Sorry guys, this is an epic blog about an epic race....and so it begins...
Well, it has certainly been a fun few weeks. My eldest daughter, Mill, has got a paper round or should I say I have got myself a paper round. We go out every morning, Monday to Saturday and then go out again on a Saturday afternoon to collect the round money.
The original plan had been for me to make sure she knew what she was doing and then let Mill crack on by herself.....about 4 weeks on and I'm still helping! To be honest, I'm actually enjoying it. Yeah, the early mornings take their toll but it's actually nice to have some gadget/phone free time with Mill, you know and actually have a conversation! Ok, for the first part of the round we're usually still waking up but after that we actually talk, no texting or snap chatting - having a proper conversation with a teen is rare so I'm making the most of it.
You're probably wondering why I'm telling you all this, well, it does link in to my running! I am a morning running and tend to run to and from work. Due to "our" paper round, my running pattern has had to change! No more running to and from work for me. It's an early start to take out the papers so now, if I want to run before work, my alarm goes off at 4.40 am! Yes, you read that right! Needless to say, these early morning runs have been few and far between and my recent weekly mileage has been low! On the plus, we cycle the paper round and then I now cycle to and from work - surely, this can be classed as cross training eh?! The main way I now fit running into my day is on a lunchtime!
I wasn't really prepped for this race, what with my lower than average mileage and general exhaustion from the early starts. On top of this, after a particularly stressful time I work (my proper day job), I made the decision to hand in my notice on the Friday before the race. I have no job lined up to go to and absolutely no idea what I intend to do next but there you go, I simply decided enough was enough and the stressful office environment was not the place for me. I have to give 3 months notice so I am hoping by then to have found another role, if not I have yet to think of a plan B so watch this space! Anyhow, this was probably not the best lead up to a race.
I've never been to Roche Abbey or that neck of the woods so I didn't know what to expect of the course. Firstly, I got lost on my way to the start. My sat nav took me some very random route and as I lost the race instructions, I headed straight to the Abbey and not the race HQ. Luckily for me several other runners had done this too so we managed to work out between us how to get there!
Thankfully, the race start was actually delayed for 30 minutes so it gave me time to register, have a few nervous wees and have a natter with my running family before the race began.
I had no plan for the day and intended to just wing it and see what happened. The route was absolutely stunning, probably one of the most scenic routes I've run but it was a toughy and it was 4 laps.
It is the first lapped marathon where I've actually had to walk on the first lap. Usually, I can run the first few laps and struggle in the final miles but not this one.
The inital part of the race was on road but after that it was mainly on track, paths and even through fields.
After about the first mile, we arrived at stunning fields of rape seed. Seas of yellow all around. We ran straight through the middle and this bit was downhill - I loved it. At the bottom of the field the plants were so high, they were taller than me. I felt so small, it was like running through the land of giants!
This amazing photo was taken by a lovely runner who I met on the day called Eleanor! I love it and it has now become my Facebook profile pic!
You then run along side the fields before reaching a wooded area. It was seriously like something from a fairy tale - the floor was coated in a carpet of flowering wild garlic - all very magical looking and then you reached the "wobbly" bridge.
Have you ever done one of those high ropes course with the rope bridges between the trees? Well the bridge was a little like that but instead of being up high, it was across marshland instead (lots of fun)!
It was then through more woodland towards the stepping stones! Yes, there were stepping stones to negotiate. Not too bad for taller people but tricky to cross for a short arse like me, especially when you have jelly legs on the final lap!
After negotiating the stepping stones it was a short way into the Abbey grounds, through some woodland and to the bottom of the first hill. I took a few shots of this hill but it doesn't look that steep. Well it was, especially for a York lass. I was extremely proud that I ran up this hill on the first lap. That was the only time I made it up this hill running - on laps 2, 3 and 4, I walked!
After reaching the top of the hill, it was a lovely downhill stretch back to the grounds of the Abbey and to the first water station. Luckily there were toilets available too which made the route even better for me - no peeing in bushes and mooneying to the world in this race!
The next stretch was the only bit I didn't really like - a long out and back bit through a field. Luckily there was a friendly marshal at the turn around stick to have a quick chat to before heading back towards the Abbey ruins. On the last lap, the marshal had gone so there was literally just this stick in a field which had very little to say!
Ok, so it was just a field but it was difficult to navigate on some bits where the path was stoney. I went over on my ankle on the last lap due to having heavy, clumsy legs! It was also mentally tough on this stretch, especially on the last few laps when I was on my todd as you could see the stick in the distance but it didn't appear to get any nearer!
There were stunning views of the Abbey on your way back mind (probably the reason why I went over on my ankle - too busy admiring the views)!
Then it was through "Sandra's Kissing Gate" (I wish I'd have taken a photo of this!) and back into the woods towards the stepping stones. Thankfully we didn't cross them twice but you got to see Kev, the marshal again (enthusiastically shouting words of motivation to me as I plodded by) and see the stunning waterfall!
Then it was through the woods once more and up to the beastly hill. Now this is the point where I walked in the first lap! It was so, so steep I struggled to walk it. I have suggested they install a ski lift here but I don't think they'll go for that! Huge respect to anyone who manage to run this hill, whether it was just the once or 5 times! Incredible!
I hope these pics do it justice!
At the top of the hill, after a little trek were stunning views across the valley. I would say it was well worth it - it would have been better if I'd have got to the top of the hill by ski lift/cable car/donkey - I'm not fussy!
It was then a meander along the edge of fields before the final hill of the course, up the side of a field. I bet the other runners didn't think this was too bad. I did actually manage to run this section a few times, unlike beastley hill.
As a nice surprise, we had about 5 stiles to climb over and a field of nettles to negotiate before heading back onto the road and downhill (I loved this bit) and down through the field to the finish - careful not to go too fast as there is a final fence to leap at the bottom!
Now this may not seem such a tough route to some but bear in mind, I did it 4 times and some crazy folk ran it 5 times (and still managed to beat me)! At least I didn't fall, unlike my dad, who managed to go over twice!
So let's recap - 20 stiles, stepping stones, wobbly bridges, beastley hills, and fields of giant flowers! I got nettled (many times), brambled, caught on barbed wire, jumped at by a dog (and nettled again) and suffered very random sunburn (how? I have absolutely no idea as it wasn't particularly sunny) oh, and then there were the flies. I had almost forgotten about the flies. They got everywhere - in my eyes, up my nose. I even swallowed a few (extra protein). The worst was the one I inhaled - taking a deep breath in and it hit me right in the back of the throat! I even had to fish out flies I found nestling in my bra when I got home! Nice!
It was quite the adventure but I had a marvellous time and would definitely go back just to run through the sea of yellow!
The marshals did a cracking job - really supportive and friendly. The runners themselves were a great bunch too - some familiar faces but I also met a few new ones!
A bit of a slow time, even for me but I did bimble along a bit. If I took out the time I spent chatting and stopping for loo breaks, I could probably knock 20 - 30 minutes off my trail time!
A fabulous medal and goody bag again and delicious cake too! It's worth running just for the cake at the end of the It's Grim Up North Running events - the Guinness cake is highly recommended!
This time, I've given myself two days off to recover before hitting the roads again. Next up, Windermere in a few weeks! Let's hope the weeks leading up to Windermere aren't quite as eventful as my previous two!