D Day 10k 2017

I went to bed the Saturday night before the D Day 10k at 9pm. This is despite getting up at the more leisurely time of 7am and having had an hour long nap at 6pm in the day. My body felt knackered. Last week had been a total grind.

All week I didn’t felt myself. I felt unwell, though not in like a dodgy tummy or sickness way but in a lethargic, foggy and overwhelming tiredness way. It felt like a virus as I didn’t feel right in myself, but other people have suggested low iron levels or over-training. But I don’t think it was. My heart rate, in general, had been normal when I woke up and during the day. But who knows.

ANYWAY. So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for D Day. Despite my early night and 8am alarm (so a very cushty 11 hours sleep) I woke up still not feeling like my normal sprightly self. But I wanted to do the race more to just be social and have a run with other people. I’d only mope about on my own and then do a feeble run later in the day anyway.

My friend Mike picked me up with his daughter and we headed to Portsmouth. Neither of us were “feeling” the race and we moaned about how rubbish we felt. We spoke to a few others and in general people were feeling a bit pants about it. But the sun was shining, it’s a flat course (albeit a lot of around a car park) and there’s a Starbucks just next to the finish.I said to Mike and my friend Geoff that I hoped to do sub-50. From parkrun the day before I just didn’t think my legs were going to perform well. Running was hard work recently. Mike was aiming to beat his PB but wasn’t sure how he’d fare. I was pleased to find that I could wear my Aftershokz headphones as they’re “bone conducting” so complied with regulations. I definitely needed something to keep me going!I hadn’t had breakfast that morning as I didn’t want to get up any earlier than 8am but had a glass of water with electrolytes and then an SIS caffeine shot 30 minutes before the race start. I hoped it would rev me up a bit.I did half a mile gentle jogging (something I rarely do but I had time on my hands) and then we headed to the start.We held a minute’s silence in respect for the victims of the London attack the night before just before the start, which was a sombre but respectful thing to do. Then we started. I had my music on and got going. As I weaved around people in front of me and got into my stride I found that I felt quite good. Nothing like the heavy leg and fogginess I’ve felt on my other runs that week. I checked my watch and was surprised to see 7:15min/mile pace. I genuinely wondered if my Garmin was playing up but decided to just go with it.

I kept with a guy from the club, Bernie, for a while and then felt myself getting stronger and overtook him. I actually couldn’t believe how strong I felt and yet how quick (for me) I appeared to be going. I decided to see what I could do. If I crashed and burned then so be it, but right then I felt comfortable.

The course itself at D Day is a bit dull. I’ve done it before a good few years ago but it’s changed hugely. It’s unrecognisable to what I ran previously. I knew there were three laps but I couldn’t work out where that would happen. I just kept focused on the runners ahead of me and gradually picked them off.

As I got into mile two, now down to 7min/miles, I was still wondering where this speed and ease of running had come from. The course was super flat and the wind, fairly gentle, seemed to be mostly going sideways at us or as a tailwind. Occasionally we’d run against it but it was only brief moments. Everything seemed to be on our side.I passed a guy who normally is miles ahead of me and wondered if he was just plodding it or having a bad day (I later found he was using it as a training sessions: first 5k easy, and then 1k sprints – wow!). I gentle passed runners and had no one pass me, which felt really nice! Though to be fair, it wasn’t a particularly big field.

There’s a section of the course that runs down a gravel path and alongside a lake and lots of greenery which was fairly pleasant. It was annoying to run on gravel at 10k speed but it was a nice change from the boring and hot car park that made up a chunk of the race. We were under some shade which was nice, but the path seemed to go on forever.

Halfway there was a water station and I grabbed a drink. I wasn’t terribly thirsty but it was hot so I swigged a good few mouthfuls before tossing it to the side (always a delicate operations to a) not hit other runners, b) not hit any spectators, c) not throw it somewhere really obscure that it can’t be cleared away later).

I hit four miles and now the effort level was high. I was in the zone of “stay with it, keep pushing” while all the time wondering when I was going to blow or have a wobbly. I felt the energy slowly being sapped out of my legs and tried to remember all the amazing food I’d eaten the day before that I was sure would still be helping me. I cursed myself for not having breakfast but wondered if that would have helped. Who knows.

The last mile down that gravel path was tough. I found myself alone now. The runners ahead too far away to catch and no one behind me giving chase. Mentally it was tough. Physically it was tougher. I was then off the gravel and onto the final stretch of pavement to the finish.My watch beeped 6 miles and I told myself to just hold on for a few moments more. A “400m to go” sign appeared and I could see the finish ahead. Ah, smile for the camera (I’m sure that was a grimace…), “200m to go”, keep going, keep going. Annnnnd finish!No wobble but the sheer sense of effort and “God I feel sick” feelings hit me. I bloody hate 10ks. My watch said 43:13. I was over the moon. I couldn’t remember my PB but I knew it was 42-something. I checked my blog as that’s where I keep a list of PBs (so handy) and found I was only 23 seconds off!

There was a small Hedge End Running Club turn-out due to other events happening (*sobs* the Romsey Beer and Cake race being one) but it was a nice gathering. For the most part, I think people did fairly well and were happy. Mike achieved his PB as well so he was happy (once he’d finished dying on the grass).And finally a few of us headed to the very nearby Starbucks and we celebrated with some tasty coffee (I went for decaf as I’d already had that SIS caffeine shot – which, by the way, I think really helped my race!)So from initially not even wanting to show up to D Day, to being close to my PB…well, a definite turnaround! I’m really pleased that since January my 10k time has come down from 46:26 from the Stubbington 10k, to 45:27 from the Brighton 10k in April, now to 43:13. Annoyingly my official chip time is 43:22. Initially the race organisers had issues with some of the chips so I only had a gun time of 43:27 and then they added the chip time later (43:22). Though I’m not sure that’s accurate either as I spoke to a few others in the same boat and their watch times and new chip time don’t match at all either. Hey ho, 43:22 is still a big mark of progress though!

I’m not aiming to improve on this 10k time as marathon training is about to begin, but it’s always nice to naturally get quicker. I have another 10k in July so we’ll see how much of an improvement I can make, but I won’t be losing sleep over it! I do so hate 10ks…

What’s your favourite race distance?

What’s your favourite post race drink?

Have you ever surprised yourself with a race result when you weren’t feeling it?

**Full Disclaimer: I’ve been sent SIS products to test for free in exchange of reviewing them on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Goals and future races

I’m currently puttering around with my running not really doing much in the way of actual training (though some could easily argue this is no different to normal anyway..). What I mean though is I haven’t mentioned any upcoming races or goals.

Obviously I’m still aiming for the six World Marathon Majors (just Chicago and New York left). This is an ongoing goal and realistically won’t be completed that soon sadly. Though the temptation to book onto a tour company and do New York this year heavily pressed on my mind, I’ve decided to be sensible.

As a side note, in general, I’m quite good with managing my money. I keep an eye on it using my “Money Master Spreadsheet” (basically Excel) which keeps track of all my bills, monthly expenditures and general spending. I don’t tend to randomly buy things or go outside my means (random legging purchases aside). Credit cards are paid off at the end of the month (hello extra Tesco points using my Tesco credit card!) and life is quite easy for me, not having any children or crazy overheads. I know that I’m currently very fortunate.

However, where I tend to be a bit more “laissez faire” is when it comes to holidays. Memories and experiences are always something I’m happy to spend money on. However, as tempting as doing New York this year would be, it’s not entirely sensible in the great scheme of things.

There’s no rush for me to complete the Majors within a certain time period and though I look longingly at people on social media who have achieved that incredible Six Star medal I need to remember my time will come and I don’t need to do everything IMMEDIATELY.

So the New York Marathon is likely to be next year. Or the Chicago Marathon (they’re a month apart). It depends where I’m at in life and money. Either way the intention is to be getting my medal in 2019 (hopefully). So, no rush indeed!

Though obviously I still love marathons and always like to have one coming up… so the plan for this year is to do the New Forest Marathon, September 10th.But I’ll be running it with my friend, Mike, who’s aim is to get a sub-4. He’s missed out twice sadly. By rights he really should get a sub-4 but for whatever reason it never translated on race day. So I’m hoping I can help him out and help pace him to that target.

Obviously a marathon is still tough, whatever time you do it in, so there are no guarantees (well, there are no guarantees I’ll even make it to race day with my track record but wishful thinking and all that). But the intention is to run it with him and help him get there by keeping his pace in check and chatting to him on the way round.To add a little bit more complication to it, the New Forest Marathon is somewhat undulating. But, on the plus side, a lot of our club will be there as it’s where our club championships will be happening. The whole weekend is full of different race distances so hopefully a good crowd will be there to support and cheer.

And if this goes well… I’ve also signed up to do the Bournemouth Marathon a mere four weeks later. The idea for this (blue sky thinking here) is that I will be able to pace Mike to his sub-4 for New Forest and then run Bournemouth however I fancy.

I feel like I have unfinished business after getting injured during this marathon a couple of years ago. So another decent shot at it would put some demons to bed. Bournemouth is relatively flat so attempting a ‘good’ time might be on the cards, though I’d just like to get through that finish line actually running this time!

That said, this is me we’re talking about. I’m probably biting off more than I can chew so what actually happens in the autumn is anyone’s guess. But the intention for now is that I’ll be training for the New Forest Marathon to run with Mike and then judge how I feel afterwards about Bournemouth.

So that’s the plan. I’ll start marathon training proper in June I think but I’m already hovering around 10-11 miles for my weekend long run so I’ll probably keep around 10-13 miles for a bit and then begin to build them up towards the end of June. But it’s all very relaxed right now. Hey, I might even get on that speed training wagon at some point!

Until those marathons, I have a couple of 10ks *shudders*. I really wanted to do the 5 miles Beer Race I’ve done three times before but I was too slow in signing up. So instead I’ve signed up to the 10k D-Day race in Portsmouth at the beginning of June. I’ve done it before…I didn’t enjoy it because it’s quite a boring course but it’s super flat so might be a good place to get a good speed session in and see where my fitness is at. And then in July I have another 10k (the Newham Great Run). For someone who vowed not to do more than one 10k a year, I seem to be doing a few of them!!

What races do you have planned?

Do you have any unfinished business with any races?

Have you ever paced someone at a marathon?

Brighton 10k Recap (BM10)

Now if you’ve been reading my blog for a while or know me at all you’ll know I detest 10ks. This is kind of amusing considering how many I used to do back when I first started running. I was doing a 10k every weekend it seemed. But it eroded my enjoyment of running as I was always after a faster time and was disappointed when it invariably didn’t happen.

So now I just stick to half marathons and marathons and any other race I do is usually just for fun, or if I’m in the height of fitness (rarely) I might target it to simply see how I can do or as a good speed session.

But I was contacted by Millet Sports to ask if I’d like a place at the Brighton 10k to do a review for 2XU, who are one of the main sponsors, and would include some free kit from 2XU. This is obviously a runner’s dream so I thought why not. I like Brighton, I’ve done the half marathon before and enjoyed it, it’s a nice day out and it might be a good idea to avoid doing a long run and do a slightly more tempo shorter run (my running mojo has been a bit duff recently – more on that in another post).

Initially I was going to get the train but theys weren’t early enough for the 8.30am race start. So this meant driving (and leaving ridiculously early). The Park & Ride was sold out but luckily I have a lovely friend who lives in Brighton and gave me a visitor’s parking permit. My dad, bless his heart, said he’d drive and support. But, ooof, a 5.30am leaving time was painful for both of us!My dad wanted in on the leg photo action too 😉 #dadsofbloggersWe got to Brighton just after 7am. Though it was super handy having the free parking space it was in Zone W which was just over three miles to Preston Park, where the race start was. We did know this beforehand but obviously the reality is something else! We got a stomp on and headed our way there. Can I just say, I’m so proud of my dad. This was basically a parkrun for him. We couldn’t hang about, we had to move quickly to get to the area in time (and I needed the loo somewhat critically and needed to find a toilet – a long queue at a portable loo in the race village was not going to cut it). After losing three stone, power walking three miles (and a fair portion uphill) was far easier than it used to be for him!As we got closer we started joining other runners walking their way to the start and the buzz of the race atmosphere became bigger and bigger. It was a beautifully sunny morning but boded to be a rather hot day. Perfect for the beach but probably not for the marathon that was starting at 9.15am.

I was a little dubious about wearing the full-length leggings for the race and had intended on switching to my shorts but having wore the leggings all morning I was quite enjoying the super tight compressed feeling they were giving my legs. And to be honest, the faff of changing was far too great. Yes I might be a bit hot, but at least I’d be super streamlined!I wore the new 2XU MCS Run Compression Tights which were really comfortable. Yes they’re tight but not in a “oof I need to lay off the cake” kind of way. More like compression socks but for your entire legs (obviously). And they didn’t slip down ONCE. Not ONCE. They kind of stick to you while allowing lots of movement. They also have these detailed bits on them which are apparently for “anatomical mapping for targeted support to muscles to reduce soreness and improve recovery” [Source].I also wore the 2XU GHST Short Sleeve Tee which was SO light and very cool. This was an ideal top to wear for the temperatures as it wicked away sweat and was very thin. It did pain me somewhat to attach my bib to it using pins!The race village was great. A number of portable loos – though I didn’t use any nor the bag drop. There were also a selection of food vans, one of which was a smoothie and oat-based one. I thought this was brilliant (and clearly very popular looking at the large queue). There were non-dairy options as well as a variety of smoothies. Great idea!

My dad said goodbye as he was off to find somewhere to spectate on the course and I headed off to the start funnel. It was all rather smooth and we started on time. It was fairly busy at the start so I had to be careful of not stepping on people’s heels but it stretched out after a bit. There were loads of people cheering from the sides which was great. There were lots of marathon runners walking to the race start so that helped boost spectators and cheering.Clearly doing a bit of window shopping while my dad was taking a photo of me! There was lots of crowds and interesting buildings on the course.Do you know what was really nice? A pretty much entirely flat course. There was no “oh god, mile X has that hill” to dread. Yes flat courses (especially for a marathon) can be a bit dull but it was just so nice to know the only thing really keeping me back was my own fitness and race strategy, rather than something external like inclines.

Having said that, it was warm and within a mile I was overly hot. The leggings were lovely to run in (no slipping down, no chafing, I felt very streamlined) but they were hot. But it was only 10k so really it wasn’t terrible.My aim was to take the first half steady. There was no PB going to happen today, not in my wildest dreams. I’m not particularly fit (I say this all the time, I really should do something about this if I do ever intend on getting PBs again). But I did want a good, controlled race. I felt good running around 7.30s so I stuck there. I was comfortably uncomfortable if that makes sense.Hitting the seafront (basically the second half of the race) things began to get hotter and harder. I tend to enjoy out and backs when they’re short as you can see runners coming the other way and it’s a nice way to take your mind off things. Though it is a long out and back and the whole time you’re thinking “I’ve got to come all the way back”.

But, as more of a long distance runner, it was easy to stay motivated with the hard effort because it was less than a parkrun to go now. I’d stepped up my pace to closer to 7 min/miles and it was less comfortable and more uncomfortable.

As we hit the last mile (and .2) we were turning around. So mentally I just thought “run to the finish”, which I vaguely knew was near the Brighton Pier. A blip in the horizon but a blip nonetheless.

There was a slight headwind (a mild breeze which is amplified about 100 times when on the last mile of any race – whether a reality or in your mind). I was steadily overtaking people which was nice and I prayed to hold on to the pace. I overtook one lady just on the finishing strip (the crowds were fantastic! So many people cheering!) and she pipped me about 50m to the line. I thought “fair play, you deserve that!” I had nothing left to counter it. She also came up to me afterwards and said she was grateful I overtook her as it gave her the boost she needed to up her speed.

I saw my dad on the sidelines which was great and he shouted encouragement. I saw the gun time on the finish as it was ticking towards 46 minutes and just hoped to finish under that arbitrary figure. I did 🙂

I’m really pleased with this time. Not a PB (my PB will stand at 42:50 for a long time yet I think!) but faster than I thought I would. It felt very controlled and manageable.

I met up with my dad and he told me he’d walked about 5k himself to get to the three locations he saw me at and then be at the finish. Bless him, I’m so lucky to have such an encouraging dad.
We then started the long walk back… another three mile walk to the car. I had a little post race photoshoot before starting the trek, of course 😉 What with such beautiful weather and views, it would have been foolish not to!My dad found it amusing the lengths I’d go to get a good photo for Instagram.And then the walk back to the car. There were lots of foodie vans on set-up which was cool, but as it wasn’t even 10am I avoided the temptation. We did buy a large Diet Coke from a soda fountain to share though (ahhhh my nectar). I liked the fact that they had water fountain areas for people too that had been set-up.My top supporter! It’s safe to say we were both fairly knackered when we finally arrived back at the car an hour later. We’d both covered quite a distance that day – and in some rather warm temperatures! I really felt for those who were running the marathon at that point. It would definitely be a tough one.

Despite the heat and it being a dreaded 10k, I thoroughly enjoyed this race.
Do you wear compression gear?

How far do you like to walk before a race?

What makes a good 10k for you?

**Full disclaimer: I received a free entry and 2XU top and leggings in exchange for a review post. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Stubbington 10k race recap

I’ve been wanting to do this race for about three years. It’s ridiculous because this is a race that literally runs past my parent’s house and the route is one I’ve often used on many a long run.

Finally this year I wasn’t injured (well, coming back from injury but not injured) and it worked well into my marathon training plan (I say “plan” rather loosely). Happily my friends, Kate and Jamie, had signed up too. This was to be their first ever proper road race. They’ve done parkruns and we’ve done an obstacle race together but never a road race.

Unfortunately the weather was predicted to be awful. I mean it’s hardly surprisingly really considering it’s a) Britain and b) January, but us Brits are always so shocked when the weather is in fact terrible. Running in bad weather isn’t so bad but in a race setting there’s a fair amount of hanging around and getting cold before you actually start running and none of us were thrilled at this prospect.I stayed at my parent’s house (it made sense as the race start was a short walk away) and woke up early on Sunday to run two miles before Kate and Jamie arrived after driving from Bristol. I wanted to do the extra miles so I could have a total of eight miles for the day – my longest run yet. It wasn’t ideal having a break between the two miles and the race but I wasn’t going to desert my friends to run the miles just before the race began.

Just one mile out from my parent’s and then one mile back. Fairly easy. The weather was pretty grim but not as bad as expected – a bit drizzly and cold. I wore long leggings to keep myself from getting too cold and as I headed back down the lane Kate and Jamie passed me in the car so it was fairly good timing.

We were all feeling rather grumpy and not up for the race. It also didn’t help that my dad had decided to cook a fry-up for breakfast. Always nice to smell bacon cooking that you won’t get to eat.

We left as late as we possibly could to avoid hanging around in the cold too much. It was only a 10 minute walk, if that, to the race HQ and as we had no bags to drop off (my parents were kindly going to take our coats for us and put them in a big bag they’d brought especially) and we didn’t need the loo, we just huddled inside the community centre.Stubbington 10k is a very cheap race (think it was £16-17?) but it has quite a few of the perks of bigger races, such as a really nice technical t-shirt (which actually fits me!), chip timing, a big inflatable finishing arch with a time-display, lots of marshals and lots of support round the course. It also has waves for the start. As I’m a little faster than Kate and Jamie I wished them luck and headed to my starting area. My neckline felt really tight and I realised I had my black base layer on backwards. Smooth, Anna, really smooth. Luckily, realistically only I could tell.I saw lots of people from my running club which was nice. It’s a very clubby race so there were lots of local clubs from the area. It can feel a bit intimidating because they seem like “proper” runners, as Kate said, but I reassured her that there would be a range of running experience and paces and she wouldn’t be at the back (she wasn’t).

I had the vague time goal of finishing in under 50 minutes, maybe around 46-48 minutes. I didn’t want a hard effort but I did want a sustained effort. I haven’t really done any speed work so I wanted to see what I could do over six miles.

I found the start quite hard going, mentally and physically. I was overtaken quite a lot. And as nice as it was getting lots of hellos from people in my running club and people I knew, it was somewhat demoralising. But I just told myself it didn’t matter, yes I’m not in a great running shape right now and I’m not racing this.

The first mile has a bit of an uphill and then a very steep downhill so it was a mixed bag in terms of pace. A girl I knew ran up next to me and asked what time I was aiming for. I gave her my vague time and she mentioned she wanted to stick with someone. Now usually I don’t mind running with other people or chatting away during a race but I really didn’t fancy it. I wanted to sort of hide away in my mind and just auto-pilot the miles. I didn’t want to offend her though so I slightly slowed down and eventually after some chatter she headed off. It was nothing personal to the girl, she’s lovely, but I just wasn’t in that mood, you know?

There is a fairly sharp incline which seems to go on forever which took a bit of a graft to get up. Then it was plain sailing – I knew this course so well I could just switch off and plan little milestones in my head. A few other people tried to chat to me but my monosyllabic responses discouraged further conversation. I must have seemed grumpy but really I was just wanting to get the race done. 10ks aren’t my favourite, the weather was fairly miserable and the sustained effort was taking its mental toll on me. It sounds like I had a horrible race but in truth I quite enjoyed it; I enjoyed zoning out and letting my legs carry me forward.

The course is fairly scenic, going past lots of farmer’s fields and country lanes and then eventually running along the seafront. It was grim and grey but thankfully not windy. There was a lot of support from the locals and I made sure to smile and thank everyone I could – it must have been so cold for them!

Photo credit: Alan from Denmead Photos 

As the miles ticked off quickly I increased my pace a little and started picking off people in front of me. I managed to pull back some people who had overtaken me at the start and that bolstered my confidence somewhat.

As I reached the last 400m I saw a group of guys from my running club (super speedsters) who were cheering the club in. My running club friend Chris was just ahead of me and they all enthusiastically yelled at me to overtake him (or “chick” him). I tried my best to catch him but I just couldn’t and annoyingly managed to burn myself out before the final sprint. Such a stupid thing to do!

Photo source: Netley Abbey Runners

Anyway I finished strong. I worried I might have pushed it a bit too hard (and at the same time wondered how I managed to pull any of those paces for my last marathon…!).My official time was 46:26, which I’ll happily take! I’m around four minutes off my PB but in reality I’m a million miles from that sort of speed! I’m just happy that my calf/shin felt good (not perfect but decent) and I was able to put in some effort towards the end. A very happy result indeed.There was no medal but we got a lovely technical t-shirt so I’m happy enough. My parents were waiting at the finish line to cheer us in (they’d had a nice coffee in the village while we were running) so it was nice to get my coat quickly back on and to grab a takeaway Costa coffee which was right next to the finish while I waited for Kate and Jamie.Kate finished (1:05) before Jamie (1:05:22) which no one expected – only because Jamie normally beats Kate. Jamie said he didn’t have the best race while Kate said it’s helped re-motivate her for her training for the Bath Half.And then we quickly headed off back to mine where we showered and got ready and headed out to a lovely local pub called the Fox and Hounds in Burseldon. I’ve recently been and had the most amazing sundae when I went out for dinner there (some things are not always blogged about… ;-)) and wanted to recreate the experience with Kate and Jamie, who I knew would appreciate it. I also really wanted something that wasn’t available on the menu the last time I was there.I went for a sharing platter with Jamie (very tasty) and then a hog roast burger topped with gammon and pulled pork. Oh my good Lord this was amazing. Now normally I don’t get burgers as I always feel that the ratio of carb:protein is not at my preference. However, this was a fully stacked burger. My bun could barely contain it. And it fully rocked my world. And of course, the salted caramel sundae for pudding (containing bits of brownie and cheesecake).

Kate and Jamie also enjoyed theirs and ordered the sundaes as well (Jamie refused to give a normal face for this photo FYI).

We had this at 1pm and honestly I could not eat a single thing for the rest of the day (OK that’s a lie, I had two apples). I actually felt a little unwell in the evening and my stomach was making all kinds of crazy noises that night. But it was worth it.

So like old times, a good race and good food!

What do you never normally order at a restaurant?

What’s the best sundae you’ve ever had? Hands down, this one was probably the best I’ve had. The cream on top was proper whipping cream and not from a can.

Do you enjoy chatting to people during a race? Normally I do!

Chepstow Stampede 10k (Obstacle Mud Run) and foodie fun

I’ve never done a proper obstacle mud race before and honestly I was fairly nervous. I had signed up to run the Chepstow Stampede 10k with my friends, Kate and Jamie, a while ago and now it was suddenly here.

I drove to Bristol to stay with them on Friday night. Because I’m such an intelligent savvy pro at life (*cough*) I winged it with their address in my sat nav with what I thought it was and then found out later I was actually going to the wrong place. In all fairness I was very close with the address; it was in Bristol at least. I haven’t driven to their house in the dark before is my excuse… It just set me back 15 minutes, whoops. Lesson learnt once again never to trust my own (questionable) intelligence in anything.

We had a delicious chicken salad for dinner. Who even are these friends anymore?? They would laugh at me for eating salad in America and now they’re completely converted! They’re like new people. And then we had an early night ready to get up the next morning to drive to Chepstow. We also picked up Kate’s friend, Katherine, en route who I’d met when we’d all done parkrun together a few times a few months ago.

chepstow-stampedeRandom guy in the right photo at the bib pick-up tent…

It was really fun going to the race and picking up our bibs because the three of them had never done a race before. What was a fairly normal and mundane process for me was new and exciting to Kate, Jamie and Katherine. They’d never had a bib number before, had the usual struggles and gripes about where to pin it and getting it straight… it was just really refreshing to go through the process with them (without sounding ridiculously patronising – we were all new to this once after all!).img_6040That said, I was actually really nervous about this race as it was something I’ve never really done before. I’ve done obstacle courses before but never an actual race. I was really glad it wasn’t raining, though it was very chilly. We’d agreed to run it as a team and help each other where needed. Right, let’s do this.img_6041The race started off on road at the Chepstow Racecourse and on a sharp downhill. The running for me was generally fairly easy as I’m a bit faster normally to the others but it was nice to run with them. We didn’t know what to expect in terms of obstacles but we did know at some point we’d be getting wet, so that weighed heavily on all our minds as the temperature was far from ideal.

The first obstacle was climbing over a wooden wall thing. It had very narrow ‘steps’ to use but it was really slippy. I ambitious threw myself at it and slipped almost immediately. More time and care required! It was quite high up but I just didn’t look down and got over it, literally. Kate was very cautious and nervous because she hates heights but she bossed it like a pro!

The first mile flew by. It was crazy how quickly it was going, despite having to wait a good few times for obstacles as there gets to be a bit of a build up while you wait for people. I don’t have a huge amount of obstacle racing experience but I think if you’re expecting to get really good times it will be hard because, from speaking to other people who’ve done similar races, you usually do have to wait a bit. But you can use that time to see (and judge!) other people’s strategies for getting over…and what not to do!

There were lots of obstacles in each mile, things like hay bales to climb over, tunnels to wriggle through, more walls to get over and tires to climb through – things like that basically. Nothing too difficult but also not easy per se, especially after you’ve been running. One of my favourites was climbing up a steep muddy wall using a rope. That was good fun. For each obstacle you didn’t have to do it and normally there was an easier option to choose from as well.

On the last mile there was the dreaded full body submerging into cold muddy water. There were a load of logs held above a stretch of water and you had to crawl under them, your head just above the water, to get through. It was FREEZING. But you just got in there and got it done. The more you think about it the worse it’ll be.

I got out the other side in shock of just how cold it was. It was that weird feeling that I knew I was cold but I hadn’t registered it yet as my body numb. It was only after we continued to run and the wind whipped at us that we really felt it. But we survived! We had to run up that bastard hill that we ran down at the start and crossed the finish line holding hands feeling like warriors.10k-stampedeWe did it in 1:44:33. We were aiming for sub 2 hours so that was perfect. Actually we think it would have been closer to 1.5 hours had we not had to wait so much (1.5 hours was our A Goal ;-)). It was such a fun race. It didn’t feel like any race I’ve done before. I certainly wouldn’t do it on my own – I think the appeal of these races are that you do them with friends and help each other, rather than try and get a speedy time. I didn’t care that I was running (and walking at times) a lot slower than I normally would. It was just such a fun experience.img_6045You weren’t just getting through the miles: you never knew what was coming round the corner, what massive hill would turn up next or crazy obstacle you’d have to get past. The race flew by! I fully recommend it – and for someone who hates being cold and wet, that is good praise indeed! I’m grateful it wasn’t raining though as the course had the potential to get very muddy so we weren’t quite as dirty as we could have been!img_6051

Just a few tips that I thought I’d share for an obstacle/mud run:

  • Don’t go with a time ambition.
  • Wear trail shoes that you don’t really care about.
  • Wear running clothes you’re not bothered about ruining but equally if you’re doing the race in colder temperatures, wear long sleeves and leggings but nothing that if it gets wet will really weigh you down.
  • Possibly wear gloves with grips – I found my hands got very cold and torn around a bit on the obstacles.
  • Bring a towel and a spare set of clothes.

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  • Bring bin bags to either sit on in the car or put your clothes into afterwards.
  • Help anyone and everyone; there’s such a camaraderie feeling between everyone, whether you know them or not.

img_6054After we’d all had lovely hot showers we headed out for the real prize: FOOD. We went to Spitfire in Bristol which I’ve been to before. Katherine ordered a steak but the rest of us ordered the St. Louis ribs. When I ordered the waiter said, “This is usually shared between two people – it’s quite a lot of food” and Kate was like, “you don’t know Jamie and Anna”. We ordered some chicken wings to share as well. I won’t lie, our stomachs were doing the talking.img_6056We were all in heaven. The ribs were delicious. Up there with the best. The chicken wings were good too.img_6063Jamie and me had no issues polishing off our ribs, though we were defeated by the wings.

Despite being very full we decided to head to a gelato cafe for some pudding. Ooof. I decided to not go quite as decadent as I could have been and had three scoops: Mint Aero, Toffee Crisp and Malteaser. Delicious!img_6065

Then I needed a nap…but I had to drive home. It was a fantastic weekend of the best kind: running and food 😉

What’s your favourite ice cream flavours?

What would be your worst obstacle?

Have you ever done a mud race before?