Paddle Boarding in Milton Country Park

As I’m still in a state of running MOBOI, I’ve decided to look at the positives of being injured. For starters I’ve been posting far more often on here, as a lot of the time I would be running I’m spending on writing instead. Secondly, with every injury you learn to understand and respect your body a bit more. I know what I need to do to strengthen my body to try and prevent this injury from recurring and I know that when I get back to running I’ll love it even more and fully appreciate my body for what it can do. And lastly, I’m trying out new sports and experiences in the hope of temporarily replacing running. Step forward paddle boarding!

In an attempt to try and get the CambMeetUp bloggers together a bit more, I had put a poll up in our Facebook group to try and find an activity we could all do together. Whilst bouldering was a popular choice, it couldn’t beat the appeal of paddle boarding in Milton County Park. After a bit of work to find a date we could all do and the brilliant efforts of Bethany from Cambridge Sport Lakes to be really flexible with us, Rachael, Claire, Jen, Kelly, Jess and I all turned up on a chillier than we would like Saturday morning to get out on the water.

Now Claire (group photographer extraordinaire) had tried paddle boarding numerous times before, and assured us that we would all be fine and standing before we knew it. But as we stood at the sides the rest of us all thought that there was NO WAY IN HELL WE WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO STAND.

How wrong we were. Led by our brilliant instructor Penny we all knelt on our boards and paddled to the far end of the lake (I had one keen eye on the swans). She then showed us how to stand (it involves getting into a crouch in the middle of the board) and one by one we all wobbled up. Penny then wasted no time in making us all play “world domination” (although most of us dropped back down to our knees for this!), all picking a country and trying to be the first to whack everyone else’s board and turn their country into ours. I can’t take credit for my choice – Ireland – winning. It was definitely due to whoever I had managed to tag first as I must have changed country four times.

We were all really nervous at the thought of falling into the cold, very weedy water, but for the 60 minutes we were out there only Jess took a tumble. Penny had warned us that getting back on the board could be really hard, but before I’d even had time to turn around (admittedly my turning circle was pretty large!), Jess was back on like an absolute pro – the sign of an open water swimmer!

It was a pretty windy day and it took some effort to make sure we didn’t drift into the trees. Claire assured us that this meant our efforts were even more impressive and that on a still day – should we want to try it again – we’d find it a lot easier. We even attempted some yoga (they offer classes in this!), and I was pretty happy with my attempt at one-legged dog, although I quickly realised that trying tree pose on one leg would be a step too far.

After an hour passed in no time at all, I reluctantly got off the board. I was both euphoric at how much I had enjoyed the experience and devastated that I had left it so late in the season to try it out. There are now only two weeks left before Milton County Park stop offering paddle boarding. However, I nabbed the last place on the 2.5 hour Adult Level 1 BSUPA Born to Ride session this coming weekend, which will allow me to hire a board and paddle independently at any accredited centre in the UK. Now I just need to find £700 for a board and I’ll be paddling up the Ouse before you know it…!

If you’ve ever considered paddle boarding go for it. You won’t regret it.

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My super sporting Saturday

You know when you find yourself looking forward to the weekend but then remember that you’ve committed to about a gajillion things and you’re actually going to be working harder in 24 hours than you have done at actual work all week?

That.

Now don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t coerced into any of this stuff and it was all so much fun. There was just a LOT of it.

So to kick start Saturday morning I decided it was time to tackle the Parkrun again, three weeks after my 22:40 attempt. As ever, I went with my running buddy Pete, and when he arrived to pick me up it has to be said he looked about as sprightly as I felt (having celebrated my best friend’s birthday the night before), so I can’t say that I had particularly high hopes for either of us.

Yawn

Yawn

But as we turned into Milton Country Park and Pete’s American Anthems CD started playing Eye of the Tiger (yes, really!) we both perked up a bit, gave our thanks for the good conditions, and set off, with me deciding to be a bit ballsy and start near the front as per the coach’s advice.

It’s hard to explain how I felt during this particular 5km. It was pretty up and down, with my getting frustrated when stuck behind two older guys, elated when I overtook a woman at the 4km mark who had overtaken me at the 2km mark, and experiencing sheer dismay when a girl no higher than my hip overtook me about 800m from the end (seriously – she was a little powerhouse)! About halfway round I had turned my sportswatch off as it seemed to be all over the place and was really putting me off my game. To quote Alan I felt like I was running with the watch rather than my heart, but this did mean that when I crossed the finish line I had no idea how I had done. I felt a weird mixture of exhausted and strong, which I hoped meant I had pushed myself as hard as possible. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had managed to come in 83rd, an improvement on 112th from the last time (and meant I had achieved my goal to finish in the top 100), but it was a meaningless statistic without knowing the calibre of the runners around me. So I grabbed a kale, spinach and mango smoothie from the brilliant Milton Country Park cafe and Pete and I headed home.

Now I am massively impatient, so thank goodness the awesome Cambridge Parkrun had the results up by midday:

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Words cannot describe how happy I was with this time. It was 35 seconds quicker than last time, and placed me as 9th woman! Chatting to some fellow runners at the end, the overriding opinion is that you can probably knock off something like 30 seconds from a grass race to get an idea of how fast you could cover the same distance on tarmac. All I know is that I am seriously closing in on that sub-22 minute time, and I was completely thrilled. A huge thank you to all of the brilliant Parkrun volunteers again. I’m going to enjoy basking in my new PB before Alan sets me my next challenge.

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Parkrun PB! Whoop!

So after a quick lunch with my best friend at the legendary Peacocks Tearoom, I shot back into Cambridge, this time for the Cambridge vs. Oxford Athletics Varsity Match at Wilberforce Road. Now I love watching athletics (I enjoyed a bit of the Yokohama leg of the World Triathlon Series on TV this afternoon – what a finish in the men’s race!) and I know that Cambridge had an amazing team this year, particularly with its female athletes. It was a gorgeous day for it, and as I bench pressed my niece and watched her roll down the hill perilously close to the track (my sister naturally came to watch the action too), I got to see the men’s 400m, a bit of pole vault and the men’s and women’s 1500m. The atmosphere at an event like this, when so many people come together to unite in their passion for athletics, is just incredible. Brilliantly, Cambridge won the Varsity 4-0, and no doubt the athletes celebrated into the night. What Boat Race?!

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At 3:30pm I headed over to Churchill College for my 2 hour writing class, and after that I got picked up by my friends Tamsin, Elaine and Naomi, and we shot over to Shelford Rugby Club to join our friends Lucy, Emma and Sue for the Arthur Rank Hospice 10 mile Star Shine Stroll.

For those of you that don’t know, the Arthur Rank Hospice is an amazing local Cambridgeshire charity that provides life enhancing care to patients, as well as their family, friends and carers who are faced with the challenges presented by a life limiting illness. They arrange a lot of sporting events in Cambridge during the year, including the Bridge the Gap walk and the Ely Festive 5k (the only 5k I’ve ever won)! So with 394 other walkers, we left at 7pm to walk into Cambridge and back again.

Lucy, Elaine and I managed to be the first walkers back (although that last mile was hard work as our stride became shorter and our muscles got tighter!) in 2:20, and Naomi, Tamsin, Emma and Sue came in just a few minutes later. As we all sat down with a hard-earned hot drink, I found myself looking at the rotation of photos on the big screen in the Rugby Club, showing people who had been cared for by the Arthur Rank Hospice. It was a reminder of why we had all spent our Saturday evening trekking through Cambridge rather than singing karaoke at Tamsin’s House – it was because of the brilliant work the Hospice does to make a really difficult time in people’s lives a little bit easier.

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See? I’m not the only one who loves crazy sportsgear

I also have to say a huge thank you to everyone who sponsored us. You can still do so here, and even a £1 would make a big difference to this small but hugely important charity.

So after clocking up 31000 steps in total on Saturday and spending today falling asleep at random intervals, it goes without saying that I’m looking forward to a quiet one next weekend. Except for maybe another Parkrun………..

Dear Cambridge Parkrun – it’s been a while…

I feel that now we’re getting to know each other a bit better, I should share with you the fact that I am NOT a morning person, let alone a morning exerciser. So while I think the nationwide Parkrun organisation is utterly brilliant, it’s a bit of battle for me to get up before 8am on a Saturday to drive 25 minutes to Milton and make my legs work properly for a start time of 9am. In fact the last time I did this was terrifyingly more than three years ago, where I got a time of 24:20. But inspired by my friend Pete (more about him in a minute) I got up, fed the cat, threw on some (bright, obvs) running gear and grabbed a banana and a pack of oat biscuits. When Pete arrived to pick me up I apologised for looking like a character from Fraggle Rock (I hadn’t even combed my hair) and to the dulcet tones of Taylor Swift we head off.

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Two slightly demented runners.

Now, the thing about Pete is that he’s like me – he also started running around the age-30 mark. In fact, when I did that first Parkrun in January 2012, Pete came with me and got a time of around 27 minutes. Fast forward to April 25th 2015, and he was psyching himself up to aim for a sub 20 minute 5km. Now to me, this is utterly immense. Pete’s natural talent for running is awesome, and he’s got some amazing expertise in the shape of his friends Nick and Claire Jellema (both elite runners) to call on for advice. This combined with his training efforts has clearly worked wonders, and he’s now a bit of a speed demon.

Another way Pete is like me, is with his pre-run jitters. Any time there’s any kind of race element (i.e. there are other people around and you’ll get an official time out of it) we both get stupidly nervous. For example, this morning I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to run with water (I sweat a lot (lovely) and dehydrate easily) and at about 8:56 am Pete patiently trotted back to the car with me so that I could take my water after all. It doesn’t matter that we’ve both run the distance dozens of times before – we both always want to perform well, and that pressure can make you nervous.

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Photo courtesy of the Cambridge Parkrun Facebook page

So I left Pete at the front of the group and settled myself in amongst the 23 minute hopefuls. Having only recently recovered from a strained tendon in my foot I thought that might have been a tad optimistic, but I figured I might as well try and push myself. I also happened to bump into Neil Costello, the Chair of Cambridge & Coleridge Athletic Club. I know Neil as he’s a member of the Sports Centre where I work, and we chatted a bit about my running future, with him telling me that he reckoned I had another 10 years in me before my speed would start to plateau and decline. He got a 17 minute-odd 5km in his early 40s, so that was really encouraging to hear. As we set off, he shouted “go on Lauren, get up in front!” as I scuttled my way past some people to find my comfortable pace.

The course itself is relatively twisty, and involves a loop off to the right of the park, followed by two loops to the left. Luckily it’s relatively flat with just a few small inclines to tackle, and the wet weather from the night before hadn’t churned up the course too much. I felt pretty good all the way around and even managed something of a sprint finish. I then met up with Pete at the finish line, and his watch showed he had comfortably beaten his PB by more than 20 seconds (ridiculous!), coming in at around 19:50. I thought I was around the 22:40 mark, so we both took our chips to be scanned alongside our printed personal barcodes (which you’re assigned when you sign up to the Parkrun online), and went for a swift post-run celebratory coffee.

As we enjoyed our drinks, we both pondered what might have been if we had both discovered long distance running a bit earlier in life. I’m not sure how receptive I would have been to being pushed into cross country at school when I was younger, but I don’t remember opportunities for long-distance running being that readily available either. I get the impression that Pete was always pretty sporty, but for whatever reason running just didn’t appeal to him either. But we’re both giving it a hell of a go now, and it feels awesome. Plus the good news – Pete got his PB of 19:51 confirmed, and was the 35th male (37th overall). I finished in 22:40 and was the 12th female (112th overall). Naturally I now want top 10 female and top 100 finisher next time.

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Two thumbs up for a sub 20 minute 5k!

The thing I love about the Parkrun, is that it’s completely free for anyone who wants to give it a go. It doesn’t matter how fit you think you are, anyone can give it a bash, and we saw runners of all levels today. It’s run by volunteers who willingly give up their Saturday lie-ins to cheer on people they don’t know, and it’s run so efficiently. I’m definitely going to add my name to the volunteer roster, and even though I can’t make the next two Saturdays, I’m going to make an effort to do a lot more of these. Now, who’s with me?