Firstly, let's start by getting all my excuses out of the way......a niggle in left lower leg (which I still cannot shift), period pains, under training (and over eating) during December, a slow recovery from a night out with my sister's the weekend before and mud, mud, mud!
The Sir Titus Trot is a It's Grim Up North Running event. I did the race initially last year but it was hotter and drier then! I remembered it to be a pretty straightforward course up and down the Leeds to Liverpool Canal starting from the extremely pretty town of Saltaire. In my head, I recalled it was a pretty flat course, with 10 miles out towards Keighley and back to the start and then 3 miles towards Leeds and then back to the start. There were a couple of bits I didn't like - last year it was a stretch at about mile 8 when the lovely canal path disappeared and became a grassy/rocky path (not great for your ankles) until the turnabout - approximately 4 miles of tricky path. I also remembered there was a little uphill bit by the locks.
This time, I was joined by my dad for his first race back since being poorly last year and rather than steaming on ahead and leaving me in his dust, he ran with me (that was probably a bad choice on his part).
This was the first race of my 40s and look at the number I got (the t-shirt was purely co-incidental - I didn't notice the number on my t-shirt until checking out the photo later!)...
After the race and a brief stop off at home for a shower, I was heading over to Manchester with my hubby for a long, overdue night away without the kids. It was a joint birthday/Christmas celebration. We had been treated to a meal out too and tickets to see the cycling track championships the following day. We had decided on going to Nando's (chicken is a great source of protein and helps with recovery but more importantly, my youngest daughter thinks Nando's food is "too spicy" so we never get to go!) My motivation for getting around the course quickly were thoughts of kid free time and Nando's!
I had mentally prepared myself for the tricky bits of the course. To cause immediate confusion the course was changed slightly - we were to do the "easy" out and back bit to Leeds first, followed by the longer 10 mile stretch second. Sadly, the easy bit was far from easy as it had rained quite heavily and the path was full of what can only be described as mini lakes, some across the full width of the canal path.
Initial attempts were made to jump/go around these lakes but after about 3 or 4 miles, I decided this was just a waste of energy....there was no way I was going to have dry feet by the end of the race so I just went for it - trying to stick to the edges though rather than ploughing through the middle.
The first 6 miles flew by. There was a 5k and a 10k race on at the same time so there were lots of runners on the course. After going through the crowds at the start point, the runners on the course thinned and I could only spot the odd couple of runners in front of me.
My dad was still with me and we were putting the world to rights as we usually do. Both of us chuntering away about the issues in our lives, discussing all things running and my dad giving me various running tips (some more helpful than others).
Your brain is a great thing - it cleverly stores away millions of moments as memories, many great, some not so and these memories can return in the form of fond thoughts or as flashbacks! My brain had clearly filtered out the highs and lows of last year's event. However, it had cleverly stored away the finer details of the course (they were probably tucked away in a "safe place" never to be found again). I knew that when we crossed the canal by bridge, we had to run up a hill by the side of the locks, what my brain had forgotten to remind me of was the fact that there were 3 hills to run up, the final of which was the Bingley 5-rise lock staircase. Rather spectacular to look at but a beast to run up and even to run down!
After this, we headed on towards the turn around point. It was at about mile 14 when we hit the glorious mud! From this point on, I looked more like a speed skater than a runner - legs and arms all flailing from side to side. If you slipped one way, you'd be in the canal, if you slipped the other, you'd be down a bank and into a field! Good fun.
My dad led the way and I tried to follow but it was hard to keep up. I never realised how many different sorts of mud you could encounter - there's the slippery stuff that you just can't stand on, the extremely sticky stuff that tries to steal your shoes, the heavy stuff that clings to your trainers and makes your feet weigh about the same as a baby elephant and the stuff which is really horse manure, trying to disguise itself as mud - nice!
Despite slipping many, many times I actually managed to stay on two feet which is more than can be said for a few. We spotted the friendly faces of Diane and Kev and we were assured that the turnabout was about 200 metres away. This spurred me on, however, it was the longest 200 metres ever and probably more like half a mile!! We managed to make it to the turnaround point and then had to head back through the never ending mud.
This is when I started to struggle - my feet were heavy from lifting my mud covered shoes, my back ached as I was scrunched over like Groucho Marx and my hips and thighs ached from the way my legs were going sideways and not forwards! I had a fall in York when out running just before Christmas. It is the first time I have ever fallen over when running. I banged my knee and my wrist. Luckily nothing was broken but my confidence was knocked and it seemed to take ages for my wrist to heal. This is partly why I was running with a hunch - closer to the ground/not so far to fall!
The bridge which marked the end of the mud was in sight. Despite my efforts, I could barely run. I was so tired. At this point, an older chap ran past me and proclaimed in a Yorkshire accent "This is proper running, this is!" and went on his way. Cracking! This was promptly followed by my dad up in front flapping away like a bird with his legs slipping like a cartoon character. Somehow, he managed to keep on his feet and didn't end up in the canal!
We were finally out of the mud and just had to get back. I was shattered and grumbled constantly about my various aches and pains. My dad offered various words of wisdom. He actually helped sort my posture, making me run straight again and this eased my back pain and made running a tiny bit easier. He offered other helpful comments, such as, "No-one ever died of thigh/shoulder (insert appropriate body part here) pain" and his theory to running faster "You just have to run faster!" Marvellous - I will have to try this one.
Despite my dad not running a marathon for about 6 months, he completely put me to shame. I was struggling and he still looked as fresh as a daisy. He makes it look so easy. I have no idea how he does it!
I had started out the well but the mud had sapped all the energy from my legs, even the run downhill by the locks were tough. We were caught up towards the end of the race by a couple of ladies and I didn't even have the strength to chase them down - I hate being overtaken at the end of a race! After a tough last few miles the finish line was finally in sight. Despite aiming to do a good time so I could head off to Manchester early, my time was about 45 minutes longer than I had hoped. My Garmin actually lasted until 26.22 miles for the first time in ages - I completed this in 5:18:12. The course was slightly long so my finish time was 5:27:42 (more miles = good value for money).
As ever, the marshals around the course were fantastic, friendly and supportive. The goody bag was fab and regardless of my slow time, there was still some delicious cake at the finish. Perfect.
Sadly, I have had to mourn the loss of another toenail as a result of this race. On a happier note, my husband actually managed to rescue my trainers (again) and they are ready to race another day.
PS: we didn't make it to Nando's - by the time we reached Manchester, I was too tired to walk too far. The local Pizza Express was packed so we dined out in style at McDonalds which was probably about 100 metres from the hotel! I know how to celebrate my 40th birthday - classy!