Javalin’s Jumbo Targa Rally

Two weeks on from our last targa, and a straightened and sprayed bonnet and other bent bits fixed, it was time for our first Chelmsford MC/Anglian Targa Rally of the year. Matt had found the handbrake wasn’t working properly and had got it fixed, and for the first time on a Targa we had moved from 1A to 1B tyres; everybody else seems to do it, and we decided to follow the crowd, albeit picking them up cheaply as they are second hand.

Things got a little complicated at the last minute with tow car issues the day before we were due to leave, but we managed to hire a van so we could use the trailer; and what a good decision that turned out to be! Matt had driven the MG ZR during the week and all was ok, but come scrutineering and we had a reasonable leak. It turned out the water pump had failed, and without the trailer, I’m not sure we would even have started and taken the risk.

Jamie Turner (who knows anything and everything there is to know about Rovers and MGs and many other cars besides) recommended we found some Stop Leak, as it’s easier to clean out than K Seal. We asked around, and Sheldon Furby came up with the goods; a rally paddock is a great place to be as everyone always mucks in and helps each other.

We topped up the coolant as much as possible, loaded the car with extra water, and off we went. We were running Car 6 and were both driving, meaning 38 tests; I’m not sure either of us were too confident we would finish.

Matt added a digital gauge to the car last year so we could monitor the coolant temperature constantly and accurately. It clearly wasn’t happy, but after the first few tests with Matt driving it started to settle and there was less steam. The tests were busy; constant instructions being given as a navigator, but things seemed to be going ok. It was then time for me to drive, and I was quicker than Matt; not by a lot, but enough!

On the second loop of tests I drove first, and I went out committed but perhaps a little too much… Wethersfield has a mix of gravel and tarmac and I had my first spin in a few years on some gravel where I carried too much speed, but straight back into first gear and I carried on leaving behind a cloud of dust. Things seemed to be going ok, but Matt was coming back at me.

We ran the car with full heaters on all day with the extra fan always on to try and keep the engine as cool as possible. I will never run with the windows down (as per the regulations) so as the sun came out, it got a little toasty inside! But, if running with the heaters on meant getting a finish, it was worth it…

Our day continued to go well and touch wood, the car was holding together but by this time Matt was taking time out of me. I completed all 19 of my tests as a driver, and then it was time for Matt’s final loop, tests 16, 17, 18 and 19. All was going well until the end of test 18; the Stop Leak had done us proud and got us so far, but it had given up. Lots of steam, lots of leaking coolant/water, but just one test and 2.4 miles left.

We had nothing to lose, so in went more water, off we went and it seemed to be another day luck was looking down on us, as we made it to the finish in a good time for the test. We left a little trail of water for people to follow back to the paddock, and having examined the car, we wouldn’t have made it through another test; we were very lucky! It also highlighted to us that buying a trailer was a good move, as we wouldn’t have made it home under our own power. On the drive back, we dropped the car at The Rover Centre, and now we’ve asked them to replace the water pump and change the cam belts, ready for our next event.

Photos by M&H Photography.

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London Landmarks Half Marathon

The London Landmarks Half Marathon…where to start?!

I entered the London Landmarks ballot in 2018, with a view that if I didn’t get into the London Marathon it would be something that was fun to do, and if I did get in I could use it as a training run.

As it was, I did get into the London Marathon and so this half marathon became a training run. I’ve chosen a different training plan this year and at points have been worried I’ve been behind because I keep comparing myself to last year, but I have to remember that this plan is different; and actually a half marathon on this date was exactly spot on for my training!

We had our niece staying for the weekend and so I heading into London early on my own, ready to drop my bag and get ready. I was early and so had a quick banana and made sure I was ready in plenty of time.

The previous week I’d trained to 11 miles but found it really tough with the wind and conditions. My pace hadn’t been there and I’d hoped that it would be with the atmosphere etc for this event. I set off quickly (for me, it’s all relative!) and things felt good. I knew Matt and Elouise were at mile 3 and the noise coming onto Embankment was immense; I wish I’d recorded it! It was constant, and then I saw them; I stopped for a brief second and off I went again. Mile 3 was the first water station and I needed it, it was a warm day.

I made sure I used this event to practise fuelling, something I’m not always on top of in training and something I didn’t get quite right in the marathon last year. At this event though, it was going to plan. I knew my Mum was somewhere around mile five/six having come to London for the day to support me, and before too long I saw her. She was at a part of the course which doubles back on itself so I saw her twice.

Mum then planned to see me at mile six/seven, but post event we’ve decided she was actually at mile eight and wasn’t quite where she thought she was and then moved on thinking she had missed me! All this time I was getting messages from friends with support (particularly Riny and Laura). My pace was still good, and I was feeling good. By this time, Matt and Elouise were in a play park and I wasn’t sure when I’d next see people, bar the finish.

Coming up to ten miles, the mental wall started to appear. It’s hard to describe, but it’s when you start to doubt yourself but for no logical reason – it’s just silly, the mind playing games. I never doubted I would finish, I knew I would, but my mind kept saying “it’s hot, feet hurt” etc and legs felt like I was wading through treacle. A lot of the course went out and back on itself, and sometimes I found that a little demoralising.

I knew my aim for the day was to be as close to three hours as possible and still my pace was good even if I was playing mind games with myself unintentionally. The 10 mile marker was at Tower Hill and I kept telling myself “just 5km left, that’s a short training session.” I messaged Riny and Laura and said “please keep the messages coming!” (they were tracking me on the app). I knew I had Matt, Elouise and Mum at the finish but it felt a way off. Suddenly, my friend and colleague Sarah was there – surprise! It was great to see her and she was with me for just under half a mile, we had a quick chat, and I carried on.

The end of the route felt it went on forever; just under three miles along the Embankment before a hairpin right in front of Big Ben, short section coming back on yourself, and then two 90Ls before the finish. Coming up to the 12 mile marker, both my watch and Strava (two separate tracking methods) told me I’d hit half marathon distance. As I’m slow, quite understandably I have to keep left, but it means extra distance. Half marathon time came up as 3:04, a personal best for me by 50 minutes, result!

At mile 12 were the London Show Choir, and they were singing Defying Gravity. I absolutely love my music and went past with my hands above my head clapping, and to have amazing music, singing and them all acknowledge me back was spine tingling.

I kept plodding up Embankment, and then it was time for the final slog! When I hit the 13 mile marker, I decided there was nothing left for it but a sprint finish. I kicked and just heard people shouting and cheering and my name; another spine tingling moment. I knew my family where somewhere there on the right but I couldn’t look, I could only see the finish. I remember seeing them in my peripheral vision and raising a hand, and I realised a couple of people were coming up on me, so my competitive spirit appeared and I kicked in harder to make the finish line as I didn’t want to be overtaken at that point (I wasn’t). And that was it!

Slow walking afterwards, medal collection and then I waited for my friends and family. Elouise came over and gave me the biggest hug (despite my sweaty state!) and then stayed with me. The event volunteers were kind enough to give her a finisher’s wristband which she hugely appreciated, I swapped to flip flops, and we found a local pub for some lunch. I never want to eat after training, but knew I needed to!

It was a great day, and seeing it as a “training run with atmosphere” was brilliant. I wanted a good run because I knew it would give me confidence to carry forward, and it did. Although April means double the distance, there’s a lot to take from that event and I’m happy. Through my charity place, I’ve access to running coaches so I’ve been in touch with them for some advice/queries but being reminded of the atmosphere/support and practising things “in race conditions” was brilliant. Bring on April!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

Clicking on any of the below images will make them full size.

A new Targa for us… Bramley

Last year we were on holiday when Farnborough ran the Bramley Targa for the first time, but this year we were around and in our entries went in our MG ZR. The venue is a little over 75 minutes from home making it a more local event for us.

We were double driving, and didn’t quite know what to expect! Having recently bought a trailer, it was our first event using it and travelling together was an added bonus.

Scrutineered, signed on etc and it was time for us to start as we were car 3. The tests were tight, all first or second gear, but clear and easy to see where we were going. They were very slippery, with mud and leaves. Matt drove first and then it was my turn. We were both struggling with a lack of grip and a handbrake that wasn’t reliable or working properly; the car wasn’t giving much confidence but we were not too sure why, we just knew we were both finding it a little bit of a battle and it wasn’t really flowing.

On Matt’s second loop of tests, we had a little “moment” (no photographs exist!). We ended up 90 degrees to the road, nose down in a ditch… not ideal. The test had to be stopped (sorry everyone) as we were blocking it. My biggest relief was that we didn’t roll, as it was a carbon copy of a roll I once had with a tank slapper before going off, but this time luck was on our side.

We thought we were going to need a tow but some creative, woodland engineering worked and we got out with the help of many marshals. We pulled out of the way so the test could restart and it seemed we’d got away with it; a damaged bonnet, bent spot light bracket etc but no damage to the radiator. We drove out of the test and carried on; lady luck was on our side!

We didn’t have much time in service before my run, and so it was the lunch break before we tried to straighten things out (a tree and a ratchet strap did the job!). There was nothing too spectacular to talk about; I picked up more cone penalties than I’ve ever received before but things were going ok.

We finished up with 7th in class, 29th overall with me driving and 8th in class, 37th overall with Matt driving and me navigating as well as taking home the best mixed crew award. One of those days that luck was on our side, and we were extremely grateful to get a finish!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Upping the distance (11 miles/18km)

As predicted, nearly a week away with work and very long (17/18 hour) days meant training went completely out of the window. I had Tuesday off after an eight day stint and I thought “oh yes, I’ll train.” Well no… I was exhausted, I didn’t realise quite how tired I was, and with the weather being horrid I thought I’d go to the gym instead. However, my mind body seemed to have other ideas and before I knew it the day was flying by and it was time for a sports massage I’d booked, and that was that.

That meant that today, Saturday, became LSR (long, slow run) day instead. I’d hoped to do 9 miles on Tuesday and up it today but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve been to the gym to swim during the week, but no outdoor running.

I took the Waddesdon Greenway which I tried a few weeks ago, but I’d underestimated just how intense the wind was going to be. I wasn’t going into it, I didn’t have it behind me, but it was sideways. I was leaning into it just to stay upright and it was ferocious and unrelenting! After 6km and reaching the Waddesdon estate, I turned round and decided my last 6km could be around Aylesbury with hopefully the buildings providing some shelter.

As I came back into Aylesbury, I decided to take the Thames path instead and followed that along the river, until coming back along the various roads and estates that make up that area. I was two minutes from home but about 1km short so then came the fun and games of adding distance around where I live to hit 18km!

I would like to have made 20km today, but with the London Landmarks Half Marathon next weekend, 18km is good and next week will push me. I’m exactly on plan according to the Dementia Revolution Walk/Run plan, so whilst I might have had a few moments of doubt today, I need to remember I’m where I should be! It’s really hard not to compare yourself to others, but it isn’t the best idea as we are all different and have our own plans.

Earlier this week, I went in to see my local council as they are working to make Aylesbury a dementia friendly town and they’ve done some promotion of my efforts on social media which is great. I also trialled my new trainers today which were comfortable. Matt (my husband) kindly offered to buy them for me and I’m very grateful; they’re Asics and not cheap, but exactly the same as I already have (albeit a different colour) and these will be the shoes to see me through the all important next few weeks!

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

Marathon silly season starts…

Marathon silly season; I found this last year and hated it, and I hate it again this year. Marathon silly season is the name I give to the period not too long before the marathon where you are absolutely determined not to get injured/ill etc, but something silly means you do. In my case, it was twisting around in the bathroom; cue a twisted ankle that hurt and didn’t like weight bearing; great!

A combination of that and a very busy weekend (the Bath Festival Targa/getting in at 0230 and a busy Sunday being out and about) meant I delayed my long slow run to Monday morning, with the idea being to go before work. It helped with my ankle too which wasn’t right but was slowly getting better. I set an early alarm, but I knew I was tired and hey presto, I slept through it…!

I still got out, but I only managed 8km (5 miles); better than nothing but not quite what I had planned. I know sessions are going to be really hard as I’m about to go away for work for a week and I’ve seen the schedule; it’s packed, and I think if I’m lucky my best opportunity will be working out in my room! Really not ideal, but I’m a little stuck at the moment for options.

If you’d like to sponsor me for the London Landmarks Half Marathon and the London Marathon 2019 for Dementia Revolution, you can do so here.

You can also watch a short video I’ve put together here.

Navigating on the Bath Festival

The Bath Festival was a new event for me, and with Matt and I both out navigating, we took a road car to the event which should have been a nice luxury. Unfortunately we had a puncture on the way down, and having topped the tyre with air twice, ended up changing it so not quite the relaxed journey we had planned!

I was out navigating for Luis Gutierrez-Diaz in his MG ZR and having met up at scrutineering, we signed on. I went over paperwork and had the option of navigating from maps or tulips, however whichever option I chose would mean transferring some information from one to the other. I initially chose maps, but ended up using a combination of both (and relying on tulips), which had worked for us on the Exmoor and worked again on this event.

The drivers’ briefing was 1445 as the tests were running into the afternoon and evening, and before too long it was time for us to head off. The first test was around a farmyard with greasy concrete; I think I enjoyed it more than Luis! Then, it was off into the forests and we seemed to be doing ok.

Luis and I were running in the Clubman class because whilst I have a Motorsport UK competition licence, Luis doesn’t due to some additional costs from the Spanish ASN as he is Spanish. We found out we were leading the class from some messages and all seemed to be going well. There were a couple of petrol halts, but not long to get ourselves together.

When we got back to the finish we were still 1st in class but when the final results were announced we’d dropped to 2nd; it turned out one crew had been in the wrong class during the day and it was corrected on the final results. Still a very good result for us, just not quite what we thought!

The tests were very different to the Exmoor and just showed the difference in forests and regional variation; they weren’t quite as smooth, but therefore there were less manoeuvres needed to keep the average speed down. I’ve enjoyed both events, and would happily go back again.

We got home just before 0230 in the morning so a long day, but worthwhile!

Photos by M&H Photography.

Scatter win!

Matt and I both miss competing on scatters locally, and so a day off for me and Matt working in London (meaning he could get the train out to Kent) saw us enter the Sevenoaks & District Motor Club event. There aren’t any clubs near us running scatters, hence having to travel.

We decided I would navigate, which would be good practise, but the thing I always find hardest on a scatter is picking a good route and it being as efficient as possible. The idea of a scatter is that you’re given a number of clues which you have to plot, and then you drive to these points to find answers to clues at those locations. These are “scattered” over a map, hence the name, and you “just” have to be back at the finish venue by a set time.

I decided we would head West first to pick up a few “outliers” for valuable points, before using an A road to get us to the East side of the map and start, where more clues were located. This worked well, although one wrong call from me did lead to us passing over a clue as we should have been on a local road underneath the bridge!

I was a little concerned we arrived back at the pub a little too early (six minutes in hand) but there were no obvious other clues to collect, and there was a location we’d visited but couldn’t find the answer.

When results were announced, we found we were first overall which was a pleasant surprise, and a welcome result! I’ve won a few scatters as a driver but never as a navigator, so it was good to pick up a win in the left hand seat.