Thursday, February 11, 2016

Play time!

I managed to have a mid-week crafting day yesterday to make up for the weekend I didn't get. I love it when a dreary wet day arrives and I don't need to be somewhere/do things away from home.

I've got an unexpected additional marathon this weekend on Valentine's Day which I hadn't intended on doing but Mike's busy on something, a place became available and that was it - I entered.

Day 1 is called The Unusual Suspects Challenge and we're invited to wear the most vile coloured running vest we have. I'm not sure I can find one that's too ghastly but I do have some nice stripey tights, a tutu and some clashing colours to wear.

Day 2 is The Valentine's Day Challenge where the theme is pink and red so I set about making some decorations for my running cap.

I started with a large crochet heart for the front using Bunny Mummy's sweet pattern which was the perfect size using 4 ply yarn.

Then I made  a teeny-weeny heart for the back, just making it up as I went along.

Cut out some different sized hearts in felt:

Added a bead to the centre of the tiniest hearts and then joined them to each side of my cap using running stitch (how appropriate!).


But there really were not enough hearts for my liking (I love hearts!) and so when I nipped out for the horse feed I popped into a Charity shop (OK, I did make a rather unnecessary detour to get there) and look what I found for £1.99:

Maybe not quite traditional running gear but what the heck, it's just a bit of fun to brighten up the day.

To complete my outfit I shall be wearing either fluoro-pink or red tights and my lovely heart socks - pure class!!!

In full-on perfectionist mode I decided I wanted to change Mike's mitten yet again so undid it all and started again. Yes, this is my 3rd attempt but I'm so glad I did as now I've got something that we both really like.

The pattern has a cuff which is turned over and I wondered if Mike would always wear them like that or if he'd prefer just a longer length going up his arm. After bouncing around ideas we decided that he'd like the option to wear them either way. So I came up with an idea which excited us - a striped section.

Although the yarn is a lovely tweedy mix of many colours with specks of mustard, turquoise and red, the overall impression just seemed too dreary even for Mike who likes things relatively subdued. I decided to pick out one of the colours and insert some stripes. But which one?

Sorry it's out of focus!

More playing with some leftover yarn from this Fair Isle project helped us to choose red and further experimentation with swatches lead to a combination of 2 beautiful reds held together - one bright and one muted.

The 2 reds we chose are 187 Sunrise and  587 Madder in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift which I used in my 'Autumn Rose' pullover

This is where I've got to on the cuff and Mike loves it. It's flying off the needles now!

I also had time left for a bit of a darning session as there are far too many holey socks languishing around at the moment:

5 pairs of mine and 2 of Mike's

Out came my darning box where I keep my mending mushrooms and spare bits of yarn for each project.

I started with a pair of Mike's where the cast-on edge had been torn and a stitch had run leaving a ladder  that was easy to fix with a crochet hook and finished with a stitch

The heel wasn't quite as simple. The other sock had hardly any wear on the heel so he must have caught this one on something and what a mess it was!

I thought about knitting a new patch for it but decided a darn would work OK if done thoroughly

I started by doing a running stitch all the way round the hole and then out came my mushroom and the darning commenced. I quite enjoy darning and it's amazing what can actually be repaired with just a bit of time and effort.

In fine fettle once again

I've just checked the weather forecast for the weekend and it looks as if we're going to get soaked on Saturday and frozen on Sunday. Hey ho, I'll just have to get the job done whatever the weather!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Catching up!

I didn't have a marathon last weekend so Mike suggested I have a weekend of 'crafting'. Of course, by the time I'd caught up with everyday chores the time available shrank considerably but I still managed some odds and ends.

I crocheted these grannies last week using oddments of DK wool and wanted to see how well they would felt in the washing machine. Not as well as I expected actually so I might give them another go in a hotter wash. I'm looking for a firmer fabric to make into a cover for my sewing machine as the existing one is looking a bit tatty.

Mike's mittens have been causing me consternation as the small needles I was using made the stitches really difficult. It's a pattern using twisted, or Bavarian stitches, which is basically cables without using a needle and it's quite absorbing but hard on my fingers with the small needles so I decided to rip back and start again using slightly larger needles. Hey ho!

This is the most accurate colour

These mittens have turned into a Sisyphian task!

I managed to do a bit more of my Craftsy class on Crazy Patchwork and my mind is full of ideas. I like to listen to the whole course before doing anything so I've got a couple more modules and then I shall start on the coursework. In the meantime I've been rummaging around in my fabric collection which was great fun.

I also rooted out some old crochet doilies and linens which could be incorporated into the final design. I have loads of buttons, beads and trimmings I could add quite apart from the embroidery possibilities. I do love planning a project! I love the idea of re-purposing things rather than just discarding them - we live in a throw-away society which hoarders like me find very strange.

Old doilies and mats to be cut up and used as decoration

These are old mats I had on my dressing table when I was a child. I don't know how old I was when I embroidered them - the blanket stitch on the edges looks a bit wonky in places!

There have of course been plenty of training runs during the last week and on the days when it wasn't raining, which were few and far between, I've been taking photos for my Fair Isle cowl project. I won't be starting this until late Spring but I'll soon have enough images to make a start at the sketching/plotting stage.

The twigginess of this un-trimmed hedge interested me, as did the carpet of rusty-coloured leaves

These tractor tyre tracks made a nice pattern

It was the reflection that caught my eye here as I've been looking for something for the mid-point on the cowl and I like the idea of a transition using an upside-down image such as this.

I'll end with a photo of another of my Amaryllis flowers. This one is 'Charisma' and is very pretty:

Starting this weekend, the next few weeks are going to be rather testing on the running front as I've got lots of marathons and ultras building towards my 50 miler in April. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Will you still need me, will you still feed me…...

…..when I'm 64? Not my age in this case, just marathon 64; or rather, another Ultra.

Yesterday was the Chocathon Challenge over at the lovely Betteshanger Country Park which has changed its name from Fowlmead Country Park when I ran it the first time back in 2014. This was my 2nd visit this month but this time the conditions underfoot were not as bad thank goodness - although it was wet and a bit slippery in places this time we didn't have to wade through massive puddles. It was dull and drizzly for the most part with a strong wind whipping up in the last couple of hours.

The day before had been spent mostly preparing home-alone-husband fare:

Don't worry, he didn't eat them all in one day!!! The cake was actually for the race but didn't make it to the event but it didn't matter as there was plenty of cake leftover from the previous day's Cakeathon.

The weather forecast didn't look as bad as the last time I visited and although it was drizzly for most of the time, with the wind whipping up for the last couple of hours, conditions underfoot were much better. Last time there were massive puddles to wade through or go around but this time they were much smaller although some parts of the path became quiet slippery after we'd run over them a few times.

It was difficult to gauge how many layers to wear and so I put 2 on with a view to removing one if I got too hot, which of course I did after just one lap!

…and they're off.

Although a few of the usual suspects were taking part, there were lots of people I didn't recognise who were attracted by the fun nature of the event. Out of the 136 people taking part, 4 of us did an Ultra, 43 did marathon distance, 14 did between between 1/2 & marathon distance, 35 did 1/2 marathon distance, 20 did 2 laps & 20 did one 1 lap so there was a real mix. Some people were building up to marathon distance and others just starting running in a safe and supportive environment. 

The only downside to this was that the field really shrank as people finished and at one point it felt as if there was only Gary and me out on the course - we ran past eachother at different points on the loop without having seen anyone else inbetween even though I knew there were others still out there!

I had a plan on how I was going to run this event - start strong and run at a good pace for as long as it felt OK, slow down to recover and take photos then speed up for the last lap. Why speed up on the last lap? To train myself to run hard on tired legs. Once your legs start to tire it's all too easy to settle into the 'shuffle' but as I'm training for the 50 miler with a tough cut-off I need to be able to dig deep and put on a bit of a spurt if need-be. I've also altered my mind-set so that 13.1 miles is no longer my halfway point and 26.2 miles is not the end. This is really important as your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you during an ultra.

Each lap was 4.37 miles so my target was 45 minutes for as many as I could muster. That all went out of the window when I hooked up with speedy Ellan on the first lap. She was doing 4 laps on the day as she needed to get home early. Our chatter completely took my mind off the fact that I was going a tad too fast and when we reached the start/finish area we'd done it in just under 40 minutes - oops! I stopped to take off a layer and have a drink/eat chocolate/cake before heading off again.

As always, there was plenty of banter with fellow runners on each lap which is one of the beauties of an out and back loop. Everyone is so friendly and it's wonderful to see people achieving their own goals.

For the marathon it was 6 loops and I wanted to do 7 loops for an ultra. At the end of each loop I stopped briefly for some water and cake (Jackie, your mum's gluten-free orange cake was my favourite!) or chocolate and I managed 4 laps in bang on 45 minutes apiece and took 3 hours to get over halfway which really pleased me. The next 2 laps I slowed down a bit and took a few photos for my Fair Isle project (see below) then on the final lap I upped my pace and ran it much harder. I was delighted that my legs responded well and I crossed the line in 6:09:01 which is 26:09 minutes faster than 2 weeks ago!

Happy to finish

Mike couldn't believe it when I phoned him much earlier than expected and I had a big grin on my face all the way home.

Yay, a PB! (thanks to Philip and Dee for the photos)
Now this being the Chocathon and a Traviss event, it was no surprise that the goody bag was exceptional. Just look at all these goodies:

Mike soon polished off the chocolate stout.

I got another piece of fabulous bling complete with special badges for doing an ultra and getting a PB!

My next event is in 12 days time so I'll be putting in some quality training runs in the meantime. Now for some photos, mostly focused on my Fair Isle project.

This beautiful lake always catches my eye as the water is this amazing turquoise colour. On this occasion I loved the turquoise set against the beige of the reeds, the darkness of the evergreen trees and the silver/grey of the Birches standing in front. The ripples on the water also made a pleasing pattern.

More Silver Birches but showing the twiggy branches which are a rusty/pink colour. The bright green grass in the foreground really zings and I like the moody sky behind the upper branches.

There was an abundance of  Buddleias which self-seed like mad and my eye was drawn to the dark brown seedheads:

A rather moody image of the dark brown stems against the grey sky

Look how the rusty brown stands out against the green of the grass and moss whilst the leaves don't show up very well…..

…..whereas this little beauty had silvery-blue leaves and shone!

Moss and lichen were in abundance and their yellowy greens really zinged:

Coppery leaves on the ground here

The grey-black of the old slag heaps  seemed to intensify the colours and would make a good background for colourwork knitting.

On the craft front I'm still doing Mike's mittens when my fingers work properly, working on a Bargello sampler and preparing for the start of my crazy quilt.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Cheeky 3 (number 63)

I wasn't supposed to have a marathon this weekend but the sea and concrete of Dymchurch were calling to me and as Traviss had a spare place I was powerless to resist. John Masefield's words came to mind:

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Well we certainly had a grey dawn didn't we and it was a bit windy although nowhere near as bad as the 40+mph winds we had back in November. Those brave souls who pounded the concrete the day before as well said that Saturday was a perfect day so it must have been me that brought the bad weather for Sunday- sorry about that!

It was quite foggy when I left home which was unfortunate as one of the lanes I use was closed off and I got sent into the network of single-track lanes I wouldn't choose to use when the fog is so dense it bounces back at your headlights when on full beam. Thankfully I encountered neither deer nor other vehicles so I arrived at Dymchurch bright and early. I headed off to collect my number, took a few photos and then went back to the car for a nice warm coffee.

The tide was out early on but the sand soon disappeared beneath a murky sea

Shades of grey and browns interested me

The railings made me think of corrugated rib (see below)

The ribbing I used for the Oregon cardigan is very like those railings and relates to my new Fair Isle project (details later)

Why did I take this photo of a rather uninspiring Martello Tower? Because the colours of the concrete interested me (stop calling me "saddo"!!!)

Before we set off Traviss made the usual announcements but there was a very special presentation for Tiago Dionso who has completed 400 marathons and got a special trophy as he has completed 100 marathons in 2 countries (UK and Portugal) + 100 road marathons, 100 trail marathons and 100 ultras. Wow, that's some tally!

It was my first Dymchurch that got me into HOKAs and I really can't imagine wearing anything else on  such an unforgiving surface. I had decided that I would use this as an endurance test - not in distance but in speed and would run at a pace that was comfortable for as long as I could and then slow down and see how I felt. Traviss had amended the route slightly to get rid of a silly little bit we had to run followed by laps and it was much better with just 5 x 5.25 mile laps.

I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace which was sub 10 minute miling on the outward stretch and sub 10.5 minute miling on the return as we were running into the wind, although it was nowhere near as bad as the 40+mph winds we had to negotiate back in November. People kept commenting that I was looking strong and flying along. I even managed to keep pace with speedy boys Philip and Clive until they got fed-up of an old biddy slip streaming them and trotted past as if they were just out for a nice jog in the park whilst I was running 'eyeballs-out'!!!

My first lap was bang on 50 minutes, as was my 2nd and then my third and having passed the halfway mark in 2:12 I decided to ease off and see if it had slowed down me down significantly for the remaining 2 laps.

I ran my penultimate lap feeling comfortable at 11 minute miling and then ran/walked the last lap with James again although we did have to put on a bit of a spurt for the last .75 mile to get in under 5 hours - 4:55:55 to be precise which happens to be a course pb by 25 minutes. Hoorah!

Another beautiful Dymchurch medal for my collection. I love the concrete-grey colour of this one.

So why the pacing? It's all part of my build-up to the 50 mile ultra I'm doing in April. There is a 12 hour cut-off as opposed to the very generous 15 hour cut-off at my only other 50 miler in 2007 which I completed in 13:26. Admittedly I didn't push myself in that and had a leisurely lunchbreak and a complete change of kit due to the torrential rain and thunderstorm plus I'm quite a different runner nowadays. But can you imagine not making the cut-off after all that effort? Even though you'd still get a medal it wouldn't be the extra special medal Traviss has designed. That's why I'm going beyond marathon distance whenever possible, to get my body used to not stopping at 26.2 miles and to get my mind focused.

Now for the knitting. Runners might want to skip this unless you want to learn about Fair Isle knitting!

I'd been procrastinating about purchasing Felicity's book since it was last reprinted and finally purchased my copy. I love the way she translates everyday images into knitting patterns. Anyone who knows me knows that I take loads of photos when I'm out on my training runs, and during marathons, and not just of pretty views. I love pattern and I love colour so it seemed logical that I should interpret them and have a go at my own patterns.

As I flicked through the pages I knew exactly what I want to create - a knitted cowl in wintery colours and with that in mind I've started saving photos into a separate album ready to start swatching when I feel I've got enough images. 

Here's a small selection of things I love and why they inspire me:

The stark outline of the branches of these poplars with the different colours of the sky seen through them

Log-pile with frost

The shapes on this wrought iron gate

Frost highlighting the grain on this gatepost

A wonderful amber glow after sunrise seen through the bare tree

Pampas plumes

A magnificent sunset over our fields

The patterns and colour of this brickwork in Lewes

The row of bright bricks stands out amidst the flints in this section of wall

These bunnies running along behind the zig-zag (from Jeskyns last week!)

That yellow line along the edge of the lower seawall really stands out against the browns around it. (Dymchurch last November!)

I think that'll do for now but there are loads more. This next weekend I shall be back at Betteshanger Country Park for another event where I hope to increase my ultra distance (depending on how the weather behaves of course!).