parkrun: Ellenbrook Fields

Having decided against spending a weekend running up and down hills in Dorset after a busy week away with work, we opted for a new parkrun kicking off slightly closer to home.  It was the inaugural parkrun for Ellenbrook Fields parkrun in Hatfield and so we hopped in the car and headed down.  Easily accessible from the A1(M) and A414 it will be interesting to see how many regular parkrunners it ends up having.  I can see it taking some of the overspill from St. Albans and Panshanger parkruns, alongside the new parkrun at Stevenage which starts next week.

parkrun: Ellenbrook FieldsParking was easy, and free, in the Law Court car park just a couple of minutes walk from the start.  The course is a small lap and a big lap, but it had a nice “single-lapper” feel to it from my perspective.  You start on what used to be Hatfield aerodrome taxi way before heading off round the park on a “trail-style” path, a few small puddles but nothing major. The mini-loop is grass on the second half, and then you loop back round to the top of the mini loop, before pushing onwards on the main one.  The main loop is a mix of grass, path and trail path, before you return to the taxi-way for most of the last kilometre.  If you’re not Garmined up (other GPS tracking devices are available), do not start your sprint the moment you hit the hard path….there is still a long way to go!

I really enjoyed the run, and came in close to 30 minutes, probably my fastest all year as I have been taking my parkruns easy.  This is definitely on the return list, a good, flat, trail run when I am looking to take it easyish but don’t need the speed of Luton.

It was great to see plenty of fellow tourists, especially Rosemary & Danny (who was breaking his no inaugural parkrun rule given this was at his home town and he wanted to introduce his family to it).

We didn’t stay for coffee as had lots to get on with but they use the local swim centre cafe just down the road if you want to refuel after your run.  All in all a really enjoyable parkrun and one I am looking forward to running again. 

 Click me for full Garmin stats/route.
parkrun: Ellenbrook Fields

And we’re off….

#janathon #parkrunJanuary 1st 2016 and we’re off on this year’s journey!  I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations, I don’t really do parties and I am normally too tired to stay up anyway, so I finished 2015 with an early night in preparation for getting 2016 underway with a parkrun double and my first day of Janathon.  This meant the 6am wake-up call wasn’t too traumatic and I was able to have a chilled start to the day with a cup of coffee and a review of Facebook.  The Boyf and I then defrosted the car (glad we had a sneaky stock of de-icer for the first frost of the year) and drove over to Gadebridge parkrun.  New Year’s Day is currently the only day that you can run 2 parkruns and have them both count in your stats, so a lot of parkruns team up with others in the local area to allow people to double-up.

After finding the free car-park we headed to the start where my new Cow  Cowl marked me out as a tourist and we got chatting to a couple from Black Park who were heading over to Tring for the second run of the day.  Gadebridge is run on a mix of paths and grass and so it was a little bit on the slippery side, unfortunately the frost hadn’t been strong enough to harden the ground for us.  The marshals were friendly and encouraging as were the other runners, and we merrily wended our way over an undulating figure of 8 (ish) course, which was slightly undulating in profile.  The hills were runnable, but the mud meant it required a bit of extra effort to do so. A nice sprint finish (captured by the Boyf), and it was parkrun done in 33:50 & 53rd of 61 runners.

Sprint finish #janathon #parkrun

#janathon #parkrunBack into the car and we headed over to St Albans parkrun, luckily arriving before the car park got full, where we had time for a breather in the car before we had to venture into the chilled Winter air again.  It wasn’t hugely cold, but I did manage to keep my arm warmers on for both runs today!  Run briefing complete we were nudged back and back towards the hedge to give everyone a chance to get behind the start.

It was a lot busier than Gadebridge (St Albans regularly has 300+ runners), and there were a LOT of run clubs present.  I couldn’t hear the countdown but spotted the speedy ones at the front head off and hit start on my Garmin.  The course is flat, and this meant I was running quicker than my planned 6:54min/km pace (sorry TrainAsONE), especially as it was so busy, you got caught up in the flow of runners and it was hard to ease off, especially as there were a lot of normal park users around as well meaning you were restricted on stepping to the side to let others past.  It was then 3 laps of the lake, a nice view, lots of ducks and swans, but very narrow paths and as the front-runners barged and shouted their way through on my first lap of the lake I was glad not to be on the water-side of the path.  I really didn’t fancy a New Year’s dip but certainly got the feeling that if I came between someone and their PB that I’d be paddling pretty sharpish.  Finally my 3 laps were done and it was back up the “hill” to the finish (total elevation gain of 10m doesn’t really count as a hill but that’s how it is known there……I advise anyone who thinks that is a hill not to visit Wimpole Estate, Tring or Lullingstone!).  31:12, 280th of 356 runners.  Whilst the lake view was nice I am afraid that St Albans parkrun went straight in at number 1 of my most hated parkruns list. Multiple laps, strong presence of multiple run clubs, lots of bad attitude and a high likelihood of getting pushed in a lake! It’s fair to say it isn’t on my re-visit list.

In addition to getting 10km in the log I also managed to get a few 30 Day Challenges underway.  So that’s 30 squats, 3 proper press-ups, 15 knee press-ups, a 20 second plank and some calf raises done and dusted.  I am also planning on squeezing in some yoga before bed.  So not a bad start to 2016, I am not expecting it all to go as smoothly but long may it continue.

Here are the course profiles from veloviewer:

#janathon #parkrun

#janathon #parkrun

pause for parkrun

I didn’t race at the weekend, I did fit in a parkrun at Wimpole Estate though (it’s a run not a race). The Boyf & I were all signed up for Beachy Head marathon on Saturday, but in the end we decided it was better for us not to run it. He’s had the lurgy for the last few weeks and as part of that has been struggling with sinus induced headaches. I’ve just been feeling really tired. I think a combination of two marathons in two days and some really hectic weeks at work have left me feeling a bit drained, and in all honesty my heart just wasn’t in it. It’s really important for me to enjoy my running and not feel like it’s a chore, so mid-afternoon on Friday we decided to skip it and have a lazy weekend instead.It was both well earned and well worth it and I am already feeling more relaxed and reinvigorated. 

On the positive front I have a few more days off from running this week as I am in Basel for a few days. I have decided to leave my kit at home, focus on the final few weeks before our next go live (and the chaos this stage of a project inevitably brings) and then run 3 times over the weekend. Well you need to balance rest and activity.

The plan is to visit Great Lines parkrun on Saturday, then we have the Black Ranscombe challenge in the afternoon/evening and the Hugin challenge on Sunday when we will be catching up with some parkrun pals as we run round Pegwell Bay. Teresa, James & Nicola have all enjoyed an SVN event (they were at the Spring Cakeathon), but for Vanessa this will be her first. Given she has an upcoming operation on her foot the challenge style of the event will make it perfect as she can do as many laps as she feels like without being under pressure to complete a set distance….basically a “parkrun” will see her in possession of a huge medal and bag filled with goodies. Teresa could well be in a similar situation as she’s recovering from a badly sprained ankle so I am sure we’ll be making sure she doesn’t over do things….the frustrating thing with injuries is wanting to run when your body just won’t have it. It’s tempting to push a bit too hard but then you have the risk of delaying recovery. A tough call, but hopefully made easier by being in the presence of friendly faces and cake. I have a feeling James will be aiming for an ultra and Nicola says she’s going to try and run for the 6 hours if she can. I can’t wait to see how we all get on.

To balance the non-running I am going to try and squeeze some yoga into my day, of course that all depends on how much floor space I have in the hotel…..this week it’s a “small room – no window” so it could be a tight fit. At the very least I shall just have to practice reclined goddess & corpse pose on the bed. Here’s to a relatively stress-free week at work and a fun weekend of running.

Race Review: Race For Life #marathon10

image - Race for Life medal and goody bag

IMG_465738607-2.JPGSunday was runday! But first Saturday was parkrunday and we popped along to Malling parkrun’s first event. Originally I was planning to do Malling on 31st October when we would be in the area for Black Ranscombe but when Rosemary posted that she would be there to celebrate her 250th parkrun it would have been decidedly rude not to go along. Many of her friends wore African themed costumes at her request and it must have been a novel sight for some of the parkrun newbies or local run clubbers who were also there. IMG_465738607-3.JPG
Malling parkrun is 2 laps round a lake, it is flat and the surface is solid underfoot. There are loos at the car park (80p for parking) and there is a van for bacon rolls, coffee etc by the start/finish area. The early morning waft of frying onions was amazing but I went for some of Rosemary’s celebratory cake instead. We headed home via Bluewater where I did some pre-marathon fuelling at Wahaca.

IMG_465738607-4.JPGUp fairly early on Sunday to get pre-race prep (eating & plenty of loo stops) done we headed to the Lee Valley Country park, arriving early enough not to get stuck in traffic. As we were heading back to the car after a wander round to check on the water situation at the aid stations (water in bottles, energy drinks in cups), and make use of the portaloos (30 is not enough for a women-only race with plenty of friend & family support) , we bumped into Kate. It was Kate who had suggested this Race for Life marathon to me and as I was playing catch-up on the Boyf I figured it was a good time to close the gap back to 2 marathons difference. Unfortunately for Kate it wasn’ t to be her day and in the end she made the decision to drop down to the half….you can read all about her race on her blog. I lined up in the 4:30 – 6 hours wave and we were soon underway, I very nearly took out the group of photographers who had placed themselves right in the middle of the timing mat as I was busy hitting start on my Garmin and really wasn’t expecting large stationary objects in the middle of the flow of a mass start! It will be interesting to see if I feature in any photos in near collision positioning. At the half marathon point

My plan for the race was to trial a run:walk strategy. The course was billed as primarily flat, with just one hill (done twice as the course was 2 half marathon laps). I had my Garmin Fenix 3 pre-programmed to alert me and 6 minutes in to the race I switched to a 1 minute walk. So may question why you would start walking so early on in a race but I wanted to do this scientifically and the idea is that by starting your walk breaks early you are able to stay fresher and benefit more than waiting until you actually feel tired. The course was pleasant with most of it being in the Lee Valley park, there was a stretch or two where you ran alongside a main road but it was on a path so there were no issues with crazy drivers. Thankfully there were also quite a few shaded sections. The weather was a lot hotter than I had hoped for (exactly the same as for Wimpole Half on the same weekend last year), but I felt that as long as I drank plenty, fuelled well and kept to my plan that I would be OK. It wasn’t long before I started taking two 330ml waters at the aid stations (3 miles-ish) apart and made sure I was drinking a few mouthfuls each water break. I was also taking an S-Cap every hour and over the course of the race I used 6 Push gels (one half an hour before the start), and a mini Soreen. It was the right strategy for the day, I didn’t feel like I hit the wall at any point and I didn’t suffer from parkrun-ear (what I term the slight ear imbalance I get when I run 5km without drinking and get dehydrated).

The run:walk strategy was going well and I freaked the Boyf out a tiny bit by the speediness with which I reached the half marathon point, all in all I was feeling pretty good at this point. The lazy cow in me had had a minor ponder of stepping down to the half as I was coming to the end of loop 1 but I reminded myself that not only did I want to make sure I finished my 10th marathon, but people had sponsored me for the run, and my friend Mel who had intended to run the race for a friend who had lost theirs to cancer couldn’t as she was injured. So I waved at the Boyf, threw down an empty water bottle and pushed onwards without stopping for a chat.

As expected lap 2 was much tougher, with the sun higher in the sky I was really feeling the heat but by now I was running in my soaked Legionnaire’s style hat to try and keep myself as cool as possible. A couple of times I deviated from the 6:1 ratio but not that much. The running was getting a bit slower but I was still ahead of the average pace needed to get a PB, so I kept pushing and moving forward.

One thing I did notice about the race was that the other runners were a lot less supportive than I was expecting. I’m quite a cheery runner and I try and give encouragement to others if I pass them or run near them but I am not sure it was appreciated. Maybe it’s because people were struggling or in pain (although I always find l like comments from others in the dark times), or perhaps they were focused on their own reasons for running a Race for Life marathon, thinking of loved ones etc. or perhaps it was just good old competitive nature meaning they didn’t like being over taken. Ah well, it seems that women only races sit with me in the same way as women only snowboarding events….I’m just not a fan.

UntitledI slowly ticked off the miles and was glad to finally make it round to the 26 Mile marker, not far to go and I finally made it up over the bridge and sprinted (ish) for the finish line. The Boyf was most frustrated that the woman doing the announcement failed to read out my name and time as I came through the finish funnel….perhaps it was poor number placement under my pack fastening or perhaps I was just too speedy! He was generally frustrated by the announcements though, it would seem her choice of wording could have been better on a number of occasions. As he put it, saying “pretty much all of the runners out there today really deserve a pat on the back”…..erm how about all the runners!? Who doesn’t deserve a pat on the back? Those running the half marathon not the full? Those going slowly? Those who can still run at the finish?

Anyway….marathon 10 was completed for a new PB of 4:48:44….that’s 8 minutes 49 seconds faster than my previous best. Confirmation once again that despite the TrainAsONE training program I follow being lower in mileage than most off the shelf plans the way it targets your training really does get maximal improvement for the effort I put in. Thanks guys! It truly does pay to “Train Smarter, Not Harder”!

If you would like to donate to support research into cancer through Race For Life then here is my JustGiving page