Sunday 15th saw the 25th anniversary of The Lytchett 10. A 10 mile road race that starts and finishes at my old secondary school so should be reminiscent of school cross country runs. However as I’ve given up smoking in the bushes these days there isn’t much of a resemblance! I do always have a giggle when I run right past those very same bushes at the bottom of the school drive, if my old self could see me now……..
This was my third go at Lytchett, I previously did it in 2012 and last year. The first time I did it I absolutely hated it, it’s a very hilly route but that wasn’t what I hated. It’s quite a serious ‘runners’ race – it’s one of the Dorset Road Race League races and is a championship race for quite a few clubs. It is also at a time when so there is always quite a serious feel to it and the first time I ran it I think I came about 360th out of 368! And that was despite doing a time that I would be thrilled to bits with these days! Last year, however, I enjoyed it, I was still at the back of the field but as I wasn’t long back from being injured I was just pleased to be running.
This year I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself but I was really hoping to enjoy it again and I wasn’t disappointed! The day dawned really bright and sunny – perfect running conditions – but by the time the race started the sun had disappeared into the fog – still perfect for running in though! As usual the hills were a bit of a killer but I was just about managing to keep up with my friends Jenny, Tara and Emma so was determined not to let them out of sight no matter how much my legs (or lungs!) protested.
I think the worst thing about doing a tough hilly race that you’ve done a few times before is that you know what is to come and although there are some spectacular views from the back lanes the section from 6 to 7 miles never gets any easier and that’s even though you know that there is a lovely long downhill to come!
In previous years I’ve got a bit carried away at the top of the downhill and peaked too soon so this year I was determined to pace it better and make it all the way to the bottom without having to walk – it was hard when I could see everyone disappearing off into the distance but it was definitely the right tactic for me as I managed to keep going all the way to the end. Not fast but very good for my head!
I felt really good crossing the line and even managed a bit of a sprint finish – very different from last year when I could barely breathe at the end and had a bit of a wobble. I felt even better when I checked my garmin and realised that I’d finished 8 minutes faster than the previous year. I was still 4 minutes away from my best Lytchett time but at least the number is finally moving in the right direction!
I can’t write about Lytchett without mentioning their amazing cake tables at the end…..bear in mind that I don’t get there until a most of the field have long gone but there is always a brilliant selection so thank you bakers!
The Heartbreaker Half
The weekend after Lytchett saw Carol, Emma and I all pile into Carol’s trusty VW camper and head to Sandy Balls in Godshill for the Heartbreaker Half. None of us had done this before but it sounded like our kind of race. Mostly off road, plenty of hills and hot soup for the finishers. It sold out weeks before so we knew it was popular and hoped that was recommendation enough. The forecast had been pretty dodgy all week – varying from heavy rain to drizzle and finally finishing up saying that it’d be cold and windy but that the rain wouldn’t come until early afternoon. We were happy enough with that but it really was an incredibly cold morning. My car was reading -3 when I got to Wareham and it was clear as we drove towards the New Forest that it was a lot colder there as even the trees were covered in frost.
We got to the holiday park and parked up and went to collect our numbers, all very smooth and efficient apart from us not quite being able to work out where to get them from at first! Then we went to wait for the pre-race briefing, luckily in the warm. There we met up with another friend Katie (mad woman was doing the half as day two of a long run weekend and had done 12 miles the day before!). After a (quite long) briefing we were lead down to the start …. and down… and down…. and down….. then guess which way we had to run when we started!? Yup…..straight back up the hill we’d just walked down. Just mean!
From there we headed out onto the main road for a section about a mile long before turning onto the trails. The route is about 3.5 miles out to the ridgeway where it goes for 1.5 miles in one direction then you turn around, go back the 1.5 miles then do another 1.5 in the other direction before turning around again and heading back the 3 miles back to Sandy Balls. The road section was quite hard to run on as there was quite a sharp camber on the side of the road but there were quite a few cars so you couldn’t really run further out in the road. Once you turned off onto the trails though it was much more fun. There were lots of big icy puddles and then an unexpected stream to cross, some people were being helped to jump across by a marshal but I didn’t want to risk upsetting my knees by doing a huge jump and landing awkwardly so I just went for the wet (and very cold option!).
Once we got up onto the ridgeway it all got quite jolly as the marathon runners had started an hour before us ‘halfers’ and as they had to do three loops of the ridgeway there were lots of them all along the route so there were lots of pleasantries exchanged with people going in the other direction. It’s a good job really as we needed a bit of distraction from the hills! At around 4 miles in it started to rain lightly and it seemed like the forecast had been wrong about when it was going to start. That soon stopped though and by the time we got to the 5 mile turnaround it had stopped. That first out and back section is in the trees and quite sheltered and we were soon to wish that it was more like that on the second out and back!
As we got back to the crossroads (can you say that when there are only 3 directions?) the weather really took a turn for a worse and we were running into a terrible headwind with squally showers that just got heavier from then on in. This section was also only 1.5 miles out and back but it did seem like an awful lot longer. There was a long hill back up (you can see Emma and I walking up it above!) and by the time we got to the top the rain was much more constant and it was sooooooo sooooo cold. We were trying to keep running to get warm but each time we had to walk it got harder to get going again. My legs were not impressed at that point!
It was a real relief to come down off the ridge and out of the wind as we headed back towards the road. I’d forgotten about the stream though and it felt even colder the second time we went through.
I was really looking foward to getting back to the road as it was downhill all the way from there and I couldn’t wait to get back, get dry and get warm. The weather wasn’t going to help with that though. By the time I got to the road the rain was heavy and the wind was tunnelling up the hill. Meaning that what should have been a nice leg stretching finish was actually really hard going. Thank goodness for the hardy supporters cheering from the pub. They really spurred me on! I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so pleased to see a finish line approaching. My arms and legs were blue by the time I got there and it was all I could do to untie my long sleeved top and put it back on (although it was so wet I’m not sure it helped warm me up any!).
Despite the weather I really enjoyed the race and would definitely do it again. It’s not an easy one but it’s a lovely route and it’s great to have support all the way round from other runners, especially when you see some familiar faces. Next year we’ll have some sunshine though please!
My training has been going really well, I’ve pretty much managed to keep to my schedule and it does seem to be paying off, I’m feeling a lot better about my running than I have for a very long time and although I’ve still got a lot of work to do getting good results along the way definitely makes it easier to get the next session done! Here’s a recap of what I’ve done in the last few weeks (whilst being good at training I haven’t been very good at blogging about it!)
Monday 9th – Rest day
Tuesday 10th – Full body HIIT
Wednesday 11th – Club Run 5.1 miles with nice hillage!
Thursday 12th – Lower body weights session
Friday 13th (my lucky day!) – Tri club run training – made even more interesting by the torrential rain and hail! Elliot was the only child there for the junior session this week so he ended up joining in with the adults (along with a couple of other kids who normally do that). He really enjoyed the circuits but trying to keep up on the run intervals (despite us telling him to go at his own pace) knackered him out a bit!
Saturday 14th – Extra rest day
Sunday 15th – Lytchett 10
Monday 16th – 1000m swim in the morning then weighted arms strength session in the afternoon
Tuesday 17th – HIIT Cardio session – this one was called Ass kicker and was great fun. Lots of grrrrrrrr required!
Wednesday 18th – Club run of 4.1 miles. Legs were a bit tired for this one and I didn’t know how it would go. Luckily running was just what they needed to get them going again and it felt good!
Thursday 19th – Pilates – the first time I’ve done pilates and it felt really good. Ended up feeling more energised than when I started. Definitely one to add in or substitute on ‘tired’ weeks
Friday 20th – No Tri club today so I did a fairly easy paced 5km along the prom prom prom at lunchtime. Shame I always have to ruin my times by getting up the zigzags on the way back!
Saturday 21st – Rest day (except for the hilly 5 mile walk I did with Elliot and his friend Freddy!)
Sunday 22nd – Heartbreaker Half
Monday 23rd – A much needed rest day. Just did a 2 mile walk to stretch my legs at lunch time
Tuesday 24th – Full body weighted HIIT.
Wednesday 25th – 4.1 mile tempo run. Was supposed to be 5 but my stomach had different ideas so had to stop and walk from 4 miles. This hasn’t happened to me for a while so was really blooming annoying! Ho hum.
Thursday 26th – Lower body strength session (bubble butt!!!). Ouchie, this was a toughie! My legs and bum really were NOT talking to me afterwards
Friday 27th – Run Training at tri club where the circuit sessions concentrated on the lower body – more burpees, squat thrusts and jumping squats – sorry legs! Then a really intense intervals session – not as far run as normal but didn’t feel like it!
Saturday 28th – Upper body weights session. We’re now repeating the CXXX schedules so this is one that I did in about week 2 of January and I was amazed by how much stronger I was this time. Good job I’d bought some heavier dumbbells cause I needed them!
Sunday 1st March – A very very tough 15 miler. I spent ages mapping routes on Saturday but then didn’t really fancy any of them 🙁 HOwever, when I woke up on Sunday morning the sun was shining so I decided to do the last 14.5 miles of the Purbeck Marathon route, with half a mile from my house to get me onto the route. For some unknown reason I put my old road shoes on instead of my ‘On runners’ that I usually use for off road. Serious error of judgement number 1. Number 2 was the choice of route. The section between Kimmeridge and Tyneham was so muddy that I could barely walk in places, let alone run! It was quite slippery and I went down hard at one point (I wasn’t even running then, just taking a step after climbing over a stile!). It also started pouring with rain which didn’t help with the traction issues. It eventually took me over an hour to do the 2.5 miles to get to Tyneham. That wasn’t in the plan! I did wonder at that point if I would manage the full run. My knee hurt and my head was saying ‘I can’t’. I decided that I’d press on to the top of the next ridgeway and see how I felt then. Luckily the rain stopped and the sun came out and I felt quite a lot better so told myself to carry on to Corfe and call Mike for rescue from there if I needed to. The rest of the run wasn’t at all pretty, I was sliding all over the shop for most of the time and I was definitely using a run/walk strategy far more than intended but half way along the ridge from Corfe to Swanage I got my first glimpse of Swanage Bay and just knew that I could make it and that I was darned well going to enjoy the last section even if it half killed me! So that’s what I did! It helped that I bumped into some running friends going in the opposite direction, had a quick chat with them and then knew I only had a few miles to get along before I could collapse in Fortes with a nice cup of coffee!
My garmin only read 14.5 miles at the end but I think that’s because I forgot to turn the auto pause off and it seems to take ages to realise that I’m going again after it pauses. I’m claiming 15 anyway!