The rain was hammering on the window screen and bouncing off the ground in the car park. Willow the dog was huddled up on my feet wanting to stay dry. My poor friend Sally was wondering what she had let herself in for. We were in Cranleigh for parkrun and would be meeting up with our friends Pam and Moira, all of them new to parkrun and all of them here because they wanted to do an event with me. Please let the rain stop…..please!!!
Pam, Moira and Sally are friends from my baby group – the NCT classes for first time mums and dads. Our babies are now 21 – but we have stayed in touch all these years. Meeting every year for afternoon tea around Christmas time with our other friends Sarah and Sue who unfortunately couldn’t make this meet up 😦 and various meet ups though out the year usually when they are passing through the South West for holidays or Uni visits.
Cranleigh was where we all met. I was the only one of our group (there were eight of us back then) that actually lived in Cranleigh – the others lived in the surrounding villages but the classes were held there. I lived there for 12 years, got married there and the kids started school there. It is a lovely “village” – well really a small town, very Surrey – good housing stock, local shops and lots of greenery.
It was fun coming back – it hadn’t changed much, a few more shops and of course no parkrun back then.
At 8.50 the rain calmed down and Sally and I made the five minute dash to the start of parkrun, past the football field and across a country lane into ….a field! Not a park at all – but very pretty and perfect for a 5k run.
Parkrun starts at 9am and at 9am the rain magically stopped and it stayed dry for the hour we were there – even saw a peep of sunshine.
The local MP was there for some reason and started us off. 3, 2, 1, GO. Unlike Coventry a few weeks ago this was all on grass. The grass was wet, obviously, but actually not too bad to run on, a small trail having been made from weeks of parkruns.
We had plans to catch up with a lunch afterwards so I felt happy running off and doing my own race. Sally runs most mornings with her dog, Willow, who was also with us, but Moira and Pam do other activities and would probably need to walk a bit.
I needed to walk a bit myself when at 1km as a big long hill appeared. I got a fair way up but it was hard going on the grass and I figured walking was just as quick, it also gave me time to take in the stunning views of the Surrey countryside. The other side was quite steep downhill and bit slippy as Moira found out, falling over and getting covered in mud – welcome to parkrun Moira 🙂
It was a two lap course and weaved around the fields. You could see the finish line from most places on the course but just when you thought you were getting near, the course would suddenly change direction away from the finish. It did make it easy to spot the others though across the fields and every one was doing well. Sally and Willow were on my heels through out, chatting away – Sally not the dog, in fact Willow would have run twice as fast given the chance. It was very enjoyable and like all parkruns very friendly, other runners chatting to us and the marshals shouting encouragement.
I hadn’t run for a couple of weeks as my knee, which plays up now and then had been a bit sore – not surprisingly giving what I’ve put it through this year. It was a little ouchy at first but then seemed fine. For a hilly off road course I was very happy with my 31.56 time 🙂
At the finish line while Sally and I waited for the others I head a “Hello” – it was my old neighbour Mary. It was lovely to see her although I couldn’t remember her name straight away……certainly felt 50 then! We had a nice chat and got a photo.
We all had a great time and I’m sure I could persuade them all to do another parkrun again sometime.
We headed back to the car and the minute we got in the heavens opened and the rain came down. The parkrun weather fairies had been on our side though and allowed us a dry run.
We finished off the day with a lovely lunch back at Sally’s house and a proper catch up.
A quick shoutout too to sister Adi who did Dartford parkrun, after a 3 hour drive to Dartford from Somerset, getting there with eight minutes to spare! Also to my friend Sarah with a great comeback parkrun in Scotland, after being injured for a while. Well done – a good parkrun day all round!
As Autumn approaches the events are changing…fading light means evening events are now in the dark! This event was a first for me – a night swim.
The swim took place at Vobster Quay near Radstock – I had been there once before in the summer with Adi, who would also be doing the night swim. We loved it, although I think we were lucky with our experience on that particular day as we had the lake to ourselves – apparently it gets quite busy. It’s quite a drive from where we live, just over an hour. We spent the whole drive saying “it’s too far” “we won’t go again” – then we swam in the lake and decided the drive was totally worth it and when could we come back 🙂
I had got chatting to another swimmer who arrived as we were finishing and he said if we liked it so much we should come back for the night swim – book early as it sells out fast, only 150 spaces. A few days later I saw the entries available on the website and we were in.
Vobstay Quay is mainly a diving centre, but with an area available for open water swimmers. This is what the website says about the lake:
With 36-acres of fresh water diving in depths ranging from 6m to 36m, divers of all levels will find the heady mix of exciting underwater attractions and a full range of diving support services hard to resist.
Beneath the lake waters you’ll find a fabulous array of attractions just waiting to be discovered. Divers can explore the wreck of a large commercial aircraft, a 42ft motorcruiser, two metal wheelhouses, our famous Crushing Works – a towering structure the size of a 2-storey house – and even a spooky concrete-lined tunnel that’s not for the faint hearted!
I should point out that I knew none of this on the night of the swim – and I think I’m pleased – 36 METRES DEEP!!! SPOOKY TUNNEL!!!
Fortunately it was a fairly warm evening although cloud cover stopped us seeing the full moon properly – which was a shame… I had looked up lots of information to tell you about the Harvest Moon…another time.
There are two small car parks at the lake, one right by the lake and one up a steep hill a few hundred metres away. Due to me getting everywhere super early we pinched a spot in the bottom car park. This meant we could leave all our stuff in the car and go back for food, water, change of clothes as often as we liked. It all felt very relaxed.
At registration we were given a swim hat, a glow stick and a travel mug (not sure why a travel mug, but it was very nice). We also had a number marked on our hand and our cap so we could be identified easily as we got in and out of the water.
Like the swim event at Eton the it was a great atmosphere. Lots of different types of swimmers from Ironman triathletes – I saw a lot of IM T-shirts, to non wetsuit swimmers. I even saw a lady in a wheelchair getting ready for her swim. I did wonder for a moment if they were going to wheel her up to the edge and just tip her in. Hopefully she used the ramp lol!
At 7.30 as the light was fading we had our safety briefing – everyone had to check that the person next to them had a working glow stick (unlike the glow run last week where most of them didn’t work) – this would be the only means of being seen. I could see the safety kayaks getting ready in the water, they had a little red glow sticks, we had green and yellow ones. There were also a couple of divers under the water with torches. It was all very exciting.
At 7.45 we entered the water – our numbers shouted out and written down as we did so – each swimmer would be checked back out of the water too. The water on the ramp was shallow and warm, nice ….and then you jump into the deep dark water and OOOHHHH!! a little bit colder (much colder). Everyone gasped as they jumped in and then laughed. There was lots of nervous excitement, it really was an unusual thing to be doing.
The event was started with a red firework set off over the lake. Very cool. We had been told not to race. If we were fast then go near the front and slower swimmers near the back. It was an experience, racing would be dangerous. Everyone stuck to this and before long there was a long line of glow sticks making their way round the lake.
We were allowed to swim any distance we liked from one to four laps. Adi and I had decided to stick to two laps as we didn’t know how we would feel. As it happened I think we both would have liked one more lap but as we didn’t swim together we both got out when we said, not wanting to worry the other one.
But back to the swim…. I loved it!! Really loved it. I just spent the whole swim thinking how lucky I was to be doing it. What an experience. It really was very dark, but the little glow sticks around were comforting and I did get a glimpse a hazy Harvest Moon 🙂 The large buoys on the lake were lit from below so we could see where we were going and apart from swimming into a smaller buoy at one point it was very straightforward. I did have one little shock as a non wetsuit swimmer came near me – it did just look like a body floating in the lake!
Each time I rounded a big buoy I could see the snaking line of glow stick, it was very special. I saw one swimmer stop and asked if he was ok? “yes, I’m just taking it all in” he said. I knew what he meant. Towards the end of the last lap although feeling really strong I was starting to feel little cold so it was probably good that I was getting out. I headed over to the ramp and my number was shouted out as I exited. I was a bit wobbly but so happy.
Adi had finished before me and was back at the car out of her wetsuit and wrapped in her toweling robe. We had had decided not to shower with the masses (there are good facilities there) but to get dressed and get home. It was getting quite late and we had a long drive.
With seven hours sleep after the Glow in the Park I was back out on the road at 6am and driving to the Cotswolds for Event 41, an Aquabike. What’s an Aquabike? It’s a swim and a bike, no pesky running 🙂 This Aquabike was also nice and short, 750m swim and a 20km bike. I did wonder if it was worth the 2 hours of driving each way, but it was…most definitely.
The drive there was beautiful, a perfect morning – the sun rising and a little mist to make it look pretty. It was bit nippy but looked like it would warm up. Best of all the M5 was strangely empty 🙂
I’ve never been to the Cotswolds for a swim event and never done an Aquabike. I was keen to see what the lakes were like in case I want to do a longer event there one day and I was also keen to do a short race for a change – one I could actually race.
I arrived at Lake 62 just after 8am, parked my car and walked to the venue. The grassy walk to registration was pretty muddy and I was glad that I would not be running on it later. It was a low key event and all the registration and transition were on grass, there was also no cover. Fortunately it was a beautiful morning and the sun was warming up nicely.
There was also an Olympic distance triathlon taking place the same morning so transition had to be cleared by 9am. My start time was a 10.10 so a bit of waiting around. But it was fun watching the Olympic waves do their swim and everyone I chatted to was very friendly. I chatted to a lovely guy called Tony for a while who was using this event as experience towards longer events in the future. He was also recovering from injury that stopped him running. In fact everyone I spoke to seemed to have a good reason for not wanting to run. The Aquabike was perfect, shame there are not more events like this.
At 9.30am we got in our wave race briefing. There were not many of us and although the men and women had our briefing together we would set of separately in the water. We were allowed in the water for a few minutes before setting off to acclimatise. Most people said “ooh it’s warmer than I though”. My first thought was “it’s colder than I thought” But really it was a nice temperature and after a few minutes chatting to my fellow swimmers we were off.
After my 5km swim last week if was lovely to be swimming just 750m, one lap of the lake. The lake was lovely, a few weeds, but generally very clear and lots of space to swim. The lap was over very quickly.
A quick dash out of the water, wetsuit down to waist, hat and goggles off and into transition. It was easy to find my bike as most of the bikes had gone on the Olympic distance. Helmet and glasses on, shoes on…over the mat and onto the bike ride.
The bike was flat and fast and mostly left turns. One 20km loop which we only had to do once. I was loving this race. I didn’t notice much scenery because for once I was actually concentrating on going fast lol! There were a couple of points where we had to slow down – a busy cross roads where everyone had to stop and put one foot down or risk being disqualified and in one village there was traffic calming – with traffic being giving right of way in other direction. Fortunately both of these were traffic free for me but I did speak to a few people who had to wait for quite a while. One guy stuck while a caravan and horse box slowly came the other way. Very frustrating I’m sure.
The course was well signed but not many marshals, most of them were in the village with the traffic calming. We were told that the village was not too happy about cycle events – I bet many go through there. They needed to make sure everyone stuck to the rules.
At the end we racked our bikes and then had less than 100m to run to the finish line. It was rather strange doing a 100m dash with my helmet and bike shoes on. I watched the Olympic distance guys come and rack their bikes and the go off for their muddy 10km run…yet again grateful that for me the race was over.
At the end I chatted to my fellow Aquabikers. Every person I has spoken to before hand came over to ask me how I got on, Natalie who had just had a baby, Susannah and her partner who swam without wetsuits and Tony, who had raced so hard he was sick at the end (possible one too many gels) and walked back to the car park with me. Funny moment, when I wandered in the direction of the car park and realised I had forgotten my bike – whoops!
It was a great event and so friendly. It makes me a little sad that my year is coming to an end…I’ve had such fun and met so many nice people.
I think this is the first event this year that has really come under the “Fun Run” category. Not sure Ian thought it was much “fun” but more on that later…
No idea why I booked this as I already had an event booked for the same weekend on the Sunday, but I stumbled upon it while looking for something else and was seduced by an event with face paint lol!
The Glow in the Park was a 6km night run at Longleat. We really enjoyed the Maastricht night run on the Ironman weekend and we really love Longleat as a venue, having done many bike sportives from there, so it had all the right elements.
It was quite expensive for a 6km run but the tickets got cheaper the more you booked so I booked six and hoped to drag the family along….including Ian who thought he had got away with his one run event this year – parkrun at Coventry. I skimmed over the “getting dress up in bright clothes and face paint” aspect and told him how nice it would be to run with his girls 🙂
As it happened one of his girls, Heidi, got a better offer for the night – a festival on the Isle of Wight but Zoe was still in and of course…me!!! With Heidi’s place going spare we roped in my lovely neighbour Becky who, like me, was totally seduced by the bright clothes and facepaint aspect, turns out she had the perfect outfit already in her wardrobe and a bright pink wig just hanging around…. not much chance to rock a pink wig where we live in rural Somerset, so this was her moment – she was in.
I had to be super organised for this event as we would be getting home late and I would be back out of the house again the next day at 6am for my next event. So I spent Saturday preparing my run stuff for the Glow run and my swim and bike stuff for the Aquabike – I would be doing a disjointed triathlon with a sleep in the middle 🙂
At around 7pm on Saturday evening we all arrived at Longleat. Sister Adi and Brother in Law Antony were there too and Henry, Zoe’s boyfriend had come along to cheer us on – if he could see us in the dark! It was a beautiful evening, which we were very grateful for after waking up Saturday morning to heavy rain and strong winds. Longleat House looked amazing as always…but there was already a totally different vibe to the bike events we have done there. Loud music, flashing lights and, many many cars….I could see Ian’s face drop, this was not his thing at all – sorry Ian. I was wondering if it was mine either. We could see lots of people walking around in VERY bright outfits….many sporting pink tutus…including the men, and so much face paint. I heard the announcer say there were 3500 people and it felt like it.
Becky is an artist which came in handy for our face painting – once parked up she set to work on us. Ian kindly agreed to wear the pink headband, but face paint was a step too far. The rest of us were covered in the stuff.
There was quite a bit of waiting around at the start….they wanted to wait until it was dark, so the start time of 19.30 was delayed until around 19.45 and then everyone was set off in waves. With hindsight we should have pushed to the front but instead found ourselves pretty much at the back. There was lots of jumping around to loud music and the MC revving everyone up. Poor Ian was not enjoying this bit at all, but hopefully he would enjoy it once the running started.
Unfortunately with 3500 “fun” runners even after we started not much running happened. The track was narrow, it was very dark and also quite hilly – we’ve cycled around here often and doesn’t seem as hilly on a bike – the undulations actually make it seem quite fast…..and the fact was, most people were walking and intended to walk the whole thing from the start. It was a very jolly atmosphere though and it was lovely seeing people out having fun with their family members. Trouble was my family members wanted to run!
After a kilometre of shuffling along Zoe had other ideas and scooted off with Ian, dodging and weaving between the walkers. Adi and Antony were trying to do the same. Becky and I tried to follow – which was challenging in the dark, but was actually quite fun. Everyone had a torch and the line of lights snaking between the trees did look very special.
Fortunately after a 2-3km it thinned out a bit….I think we had gradually made our way towards the front runners/walkers. We finally had space to run. Zoe was going at a good speed and Ian kept with her. Adi and Ant also kept together. Becky and I decided to experience some of the “fun” stations and lost sight of them. The brightly lit stations were tents with various things in the them – foam or brightly coloured gloop – and loud music. People were stopping to dance in them and get covered in stuff.
I was enjoying it and it was such fun to run with Becky, who normally would be too fast for me. We chatted away and dodged between the walkers, up and down the little hills, on and off grass and tracks. Trail running in the dark and with a great company.
As we neared the finish I could just about see Ian and Zoe in the distance but we couldn’t catch them. The finish line was a blaze of lights and more booming loud music. Henry was there to cheer us over the line. We collected out finish certificate and met up with Adi and Antony.
It was not a fast 6km but I think we were faster than most because when we got back to the car park it was still completely full. We didn’t hang around, the thought of queuing with a thousand cars didn’t appeal, so we dashed out and headed home.
It was good to do a different type of event and always good to hang out with my family….much better than a night in front of the TV, and it was fun to dress up and not care about the time it took. In the end I think Ian had a good time, he got to run with Zoe which he loved and of course he has a pink headband to keep forever 🙂
Another week, another 5km – this time though it was a swim and wouldn’t take 28 minutes!
As the event was at Eton Dorney lake near Windsor we decided to make it into a mini break. We being me and my sister Adi. We had booked to do this swim last year but then Adi got ill and ended up in hospital having an operation. I still went and did the 3km distance, but my heart wasn’t in it.
Adi is now fully recovered and back to fitness so we booked it again. Hoping that unlike some of our other events this year it wouldn’t be cancelled. Edinburgh HM – thank you Easyjet and the Dart Aquathlon – lack of numbers. We brought our trainers just in case – there is always a parkrun 🙂
But all went to plan and we set off on Friday night for our hotel. Just over five hours later we arrived….it should have taken two and a half! The same thing happened to me last weekend when I went to Coventry, another 5 hour journey that should have been half the time. Grrrr…holiday traffic. The endurance part of this year is turning out to be the driving…not the events!
Finally we arrived at our hotel and after a change of room due to me being nearly electrocuted by a bedside lamp we finally settled down for the night around 10pm…the new room was an upgrade though and the bathrobes were very nice 🙂
In the morning we were very glad that we had made the effort to get there the night before despite the horrid traffic as now we only had a few miles to drive to Dorney Lake and left at a very reasonable 7.45am. By 8.15 we were parked and in line to register.
I’ve done lots of events here and it was nice to be some where familiar – my last time was a only a few weeks ago for the Banana Man triathlon. It was also nice to only have my swim gear and not a bike and run stuff. Much less faff.
By the time we had got our timing chip, yellow hat for the 5km distance and numbers written on our hands it was nearly time to swim. We got ready as quickly as we could… slowed down somewhat by Adi’s attempts to get in her wetsuit and me laughing at her 🙂 I think she’s getting a new one which hopefully she can breath in and get in out of easily lol!
Our wave was at 9.30am, the last wave and just after the 10km swimmers. I was so pleased to not be swimming 10km today. Adi and I have done 10km before in the river Dart and it’s a long way. In fact my friend Sally was doing the Dart 10km on the same day and I thought of her often as I swam along….”thank goodness it’s not 10k, thank goodness it’s not 10km…:-) ” Having said that, the conditions were perfect for distance swimming, warm weather, warm water – 20C and no wind…the best I have ever seen it at Eton where usually there is a fierce cross wind. Still, 5km is long enough.
It’s a fairly small event – maybe 50 people in our 5km wave. The other waves for the other distances looked similar. I guess not many people want to swim that far. It had a very different vibe from a triathlon where most people are very worried about the swim and you often hear people saying things like…”I’ve never swam in open water” or “this is only the second time I’ve swum in my wetsuit” seriously, I’ve heard these things. They just want to get the swim done and get onto the bit they like…the bike and run. Here, although I’m sure there were many triathletes they were also swimmers and no one seemed bothered at all by a 5km swim. It was very relaxed.
After a quick safety briefing we headed into the water. It was rolling start, so again very relaxed no pushing and shoving – everyone just walking slowly over the timing mat into the water. Unlike other events here we would be swimming almost the whole length of the lake, instead of around and around a short circuit of buoys. It was much nicer. All the way up the lake, under a little bridge and down the other side of bank into a filter stream – at least I think that’s what they called it. Anyhoo, we swam back down some water that wasn’t the proper lake bit. Despite many visits here I hadn’t really noticed this bit of water, or at least not realised that it was slightly separate from the main lake. Guess I’m usually whizzing by on a bike or swimming round and round the buoys on the other side.
The water was lovely and there was plenty of space to swim. The course was easy, straight up, under the bridge and straight down…. and repeat, there were also two feed stations – for a little break if you needed it. We had left our nutrition at one of them earlier and it was nice to see your own drink waiting for you. We also left some jelly babies as Adi thought they would be nice. Turns out she can’t eat and swim and I think there may be a red jelly baby still floating around in Dorney Lake! Or maybe anther swimmer ended up with one stuck to the front of their cap lol!
Adi had left me within a minute of us getting in the water, she is much faster than me. I wanted to take it fairly easy… it’s my first big swim since the Ironman and I haven’t been in the pool much in-between, partly due to fatigue but mainly lack of motivation. I felt like this after my last Ironman so wasn’t surprised. Although I was a bit worried about the distance I was fairly sure I could make it especially with the option to stop at the feed stations if I needed to. In the end I probably only stopped for a minute at each one…mainly for a wee, which is much easier when you aren’t moving! Too much information….sorry!
I loved this swim, not just because it was in a lovely lake, not just because I got to do it with Adi and not just because it was 5km and not 10km. I loved this swim because I didn’t have to cycle 112 miles and run a marathon straight afterwards. I could just get out…….and…….nothing 🙂 I smiled about this all the way round, trying not to swallow water as I did lol!
One hour and 52 minutes later I had finished and Adi was there waiting for me having finished over ten minutes earlier. She was already in her long towelling robe (it’s one off those that you get changed under) eating the nice food they provided. The volunteers were lovely and encouraged us to eat cakes and have a hot drink. Despite the nice weather and warm water you still get quite cold after a long distance. Adi got my swim robe for me and we hung around for a bit. We were the only people wearing such things and I think we looked quite a sight, but we didn’t care especially as we were warm.
Then back to the hotel for a shower and change. We were staying for a second night – it was a mini break after all – and so we went out for the afternoon to Windsor Castle, something we’ve been meaning to do a while, in fact since a swim in the Thames, again near Windsor a couple of years ago. “we must go to Windsor Castle one day” we said…. so we did, and it was great fun 🙂
We finished the day with a hotel picnic of cheese and biscuits and prosecco and watched Stictly Come Dancing in our bathrobes. Perfect end to the perfect day.
Last week was another parkrun. As I think I mentioned at the beginning of the year my plan was to include around ten parkruns in my year of Events, but to try and do a different one each time.
This time was Coventry. We planned it a while ago to coincide with a mini break with our friends Steve and Gill, in Coventry, funny enough 🙂 Steve and Gill are my friends who came to cheer me on at the Milton Keynes marathon. They enjoyed supporting but Steve was keen to do an Event with me….hey Steve…you could have done the MK marathon lol!
We’ve known Steve and Gill for about 25 years, before we even had children. We met them on a walking holiday in Corsica. Ian and I were hiking the Tra Mare e Monti – a sea and mountain walk, staying at a different pension each evening. At one place I think we arrived a day early (I can’t remember the exact details) and we were having lively discussion (an argument) about what to do. We were just by a hedge outside a little bar/hotel – the other side of the hedge were Steve and Gill, probably hearing the whole thing lol.
We ended up chatting, having a drink or three and then dinner, and 25 years later we are still good friends 🙂
Steve also cycles, so the day before parkrun we did a lovely bike ride out into the Warwickshire countryside with a pub lunch…I tell you this only so that I can put a picture up of the windmill we saw, not as an excuse for my parkrun time 🙂
With 66km in my legs from the ride and still covered in bruises and feeling a bit battered from my Tough Mudder last week we walked the ten minutes from Steve and Gill’s house to the park. I just wanted to have a nice time and take it easy …still not making excuses 🙂
Added bonus for this run was that Ian would run with us, obviously not “with” us…maybe five minutes ahead. Ian is not a runner, why run when you can bike, but despite this he’s really fast. Life is not fair! I should mention that Ian’s one and only parkrun up to this point almost killed him. He was exhausted for the rest of the day! His other recent running, earlier this year when he was in Panama with Heidi and without a bike, hurt his knees. His plan was to take it easy too, and by easy I mean much faster than me.
Parkrun is the same everywhere you go – just as a side note “parkrun” is spelled with a small “p” – it’s a registered trademark – but not sure what you do when it starts a sentence? Anyhoo, where was I, Oh yes…parkrun is the same wherever you go, a different park but usually quite flat (not always – looking at you Glasgow), often two laps and a good assortment of people, all shapes and sizes and speeds, people with buggies and dogs. It’s a friendly environment and Coventry was no different. Although there were more runners than most, around 500!
Gill cheered us on as we crossed the start line and Ian was already way ahead and soon out of sight. I lost sight of Steve too as he had gone off to chat to another friend. But I was quite happy and already enjoying the course. It started just before a big Monument and the paths were wide and even, there was also no bottleneck at the start which I think has happened at nearly every other parkrun I have done. This meant my first km was quite fast – under 6 mins….this either meant I would blow up before the end or get a great time!
I decided to try for a good time and kept up the effort. It was two laps and had one slight hill, it didn’t feel too bad going up and there was a definite downhill feeling coming off it. Just as I was coming up to the end of the first lap I saw Steve – waiting at the side of the path with Gill. He was waiting for me…oh no…I would have to keep running now (I had been thinking about a sneaky walk). He joined me and chatted as we ran along. It was great to see him and gave me a little boost. I couldn’t chat back as I was at my breathing limit. Turns out after all these years of running, I now have a ‘conversational pace’, something I never thought I would have. This wasn’t it…this was huffing and puffing pace.
As we came off the hill for the second time I could see the Monument at the end, still 1km to go but just seeing it helped keep me going. A few hundred metres from the end we saw Ian who had long finished (in 24.43) and was shouting something at me, I was puffing too much to hear or respond (he was asking if I needed pacing in). Hurrah the finish line and my second fastest parkrun ever, 28.36 and not too far off my best time. Very happy with that 🙂
It was now starting to rain so we didn’t hang around. Back to the house for a quick shower and change and out for a well earned brunch…there was bacon and pancakes, which I thought I deserved. Thanks Steve and Gill for a great weekend and a great parkrun experience.
Well, I couldn’t do a year of Events and not include an obstacle race and Tough Mudder seems to be the most well known.As it happens I nearly did one last year but two of my team members had to pull out and it’s not really something you can do on your own.
Then earlier this year an opportunity to join another team came up. Remember that “Channel” swim in the pool back in April well… I made a new friend that week, Cally. She was one of only three people who put some money in my charity bucket by the side of the pool, the other two people knew me. But Cally didn’t and I was really touched by her kindness especially as it involved going back into the changing room wet, at the end of her swim and coming back out to put some money in. I should say that I got plenty of donations that week – but the bucket by the pool just didn’t really work – no one has money when they swim lol!
Fortunately I bumped into Cally a few days later and was able to thank her. Turns out she was training for her first triathlon and long story short we ended up meeting for a few coffees and an offer from her to join her Tough Mudder team 🙂 Cally was doing a few events herself this year for her own charity.
Roll on a few months and the event was getting closer. It kind of crept up on me as most of my energy and thoughts this year have been for my Ironman. I didn’t train for the Tough Mudder just hoped that my general fitness and strength would get me through.
…then Cally got sick, really sick and ended up in hospital – Oh No! Despite this she messaged me and told I could still meet up with her team and do the event. Cally wouldn’t be able to take part herself – she needs to rest for at least six weeks but she offered to come and support and in the end even drove me – what a lovely girl.
So, on Saturday 20th August I rolled up at Cally’s house and we drove to Cirencester. Her friends Darren and Mark came along too. Mark would be on my team. We had a jolly drive there chatting about the up coming obstacles. I was quite nervous as apart from a few Youtube clips I didn’t really know what to expect. Cally has done a few and Mark has spectated, so by the time we arrived I had a better idea of the day ahead. I was still nervous!
At Cirencester Country Park we met up with the rest of our team – Chris and Sean. In the end there were only four of us, other members withdrawing due to injury and trust me you wouldn’t want to do this injured. But we had lots of support from them which was lovely. It’s a big event with around 5000 people taking part over the two day weekend – and very different from Ironman. It’s all about team work and this is drummed into you from the beginning in the warm up pen.
We had about 15 minutes in the pen with lots of chanting and Hoo- Raaas! We were encouraged to hug a few people we didn’t know and even give their bum a squeeze! Might as well get friendly now as the next few hours would involve being manhandled quite a bit 🙂 A good time to point out that the average age did seem to be quite a bit younger than me and most people looked pretty fit. Lots of people were also wearing their headbands from previous events. You get a different colour depending on how many you had done and apart from the first timers most people seemed to have done quite few.
After a bit more jumping around, shouting and a safety briefing we were off. I was a little concerned about the running sections. My team looked pretty fit, but we ran along nicely together and over hilly grass to the first obstacle about a km away – The Kiss of Mud. This involved crawling on your stomach through …..mud, and just to make sure you got completely muddy there was barbed wire about 2ft above you – no choice but to stay low.
The course was 10.5 miles long with 26 obstacles, most involved mud or water or both. The weather was back to normal, after a week of glorious sunshine it was now around 17C with wind and rain. The odd moment of sunshine but mostly grey skies. It was perfect for the running sections but after the water obstacles it meant you got cold very quickly unless you kept moving.
I loved the running sections. My trail shoes which Cally had recommended were awesome and as I watched most people slipping and sliding on the muddy trails in their trainers I was very grateful to be wearing them. Poor Chris fell many times but always with good humour. In fact everyone looked like they were having the best time – me included, I loved it.
Some of the obstacles involved climbing….usually quite high and this was where having a good team helped. Mark was often able to get to the top on his own and then Chris and Sean would lift me up so that Mark could grab my hands and pull me over. It was definitely an advantage being female – lots of help from everyone and light enough to be lifted easily. But is was still hard at times hanging and holding on and I have many bruises and aches and pains to show for it.
One obstacle was just too high and although I got up to the top I wasn’t prepared for the ten foot drop the other side – falling badly was a guaranteed injury – I came back down the same way, helped by my team. The great thing about this event (not a race as we were told many times) was that you only had to do what you could. I attempted all the obstacles but some like this one were too much.
Actually I did miss one out – the Electric Eel – crawling through water with live wires hanging down above you. Hmmm…. no! I saw other people do it and decided it was not for me. Mark whizzed through and didn’t get shocked but Chris who had done it a previous year had had a very nasty experience. Chris and I walked round.
The best obstacles were the water ones – although maybe not Arctic Enema which involved sliding into freezing water – literally freezing water. Cally was by the side watching this one and told me to take my long sleeve top off before going in. Great advice – I had a dry top to put on the other side. Our supporters also offered us towels at this point – very welcome. The event was well set up for spectators and we saw ours many times. Cally took lots of photos too which I’m very grateful for, not really kind of place you can carry a phone.
The obstacles continued – crawling, falling, jumping and climbing. All very muddy and often wet. In fact I heard many people say how much harder it was than the previous year when it had been hot and dry. Obstacles that would have been doable in dry conditions like the monkey bars were just too slippery. But I guess that added to the fun.
My team were amazing. Mark checking on me all the time. Chris with his strength so helpful on the obstacles and Sean ran with me giving me a heads up on what was just ahead. I helped when I could but mainly tried to just keep positive and happy and be a good team member.
On one of the obstacles I didn’t have to do anything. “Hero Carry” where you took turns piggy backing a team member. Mark just carried me for the whole thing – even breaking into a jog which was the best fun. Not sure his knees were quite the same afterwards but he didn’t complain.
My favourite was “The Block Ness Monster” – not sure quite how to describe this but it involved a long cuboid shaped log that needed to be pushed over by up to twenty people then you would jump on and roll over the top into the water. The water on this one was quite warm which was nice although a disgusting colour due to all the mud. It was fun.
My least favourite was the high wall which I mentioned earlier and I was just too scared to go over the top.
The Mud Mile was really muddy – waist deep mud to wade through and muddy banks to climb over. Although not actually a mile it seemed to go on forever and then out the other side was along walk/run through even more mud. Just to make it interesting it also started going up steep hills – my trail shoes did their stuff though and I faired better than most.
The penultimate obstacle was “Everest” a very high curved slope which needed to be attacked at great speed and then hopefully find a hand to grab onto to pull you up. I made one attempt and as I don’t possess great speed even when I haven’t completed ten miles I didn’t make it. Most people tried again and again, it was very hard. I chose to watch my team mates. Mark almost made it but his hand slipped and unfortunately he came down hard on his chin. Despite an hour of telling us he was just fine he ended up in the medical tent and needed four stitches – ouch!
Chris and Sean continued trying “Everest” but by now I was just too cold to stand around and made my way to the final obstacle – the “Electroshock Therapy” I managed this one – head down and running. I got shocked once, it wasn’t too bad. Finally the end. The finish line and my orange headband. I was a Tough Mudder.
The day wasn’t quite over – cold and covered in mud the bonus obstacle was trying to get wet, muddy shoes and clothes off. There was a rinsing station station but I was too cold to go under more cold water. I found a spot in the ladies changing area – a bit of grass behind a screen and tried to strip off. It took forever to get my shoes off and all the strength I had left. With the help of a bottle of water and a towel I managed to get fairly clean and dressed in dry clothes. Mark couldn’t even get his shoes off – we had to help him. Most people donate their shoes at the end – too muddy to take home. But I kept mine just in case I do another one – which I might – but having spent an hour in the medics tent waiting for Mark and hearing about all the injures – broken bones, dislocated shoulders and fingers, cuts etc …maybe not!
I can’t thank my team enough for such an awesome day. Their support and shared experience made it fun to take part. Thanks too to Cally for being there all day, taking photos and encouraging us on.