The Kevin Henry 5k Season 2017 – My Review

I can’t believe it’s been a month since the Kevin Henry 5k League season finished! In the past this set of races ran until the first Thursday of September, but this year they compressed it into 5 months instead of 6. At the time I was pretty unhappy with this as it meant that sometimes there were only two weeks between races, and as someone who gets quite wound up in race situations (ahem) it felt like my stress levels remained consistently high.

But I love racing 5ks once I get going. Yes it can be really tough to sustain that “faster-than-is-entirely-comfortable” pace and to get used to that burn in your chest and the ache in your legs, but I love the feeling that floods your body after a fast 5k. I just don’t get the same runners’ high from other race distances.

I was nervous about how the season would go. Since changing jobs my training regime has changed considerably. My regular lunchtime track sessions have gone out of the window (which I really miss), and I’ve shifted my evening focus a bit more to working with our junior runners. So at the start of every race I was armed with a decent set of excuses (like I usually am pre-race) and I kept telling people I wasn’t as fit as last year.

Turns out I really need to stop whinging, as I ended up beating all of my 2016 race times apart from one. I’m basically the running equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. Here’s my breakdown (the times in brackets are my 2016 times):

IMG_20170608_215601_985

Newmarket was a pretty sight when we left at least…

27th April – Cambridge Tri Club: 20:29 (21:50), 94th runner out of 307, 14th female

11th May – Ely Runners: 20:41 (20:48), 83rd runner out of 297, 13th female

8th June – Newmarket Joggers: 21:31 (21:17), 107th runner out of 301, 15th female

29th June – Saffron Striders: 20:44 (20:51), 85th runner out of 284, 10th female

13th July – Haverhill Running Club: 21:01 (21:48), 84th runner out of 283, 9th female

3rd August – C&C: 20:30 (20:41), 112th runner out of 321, 12th female*

Of the 6 races, Newmarket is the one that I stress about the most mainly because they don’t have toilets on site, something I’ve complained about before. They’re nearly 1k away, which when you’re a nervous pee-er, is simply not good enough (in my opinion) so I always start that race in a really stressed out state. It was also a warm evening, and I tried to keep up with an Ely Junior who had finished just behind me at the Ely race. As it turns out he was massively slacking off at Ely as he smashed Newmarket in 20:00 minutes dead and completed the last race of the season in 19:17. Blooming hustler. The moral of that story is to run your own race, not someone else’s.

The one I’m most proud of is Haverhill. Regular readers of this blog might remember last year’s meltdown but this year I dug deep and managed to pace it just right. I was a little disappointed at first not to have dipped under 21:00, but I soon managed to put my rational thinking cap back on to realise that to have taken 47 seconds off a 5k was utterly brilliant. As for the last race, I turned up to it completely exhausted. I have a little too much on my plate at the moment (all my own doing) and I was just running on empty. But I wanted to try and end the season having done all 6 races, so I was going to run it no matter what. Thankfully I happened to bump into Lauren Bradshaw fresh from some mental marathon, and she said her legs weren’t feeling too hot either, so we agreed to run together and aim for something like 21 minutes. Her famous last words were “you’ll have to drag me round”.

IMG_20170713_221226_722

Comparing red faces at Haverhill

Did I heck. The absolute speed demon shot off, chatting to fellow runners on the way as I struggled to settle my breathing. The first 3k were really hard. I didn’t want to let Lauren down by slowing up as I knew she’d want to be loyal and stay with me, so I just tried to focus on my breathing as much as possible and not let the panic in my chest rise like it did at Newmarket. The headwind was also really unhelpful, but I kept having to remind myself that I’d be grateful to have it behind me on the final 1k. On the last 300m around the track I could suddenly hear someone thundering behind us. No way was I letting Lauren work that hard for us to be beaten on the line so I sped up and she responded and I finished just behind her. At first I thought I might have gotten a PB but it turns out that I was 12 seconds off it. So the 2015 5k PB still stands but you know what? That was a stronger season than I could have hoped for, and next year I can aim for that sub 21:00 Haverhill race and maybe even sneak that PB.

IMG_20170803_210128_623

With the legend that is Bradders

* The C&C race had Lauren in the position behind me, but she definitely finished in front of me so I’ve put the times she was given.

Spitfire Scramble 2017 – Saying Goodbye to my Comfort Zone

What would take you outside of your comfort zone? Wing walking? Swimming with sharks? Getting a hug off Donald Trump in your favourite white outfit?

Well for me, it’s camping. Yep, you heard that right. I am the sort of person who loves hot showers, clean toilets and my own bed. After a horrendous camping experience when I was 11 (freak Lauren out became everyone’s favourite activity on that trip), I had no inclination to do it again. EVER. My friend Lucy put it perfectly when she said “why would you choose to spend your free time living at a lower standard than you do normally?”. FYI that’s the clean version of what she actually said, but it summed up my feelings on the matter.

Screenshot_20170724-125644

My ever supportive friends and family.

So how exactly did I find myself camping in a field just outside Dagenham, losing punch-ups with poison-fanged insects and substituting showers with baby wipes? I honestly have no idea. I just know that in October last year my friend and all-round adventure-seeker Jen asked for runners to join her team of 8 people for the 24-hour Spitfire Scramble, and I put my name down. I’m assuming she caught me at a moment when both my caffeine and sugar levels had completely crashed and I was in the midst of some sort of hallucination where I thought I was Bear Grylls*. It’s the only thing I can think of.

But July flew round, and three days before we set off I realised I should probably order a sleeping bag, pillow and mat (I’m nailing this adulting malarkey). After a frustrating 2.5 drive from Cambridge, we were in a field on a Friday evening, and I was actually vaguely helping to pitch a tent whilst mildly panicking about what lay ahead. I also had to make the decision to take out my contact lenses and leave them out for the next 36 hours, reasoning that running slightly blind was preferable to an eye infection. That first night, I was so glad that I was in the company of Jen and Becky (later joined by Paula, Fiona, Ruth, Paul, Rachael and Chris, plus Rachael and Chris’ AMAZING dogs Yogi and Boo). They made me laugh non stop, sorted me out with food, and Becky gave me wine, which made her a demi-god in my eyes at that moment. I went to bed pretty early (party pooper), and actually managed a semi-decent 8.5 hours of sleep, only waking a couple of times when the temperature dipped.

The amazeballs Yogi and Boo. Boo ran 17 miles! 

On Saturday morning, Jen, Paul and Ruth made plans to go to Harrow Lodge parkrun just 2 miles down the road. Ruth and Paul had come camping with their incredibly cute 3 year old daughter Katie who wanted to be pushed around parkrun in her buggy, and if you met her you’d find it hard to say no to her too (especially when she talks about being a “hairy” princess and pronounces Essex “Eggets”). Then Jen checked the time of the 1st place woman the week before, and she had clocked 23:58. Obviously my competitive side kicked in instantly,  and knowing that even taking it easy I could do a 22 minute parkrun, I decided to go along. Of course, a SUPER speedy woman turned up and smashed it in 19:38, so I had to make do with 2nd place. It was a lovely course though, and a nice way to stretch my legs before the Spitfire Scramble got under way, and Ruth and I also took the opportunity to stuff our faces with a massive breakfast at the park cafe. I only got slightly worried when it started to rain…

When we got back to the campsite, our remaining team members John and Mel had arrived, and the 8 of us with our support team of Jen, Fiona and Becky were ready to go. With his trusty whiteboard in place Chris took charge of the running schedule, and my first 5.7 mile lap was due to start around 4:30pm.

Pretty sunset, tired and sweaty runner.

The way the Spitfire Scramble works is pretty simple. There are different categories, from solo runners up to a maximum of 8. We were obviously in the mixed 5-8 category, with 5 female and 3 male runners. We all had to estimate how quickly we would do our laps, and then the next runner in sequence went down to the changeover zone about 10 minutes before the next runner was due in. Initially I’d assumed we’d each do 3 laps, taking it nice and easy and coming in around the hour mark, with the chance that one or two of us might squeeze in a 4th lap.

MEGALOLZ.

It turned out pretty quickly that we were all being quite cagey with our estimates and were coming in quite a few minutes under (I estimated 55 minutes but came in at 44 for lap 1), so our runners’ schedule was continuously updated.  As I saw my next laps were scheduled for 10:15pm and 4:15am,  I felt myself starting to panic that I couldn’t even manage a second lap let alone a third, so I messaged my running friends Pete and Rach in a bit of a panic, but with the aid of some trusty GIFs they quickly talked some sense into me. I then saw that our three speedy speedsters John, Paul and Mel had all signed up for a double nighttime shift (just casually running 11.5 miles in the dead of night, no biggie) to ensure that their teammates could get as much rest as possible. So no way was I going to let them down.

Although my second lap was my slowest, it was also my most sociable. I teamed up with what turned out to be the Race Director of that morning’s parkrun, Mark, and when he stopped at 4 miles to get some water from his support crew, I then ran the final 1.7 miles with Shimpei from Guildford, who distracted me from the monster hill that loomed up just before mile 5. I also weirdly enjoyed the 4:30am lap, mainly because I got to watch the (only slightly blurry) sunrise.

When I got back from that lap around 5:15am, I saw that I had been put down for a 4th and final lap at around 9:45am. I cannot tell you how badly I didn’t want to run another lap. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t done any real training for this event. I’d told myself it would be 3 10ks spread over 24 hours, which seems weirdly manageable. Had I known I’d end up doing 26 miles in 26 hours, I would have bleeding well trained. As I got ready to snatch a couple of hours of sleep John assured me that they could cover me if I couldn’t do my 4th lap, which made me feel terrible when he’d already done a double and was down for a total of 5 laps. I went to sleep at around 6am, and told everyone I’d be up at 8am to see if I could manage my 4th lap, but I already knew I was going to do it.

To be honest, I don’t really remember much about that last lap. I’d had a total of around 5 hours of sleep (from around 12:30am-3:30am and 6am-8am), and I was definitely running on pure adrenalin. I thought I’d be lucky to come in under an hour, but I somehow managed 46 minutes, meaning all 4 of my laps had comfortably come in under 50 minutes. In total, our team managed 31 laps, and we came 5th out of 47 teams in our category. We all joined John as he crossed the line for the last time, and the medals we received were frankly awesome.  And then suddently it was all over. I was in complete awe of how quickly everyone managed to pack up their things, and we were on the road by 1pm and in contrast to our journey there were back in Cambridge in just over an hour.

Photo taken after lap1. Boo was the ultimate spirit lifter.

I can say without doubt that the Spitfire Scramble was the most mentally challenging event I’ve ever done, but also the one I’m most proud of. As for my thoughts on the actual event itself, the atmosphere is one of the best I’ve ever come across, with brilliant marshals and a lovely supportive atmosphere from all other runners. Although there were times at night when it felt like you were totally on your own, the event was well sign posted, Jen’s chest light was brilliant (you have to wear a light between 8pm and sunrise), and the mini glowsticks on the path were so useful. They had a water station halfway round the route which was manned throughout the 24 hours, and they had another self-serve one at the changeover area as well. The toilets were really well looked after and regularly cleaned, but you had to get a coach to be driven to a local school for showers, so we all decided wet wipes would be good enough for 36 hours! Needless to say that shower when I got home was the best one I have ever had. Ever ever. The medal is also an absolute BEAUT.

I think the only downside of the event is that they could have done with some more food trucks on site. They only had one, and people were queuing for up to half an hour just to get a coffee. A couple of extra hot drink vans might have been useful (I would have killed for Silver Oak Coffee and the Rural Coffee Project to have been there!), and all of our team agreed that an ice cream van would have been flipping awesome.

My recovery from the event was more intense than I expected. Although my legs felt fine, my back and left foot felt seriously fatigued, and I was mentally exhausted. I would say that I didn’t feel back to normal until the following Friday, and I pretty much ate whatever I could get my hands on for a good 5 or 6 days. The almond croissant market definitely saw a boost.

Would I do it again? If you’d asked me that last week it would have been an emphatic no, possibly accompanied by a headbutt. When Jen mentioned that some of the team were doing the Thunder Run just a week later I thought they were well and truly out of their trees (I still do to be honest). But as each day passes, a teeny tiny part of me is thinking “hmm….maybe…”. So ask me again in a couple of months. Maybe that sleeping bag will see the light of day again after all.

*Yes. To me 2 nights of camping is the equivalent of Bear Grylls living on an island for 60 days eating nothing but sand and raw fish and sleeping under a net of snakes whilst setting fire to himself. I’m a drama queen, ok?

 

 

 

 

My Sporty Beauty Favourites

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by TheeMiddleSis to a blogger event at L’Occitane Cambridge in partnership with beautiful accessories company Stella and Dot. It was brilliant to be able to meet some other bloggers from the area, but I did think that I wouldn’t really be able to blog about the event itself as it didn’t really align with my blogger “brand” (such as it is. Hi mum!).

But then I was preparing for a run with Ely Runners and I realised that there are actually some beauty items that as a runner / cyclist / general sporty type – with the constant exposure to the elements that I have to deal with day after day – I would be lost without. So here are my top 10 “sporty” (ish) beauty items.

Estee Lauder DayWear Moisturiser

First things first – my face moisturiser has to have SPF. This is something I won’t scrimp on under any circumstances, but luckily Estee Lauder’s DayWear Oil Free SPF25 moisturiser is spot on. Not only does it tick the usual box of reducing the first signs of ageing such as dullness and fine lines, but it also helps to create a barrier against pollutants which is ideal for city-centre cyclists, as well as offering their “best UVA defence”. From a user point of view it’s super light so sinks into the skin really quickly, and it has a fresh cucumber scent which is lovely first thing in the morning. Whether this will be enough to protect my skin against the elements in winter remains to be seen, but it’s been perfect for me this summer.

Body Moisturiser

With all the cycling and running I do the skin on my legs and arms is exposed to the elements a lot, which means attractively dry and sometimes even scaly skin. Delightful. I have never found a body moisturiser that I’ve been faithful to as there has always been something I didn’t like about it, whether it’s the smell or the fact that it takes an AGE to soak into the skin. Typically, the one I really fell for was one my mum brought back from the US for me, which means I can’t easily get my mitts on it in the UK. It’s by Bath and Body Works and it’s their Cashmere Glow Ultra Shea Body Cream. I loved everything about it, from the smell to the texture to its incredible ability to keep my skin hydrated for hours. But until they open a shop in the UK (please please please please please!) I need an alternative, so I was pretty impressed with the L’Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate samples I received at the blogger event. I’ve used them for three days now and my skin seems to be happier as a result so I’m planning to invest in a full size version. Whether or not I’ll like it enough to become loyal to it remains to be seen.

wpid-2015-08-31-14.01.24.jpg.jpeg wpid-2015-08-31-13.56.57.jpg.jpeg

Estee Lauder DayWear, £42  *  L’Occitane Milk Concentrate, £38

Insect Repellent

The first time I went running with Ely Runners I got attacked by what can only have been an invisible, poison-filled dinosaur. Or it was possibly a horsefly. Either way, my bite became infected and my ankle swelled up so much you couldn’t make out the ankle bone any more. This led to about 8 days of no running, an interaction with Louis de Bernieres where he charmingly informed me that Rupert Brooke died from an infected insect bite, and left me with a lovely scar to add to my already large collection on my right leg (I’m somewhat accident-prone). Needless to say I swiftly invested in some Ben’s Insect repellent which smells faintly of citrus and is only a little bit greasy, and I’ve been bite free on my evening runs ever since.

Suntan Lotion

This is an absolute no brainer. If you’re going to be out in the sun, whether it’s in summer or winter, you need to protect your skin. I never wear anything lower than SPF25 (my go-to is SPF30) because I have pasty Irish skin and burn ridiculously easily. However there is obviously a big problem with vitamin D deficiency in the sunlight-sparse UK at the moment, so you need to try and strike a balance between getting enough sunlight for your bones but not too much for your skin. Generally I don’t wear suntan lotion on my cycle into work in the morning when the sun is lower and I can get a bit of vitamin D goodness on my arms and parts of my back (I have a cracking racer back tan thanks to my obsession with Sweaty Betty Athlete Vests) but I slather it on before a running session. At the moment I’m favouring Ambre Solaire Clear Protect.

wpid-2015-08-31-13.55.49.jpg.jpeg wpid-2015-08-31-13.50.23.jpg.jpeg

Ben’s Insect Repellent, Approx £7  *  Ambre Solaire Clear Protect £7.50

Elemis Sp@Home Aching Muscle Super Soak

The name of this product pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but basically you dump three capfuls of this under running water for your bath, and the extracts of birch, juniper, clove, alpine lavender, wild thyme and blue chamomile, combined with sea salt, warm the muscles and recharge the body. As you can probably tell I copied and pasted that directly from their own description, but only because it explains how good it is far better than I ever could. If this is a little bit pricey for you Waitrose do a decent alternative as part of their SenSpa range.

Compeed

The ONLY thing to use on a post-race blister if you’re unlucky enough to get one (or more likely in may case, if you get one from wearing stupid heels on a night out and then have to run the next day).

wpid-2015-08-31-13.48.23.jpg.jpeg wpid-2015-08-31-13.52.31.jpg.jpeg

SenSpa Detox Muscle Soak, £5.95  *  Compeed, from £4.25

Batiste Dry Shampoo

Forget your Nike Flyknits or your TomTom watches. The best thing ever to happen to runners is dry shampoo. I get my hair dyed pink by Gemma at Salon 46 four times a year, and to protect the colour I have to wash it as little as I can socially get away with. Cue the miracle that is dry shampoo. When I’ve done a weights session, badminton or yoga I can spritz this on the roots and I’m good to go in a matter of seconds. Obviously if I’ve done an epic sprint or hill session I’m going to have to wash my hair properly, but dry shampoo means I can get away with washing it three times a week instead of six or seven. I usually pick a volume one because I have fine hair, but I’m a sucker for nice-smelling products so am partial to the cherry and oriental ones too.

Mama Mio Lucky Legs

I seriously love this stuff. Mama Mio are experts in pregnancy skincare, and I’m not sure I remember how I stumbled across this product but I’ve been hooked for some time. The cooling gel with energising oils and spearmint is meant to ease that heavy feeling (a third more blood in your circulation system when pregnant + water retention = leaden legs) so I find it AWESOME slathered on after a long run or hill session.

wpid-2015-08-31-14.00.22.jpg.jpeg wpid-2015-08-31-13.57.50.jpg.jpeg

Batiste Dry Shampoo, £3.99  *  Mama Mio Lucky Legs, £19.50

Lip Balm

I’m constantly fighting with my dry, chapped lips, and at the moment I’m obsessed with Maybelline’s Baby Lips. I love it when lip balms have a bit of colour to them, and the one I’m most taken with is Pink Shock from their Electro Range. I have about four of that colour chucked into different bags but of course I can never find one when I really need to.

Deodorant

Of any kind. Seriously, if I have to explain this one to you I don’t want to be friends with you.

wpid-2015-08-31-13.54.18.jpg.jpeg wpid-2015-08-31-13.58.44.jpg.jpeg

Maybelline Baby Lips, £2.99  *  Dove Invisible Dry, £2.30