Event Eight – Exeter Half Marathon

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After the race, back in the warm and with a cute medal

Valentine’s Day!! Yay – let’s run 13.1 miles/21km to celebrate.  Or maybe just sit around and eat the lovely chocolates that Ian bought me.  In the end I did both 🙂

This event nearly didn’t happen due to The Body in the Park Situation ….. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

As this event was held in Exeter which is not that far away, I didn’t have to get up too early which was nice after last weekend, and ….. it wasn’t raining !!!! I know! But, it was very cold and my phone was telling me there may be snow.   But as I set off  the weather was fine 🙂

As usual I got there early – I do love to get a good parking space and it was nice to have time to have a coffee from my flask.  I also wanted to delay leaving my warm car.  I had plenty of layers on including a hat and gloves but already I could see people in shorts and vests – WFT!  This could only mean one thing, it was to be another fast race with me plodding along at the back.   I’m starting to look forward to Taunton and Yeovil half marathons where the field will be much bigger and I won’t seem so slow.

The race was starting by a canal – not a part of Exeter that I know well – in fact the only part of Exeter I know is the shopping area lol! But despite the grey skies it was a pretty area.

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At 9am we were all called together for what we though was a race briefing…. it wasn’t. The race was to be delayed 15 minutes due to an incident in the park we were about to run through!  No details were given but apparently it was now a crime scene.  I had seen a guy taking photos earlier and figured he was the local journalist, he was, and he told me that a body had been found in the park.  He was very good at saying all the right things – about the poor person – but he did seem quite excited that he was the journalist “on the scene”.

I also used this time to chat to other runners – I saw a guy, in a couple, who had a Staffordshire 70.3 t-shirt on – I’ve done that race!! Turns out the pair of them had done many of the same races as me and we had a good chat about triathlons and how we had all seen/chatted to Gordon Ramsey in Stafford.  I saw him later in the race – he was well in the lead and won by a big distance, I think he lapped me before I had finished lap two – trust me to pick the fastest runner there to chat to.  Hope he didn’t realise it me as he sped past.

Anyhoo, back to the delayed start. At 9.15 we were told it would be another short delay but the race would still go ahead, they just needed to re-route some of the course and move the water station.  I have to say the organisation and communication was very good and soon we were under way.

From the start I felt tired and heavy legged.  The pace was very slow as we all tried to run up a narrow path and avoid the puddles.  Within minutes my feet were wet, muddy and very cold – a familiar feeling this year.  It was a long way to run with wet feet.  I also realised that I had picked the wrong trainers – should have worn my trail shoes.  My trainers are really old and I had forgotten how much they can rub – my big toe now has a horrible blister and the trainers are in the bin.

As the race spread out a bit I found myself in my usual spot near the back.  The laps, now that the park was out of play, were up and down a long canal path – three 7km laps.  Up one side, across a little bridge and down the other side.  It was nice and flat but the mud made it hard going.  I guess it could have been quite boring but the police helicopter over head and the many cars with flashing blue lights livened it up a little.

My pace was about normal for this distance but I felt very slow and also felt a bit miserable.  However, I kept smiling because that’s what I do, and I chatted to all the marshals who were lovely and must have been freezing.  The lovely ladies at the water station all gave me a big hug on the last lap – must have looked like I needed it and hey, at my pace there is always time to stop for a hug.

I got another hug from my sister Adi and hubby Antony too. Totally surprised to see them – my sister had even texted me that morning pretending to still be at home.  I heard them before I saw them – GO PAULA GREEN!!!! What!!!!  OMG I was so happy and it gave me a real boost for my  last lap.  I didn’t get any faster but I felt happier knowing they were there and I would see them at the end.

I finished in 2.22.05 – a very normal time for me for the half marathon distance.  I ran all of it, occasionally walking through some mud so that I didn’t fall.  But it felt like hard work and I was very tired by the time I got home.   I had a little wobble that evening wondering if I had taken on too much this year – would this old body hold up?  But after a good nights sleep, some yummy chocolates and a meal cooked by Ian, I woke up on Monday morning feeling just fine and ready for the next 42 events!

 

 

 

 

Event Seven – Bristol Ride It sportive – 71 miles

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Guess What?  It was raining!

Event Seven took place one day after Event Six – trying to catch up on events after my week in Chamonix.  I managed to pick the worse weather weekend of the year to cram in two events.

There was some doubt if my ride would even take place as the weather was so bad the day before (parkrun day).  The rain had flooded many roads and the wind was crazy – we had a tree down at my house – right on our phone line.

Evan Cycles who ran the event were good with updates on Facebook and at 9.42pm on the Saturday confirmed that it would go ahead, but to check first thing just in case!

I was up at 5.30am, and out of the house by 6.15am.  The rain was intense and it took me over an hour and a half to get there.  Very slow on the motorway despite little traffic.  Bristol was lovely and quiet at that time in the morning 🙂

I parked up and registered in a big sports centre where HQ had been set up.  I only saw about three women !  In fact there weren’t that many people at all.  In total 310 riders turned up out of 400 that had signed up (I asked!) which I thought was a good turn out.  In the summer most sportives have a 1000 plus riders.

After signing in I dashed back to car, the rain was only drizzle at this point thank goodness, and got  my gear on and ate my porridge 🙂  As I sat there, the hail started – hammering on the windscreen.  I decided to stay there a little longer and looking around so was everyone else.

At 8.45 it stopped and everyone got out of their cars and headed towards the start.  I was hoping to see my friend Jo who was also doing it, but must have missed her.  I would be on my own (my lovely friend Sarah had planned to come, but the awful weather and timing issues, meant she couldn’t make it – a three hour drive from Kent would have been a nightmare for her).

I set off in a little group of about ten people after the pre race briefing …. actually not a race we were told, there are no winners and results are not shown in time order.  After about 4km we turned a corner and went straight up the first big hill – there were three signature hills on the ride.  I wasn’t expecting it so early, really should have checked the route lol!  But actually I was glad to warm up.   There were quite few people walking already, not much fun in the rain.  All the distances, even the 15km “fun ride” went up this great big hill!!!   I managed to catch up with a group of lads that had whizzed off from the start, but they all stopped at the top for a rest – there was no way I was stopping and getting soaked, so I was on my own again.  Then the hail came down….. again.  It was painful.

The next couple of hours were very wet.  Funnily enough there was blue sky and sunshine too, but even though I could see it, I was still being rained on – nice rainbows though 🙂  It would have been nice to get some pictures but I was just too cold to stop and get my phone out.  My phone also has a habit of dying in extreme cold and I needed it to record my ride….if it’s not on Strava…well, it didn’t happen.

The first feed station was near Cheddar Gorge and just before the next big climb. There was hot coffee, which was divine.  I shared a banana with someone as there weren’t many left and had a few salted peanuts.

The climb was the other side of Cheddar from the usual Gorge climb.  Starva tells me it was called Burrington Combe and has an average gradient of 6% – yay another chance to warm up!

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Coming up Burrington Combe – wearing all the colours!

At the top it was crazy windy – really strong cross winds and hard work.  Then down Cheddar Gorge itself – free miles, wheeee. But it was also very cold and at the bottom where it is very steep (around 16%) the wind was howling up the gorge and I was wobbling all over the place, I didn’t enjoy it one bit.

The weather had brightened up a little and I was quite enjoying myself as the route headed over towards the Somerset levels. Here there was a sign that split the medium and long routes – I had got there in good time so carried on with the long route and to the next feed station for a few more snacks.

The next big climb was The Old Bristol Road.  I remember this climb from my Lands End to John O’Groats ride last year.  It’s just past the pretty town of Wells and its quite steep in parts and nearly 3km long.  I had forgotten how much it kicked up at the end and was relieved to get to the top.

By now the wind was behind me and the last 30km were much easier, although I was quite tired and my feet were frozen.  No matter how well you cover your feet when the roads are flooded the water comes through the bottom – result soggy feet.  The rest of me was warm enough and my gear worked well – merino vest, long sleeve base layer, soft shell jacket, lightweight rain jacket and gillet, oh and a hat and ski mittens (they look stupid, but are very warm).  The Evans guys at the end did mention my strange colour combo – fluorescent green, yellow, pink and orange – I had the lot, but I was warm.

The last 10km seemed to take forever and there were a few more sneaky climbs but finally I saw the sports centre – hurrah!

A quick hot chocolate and I was back in my car and heading home as the rain started yet again.

I got home at 6pm – a 12 hour day with six hours of cycling – totally shattered.

7 down, 43 to go!

 

 

 

Event Six – Burnham-on-Sea Parkrun

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Burnham-On-Sea parkrun start. This is a lake not a puddle!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last event, but I’m back with another parkrun and it was another rainy one.    Adi came with me again and this time we were prepared for the bad weather.  She did not even attempt my flooded lane, I met her a few miles away and then we drove the 45 minutes to Burnham-on-Sea.

Despite the weather we were in good spirits and excited about doing a new parkrun.  We were nice and early so got a good parking space, then sat in the car for a while and had the usual “how many layers to wear” discussion.  Bad weather is tough – trail shoes or trainers? head band or hat? Gloves or no gloves? The temperature wasn’t too bad so I opted for a short sleeve top and a lightweight jacket and some gloves – which worked fine 🙂

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Happy in the warm car

The pre run briefing was brief as it really was hammering down.  They had moved the start due to flood water – and they also decided to run the loop in opposite direction to usual – so that the big puddles were at the end.

As soon as everyone had walked to the start it was 3,2,1 GO!  No hanging around – much appreciated.

All parkruns are 5km and today this distance seemed enough, especially as my legs were still aching from Cross Country Skiing.  Cross Country Skiing??? Yep !! That’s where I have been the last week, in Chamonix, training for an up coming event in Finland at the end February.  I was hoping to be able to do some kind of event in Chamonix, but in the end just learning the technique and training was all I could manage 🙂

The beginning of the run is through parkland round a little lake – at least I think it was a lake, may have been a big puddle lol! Then we headed towards the sea front where the wind came into play.  At first it was behind us, for I guess a kilometre or so, but then we did a U-turn and almost came to a standstill as the headwind blew at us.  I tried to tuck in behind a girl in front of me but she was too small, really could have done with a five foot wide man!

Adi and I had decided to do our own thing today, rather than try and run together.  Her recovery has been going well and her running has progressed a lot, but she wanted to stick to her run/walk strategy while listening to her running podcast – although in the end she didn’t walk much due to the rain.

I saw Adi as I ran back on after the U-turn and she looked good – we high fived as we passed.  Further along was another turn and we were back out of the wind.  The final 500m was full of big puddles, everyone just splashed through them, cold wet feet – yay! But the end was near.  A quick burst of effort and I finished in 30.26, Adi was not far behind in 33.57 – woohoo!!

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Adi finished and happy with the result

While I waited for Adi I had a nice chat with a man who liked my trainers – parkrun is friendly like that, then it was off to get our barcodes scanned.  Lots of problems with soggy barcodes today but I have a little plastic one which worked well.

We were drenched, and sitting in the car on our towels we decided that we couldn’t face the drive home this wet. And so ensued a comical ten minutes where we tried to strip down in a public car park and get dry clothes on.  As this is pretty much my sixth wet race I’m now pretty good at this.

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Getting changed in the car 🙂

Six down – 44 to go!

 

Event Five – Western-super-Mare 5 miler

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This event is part of a series of events that take place on the beach front of Western-super-Mare between September 2015 and May 2016.

It’s held on a Thursday evening and I thought that it would be a good event to sneak in, in the week, freeing up time for more ….er…training …for …more….er….events! 🙂

Anyhoo, it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Apart from the fact that I’m not an evening person – in fact the total opposite.  I’m one of those annoying people who jump out of bed around 6am raring to go, the flip side being that I’m in my PJs by 8.30pm (ok, ok, 7.30pm) and usually tucked up in bed with a good book by 9.30pm (ok, ok, 9pm).

This event started at 7.30pm dangerously close to me turning up in my pyjamas.  Good job I didn’t as it was cold, windy and raining.

My lovely daughter Zoe said she would come with me so that I had company on the drive to Western-super-Mare.  I was super grateful for this as I don’t really like driving in the dark.  I had asked a few friends if they would join me for this event but turns out normal people do things in the evening, like swimming and yoga and going out – who knew!

It’s an hours drive but with the M5 in between my house and the destination we had to leave plenty of time.  My last trip to Western was to drop daughter number two off at a party and involved getting quite lost which is actually hard to do given that the beach front is just one long road with the sea on one side – now that I have run it, I can attest to just how long!

Any way, as soon as we got to the promenade we saw runner type people, no getting lost tonight.  And being January parking was easy.

There were more people than I had imagined – for a cold rainy night – the January effect I suspect (the usually quiet pool at my gym is heaving at the moment – roll on February when things go back to normal).  HQ was in a large warm cafe and I got my race number.  As the event was only £4 and you can do the whole series for £17 I wasn’t really expecting fancy stuff like a race number – but I was glad to have one.  Mine was nicely printed as I’d booked ahead online – the people turing up on the night had their’s written in felt tip – mine was better lol!

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Love the seaside donkey picture

I spent way longer than was necessary faffing about how many layers to wear – so warm in the cafe, so cold outside!  What a dilemma.  In the end I ditched a layer but wore a headband and gloves.

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The start – I’m in there somewhere!

The start was just along from the cafe, the 5 miles involved two laps of the promenade – up/down/up/down/up??? or something like that – everyone I asked seemed to add an up/down and looked a bit vague – it didn’t really matter as I knew I would be at the back and have people to follow.  Many people were dressed in just a singlet and shorts…in January…yep!!! I knew I would be at the back.

….and I was.   From the first turn (up/down/up/down) I was about fifth from the back and I was running well, at a good speed for me.  The promenade was totally flat – I’m not sure I have ever run that far on the flat ever!  Even a 15k run I did in the Netherlands had bridges to liven it up a bit 🙂

There was some wind, so one direction was much cooler and a bit harder (but honestly so flat, I really didn’t care, I was loving the flat) and the other direction was a bit faster and warmer (glad I took that layer off).

Because of the whole up/down/up/down situation and despite being at the back, I could see other runners all the time which was nice.  My only concern was not to be lapped – which I managed although I did get overtaken by the speedy runners on their cool down lap – ho hum, guess my speedy pace really is slow!

Zoe was hanging out in the warm car (doing some Uni course work) and waved and cheered as I passed each time – so glad she came.

My goal was to get under 50 minutes and I scraped in at 49.48.  It was a lovely run by the sea although because it was dark I never actually saw it.

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Finished and happy

Five down – 45 to go!

 

Event Four – Lynmouth Classic – 2 day event

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Declan Paula Ian

Event: Taunton – Lynmouth – Taunton

Distance: 100 miles   Duration: Two days  Elevation: 3000m

Participants: Paula, Ian, Declan    Prizes: for the top three!!! (I was in with a chance)

Support/Team Car: Annemarie (best support ever!)

Day One

This event was kindly hosted by our good friends Annemarie and Declan.   As soon as they heard I was planning 50 events this year they jumped in with an event for me.  Very exclusive apparently as only two days after agreeing to do it, I received a text from Declan saying the event had now sold out 🙂 but no worries The Greens had secured a place.  Hurrah!

Our ride started from Taunton on Saturday morning.  It had been -1C when I woke that morning but had warmed up to a balmy 3C by the time we set off.  With the right gear on it was actually quite nice, no wind or rain and a glimpse of winter sunshine.  Given it’s the middle of January we couldn’t have hoped for better weather.

The hills started within the first twenty minutes as we started the climb up onto the Quantocks.  Hills would feature quite a lot  in this ride and by quite a lot I mean constantly – we were either going up or down.   Our first hill was a familiar one, we have done it a few times recently and apart from a steep bit at the bottom it has a pleasant gradient of around 4-5% for around 4km.  Up on the top we met Annemarie for our first support stop.

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The support stops in the camper van were one of the highlights of this event.  Annemarie would greet us with a big smile, a warm van with the kettle on and a table full of food – seriously – FULL of food, sweet, savoury, homemade goodies and naughty treats – it was all there.

We only stopped for a short while at the first stop, so Ian could faff with his power meter and then we were off.  Down off the Quantocks and up onto Exmoor.  Elworthy Hill is a killer, the bottom half leading up to the crossroads is bearable,  and then it kicks up for over a mile at an average of 10% but with little bits of 17% just to keep you motivated 🙂  I haven’t ridden this part of the hill for a couple years and last time I had to stop a few times while I tried not to die – hanging over my bars trying to catch my breath and with my legs screaming for mercy.  I guess I must have improved these last two years as although not easy it seemed manageable and I didn’t need to stop – yay!

Another pit stop at Raleighs Cross – Hmmm hot coffee and walnut cake in the warm van.  Although a beautiful day it really was very cold and knowing the van was waiting for us kept me going.

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Declan coming into Raleighs Cross

Another 10 miles across to our next stop at Wheddons Cross – undulating to say the least and then onto Simonsbath with the joy of descending down into Exford knowing you had a steep climb out the other side.

Our final 10 miles to Lynmouth were across the top of Exmoor – the views were spectacular – the late evening sunshine and the sheep and ponies dotted around.  We all felt so lucky to be out enjoying it.

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Beautiful Exmoor – too cold to wait for pony to turn round!

The only downside was the long descent into Lynmouth, which although beautiful was down down down, which meant the next day would start up up up!  We nearly missed the final decent, but fortunately Ian was waiting for us, to make sure we did the final right hand turn – if we had missed we would have started climbing a 16% hill up into Lynton.  Thanks Ian 🙂

Lynmouth is a pretty seaside town with houses poking out from the trees high up the rocky hills and with a gushing river running down the gorge in the middle.  Back in 1952 this gushing river turned into a terrible flood killing many people and there are many signs around the town remembering the tragedy.

On arriving in Lynmouth we cycled towards the beach where Annemarie was parked up and waiting for us with champagne – YES!! champagne!!! – no wonder this event was sold out 🙂  The table was laid out with nibbles and we all huddled inside in the warm and toasted many things – our great day out, Declan’s birthday  (the following day) and most importably the end of AM’s chemo/readiotherapy treatment.  Yes, this amazing woman has just undergone two surgeries, chemo and radiotherapy and still chose to celebrate her recovery supporting three hungry, cold, tired cyclists – she is very special.

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The Amazing Annemarie

 

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Champagne in the Team Car

We stayed at a delightful little pub with a big fire, lovely rooms and fabulous food – possibly too much fabulous food (and drink) – and the only way home was over a lot of hills…on a bike (or maybe a van) lol!

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The Rising Sun Pub

Day Two

Not the best night’s sleep but very comfortable and I felt rested.  Ian and I had a short walk in the morning along the beach front – it was clear enough to see over to Wales.  Then back to the pub for a full English breakfast – not my usual pre bike ride food, but good mini break food.

After a quick photo of AM and Declan in the same place they had a photo taken 30 years ago, we were off.

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Annemarie and Declan

Up up up…. a steep ramp of a few 100m followed but 4-5km of reasonable ascent up the gorge then a left turn.  Here the road surface got a lot worse and the gradient a lot steeper – and it just kept going up.  Every bend I hoped to see the road flatten out and every bend revealed another steep ascent.  Ian, who is very good at this sort of thing,  had left us ages ago, Dec and I plodded up.  C’mon !!! Please be the top, please let me see a glorious view….the van!

We made it and AM was waiting for us.  We didn’t stop for long as the weather wasn’t quite as nice as the day before and we wanted to get some miles done.  Our next big stop was at Wheddons Cross where we would stop for coffee and ham rolls!  The hills were totally worth it for the food stops.  I bumped into my friend Heidi at this stop – she is a very serious cyclists and must have laughed at us all piling into the warm van, as she set off across the hills.

The weather was starting to change – fog and drizzle with big black clouds looming ahead.  Big black clouds that we were heading straight for.

That morning I had expressed a wish (ok I pleaded) that we not go up Cothlestone  – up onto the Quantocks.  It’s very steep (I’ve done it before) and I just couldn’t face it at the end of the day.  Declan kindly arranged a detour at Raleighs Cross so that we could make up the missed miles without going up the scary hill.  Our detour contained a scary descent and lots of uphills …hmmmm.   Not sure I got away with it 🙂 It was very beautiful though – which helped.  The rain was getting harder and by the time we were back on our route and heading down into Taunton the wind had also picked up and we were all drenched.  BUT, we were nearly home.  Another 20k along familiar roads and we would be back at Declan’s.  As Ian is faster we told him to go ahead and get the first shower.  Dec and I went as fast as we could.  I couldn’t wait to get back, by the time I got in the shower my feet were so cold they felt like they were on fire – if that makes sense – they really really hurt and it took me a good hour before I started to truly warm up.

While I sat huddled by a heater, with a wool blanket over me the prizing giving started – and YAY – First Lady !!!!

It was a fabulous weekend, great cycling, great support and great company. Thanks Annemarie and Declan, I will be putting my name down early for next year’s place in this exclusive event.

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The Exmoor Beast???

Event Three – Taunton parkrun

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Paula and Adi

I love parkrun and this was the first of around 10 I will do this year – hopefully everyone being at  a different venue and with as many friends and family as possible!

Today’s plan was to do Burnham on Sea parkrun as it is run on paths and less likely to be as muddy as some, unfortunately the weather gods had other ideas.  So Taunton is was.

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Taunton parkrun start

I have done many parkruns but this one was special as it was my sister Adi’s “comeback run”. She had abdominal surgery four months ago.  This came about after some serious swelling in her legs during the Edinburgh Marathon weekend back in May.  Despite a swollen ankle, which we thought was probably a reaction to a bite she ran a very respectable Half Marathon but the swelling got much worse the next day.  A week in hospital and numerous tests and she was booked in for a hysterectomy which she had in October.

This is a serious operation with a long recovery period.  Adi kept active, walking everyday from the start and doing gentle exercises.  No running or biking allowed for 16 weeks .  A few weeks ago she was allowed back in the pool and after a shaky start was quickly up to 60-80 lengths per session – Go Adi!!

So today at parkrun was a her third run, she has been following the NHS 5k running podcast – where “Laura” talks you through a run/walk programme hopefully getting you up to 5km.

As I said earlier we ended up at Taunton parkrun due to the weather.  My lane was so flooded that Adi could not get her little sports car to my house.  By the time I had come out to her in my big car and we had found somewhere for her to leave her car, not easy in the country lanes where I live, we had run out of time to drive to Burnham on Sea.  The rain was hammering down and we wondered if we should abandon the idea all together.  But Taunton is not far and we were out anyway.  Funnily enough I had been saving Taunton parkrun as a backup for a weekend when I didn’t want to travel far or didn’t have much time.  It was to be my “in an emergency event” .  It’s only the beginning of January and I’ve used it up already 🙂

The other reason we didn’t choose Taunton today was because I suspected it would be a mud fest and indeed it was!  Mud and huge puddles galore.  Thanks goodness for trail shoes 🙂 and my practise run last weekend!

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Looks like fun!

When we started the rain had finally stopped.  Adi was not allowed to push herself too much so with the help of “podcast Laura” we ran for 90 seconds followed by a two minute walk.  With the crazy mud and flooding this worked well and we adapted it a bit to run when saw a flat dry bit and walk through the thick squelchy stuff.  We were both super cautious, Adi as she didn’t want to pull anything and me because I still have 47 events to go!!

The best thing about parkrun is that it’s for everyone, fast, slow, old, young, pram pushers and  dog owners (one dog on a lead allowed).  So despite our casual pace today there were other people around us and as always the marshals were super encouraging.

It’s a two lap course and we got lapped by the front two runners.  First to whizz past for a young lady, storming along (she didn’t look like she has whimped about in the mud like us) , hot on her heals was a young lad who did not want to be “chicked” . I saw him overtake her just before the finish line.  We still had another lap to go at this point.

More puddles and lots of splashing but it was cool to be back running with my sister.  For some reason, despite crossing the finish line together our times were two minutes apart ??? The timing is done with a stop watch on the finish line – maybe it got stuck 🙂 Anyhoo, Adi got the faster time and although it was ten minutes slower than her PB it’s a great base time to start her come back.

By the way, Adi is responsible for the Go Paula Green tag line.  She has supported me at many many events and the one thing that keeps me going is hearing the cow bells and “GO PAULA GREEN”  “GO PAULA GREEN”

I’m still collecting for my charity Asthma UK (link in the side bar).  Thank you so much for all those that have donated to far – it means so much to me.  As parkrun is free I will be donating £10.00 for each one I do this year.

Event Two – Somerley 10K

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My first event was local, and ten minutes before I was supposed to leave the house I was still dashing around trying to find clean socks and charge my Garmin.  This event was a couple of hours away and needed a bit of organisation.

I hadn’t registered ahead of time as I wasn’t sure whether two 10k races in three days was a good idea plus the weather has been truly awful.  Still, at 6am on Sunday 3rd January I found myself packing my running bag for the drive to Ringwood – near the New Forest, for event number two.  It was too early to eat so I made porridge for my little food thermos, coffee for the big thermos, packed bananas and nuts and sliced cheese (for afterwards).  Dry clothes and shoes and a written map in case the sat nav didn’t work.  Then headed out into the dark for a very wet and windy drive.

I thought about turning round a number of times during the drive, the rain was hammering down and visibility was low – I was crawling along worried about aquaplaning on unseen surface water.  Fortunately there were hardly any cars on the road – who would come out in weather like this if they didn’t need to.  I arrived at the Somerley Estate just after 9am, nearly two hours before the start of the race.

Like I said, I hadn’t registered so wanted to get there early, thank goodness I did as the planned parking on a grassed area was now unusable and the marshals were parking people along the edge.  Getting us to reverse onto the grass with our front wheels still on firm ground.  I could see one car already stuck in the middle, guess this is when they decided to change the parking arrangement.  I was probably about the 7th car to arrive so got a good spot near registration and near what turned out to be the finish – I was very grateful for this later.

After registering under a tiny little gazebo that was being battered my the wind I sat in my car and watched, for the next two hours, as hundreds of cars turned up trying to find a good parking spot, it was crazy and I felt sorry for the marshals – there were limited options – some people must have walked for ages in the rain to get to registration.

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While sitting there eating my porridge I started to wonder where the start was?  I wound my window down to chat to the girl in the car next to me, this lasted about thirty seconds as we both promptly got soaked faces, but she informed me that the start was about a kilometre away – WTF! I guess we were going to get soaked anyway but starting off wet seemed miserable.  We agreed to walk to the start together which is what we did at 10.50 – ten minutes before the start.

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My new buddy Zoe

The wind was gusting and the paths were flooded and our feet were soaked – and we hadn’t even started.  Zoe (my new car neighbour friend) and I chatted about events we were training for and had done.  She was training for the Bournemouth Marathon Festival – ALL FOUR EVENTS!!! She was planning to do the 5k and 10k on the Saturday and the Half Marathon and Marathon on the Sunday.   I had met a crazy lady – I felt quite at home 🙂  She had also done the London Marathon and told me how much  will enjoy it.

As we lined up for the start we tried to hide out of the wind behind some tall men – the advantage of being short.  Everyone was huddled together and shivering and no doubt wondering what the hell we were all doing there.  The start was delayed by 15 minutes due to the parking problems and seemed like forever. “Come ON” let’s move!!!

And then we did.  The first two kms were very slow as hundreds of people tried to dodge the puddles and mud before giving up and just running through them.  It was nice just to jog along and warm up a little.

I’m sure the estate was beautiful but I could hardly see anything through the rain and the mist.  At about 2km the heavy rain got worse, yep worse…. like the rain you get in the tropics but not as warm! A big groan went up as this happened followed by a kind of deranged group laugh as we realised how mad we all were 🙂

I could feel the mud and water squelching between my toes and my running tights seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. Truly awful weather, my thoughts went back four years to the Moonwalk.

…or as it’s known in my house the F*cking Moonwalk.

A side note about the Moonwalk….. Four years ago my sister, my friend Sarah and I decided to attempt the Edinburgh Moonwalk, a marathon distance walk that starts at midnight – three hours after my bedtime, right there I should have known it was a bad idea. It was, to this day, the most miserable experience of my life. Nine and half hours of misery, awful weather, blistered feet, fatigue, tears, dark moments.  My sister was injured which slowed the pace and we nearly missed our flight home! The trouble with walking is there is nothing less than walking.  With running you can walk when you get tired, cycling you can free wheel, swimming you can do breastwork.  Walking… is just walking and it’s slow.  I think you get the picture.

Anyhoo, when things get tough or uncomfortable during an event I always compare how I feel to the F*cking Moonwalk experience.  If the FM was a ten out of ten this was only around a 6/10 and in fact as the kms went by I realised I was quite in enjoying it – something quite satisfying about splashing through the puddles and hey once you’re wet, you’re wet.

It was a two lap course and I could see my new buddy Zoe just ahead of me all the time, it was like having a little pace bunny.  We levelled up at the 5km  mark after walking up a short steep hill before lap two and after a little chat she was ahead again.

I crossed the finish line in 1.06.37 – totally happy with that given the slow start.  Also my legs which were killing me after Friday’s 10k felt ok – I think my mind was on other things anyway, like keeping upright through the mud – unlike the poor lady in front of me who fell flat in her face, she was ok, I helped her up.

By the time I got back to my car the back tyres where in flood water but fortunately the front was still ok.  I had a last chat with Zoe and she very kindly gave me her little press pins which she used to keep her race number on instead of safety pins.  It was such a kind gesture – some people are so nice.

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Fingers crossed I get out of here!

Many cars around me were stuck – literally stuck in the mud.  Fortunately there were also people with big Landrovers helping to tow them out.  I got my car moving and out of there as soon as possible.  Further up the road I found a quiet spot and stripped down and got some dry clothes on – thank goodness for rain and steamed up windows!  Heater on full blast, heated seats on (love my heated seats)  and in an hour and forty five mins I arrive home…and the bloody sun was shining!

Two down – 48 to go.

 

 

Event One – Chard Flyer 10k – News Year’s Day

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Jo and Paula happy with our medals

And we’re off…

First day of the year and first event done – Hurrah!

I was a bit worried about how I would feel doing a 10k, having not run further than 5k in the last month – partly due to breathing problems early in December and partly because I have spent the last eight days trying to fit in 500km of biking while juggling a house full of guests.  Ian and I did the Strava Festive 500 challenge – 500km between Xmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Thanks to the  weather, I was trying to fit in 78km on the last day.    I was hoping for a rest day before my year started –  hey ho.

Well the breathing has been much better,  my asthma nurse has confirmed I can stay on my old drug for the foreseeable future 🙂  As for the cycling, it turned out to be a good warm up for today as my legs felt fine.

The weather the last few weeks has not been good – heavy rain and strong winds and today was no different.  Despite the forecast saying no rain until 1pm, it started to drizzle as we left the house and continued for the whole event. But I guess that’s what you expect at this time of year.  Everyone was in good spirits though and a few people mentioned that the weather was better than previous years!

I did my fist event of the year with my best friend Jo and her husband Martin.  Not really “with” them as they are speedy but we turned up together.  Martin had kindly picked up our race numbers earlier so we left Jo’s house ten minutes before the race started and wandered over the road to the little park in Chard.

There was a good turn out and I saw a few people I knew from my tri club, including Tanya who is super speedy and came in 4th lady today.

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Tanya, Paula and Jo ready to run

After a few hugs and cheery “Happy New Years” and we were off.

I had somehow swiped my watch onto a different screen than usual so only seemed to be getting my km splits and couldn’t see distance or overall time – whaatttt!!! I was too scared to touch it in case I made things worse so just counted the kms as my watch buzzed – note to self – need to get better at tech stuff.

Jo and Martin disappeared out of sight within a minute or so and I was near the back from the start.  The few people behind me gradually caught up and passed – fast lot those Chard runners.  As usual you kind of settle into a little group of similar speed people and have a bit of a chit chat – the lovely ladies around me were quick to point out the upcoming big hill (I had heard mumblings about this hill) and where it finished – somewhere in the distance, somewhere far far away – gulp.

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Fallen tree on the trail

I knew most of the area as I live locally and it’s where Jo and I do our weekly walk with her dog Shadow – we put the world to rights each week.  I’m not sure I’ve seen this hill before though, which came about 4km into the run after mainly flat trails. The hill began and so did the walking.  Because of my breathing I usually run 30 secs/walk 10 secs up most hills and this works well.  I have also been trying to power walk the hills in training so as not to lose much time.  I seemed to be keeping up with the slower runners using this strategy.

All the marshals, and there were many, were super encouraging and cheery despite the horrid weather and lots of New Year walkers also clapped us and cheered us on.

I loved it – my legs felt good and to be honest I was pleased to be off the bike for a change 🙂

The Hill was not too bad – similar to many hills I train on – in fact the worst bit was the steep descent the other side – the roads were very muddy with lots of surface water to I took my time – don’t want to get injured on day one.  The last part of the run came past Chard Reservoir and then through the streets of Chard to finish at the Rugby club.  The last km felt long, every turn I thought this must be the last – please let this be the last.

…and then I saw the finish line, a final burst of effort and I crossed the line in 1.03.08 which is a great time for me and better than expected 🙂

Jo was waiting for me and as the rain was now teeming down Martin dashed home to fetch the car for us – much appreciated.

Event One done – 49 to go!!!

Happy New Year xx

 

 

 

 

The Final Countdown – getting ready for 2016

Getting Ready
Getting Ready

 

So, while the rest of the world counts the sleeps until Christmas I’m counting the sleeps until the New Year!  Ok, I’m counting the sleeps until Christmas too, hoping Santa brings me a new bike jacket.

So much to think about before the New Year starts.  Some thoughts….

What if I get ill?

This has been on my mind quite a bit these past few weeks.  My breathing has not been too good.  My medication was changed due to NHS cutbacks and the inhaler drug that helped me so much these past 5 years is now considered too expensive and patients are being asked to try a cheaper version – unfortunately I didn’t get on well with it.  A sore throat and persistent cough, but no cold.  Laboured breathing which has affected my sleep and training, and I was using my reliever inhaler much more.  Fortunately after a call to the Asthma Nurse I was put back on my old drug and I feel so much better.  However, I’ve only been given a months supply and I have no idea if I’m going to have to put up a fight to keep getting it.  Stress I don’t need just now.  I’m sure it will all work out.

But if I am ill – well a year is a long time and I’m sure I will have time to catch up if I miss any events.  I have a big wall chart for each year and put stickers up for all the exercise I do – red dot for a run, yellow for a cycle, green for a swim and a little mouse sticker for my personal training session (sorry Max!)   It’s a great way for me to see the bigger picture – missing a few days of training does not usually impact on upcoming events and in fact sometimes the enforced rest is good!

Or injured?

Well, hopefully nothing serious will happen.  I do a lot to stay injury free.  I see my osteopath Ross every week.  If my body feels good I get a sports massage from him but if there are any niggles he can sort them out straight away.

I also work out with my personal trainer Max twice a week doing functional weight training – pull ups, press ups, dead lifts etc.  I’m sure this keeps my body strong and helps avoid injury.  The one year I cut down on weight training and did more tri stuff was the year I ended up with major hip problems.  Not risking that again.  This old body needs looking after 🙂

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Will I be able to eat whatever I want for the next year (and drink)

Surely YESSSS!!!! Er…no 😦

Unfortunately, despite lots of training I only keep my weight down if I watch what I eat. Grrrr.  Life is not fair.  As for drinking, I’ve tried rehydrating on Prosecco once or twice (or three times)  – always regret it. Again, I’m getting old, no resilience where drink is concerned.

So my plan, and it’s so boring, is to eat REAL food, not too much and keep away from processed stuff.  My Fitbit which measures my heart rate seems to think I burn between 2000 -2800 kcals a days depending on activity levels and if I stick to eating around 2000-2500 kcal my weight stays stable.

What about my training plan?

I think the events will become my training: bike sportives, catered training rides, half marathons and marathons, catered training runs.

My main event this year is the Ironman in Maastricht and I think most of the events I’m doing will help me towards that goal.  I will still do some normal training in the week, especially swimming, but stick to shorter bike rides and runs.

I’m not sure this would work for a more competitive athlete who would probably need more intense focused sessions, but for me…who chuggs along in training AND racing, I think it will work just fine.  I did lots of events leading up to IM Zurich and it worked well.

Motivation

Ahhhhhh!  I think I’m starting out as a fairly motivated person.  I love being outside and training. I’m hoping the blog and feedback will help – I know it will help 🙂 I’m sure there will be weeks where I can’t face yet another event but many of my events will be with friends and they will become my motivation.

I also know from recent experience doing the LEJOG (Land’s End to John O’Groats bike ride, that I did with my good friend Tara) that you can just get up day and day, feeling achy and tired and still do it.  I think I’m good at digging deep.

Should I do this for charity?

I’m very lucky that I have a secured a charity place for the London Marathon in April.  I will be raising money for the Asthma UK.  You can sponsor me here.

10 more sleeps!!!

 

 

First Blog

Knitted Me....and I like knitting!
Knitted Me….and I like knitting!

So, how did I get to the place where doing 50 events in a year seems like a reasonable endeavour ?

I’ve always been pretty fit, a swimmer as a child into my teens – training six days a week, and a gym bunny through my 20’s and 30’s.  Also a big walker, easily doing 15000 – 20000 steps a day.  Since having my children Zoe and Heidi I’ve not really worked – the odd part time job- so have lots of time to pursue my fitness goals.

I’ve never been able to run.  I’ve had asthma all my life, often in hospital even in my 20’s.  Although I tried hard not to let it affect my life, running has always been a challenge.  Around five years ago when I was 45 – my scary age – the age I thought I would be old and finally grown up, I was put on a new drug – it changed my life (funnily enough the NHS have just decided not to pay for it anymore, but I will rant about that another time).  It meant that I was not using my blue inhaler fifteen times a day.  My breathing was much more stable.

Also around this time (think I was 44) my sister asked me to do a super sprint triathlon – 200m swim, 8 mile bike and a 3km run.  How hard could it be? Quite hard actually – it took me just over and hour and I walked most of the run.  But I loved it and lived off the high for days.  I was hooked.

I decided the following year that I would enter the Sprint distance, with a 5km run at the end and I would run it all!

So, the drugs got better, my breathing got better – I joined a online running group to help me run that 5km.  It was called Up & Running and was run by Shauna and Julia.  Coach Julia had a new approach to running, the best bit being Free Form running – it involves walking 🙂 It also came with a forum where I could share my training exploits with other novice runners.  It turned out to be an amazing community that still support me today – a world wide group of fabulous women, many of whom I’ve met  in real life and who often turn up at my events.

I did well in this environment, no pressure to run with other people, but always feeling like I had other people with me (virtually).  In eight short weeks I could run a slow 5km.  I’m still slow in case you were wondering.

Back to triathlon.  I completed the Sprint and was hooked, I signed up for the Olympic distance the following year also signing up for the 10k online course to help me on my way.

Well the years went by and each achievement and distance spurred me on to the next one.  Finally completing an Ironman 70.3 in 2013 and then the full Ironman in 2014.

In four years I had gone from not being able to run to the end of the road to completing an Ironman.  As Ironman would say – “Anything is Possible” and I truly felt this – not just in the athletic sense.  Completing something that seemed so impossible five years ago has made me realise that anything in life is possible – if you put in the work.

And so to the 50th birthday year. 50 events.  I think it will be a challenge but I think I can do it.  I have the support of my friends and family ….and no job!

As for the “events” there will be big events, small events and some made up events 🙂 Gotta keep costs down.

I will include some Parkruns (keeping costs down) but I will try and make each one special – new Parkruns and dragging people along with me (watch out family members), there be will be an Ironman (costs going up), a 300km bike ride (in Sweden – costs going up yet again) a marathon or two and lots of other fun stuff.

It’s going to be a fabulous year.  I can’t wait.