My participation in official events has dropped off dramatically in recent years, here’s the full list to date:

2014 Events

2013 Events

2012 Events

2010 Events

2009 Events

2008 Events

2007 Events

2006 Events

Sewerby parkrun – A View from the Back

Finding my new local parkrun last week gave me a renewed vigour to chase down my first milestone t-shirt. As this weekend we were away oop North, visiting my parents, it seemed the ideal time to try a bit of parkrun tourism and join Sewerby parkrun.

My home town has had its own parkrun since 2011, so is long overdue a visit.

I joined the relatively small running contingent just in front of the steps to Sewerby Hall, and listened intently as the lead marshall warned us about the cliff edge and the adverse direction of the wind. No time to worry about that for too long as the runners around me seemed to have heard a silent call to arms and were off.

I joined them. Slowly.

Sewerby parkrun turned out to be a fantastic course. It starts gently downward along the tarmac cliff top path and then turns at about 1.5km to head back up along the cliff edge on a slightly less reliable surface with the wind in your face, trying in a relatively uncommitted fashion to push you back and right, over the edge of the cliff.

I had my low point in this stretch but it is also a truly beautiful view, one of the best from experience of 5 different parkrun events.

Sewerby parkrun – a view from the back #parkrun #sewerbyparkrun

A photo posted by ? @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

At the top of the cliff we then take a muddy off-road detour around the cricket pitch. I had a little chat with a marshall here, who joined me for a short jog. He reminded me that while it seemed windy today, it was actually a glorious day and this course could get much, much worse.

I bet it could. That wind could get menacing in the blink of an eye.

Off the cliff top now and back into Sewerby Park where we toured the grounds and circled the woods on a squidgy bark-topped surface.

In and out of the walled gardens and its on to the home straight. A very short home straight which I like as you only need to muster a 50m sprint. In the old days, Bushy Park used to have a 1km home straight and that used to kill me – I had no idea when to put the hammer down.

Anyway, back to Sewerby parkrun. My mum and dad were at the finish to cheer me on to almost last place and my mum actually joined me for the final sprint.

I’m afraid I forgot to tell her not to cross the finish line, partly because I had no extra breath for talking, and I’m afraid we caused a little confusion with the timing – sorry about that.

All in all, Sewerby parkrun is a fantastically varied course with supportive runners and Marshalls. You need good grippy shoes and have to work hard not to stop for the many scenic photo opportunities. It’s definitely one to recommend but beware of the forecast. This is a route where you will experience weather in its full glory, as Charlie_Z_Brown illustrates:

Three Cheers for Tooting parkrun

I was alerted this week to a new parkrun at Tooting Bec. I’m grateful to blog7t for passing on this great news. I’ve been hoping quietly for a parkrun to appear on my doorstep for about 6 years now. Although I had earmarked Mitcham Common as my preferred location, Tooting Common is still only 15 mins away and will do nicely.  

It seems that there is a more vocal and active contingent working away to bring parkrun to the nation, or Wandsworth (@parkrun4wands) at least, and to those involved I am very thankful. 

The run itself is a 3 lap course which caused me some pre-run anxiety. I had always avoided 2 loop parkrun events for fear of being lapped by the entire field until I tried Roundshaw parkrun and realised my calculations were dodgy and that lapping is not a common occurrence. 3 laps is a bit different though and I was passed by at least two thirds of the field and some particularly nippy folks would have lapped me twice. 

  
Turns out that’s no bad thing though, for brief moments you are running in amongst the front runners and it feels as though their grace and speed rub off, if only a little. 

The last lap is admittedly painful. I started the 3rd loop as the sub-30 minuters peeled off for their final sprint. That’s quite tough to know the finish is just yards away when you have one more lonely, isolated lap to go. 

Still, it’s a pancake flat course, the runners are friendly and the many volunteers were super supportive. 

I’m very happy with my new local parkrun! Now I have no excuses not to target that elusive 50 t-shirt that I’ve been chasing for at least 10 years. Only 26 more to go. 

Winter Wolf and other Dirty Weekends

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I seem to be lurching from one dirty weekend to another but who’s complaining?

Last weekend we were at Winter Wolf for our first attempt at the Leicestershire course. It has such fabulous quality mud that this is now my favourite adventure course. The black soggy clay grabbed me firmly above the knee and did its best to drag me under. I’d struggle and wiggle and sink to my thighs, leaving me to attempt an unsuccessful swim across the quagmire. It’s fortunate that there are plenty of other runners that are prepared to sacrifice themselves to the swamp in order to drag free a fellow runner.

Running was an additional challenge with an inch thick coating of clay but it got easier as each clod shed itself and then there were the river swims which washed free the grime, like wonderfully refreshing, ice cold jacuzzis.

This was wild swimming and running at its best.

 

Spot the running shoeThe following weekend we were back in Sussex for our annual glamping holiday. It’s now become traditional to take a run along the West Sussex Ouse Valley Way, which is at its soggiest in November.

We started early enough to enjoy the morning mist rising from the fields and the plan was to get cold, wet and muddy so we could appreciate the native sweat lodge effect from within an insulated yurt with a blazing log burning stove.

Pushy horsesThe conditions may have been tame in comparison to Winter Wolf but the route did throw up its own challenges. I’m afraid we had to turn back after 5k as we found ourselves surrounded by a horde of fairly pushy horses. I attempted to drive a path through them but I changed my mind when the largest of the pack started to push me backwards in the mud and then attempted to eat my UP wrist band.

I hope all this mud is improving my complexion because it is not doing much for the appearance of my toe nails.

 

Roundshaw parkrun

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Sometime after my 3rd failed ultra, I smartened up and decided to re-focus my efforts on less lofty goals. Shorter goals.

I have therefore embarked on a program designed to drag my 5k time back to a value I might be prepared to publish on the blog.

Roundshaw parkrun

This is week 2 and my second parkrun and so far the program is not working. We’ve just tried out our local run at Roundshaw Downs and I managed to record my worst ever time for a parkrun event. I will not be sharing my time.

Roundshaw parkrun has been going for a few years but it is still a fairly small event, run on an undulating course of mostly grass and a bit of trail through woodland. It has a striking view over Croydon to the London skyline.

I found the course to be a bit of a struggle, it could have been last nights curry or the near bottle of wine that accompanied it but I do need a better excuse than “undulating course” to explain my pitiful performance.

It is some consolation that having coincided a new event with my worst ever performance I managed to get both a PW and a PB for the same run.

Bushy parkrun 10th Anniversary

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IMG_5969.JPGWe set off in a massive, diverse crowd. I was initially worried that I may trample on the toddler stood in front of me but that soon turned to concern that I might not actually be able to keep up with her.

That set the tone. I battled it out with the youth and the elderly and pretty much lost to each one. I comforted myself by the thought that one lad whizzing past me was at least 37 years younger than me. The fact that made him about 6 years old shouldn’t really matter.

With a record turn out of 1705 runners, the finish funnel was a challenge even from the perspective of a straggler. We soon made it out the other end though and met our favourite Surrey Housewife who was characteristically spotted with 3 glasses of champers.

It was absolutely lovely to share in the Bushy parkrun 10th anniversary. I was introduced to the institution back in Feb 2007 where I came 195th out of 196. I credit the wonderfully inclusive community with turning around my health and social well being, so very happy birthday parkrun.

Happy Birthday parkrun

Panasonic Action Camera meets The Wolf Run

Battered

The Wolf Run is becoming a bit of habit. We skipped summer but by the end of the year will have dragged our way across Woods, Obstacles, Lakes and Fields in 3 out the 4 seasons on offer.

Last weekend was The Autumn Wolf and it didn’t disappoint – muddy hilarity for the whole 10k.

Despite being held in the same location as The Spring Wolf the organisers had managed to shake things up a bit. The obstacles were tweaked, with some new additions and the sunny weather turned the trail sections into runnable tracks rather than the quagmires of Spring. It felt like a totally different event.

Panasonic HX-A500 Action CamI was sent the latest wearable action camera, the Panasonic HX-A500 to try out on the day and it held up to one heck of a battering and still managed to produce some fairly impressive footage from the day. I had considered buying the GoPro but I didn’t like the idea of having it attached to a chest harness. The Panasonic action camera, comes in two parts with lens attached to a light headband which is then attached by a cable, to the camera sitting in an armband. I found this to be the perfect setup. It felt really comfortable to wear and the camera was easily accessible so I could switch the recording on and off for every obstacle.

The Panasonic has a load of different settings of ever increasing quality, culminating in the headline 4k. I don’t really know what that means other than its a lot of pixels and I’d need some special viewing device to take advantage of the ultra HD-ness. I shot my footage of The Wolf Run at Full HD instead, so I didn’t risk filling my memory card before the event was over. The camera is waterproof to 3m but I didn’t really imagine it would stand up to the battering of this sort of event. It’s repeatedly submerged in muddy water and gets bashed, a lot.

The footage from the turbo charged water slide makes me flinch every time I watch it but its a good example of the battering the camera had to endure (and me and the poor woman I hit).

The video capture from the entire event was fantastic with realistic colours, crisp images and a relatively steady shot. See what you think of both the camera and the event by viewing our footage from the day. Video was edited by Rubysmileslikeanerd.

Panasonic HX-A500 Action Camera
Pros

  • Excellent quality footage
  • Eye level lens so you shoot what you see
  • Hands free design so it doesn’t interfere with obstacles
  • waterproof and mudproof
  • battery survived for longer than the 2.5 hour event
  • incredibly easy to use while on the run

Cons

  • Quite hard to clean – need to ensure all the grit is clear before closing or the seal may be damaged
  • At £379.99 it’s expensive

Grand Union Canal Challenge

Thank god its over.

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014This weekend saw the start of the inaugural Grand Union Challenge and it was time for me to stage another attempt at a 100km hike.

Vicky and I set off in glorious sunshine, from Paddington just before 10am. We were down on the canal in no time and began watching the looming storm clouds with interest. When it did eventually start raining it seemed to stay with us for hours. It wasn’t too troublesome though, we both had waterproofs and the constant drizzle prevented it from getting too darn hot.

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014Despite the impressive nature of the Grand Union Canal, which cuts an entirely green and remarkably remote corridor from London to Birmingham, it is probably best not consumed in one continuous trog. There is a limit on how many ducklings you can coo at and how many locks you can admire and I certainly had complaints from back home as the instagram updates were getting a bit samey.

Grand Union Canal Challenge 2014Lynn joined us at 35k and I think we were still in high spirits, the pick n mix helped with a bit of a sugar rush and we’d caught up with the stand up paddle boarders who were joining us on their own crazy version of the 100k Grand Union Challenge.

On the approach to the 50k rest stop I was ravenous and picked up the pace while dreaming of fish, chips and Stella. The chicken noodles and cold diet coke actually on offer came a close second and filled a big hole. My calf had cramped up at this point so I got myself in the long queue for a massage. This added an hour to our rest stop and although it enabled me to continue in relative comfort, it did add to the pressure at each future stage as we were clearly bringing up the rear.

It was gone midnight now so the lights came out and we got to experience the canalside at its gloomiest. This is not a walk I would consider doing alone. It’s not a huge event like London2Brighton and you can spend hours walking alone. The canal feels completely isolated even when it is cutting swathes through cities and towns and it is probably home to more than its fair share of odd balls. Even with Vicky alongside me, there were times when I thought we might have to start running very soon.

This was a bad stretch for me, my legs felt like they were blowing up with water retention. Coming up to the next stop we were both disappointed to see it come early. The length of each stretch was a bit erratic and if one rest stop arrived early it meant the next would be painfully long and tagging an extra 1 or 2 kms on at this stage just felt punishing.

Sitting with my head in my hands at this stop, I just talked myself out of the walk. I hurt but mostly I felt sick and tired. I wanted to sleep more than I wanted to finish. I was also pretty convinced that I could not finish, that I did not have another 39 km in me, and accepting that, it seemed fairly pointless to add any extra miles to my tally.

Vicky on the other hand could not quit. We left the 61k rest stop after a brief break with the intention of walking into the daylight. When the sun rose Vicky would carry on alone and I would abandon the event.

The sun came up at about 4am and Vicky released me from my torment. At 68k I veered off the canal and waited for Lynn to drive by and rescue me. People had tried to persuade me, saying there would be no medal or t-shirt if I didn’t finish but at that point, those things that seemed so powerful at the start of the event meant nothing to me now.

6 hours later, after bed, bath and breakfast I felt more human, but I also felt like a complete heel for leaving a teammate out on the course. Lynn drove me back out to the canal and I walked back to meet up with Vicky to pace her through the final 7km to the finish line.

She’d had an emotional time and was suffering with her feet and knees and overwhelming tiredness. I felt incredibly proud of her and all the other walkers still out on the canal. It was slow going but she was going to get there.

Lynn dropped down on to the canal at various points bringing supplies and then nipping to the finish line to wait for us. She rang me at the 98k marker to tell me that the finish wasn’t actually at 100k, presumably for logistical reasons the finish gantry was sitting in a field at 101k. I didn’t feel this was the right time to tell Vicky. She practically counted every step from 99k and knew full well that the 100k had been swiped.

Lynn and one of the marshalls came out to join us, to see the final walkers cross the line and broke the news of the extra kilometre.

Grand Union Canal Challenge Finisher 2014I don’t think she was rewarded with a euphoric state of achievement at the end, more the sheer relief that all the suffering was over. As she said the next day

I am just so pleased not to be on that sodding towpath!!!

I imagine the pride of such an achievement is a slow burn affair. The sort of inner confidence that stays with you. You’ve done something pretty damn amazing, you’ve suffered, endured and finished what you’ve started.

I on the other hand, thought big, started something amazing, walked a long way and then quit. I’m not sure what I’ve learned but have confirmed that I am indeed a “Starter Leaver”

**Other Grand Union Challengers**

  • Stacey at StaceyLovesSUP, blogs about the 100km Stand Up Paddle Boarding challenge.

How to Tape Your Feet for Blister Prevention

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Foot Taping for Long Distance WalksI’ve had some great results from pre-taping my feet prior to long hikes and can now walk around 40 miles, confident that I won’t get blisters. Even on this year’s London2Brighton challenge where the weather conditions were appalling and I ended up wearing two pairs of unfamiliar shoes, I managed 57km feeling physically broken but with my feet still intact – not a single blister.

My Blister Prevention Routine

  • Keep your feet in good nick – in the run up to your long walk you should keep your feet free of callouses and moisturise to prevent cracked skin.
  • Practice taping before your big event – there is a knack to applying tape so start practising early.
  • I apply tape to my own feet so I can flex while I’m applying it to make sure it is not too tight.
  • After taping, dust down with talcum powder to absorb any excess adhesive
  • Wear Bridgedale lining socks on top of the tape.
  • Put the hiking or running sock on next, being careful not to introduce creases.
  • During the event, change the lining socks regularly and check the the tape is still secure.

Zinc Oxide Tape for Blister Prevention

I’ve worked my way through a number of different brands of zinc oxide tape and have now settled on Leukotape P. I’ve found this to have excellent adhesive properties and a good degree of stretch. It somehow manages to avoid leaving adhesive on the non-sticky side of the tape, which is a big bonus and a problem I’ve noted with every other roll of tape I’ve tried.

Tape Adherent

A lot of guides suggest that you purchase an additional spray adhesive to apply to the foot before adding the tape. I’ve tried this technique but I’ve stopped using it because there is a fine balance between too little and too much stickiness. If you get a decent tape you shouldn’t need extra glue and you don’t want to have any extra adhesive on the outside of the tape as it will stick to your socks, increasing the chances of fabric folds under your feet. I apply a liberal sprinkling of talcum powder before I put on my socks as well.

Where to Apply the Anti Blister Tape

Ideally you will have slowly built up your long walks or runs and should now have a clear idea of where you tend to develop hot spots. When I first started training for 100km walks I would get blisters forming after only 10k when wearing hiking boots, and they would always be in the same place. Mine started under the heel and across the ball of my foot and for good measure, the back of my heel would regularly rub raw.

I chose the taping technique illustrated in the video below, as it covered all my weak points. If you develop hot spots in other places you may need to extend the covered regions.

Pre-Taping for Blister Prevention

  •  Start by applying anchor strips along the inner and outer sides of your foot.
  • Join the two anchor strips with a piece that goes across the heel.

Foot Taping for Blister Prevention

  • Start applying strips across the underside of your heel, with a slight overlap on each strip.
  • Be careful not to introduce creases and keep your foot flexed upward (dorsi-flexed) so that you don’t apply the tape too tightly.
  • Continue with more overlapped strips on the ball of your foot.
    Foot Taping for Blister Prevention
  • Finish by re-applying the anchor strips on either side of the foot.

Let me know how you get on……

London2Brighton Challenge 2014: The Second Coming

London2Brighton Challenge

The Start of The London2Brighton Challenge

I’ve done quite few of my long training walks in my hiking boots but none of them were considered successful. I decided quite a long time ago that the London2Brighton 100k Challenge would be completed in my super cushioned Hokas’ with my Inov8s’ held back for the second half when my feet would likely have swelled.

I woke up on Saturday to an apparently relentless deluge and there followed a huge shoe dilemma. I bundled an assortment of shoe options into the boot of the car and developed a strategy that would hopefully give my feet a fighting chance.

London2Brighton Challenge

As Accuweather suggested a potential bright spot around lunchtime, I started in the trail shoes, hoping that Lynn would meet me at the 25k mark for a switch to the Hokas.

The rain came and went, just long enough for me to take off my waterproof jacket and then started again. It was a bizarre weather day and walkers would emerge from woods into bright sunshine and visibly steam as the rain evaporated from their hot bodies.

London2Brighton Mud Challenge
@kabukisnyder

The rain and the 3000 runners & walkers played havoc with the trail. The off-road sections looked like segments of last months Wolf Run, as if the organisers had piped in extra mud to add to the challenge and my planned shoe change became a reluctant boot change.

I started the London2Brighton challenge an hour later than last year. It was my intention to spend an hour or so walking in the dark before reaching the main rest point at 57k. That way I would remove a potential hurdle to continuing – fear of the dark. Despite actively planning this stint in the darkness I made a huge packing faux pas. I put my main torch in the car to retrieve at the midpoint and popped the Petzl head torch in my rucksack. I knew the batteries would be low so put triple A’s on Lynn’s shopping list, again for the midpoint.

When I tripped over the first root in a dark, foreboding, wood and reached for my emergency Petzl, I was less than impressed to discover the most insignificant glow from the lamp. Completely useless and I was at least 4 hours away from batteries.

I had a glow stick but it wasn’t working and I ended up edging my way forward, gripping onto my poles for dear life and seeking out the breadcrumb trail of glow sticks that marked the route.

I wasn’t completely alone, other walkers came and went but I couldn’t hope to keep up with them. It was a pretty lonely place to be.

A generous chap took took pity on me stumbling over a stile in the dark and lit my way until we reached a road section where there were more walkers.

There was only another 10k before the major rest stop at Tully’s Farm but I was pretty despairing of my ability to get there. I was limping and silent sobbing. It was pretty darn pitiful but I felt like I was torturing myself.

With about 7k to go Lynn managed to find me on a quiet road and thrust batteries in to my hand before driving off again.

Finishing at Tully's Farm

My world looked ever so slightly brighter with a functioning Petzl on my head but it didn’t stop the weeping. I seemed to be stopping at every available tree stump in order loosen my boots and attempt to rub some life back into my swollen Achilles. It is hard to fathom quite how slow those last kilometres were. I sent Lynn a text saying that was it, I was bailing at the next stop. I didn’t actually think I could make the last 2k and when I finally crossed the line I fell into Lynn’s arms and started crying again.

I don’t feel as though I let myself down on the event. I gave it my all on that trail, leaving myself physically and emotionally broken. I can now say that I am finished with this challenge, London2Brighton has beaten me and unless I can commit to working on my body and my diet I will not consider this again.

I’m an extremist. If my exercise doesn’t have that extra edge I just can’t be bothered with it. For the next year I’d like to work on creating a body that has strength and resilience and that earns it’s place in such a challenge.

This is a great event and I have huge respect for everyone that started, and even more for those that managed to push themselves beyond Tully’s Farm and on towards Brighton.

The Wolf Run: The Aftermath

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This weekend we took part in our first Obstacle Race – The Wolf Run. A 10k trail run through Woods, over Obstacles, across Lakes and finally through Fields. Our team photo says it all, it’s wet, muddy and results in belly aching hilarity.

There are many obstacles, ranging from tyres, cargo nets, monkey bars, water slides and log walls but the natural hazards of clay river banks, lakes and bogs keep the race real.

The Wolf Run water slideLynn followed me on the water slide. I should have warned her that this was not a good order. I have been plagued all my life with an inability to descend slides. I grind to a halt mid-way down. Depending on the nature of the slide, I’m either wedged by the sides or I’ve created a dam that stops all water flow and all associated downward motion.

As anticipated I created a dam and Lynn ploughed into the back of me. I tried a breast stroke manoeuvre to get the flow going again and miraculously it worked. Within a few arm strokes I was off and building momentum. It turned into an incredibly scary ride. I probably hit 40mph with a bank of fairy liquid suds in my face. I started a tail spin and began to panic about how this was all going to end. I was convinced that I was going to reach the end of the plastic sheet and continue the sleigh ride across the farmers field, stopping only after I’d scattered half the field of runners.

ISayLynn in the meantime was having far more of a struggle. She never recovered from the early hiatus and found herself bothered by a stray slider for the whole of the descent. Photographic evidence suggests she enjoyed it far more than is decent.

The Wolf Run managed to perfect the trail running to obstacle ratio. I don’t think we ran more than a km before hearing the telltale screams ahead of us, that indicated an evil hazard lay just round the corner.

Wolf_Run_WallI spooked myself with this obstacle the moment we arrived in the car park. It was looming just yards from the finishing line and I sauntered over to analyse the threat before we started. It was perhaps an 8ft vertical ascent using ropes and teeny cm wide strips for the hint of a toe hold, followed by monster straw bales requiring leaps down, and then up, across chasms.

I got up the wall reasonably well, there was admittedly some assistance, both Lynn and a marshall had a foot each and were forcing it to remain stable on the toe holds but if I didn’t look down I could pretend that I conquered the wall, warrior style.

After that my warrior instinct escaped me. I stood and teetered on the high straw bale looking across at the next terrace.

Runners came, jumped and went.
Lynn shouted and coaxed but still more runners came, jumped and went.
We could see the finish gantry but I was frozen on a straw bale.

wolf_run_finale

Dan attempted to demonstrate how simple the task was but put a little too much effort into his jump. He overshot the first bale and couldn’t get enough purchase to propel himself upwards to the next ledge. He face planted into a wall of straw, chinning himself on the way down and landed in a heap. He did a great act of shaking himself off and looking nonchalant but I’m fairly sure he’ll still be wearing a neck brace.

In the end I made it across. Lynn and a marshall offered me their arms and as the sun began to set I leapt across to grasp their heroic hands. They pulled me across and I landed on my knees and wept.

It was not quite over though. Our team rallied for one further obstacle before collapsing in the beer tent for a glamorously muddy glass of champers.

A great team spirit and a marvellous event.

Today I ran for Ben.

 

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