Monday, 6 November 2017

Great Gwent Poppy Run

Trenches & Tribulations

Commemorating the battle of Passchendaele in 1917, which lasted from 31st July until the 10th November, this Royal British Legion event is a great fund raiser and held at Penpergwm, near Abergavenny.

The course was about 5 miles long over mainly flat fields with various obstacles to negotiate along the way, including mountains of hay bails to climb over, cargo nets to scramble under, and a tunnel to crawl under which had wires dangling from the top to give anyone a small electric shock should you touch one of them.

There were a good number of Caerleon Running Club members there who signed in and were given their run T shirts to wear. The camo paint was handed around which was liberally applied to our faces, but I have to say that it didn't make any of us look like steely eyed killers, but it helped us to get into the atmosphere of the event.

Caerleon Running Club ready for action

The organisers gave a heath and safety talk before we were put through our paces with a warm up, then split us into starting groups so that not everyone started at the same time, which would have created large queues at each obstacle.

We began negotiating some simple hay bails where team work was the name of the game to help others get over them before we arrived at the river, which we had to cross. The water was fairly fast flowing, about knee deep and icy cold, and one or two people lost their footing and got an unexpected dip.

By this time some of our club members had pulled away and formed their own group, so I hung back with Phil, Tania, JoJo, Ann and Shell. The next section was mainly running with only a couple of simple obstacles to negotiate before having to cross the river again, but we had to join a queue and in the mean time I was cooling off and beginning to feel chilly. 

My turn came and I entered the water first with Phil and the girls behind me. All was OK until I reached mid river, then I don't know what exactly happened, whether I lost my balance, (which is pretty crap at the best of times), or I slipped, or if the force of the current just swept my legs away, but the next thing I knew was that I had lost my foothold and I got a complete dunking in the water. But then, due to the force of the flow, I struggled to get my legs down so that I could get a foothold and stand up again. The thing was, that my dunking caused Phil to get a dunking also, plus the two people ahead of me as well, so there were four of us got a soaking. Sorry guys, but we all had a good laugh about it.

I waited on the far side of the river bank, soaking wet and cold, for the rest of my group to make it across and we headed off to the next group of obstacles, a cargo net to scramble under followed by a muddy tunnel with wires dangling from the roof to give a small electric shock should you touch one of them. Fortunately I didn't, phew.

Then a series a boggy ponds where the water came to just above my knee, but the mud felt like it came up to my calf's and at times it was a struggle to release my feet from the mud due to the suction.

More obstacles to climb over came along where we all helped each other to negotiate before the final jog to the finish line.

Of course there has to be the almost obligatory after race photo. Fortunately we were all as mucky as each other, and we all smelled of muddy bog and cow pats.

Well that was fun, and a different way to spend a Sunday in the Welsh countryside, but it was also a great way of raising funds for the Royal British Legion, who look after ex servicemen and women who need help after leaving the service. 

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

ABP Newport Marathon & the Halloween Horror

I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew by entering this one, as it's only three weeks after the Manchester marathon. What was I thinking?

I think I just got carried away in the euphoria on Facebook, with many of my club mates entering this, and some of those being my closer friends in the club. Some people think that I have taken on too much, however there are some very experienced friends/runners who think that this is doable, if I rest for a few days after Manchester and then just do a couple of short runs in between, they think I should be OK. But I may end up doing a combination of walking and running from 15 miles, which is fine by me.

The route has finally been announced and to be honest, it brings no surprises as the course had already been described as flat and fast, so that had to take in the wetlands. Personally I would have preferred to have seen a route that began in Newport and ran out to Cardiff before heading back to Newport on a out & back or loop route. But I think this route has been devised and designed this way as it means there would be very few road closures.

Anyway, I'm quietly looking forward to getting into training for this, in a masochistic sort of way, But at least I have some nice people and good friends to run with and share the pain.

Halloween Horror 🦇👻

Club night this evening was a new route especially devised, (I think) for Halloween, appropriately entitled, Halloween Horror. The horror being the steepest hill in Newport, and one that, fortunately, I hadn't come across previously, and to be honest, one that I won't be sorry if I never see again 😅

We ran as a group with several stops to enable us to regroup and make sure that no one had got lost down those dark, spooky 👻 country lanes, and of course the Celtic Manor golf course, which was really dark and our head and chest lamps really came into their own there.

Anyway, I did enjoy this run, but then I usually enjoy the club runs. It's about the people as much as the running.

Laura Davies - The Purple Plodder

Before I go, check out the Favourite Links on the top right of my home page. Laura Davies lives in  N Wales although I believe she is originally from Newport, and has been running for a year now, but has already signed up to taking part in next years Snowdon marathon, probably the toughest Marathon in the UK. Laura has set up her own blog so that people can follow her progress, and I shall be keeping a close eye on her. 

I may just arrange to meet up with Laura in the near future, join her for a run and carry out an interview for this blog.

Watch this space.

And talking of the Snowdon marathon, I would like to say a big well done to CRC members, Andrew, Phil, Ian and Jason, Griffithtown Harriers members Cath and Lena who all completed this gruelling race.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Seven of Seven

Yesterday was my final race of 2017, the Stroud half marathon, and it was my seventh of the seven half marathons I had planned to complete this year.

It all began in March with the Newport half marathon, followed by Swansea, the Long Course Weekend in Tenby, Port Talbot, The Great North Run in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Cardiff and then finally Stroud.

Sally and Rachel drove up to Stroud with me, with Michelle following in her car, and Tania would be travelling home with us. My plan was to just have a nice, easy plod, with no pressure to try and achieve a PB, and run with the girls but, the best laid plans often go awry.

The starting line

Myself with Rachel, Tania, Sally, Michelle and Andrew photobombing in the picture

And they're off

Right from the start I began to leave Tania, Rachel & Sally behind but with Michelle keeping up with me. After a few minutes, Mark and Steve past me and Michelle attached herself to them so I decided to drop back for the other girls.

Tania came alongside my right shoulder and the pace then began to quicken, with my watch showing an estimated finishing time of 1 hr 56 mins, which I felt was way too fast this soon after the start. I looked back and saw that we were leaving Rachel and Sally behind but they gestured me to carry on.

The route took us out of Stroud and then through Stonehouse where Tania's husband Ade, and her two daughters were waving and cheering. We left Stonehouse and the route took us through very scenic country lanes, through the village of Standish, and the route was flat, which was nice. Tania and I also caught up with Steve, Mark and Michelle, who we overtook.

Tania and me waving to her husband and daughters

Once we crossed over the top of the M4 motorway, we were guided onto the busy A38 and headed into the village of Whitminster, which was the 6 mile mark. I turned to Tania and said that I couldn't believe that we had completed 6 miles already, the time seemed to go by so quickly. My watch was still showing a 1 hr 56 min finishing time, and I was still wondering how much longer I could keep up this pace? We had also been told that it was at 6 miles where the hill was. I have been to Whitminster before, so when Tania asked me where the hill was, I replied, "this is it"! It was just a gentle incline really, and we were expecting a big hill, so this was nothing to worry about and our pace didn't alter.

After Whitminster, the route turned east to head back towards Stroud again along Grove Lane, where I decided it was time to have a drink and consume a energy gel.

The narrow country lane joined with the busy A419, the main artery into Stroud from the motorway. The road hadn't been closed but traffic cones had been laid out about 1 metre into the road from the kerb, as there wasn't a pavement to run along. This meant that overtaking was going to be difficult and I found that my pace was slowing due to the traffic. I knew I had to take every opportunity to overtake when I could, and I did.

At Oldend's Lane there were a few of my CRC club mates there to cheer us on and take some photo's, and I knew from them cheering that Michelle was almost directly behind me, followed by Tania who was slowly dropping back, her pace slowing. But Michelle's pace was quickening and she caught me up and attached herself to my shoulder as we followed the loop through the industrial estate before rejoining the A419.

Just turning into Oldend's Lane, with Michelle just a few metres behind me

Michelle caught up with me

By this time, we only had about 3 miles left to go, just a parkrun distance ahead, and my watch was showing a finishing time of 1 hr 57 mins, so I had lost a minute in the traffic along the A419. This was the first time that I realised that I really did have a good opportunity to beat my 2 hr 1 min PB gained at Cardiff only a couple of weeks before, I just had to push hard and not allow my pace to drop and I really could be in for a sub 2 hr finish.

Michelle was looking really strong, still hugging my shoulder, and I thought that she could actually have left me behind, but she said that she was OK and was using me as a pacer. Who'd ever have thought that someone would be using me as a pacer in a half marathon, not me that's for certain.

By now my eyes were glued firmly to my watch, ensuring that my pace wasn't slowing and urging my legs not to slow down, even on the couple of inclines as we headed back into Stroud, I pushed hard, feeling my muscles beginning to burn on the hill.

Inside the final mile, Michelle and I caught up with a few other CRC runners, Yangi first, then Eddie, and then Tony, who was spurred on to a quicker finish upon seeing us.

Michelle crossed the line as the first CRC lady finisher in a chip time of 1:58:12 and I followed only 2 seconds later.

I couldn't believe it. Not only had I broken my PB, I'd done it by over 3 minutes and got below the 2 hour mark.

The route

Tania came in and also broke her PB time, and was looking completely worn out and very hot. Rachel and Sally came in a few minutes later and they too had broken their PB times.

I thoroughly enjoyed this race and will probably do it again next year, as I guess there is a good chance of improving my PB time again.

Once everyone had finished the race, we made our way to a pub where Vanessa had booked us all in for a well deserved Sunday lunch, where we enjoyed the food, the company and the chat about the race.

Outside the pub, from left to right, Me, Rachel, Michelle, Tania & Sally

Time for a well deserved Sunday lunch at the Lamb Inn

It was also going to be Yangi's birthday the day after, and she brought along a wonderful cake which was sliced up and dealt out for everyone. Happy birthday Yangi.

Yangi and her husband slicing the birthday cake

2017 has been an amazing year for me. I've been almost injury free, I've lost weight, I'm running further and faster than ever. The statistics speak for themselves.

I've broken my 5 km PB 3 times, my 10 km 3 times, and my half marathon 3 times. In fact, I've knocked 16 minutes off the time it took me to complete the Newport half marathon back in March. So to say that I am pleased is an understatement.

Now I'm going to take a well deserved rest until the 27th November when I will begin my marathon training. The club has allotted me a marathon mentor, Andrew Wright, who is not only a really nice guy, very funny, but also a hugely talented runner who I admire and respect immensely. In the Stroud race he was acting as the 1 hr 30 min pacer, a time I can only dream about.

Andrew the pacer Wright, posing as only he can 😂

Until then I will take part in the Tuesday evening club runs and do a short Thursday evening run, as well as parkrun on a Saturday. (I'm only 11 parkruns away from having done 50).

Watch this space ................

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Ponty Plod

Yesterday I took part in the Ponty Plod, a 11 mile, multi terrain race organised by Pontypool running club, running on roads, across muddy farmers fields, through woodland trails with more sloppy mud, and plenty of hills.

There were ten of us from CRC taking part, and for a few of us it was our first time at this event.

The race begins at the Llangdegfedd Visitor & Watersports Centre, then it immediately heads up a steep road before leveling out, and then after about a mile we were marshaled off the road and across fields.

This was my first proper trail race and I learned a very valuable lesson from the cross country race I took part in only the previous week before, and that was not to try and gingerly negotiate the pools of thick mud but, to go ploughing through it at full race pace. This I did and I found it so much easier, but also I was able to pass a few people who were gingerly making their way through the mud. Two of these were my own club mates Rebecca and Michelle. Once that mud had been negotiated, there was a short hill where I stopped once I reached the top to allow the girls to catch up, but Becca called out for me to carry on and that they would catch me up. That was the last I saw of them until the end of the race.

Further on I could see I was catching Sean, who was definitely slower running in his road trainers on the off road sections, and in fact I caught him just as he was getting up after a fall in the mud through some woodland forest. Later, Sean was to overtake me on another tarmac stretch, but he was never more than 100 metres in front of me.

With less than a mile to go, we were running down the steep hill that we had climbed up originally from the start, and slowly but surely I was catching up a Pontypool runner. A sharp right hand turn at the bottom of the hill left about 200 metres to run and I caught Mr Pontypool and went past him but, I could hear his pace quickening and I glanced over my shoulder and he was there, right on me, so I quickened my pace again. I was actually very surprised that after 11 miles I still had a sprint finish left in my legs, but I did and I was running at full pelt and finished two seconds in front of him.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed that, running on different surfaces, across fields and through woodland. And boy was I glad I had deep studded trail shoes on as they afforded me so much more grip than some others had.

I finished in 121st place out of 173 participants, which I was happy with. My official time was 2 hours 2 minutes, although my watch recorded 1hr 59 mins, but then I didn't start my watch until I crossed the start line and not from the starting pistol.

CRC runners after the race

The route


Monday, 9 October 2017

GLCL Winter Cross Country

Yesterday saw the first of the Gwent Leisure Centre League winter cross country races, hosted by Parc Bryn Bach running club. 

The turn out from Caerleon was pretty good, although nowhere near as many people as the road race series, and overall there were several hundred competitors taking part from the local clubs within the old Gwent county area, and, this was going to be my very first cross country run.

Caerleon XC team

There I stood on the start line, next to fellow club mate and fellow XC virgin Suzanne, wearing our brand new, untarnished trail running shoes, and off we went, the men having to run four laps of the course whilst the ladies only run three laps. Why that is I don't know, it seems to be a bit odd in these days of sexual equality.

The course began easily enough for the first 200m and then a slow climb began, but through ankle deep, sloppy mud. The mud gave way to a harder, steeper track heading up through the forest to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill the zig zag course was a lot easier to run on the open ground with short grass and only patches of mud. It then headed back towards and into the forest where there was a lot more of the mud to contend with.

I was probably being a little cautious running through the mud as I was unsure of my foothold, whereas some of the experienced runners were absolutely flying through it, and I was certainly a lot slower as by lap three I was being lapped by the guys whilst the ladies were then heading towards the finish line.

I began my fourth and final lap and the mud by this time was even worse. After the forest section, and at the top of the hill, I looked behind me and there were very few guys following me, and they all appeared to be older guys like myself.

I did manage to stop myself from losing any more places, and actually I did overtake a couple of people on the muddy downhill section.

Approaching the finish line all my club mates were there clapping and cheering me on to the finish line. Phew, I was glad that was over. It was very tough but, I did enjoy it.

Shoe washing in the lake

Checking out our muddy shoes. Suzanne's shoes, (stood next to me) were bright orange.

Parkrun 13th Birthday

On Saturday mornings I do enjoy heading off to parkrun for a 5km run, and I'm lucky where I live in that I have a choice of four parkrun courses to choose from within a 20 minute drive from home.

My preferred course is the Riverfront in Newport, closely followed by Cwmbran, which I haven't run in a long time now so I think I need to go and do that one again very soon.

Last Saturdays run was parkruns 13th birthday and a call went out for runners to wear their parkrun apricot shirts, and that is what people did, all over the UK and indeed abroad too. In fact, a group of runners from Whangarei, New Zealand did their usual run at 9 AM, and then they did it again at 9 PM to coincide with UK parkrun. Well done Whangarei.

Whangarei parkrunners

You can check out the Whangarei course by clicking HERE 

Riverfront Parkrun, Newport

We at Riverfront enjoyed our usual run with the lovely Lisa as run director this time, and the C25K (couch to 5km) beginners group were waiting in the wings to set off once the main pack of runners set off.

I had intended to just run and enjoy it without feeling the need to try and beat my previous course PB of 26:35, so I was quite surprised when I arrived at the finish line with a official time of 26:28. I guess running works out like that sometimes and PB's happen when you least expect them or indeed, even try for them.

If you haven't experienced a parkrun, I would recommend you check out . It's a fabulous community and a great way of meeting people and making new friends.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

London Marathon 2018 and other stuff

Well my hopes have been dashed for running in next years London marathon. There were 386,000, 050 ballot entries and mine was not one of the successful ones. It's not surprising really with that many applications, and I had noticed from reading many Facebook posts that many people have been trying for several years and haven't been successful in gaining an entry.

I do have a second chance however. CRC receives two places each year and its membership is asked to select which two people it wants to send to London. This year I believe there are thirteen people with their names in the mix, so I just have to do some creeping around my friends and ask them to vote for me 😅

In other news, yesterday it was announced that there will be a Newport marathon being held on the 29th April 2018 and sponsored by Associated British Ports. It has been said that it will be the flattest and fasted course around, but as yet the the route does not appear to have been disclosed. Newport already has a successful half marathon which usually takes place in March each year.

I am already booked to take part in the Manchester marathon on the 8th April so, if I am unsuccessful at gaining a club place in London, then I shall most probably enter this one instead.

This Sunday sees the start of the Gwent Leisure Centre League Cross Country events, with this one being held at  Bryn Bach Parc near Blaenau. I hope to see plenty of purple vests and T's there. If I survive, I shall write up a report next week.

Great Gwent Poppy Run

Trenches & Tribulations Commemorating the battle of Passchendaele in 1917, which lasted from 31st July until the 10th November, this R...