Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Goal Keeping

No, not of the football kind but the importance of challenging yourself and setting personal goals.  This blog, my first of 2018, is all about my aims for this year.  

The biggest change to the Aspinall household is the addition of Aggie our (now) 19 week Hungarian Vizsla.  Apart from the difficulties facing all new puppy owners - shark attacks, zoomies, toilet training... her actual basic training is coming along well.  Daily walks have brought another social dimension to my life - I talk to all manner of folk whilst Aggie assaults their canine companion and I love that she gives us family bonding time especially at weekends - we are loving getting out in the fresh air when previously we may have stayed in.  Obviously my long term goals are to run with her and train her to run with my MTB, I have been taking her to Sheffield for Gundog training which is paving the foundations of her directional commands and obedience and I have let her loose on my 8 year old as he bikes along the reservoir paths - so far so good (bar the occasional emergency stop as she runs directly in front of the wheels!).


My new RunTogether group is proving to be a big success! I have 15 ladies on my books  all doing really well and even meeting up outside of sessions.  I feel really proud seeing my two groups of ladies - summer and winter cohorts all running from the school car park, meeting outside of sessions and making life changes - it's brilliant to see!  As far as coaching goals go, I am hoping to complete the Fell Coach in Run Fitness Qualification this summer, which would enable me to offer more in depth coaching to individuals and groups.

Since my hip injury and slow rehabilitation into running I have finally started racing again and it feels great!
In January I completed three runs which offer a race atmosphere without the pressure of a real race.  I cannot stress enough how useful parkruns are as a training tool.  we are very lucky to have Lyme Park on our doorstep which is basically a fell race in parkrun packaging.  Here are my times so far...
Buxton AC 5km park run - 4th lady, 24:03
Lyme Park parkrun 20/1/18 - 2nd lady, 25:53
Lyme Park parkrun 27/1/18 - 3rd lady, 25:48
Racing encourages me to try harder, it increases my fitness and fulfills the mantra of "train to race, race to train".  
I feel so much better mentally now I have more focus, I have really missed it.  

My racing aims for 2018 are to compete in the Hayfield Fell Championship (2 races have already been run) where I will complete at least 4 races, with 1 of each distance...

  1. Kinder Downfall - Sun, 22nd Apr (Medium)
  2. May Queen - Fri, 18th May (Short)
  3. Mount Famine - Sat, 19th May (Short)
  4. Lantern Pike Dash - Sun, 20th May (Short)
  5. Kinder Trog - Sun, 24th Jun (Long)
  6. Cracken Edge - Wed, 1st Aug (Medium)
  7. Lantern Pike - Sat, 15th Sep (Short)
I am hoping to do a couple of sprint triathlons and some local duathlons as well.

I really utilised my bike last year what with my hip injury, and I am keen to complete a few sportives again this year including the Manchester to Blackpool and the Grindleford Goat, plus some longer flatter rides to challenge myself.  
I will continue to have MTB training with Charlie Evans which is really useful and most importantly fun to hopefully develop my confidence and skills on the trails.

All in all I seem to have many goals, but I believe everyone needs to have something to aim for - so what are you waiting for - challenge yourself!

I have been saving up for a running vest backpack and after 2 failed attempts I have finally got myself the right model and size!  I have bought the Ultimate Direction PB 3.0 - it is fabulous (if not a bit pricey) and I cant wait to test it at Kinder Downfall in April.  
I have also bought some Inov-8 X-Claw 275s which are so far very cushioned but with a mudclaw-esque sole.  I will review both products in my next blog.  

Happy Running!

Friday, 1 December 2017

New beginnings!

After a year of waiting and over 18 months of research, Aggie the Vizsla has finally come home! My future running dog is already (after only 3 weeks) a much loved member of our family.  Having a puppy is very much like having a baby, I had forgotten about sleep deprivation and having to have eyes in the back of my head but I wouldn't change her for the world!  

For now I am working on the basic commands and will be trying to tailor her training towards canicross and running with my bike in the future.  Vizslas need 12-15 months to develop and grow before being allowed to run with humans so I will be blogging about both of these sports in future posts in more detail so watch this space.  

Another new development for me is the creation of my new RunTogether group.  

"RunTogether has been created by England Athletics, the membership and development body for grassroots athletics and running in England, to provide fun, friendly, supportive and inclusive running opportunities for everyone in England".  

Anybody with a running qualification such as the Leader in Run Fitness or Coach in Running Fitness can become a RunTogether Leader.  I have my Fell LiRF qualification so it was a no brainer to join this movement to help and support me in the process of helping new runners find their feet.  

From January I will be starting a 10 week course aimed at new or returning runners to get from 0-5km with the eventual milestone of running Lyme Park parkrun.  Anyone interested in joining me can sign up here.

My hip is finally better and I am running 10km pain free so I am delighted to be able to share my passion for running again!  

Happy Running!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

The Power of Positivity...

The other day I looked back at my aims for this year, it made for pretty depressing reading - as due to my hip injury I have done nothing compared with the dizzy heights of last year with its PBs and Fell Championship title.  But, in the theme of positive thinking I have put a spin on the aims here - 

  • GVS Fell series - defend my title - ok so this didn't happen
  • Some of the Hayfield series fell races (short, hilly ones!) - neither did this
  • The Slateman (as part of a mixed team "The High Peaky Blinders") - I managed this!  I competed in the cycle leg with an ace team of ladies and we loved it!
  • Grindleford Gallop - I did this!  (Before the hip injury) it was great!  I didn't love it but I did it and I now know that I could complete a marathon if I wanted to - which I still don't!
  • Another triathlon (sprint distance) and definitely the Hathersage Hilly again - I sadly didn't do either of these, but, I have kept up with my swimming and feel ready for the 2018 season! Bring it on!
  • The Grindleford Goat (the longer "Billy" course this year) - I did this in biblical weather and nearly finished off my poor husband in the process!  (sorry Chris!)
  • Improve my Mountain Bike Orienteering skills! - Another one I didn't do BUT, I did manage to hook up with Charlie Evans of Bikelife Coaching who has started to coach myself and a group of other ladies in Mountain Biking Skills which is awesome and I am loving it!

Galloping in Grindleford
Other achievements include my ladies run coaching group and it's success stories - many of the ladies have continued running in my absence and a few have started to join in with the more advanced speed/hill groups I am starting to do again, this is great news!  I plan to do more run coaching soon, with 0-5km type groups and some technical fell running groups.  

Another positive was completing my first 100 mile ride.  I entered the Velo Birmingham, a closed road sportive and have written an article for Totally Active Magazine on my experience - watch this space for the link to the Feb/Mar edition in which I will hopefully be featured.   

Running Update - 
After my hip injury at Castleton fell race in June, I have spent the summer resting and starting a strict rehabilitation routine to get me back into running.  

After resting it for around 12 weeks with little improvement, I was starting to think this might be the end of my running career. Christine my physio, advised that I needed to start running again - for sanity purposes - in a more structured way.  My first attempt at a comeback was not great, I did too much too soon on holiday and it started to hurt again.  

After feeling really despondent I spoke to Christine again who suggested I watch some YouTube videos (see links below) about perceived pain and the scientific research and proof about how a lot of pain actually comes from the subconscious.  It sounds daft saying the pain is in your mind - it obviously is actual physical pain but, by changing the way we think about the pain we can actually stop it in its tracks - or reduce it at least.  

I am always sceptical about these notions, having being told pain is all in the head before and thinking it ridiculous, pain is pain in my book - if something hurts there is normally a physical reason for it.  But what Christine said got me thinking... actually sometimes I will catch myself thinking "my hip hasn't hurt today" then shortly afterwards it starts hurting again.  Or, I would think "I'm going to try a run", - it would then immediately hurt again because I expected it to.  I became sure that the pain was being caused by my perception of it rather than any physical reason, after all, I had rested it for so long, something must have repaired!  

So I did two things, firstly I decided to start running very gently - along the canal or similar surface for 2-2.5kms.  I wrote a training plan to incorporate 3 runs per week (all with rest days in between) which kept at one distance for 2 weeks then moved up by half a kilometre for the next two.  This plan has worked, I have increased up to 4km and feel that I am getting somewhere now.  This week I have tried a 400m speed session with my running group and although I only did 9 of the 12 400m laps, I felt that my pace was consistent and not too slow.  My hip did hurt that evening but I expected it to.  I will now start again with my steady 4km runs and see how it feels, fingers crossed I am overcoming it both physically and mentally.  

Aims for next year will be to do some parkruns in the first instance and to increase my pace again.

It's been a busy year cycling-wise, thank God for my bikes! Without cycling and swimming I think I would be in a bad place both mentally and physically! I've enjoyed pushing myself on the road bike to do more distance and am now really enjoying the skills side of mountain biking with Charlies help.  As the nights have drawn in and the weather is getting worse I have pretty much hung Ladybird up for the winter - I will go out on the roads if its a dry and sunny day but otherwise i'm going to be doing plenty of bogtrotting on Pearl.  

In other news...
Around this time last year, I wrote about the planned new addition to the Aspinall Household - a Hungarian Vizsla puppy, well after nearly a years wait I am so excited to be collecting our pup "Aggie" in 9 days time (not that i'm counting or anything!), so I will be keeping you updated with our training progress, unfortunately Vizslas bones take a while to develop so it will be at least a year before I can run or ride with her, but I am going to be putting all the groundwork into training her to help with the commands for when we can finally run free!

Happy Running


YouTube Videos -
Why Things Hurt
Understanding Pain in less than 5 minutes
Treating Pain using the Brain

Friday, 1 September 2017

Summer Update...

What a busy summer - but not exactly in a sporting way! I have had a lovely break with my family, my best laid plans of swimming everyday were curtailed by my youngest having bronchitis and not being able to tolerate any cold water! We did compete at the Dart 18 National Championships (read on for report) and I have done a little bit of cycling but I have to confess to mainly exercising my arm whilst lifting a glass to my lips...oops!

My first event of the summer was the Manchester to Blackpool 60 mile cycle ride in July.  Chris and I were raising money to help send a friends child to Disneyland - Harrison is 8 years old and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - a life-limiting condition which means he is losing mobility as he ages as his muscles weaken.  

After the sprint finish!  Still smiling! Pigtails flying!

Some of #TeamSkoda!
Here is a report of the day...

Well, what an experience!  I can categorically say that the organisation of getting 18 people plus bikes to and from Manchester/Blackpool was more exhausting than the ride itself!  For us regular Peak District cyclists it was totally different from the drags and drops we are used to.   

Caz and I leading the legend that is Fred Salmon! (And some random guy!)
The route was mainly flat and for us hillbillies it was not too challenging a ride, even though most of us had never covered the distance.  The scenery improved from about halfway and the roads were mainly quiet.  I would advise a novice rider to try a closed road type sportive ideally, as with the volume of cyclists - some of the cars encountered were getting quite frustrated (for good reason!).  Some of the worst obstacles were the other riders as some people were obviously not regular riders and some were downright dangerous wobbling about the road.  

Fitness was not a problem for most of our team, everyone took it at their own pace and had a group to ride with, next time I would definitely like to set off earlier to avoid the slower riders and I would only ride with one or two others - agreed beforehand.  It is very difficult waiting for people and a long day if you feel you're not progressing, in fact physically it is the time in the saddle which is the biggest hurdle for most people.  Our team worked well as we ended up in comfortable groups, but in hindsight this should probably have been agreed before the day as I personally spent about 20 miles trying (but not succeeding!) not to lose anyone and making sure nobody was on their own.  

Once I settled into a group I found the ride really enjoyable - you feel like you are really making progress flying past people - I don't think that there was one part of the route where I lost sight of another rider! Stupidly, I made a huge mistake about 15 miles from Blackpool at one of the excellent food stops.  I obviously hadn't eaten enough en-route and was starving.  I wolfed down a chicken salad sandwich and a bakewell flapjack washed down with some tea (I know, rookie error!), this was great until I started to push for the finish, resulting in stomach cramp!  I should definitely have known better but one of my downfalls is my big appetite! 

Overall I really enjoyed the day, and I will definitely do it again, it whet my appetite for big sportives for sure.  Big thanks to Skoda for the jerseys, my Dad Alan, Chris' Dad Jim, my Mum Angela, Fred from the Bike Factory, Simon Twigg and the Whytes for driving the various vehicles and giving lifts and everyone who came and made it a really fun day!  

At the finish!
My top tips for anyone considering the Manchester to Blackpool ride would be 

  • Train properly!
  • Arrange as much as you can beforehand - particularly transport to and from the event
  • Have your bike serviced before the day and carry spare tubes/pump
  • Find a friend who is the same fitness/ability level as you to ride with
  • Wear correct clothing - padded shorts are a must!
  • Eat small amounts often - I regretted not following this advice!
  • Watch out for other riders - inexperienced riders are unpredictable!
  • Drink sips of water every 20 minutes 
  • Encourage others and enjoy the atmosphere

Running Update...
Well there is good and bad news on this, as my 6 weeks rest period was drawing nearer I tried a couple of short 2.5km runs before we went away.  I wore cushioned shoes and didn't push it, wow my running fitness had disappeared!  I felt so unfit and slightly panicked at my (reduced) lung capacity!

I am not the most patient person when to comes to running, I just like going fast, but I realised I needed to be steady and take it slow.  On the Isle of Wight for our summer holiday I tried another few runs, the first was a 5km trail run, it felt ok and the highlight was encountering a lady who shouted "week 3, couch to 5k!" as we crossed paths, it was lovely!  I shouted "Well done, keep going!" and it hit me how much I have missed it.  

I did a 6 km off roader, after that and it felt great to be back on grass!  My hip didn't seem to complain too much, so I tried another, slightly quicker 4km but this was a step too far and my hip was sore for days afterwards.  I then waited 5 days and tried running home - less than 2km from the Bike Factory and it hurt again.  To say I am frustrated with it is an understatement.  I feel slow and like I may never be the same runner again, I am going to ask my physio if there is anything else I can do.  

Back in July I was approached by Runderwear to review their running briefs - I jumped at the chance and was hoping to have fully tested them by now!  I will be writing a full review of them in due course but in a nutshell, I love them!  I have cycled and run in them and find them flattering and comfortable.  Watch this space for more info on them soon!

Dart 18 National Sailing Championships 
August Bank Holiday saw the national Championships at Dee Sailing Club on the Wirral.  Chris and I have been sailing the Dart (an 18 foot catamaran) together for 18 years - Chris introduced me to the sailing circuit - both National and International - when I was just 16! We work very well as a team and have had some good results over the years including numerous club wins when we sailed at Carsington Water (we have an impressive trophy cabinet!) and then later successes at Dee sailing Club on the Wirral - our home club.  We have competed in France and Italy and had good results at the Anglesey Offshore.

When the children came along the sailing reduced massively, as happens with lots of people.  My parents have always been great and we always try to support our club where we can, the Nationals were no exception!

There were 70 boats entered and we had a mixed bag weatherwise.  On shore the wind felt strong but we had mainly light airs over the competition with the exception of one great race where it blew up to around a force 4.  

We improved over the course of the races and by race 10 we were really getting into it!  Our best results were a 17th and a 21st and we had the best time!  

Dee Sailing Club were amazing hosts as always, with highlights including a beer and a pasty after racing from the Dee Galley Gals (literally on the beach!), live music at a hilltop bar created for the event featuring local talent (and fellow Dart 18 sailor) Lucy Mayhew,  Wirral Gin!, the live band on Saturday night playing from 10pm - 1.30am non stop!, the nicest people you could ever meet, Wirral Gin! and some great sailing!

Full results here.

What's next?
I have been given the opportunity to take part in the Velo Birmingham - a 100 mile sportive, and to write about my experience for Totally Active Magazine - I am nervous but excited to take part, I just hope my holiday depleted fitness levels can make it round - watch this space!

I hope my next blog will be full of the joys of running again, but if not I am always thankful for being able to do any form of exercise so cycling and swimming and not to forget pilates will definitely be back on the menu once school recommences! 

In the meantime, happy running, sailing, cycling...


Sunday, 2 July 2017

Hip! hip! No way :-(

Hopefully you will have read my article from Totally Active Magazine, if not you can read my "How to Get into Fell Running" feature  here.  The photos used in the article were taken by my lovely and talented friend Shona Bradley - thanks Shona!  I have used a few more here as I think they show the atmosphere of fell running really well.  Also thanks to Caz for being my wing man and letting me look like I was leading!

I have recently been so proud of my ladies running groups, a few weeks ago some of them completed Lyme Park parkrun after around 9 weeks of running in my beginners groups.  Many of them haven't run before so I was really pleased for them and am looking forward to seeing them continue and progress.  It was very important to me to show them that hills are not the enemy, on the contrary they are the jewel in the fell running crown, offering stunning visual as well as fitness rewards!  

In June, I competed in Castleton fell race.  It was my first time there and I really enjoyed it.  The parking was a good 5 minute walk from the start area and registration was busy but very well sorted - channeling runners into little rooms to fill in forms and collect numbers.  

I made a mistake at the start and positioned myself too far back in the field, in hindsight next time I will go to the front as the bottleneck which follows in the first 500m was a little frustrating.  There are a lot of rocky paths in this race and I would recommend wearing shoes you trust.  I was wearing a brand new pair of Roclites which turned out to be slightly too big and I had to stop twice to tighten my laces which was most annoying.

From the Hollowford Centre the course goes up to Lose Hill after a funny camber along a sheep field.  The ascent to the trig is stoney with steep steps but is still runnable.  At the top we bared left and I saw fantastic views to Edale and Derwent water momentarily as I caught my breath.  There was a technical rocky downhill after Lose Hill and I found it quite hard going until we passed through Hollins Cross and I saw a few Striders supporters cheering us on!

The next section took us up to the top of Mam Tor where we had to avoid the front runners gunning down the hill towards us.  I watched the route they were taking and decided I would stick left on the grass for as far as possible when my turn came to descend.  At the trig the wind was blowing a gale and buffeted us round and spat us back down the hill towards Hollins Cross once more.  

The next section was again steep and technical, I was really careful not to go over on my ankle but went for it as much as I could.  Once into a field of cow parsley after a short tarmac section I started to wind it up for the finish.  I was determined the runner behind me was not going to be passing!  A short burst to the finish and mission accomplished, no one passed and I was happy with my effort.  I walked to the refreshment table to have a cup of orange cordial which was very welcome!  Not my best result ever but after quite a long fell running break I was pleased with 1st lady strider and 12th WSEN overall in 64:50.   
The following day I ran round Lyme Park with my running group and noticed my hip hurting with every stride.  I put it down to the concussion effect on my joints from the fell race and decided I would rest until my Tuesday evening group.

By the Tuesday my hip was still hurting, even in walk and in hindsight I probably shouldn't have done 7km that evening.  My hip pain turned chronic and I had to take painkillers and ice it.

Three weeks down the line and my hip is still no better.  I have had physio and been recommended to have 6 weeks off running - my first proper running injury!  I have to take full painkillers/anti inflammatories and do exercises.  I am still allowed to cycle, swim and attend pilates classes - but no running!  

As a result I have withdrawn from Hathersage Hilly Triathlon.  I am really sad about it but these things happen and I'd rather recover quicker and get back to run fitness gradually than wreck myself for the summer by running on it at a race.  My physio says my mantra has to be "to it not through it" meaning to go to the pain but not push it.  I'm going to be sensible and stick to the plan.  My biggest fear is losing run fitness and putting on weight but I will be careful to avoid it by eating sensibly (and trying not to drink too much at weekends! - good intentions!)

For now, my running groups are continuing without me, I am helping them on a consultation type basis recommending routes and hearing their progress through our WhatsApp group.

Today, I have had the pleasure of run directing at Whaley Bridge junior parkrun, it was a lovely sunny morning and we had a hilarious warmup featuring Paul Potato! I love the randomness of working with children - I miss it from my teaching days so this put a big smile on my face!

Next weekend I will be taking part in the 60 mile Manchester to Blackpool ride, which I am looking forward to.  Organising a team of 17 is the order of the week!...

Happy and injury free running to all!


Monday, 5 June 2017

Run for the Hills, Stride through the Woods and Slateman!

Julia and Rachel admiring the view of Combs Moss and beyond
Since the Grindleford gallop I have been really busy, here is a (very condensed) update! 

Unfortunately, I came down with tonsilitis before the Thomas Theyer Race and wasn't able to compete which I was so disappointed about, but I did manage to recce the route again on a lovely day with Julia and Rachel the week before, so that helped! 

I am going to be helping the Thomas Theyer charity to set-up pre-entries and hopefully chip timing for next years event, and there will possibly be more races in the pipeline too so watch this space!

MTB Ladies
In March/April I managed to fit in quite a lot of biking, mainly mtb but with some road rides too, our biking groups have been popular and more of us are riding both types of bike now so it's great!  If you are local and fancy joining us (men or ladies welcome!) join us on our WB Biking group which I manage on Facebook.  
Andrea and I on the Gwidir Bach MTB track

Many of us are going to be taking part in the 60 mile Manchester to Blackpool ride on 9th July.  Chris and I are raising money for an 8 year old local lad called Harrison Fox, he suffers with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a genetic disorder which causes the muscles to deteriorate and is ultimately life shortening. If you would like to sponsor us, the funds will go towards taking Harrison to Disneyland, whilst he can still walk, you can donate here.

Hilarious photo - We tried to move away
 from the "full of faces" selfie with this shot.
Totally failed and got half bodies and sky.
Back in March, I applied through Derbyshire Sport's #thisgirlcancoach campaign and was successful in securing funding to do a fell running leadership course,  I did the Fell LiRF (Leader in Running Fitness) course in April at Longshaw and really enjoyed it.

As part of my agreement with Derbyshire Sport I had to do 30 hours of teaching (voluntarily) before mid-June in order to keep the funding.  So basically I am now qualified and insured through the Fell Runners Association and UKA to lead running groups for anyone over the age of 14 years.  

I have already completed my hours through doing three "Run for the Hill's" beginners groups and one advanced group per week, and taken two ladies to their first fell races.  
Andrea and I in training for the Manchester to Blackpool
in our Team Skoda jerseys! #allthegear

It has been an incredibly rewarding experience helping ladies who have never run before, and those who have, but not for a long time and I can't wait to run with them at Lyme Park parkrun in the very near future, when they are all ready.  

I am aiming to do my Fell Coach in Running Fitness course next year, which would mean I could train and support any type of runner - up to ultra distances. I am really interested in learning more!

Races-wise, I haven't done many recently but I managed the mid-week "Stride through the Woods" race in Hyde which was a bit of a mix of everything, and only 5km.  I was 7th Lady out of 71, 2nd in the Female category, in a time of 24:30, not really anything to write home about but I enjoyed it.  

Looking happy after Shining Torr
Me striding through the woods
A group of us did Shining Tor Fell Race, a 10km run from Errwood reservoir in the Goyt Valley, up to the trig point at Shining Tor, then back via Pyms Chair down The Street to the finish at the sailing club.  I ran with Julia, it was her first ever fell race.  She did so well, I was very proud of her!

Julia and I during the Shining Tor Fell Race,
Julia maybe not loving me at that moment...
I also went and ran the Rainow 5 fell race, I didn't get a PB but I was only around 1 minute slower than last year so call me consistent if nothing else!  It felt good so I was only a bit disappointed.  I got a time of 46:02, 20th out of 70 ladies, 106th out of 210 overall.  The route is really good with a tough scramble up to White Nancy and a rewarding view of Manchester and beyond from the ridge.  
My hideous psoriasis

Following my throat infection, I broke out in Guttate Psoriasis, a skin disease I have suffered from before.  Basically, the strep throat infection I suffer with triggers an immune response which attacks my skin cells.  It looks horrible and takes ages to go, so if you see me with very spotty legs, thats why!  It doesnt really bother me, I just try to get as much sunlight to them as possible as that is the best way to clear it up.  

Girl Power at Slateman
 On the 21st May, I competed as part of a female team in the Slateman standard distance triathlon alongside my friends Estelle and Anna.  

Anna, our swimmer, comes from Llanberis where the Slateman event takes place and has years of experience swimming in Lake Padarn.  

The location is simply stunning, nestled at the base of Mount Snowdon, and I was lucky enough to complete the 30 mile cycle route which wound its way up the famous Pen Y Pass and then along the A5 towards Bethesda before looping back towards Llanberis.  

At Nant Perys heading towards Pen Y Pass
Team High Peaky Blinders
Estelle was our runner and tackled the tricky 11km run up the slate quarries and into the woods beyond before dropping back down to the finish line where she was supported by lots of family and friends - including Anna and I.  

Overall we were second all female team (out of three), and we were pleased with our times.  Anna and Estelle both did amazingly, and I was happy to just crape under 2 hours for the bike section.  

We were there for the fun and the experience and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed it - so much so that we are all talking about doing it all again next year!  
Coming into T2 at Slateman
Looking forward, I have Castleton, Grindleford, Blackamoor, Lyme Park and Hope Wakes fell races in the coming weeks, then the Manchester to Blackpool ride and the Hathersage Hilly Triathlon a couple of weeks later.

My swimming has taken a literal dive as I have injured my shoulder.  Around 10 weeks ago I noticed it bothering me after long front crawl sessions.  Since then it has been terrible every time I lift any weight or swim.  

I am seeing the doctor this week to try and get a scan on it as its not something that physio is helping with, after trying resistance band exercises and rest.  

It might be a slow swim at Hathersage, which would be really disappointing as I felt I was really improving my pace in front crawl.  

On a happier note I have finally updated my blog, other exciting news is that I am being published!  I have an article in the pipeline so watch this space!

Happy Running!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Grindleford Gallop

Caz and I on Froggatt Edge
Some people may think I am competitive, and the truth is, if I'm going to do something, especially something sporty, I want to do it as fast as I can, I can't help it! On saying that, I am not a sore loser and would not try to win at all costs, I just try hard - there's nothing wrong with that right?!

After hearing about the Grindleford Gallop over the past couple of years, I have always been of the opinion that the distance is obscene and that it would never even feature on my radar.  (The Grindleford Gallop is a 21 mile fell race for walkers and runners which covers some beautiful - and hilly parts of Derbyshire). 

However, as entry day loomed, my friends started talking about how difficult it can be to get a place, how beautiful the route is and how the event sells out in like, 3 minutes...  so somehow, whilst rustling up a spag bol in the kitchen one night in December, I found myself clicking on the "enter" button, just to see if there was any truth in this myth.
Deer behind us on the Chatsworth Estate

Before I knew it, I had signed up and was wondering WTF I had done!  I had now committed to a 21 mile training plan and no doubt numerous lost toenails! EEk!  My anxiety was only comforted slightly by the fact my friends Caz, her hubby Tony and Helen had insanely signed up too! (along with quite a few other Goyt Valley Striders).  

The longest run I had done previously was 15 miles when training for the Tissington Half last summer and that was on a canal!  And it was bloody horrible! So, in January, Helen, Caz and I set about trying to do one long hilly run per week, along with my usual biking, swimming and pilates sessions.  

Chatsworth Land

Late last year, I entered an ambassador competition through Ordnance Survey.  Not expecting to hear anything I just thought I would apply and see what happened.  I wasn't successful (unsurprisingly) but, for my efforts applying, I did get sent a link to the OS Maps mobile app with £19.99 worth of UK map downloads for a full year.  I downloaded the app and was a bit dubious because these things are notorious for draining battery and memory from your phone.  I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't take up too much space unless you downloaded maps for use offline.  

So basically, I can now plan routes and save them, but only make them available offline for when I need them, hence saving space.  As a test, I exported the gpx. file for the Grindleford Gallop route (from the GG website) and uploaded it to the app.  It was brilliant!  We used it for our recce. 
A Great View from Froggatt Edge

We decided to recce the route from checkpoint 2 at White Rake and leave a car at the end in Grindleford.  It was a brilliant day weatherwise - cold but sunny, perfect!  Caz and I omitted to tell Helen it would probably be around 15 miles as we knew she might think she couldn't make it!  So, armed with my new app and a fully charged phone we set off on the route.  

Caz has entered the gallop many times before so did know where to go, but the app kept us accurate to a pinpoint and we used it to gauge milage.  We took it easy on the recce, running where we could but consciously walking up the hills to save our energy.  We wore hydration vests and took food rations with us to keep us going.  We were delighted to finish feeling well and Helen and I were really chuffed to have made our longest run to date - 16 miles in total.  
Helen and Caz ahead on the Monsal Trail post storm

On race day, Caz, Helen and I were all supporting the Thomas Theyer Foundation and wore the bright yellow T-shirts instead of our usual club vests.  It was a warmish day thankfully with no rain forecast - phew!  I don't think I could have survived 21 miles in cold, damp weather.  Registration was very well organised and we soon had our dibbers on (you have to "dib" at checkpoints along the course) and were ready for the off (after a long wait for the toilets!).

Once in the start field we hung back and it was a very low key mass start.  The first few miles were quite bottle-necked and there were queues at stiles, it took until checkpoint 1 (at 5 miles) to notice the field really spreading out.  It was quite an odd sensation to deliberately start slowly and I had made sure I kept telling myself we were not really racing, just getting round and trying to enjoy it!  I had a time of 4 hours in my mind as an ideal but I wasn't worried about doing it in a set time.  

Bridleway up to golf course in Bakewell
From the start Caz was not comfortable, her breathing wasn't right and both Helen and I were quite worried about her.  But, being the fighter she is, she carried on regardless and seemed to improve between checkpoint 1 and 2. Helen and I felt great and were enjoying the streams, river crossing and fields which we hadn't negotiated before.   We took all the hills very steadily, my legs were wondering what on earth I was doing!   My sister Andrea kept popping up in key locations to offer us sweets and take photos which was a real boost.  By Hassop Station we had covered some good distance and were feeling ok, I was dying for a wee so went into the toilets at the station (I checked it was ok with a marshal!), Helen dressed an impending blister with a compeed and we carried on towards Bakewell along the Monsal Trail.    

Once into Bakewell we climbed up a steep bridleway towards the golf course.  At the course you have to ring a bell to let golfers know your presence, I bet they were hating us that day with 500 people crossing their course! 

Highland Cattle on Froggatt Edge
After Bakewell we crossed into Chatsworth Estate territory and down into the village of Edensor, a beautiful little Lilliput style place adorned with the classic Chatsworth teal paint around all the windows and on doors.  We passed one of my favourite caravan sites in Chatsworth and then arrived at the next checkpoint in Baslow.  At Hassop I had procured some beautiful buttery flapjack and was delighted to see more at Baslow!  I put two pieces in my pack as I had forgotten my sandwiches!
Enjoying myself!

Helens parents and children Rowan and Henry greeted us about a third of the way up a serious hill towards Froggatt Edge and we were offered more sweets!  I think I probably consumed as many calories as I burned!  Once up on the ridge I felt like we were definitely going to make it and was relieved that it was a downhill finish, albeit a very long drawn out ridgy one!

Andrea and her lab Dotty greeted us once again at a stream crossing as we passed onto the final stretch of Froggatt Edge, and Caz seemed to be ok so Helen and I pushed on a bit with the knowledge that Caz's strength lies in downhill technical - a section which we knew was coming up - where she would catch us up.  

I was so impressed with my legs as I thought I would be stumbling and struggling at the end, I wont say it wasn't hard but I felt like I actually raced the final 2-3 miles at a decent pace - mainly because I just wanted it to be over!  Helen and I blasted down the technical descent and thoroughly enjoyed it - I think it was my favourite part of the whole race!  

Helen in fine stile!
Caz unfortunately went over on her ankle which seriously slowed her down at the end.  Helen and I waited for Caz as there was no way were weren't finishing together and we crossed the line in a sedate 4 hours 24 minutes but totally chuffed we had made it in one piece (except for poor Caz!).

We all made it!
I am so glad I entered the Gallop, I am sure I will do it again, I would like to aim for a time of 3:45 (which is actually Caz's PB) but that would require lots more training and inevitably a lot less fun!  I was right about one thing though - my big toenail has taken one for the team... 

Results can be found here.