Sunday, February 18, 2018

In the dark

Not as in being kept in the dark but actually running in the dark!

This was an event to get a feel for running in total darkness for several hours, wearing a headtorch and carrying a small hand-held torch. I was also using it to test my night-time pacing.

The event, which used the same route we will be running for my latest Challenge, started at 3pm and had an 8 hour time limit. This meant we only had 2 laps in daylight before we needed to carry torches etc. I was slightly nervous, no very nervous, about the dark section as the route has many potential trip hazards in the form of slippery slopes, tree roots, loose stones and uneven surfaces so I knew I needed to be extra careful.

It was a beautiful but chilly day and I'd taken extra layers to add for when the sun went down. I'm very glad I did as when I finished the car was frosted over.

I didn't take my camera with me so the following photos come courtesy of fellow runner Sharon (thanks for sharing).

The route was on farmland and basecamp was in a giant barn

Each lap was 6.25 miles so that meant 4 laps plus a short loop for marathon distance or 5+ laps for an ultra. When we set out I hadn't decided which to go for so kept my options open.

The route was a mixture of muddy trail with concrete tracks

Kirsty demonstrating her water-jumping skills!

I wasn't sure whether to go out faster for the daylight laps and then adopt my slower night-time pace or to start slower right from the start. I chose the second option and settled into my chosen pace quite easily with added walk breaks for the really muddy/slippery sections.

It was lovely watching the sun go down and it was fascinating feeling the sudden drop in temperature. 

After lap 2 I exchanged my usual baseball cap for a warmer option without a peak but with earflaps, added a neck buff, another outer layer, thicker gloves, headtorch and handheld torch. This was the scary bit for me as my eyesight is challenging in dim conditions. However, what I found was that I coped better with a lower light setting on both torches than with them on a really bright setting. No idea why but it seemed to work.

I also wanted to see how I felt running on my own in the dark even though in my final event I will be buddying up with someone for the night section. Amazingly I felt OK and actually enjoyed letting my mind wander and spotting night creatures peeping out from the undergrowth. I spotted the sweetest little mouse in a verge and a beautiful Barn Owl out hunting along the ditches (I thought it was a bit cold but he must have been hungry).

At the end of lap 4 my time was 5:45 and Rachel asked me if I was going out for an extra lap or stopping at marathon distance. After a few moments thought I decided to stick with a marathon as I'd achieved what I wanted and so I trotted out for a short 1.75 loop to make up the distance, coming in at 6:01. This also meant that I could head for home before the pubs closed and there would be more  traffic so the roads were quite quiet and I made good time getting home.

Marathon 142 done and dusted.

Next weekend I have another marathon as a training run and then I'll be counting down to the main event. The Press Release from ARUK should go out at the end of next week and then I'll be announcing it officially on here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Woes

My ultra marathon yesterday, the Gothic Challenge, was wet, windy and a rather tough challenge both mentally and physically. It was the same location and route as the previous 2 but the weather forecast was even worse than before with rain and wind throughout.

I donned my waterproof jacket right at the start but that didn't stop the blimming wind taking my breath away. This time we were running uphill into the wind - nice! However, the weather gods must haven taken pity on us as the rain didn't come until later and we were treated to 2 hours of rain-free running before it did its worst and soaked us.

This time I was practising my fuelling strategy (get me sounding all knowledgeable, as if!) and I tried out some Tailwind combined with solid food (a piece of my banana cake & some salty crisps) which didn't cause any tummy problems. For many years I've trained in what's known as a 'fasted' state which just means I don't eat before I run which helps train your body to burn fat as a fuel rather than relying on taking in lots of carbohydrates. With what I have planned in a few weeks (details to follow very soon) I will have to take on much more fuel than I'm accustomed to so hence the trial. Apparently using Tailwind helps aid recovery too.

There's not much to say about the run itself as it was just a case of putting your head down and grinding out the miles. We were certainly a strange looking bunch all hidden behind cowls/hats with our heads bowed against the wind.

I opted for the 'short-ultra' of 29 miles and was delighted to finish in 6:00:36 which included a trip to the toilet and nipping back to my car to get some nice dry gloves (oh how wonderful it felt to exchange my soaking wet gloves for some nice warm and dry ones).

Next I have the Moonlight Challenge which starts on Saturday afternoon and goes into the night. A nice dry day would be very welcome!

Marathon 141

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wow for Wonderful Wendy

Somebody I Used to Know

I can't believe I forgot to write about this, so sorry Wendy! The Wendy to whom I am referring is the lovely Wendy Mitchell who blogs at which me am I today? and her book 'Somebody I Used to Know' has just been published.

If you look on the right side of my blog you'll see her having a chat with me before the launch of Join Dementia Research (JDR). She is a truly lovely lady and a shining beacon of hope for people in a similar situation as her with early-onset Alzheimer's. She was 58 at the time of diagnosis in 2014 and she was determined to carry on with as near normal a life as possible whilst acknowledging the restrictions her conditions imposed upon her. In her words "I want to do something now - I don't want to just sit here and wait for this disease to make its march on my mind".

The book has received excellent reviews in the newspapers but when the Alzheimer's Society posted details on Facebook I noticed there were some negative comments, such as 'there's no good side to having dementia", ironically because she is so optimistic. I see both sides.

Having spoken with a lot of people with early-onset Alzheimer's they all say that they have to stay positive otherwise they'd just give up and I fully understand that. It was speaking with Wendy that made me very aware of the words I use when talking about dementia. People told me that they hated the expression "suffering from dementia", which I used to say when talking about my mum, because they don't want to feel like victims. I respect that and now say that she "lived with dementia" which at least makes people feel that they still have some control over their condition.

Wendy says "Dementia can be a lonely world to live in" and notes "people assume you can't participate". I think she serves as a shining example of how you can still have a good quality of life whilst dealing with the restrictions the condition imposes upon her. Well done lovely lady.

A Brace of Ultras

I'm really short of time at the moment so I'll just leave this photo here with a few words:

On Saturday it was cold, it rained and I got wet whilst running 31.5 miles but got that massive silver medal. On Sunday it was bitterly cold, there was a biting wind and there was a bit of 'snail' (that's my description of a combination of sleet and hail which pounded onto my head!) and I ran 29 miles and got the Music Legends medal on the left.

When I booked these events I could have run today too but chose to take a day of rest and to run tomorrow instead. Today, whilst cold and a bit blowy, is lovely and bright but the forecast for tomorrow is RAIN. Deep joy!

They were marathons 139 & 140.

A Quick Show of Carbeth

It took a few days to dry

I used Mel's clever idea of inserting a plate in the collar to keep it a good shape

Mike was busy when I needed photos so I improvised with the easy but not very attractive bathroom mirror technique coupled with Photo-booth on my computer!

I made this specifically to be worn over this dress which is a favourite I wear for speaking opportunities for Alzheimer's Research UK when worn with a jacket but I wanted something less formal as an alternative.

I have about 4" of positive ease and it sits nicely above my waist.

It does sit away from my back like Kate's model does but I couldn't show it because when I lifted my arms out of the way it moved towards my waist!

I love the whole thing and am really pleased with how the neckline sits. I may have to make another in purple........

Right, that's it for now as I need to prepare for another ultra tomorrow.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Eat, Sleep, Run, Repeat

That's what it's felt like for the start of this year and all of a sudden my big event is getting closer. I'm still not ready to announce it to everyone but I know the Press Release will have to go out soon. Oh my!

In the meantime I've been doing plenty of long runs and lots of cross-training to try and be in the best possible shape. I did a virtual 30 Day challenge last month with some chums on Facebook where we had to do a certain number of squats each day for a month. This month we've added more squats, tricep dips & more core work. Plus I'm still going to Bootcamp at The Hub in Bodiam on Fridays with the lovely Sarah and although it's tough I'm enjoying it very much.

Sarah, our instructor. She makes us work hard but adapts an exercise if you struggle with - I can't do Burpees 'cos they hurt my wrists so when others are doing them I do squats instead.

A welcome rest break!

Today we did circuits of 1 minute at each station followed by ever-increasing numbers of burpees (or in my case, squats) then moving straight onto the next mat for another 1 minute activity. After we'd completed one round we had a 2 minute break before doing the whole thing again. I'll try to remember all the activities; all were 1 minute each: I started with the 5kg ball (which you can see on the right of the photo) which you had to hold with both arms above your head and walk forward and return, then it was squats, the plank (centre bottom in the photo), skipping, press-ups, walking lunges, out and back jogging, tricep dips and finally 2 jumps forward/1 jump back.

That's me with the skipping rope looking very PINK. I found skipping quite difficult but got into the rhythm eventually.

It's much nicer doing a workout outside rather than in the gym and the added bonus is that I can run there and back.

Last weekend I didn't have any formal events so I had to do back-to-back long runs on Saturday & Sunday. I deliberately didn't take my camera with me but really wished I had as I saw some amazing views. I chose 2 equally hilly but different routes of just over 20 miles each to test my legs and I was delighted that I managed both days in almost exactly the same time. There was a point on Sunday when my heart sank as I was going downhill for a couple of miles and it suddenly dawned on me that it was an out-and-back route and that I would have to go back up the afore-mentioned hill! Still, it was a great test of mental and physical stamina.

During the week I did a few 10 milers, one of which was in heavy rain and I saw this little fellow floating around at the side of the road but I didn't have my camera again so went back the next day to snap him (although the rain had drained away by then):

Having had some dreary and very wet/windy days it was a joy to run around the lanes as everywhere looked beautiful.

The cowls on the Oast house stood out against the blue sky

I loved the bright yellow ochre of the twigs on this willow set against the coppery leaves of the Beech hedge

The climbing ivy formed wonderful patterns and reminded me of Pre-Raphaelite paintings

The Woodmans log pile is maturing nicely and yielded some wonderfully frilly fungi:

I shall be doing the same again this weekend, on different routes though, and will definitely take my camera with me even though it means I'll take longer.

In other news I got a lovely card from Lily the vet who attended Esther. She wanted to reassure me that I'd done the right thing in having her put to sleep. She also sent me some Forget Me Not seeds which I'll sew into the planters by the garage. What a lovely and thoughtful thing to do.

Knitting-wise I was up to the collar when my game of yarn-chicken came to an abrupt end as my last ball ran out. Bother! As Artesano cased trading in 2016 I thought it would be easy to find an extra ball but it took and awful lot of of searching before I found one. Phew! It will now be finished in an evening.

Soon as the Seville oranges appeared in the shops I bought enough to make marmalade with some extras for a special cake I make each year. Their bitterness makes the most divine marmalade. Plus, the juice makes a fabulous marinade for pork chops which Mike enjoys (not that I've ever tasted them as I'm vegetarian).

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mud glorious mud!

I don't know how else to describe last weekend other than to say that the mud on Saturday was joined by snow on the Sunday.

We were back at the beautiful Ranscombe Nature Reserve which is very pretty in Spring-Autumn but I've always avoided it in the Winter months until now and even then I didn't really want to go because I knew how ghastly conditions would get underfoot. Heavy rain on top of chalk and clay over loose flints is a really bad combination for someone who has a tendency to trip over her own shadow!

At the race briefing on Saturday Traviss asked me how far I was going and I stoically replied "ultra" and he announced that I would earn a purple hoody (my favourite colour) for  completing 2000 miles at their events. Ha, that changed as the day wore on.

Did I fall over? Yes, twice on lap 5 on Day 1 at which point I made the sensible decision to drop down to marathon distance so I walked the last lap in the amiable company of Kat whose dad is in the latter stages of dementia so we had a good old chin-wag as we slipped around in the mud like Bambi on ice. On Day 2 there was snow/rain and even deeper mud and no, I didn't go over marathon distance.

I'll let the photos, courtesy of a valiant fellow runner, do the talking as they give a reasonable idea of conditions underfoot.  It was a struggle from start to finish.

Base station

This puddle was useful for cleaning my trail shoes after I'd finished

This is the section where I fell - my legs literally went from under me and I landed on my right hip and shoulder. Ouch but no blood!

Ooooh look, another puddle to wade through!

The Darnley Mausoleum

The slope at the top of this photo was the most treacherous bit to negotiate. I found it very scary going down  it.

This quagmire was approached from the bottom of the photo and what you can't see is how steep the descent was - oh my goodness that was slippery!

A nice flurry of snow joins the mud on Day 2

Walking poles were even more important on day 2 when the snow came!

Please remind me never to enter a Winter event at Ranscombe again!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

All Change

It had to happen, I knew that, but when Esther went off her soaked hay I hoped it would pass and anyway I was trying to keep her weight down and we were still experimenting with the drugs to ease her Cushings disease. But when my normally happy and easy-going 30 year old lady refused her feed bucket the other morning I just knew where this was heading.

Esther loved to get a feed bucket because it was a special treat and of course it served to get her medicine into her system.

I phoned the vet for advice even though she and I knew what the outcome would be. She came as soon as she could and she examined Esther. I stroked Esther's nose to reassure her and Mike stood by just watching. I knew what she was going to say as she spoke, "perhaps we could try....but.....concerns sounds in her stomach", then the words I was expecting "perhaps it's time...." and I felt the tears I'd been suppressing well up in my eyes as I turned towards her and replied that it was OK, I'd been expecting that option and yes I did believe it was 'time'.

Arrangements were made with the same man who'd visited us just 4 short months ago when Kizzy had to leave us and at the appointed hour I started to lead Esther across her field and into the next one which she'd never been in before. Mike followed on together with the vet and her assistant. We were worried that the ground would be too soft to get the vehicle onto the field but the man said it would be OK and not worry and so we took her near to the gate and stopped.

She stood quietly as I stroked her nose and the vet shaved through her lovely thick coat to find a vein. I spoke to her softly about things shared only between us and I looked deep into her beautiful brown eyes as the vet administered the drugs to make her drowsy. As the drugs began to do their work Mike asked me if I wanted him to hold her for the final injection but I needed to be there to reassure her, to say goodbye and to say thank you. I was aware there was blood pumping out of the artery as the lethal injection was administered but I just carried on looking deep into her soul and watched her drifting quietly away. 

Then she was gone.

I cried and Mike hugged me then I walked back to the house with the vet whilst Mike stayed with the man who was taking her away. When the vet had gone I went to sit by the pond and I sobbed, great big fat uncontrollable tears. This was truly the end of an era. I've had horses in my life for so long.

When I'd cried enough I started to walk back to the house and saw Mike coming back across the field. He'd been trying to phone me but of course I was outside. The driver had got his vehicle stuck in the field and needed a colleague to bring a winch to help him get out. Oh for goodness sake! By this time it was dark and so Mike headed back out with flashlights to help. Apparently the field has been churned up but I haven't felt able to go and look, not just yet.

So that's it, our 2 lovely ladies have gone to pastures new and we enter another era.

One of my friends sent me these beautiful words:

If it should be that I grow weak and pain should keep me from my sleep, then you must do what must be done, for this last battle can't be won. You will be sad I understand, but don't let grief then stay your hand. For this day more than all the rest, your love for me must stand the test. We've had so many happy years, what is to come can hold no tears. You don't want me to suffer, so, the time has come, please let me go. Take me where my fears they will tend, but please stay with me till the end, to hold me and to speak to me until my eyes no longer see. I know in time you will agree, it was a kindness done for me, from pain and suffering I am saved. Please do not grieve that it was you who had this painful thing to do. We've been so close we two these years, don't let your heart hold any tears.

Well that brought the tears back I can tell you! Thanks Sheila xxx

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pootling along

I've just been pootling along with things for the last few days. A bit of knitting, a bit of walking, a bit of cross-training and rather a lot of running.

I'll start with the knitting as a friend emailed me to ask how she could check if a jumper she was knitting top-down would fit. She's just started knitting again after a long break and has joined a knitting group to give her confidence but they aren't very beginner-friendly and she was too embarrassed to ask. Please find yourself another group!

In the meantime here are some photos to help guide you:

Find a nice blunt needle with a large eye

Select a long length of yarn of either the same or slightly thinner weight and thread the needle.  Remember that when you try the garment on your knitting will be stretched so be sure to allow for this (you could leave it attached to the ball if you like but make sure the cats are nowhere around when you try it on or chaos will ensue!). Using a contrast colour  is a good idea 'cos you won't get confused when you come to put the stitches back on the needle.

Insert the needle into the first stitch. You can slide each stitch off individually.....

.....or wait until they are all safely on the spare thread.  Try the garment on and when you've finished put the stitches back onto the needles and pull out the contrast thread. You'll soon get back into knitting and get your confidence back xxx

Whilst we're in the knit zone I'll just show what I started on Saturday night when my marathon brain needed something easy-peasy. It's Carbeth by Kate Davies and as soon as I saw it I knew I'd have to make it as I knitted a sweater in the same shape about 25 years ago and I loved it. My original was a pattern from Vogue International magazine. The sleeves were slightly different but it hung in the same 1960s way and looked fab on when I was nice and slim. I gave it to a charity shop when I put on weight as that sort of boxy style does not look good on a larger frame. I'm hoping it will look OK on my current shape!

This year I am definitely not going to buy any more yarn and am sorting through my stash with the intention of donating some to a Charity Shop or to a group who knit for charity. So I rummaged around and found some lovely aran-weight yarn by Artesano. Sadly the company ceased trading in 2016 which is a great shame as it's a lovely soft alpaca/wool yarn.

The true colour looks nothing like this!

I swatched using an aubergine colour then decided I'd knit using the cream as it's more versatile and wearable.

It has good stitch definition too.

Let's take a short walk

To make sure I'm in the best shape possible for my next my charity challenge, I'm doing lots of strengthening exercises along with Bootcamp nearby and weekly yoga sessions. On Bootcamp day I run the 2 miles there and back and last week there was a mist hanging in the valley so I took some photos on the way there.

My route takes me along a 'holloway' which is a sunken track lower than the land on either side. This particular one was once a bridle path, or so I'm told.

As I headed downwards the mist swirled upwards to meet me.

The colours seemed to be intensified by the strange light

The orchard of bare cider-apple trees looked rather eerie!

A blanket of mist had settled in the valley

As I passed the sheep I met a man and his dog, a lovely friendly black German Shepherd cross. We exchanged pleasantries and went our separate ways. About .25 mile later the dog appeared beside me and wouldn't go back no matter how much I tried to send him home. I looked back for his owner but there was no sign of him so I assumed he must be just out of sight around the bend. Then I started to wonder if something had happened to his owner and he needed help so I turned to head back and just as I did the man drove along the track in his car. He apologised and said the dog had never done that before. Perhaps I'm turning into a dog-whisperer!

Bootcamp was tough, as you'd expect and I really felt some of the exercises in my legs and bum and did wonder if it was wise to do that sort of workout the day before 2 hard ultra marathons. After a short warm-up we did 'circuits' of various exercises for 1 minute on each mat before moving around to the next mat for some different torture eg squats (ouch), press-ups, walking lunges (ouch), sit-ups, planks, bicep curls, plus several more things which I seem to have blanked from my memory! Then we got a 2 minute break before we repeated the whole process. Then the others did burpees which I can't do 'cos of the arthritis in my wrists so I had to do some jump squats in which you do squats with a weight (ouch and double ouch!). We finished with some gentle stretches and then I trotted off home. No, that's a lie, I walked!

The ultra marathons (the Cakeathon & Chocathon Challenges)

My weekend can be described as eat, sleep, run, repeat! I'd prepared our meals in advance, baked the cakes for the first event which was another Cakeathon and made sure Mike was OK with Esther's evening meal 'cos I knew I wouldn't be back in daylight. Both events were held over at Betteshanger country park, same as on NYD, but this time we were running on the trails which is always a bit tougher especially after rain. However, the weather was kind to us on both days and the trails had dried off completely by Sunday.

As we set off on Saturday my whole body said 'OUCH' but after about 20 minutes of gentle running the niggles disappeared and I settled into a nice comfortable pace. There were several of the 'usual suspects' there but also lots of new people which was nice. It's wonderful to see people achieving things they never thought possible.

I was trying out a different fuelling strategy and had filled my bottles with Tailwind which is used by lots of marathon runners. Did it make a difference? I'm not sure but I'll keep trying it for a few more to see.

I didn't stop at the aid station at all and just had my card punched after each lap and headed straight back out again. It was 8 laps for a marathon o 9+ laps for an ultra marathon. After I'd completed my 9th lap I still had enough time to go out for 1 more complete lap but instead opted for doing half a lap to make it up to 50k, which is 31.1 miles, as I didn't push myself too hard given that I had to do the same again the next day.

On Sunday morning everything hurt and I was not hopeful of a good time. However, once I'd started running and the niggles had eased out a bit I settled into a decent enough pace and was delighted to finish just 9 minutes slower than the day before. I even managed a sprint finish for the last .5 mile as I didn't want that pesky Nick, see below from a different race) to catch up with me. Go leggies!

I really must write about Nick as he's been doing the most amazing things since he last made an appearance on my blog.

All in all that was a very satisfactory weekend of running and it's given me some confidence for the task ahead.

I got a trophy for both my cakes - my usual banana loaf and 2nd prize for my vegan banana cake which I've perfected at last.

The ladies got sparkly cake medals whilst the men got a more manly version.

Sparkly cakes!

My finish times were 6:20:17 for day 1 and 6:29:24 for day 2 so only 9 minutes slower which was very pleasing indeed for 50k. 

Next weekend will be the same sort of thing only on a course which is not my favourite as I've fallen over there several times and it's hillier too. I shall be taking my walking poles with me just in case.

Happy News

Several years ago the charity I support re-branded itself from Alzheimer's Research Trust to Alzheimer's Research UK. This left me with a large quantity of tee shirts in various sizes that I couldn't donate to charity as they had the logo on and I had no idea what to do with them as it didn't seem right for them just to be recycled.

Then I met a fellow runner who collected tee shirts and took them to a Christian charity in Kiyindi, Uganda so I gave them to her. The other day she sent me this lovely photo and I was delighted to see them put to good use.