Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Thunder Run

I mentioned in my last post that I would be blogging about my preparations for the Adidas Thunder Run (a 24 hour cross country race) but it turned out that those preparations were rather time-consuming and I didn't have time before we left for the weekend. I'm aware that this has the danger of making me sound organised or even vaguely ready for the weekend but in reality the time was spent madly purchasing more snacks (it was foolishly optimistic of me to think that the first lot would last...) whilst trying to convince non-running friends that yes, a weekend that involved a kit list of Vaseline, Imodium and painkillers was indeed going to be fun!

We packed up the car on Friday and headed up North to Catton Park, Derbyshire at about 2pm. According to the website the campsite didn't open until 3pm so we thought we'd be fine especially as we had sent the advance party in the form of Michaela and Ben. However when we were about half an hour out we heard from Michaela that we would need to head for the "spare field" as the main campsites were full. By the time we arrived, spare field had been hastily designated "Campsite C" and even had its very own set of portaloos...we would be fine! In the end the field filled up and apart from a slightly long walk to the start/finish area it was fine. The rest of Friday was spent assembling the tents and chilling out as a team. We were a team of 6, called "parkrun Fresh" because we intended to run the local parkrun the following morning and then stay in our not-so-fresh running clothes for at least our first laps. The term was coined on my favourite podcast, the parkrun show which is well worth a listen if like me you like all things parkrun. 

Saturday morning dawned bright, early and sunny and after a rather dodgy attempt at porridge four of us headed to the lovely Conkers parkrun to start the weekend in style. Along with lots of other parkrun tourists also there for the Thunder Run we took it as slowly as possible and jogged around enjoying the scenery and the lovely atmosphere. parkrun royalty in the form of Tom Williams, parkrun MD, was there scanning barcodes and I stuttered something about loving parkrun...always the cool kid.

After parkrun we headed back to camp and got geared up for the race. Our superstar runner Mark was taking the first lap but we all headed over to the start for a briefing at 11.30am - we stood in the blazing sunshine to be warned that the weather was going to turn later and it would be up to us to decide whether to continue running...rather ominous but at the time I was more worried about sunburn! It was very odd to watch the start of a race that I was participating in, but I had a long wait for my first lap as I was last in our rotation. We spent the time in between laps sitting in camp and going to cheer on team mates and other runners at about 8.5km which was just near spare field  Campsite C. I love spectating/marshaling so this was a very enjoyable way to wile away a few hours - the atmosphere was fantastic with the majority of the runners lapping up the support and generally having fun. Special mention of course to the Solo runners, who were running by themselves rather than as part of a team...crazy yes but solos are our heroes :-)

My first lap started well - I was handed the baton by Neil and set off with a big grin on my face. The first hill that I had heard so much about didn't seem too bad and I was keen to see the rest of the course. However after about 2 or 3K I started to suffer in the heat and struggled quite a bit. No one hill seemed that bad but the constant ups and downs were pretty draining and it became a bit of a mental battle. I also began to really worry about 
doing the course in the dark only a few hours later whereas with hindsight I should have just focused on the lap in hand. I started to rely on seeing the guys at the designated 
cheering spot and 8.5K and it was a big relief to spot them - they were fab and gave me loads of encouragement and motivation so I enjoyed the last 1.5K and handed over to Mark again with a smile on my face. Neil had come to meet me at the changeover area so we went to get some pasta to try and get my energy levels up and then headed back to see the others.

A few hours later and the sun had gone in and been replaced by rain - by the time Gavin was on his second lap this had turned into a massive thunderstorm and I started to get genuinely worried about the prospect of running up those hills, in the pitch black, in atrocious weather. Poor Michaela was the next to go and I was SO impressed that she summoned up the courage to head out - it was still a few hours to go for me and it suddenly felt a bit lonely sitting in the tent listening to the rain hammering down and worrying about heading out later. That was the low point for me but luckily each person who returned from their night laps came back raving about how much fun they had been. By the time my turn came around the thunder had stopped but it was still pouring down. This mean the course was becoming a bit treacherous but I absolutely loved it - it is hard to describe quite how fun charging through puddles and dodging tree roots is in the pitch black but everyone around me was having a whale of a time and I loved the camaraderie between the runners.  I arrived back at camp caked in mud but exhausted so did a wet wipe shower and crawled into my sleeping bag for a couple of hours rest before the morning lap.

The rain had continued all night but by morning it was dry and getting warmer all the time. The course however had suffered rather from the downpour coupled with thousands of runners trampling over it for hours on end, so my last lap was a somewhat slower plod interspersed with walking to try to avoid falling over. Despite this I still managed to skid 
and land on my bum, having also put my hands down, so I ended up with a very muddy 
bum and two muddy hands! It was a talking point at least and got me lots of attention!

By the last km or two the grin was back and I felt like I was flying along. My friend Richard was in another team but he was watching by the last hill and his shouting managed to power me to the top without walking despite that being the last km of 35 in the 24 hour period...cheers Rich!

The last few hours was spent napping and snacking (Stretch! Salt! Sugar!) before we headed over to collect our well-deserved medals. By this point the memories of the low points were already fading for me - I was tired but happy and I had had a fantastic weekend with a brilliant team. I would highly recommend the Thunder Run - it was a massive festival just for runners and I intend to be back next year.

Michaela's blog includes her version of events and lots of lovely pictures so do go check it out. I will leave you with just one photo...the medal, on Big Dog - he was quite impressed with it as it is yellow and spins round...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Learning to blog

I have been thinking about starting to blog for a while but up until now several things have held me back; a lack of time, a consideration of whether anyone would actually be interested in what I had to write about and finally a fear that I might run out of things to say and end up with a half-hearted blog floating around cyberspace. I'm not sure that I have actually been able to resolve any of these things- I still don't feel like I have enough time, but a blog can be just another proverbial ball to juggle and I'm not sure whether anyone will be interested or how long it will last. However recently I find myself increasingly drawn to reading other blogs (over and above magazines) and have noticed a real sense of community amongst bloggers and I'd like to join in! 

Outside of work I am first and foremost a runner and stories of running are likely to dominate this blog (though I am likely to get sidetracked into writing about all sorts of other things). The name "BrandedRunner" was formed this afternoon as I cleaned my bike. I had spent the morning participating in the National Lottery Anniversary Run and when I looked down at my arms I realized that one hand was still "branded" with the letter denoting my baggage drop off. The other was covered in chain shaped oil marks from my bike. I chuckled to myself that a few years ago I might have spent a Sunday still branded with the stamp from a nightclub but now the idea of that seems so alien - I'm much happier getting up early to go out running than I would be staying up to a similar hour clubbing/ drinking! It struck me that I was almost branded as a runner and then the name  for the blog was born...

Coming up soon: my preparations for the Thunder Run