Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 - The Run Down

This time last year I set myself 5 'Runolutions' - running goals and resolutions for 2015 - and boy did I have fun trying to achieve them.

Without a marathon to concentrate on, 2015 saw me become a triathlete after completing the London Triathlon; run with Paula Radcliffe; be a poster girl in the This Girl Can campaign; learn to swim front crawl again, and take part in my first 24 hour race at Equinox24 which included getting up and running in the dark at 1.30am! Phew!

So let's see how I got on with the rest of my goals...

1) Join a running club
This is probably the best thing I've done for my running all year, hell probably ever! After a few tentative visits, in January I signed up to the Manchester YMCA Harriers and haven't looked back since. Running with these lovely lot has meant going to wonderful races I'd never have entered alone, tackling a 24  hour race and coming top ten, winning the Christmas 5K Handicap as well as lots of brilliant social outings - not to mention chat chat chatting all the way through our weekly club runs.

2) Go to parkrun and make it routine
As soon as I completed my first parkrun early last year, I knew I would be back. The atmosphere en route; waiting for the text later to confirm your time and the feeling of being back in the warm tucking in to a post run brekkie by 10am, have all contributed to the best start to the best weekends. This weekly free 5k has also helped in increasing my speed (my 5k PB is now 21.34) and kicked me into gear to up my mileage by incorporating it into a long run. I've run in a number of different parkruns and when I'm away always check if one is nearby! Brilliant.
Impromptu Harrier parkrun meet up

3) Try out Cross Country
Not too long ago I did my first Cross Country race with the club. The wind was howling, the rain was pouring and the mud was slippery. But it was lots of fun. I've only completed one race so far but the season is young and I will be back for more in Jan!
Mud mud mud

4) Properly train for half marathons and try and break 1.45
Along with completing my triathlon, this is the running achievement I am most proud of in 2015 - completing the Wilmslow Half Marathon in 1.39! A new PB and much faster than the 1.45 I was hoping for. It was really hard work, but I really felt like I put the effort and training in, and unsurprisingly it paid off. I must remember this in my marathon training for Manchester 2016.

5) Have a clear out and lend a hand
A mile in her Shoes is a charity which helps women who have been affected by homelessness help find their feet through running. It's great, and I was really pleased when my new club told me they'd read my blog and were also doing a collection of running clothes to donate to the charity. So after sorting through my kit drawer I added my donations to the pile. In fact, having complained that my drawer is currently bulging, it's about time I had another clear out. I also volunteered to marshal our club race this year. It's nice to give something back and I should very much make it my goal to do more volunteering this year.

So there we have it - a pretty busy 2015 with lots of achievements I'm proud of. But the over riding bonus of the last year are all the lovely crazy people I've met and trained with along the way. From swimming, cycling, triathlon training and of course running, it's been the people who have been crazy enough to do these things with me that have really made it a brilliant year.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Running and racing in 2016

After a year off marathons there was much 'umming' and 'ahhing' over which marathon I would do come Spring 2016. Would it be London again after I loved it so much last time? Paris perhaps, along with a few Harriers? or would I run my adopted home city of Manchester?

After thinking about it at length, the lure of waking up in my own bed and celebrating post race at my local was too much for me and Manchester was entered! Im stupidly excited and am being bold and aiming pretty high for me with a time of 3.30. Yikes! This is massively quicker than my current PB of 3.51 so am hoping a lot of track sessions and hard work will help me get there. But in order to do that I'll also need to run some other races in the lead up to the big day.

These are, so far:

Cancer Research UK Winter Run 10k - 28th Feb Manchester
To run faster, you  need to...well run faster! So although 10k is not my favourite race distance, I figured I'd need a short sharp race to keep my speed up.  After it's launch in London last year, the Winter Run series has expanded to various locations throughout the country for 2016. As this 10k promises on course snow zones and plenty of polar bear hugs, I figured this was a good 10k to opt for and I was very kindly offered my place in it by the organisers. Im also hoping the fun course will help me beat my 10k PB which has been standing for over a year.

Coniston 14 - 19th March, Coniston
When I first joined my running club a year ago, the word 'Coniston' was said approximately 1 million times to me in the first couple of months and they were all to do with this lovely looking race in the Lake District. You get a slate table mat if you come top 10 and the scenery looks amazing. Im looking forward to the 14 mile course in March and it will hopefully act as a good gauge as to how I'm doing in my training. I can't wait to run a course which gets such rave reviews from my running buddies, especially as I'll get to run it along side them (well maybe quite a way behind the fast boys but you get the drift).

And so far, that's it! I'm on the look out for a good half marathon to chuck into the marathon training mix, along with weekly parkruns, cross country, club runs, long Sunday runs, track sessions....phew! I think it'll be a busy start to 2016!

What races are you planning for next year?

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Tatton Yule Tomp 2015

It was touch and go whether the Tatton Yule Yomp 10k would go ahead on Sunday thanks to Storm Desmond strutting his stuff. Lying in bed that morning listening to the wind howl and the rain on the roof, I didn’t much feel like getting out and entering the storm. 

But when an email pinged into my inbox from the organisers whilst I was eating my pre-race porridge, I was really please to see that it was still going ahead, and not only because the alternative was to tackle a run in the rain alone. I was looking forward to this 10k; it would be my last race of the year and I'd heard really good things about it. Plus I love a festive run! I also was in the mood to get out there and was looking forward to running with some of the club.

Following Santa and his elves into the storm
The atmosphere as we arrived was great, with everyone in good festive cheer boosted by the brass band playing Christmas songs. We decided all races should definitely start with a brass band. Loads of runners were dressed up and I vowed that next year I would do the same. Amid the angels, penguins and various Santas, the best outfit had to be the guy running in A REAL CHRISTMAS TREE costume. I dread to think where his branches may have got caught mid run...

It was so fun and festive that I almost forgot we had to race, but the party atmosphere continued down at the start line.

The course itself was tough. Lots of trails, mud and fields were the order of the day and I found it hard work. I like the idea of trail running and appreciate the scenery, but I feel like you can't settle into a pace and are constantly tackling the course. That, and I realised I really need to invest in some trail shoes. It was fun, but just as I was thinking hoe the weather wasn't so bad after all, the rain started to hammer down on us. It was cold and the rain in the wind was painful! But it was also refreshing and I kept the post race cuppa in my mind to get me through.

At a little over half way a marshal told me I was 7th lady which meant I kept my pace up even though my quads were screaming at me - I quite liked the thought of being top 10 and I didn't want any speedy ladies coming through and overtaking me!

Soon enough the KM markers ticked by and I was up to 8km. It was here that we thankfully left the fields behind us and were back on the open road and on to the home straight. I could see the light of the finisher clock in the distance and kept pushing towards it until soon enough I was there!

It was no PB run but I was so glad that I'd been able to go out and finish my last race of the year and the tough course made it even better. The costumes, festive music, and brilliant organisation made for a great race, not to mention the best post race goody bag I've ever had (complete with whole loaf of bread, gingerbread snowmen, and teacakes). 

Having some festive fun in the rain, 7th lady home and a time of 48.10 felt like a good way to finish my racing year.

See you next year Tatton Yule Yomp!

Hanging with the band post-race

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A venture in to Cross Country

Yesterday in Manchester was one of those days made for curling up on the sofa with a mug of tea and a good book, whilst feeling smug watching the rain batter down outside. So of course, yesterday was the day I'd decided to venture to my first Cross Country race with my running club.

After a frantic yet fruitless search of Manchester the day before, I finally managed to secure myself a last minute pair of XC spikes to run in. I wasn't really sure why I needed these, but that was because I'd never run in the slippery soaking wet mud before. Now I am wise. I definitely would have ended up on my very muddy, very wet bum had I not had these.

Before and after

Having been warned to take at least three pairs of shoes with me from my knowledgeable team mates - a pair for the car, wellies for walking and post run, and spikes - I changed into my wellies quickly in the rain before we set up the tent as the junior races zoomed past us giving it their all. They looked determined and the heavy rain made them look particularly hardcore. After a bit of faffing about changing (and screwing in said spikes) it was soon time to brave the cold and rain. The mass start was fun and felt like a bit of a brawl as people went hell for leather as the gun went off. I tried to keep a cap on my girlie scream and off I went too. The whole way all I thought of was how glad I was that I had proper shoes.

Halfway, and after trampling through many muddy puddles and trying not to fall over on the slippery mud, I realised as I wiped the rain from my eyes that I was actually having quite a bit of fun. Getting muddy in the rain - what's not to love?!

The boys cheered us on and I was happy to see that we were quickly back to where we'd started. 'Hurrah' I thought, 'that went pretty quick' I thought. Oh silly novice Crand. I very quickly realised that the ladies ahead were still going past the start/end and off on the course again. Ooops, two laps it is then...or is it? I decided I really must try and find out what I'm meant to be running BEFORE I set off. Thankfully it was two laps and after picking off a couple of speedy runners I realised I was running mostly alone. Worried I'd got lost, I carried on avoiding trees and splashing through the rain until I saw people up ahead again. Soon enough, we were back to where we started only this time there was a real life finish line. Phew! It was done. I was pleased with my run but I think I could have run harder. I think I let myself off as it was my first time at XC and figured I'd done well to get out in the rain, so next time I'll have to try up my game.

After a quick change in the tent into cosy clothes and the requisite minimum three jumpers, waterproofs and thermal socks, we were out cheering on the very fast and very muddy men.

It might have been rainy, wet and cold, but it sure was a lot of fun. And rewarding myself with a bath and a lovely glass of wine afterwards, whilst watching the rain against the windows made it even better.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

SUP Yoga Comes to Manchester

SUP Yoga has been around down south for a little while, but this class run by Magda of Love & Do Yoga, is the only place offering this new form of exercise in the North West. 
'But what is it?' I hear you cry. Well, wonder no more...

SUP stands for 'Stand Up Paddleboard' and Yoga is, well, yoga. Combine the two and you get a fun and challenging exercise class with a difference: yoga on top of a paddleboard, out on the open water under the blue skies of Manchester. The idea is that practising yoga on the water instead of the more traditional mat on the floor helps to improve your balance further while also using more of your core muscles. It also increases strength and flexibility, while being out in the open air is a more calming experience which helps you to de-stress.
If this all sounds a little daunting - don't panic! It's much easier than you think and first timers and beginners are more than welcome. During the class Magda offers simplified versions of poses and you don't even need to have tried yoga before to give it a go. The emphasis here is very much on having fun and learning.
The class starts with some warm-up yoga on dry land, before an explanation and short tutorial on paddle boarding. Then it's on to the water as you practise standing up on the paddle board and getting used to using your paddle. Once confident, the class paddle out together and attach the boards to the wall and each other for extra stability. A yoga session on top of your board then follows, lasting for about an hour, before relaxation on the board as you float on the water. 
Running every Sunday in Salford Quays, the sessions last for an hour and a half and the price includes buoyancy aid and wet suite hire, as well as the paddle board. With autumn coming, the classes will eventually move inside to the pool at Clarendon Leisure Centre so you can continue to practise all year around.
And don't worry about falling in the water - it's all part of the fun! If you do, have a laugh and get back on your board. 
SUP Yoga, Sundays, 12noon. Helly Hansen Watersports Centre, Salford Quays. Costs £12.50. 
This post first appeared on Time Out Manchester. Click the link on left to see more of my posts for Time Out.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Equinox 24 - Race Report

One 24 hour race, one 10k route, 8 team members, very little sleep, countless brownies and bags of fun, is basically the best way to describe my weekend at Equinox 24.
Starting at 12pm Saturday and running, literally, right through to 12pm Sunday, Equinox is a race where you run as many 10k laps as you can during the course of 24 hours. You can enter as a solo runner (if you’re mad), in pairs (see previous), a small team up to four, or a large team up to eight members.

Our team of eight was mostly made up of YMCA Harriers and we were definitely in it for the ‘fun’ aspect. But you can’t help get caught up in the friendly competition and we soon found ourselves discussing tactics, midnight running and tactical running orders.

We decided to try and have someone on the course throughout the whole 24 hours which we did, and we were excited about running at night in the pitch black. Well, excited and a little unnerved.

The course, camping and race HQ is all set in the grounds of the beautiful Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire and as team captain I was chosen to get us underway at the 12pm race start. The atmosphere was brilliant, with a separate 10k race also starting, as well as all the soloists, pairs and different teams for the mass start. I heard my team cheering me on as I went over the mat, and we had finally begun our 24 hours of non stop running! It was exciting!

Lap 1 - 12pm

But that first lap was my least favourite – the course was challenging with a long incline, another very steep hill labelled ‘THAT HILL’ and a mixed terrain of uneven fields and roads. But it was mostly the heat that I didn’t like, it was SO hot! But this was a good thing for the rest of the event. It would have been pretty miserable in the rain.

I packed so much running kit to make sure I always had a new clean clothes to run in, as well as dry trainers in case of rain, and many (many) possibilities so I was covered for all weathers.

After that first lap I developed a little routine which saw me through the rest of the race. Hand ‘baton’ over to Mark who was next in line and waiting in a little area along with all other waiting runners just after the finish line. The ‘baton’ was a very retro 90’s style slapband. Brilliant. After heading back to the tent, I’d shower (or wet wipe wash!) then change into my next clean kit all ready to go for my next lap. This seemed like a good time to get some food in me and then we'd carry on cheering for all the runners.

Lap 2 - 6.30pm
It was an incredible atmosphere and the next cycle soon came around again. The second lap was my absolute favourite. I managed to get the sunset lap and it was pretty special running around such a beautiful location as the sun went down. I also preferred running the course once I knew what to expect, and the cooler temperature made me a much happier runner. The only thing which ruined this lap was a girl singing 'Don't stop believing' at the top of her lungs, so I ran quicker to get away from her. There was also a wedding going on within the grounds that day, so after catching a glimpse of the bride and groom and yelling a very sweaty ‘congratulations’ at them as I ran past, it was back to the finish to hand over to Mark again and before more food and even a beer.

I managed to get about an hours sleep before my next run at 1.30am. It was such as odd feeling, waking up to go and run in the dark. Our team worked really well as there was usually always at least three people up and around; one who had just finished a lap, one out running and one who was next on the course. It was nice to always have someone around to keep you company before you set off and to have someone there when you returned feeling all excited and giddy from your momentous run. The atmosphere was still great during the wee hours with people milling around near the finish line waiting for their change over or returning triumphantly. Back at base you could hear other people waking up their team members in their tents. 

Lap 3 - 1.30am
Although I've been out running in the dark before, I was a little apprehensive about my night run. But hearing good reports from my team mates after they'd already experienced it put me at ease a little and soon enough I was off venturing into the dark fields. Little glowsticks marked the way but it was still pretty alienating and felt like a whole new route. Often you were by yourself but you could always see a little glimpse of a headtorch up ahead and the course looped back on itself so you never felt totally alone. The steep downhill was a little scary in the dark and you simply had to run at a slower pace as you weren't as confident. I really enjoyed the experience though and was really glad I'd done it. 

Lap 4 - 8.20am
At about 4am I managed to get to sleep for about 2.5 hours before waking up again for my morning run. We had worked out we'd need four of us to do a fourth lap and I was really keen to run again. I felt like I needed to run during the day on Sunday to complete my experience and liked knowing I'd run just 2k short of a marathon over the 24 hours. The last lap I was shattered, but knowing it would be the last one I wanted to enjoy it one last time and soak it all up. The last handover to Mark was brilliant with him dancing around the waiting area beckoning me in, and then that was me done! I celebrated with a shower, a massage and an almighty bagel loaded with peanut butter and banana while cheering on the rest of the runners. Followed by another beer. It was great.

You can't really put into words how good the event was, or describe the atmosphere. Out on the course the camaraderie among the runners was great: everyone said well done to each other, and the support for the soloists throughout the event was great, as we all thought they were mad and were in awe of them in equal measure. With Chris setting out on our final leg at about 11.40am we all cheered our heads off as he came in. That was it - 24 hours and 29 laps later and it was over! But not before learning we'd come in 9th in our category!

The organisation was brilliant. There were just the right number of portaloos and showers and they were crucially, really well maintained and cleaned often. There was a bar on site and loads of different food offerings, including pizza, jacket potatoes, fish and chips and a much needed and lovely coffee stand as well as others.  We also chose the 'glamping' option which meant no need for wrestling with tent pegs and dealing with leaky tents in the middle of the night. 

All in all it was one of the best weekends of running I've had. Brilliant atmosphere, great organisation and truly loads and loads of fun. 

Roll on 2016.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Cycle to work (every) day!

Today is Cycle to Work day!

Not that long ago cycling to me was something other people did - reserved for Lycra-clad men wearing odd shoes, and people who liked to hug trees and wear clothes made of hemp. Oh foolish me - how wrong I was!

Inspired by a couple of friends who cycled to work, and fed up of waiting in the Manchester rain for a slower than slow tram, I decided I would give it a go to see what the fuss was about. As well as hopefully cutting commuting time, I thought cycling might also be a good thing to help my running, but mostly I'd seen my pretty Bobbins bike and really wanted her to be mine...

A friend kindly let me borrow her bike for two weeks while she was on holiday to see what I thought and I couldn't believe how easy it was, and how much I liked it. Sure, I was nervous at first but without a car, the freedom it gave me was amazing.

Here are some things I previously thought about cycling to work, which I was totally wrong about.

1)  Riding on the road? So scary. What about all the traffic?
Wrong! I thought all the drivers would hate me and I'd be all slow and in the way. How do I make a right turn? Where do I sit on the road? All these questions and worries were really what was putting me off getting on my bike. Someone told me that Manchester Council ran various cycling sessions for free, including riding on the road so I gave it a go. A nice lady met me at home and after a bit of theory off we went on a route of my choosing. We worked out the best route for my commute to work and then we went and cycled it. She led the way there and then it was my turn on the way back. It's not a long distance but there are a couple of major roads involved so having someone take me through the ways of the road was really good for my confidence. So if you're worried, check out your local council and see what they offer.

2) What a faff! All that changing must take ages in the morning!
Wrong! It's really not a faff at all. Get ready for work. Get on bike. Get to work. DONE.

3) I'd be so sweaty and gross all day.
Wrong! My commute is only 3 miles away so unless I'm running really late for work I'm not sweaty enough to warrant a shower when I arrive. I sometimes take a change of clothes, sometimes not depending on what I'm wearing that day and how easy it is to cycle in. None of my colleagues seem to think I stink, but then maybe they do! Obviously if you live further away and cycle faster than I do then a bit of a spruce up pre-work might be required, but most work places have showers these days and you just need to change your morning routine to incorporate a wash at work rather than at home.

4) It must be so tiring!
Wrong! It's actually a really nice way to wake up first thing, but the best is the cycle home. After a long stressful day cooped up in the office, a nice ride home helps me unwind and forget about the day at work as well as let me be outside in the fresh air. Hooray!

5) Sunshine is fine but I surely I wouldn't cycle in the rain?! No thanks!
Wrong! Granted rain is not my favourite weather to cycle in. But once you've got yourself some sexy waterproof trousers and jacket then you're really fine. And I always think a 15 min ride in the rain is way more appealing than a rainy 10 min schlep to the tram, a 20 min tram ride and then a walk at the other end. Plus I always think about how much quicker I'll get home after work, which helps. Although Manchester, if you could stop raining quite so much I'd appreciate it. The wind on the other hand is a whole other issue. Urgh. Just be sensible and don't cycle in a cyclone.

So there we are! I love my cycle commute now, and it definitely gave me the groundwork and confidence to give my recent triathlon a go. Not only that, cycling to and form work saves me at least £50 a month - that's £600 a year and an hour a day travelling. That's five hours a week all for me!

If you're toying with the idea don't be put off by any thoughts similar to mine above. Give it a go and you'll be surprised how wrong you were! It's quick, free (once you've bought the bike) and it gives you so much freedom.

No more waiting at the tram stop in the wind and rain for me - I'm already at home, de-stressed with a nice warm cuppa.

Cycle commuting!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

New season: Looking ahead

Since the Triathlon, I've been feeling a bit of a mix of emotions when it comes to training. Part of me has been relishing the freedom of doing whatever work out I feel like, whenever I like! Running as usual, has been featuring a lot but I've found myself longing for a bit of yoga and so have often sacked off a run or cycle in favour of a good old stretch amid the rooftops of Manchester, (with cariad yoga, my new favourite class) or some hot yoga. And only doing a little bit of swimming and cycling as and when I feel like it. Bad triathlete.

Rooftop yoga
But alongside this feeling of freedom, I've felt a little bit lost with no big goal race in sight. With no marathon on the cards this year, the triathlon was something totally new and different to work towards. So what now?

But with the beginning of September, along with the whiff of new pencil cases, comes the feeling of possibilities, and my mind has been turning to Spring marathons. I've been thinking a lot about which marathon to run come April: Paris, Manchester or London (Ballot permitting)?

I also seem to have forgotten in all the excitement of Summer, that I do in fact have a pretty exciting and challenging race coming up - the Equinox 24 hour relay. Our team of eight, made up mostly from the Manchester YMCA Harriers, will run as many 10k laps as we can from midday Saturday to midday Sunday at the end of the month. Eek! It's not far away and in a bid to get used to running on already tired legs, yesterday I tried my first double run day: a few morning miles followed by my first Tuesday Track session with the club, and a lot of cycle commuting in between for good measure.

It made me feel tired. But it also felt OK! I'll try and do a few more double day sessions in the next two weeks to hopefully help me get ready for the big day.

I'm excited about the unknown, but mostly looking forward to a whole weekend, camping, running and having fun with the club. Can't wait!

Tuesday Track

Monday, 24 August 2015

A 10k warning

This weekend after working a 70 hour week, I ran the Birchwood 10k. I was tired, really tired, but having not had the chance to run all week I was looking forward to getting out with the club and taking my weary legs for a jaunt.

It was a really hot and muggy morning and I only really noticed this when we actually started going. The heat and my tiredness made for hard work and when I reached the 5k mark I knew it was time to stop thinking about finish times and just concentrate on getting round. I slowed a little but kept going as much as I could. I can't honestly tell you much about the course - it was fine. A mixture of paths and roads and from what I remember not much shade. There were a couple of little inclines, mostly bridges over main roads, and I was thankful for the downhill that came with these. The kilometres passed by - 7 then 8 and then finally 9. Hurrah last stretch! I turned a corner and thankfully saw the finish line. I was pleased I'd not stopped the whole way in the heat and was so looking forward to finishing the run and cooling down. This race was never going to go down in my running history as a great run, but I was pleased I'd given my best on the day.

That was until 300m from the finish line a girl in front of me totally collapsed. It was horrible. I stopped along with another runner and we tried to break her fall a bit and he managed to lie her down and get her in the recovery position, while I ran back to the last marshal I'd seen to tell them we needed the medics. She couldn't talk and was really hot. When I got back to her thankfully a spectator with water was also helping. Another girl up ahead seemed to be in the same situation on the ground.

It was horrible and it really scared me. Everyone running past us looked exhausted and it made me realise how important it is to be sensible. Chasing PBs and giving all we have is part of most of our running, but it should not at the expense of our health. I know I'm definitely guilty of thinking 'it's only 10k' or 'only' such and such distance but these distances and the running conditions on the day should be respected and not underestimated.

So this race served as a bit of a warning to me. Remember to listen to your body and stop if you need to. No finish time is worth it.

Monday, 10 August 2015

London Triathlon Race Report: No longer curious...

...I am an official TRIATHLETE!

Triathlon DONE
16 weeks ago we were all total novices to the sport of triathlon and strangers to each other, but yesterday we spent the day cheering each other on, laughing, crying, ringing cowbells, shouting like lunatics and navigating our way together through the London Triathlon. Then we celebrated our successes with beer, medals and cake whilst cheering on the last of the runners. It was ace!

What a day. Arriving at the Excel was nerve wracking and complete bedlam. I had so many questions. Could I re-enter transition after I've racked my bike and before I got my wet-suit? Why were people milling about in transition when the race was on? What on earth do I eat for lunch??! I had never been so glad to get rid of my bike and leave it in transition before heading to meet the team who were in my wave. Finally meeting, relaxing in the sun together and cheering on our team members as they began their races was brilliant and totally calmed all my nerves. Then the first official Team Tricurious athlete arrived and we oohed and ahhed over her medal in awe. I was having so much fun I actually kept forgetting that we had to go and race, but soon enough the time had come. Off I went to transition, donned my wetsuit and out I went.

Nothing can prepare you for the swim start, you just have to experience it. My big plans of waiting 10 seconds after everyone had started and keep to the back and side didn't really pan out. I suddenly found myself somewhere in the middle of the pack and then the klaxon sounded and it was too late to move anywhere but forward. The amount of people and limbs around and indeed kicking you is mental and not a pleasant experience. With all the excitement and all those swimmers in such close proximity I could not get my breathing right in front crawl so I did breaststroke until I found more of an opening and got into my rhythm. I did as much front crawl as I could but it was pointless as there was no room. Thankfully towards the half way point, the pack thinned out and I was able to get going. I just wish my breathing had been under control but I felt too wound up in all the excitement. And then suddenly the end was near and after answering 'Yes thanks' to the nice marshal who asked if I was OK as I got out the water, I undid my wetsuit, and off I went. Off my wet suit came (thankfully I'd remembered Katie's tip of letting water in towards the end of my swim) and into transition I ran, past Jamie and my cheering supporters which gave me a massive boost. Phew swim done! Next!
Wow transition is long isn't it? Does this count as part of our run? I padded over to my area and seemed to go on autopilot. Helmet on. Socks on. Shoes on. Take a gel. Un-rack bike. 5 mins or so and suddenly I'm cycling. The bike course was longer than I expected. Every time I thought I'd reached the turning point it just kept going. Two laps of sheer concrete was not the most inspiring route but having my boyfriend and friends on course was brilliant and the lapped route meant I passed them a few times. You can see from the huge grin on my face how happy I was to hear and see them. I must admit I did a little tear at this point.  
I also caught up with Chrissy during the ride and after confirming we had definitely done two laps, we rode in together with my cheer squad cheering her in too.

London Triathlon - Swim, bike, run
The second transition was so much faster that I had to double check I didn't have my helmet on or anything. Nope, bike racked and I was good to go.

I'd been warned about the wobbly post cycle running legs, and I'd done a fair few brick sessions in training to try and get used to it. But I hadn't. My word they were like jelly running through treacle. Oof it was hard. The two lap course again helped mentally and although the running route was narrow with many twists and turns I actually quite enjoyed it. Although it was HARD. As a runner, I thought this would be my easiest section, but not after the swim and cycle. Running on tired legs in the beating hot sun is hard work. Still, passing the finishing line whilst heading out on to my second lap really gave me a boost. 'Just 2.5k and I'll be an actual triathlete' I thought. I'd opted to leave my running watch at home so had no idea what speed I was going but I knew it was slower than my normal 5k pace. But that was OK. As I always think in races, as long as I put in all the effort I can in that time on that day that's good enough. I did my very best and kept going. The looped course also meant that I could keep my eyes peeled for other Team Tricurious people on the other side of the route, and this kept my mind of it when the going got tough. Two showers on the running route meant we ran through little rainbows and the cool water felt amazing in the heat. Then suddenly I was heading up a steep ramp, turning back into the Excel and heading for a very short, but very determined sprint towards the finish line. Yey! I did it. Triathlon DONE.

I felt sick, happy and really quite emotional. I couldn't believe it was all over. Even though I found each section tough, I loved it. The swim was hard, the cycle was OK and the run was all over the place, but as I kept reminding myself, a challenge isn't there to be an easy ride. I had decided to not worry about times and just enjoy the experience but I expected the whole thing would take me about 2 hours, so I was over the moon when I got my time of 1.40.10 and looking at the results this is mostly down to my run and a swim PB! Not so slow after all!

Excitement on finding the finish line, beer and my cheer squad
But times do not matter. Without a doubt, the best part of the whole day and whole experience was sharing it with Team Tricurious, and having Jamie and my very loud and brilliant cheer squad supporting me at each and every stage (and acting as official Crandon race photographers!) I felt very emotional, and so much gratitude to them and everyone who sent me good luck messages on the day - thanks for all the support.

Having people to share your training woes, ask silly newbie questions, and cheer and support each other during training as well as the actual race was just brilliant. Rounding it off with the whole Tricurious gang in a little post race party, and cheering on other triathletes was the icing on the very tasty triathlon cake.

Team Tricurious

If numbers are your thing here are how mine add up:
Swim 18:36
T1 5.19
Bike 48.40
T2 2.14
Run 25.22
Total 01:40:10

Position 146 lady
33rd in my age category

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Triathlon - One week to go

A Team Tricurious Post

It's been 15 weeks since I received an email from Laura and Katie asking me if I wanted to do my first triathlon with them and be part of Team Tricurious, and now there is just one week to go until the big event. One week until I can hopefully call myself a triathlete.

A week to go
With four months of training under my belt, I not only can't quite believe how quickly the time has gone but also how much I've enjoyed it. The variety of training for three sports is really fun and as I've mentioned before, really sociable. I love running but found marathon training can get a bit monotonous and lonely; mixing it up with swimming and cycling has kept the boredom at bay. I've also enjoyed the freedom of not following a plan. When I missed running longer distances, I just built that in to my week and held back a bit on the other sports. When I was recovering from a half marathon I took to the open water instead. I realised that in both training and organisation, it's all about balance.

I'm also really pleased at how far I've come. When I first went for a tentative dip in the pool I was frustrated that I couldn't even swim a whole length of front crawl and couldn't fathom breathing on the go. Now I can bust out 800 metres in the pool. I can't manage this in the open water but back then, swimming outdoors was something other people did, not me. Now I get into the Quays usually twice a week and have really been surprised at my times decreasing, even with lots (and lots) of breaststroke thrown in.

Whilst I previously cycle commuted, I never traveled any distance further than 6 miles because I had no reason to. Triathlon training has pushed me to ride longer, discover new routes in and around my city and even enter my first cycling event. I have sought out longer rides, taking opportunities to cycle to far away places that I previously had always put in the 'too far away' file.

And I'm pretty sure adding cycling and swimming into my weekly training has helped my running come on. Over the past four months I've got running PBs in various length races and was just 10 seconds off of my half marathon PB the other week. But it's not all about the times; I've felt stronger in my legs and really looked forward to going running when I've been playing away with other training.

Whilst triathlon training has been fun and different, that's not to say I'm not nervous ahead of next week, I very much am. But I'm nervous about the unknown rather than the actual 'doing it' part. Before I was scared of having to be rescued in the swim but I know I can cover all the distances and I'm just trying to take a tip from Laura and Katie and think of the day as just doing three things I enjoy in quick succession, rather than my first triathlon. My main worry now is getting a puncture, forgetting to eat or fuel up during the triathlon and getting it very badly wrong in transition. But I guess this is all part of the 'first triathlon' fun.

I'll now be spending the next week worrying about whether I should be tapering or training, and practicing replacing an inner tube.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tried & Tested: Firefly and Geko recovery devices

Last week I visited my brilliant physio Trev at Fulcrum Sports Therapy for him to work his magic on my tired legs following my half marathon.

Trevor was recommended to me whilst I was training for my two marathons last year, and he is brilliant. I honestly don't think I would have made it to the start line of the Berlin marathon without him. During that time when I was injured we discussed possibly using a snazzy recovery contraption and this week he suggested I trial some out as part of my post half marathon recovery.

These strange little recovery devices made by both Geko and Firefly, emit small electric pulses into your muscles to emulate light active recovery like walking, allowing better blood flow but without the energy of activity. So they are meant to be great for recovering athletes of all sports. And they let me pretend I was a pro athlete so that gave them immediate bonus points.

At first I found them a little hard to position. You need to put them on so they make your foot, as well as the muscles in your lower leg visibly jump. One leg was fine, the other took a little while to work it out but I got there in the end.

It felt really weird! Little pulses flowed through my legs making them twitch and you can turn the strength of the pulses up and down, but its a relatively nice sensation. After a little while you forget that they're even there. On my first night, two days after my half marathon and with aching legs, I tried them overnight but only managed a few hours sleeping in them but this was mostly due to the bulky straps keeping them in place rather than the shocks they gave me. In the morning I awoke and apprehensively got out of bed, bracing myself for the DOMs which had been there the day before. But they weren't there! My legs felt so much better. I'm not saying they were 100% gone but more of a background ache than a wince as you stand which you usually get.

I even managed a 25 mile cycle that day. Knowing that my legs would feel tired after this I also put then on again for a few hours that evening and the next day my legs again felt great, and noticeably less tired that they had for the same cycle the previous week.

I would love to try these after a marathon when the DOMS are so bad you have to just laugh because literally everything aches! I can only imagine how much better they would make your legs feel and I'd be interested to try.

Available from both Geko and Firefly I'll leave it to their websites to go into the whole science and benefits but I found that they helped a treat and would give them a go again after a particularly grueling run.

Trevor kindly gave me these to try for free and knew I'd be writing a little post about them. If you live in Manchester and in need of a physio go and see Trev, he'll definitely sort you out.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Windmill Half Marathon race report

Windmill Medal
I was looking forward to doing the Windmill Half marathon and getting some double digit mileage under my belt, something I've not had much chance to do while training for my triathlon. I heard the course could be pretty boring with a flat two lap loop along the coast, but I quite like this type of race as you know what you are in for and you can tick off little landmarks on your way, including a very large pretty windmill.

What I didn't like or anticipate was the wind. My god the wind. The second half of the loop felt like you were using up all your energy just pushing through the gale and I could really feel it in my legs and lungs which were burning. 'Shut up legs' I kept saying to myself over and over. Then the turn back came again and out I ran getting into the stride and feeling good. Then back into the hellish wind. Repeat. So it really was a run of two halves.

There was a nice atmosphere and the looped route also meant plenty of opportunity to see people you knew out on the course . I got to see all the Harriers who were also running, and cheer them on while they offered me words of encouragement which was great, and needed.

The miles crept up and the wind kept going and then suddenly I was at 10 miles and I realised that I was surprisingly and tantalisingly close to my PB. I told my legs to shut up again and pushed on, knowing it would be touch and go in these conditions. I decided I had to give it my all otherwise I'd be annoyed with myself. I ran and ran making strange noises and grimacing into the home straight with the effort. I gave it my all only to see the clock as I ran over the line read 1.39.55 - 10 seconds more than my PB. I felt sick - mostly because I had run so hard, and just a tiny bit sick about the time. But I'm over that. There will be other races, I will get another PB another time (perhaps when I've worked a little bit harder for it in training) and I know that I gave it my all on the day. And you can't do any better than that.

I came fourteenth lady; got my second best ever time; had a great time with some of the Harriers and received the world's most ridiculous medal, complete with moving windmill sails.

All in all not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.

Friday, 17 July 2015

COMPETITION: Win Spartan Race entry

Do you want to tackle an obstacle race? The nice people over at Reebok Spartan Race have given Crandon Runs another free entry to any of their UK races, and it could be yours!

All you need to do is head over to Twitter, follow and re-tweet this.

It's that easy. But be quick, the winner will be announced on Sunday evening 19th July.

You could tackle the bleachers, traverse walls and combat fire, mud and water. There are plenty of locations to choose from as well as three different obstacle races, the Sprint, Super or the Beast. 

If you aren't lucky enough to win you can still get 10% off your entry into a Spartan race using code 'BLOGGER15'  

Visit the Spartan website for details of all locations, distances and entry info.

Good luck! AROO!

Time to tri - Friday photo #40

A round up of Crandon Runs in one weekly photo

Well, it's almost here. This week I received this lovely and terrifying bit of post:

Triathlon ready?
That's it - just over three weeks to go until I take on my first triathlon. Receiving this post has made me really excited. Excited to be taking on a new challenge and happy that I am not putting too much pressure on myself. I'm trying to think of the triathlon as doing three things I enjoy, in quick succession, rather than as a full on scary triathlon. My race goal is to enjoy it, learn from the experience and just give it my all and try my best. I may not be at the front, or even in the middle but as long as I give it everything I've got I'll be a happy bunny. Judging by my training I think I might be able to do it in under 2 hours, and I'll be happy with that or somewhere near.

But whilst I'm fairly calm regarding things like finish times, receiving this post has brought up some other anxieties. Current and very real new concerns are:

1) My hair. Seriously ladies how do you wear your hair under a helmet?! A ponytail is too bulky yet having it down is no good for the run. I'm thinking braids. Help! One of my Tricurious teammates has hinted she might just shave her head which may just be the way forward.

2) My bike, Is it safe? Will it pass inspection? Is my helmet OK? What will I do if I get a puncture? No seriously? Even if I manage to change the inner tube how do I inflate it? ARGH!

3) How will I get to the triathlon with my bike? Once in London how do I get it to where I'm staying? Can bikes travel on the tube? Apparently yes, but only at certain times. Can they go on overground? Do I have to pay?? This one was playing heavily on my mind until I realised I am talking about moving a vehicle. Stupid Crand - I can cycle it across London! Pray for me.

This is just a teeny tiny small glimpse into the questions and worries I'm currently trying to conquer. So whilst I'm excited, I'm also a tiny bit scared about the unknown. But I guess this is half the fun. Right?!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The dreaded treadmill - Friday photo #39

A round up of CrandonRuns in one weekly photo

I've been working away most of the week and staying in less than runner friendly areas, (think hotels at the side of motorways - glamorous). Long hours and working away has meant I've missed loads of Thursday night club runs with the Manchester YMCA Harriers, and that the view from my run has sadly often looked like this instead:

The Dreaded Treadmill
I hate the treadmill. It's so hot and I cannot overcome the repetitive boredom of running but staying put on the same spot. Running outdoors is so much more fun, give me the sweltering heat or the Manchester rain outside any day - at least battling the elements keeps it interesting. I'm also convinced that there is some time continuum where seconds on a treadmill last much longer than they do in real life too.

So when I awoke last Saturday morning to Twitter messages re an impromptu Harriers meet up at parkrun I was stoked. We came, we saw, we cheered on all our runners, and we conquered the run in hot and muggy conditions. A fantastic unexpected running start to everyone's weekend, which totally beat every soulless air conditioned treadmill run I'd been on that week.

And then last night I actually made it down to the club run. 8 miles of sunny, breezy canal running and chatting with the harriers has undone the horror of the treadmill and restored the running balance again. Phew!

Impromptu Harriers meet up

Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Great Manchester Cycle - a report

When I was asked if I wanted to take place in the Great Manchester Cycle, I jumped at the chance. I find it difficult to get long bike rides in, way more difficult than long runs for some reason, so I figured this would be excellent triathlon training and an opportunity to earn my first bike bling.

I met Chantal at the station and we cycled along the canal to the event village and start at the Eithiad Stadium. There was a great atmosphere here, with food stands, bike maintenance help from Edinburgh Bikes and the all important toilets which were (shock horror) actually clean! We were taking part in the 26 mile event, and as we arrived the 52 milers were just finishing. Well done you.

Cyclists assemble
After a small delay we were off! It was a little cramped at the start, with everyone trying to get out of the stadium area and on with their cycle, but once out of the roads everyone dispersed and it never felt really congested. The route took us towards town, over Mancunian Way and on towards Old Trafford. After another little loop near the Quays we went back towards the stadium ready for lap two of the 13 mile route. The 52 mile option did four loops before we started, and the 13 mile event one loop. The staggered starts for the different distances meant that you were only ever among people of your event which felt like a good thing as well as keeping congestion to a minimum.

The route was good, very urban (ie city roads) but did take in some of Manchester's famous landmarks including the two football stadiums and the Beetham Tower. The freedom of riding on traffic free roads felt really nice and was way more enjoyable than riding with the traffic. It was also pretty flat with just a couple of short inclines, and there were little pockets of supporters dotted around the course. There was also an area halfway through the loop where you could stop for any maintenance issues, food or water if you needed to, which was reassuring even though we didn't use it.

Back into the stadium area at the end, music was blaring adding to the party atmosphere and names were announced as you crossed the finish line. We collected our goody bag including t-shirts and all important medals before cycling home to enjoy some well earned post-ride beers.

As with everything, cycling with friends is way more enjoyable than going it alone and as a way more experienced cyclist than me, Chantal kept my pace up whilst also having a good natter and a catch up along the way. One lap of the route is the distance I'll have to cycle in the triathlon, which we covered in 47.55 which I was really happy with. If I manage that on the day after a swim and before the run I will be a very happy Crandon.

We were kindly given our places in the Great Manchester Cycle for free and they knew that I would be blogging about the event.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The long run - Friday Photo #38

A round up of Crandon Runs in one weekly photo

Triathlon training is all go this week. All my spare time currently consists of swimming, biking and running, and sometimes, like twice this week, all three in one day. Which is great! But the extra sports for me seems to mean shorter runs and I've found I'm missing my long run fun. Running makes me do this...

Disco run!
...and not only when there is a giant glitter ball around (although obviously it helps). When my brother in law suggested we run to and from parkrun last weekend whilst he and my sister were visiting I was so happy. A 9 mile run! With long working hours and tri training I haven't been able to get above 6 miles for weeks.

So off we went. I remembered how much I like longer distances, and so did what anyone would do while training for a triathlon: signed up for my next half marathon in a couple of weeks. That should get me back into double digits where I belong whilst also attempting to become a triathlete.

Do you prefer short runs or are you more of a longer distance runner?

Sunday, 14 June 2015

GUEST POST: Gauntlet Games race review

One of my sisters once claimed she 'didn't do running' then this year she requested some running tights for her birthday and text me to say she'd run 5 miles. *proud face* 

Last weekend she took part in the Gauntlet Games and is here to give us the lowdown. Over to Vici...

*Guest post alert*  

I feel it's only fair to warn you, I am a guest poster. If you are an avid runner and reader of Crandon Runs, who looks forward to the helpful running tips, you might want to stop reading. I have none. Except choose good pants. 

My running experience looks like this:

That being said, I have recently started going for the occasional run (by this I mean mostly fast walking) and I quite like plodding along to my tunes. 

So when my friend Becci mentioned the Kidney Wales Foundation Gauntlet Games, I was quite enthusiastic. Only 5k? Fighting gladiators on the way? Why not? I could do that!

On a slightly wet Saturday morning in early June, myself, Becci and 20 other friends arrived at the Coedarhydyglyn (sorry if you're not Welsh and can only guess how you would say a word with so few vowels!) estate in St Nicholas. We parked in a field where the grass was way up to my knees, and went in search of the enrollment desk to collect our race packs. 

We were given our lovely blue kidney Wales t shirts at this point, and we just waited around for a bit on the side of a mountain waiting for our warm up to start. 
Alicia and Danni Mac pre-race relaxing 
There are two races on the day: the 5k Gladiator Gauntlet and the 10k which consists of a 5k trail run before the Gladiator zone. The 10k runners went off first then we were called in to warm up ready to start.  

Now we were told the estate contained 'breathtaking views, rolling hills and extensive woodland,' but the hills! My poor old legs! I can honestly say I never thought whilst doing the course 'oh what a lovely view,' instead my mind was mostly preoccupied by 'oh another hill,' along with 'oh no - more mud' and 'why does the mud I am crawling in smell of animal waste?' At one point I actually said aloud... 'Oh good. A zombie.' So not your average race thoughts I should imagine.

All this being said though, it was quite good fun and the gladiators were on hand to battle you at a number of obstacles: a tyre wall, elastic web, very deep bogs, a balance beam, a giant ball pit, foam pit (tastes disgusting - close your mouth) and a massive wedgie-inducing slip and slide to name a few.  

Josie realises her underwear may have disappeared

Toni executes a non-wedgie slip and slide run

The gladiators were mostly encouraging and helpful, and you were able to skip any obstacles you didn't want to do. Thewere not particularly fierce thankfully, the worst were the children  who were bored spectating and were asked to help attack the runners at the bottom of the very last hill. They were, quite frankly, viscous! 

Then we all got a lovely medal to commemorate the worst experience of our lives. How kind! (This is a joke, I have had MANY worse experiences!)  

There were a couple of things body wise that I was not prepared for though like the pain in my back. Apparently running uphill is not good for your lower lumber so the fact that I was in quite a bit of pain there worried me (I was blaming impact of jumping on the slip and slide so eagerly!)  
Stretching out my painful back

I also found that running on the side of a mountain (I am stopping with the hill pretence) hurts your ankles as they are always at an angle.

The other things that didn't massively impress me were the lack of water stations. We were told in the info pack that we would have lots of them throughout but there was only one at what they informed me was the three quarters mark and then at the end when we collected out medals.  

The set up was very basic, I was expecting dirt and mud but you also run through mud and clay, get squirted with paint, travel down a slip and slide and just keep going into more mud and grass and more foam. There is no where to shower or even wash after that. We were warned of this, but the volume of dirt that came home on my body was surprising. I ended up throwing my trainers away as I couldn't bear having them inside my washing machine.

Jess and Morgan in the final stages

The changing facilities were two igloo tents labelled men and women and some portaloos, and the race registration was a marquee, but the volunteers there had it under control. Key lockers were what appeared to be big water buckets where your labelled key sat and waited for you. Luckily we had spectators who were weighed down by all our crap, and they got to meet Welsh Rugby legend who came along to show his support.  

Our supporters meeting Jamie Roberts

The signposts on the course were unclear and consisted of some red and white plastic on a stick. This was confusing and sometimes hard to sport. I met a group of people that had accidentally ended up on the 10k course and more than one of our group went in the wrong direction at one point.

And then the final hill. No, not in the race. To get to the start, you had to walk down a fairly large incline and up another one. To get back to the car, you had to walk UP that same hill. Honestly, I thought I wasn't going to make it. My legs were like lead and jelly combined (strange, but trust me go with it.)  

Things I found about running; 
I don't like running with people - I'm not sharing my '99 with anyone! But also not in an exercise environment.  

There's this opinion among my friends and family that I can be quite a difficult person (in reality I am a constant delight). I don't like small talk for the sake of it and I'm not a fan of people shouting encouraging things at me to 'help' me out. I just like to huff and puff as much as I need to, walk when I feel like it and run when I want to. I'm solo running from now on, but should mention that I still very much like everyone that took part in this with me.  
Some of the crew at the finish
Was it fun? Absolutely, looking back it was quite enjoyable. Would I do it again? No. I am not the right person but if you're the Tough Mudder type and loves getting a mud wrap while doing some exercise then this is for you! The people from our team who actually enjoyed it were Toni (army personnel) Tuesday (actual name) and Lucy who are quite strange to put it nicely. I will stick to fairly flat roads and trails from this point!  

Tuesday, Lucy and Toni really enjoyed themselves
But we did this run for another reason. Becci's partner had a very scary and miserable time early this year due to his kidneys. It was very severe, but luckily they did an amazing job and she wanted to give something back to the people that helped during this time. Extra kudos to her for completing the whole course with a fractured rib! 
Becci pounding home
It's a challenge, it's hard going, but it is for a wonderful cause and its something a bit harder and different than the average 5k race for charity.

DO IT! I'll be there next year laughing at all the contenders as they try to run after the slip and slide with the majority of their underwear in their arse crack!