Friday, 20 January 2012

Another year over......and a new one has begun....

It's been a while since I posted on here, which is probably a very good indication as to how my running has been going. I did a few races towards the end of last year, but the results have been poor and somewhat disappointing, but then I like to think that I'm a realist and I guess I couldn't really expect anything better.

Another season of the North Staffordshire Cross Country League has come to an end, and I'm pleased to say that Staffordshire Moorlands ladies team did absolutely brilliant to finish 2nd team in both the open and veteran ladies competition, behind my former club Trentham. The Moorlands men went one better and won the team award, whilst there were several individual wins across all the different age groups.

For me, I'd wanted a good cross country season to set me up for the new year, but with training being a bit hit and miss, things didn't quite go to plan. My best run came at Stafford Common - not so much due to my position which once again was 14th - but more due to the pace where I managed an average of 6.30's, and I actually ran quicker than I had done on the same course earlier in the year. But the course was much drier and I did find myself craving more hills and thick mud both of which were scarce on the day!

The final race at Leek was proper cross country - rutted grass, mud and hills. It has also been snowing in the days leading up the race but the course was clear of snow on race day and despite being somewhat muddy, I have seen it far worse in previous years.

My run at Leek was shocking due to a serious lack of training and a bad cold, but I knew it would possibly be my last cross country race for the Moorlands, so did it for the team. I started well and felt confident, but all the stress and emotion of our big move was starting to take its toll, and with the added snotty nose and bad chest, I struggled at half way and finished in my worst position ever in the league.

Enjoying the Dales Dash
I missed the Midland Ladies League in December due to having far too much on my plate, but I did do the Newcastle Three Dales 10k - a lovely festive multi-terrain run in nearby Newcastle. Again I started well and felt good, but the lack of endurance meant that I faded towards the end although I did still finish 5th lady and ran a PB for the hilly course. Oddly enough, I felt much better running up the hills, and even on the more off-roady bits I was gaining some ground, but when we hit the flatter tracks and trail sections, I had no pace and any inroads on the leading runners were soon lost as they were much stronger and faster. I never expected a brilliant run, so was pleased with my performance and felt relatively happy.

I also did the Roaches Christmas Cracker back in December - another of my favourite races, and one that I wanted to do for the last time prior to my leaving. For the third year in row, we encountered snow, and due to the nature of the Roaches and the health and safety risks of people in fancy dress running across the tops, we were once again sent around Tittesworth instead - a relatively flat route around the lake of just under 5 miles. I ran with another of my brilliant friends for this one - Julia Race - and we had a lovely time enjoying the run and the festive spirit. It was disappointing that we had to avoid the Roaches again, particularly as this would be my last opportunity to race over them for a while, but I fully understand the reasons and still thoroughly enjoyed the event. We didn't run a particularly fast time but we'd had a good laugh, and due to a great run by the other Moorlands ladies, we actually came away with the team prize.

Two of the best!

At the end of December, I finished work to give me time to prepare for our move over to Canada, and on 2nd January, Andy made his move overseas to start his new life. Since he's been gone, he's been sorting things out ready for our arrival whilst I've been trying to tie up lose ends over here in the UK. 

Hoping to fly out myself early February, plans for my departure have since been delayed due to our pets needing vaccinations prior to flying, but the good news is that I now have a confirmed date of 24th February when I too will say a fond farewell to dear old blighty. 

Whilst the excitement and anticipation of my own move is building, I can't help admitting that there are some things making me sad about going. My oldest dog Sammy will not be flying out with me, and after 17 years of him being a huge part of my life, the vet had advised that the stress would be too much for him. Although this is extremely saddening, I know that he will be going to a good and loving home with his Grandma and Grandad Smith to live out his final years. There are also some special friends that I am leaving behind and I know that I will miss them greatly - some people you can't replace, no matter how hard you try, but I'm lucky that I've known these people and they will always hold a special place in my thoughts no matter where I go.

Due to no longer being at work, I've had a little more time on my hands to get out and run and try to regain some of the fitness I've lost since our cruising holiday last year, and have already done a couple of races this year.

I suppose my most enjoyable races since my last update have been the Dark and White Mini Mountain Marathons, which I have completed as a mixed pair with my good friend Gareth. Determined to do more fell and trail running since leaving Trentham, these runs have the added bonus of navigation, with the aim being to visit as many checkpoints in 3 hours as possible - the more you visit, the higher your score. There are 3 events that make up this mini-league, with the final race still to come in February, and at present, we are lying in 2nd place overall with a major challenge on our hands for the final race next month.

The first of these mini mountain marathons was actually back in November last year, and started in Hayfield.  Gareth has done several fell races in that area so it sort of helped us with the navigation - I say "us" but in reality it's Gaz that has been using the map and plotting the route, whilst I'm gasping for air trying to follow him up hill and dale and trying not to lose him. We did ok at the first event, scoring 220 points and finishing 2nd on the day, just 5 points behind the leaders and covering some 16+ miles with almost 2000 feet of climbs.

The second race in the series took in the area around Hathersage - more hills, more mud, more pain - but thankfully the weather was once again kind to us, and we managed to score 255 on this occasion and covered slightly more miles in less time but with a little more climbing. I really enjoyed the second event, probably more so than the first, although I did get told off for admiring the scenery and munching on a Tracker bar when clearly there was work to be done! So far, the races have been in some beautiful areas of the Peak District and it really makes you appreciate the fantastic places we have so close to home here in Staffordshire.

My most recent race has been even closer to home - the Trig Point race across Cannock Chase, and I have to say that this has been one of my most pleasing results of late. Once again, the race involves visiting various checkpoints over a hilly, off-road course of just under 17 miles, and is again run under FRA rules. The weather had turned pretty chilly so it was quite icy and frosty underfoot, but the sun shone throughout and it was absolutely glorious. Despite having done this race on 3 previous occasions, I've never actually taken note of where I needed to go and have generally followed the person in front. Thankfully, I had the pleasure of Helen Skelton's company who used to run for Newport but is now a member of Mercia, and as she had reccied the course in advance, she knew exactly where to go. We agreed to run together at a nice steady pace, and we chatted and laughed pretty much all the way round. Helen is more of a fell runner, so hitting the hills she pulled away gracefully, but on the flatter parts I manage to catch up, and it worked well. With about 2 miles to go however, we discovered that we were 5th and 6th lady, and our competitive instincts kicked in somewhat (nothing to do with the larger lady being in front of us - honest!) resulting in me finishing 4th and Helen 5th, but moved up one place due to veteran placings which gave me my first top 3 placing in a very long time, and another bottle of wine to drink!

Cannock Chase Trig Point Race

So what's next on the agenda? I did actually enter my first Canadian race - the Frozen Ass 25km race in February - but unfortunately I will not arrive in time to do that race, so I've opted for a couple more fell races in the meantime. I'm also doing the Midland Vets Cross Country Championships this weekend, to see whether Moorlands ladies can add a  Midland Medal to their recent county championships medals which I'm sure could be a possibility if we all run as well as we know we can.

So for now that's it! I'm actually enjoying my running again and starting to feel a little more like my old self again, but new adventures await and I'm hoping for some positive race results over the coming months both before and after the big move. 

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