Blenheim Palace – One Year On!

The first weekend this month marked my 1-year anniversary of triathlon! A nervous me did my first triathlon at Blenheim Palace a whole year ago. (I remember nearly crying before the start haha). This year it was going to be a test of whether the hard work and training had paid offFullSizeRender-45

Racing on the Sunday this year, allowed me to check out the race results before I gave it my best shot. I decided anything better than last year would be an achievement and aimed to really enjoy the race!

Now this is where my ‘Triathlon Rookie’ title comes in. Exiting transition 1 with my bike, it was brought to my attention by an official that I didn’t have my race belt on. What a pansy. It was still in my bag. After talking to two officials and then calling over for help, I must’ve lost about a minute of time. Luckily, Steve had raced earlier and could enter transition to sneakily place my race belt on my running shoes. PHWEEF. No DQ’s please!! I think the panic let loose some adrenalin and I set off chasing on my bike to make up as much time as possible.

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After a good ride and tough run, I finished with a swim 3 mins faster, ride 3 mins faster and knocked 40 seconds off the run. Very satisfied.

Finishing with a time 12 seconds behind the winner was something I still don’t think I’ve forgiven myself for…but at the end of the day it was a great improvement on last year!

I already can’t wait for next year to try and improve my time again. It will mean many miles on the bike and many lengths in the pool.

Ciao for now! x

Busy weekends in May

This month has been booked up!… a different and new visit each weekend. Exactly how I like it.

The first weekend of May was spent in Sunderland, working with a lovely group of people to host the Sunderland 10k and Half Marathon Events. It’s amazing how much goes on behind the scenes of running and sport events that we, as competitors, just don’t think about! With Paula Radcliffe and Aly Dixon running as part of the Half-Marathon event, it was great to see some of the pros in action too (When myself and the rest of the crew weren’t getting blown away by the gale force wind and rain!)

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Next came a slightly more slower-paced challenge than I’m used to…walking. This was in the form of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge! I had the joy to be taken by my closest school friend and her family to a country cottage in the Yorkshire Dales for the weekend.

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Now when you’re fit from running, cycling and swimming, it’s hard to imagine that walking might be difficult…but after 24 miles, 3 peaks, fish and chips and lots of post-event stretching, I still suffered from the dreaded DOMS for a few days! What a rewarding experience though!

In approximately 10 hours, we arrived back at the car and without blisters…Hallelujah!

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Another challenge was brought to me on the next weekend: my first standard distance triathlon. The BUCS Standard event took place in Southport and after a very early start (4am) and a few nerves on the start line, I surprised myself with a race I was very happy with!! The swim was in some pretty grim water (leaving us with mud beards post-race), but it went fast and I was soon out on my bike doing laps of the flat course. Luckily, the run went well…probably due to the scenic route through the flowery park and the sunshine, which came out quickly to say hello.
With the fastest run of the day, 18th overall and a bronze team medal, I was a happy lady!

Last weekend, the final one of the month, definitely didn’t take a step down in enjoyment and success! I travelled to Ireland for the first time, with my boyfriend’s family, to compete in the Sprint distance triathlon at Lough Cutra Castle. As a keen racer in the castle triathlon series last year, I was keen to attend the first one of the series this year!…With a good swim, (climb up the muddy hill out of transition) and ride, I felt confident to smash the run and gain as many places as possible if any plodders might be lurking in front. For the first time ever, no women overtook me on the bike section and I overtook two, leaving me with some confidence!

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The run was very hard, but good fun! The hard rain made the off-road course pretty sludgy and I could definitely have done with packing my trail shoes! (or even spikes!)

To my surprise and enjoyment, with a couple of hundred metres to go, one of the marshals finally spoke a word as I passed them saying ‘first woman!‘. As I turned into the finish I saw the finishing tape waiting across the line. The feeling was great and I was then faced with an instant prize…the amazing spread of post-race snacks that the Castle Tri Series put on. After lots of chatting and a cheeky interview I went for the double-down look to try and warm up and waited for the prize giving.

More racing and another podium from the rest of the team made it a pretty successful weekend! With this being the first time I’ve looked back over the month, it’s crazy to see how much you can squeeze in!

On to the next month!

 

Ciao for now! 🙂

 

New house, new adventures!

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and there’s been lots going on!

Two weeks ago saw a beautiful sunny day (a bit more sunburn and very rosy cheeks) at Stockton Duathlon. I got to try out my new bike on a lovely flat bike course and got some strong runs in ahead of the triathlon season! It was also good to catch up with friends and soak up a bit of vitamin D!! I left a very happy lady, taking 4th in the sprint race!

Last weekend was a busy one! BUCS Sprint Triathlon took place on the Sunday at St Mary’s College in Calne. Leeds Triathlon Centre had a fun weekend, as we spent Saturday evening fuelling up at Pizza Express and all day Sunday racing…the heavily forecast rain (pretty much) held off!

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Being a slower swimmer, I was assigned to one of the first waves of the day. A well-paced swim, very windy bike and strong run gave me a result to be proud of! Being a perfectionist means I can easily get disheartened when the results start coming in and I start comparing my times to others. However, the initial feeling when I finish a race is the opinion I need to learn to stick to! After all, it’s easy to say afterwards that you wish you had gone harder, but you know at the time you were giving it your all!

After the excitement of the weekend, May Day Bank Holiday brought an unusual post-race rest day! I moved house…. the family drove up from Sheffield and we moved my things (not far) to a quieter house not far down the road!

We spent the rest of the day munching around in cafes and walking up and around the Chevin Forest Park. We spotted many bilberry bushes, which I’ll definitely be returning to later in the summer to pick for my freezer!

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A week later and me and Steve are nicely settled in and now have wifi! One of the most exciting aspects of the house is that I can keep a tidy kitchen and do LOTS of baking. Today was my first bake…chocolate scones: something I make quite often and goes down well with a cuppa for pudding or a snack!

It’s coming to the end of the uni term and I only have 2 assignments left to hand in. Being super organised over the Easter holidays means that I now have zero stress levels about getting them both handed in on time!…(more time for baking!)

In two weekends time, I’ll have several consecutive weekends of racing. I’m sure I’m not the only one excited about the upcoming triathlon season!

Ciao for now! 🙂

Easter Holidays

So the holidays are nearly over…but I’ve had a wonderful time!

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Starting it off with some wonderful sunshine (a bit of sunburn) and followed by just over a week in Cornwall! Several of Barnecutt’s big Cornish pasties, cafe trips and sunny bike rides were just some of the things we got up to over the week. Family visits and lots of tea and cake were also high on the agenda and made it feel like a wonderful holiday!

On Easter Sunday, East Cornwall Harriers (my second claim club) were hosting a fell race as part of the Multi-Terrain Race Series. The 5 Tors fell race was my first of its kind and I found it pretty challenging! The ascents were leg-burners … and the descents required a certain skill that I have not yet mastered!! haha. All in all it was an interesting Sunday run and I was happy to come away as 5th lady and with a team prize! (The Sunday roast after was great recovery food too!!)

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After a good amount of stretching on Sunday afternoon and evening, I was happy to wake up on Monday without feeling like a cripple! Just as well, because it was time for a cruising group ride to the sea! We set off for Whitsand Bay, not realising how warm it was and had to ditch the gloves quite soon in!

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We arrived at the coast about 15miles in and then took the lovely scenic coastal road to the hidden ‘Cliff Top Cafe‘. Now I’m not one for a full English every weekend morning, but once in a while it’s just what I fancy. Sat on a picnic bench looking out over the sea was just the right spot for sausages, beans and bacon! Yumyum.

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The drama began when we set off back from the cafe and the newly fitted chain on my new bike decided to break. Luckily, a friendly cyclist at the cafe had a chain-splitter with him and linked it bad together within a few minutes! We thought I was safe until the chain split again, only a few miles back into the ride home. I had no choice but to pocket the chain and allow Steve and his Dad to push me up the hills and for me to free-wheel down the hills…what a palaver! haha

Back in Leeds and it’s all chained up and ready to go at tomorrow’s Stockton Duathlon. It will be my first draft-legal race and so I’m looking forward to using other people’s legs to my advantage…cheeky. Hopefully the experience I have gained from doing chaingang will help when riding in a group!

Now time for something else that the Easter holidays are for… getting uni work done! It will soon be time for the end-of-year hand-ins, so I must crack on!

Ciao for now!

The sun has got his hat on!

Time for an update on the last week!..

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Last Sunday was Wakefield 10k. A race that I’ve taken part in for the last two years and a course I thought I liked. After a good xc season and feeling nice and fit, I was secretly raving for a 10k pb. With a finishing time of 38:39, a pb is exactly what I got! Happy lady.

However, I knew my legs could carry me to a sub 38. The course was definitely a lot more slopey than I remembered, so a suuuuper flat 10k is something to put on the calendar for later this year.

With a nice little voucher to take away for 5th female, I could say it had been a successful weekend!

Usually, a nice easy Monday would be top of my list of things to do after a race…but agreeing to taking part in my housemate’s uni study, meant I was in the labs and on the treadmill doing my first ever lactate and Vo2 max test at 9am. Crazy.

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After spraying the lab with my fingertip blood and sweating it out in the mask, I was ready for a good breakfast and a walk to swimming in the sunshine. A little heatwave took over Leeds. After my afternoon swim session, a nice cooling ice cream was right on my mind!

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The warm weather carried on through the week and brought us a scorching weekend! Track session on Saturday morning was a beautiful one. Crop tops and shorts’a blazin!! First al fresco meal of the year followed; with some nice bacon and egg sarnies out in the garden! A nice easy ride to Otley with the boyfriend, finished off the day of training! (New bike test drive too >>)

 

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far! We travelled down to Bedford at 7am for the National Duathlon Champs. It was so nice to be a spectator for once and cheer on some of the Leeds lot!

With the Easter holidays in full swing, we carried on our journey south to Cornwall. We’ll be here for a week of play and training…and hopefully a lot more sunshine (and pasties!!)

 

Toodaloo!

Work and play

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past year, it’s to relax more.

It’s so easy to get carried away..running your reps harder than you need to, going hard on all your rides and feeling like you need to cram all the training in that you’ve been set.

No one else knows how you and your muscles/joints feel, so I’ve learnt that rest is just as important as hard work (as I sit in bed under a fluffy blanket with a big cuppa!)

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Last weekend, I spent both days with my best friend… relaxing and catching up in York on the two  sunniest and warmest days of the year so far! We walked on the historic wall, visited cafes and enjoyed a few cocktails. Sunday we spent at Bannatyne’s Spa, sweating it out in the steam rooms and saunas before enjoying a back massage and facial …. I nearly fell asleep!

As this was my first free weekend in a while (and for a while to come), it was amazing to spend it in such a lovely place.

We enjoyed an amazing lunch at Brew and Brownie. Elderflower presses and rustic sarnies all round!

 

 

The weekend before last was spent at the Clumber Park Duathlon. The weather wasn’t quite as glorious as last weekend, but the dark clouds held tight and didn’t start to rain until the race was over – phewff.

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Clumber Park is quite local to me and I have many memories there from being a child and learning to ride my bike… so it was great to race somewhere familiar!

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Using my usual tactics, I set off steady on the first 5k run and gradually built my way through the group. After a speedy first transition, I set off on the bike in second place. With the bike being a weaker discipline for me, I very much expected to be overtaken. This happened, but I remained confident and kept my legs going as hard as I could!

The second run is where I usually make some time and places up. Overtaking several women, I felt strong and fit….ooosh.

Coming up on the results in 6th place was something I was very happy about!.. a few days later the rest of the wave’s times were revised and I ended in 7th, but still 3rd in my AG.

With good pacing and a good feeling of improvement on the bike since competing last year, I felt strong!

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Already we’re at the end of March and the evenings are getting lighter.. hip hip hooray… and soon I’ll be ready to improve my cycling more at the chaingang sessions on a Thursday evening!

First, I’ll be resting up for Wakefield 10k, which has come around very fast! Let’s see if the legs are feeling good for it on Sunday!

 

Ciao for now 🙂

BUCS Biathlon

Last weekend brought the second BUCS event of the year for triathlon! 1500m run and 200m swim….

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After a several-hour coach journey to Oxford, Team Leeds Triathlon Centre were able to sit back and relax and watch some crazy pentathlon going on! It’s safe to say I’ve never seen someone running with one lens popped out their Oakleys, but you learn something new every day!

The 1500m run was first. On the outside I was cool as a cucumber, on the inside I was pooping my pants. With never having done a 1500m and being more comfortable in doing ‘the long stuff’, I didn’t really know how to take it.

Above, is the start of the 4th, and final, heat of women (the fastest predicted heat).

Below is how the first lap panned out..I stuck to my usual tactic and set off ‘easy‘.

 

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Predicting to realistically come in the top 4 somewhere, I thought I’d just stick with the front group and try not to get dropped.

As the pace steadied, we suddenly seemed to be approaching the last lap (never known a race to go so fast!) and I felt like the pace was holding me back. One girl in the front pack was left behind, then another and I was left behind the final two. With 250m to go I felt ready to kick. With some advice shouted from the boyf at the trackside, I held back until the final bend then KICKED!

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The panic in my face must’ve been pretty hilarious, so it’s a relief that this wasn’t photographed! Minimal gurners please. I was willing in my head for no one to come past me. The legs were going full pelt.

Within a few seconds I was crossing the line.. feeling huge relief, shock and satisfaction! Jeez I just won the run in 4:38. Not going to lie, it felt pretty sick.

After watching the men’s heats, we headed to the pool. Having never swam a 200m either, I put down a predicted time of 3:00. Setting off in one of the earlier heats (and nicely prepped with a cup of peppermint tea) I was able to get it done with quickly!

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Then the rookie error came in… I decided to borrow some goggles instead of using my own, as they had recently started to leak. Little did I know that after diving in, I would barely be able to see a thing. Thank god for the blue tiles on the floor marking the centre of the lane! It was all I could see…predicting when I would arrive at a safe distance from the wall was the hardest task, but it was all fun and games!

A quick rush to the shop to stock up on snacks and we were back for the presentation. Leeds dominated, with both overall wins for the men and women.

I was very happy to come away with 14th place!

Now for some good grub and rest before tomorrow’s Duathlon at Clumber Park! Oosh.

A weekend in London

The hustle and bustle of London is something that I’ve always loved. It was a bit of a no-brainer when I received the email from Virgin Trains that there were to be many cheap tickets on sale between London and Leeds!

I was straight on it.. with Mum’s birthday being on the 3rd of March and her love of the city being the same as mine, I bought us tickets for this weekend and we started planning straight away!

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How else would I want to spend my chill week, with less training, no uni work and lots of cafe hopping!

Saturday morning started in Sheffield, home, with a quick tram journey to the station. The London train seemed quicker than ever with only a couple of hours rail time and a good natter and book! Soon we were arriving into Kings Cross and I have to admit I was probably feeling just as excited as the little boy who had stood up on his seat shouting ‘we’re in London!!‘ (repeatedly).

After dropping the overnight bag at left luggage, we headed straight for the Underground to buy our Oysters! (Not the seafood type).

First on the agenda was to find somewhere for lunch, before we headed to the Victoria Theatre for the matinee performance of WICKED!

Thanks to Mum’s superb planning, and Instagram stalking, we found her suggested stop-offs with ease! First up was Peggy Porschen Cakes (see below)…the most pink, cute and girly cake shop I have ever known! However, with nothing savoury on the menu, we decided to hop across the road to the Tomtom Coffee House first, where we enjoyed eggs on toast with ginger beers in a chilled and quirky environment.

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Booking tickets for Wicked was quite a last-minute thing and so we were prepared for our seats at the back of the theatre. Even with a bit of leaning to either side of the french man’s head in front of me, I had a clear view and the performance was superb! With both of us admitting we didn’t really have a clear idea of the storyline beforehand, it was easy to follow this prequel of The Wizard of Oz and learn where the Tin Man comes into the story! The singing was fantastic.

 

Following the show, we jumped back on the underground and made our way to Embankment, where the sun was just setting behind the London Eye and Big BenAbove right: Couldn’t help being typical tourists and having a selfie on the Golden Jubilee Bridge.

As darkness was suddenly upon us, we escaped back to the underground.. ready for dinner!  Us rookies didn’t pre-bIMG_1602.PNGook at our chosen restaurant and so settled for an Italian in Kings Cross Station where there was more room. Very hungry after so much walking and tubing about, we managed our pizza and pasta and some yummy cheesecakes to follow! (and a couple of cocktails to follow that!).

With heavy rain forecast for the morning, we decided to eliminate our plans of watching sunrise in the morning and have a little lie in instead (ha ha). Just kidding… my body clock woke me in time to do a good 6 miles around Regent’s Park and back before we left the hotel and dropped our things at left luggage again.

 

We headed straight to the wonderful Portobello Road and walked straight to Farm Girl Cafe for some breakfast. As soon as our rose lattes and acai bowls arrived, I was super glad I hadn’t booked a boring hotel breakfast with our stay! The Australian style health cafe had a great vibe on the rainy Sunday morning (we just escaped the rain) and I enjoyed trying to explain to mum what all the seeds and berries were in her coconut shell bowl.

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The rain stopped right on que, allowing us to have a wander around the pretty, colourful houses of Notting Hill (see top photo). We sauntered on, feeling like real ladies with no males slating us for stopping to take photos of ‘pointless’ things or for nosying in cute shop windows. After walking the full stretch of shops and turning off now and again to look further, we headed towards our next planned visit… Biscuiteers Boutique and Icing Cafe.

We have a running family joke, that whenever we go sightseeing, the thing we go to see is usually under renovation and is covered in scaffolding. When we arrived at the biscuit shop we were gutted to see bright red barriers all around the shop front where the pavement was being re-done. Mum wouldn’t allow me to move them aside for my photo and this is the reason behind a chopped photo of the shop front: still pretty though.

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Of course it wasn’t any old biscuit shop…all the biscuits were hand iced with the most amazing skill and there was pretty much any shape going! We spent a good 20mins gawping at the shelves of biscuits.

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Realising that we couldn’t just have biscuits for lunch.. we carried on to mum’s next planned eatery, the Tin Shed (artisan bakery and cafe). Most of the downstairs area is used as a bakery and is all glass windowed, so you can watch the bakers at work. I had a wonderful cream cheese and salmon bagel. The layer of cream cheese was just as thick as the bread. Yum Yum.

We both agreed we could stay a lot longer in some of the cafes.. drinking cup after cup of tea, but with so much to cram in, we were off on our way!

Next stop: Oxford Circus.

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Even with quite a few trips to London over the years, neither of us had ever visited Liberty. I was expecting a very big department store like Harrods or Selfridges, but it is obviously quite different. Much smaller in size than the others previously mentioned and in its Tudor revival style, with winding staircases and open centre, it was like a piece of art itself.  My favourite departments were the fabric and craft area and the homeware section.

Left: I found the matching Liberty fabric used to make my Cornish Bluebelle bracelet.

I think I’ll be putting some of these fabrics on my Christmas list!

After climbing up and down five floors of Liberty, we decided we were ready for another brew and a cafe stop! Why not?

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Both of us have followed Deliciously Ella on Instagram for quite a while (and tried some of her recipes!) so we walked along for 5 minutes and found a spare table in her wonderful cafe.

All her bakes are plant-based, gluten free and dairy free.. so I didn’t really know what to expect after not trying too many raw bakes in my time! We chose to go halfsies with our coffee cake and banana-apple muffin. Two teas (with brown rice milk) were exactly what we needed and the cakes were delicious.

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Catching sight of the huge bowls of vegetables, curries and pulses on the front counter made me wish we had time for dinner in London. However, me and mum just say that it’s a good excuse to come back again!

 

After a few more trips to clothes shops, we made our way back to Kings Cross to pick up our luggage. We collected a little M&S picnic for the train and set off on our way, promising we will have more weekends away soon!

Bye bye London.

 

 

 

English National XC Champs

Final race of the season xc season… First National XC race…

LOTS OF MUD!

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Upon arrival at Wollaton Park in Nottingham, where the the Nationals were to take place, I felt a mix of excitement and a little nerves. My experience of big xc events have not gone any further than BUCS xc and the Northern Champs. This was about to get a whole lot bigger.

The younger age groups were finishing their races as we arrived at the course and from this I got a good idea of what I might look like after the race: brown legged and plastered in mud! Being a lover of getting stuck in and getting mucky, this was funny to see and exciting. I have never seen people covered in so much mud. However.. it was hard to tell where the muddy areas of the course were, as everything in view seemed solid ground!

It’s safe to say that I found out soon enough!

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With it being such a big race, clubs were organised into pens. However, with only two of us from City of Sheffield AC, I was told to fit in anywhere. Luckily, this allowed me to take my position at the start line in a near-empty pen. GUN SHOT..and we were off. Having lots of room around me, gave me no excuse for a good start. I remembered my aim after last week and stuck to it!

As soon as we were out of sight of the crowd, the first mud bath arrived. These were unavoidable ditches, full of mud slop. They made the course very fun! 2 big laps of the course went very quickly and I maintained a good pace throughout. With only a couple of small hills, the course felt a breeze compared to last week’s trails! Approaching the finish, the course changed slightly and we were climbing an area of grassland with big tufts of hard grass. It was hard to overtake in this area, but I gave it my best shot and reached the last corner before the slight downhill finish.

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With a few last second places gained on the finish, I didn’t mind too much at being boxed in the end…with 3 or 4 of us finishing on the same second.

What a race! My only disappointment was that I hadn’t got quite as muddy as the kids!

Finishing 74th/788 is not a bad result for my first Nationals and therefore I can safely say that I’ve finished my 3rd xc season on a good note!

Bring on the summer months and triathlon season!!!

West Yorkshire Winter League XC (?)

Why the question mark? Well…

I packed my bag, to take the train home back to Sheffield from Uni, including all the usual for a xc race: trainers to warm up in, spikes etc. Easy! However, after having read through the race brief on the Friday evening, I realised that I would definitely be leaving the spikes at home. I was to be prepared for woodland paths and tracks, roots, fallen tree trunks, steep muddy slopes and streams, tarmac sections and a log flume!? Surely log flumes are only found at theme parks?

Straight away I realised I would be in need of some trail shoes. With my current pair covered in mud, with several holes and worn flat, it was clear what my Saturday would consist of…shoe shopping! (Feeling like a true woman!)

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A snazzy pair of the Salomon Speedcross 4 trail shoes were the best item I’ve bought in a while! They took me around all the muddy bends, up all the hard hills, over the stream and over several styles…in style! I presumed they’d feel mega heavy, due to their hard tread on the bottom, but they were super light and comfy on the first wear! 

The course was 5.2miles of pure fun for me! I’ve wanted to do a trail race for a while, but not really found the guts/chance to do one. This last race of the WYWL, hosted by the Stainland Lions, was a great introduction. I was glad that I had plenty of experience of running round woodlands thanks to Meanwood trails being right on my doorstep. This made all the difference when weaving around tree roots and rocks. Below, Leeds Bradford Tri are ready to take on the course.

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The results of the race are yet to be released, but I have been told that I apparently came through in the top 10/15 women. I’ll take that!

If there’s one thing I will learn from the race, that’s to get a good head start! I’ve talked previously about trying new race tactics and starting at a harder pace. However this time, with such a hefty crowd of men and women at the start and with it being my first race of the league, I wasn’t sure where to place myself on the start line. 

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Due to the narrow paths, I kept finding myself stuck behind a slower runner without room to overtake. This was a little annoying when most people walked some of the steep sections, but I know that uphills are my strong point! Next time, I will go out harder! 

 

Just one last question to finish off…when can I do another trail race!? 🙂