was convinced that I was about to shave a few seconds off my time from last year but, in fact, I was 17 seconds slower. My bike time was 1 minute slower than last year although much of that would have been down to the accident. I was happy with my transitions though, 2 mins 13 sec for T1 and 1 min 40 secs for T2.  Got to take the positives where you find them!

With hindsight, I wasn’t really all that well either. I had been suffering from a mildly sore throat and headache for the 3 days before the race but I had felt better that morning so decided to go for it. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t improved if I am being honest but it was tempered with a sense of relief that my race went smoothly and that I was alive and well and healthy enough to complete a triathlon, unlike the competitor who had the accident on his bike leg.

The accident caused the race to stop for an hour and half in the end. No doubt, this was a bit frustrating for those waiting to start but safety first. The marshals did a good job in difficult circumstances.  I haven’t heard how the triathlete is but I hope he makes a good recovery. He was described as being in a serious condition.

Although there was an unexpected twist to this year’s race, it’s still a race that we all enjoy doing: well organised, nice scenic bike course, nice race goodies and great camaraderie between the competitors. I will be back next year to challenge my time yet again!

So what have Adventurous Kids been up to? I did promise some ideas about how to get kids more active and we haven’t seen hide nor hair of them! They have been active, I assure you. Here’s a little round up of their activities.

January

We went to the Big House near Barmouth which I mentioned in my post about Helsby Half Marathon. For 4 years we have been going to an activity weekend. We call it indoor camping as we go with a group of friends who we camp with in the summer. We get to do all sorts of fun activities such as archery, team building games, ropes courses and zip wire.

I think the best thing to do is to show you some photos of the kids having a great time. Just look at the enjoyment on their faces. Even when we retreat to the house, they have a fantastic time playing Nerf gun wars and hide and seek in the house with no-one to tell them to be quiet!

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Bullseye!

Whoo- hoo! That was fun

Whoo- hoo! That was fun

 

 

 

AD on zip wire

Adventurous Daughter loves the zip wire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February

AD with bronze medal

One happy cub with her bronze medal

 

Both my twins took part in a Cubs swimming gala. Adventurous Son had done this two years ago when he had just moved up to cubs. I didn’t make it along to watch him that time but apparently he got a round of applause for being the plucky finisher as he took a long time to finish his length. This time he is one of the older cubs in the pack and, although he did not qualify for the finals, he swam well.

Swimming is Adventurous Daughter’s favourite sport so she elected to swim in the Backstroke heat. It was initially unclear if she had qualified for the final but eventually we learned that she had. She went onto win the bronze medal! One very happy girl.

 

AD with mile swim cert

Still smiling after swimming a mile!

Adventurous Daughter had also decided that she wanted to swim a mile for Sport Relief. Like a lot of people, we watched the Sport Relief Bake Off. She was very moved by the plight of the two young boys living on the street in Kenya and decided she wanted to help. Her swimming school agreed that she could use a lane to do the challenge along with 3 other children. I really wasn’t sure how long it would take her to complete the challenge, so she surprised me in doing it in just over an hour. She was so fast that the swimming school instructor missed her and some of the other children finishing!

To date, she has raised £192.00 so she has raised enough money to help get some African children off the street and into school. One even happier girl.

March

AD at TKD grading

Nice walking stance from Adventurous Daughter…

Both Adventurous Kids do Tae Kwon Do. It’s been a while since they graded for a new belt so the time was looming where they would have to bite the bullet and take the test. Some intensive schooling at home from yours truly meant they performed well on the day. Adventurous Daughter was pleasantly surprised to get a pass plus.

AS at TKD grading

Adventurous Son demonstrating his best pattern moves

 

 

 

 

Go ape photo

Adventurous Mum pretending that she’s all cool with this…

We also ventured to Go Ape in Delamere Forest. We had agreed to team up with our friends Pam and Isaac for this particular adventure. Adventurous Son was not well so I had to take his place. Despite my adventurous moniker, I am not fantastic with heights. So the children were busy completing the course (about 3 metres off the ground!), I was gingerly making my way round. I loved the zip wire though and my only complaint was that it was too short. I did the course twice and it was definitely easier the second time. Adventurous Daughter loved it and wants to go back. Maybe I will be brave enough to try the adult course next time!

 

 

What have your kids been up to over the winter months? It should be easier to get them out more now that the clocks have gone forward. We are looking forward to warmer days and more time outside.

Confession time

Here’s a big confession – if you are reading this and don’t know me in person, I haven’t yet told you about something that makes me uniquely me. If you do know me, then thanks for being kind enough to repeat a few things you say because you already know that I wear two hearing aids and have about half my natural hearing. I was unfortunate enough to contract the measles about ten days before my first birthday and this is the most likely cause of my subsequent hearing loss.

I am always open about my hearing (or lack of it) but I also would rather get to know someone before I disclose the fact to them. I have had some experiences where I have mentioned it to someone and then they start to talk as if I am a bit dim rather than hard of hearing. With my hearing aids, theoretically, I should be able to hear just as well as the next person.

The problem is that when it comes to being active near water, I cannot wear my hearing aids. This has proved a bit tricky while swimming and learning to canoe. I recently found out Siemens has developed a waterproof hearing aid but at the cost of £1,495 each, this is a bit beyond my means. On the plus side, it is good to see hearing aid technology moving on as it is my impression that it hasn’t really changed much during my lifetime and  it doesn’t receive much funding on the NHS.

AM on bike at Wirral Tri

Not wired for sound…during the Wirral Sprint Triathlon

Although it costs me time in transition 1, putting the hearing aids back in after swimming has not proved to be a major problem at triathlons. The only hiccup I had was during the Wirral sprint triathlon – my first triathlon after 10 years or so – and with the excitement and lots of noisy and enthusiastic supporters during the first transition, I forgot to put them back in for the bike leg! I didn’t realise until I was about 500 metres along the road that something felt different. Although it was risky, I made a conscious decision that I would be relatively safe in a crowd of competitors and thankfully, that was the case. The hearing aids went straight back in my ears for the run leg and all’s well that ended well.

I was curious to know if I am the only person to wear hearing aids for triathlon so I posted in 220 Magazine Triathlon’s forum asking that question. There were no replies. I assume that there must be other hard of hearing triathletes?

As for canoeing, during my training, I couldn’t wear them as we practised capsizing at every lesson. As I have posted elsewhere, this does make it difficult to follow the instructor. Again they have been incredibly patient when aware of the problem.

So, the moral of this post perhaps, is don’t let anything minor stand in your way of what you want to do. I didn’t hesitate to get back into triathlon in 2014, even though the logistics of competing with hearing aids can be a bit tricky. Also remember to put your hearing aids back in after transition 1!

I would love to hear from you if you have a hearing problem or maybe other disability that makes it slightly harder for you to take part in active or water sports. Perhaps we can share stories to encourage others to get started if they wanted to do something but felt that their disability was holding them back?

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

Since I completed Wirral Half marathon last year in 2 hours and 4 seconds and having become obsessed with the notion of “breaking” 2 hours, Liverpool Half Marathon was an important race for me. I felt I had a good shot at it because the course was reasonably flat with only one major hill at the start. Would the weather co-operate? I was in Liverpool last year when the half marathon was on and it was pouring with rain and blowing a gale. There were a lot of bedraggled runners in the cafe and I was glad I was not running! However the weather this year was looking really good and most importantly no real wind to contend with.

So everything was in place…apart from being sick in the week before the race. I will spare you the details, suffice to say it was a stomach bug which set off a reflux problem that reared its head last summer during Ripon Triathlon (but that’s another story). I was a lot better by Saturday morning so I thought I was ready to go.

The Liver Building

The famous Liver Building

The start was in the shadow of the famous Three Graces on the waterfront. It was busy with 6,500 runners taking part. Thankfully there were plenty of toilets and although I waited for about 10 minutes, I was still ready in plenty of time for the start and made my way to the 2 hour point. I took it as a good omen that this was right in front of the Liver Building. I was feeling good as we headed off and even the hill on Upper Parliament Street didn’t faze me. I noticed the 2 hour pacer was starting to pull away but wasn’t too concerned as I thought he was going too fast and that I would pace myself using my Garmin.

After completing 10km in 55 min 57 seconds, I was still on course for sub 2 hours. My inner critic was wondering if I had gone out too fast but I convinced myself that it was fine and that this was the time I needed to reach my goal. I was enjoying running round Sefton Park; it really is a jewel in Liverpool’s crown. It is a reminder of Liverpool’s rich heritage with the beautiful Palm House, vast expanse of open space and grand Victorian houses surrounding the park.

Heading away from Sefton Park, my troubles began. We had to run under an underpass and up and over to the Otterspool Promenade to start the last 4-5 miles back to the finish. I felt really dizzy as we came out of the underpass. When I got onto the prom, I started to feel really sick. It subsided if I stopped to walk and got worse when I tried to run. I also looked at my fingers and they had swollen up like fat sausages.  I later wasn’t able to get my wedding ring off and it is normally loose on my fingers.

AM at Half Marathon

Still smiling through the pain for the camera…thanks to Jon Fairhurst at Mersey Tri for the photo

By this time, it was truly hot and I was regretting wearing my long leggings so I pulled them up to my mid-calf. But nothing was helping; I just couldn’t power through the sickness. Even when I got to 10 miles and my Garmin said 1 hour 33 minutes, I was still thinking that I could do it so tried again to push to no avail.

There were some lovely people urging me to “come on we are nearly there” and some friends gave me a boost at 12 miles so that I managed to run a bit longer.  Eventually the finish appeared and there was my family with a big cheer. I finished in 2 hours, 7 minutes and 50 seconds.

I cannot pretend I was anything other than disappointed. I have examined my training regime (did I skip one training run too many?), my state of mind (I felt that it was positive on the whole), my fuelling (I was drinking an electrolyte drink through the race) but in the end I can only conclude that I was simply not well. I cannot fault the race organisation or the route which were both excellent and I would recommend this race to anyone.

Liverpool HM medal

More race bling! I need to get a medal hanger for Easter…hint, hint!

I have to chalk that one up to experience and consider the other reasons why I run. Chasing PBs is only one aspect of it. I love running because I like to be outside feeling the sun on my face (rain and wind are less welcome but come with the territory); I enjoy exploring new places through running; I like feeling strong and fit and able to cope with what life can throw at you and I like meeting up with like-minded people. Races make you feel that you are part of a bigger community and I like that too.

Edinburgh Half Marathon is next at the end of May (just the small matter of Chirk Triathlon before then). One of my friends said to me this morning, perhaps you are saving the moment that you break 2 hours until you are on home soil. It will be all the sweeter when the moment does come.

Five under £5 – March 2016

Five items under £5

Five under £5 – March 2016

I love Rainbeaubelle’s blog where she runs this monthly feature. Her blog is what mine wants to be when it grows up! She deals with family, love and loss on her blog so do check it out here http://rainbeaubelle.com. As this is a fitness/family blog, I have elected to try to find 5 running items under £5. A bit of a challenge but I think I have done it.

1.Water Bottle

AM at Wirral Half marathon

When the going gets tough at the Wirral Half Marathon..

I have had the water bottle  for a while and use it when I am training for a half marathon. I took it during the Wirral Half Marathon last year and taped a Nakd bar to it for fuel. The water bottle is handy so that you don’t have to stop at the water stations and lose precious time. I bought mine from Runner’s Sports in Hoylake for £1.79. This is where I get my shoes from which cost considerably more than £5 but the advice on fitting there is priceless.

 

Running vest

Dreaming of summer…or at least of buying some fake tan!

 

2. Running vest from Decathlon

I found this running vest from Decathlon in Warrington for £3.99. I am already dreaming of warmer weather so looking forward to wearing this lovely colour in the warmer months. It will be great for my weekly yoga class too. Just be careful with the sizing. I recommend that you try the clothes on before you buy as I am normally a medium (size 10-12) and I had to buy a medium/large in the vest to get a good fit.

 

Pants and socks

More Decathlon goodies

3.Socks/pants

These were both £4.99, again from Decathlon. I haven’t tested them yet but the pants are super soft. The socks look as good quality as any I have bought from more recognised brands. Decathlon has great stuff for kids too; my 9 year old daughter is kitted out head to toe in Decathlon for her running club including trainers which I bought for £11.99. She loves wearing them. (PS I am not a Decathlon ambassador although I wish I was!)

  1. Event clips

    Event clips

    Event clips – they do exactly what they say on the tin.

These are £3.99 from UK Run Chat web site. As my Mersey Tri run top suffered a run from a safety pin I ordered these. They are more stylish and are less likely to pull your running tops. I wore them to the Manchester Winter Series Run and was very pleased with them.  If you are on Twitter, one of the best things about UK Run Chat is the support offered to runners by tweeting. They have chat hours on Sunday and Wednesdays between 8-9pm where you can ask anything and get answers from your fellow runners. A great way to find like-minded runners when your family are fed up listening to you discussing races!

  1. Parkrun

I have saved the best until last.  This doesn’t strictly speaking cost anything but it does help to laminate your card (see the main picture) so there is a small cost. I will explain more if you have not come across parkrun before. About 11 years ago, the founders set up a free timed run in a park. The aim was that it would be free if everyone took a turn a volunteering. The model has proved enormously successful and it is now a global phenomenon with over 543 parkruns worldwide and 1 million runners having taken part.  My local parkrun is Birkenhead; 3 laps of the upper park, a total of 5km. I never thought it would be possible to get under 25 mins for my PB for that distance but I managed it last October with a time of 24.43. The volunteers do a great job and the magic with the bar code is amazing. About 3-4 hours after the race, the results are sent to you by email. The mantra is don’t forget your bar code!

I hope you like my selection and feel inspired to lace up your trainers now!

Mad Dog looking for Winter Fun

When I was invited via a fellow blogger Elle (who blogs at this stylish blog http://www.keepitsimpelle.com) to take part in the Manchester Winter Series Run in Manchester, I didn’t take much persuasion. Some friends who had already done the Liverpool race had a great time while I was slogging around the hills of the Helsby Half Marathon. The prospect of polar bear hugs and a shiny snowflake medal was enticing.

Being allocated the early wave at 9.30am meant an early start from my home on the Wirral.  I used the postcode in the pre-race email for my Sat Nav which led to the only hiccup of the day. I drove round the Ethiad Stadium and carried on with the Sat Nav which took me to a terraced street!  No sign of an event car park.  I decided to head back to the stadium and this time, I saw the signs to the event and still parked up in good time. The car park was only 200 metres from the start as advertised thankfully.

At the start of Manchester Winter Run

The welcoming party – is there any brandy in that thing round your neck?

Having worn my Mad Dog T shirt, I had to get this photo with the St Bernard at the beginning. I then had plenty of time to look round the event village and join the relatively small queue for the toilet. I watched the kids 2.5km race go off and then it was time for us to line up and get warmed up. It was quite sobering that when the race announcer asked if anyone knew someone touched by cancer, everyone put their hand up. Some people there had cancer and were currently undergoing treatment so they got a huge cheer. It was a good reminder why the Race series was taking place.

AM at start  of race

Sunglasses! In February! In Manchester!

With the snow machine pumping out snow and “Ice Ice Baby” playing, we were off. I knew the race was two 5km loops around the stadium but I hadn’t really paid much attention that the Ethiad Stadium is the home of Manchester City FC and that it was the venue for the Commonwealth Games in 2002. So when I rounded the corner, I had a jolt of recognition followed by a flash back to a beautiful summer’s day when I attended the Games. It was the night that Paula Radcliffe won her Commonwealth gold medal for the 5,000m.  I remember being hugely inspired by that and really getting into running at that point.

I decided there and then to channel my inner Paula and make this my best shot at a new personal best for 10km. It was a largely flat course with no wind with only a few U-turns to slow you down slightly so I figured I would go for it. Part of the course involved a running track so I had fun imagining the crowd going wild as I crossed the finish line!

Batala Mersey drumming troupe, who had been at Mad Dog 10k, were out in force and provided a boost at 1 and 9 km. There was also a penguin party in the running track with lots of enthusiastic penguins cheering on (not real ones you understand – that would be too weird and/or ground breaking.)

AM and St Bernard puppy

Running and dogs – what’s not to love?

All my training for the upcoming half marathon In Liverpool on 13th March felt like it was paying off as I felt really strong. I did wonder if I was going too fast and was going to fade towards the end but my Garmin stats show that the last kilometre was my fastest. I managed a sprint finish much to the surprise of the race announcer (who also thought I was a man, go figure!). A personal best of 52:04 was in the bag! This is a whole minute off my previous best.

At the finish, I was drawn to the podium with a picture of the Alps in the background. As I got closer, I realised that there were two real St Bernard dogs. The puppy was adorable so I got in there for a photo opportunity. One of the volunteers took this great photo for me. As a dog lover, this was the icing on the cake of a great race experience.

Medal of Winter Run

Lovely race bling

All three Winter series Runs in London, Liverpool and Manchester  were inaugural races. Manchester attracted 3,000 runners and clearly the organisers are hoping to expand on this next year; watch their web site for details of the race in 2017 being announced. I would recommend it as a race for all the family to attend; there was a lovely atmosphere and the loops meant it was spectator friendly. I will persuade Adventurous children along next year. It’s obviously a good one for a personal best too with a nice flat course and the sight of the Ethiad stadium in my case providing inspiration!

Thanks to Human Race for inviting me via Elle to take part. I didn’t have to pay for my entry but all views are my own.