Thursday 2 January 2014

New Year's Day parkrunning 2014

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve and all that comes with it, so I hit the sack before midnight, and apart from being woken briefly by fireworks and lots of people cheering, had a fairly good night's sleep. So thankfully getting up for the day's activities was a fairly painless task and we hit the road in good time.

I had packed a selection of running tops, base layers, arm warmers, gloves etc.. But most importantly, four pairs of socks. It's on days like this that I wish I had more than one pair of trail shoes, but alas I don't so I would have to make do! They aren't in the photo because they were already in the car.

a selection of clothing options for the day

The original plan for New Year's Day was to run at Riddlesdown at 9am, Banstead at 10am, and then go back for a freedom run at Riddlesdown at 11am, with all the in between bits being cycled. However, after reviewing the logistics, weather etc etc... I decided to change the plan slightly. Instead of cycling, I would drive and instead of running at Riddlesdown twice, I would start the day at Lloyd parkrun. This plan presented me with the opportunity to attempt two official course personal bests, before finishing the day's parkrunning with an easy plod (or splash) around Riddlesdown.

parkrun [photo: mrs7t]

The weather for the morning started with light rain and wind which gradually got heavier and stronger as the morning went on. The accompanying wind was at its worst at the Riddlesdown freedom run. The ladies accompanied me but largely stayed in the car to shelter from the wind and rain.

9am - Lloyd parkrun

My personal best at Lloyd parkrun was set at my only other visit, which was in early 2013, and stood at 23:22. The aim was to beat it but also to leave enough energy to attempt a personal best at Banstead Woods, and Banstead would be the harder of the two to beat.

getting ready to go [photo: mrs7t]

I started fairly close to the front but didn't go out at a crazy pace. It's a 2-lap course which undulates throughout the first three quarters with the last bit of each lap being fairly flat. The steepest section starts with a very muddy, slippery corner followed by another brief slippery stretch which does its best to take you down. Fortunately I managed to stay upright. Once at the top of this section you then have to tackle the downhill part, which again is very muddy and slippery as you reach the bottom - I ended up slowing down almost to walking pace to avoid falling over.

half-way around [photo: mrs7t]

I reached half-way in about 11 minutes and knew that I was comfortably within the zone for a new personal best, so although I kept pushing, I didn't feel the need to completely exhaust myself. I finally crossed the finish line in 22.09 - A new course personal best by 73 seconds. They had an amazing turnout of 114 runners.

Official results - Lloyd parkrun 171.

Even in good conditions the course is one of the toughest in London and as the whole course is on grass or dirt paths, AND hilly, when the winter arrives it gets tougher - I really love the course and found myself smiling as I was running, but I've only run it in winter conditions, so I must go back and sample it during dryer conditions and try to reduce that time down a bit further.

parkrun #1 complete [photo: mrs7t]

My running top was slightly damp and my legs had picked up a bit of mud. My shoes, although not bone dry, were still holding up ok. Socks slightly wet and needed to be changed.

We left the car park at about 9.28am and set off for Banstead Woods...

10am - Banstead parkrun

I ran my first and second parkruns at Banstead but although threatening to return to the venue a number of times, I never did make it back - until now!

We arrived at Banstead Woods at 9.47am and after putting my trail shoes back, I headed over to the start line. My previous personal best at Banstead was run back in 2011 at my second ever parkrun and stood at 20.55 - This was run in dry conditions when the course was at its fastest, today the course was not dry or at its fastest, but I was hoping that my better fitness would still see me to a pb.

pre-run mingling [photo: Don Esslemont]

This is an almost-two-lap course and starts half way up an incline, the first two-thirds of each lap are generally uphill/flat with the last third being downhill and then flat. It's another one of those courses that is hard to describe in detail because it is in the woods and everything looks pretty much the same all the way round.

I started fairly near to the front of the pack but although wide at the start, it very quickly narrows down and I found myself slightly slowed. No problem. A bit of patience soon allowed me to filter through until I found a nice place to settle into my rhythm.

As I reached the end of the first half, the half-way timer called out a time of 10.10, which was nicely inside my personal best time. However, the second half includes the full incline where you run back past the start area. I took the incline at a fairly slow pace and was overtaken by quite a few runners, some continued on at the faster pace and others I overtook again once the main incline had been conquered.

at the bottom of the downhill section on lap 1 [photo: Don Esslemont]

At the bottom of the downhill section on lap 2, there was a lady calling out times, and with 200 metres left to run I was at about 20.03-ish. I wasn't sure if I would make it to the finish line quick enough to register a new personal best, but I pressed on and crossed the line. My stopwatch said 20.50, but I wouldn't be patting myself on the back until it was confirmed.

After I had had my barcode scanned and was walking past a fellow twitterer, Steve O'Sullivan, who was volunteering on timing duty, he confirmed to me that he had recorded the same time I had on my stopwatch. Again there was an amazing turnout of runners, Banstead parkrun had 160!

Official results - Banstead parkrun 344

back at the car with a little bit more mud for my collection [photo: mrs7t]

The course was wet with some quite splashy, loose mud and I had added a fair amount to my previous accumulation of mud. I jogged back to the car, whipped off my trail shoes and socks again, dried my feet as best I could and jumped back in the car to head over to Riddlesdown...

11am - Riddlesdown parkrun (freedom)

Arriving at Riddlesdown for the freedom run, it was already 10.55am, so I didn't waste any time changing back into my trail shoes, which were now quite wet inside. I headed over to the downs, where it was considerably windier than both the previous venues - within seconds I had begun shivering and really needed to keep running to maintain body heat.

the riddlesdown freedom run nyd 2014 [photo: Gill Hallson]

I headed over to the start area with event director Nicki and most of the other volunteers that had hung around to lend a hand at the freedom run. The shivering was getting worse and my jaw was in pain from the amount of teeth-chattering going on. At the start line, I sheltered within some trees until we were ready to start.

A few minutes later, all 11 runners were present and ready to go. We lined up for a commemorative photo and then headed off for our freedom run. This one was always going to be a slower run to round off the day and I found myself running alongside Ange, who is one of Riddlesdown's most prolific runners.

end of the trail section [photo: Gill Hallson]

The first section wasn't too bad, we had a tail wind which was pretty nice. Then we turned at the far end and ran back through the trail section, here was when the real fun and games started. The trail has a fair amount of puddles and as you reach the far end the puddles pretty much merge into one big puddle. Also it is deep in places, so when you place your foot you have no real idea of exactly how far down it's going to go before reaching something solid! On the first lap, I almost fell over right into a puddle at the end of the trail section - luckily I managed to save myself just in time.

After the trail, it was time to face the head wind, and it was not nice. It was a cold head wind that was also blowing the rain right into my face - it felt like being stabbed with hundreds of needles. It was painful to say the least and I really wanted it to be over as quickly as possible.

just over half-way around [photo: Gill Hallson]

The second lap was just more of the same, with feet splashing through puddles up to my knees and then finished off with an awful head wind on the final straight. After the run, I wasn't the only runner to be suffering and everyone was ready to go somewhere warmer.

I plodded and splashed around in 25.06 and recorded it as a freedom run on my parkrun log.

the final stretch [photo: Gill Hallson]

I got back over to the car, grabbed my backpack and headed over to the toilets to change out of my wet, muddy clothes to try to start to feel human again. Because the course at Riddlesdown was so wet, it had the effect of removing some of the day's build up of mud. The soles of my trail shoes were left completely mud free, which I'm sure is a good thing for the interior of our car.

I pretty much just collapsed onto the floor in the toilets and slowly worked out what went where. Although cold and completely knackered, I was very pleased that I had completed three different parkrun courses in one day (plus a bit of running between car parks and start/finish areas) and extra pleased for doing it in such bad conditions (and of course for running two new course best times).

in the toilets, all done [photo: me]

Riddlesdown's New Years Day Lunch

Following the running, and after driving around finding big puddles to splash through in the car for fun, we headed over to the Riddlesdown parkrun event director's house for an amazing vegetarian/vegan lunch followed by birthday cake for Mrs7t. It really was a parkrun day to remember. I can't wait for next year!

And to finish off a few thank yous...

Thank you to every single volunteer that came out to make the events happen. You are all wonderful!

Thank you to Nicki for inviting us around for a lovely lunch.

Thank you to Mrs7t for getting out of bed so very early on her birthday and sitting in the car watching rain roll down the windows while I indulged myself.

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