What I Did At The Weekend

Regular readers of this blog will want to know where the digusting bit is, either to brace themselves for it, skip it or head straight there and miss all the boring, inspirational stuff about mates doing really well in races. Nasal lavage gets a mention later. More than that, I’m not willing to say.

I had an utter stonker of a weekend. I spent Saturday morning at the ashmei headquarters in darkest Buckinghamshire. I have been selected for assessment as an ashmei ambassador. Now, I’m a fan of the kit. It’s all about performance, quality and style. Stuart who founded the company explained that everything they do hinges on those three words.

He said that a new product begins with the fibre. They decide how they want the garment to perform and then select a fibre to deliver that performance. They specify the fabric using the fibre and only then begin to design the it. Price isn’t an issue for them as much as quality is so while a pair of shorts or a jacket is expensive, it will still provide value for money because you will be using it for years. They use top quality zips and fittings because they are already using top quality fabrics. He was very convincing except when he was talking about darts. I didn’t believe a word about them doing darts-wear next.

We had a run with Stuart and Rob around the Ashridge Estate. It was a little less boggy than it was the last time I was there on the ashmei run a couple of months ago. There were still a few stretches where the mud was ankle deep. I did my usual thing and ploughed straight through the middle and trusted my inov-8 Baregrips would keep me upright. Lift the knees and make sure you keep your centre of gravity directly under you and you’ll be all right. I was. I splashed and dipped and trotted through the muddy and messy stretches and chatted to the other aspirant ambassadors.

There are some incredible athletes among them. Gemma is off to the European Duathlon championships soon. Benjamin is training for Marathon des Sables. Wanda is running the Ocean Floor Race in a couple of weeks. I’m just a bloke who runs a bit. I know how to swear pretty fluently in three languages – and can manage casual abuse in two more. I’m willing to risk drowning in a lake and crashing off my bike in front of a bus because I love triathlons now too. I will push myself harder than is strictly sensible just to see when I break. Pain is temporary but a foot injury can put you out of action for three weeks and all that jazz. I enjoy coaching because I want to see my friends excel. I’m not exceptional but I am willing to push my limits. I am everybloke, really.

I chatted with Rob from ashmei for a few minutes. He talked me into doing their trail ultra in Ullswater at the beginning of July. It’s only 40 miles… Actually, I’ve done some Rich Sums and discovered that it’s not that far, really. I’ve done 55k in a Thunder Run weekend and it’s not that much further than that. Walk uphills and jog the rest. I just have to keep going for two laps of Ullswater. How hard can it be?

All the others were every bit as nice as you’d expect runners to be. I had a great time in their company. Whatever happens, I think ashmei will have fine people to help them promote their brand.

When I got home, I changed out of the running gear and put on some cycling tights. I pulled my bike out of the conservatory and headed out onto the course for the Cambridge Half on Sunday. It’s become what I do the day before the race. I don’t like the word visualisation but that’s what I was doing. I was familiarising myself with the layout of the course and where the twists and turns were. Some of the course is quite tight and narrow and the surface along the side of the river on Jesus Green is heavily rutted and very uneven. I cycled it because running it would be too hard on my legs the day before the race. I pictured myself running the second lap. I knew it would be hard going from Silver Street to Fen Causeway on the second lap because that’s where it hurt most last year.

The race itself was brilliant again. I ran around the streets of my adopted home and savoured every second. It was a warm day – I have sunburn on my shoulders – and I probably lost time to the heat. I certainly lost time at the water stations. I slowed a little to pick up the a bag of water at each one. The little bags are easier to handle than cups or bottles but you have to squeeze the water out of them. Squeeze too hard and water goes up straight up your nose. Nasal lavage, remember? That happened on Bridge Street on the second lap. It was really unpleasant. I had my slowest km split there and the highest spike in my heart rate.

I loved having the support. There were crowds most of the way round the course. All the way down King’s Parade, round the Market Square and off along Sydney Street the noise was wonderful. I high fived kids who had their hands out and my coach Alan at the end of Trinity Street and then rocketed off round the Market on the first lap. The second lap was harder but I was going for home by then. I pushed hard from the end of Fen Causeway over the last couple of miles. I had places to make and I was tiring but determined. I picked off people one at a time. I don’t think more than two or three people overtook me but the ones who did were motoring. The last man did that going onto Midsummer Common with about 800m to go. I wasn’t going to let anyone else past.

I crossed the line in 1:37:16 (chip time). Not bad for an old bloke who had been doing hill reps for the camera the day before. I had a celebratory burger and chips in The Old Spring after the race and a piece of carrot cake and a coffee in Afternoon Tease after that. It was a good day and a great weekend. I’m very happy now and quite tired still. I’ll find out whether I’ve been selected as an ashmei ambassador soon. I’ll let you know.

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