Bluebells in the Chantries Woods

I’ve been itching to go and see the bluebells for a couple of weeks now (I live an exciting life, clearly!). Our neighbour recommended that we go and visit the Chantries Woods, and after looking it up we realised that it’s only a mile or so from our front door – handy! (Also, how have we not been there before now!?)

So this weekend we laced up our walking shoes, and set off for a wander.

Walking in the Chantries Woods

There are miles of footpaths to explore through the Chantries, and the North Downs Way actually goes through some of it, too – so it’s easy to pick up dozens of different routes. I can’t wait to get out there in my trail shoes for some long training runs 😀

Chantries North Downs Way

… Though we discovered at times that some of the footpaths we used weren’t actually on Google maps, so there’s a high chance I’ll get lost… But that’s part of the fun, right? 😉

Chantries Woods Bluebells

I even managed to get James to pose for a photo or two. He caught on pretty quickly, and stopped slowing down to wait for me after a while! And I learned to stop asking him to take my photo unless I wanted to hear him sniggering about how dumb it was 😉 Instagram Husband, he is not!

P.S. LOOOL, you have to watch that video. Absolute genius!

Chantries Bluebells

Isn’t this place stunning though!?

Chantries Woods

As well as the gorgeous woodland, if you fancy a bit of a climb there are some stunning views across the Surrey Hills.

They’re almost as good as the views you get on the Bacchus Half, which I still need to sign up for! (And so do you, if you haven’t already. It’s the most fun you’ll ever have on a run! Here’s last year’s review, if you need any convincing…)

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How was your weekend? Did you get out and enjoy the sunshine? 🙂

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Barcelona Marathon Training: 4 weeks to go!

Dude, how did this happen? How are there only 4 weeks left? How is there just 1 long run between me and the taper? (This week is a cut-back week, with Bramley 10 tomorrow).

I’m suddenly feeling super under prepared. I swear I had more miles under my belt at this point before Paris and Brighton. I’m probably just paranoid, right!?

However, despite last week’s minor freak-out, I did in fact manage my long run last weekend – 16 miles along the Downs Link and Wey Navigations river path. It was long, it was fairly flat, it was out-and-back and the scenery, whilst quite nice, was pretty repetitive. I thought it would be fairly easy going, but mentally it was quite difficult as there wasn’t much to break up the miles!

I felt like a bit of a wally when I set off, as I was wearing 2 watches to test out the Epson against my Garmin. It didn’t half make the Garmin look like a brick!

Garmin and Epson Watches for 16 Miler

The things I do for science.

I could probably have picked a better time of year to run this route. It was absolutely stunning on my cycle to Brighton last year!

But on a cold, grey morning in February, it was ever so slightly uninspiring. Peaceful, quiet, and more pleasant than main roads, but it all began to look the same after a while:

Downs Link and Wey Navigations Long Run

Trust me, it’s a dream in the summer. And I’ll definitely be back to run it again after the marathon!

To prove that I did enjoy it just a little bit, I took my first ever run selfie:

16 Mile Run Selfie

A bit blurred, but you get the gist. I also took a photo of my poor shoes, which saw more mud that day than in the 2 months beforehand! (Though I didn’t actually get a picture of the muddy bits. I was too busy trying not to faceplant and/or stumble into the river…)

Whilst I did still take quite a few breaks (the river path was quite hard going, it was muddy, it was early, I found it hard to zone out…) my average moving pace was 33 seconds/mile faster than the Kingston Breakfast Run last year, and only 3s/mile off the pace I did my last 16 miler. Result!

16 Mile Run Splits

Now I just need to man up and cut out some of the walking breaks. Oh, and add on another 10 miles.

Ah, marathons. I do love you really.

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Have you run/got a long run planned this weekend? What sort of route have you picked?

Bacchus Half Marathon: The one I did for fun

No, really. I know people often say they’ll do an event ‘just for fun’ – I’ve said it a lot in the past, myself. But then it gets closer to race day and we know how it can escalate. Firstly you think, ‘well I don’t want it to be the slowest one ever, so I need to at least do the same time I did in the last one’, and then it’s ‘if I’m going to do that then I can probably push it a bit at the end if I’ve got energy left’, and suddenly it’s ‘I wonder if I could hit that PB I’ve been secretly aiming for?’

… And then you’re secretly disappointed for not hitting a target time in a race you KNOW that you didn’t train hard enough for. Facepalm.

But after a week’s holiday, then a cold that wouldn’t give up, and then a crazy work schedule, my running fell straight off the radar… For about 4 weeks. I’d been cross training a little (spinning and body pump, mainly), but the only runs I managed after the 4-week break were a couple of 5k runches in race week – neither of which went particularly well. (As you’d expect, really).

But this half marathon had the promise of neon face paint, and wine, and chocolate, and looked like it could be a bit of a giggle – ignoring the crazy hills in the course profile, of course.

And I’m SO glad I gave it a go. Because in summary, it went a bit like this:

Hills, wine, biscuits, wine, hills, sunshine, giggles, sing-offs between St Trinians and a bunch of nuns, wine, biscuits, more giggles, photobombs, new friends, more food, more wine, a big fat downhill (seriously, mile 13 was my quickest at 9:32 and the last .36 – I clearly weaved around a bit – was 8:45. This was compared to an average of about 13:30!!) and a big fat medal.

I’m pretty sure this was my favourite event, EVER.

And as words don’t do the atmosphere, the fun, the wine or the views justice, here’s the day in pictures! (Warning – there’s a heck of a lot!)

At the Start of Bacchus Half MarathonLooking composed and sober at the start!

Wine and Biscuits at Bacchus Half MarathonMany wine and biscuits. Might have gone back for seconds with the latter.

Running Solo

There was some running involved…

Cows at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And cows!

View from the Bacchus Half Marathon 1

Stunning views made up for the hills.

Gorgeous Views at the Bacchus Half Marathon

Taking a well-earned break at the top!

Aid Stations at the Bacchus Half Marathon

The best aid stations I’ve ever seen. For real.

Getting Photobombed at the Bacchus Half

‘I totally photobombed that last one!’ Yes, yes you did. And very well, too!

Bubbles at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And there were bubbles.

View from the Bacchus Half Marathon 2

And even more stunning views!

Having a Blast at the Bacchus Half Marathon

Then there was a bit more running…

More Biscuits at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And more biscuits.

Rose at the Bacchus Half Marathon

The rose was pretty good!

Sunshine at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… So was the white.

White Wine at the Bacchus Half Marathon

… And the other white.

Cake at the Finish Line - Bacchus Half Marathon

And at the finish line, there was cake!

… And hog roast.

The end 🙂

 

 

Race Review: Women Only Brutal 10

This event could have gone one of two ways.

One: The half a dozen colleagues (and my Mum) who I managed to rope in with me could have loved it, and I would feel smug for having found a few more people to drag along to various running events through the year. (As if they’d stop at just one – we all know how addictive running can be!)

Two: They could have hated it, and never trusted me again. Very possible.

How I managed to convince them in the first place, I don’t know. Running 10k through waist-high mud and ice-cold water and up hills in the middle of January doesn’t sound hugely appealing on paper. The event website didn’t entirely help my cause:

The Women’s race is set for the coldest and wettest time of the year so you can be assured of all the elements contained in a true Brutal race. We have a fantastic Brutal course which is designed with two x 5km laps, which allows runners to get the maximum sogginess, mud and climb available. The climb on the course comprises of short sharp hills, the wet will be in abundance with many large and long water areas and the mud will make even the lightest trail racers feel like lead.’

Especially when a couple of said workmates had never run 10k before, so would have to train for the event beforehand – pushing through the early ‘why am I doing this I hate running everything hurts LUCY YOU SUCK!’ stages without pulling out.

Luckily, I was sensible and signed them up and got their money before I sent them the link to the event website.

We lost one along the way, but last Saturday we were 6 strong, and felt suitably badass (and a bit concerned) when we clocked the temperatures – -3 the night before, with highs of 5 degrees that day. Ouch.

The event had a great atmosphere, with loads of people in fancy dress and war paint. Luckily, there were plenty of Brutal newbies, so we didn’t feel out of place! There were also tons of portaloos, and the registration and bag drop process was quick and painless. The warmup was great, led by one of the military guys (though we couldn’t hear him very well, and instead just copied what the people around us were doing).

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Can’t take credit for this photo – check it out on Twitter.

Within a kilometre or two, we were into the first water section. My initial reaction was ‘so much for waist high!’ and also, ‘holy ****, COLD!’

The water sections were iced over at the start, and had to be broken up by a Range Rover before the runners set off; when we reached them, there were still huge chunks of ice floating past us (I’m talking a cm thick and up to a foot square). Despite the cold, we were having a great time! Being a women-only event, it was all rather civilised – people moved aside to let the faster runners past, helped each other through the obstacles and chatted and laughed (and screamed!) along the way.

brutal1

Then we reached the mud. By the second lap we actually looked forward to the mud, as it was warmer than the water! However it was also very soft and deep, and if you stepped in the wrong place you would disappear up to your hips or higher. Might have made that mistake… But at least we didn’t face plant!

Brutal Women Only 2015, Long Valley #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

The army guys were brilliant at motivating us along. On the second lap, one of them headed over for a high five before shouting ‘You own this course! This course doesn’t own you!’ (Pahaha). One of my friends got a ‘DECIMATE THAT HILL!’

… Adding those to my mantras!

I’ll admit, we didn’t manage to get much of a rhythm going on this course. When we weren’t wading through water or mud, we were making our way up stupidly steep hills in the woods, over tree trunks and through rough undergrowth. It was hard work, but was broken up in the first lap as there were loads of 5k runners – we found that we had to stop and wait at most of the obstacles for the crowds to clear. Definitely appreciated the forced breaks, but if you’re going for a good time, be warned – there were lots of bottlenecks.

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After the last muddy section of the loop, you think you’ve made it – and then you turn the corner and see what looked like a river ahead of you. It was deep, wide, and extremely cold. (The momentarily-can’t-breathe kind of cold).

Brutal Women Only 2015, Long Valley #racephoto #sussexsportphotography

After that, it was just a few metres to the finish line, where they announced each runner as they came through. Lovely touch! They had water, squash and bananas for us at the finish – and volunteers were peeling the bananas for us as we were so cold and stiff!

It’s worth noting that there are no changing facilities at the event – people were just getting changed in the car park. Believe me, you’ll be so eager to get into some warm dry clothes that you won’t care by the time you get back to the car!

Overall, we LOVED this event – and are already looking for others to sign up for! If you’re interested, you can find more information on the Brutal Run website.

If you need more motivation, the medal and tshirts are brilliant:

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