Thursday, 29 March 2012

Farewell and Adieu my Friends

The past few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, both in running terms and in my personal life.

During February when I was meant to be getting excited about my emigrating, I found myself enjoying the company of my good friend Gareth as we did more  training runs and races together. With my passion for both the outdoors and running, and being able to share this with a like minded person, I began to panic about what my future would hold over in Canada. Andy would be working long hours, I wouldn't know anybody, and neither would I have a job which would help to build those social networks  that are often needed when relocating.

During this uncertain time, I did try to focus on some running and I did do some races. The weather in early February was particularly chilly with heavy snow fall, and the cold spell lasted long enough to cause the cancellation of some races. Fortunately the Wyre Forest 8 mile trail race still went ahead - a lovely little undulating / hilly race down near Bewdley that followed woodland trails.

Most of my training leading up to this race had been off road and on hilly terrain, so I went to the event with no real expectations but feeling fairly confident of an OK run.

The course was still covered in snow, with some of the paths being sheet ice and quite treacherous, and whilst the course was still runnable if taking care, times were slower compared to normal. I personally found myself feeling pretty good and relatively strong, so much so that shortly after the start, I found myself neck and neck with another lady, both of us leading the ladies race. It remained like that for pretty much the whole duration of the race - one minute she would lead, the next I would be out in front. Having not raced individually for a very long time, I didn't have the confidence to just go for it, particularly with the finish being up a long steep hill, and I left it too late to go for victory. I ended up finishing second lady in a shade over 56 minutes, missing out on a win by a mere 22 seconds.  I was actually pleased with my run, particularly given the conditions, but I was also frustrated that I had narrowly been defeated.

A couple of weeks prior to this, I had travelled down to the same part of the country to take part in the Midland Masters Cross Country Championships. On that occasion, I was a member of a strong Staffordshire Moorlands Ladies Veteran team. Although the event was quite low key, there was a good turn out of runners with good quality competition. The course was pretty good with a mix of flat playing fields, woodland and riverside paths, and a couple of hills thrown in to make it interesting.

Midland Masters Cross Country Champs - 3rd L35 and Team GOLD
The Moorlands ladies did exceptionally well to come away with team gold, whilst Kerry and myself came away with individual silver and bronze respectively in the L35 category. For me, it was nice to win something as an individual after such a long time, but it was even more pleasing that all the ladies that had travelled down that day came away with something as a team.

Just before I flew out to Canada in February, Gareth and I took part in the last of the Dark and White Mini Mountain Marathons. WE had high hopes of doing well at this one to improve our overall position in the series, but it just wasn't meant to be. Struggling with injuries and a virus, Gaz wasn't his usual self and along with a couple of navigation errors, things didn't go as well as anticipated.

The event started at Calver and took in some beautiful countryside and challenging climbs, but we just couldn't seem to get into things on the day, resulting in  our lowest score and position out of the 3 races. Thankfully this was cancelled out by our previous efforts and we still managed to finish as 3rd mixed pair overall.

One of many hills near Calver at the D&W Mini Mountain Marathon
A few days later, I flew over to Canada with my little dog Wilson, my cat Khayman, and by two rabbits - Bunny and Spud. Having been getting cold feet about such a big move and feeling uncertain about my future over there, 10 days later I flew back to the UK - Wilson in tow - as I needed some thinking time. It was also at this stage that my other little dog - Sammy - became quite poorly. He had just turned 17 years of age and as we couldn't take him to Canada with us, he had been staying with his nana and grandad in Silverdale. Having had him since he was a very young pup, it didn't seem right that somebody else should be with him in his final few days and so at least I was in the UK to be with him. Sammy passed away on the 13th March on what would have been my Grandad's 102nd birthday.  

Sorely missed Sammy Lambchops
Having lost Sam, it made me realise how much I missed the rest of my furry family, and I knew then that I had to go back out to Andy in Canada.

Many years ago when Sam and my other dog Leo was alive, we used to run over the Roaches together on a regular basis, so it seemed apt for me to take their ashes over there and set them free. I did that last weekend, and feel comforted knowing that they are now free to run wild over the open moors, and they are back together again.

I went over the Roaches again on Tuesday morning this week for a training run with a good friend, and as I passed the trig point on the top, I said a fond final farewell to my boys before I head off overseas.

If losing Sammy wasn't enough, we also lost our little rabbit Bunny who had flown out to Calgary just 4 weeks earlier. We don't know whether he died of old age or whether it was some other bunny related problem, but it was very sad to lose him too, especially having survived the flight over and appearing to have no after effects,  only to lose him whilst he was in quarantine due to old age or gastro intestinal problems.

Bunny - missed by all of us
Meanwhile Wilson, our latest addition to the family, has also been in the wars recently having cut his ear quite badly on some barbed wire whilst out walking in the countryside.  A general anaesthetic in order to stitch him up,  followed by a course of painkillers and antibiotics was cause for concern as it could potentially have meant he couldn't fly out on 4th April. Thankfully he's ok now though, and I'm just hoping that all visits to the vets and the drama with our animals is all over and done with.

Needless to say, with all this activity, there has been a lot of stress and emotion, making focus on anything else quite difficult, but I have tried to keep up with the running and last weekend I travelled down to Bath for the British Masters Cross Country Championships.

Although I was nowhere near the front runners, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was well pleased with my 20th position out of some 130 runners, especially given that cross country really isn't my thing these days. The weather was also very warm and sunny making the course very dry and so unlike those winter races where you are battling the elements with the bad weather and knee deep mud. The course was nice though, and whilst not exactly hilly, there was a rutted incline that needed to mastered 3 times and certainly sapped the energy. Times don't really matter in a cross country race, but it was pleasing to see that I had actually managed to keep a consistent 6.30 pace on each of the 3 laps.

Last Friday it was Sport Relief Day, and I was flattered to be invited to Sandon Primary School as their "guest of honour" to celebrate Sport Relief. Having represented Great Britain and Northern Ireland in ultra distance running, along with being a former British champion over various distances and had race victories both home and abroad, it was felt that my presence would help to inspire some of the children at the school to get more involved in sport. I took along some of my trophies and medals and wore the GB kit, and I actually found it quite humbling that the children were in awe of me for some reason. Having been asked to do a short speech in the assembly, I was so nervous to stand in front of all those children and talk about myself and my running - made all the more difficult because of  the age range from 4 to 10 years.

It was a fantastic day, made all the more special due to the lovely warm sunny weather, the enthusiastic kids, and the supportive teaching staff, and I did the Sport Relief mile with every class, covering about 5 in total. Running around the field, the children were asking so many questions, my favourite being whether I had met anybody else famous (!) and whether I had met Usain Bolt! As I held hands and ran round with those children throughout the day, I found it quite emotional, and the number of hugs and thank you's I got as they left to go home for the weekend brought a tear to my eye. Some of these children have troubled home lives, some have behavioural problems, and yet it was such a fantastic day and one where I felt very proud to come from Stoke-on-Trent and see how hard schools and children can and do try to be the best they can.

And so having now made the decision to go to Canada after all, my race plans have once again changed. This weekend I am doing my last Midland Road Relays for the Moorlands for a while, and then on Sunday I will be doing the Mow Cop Hill Race - a local fell race before I leave for the proper mountains! Three days later, Wilson and I fly back to Calgary and I've already entered a couple of races to get me motivated to train. There is still snow over there at the moment, and after the spring like weather over here this past few days, it's going to be a shock to the system but with taking up the  offer of an elite place in the Calgary Marathon at the end of May, that will, I'm sure, help to keep me focused for now.
So for now my friends, I bid you all adieu and I will try to keep future updates more succinct and more frequent to avoid any unnecessary boredom!

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