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!).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Number 2

Yesterday was my 2nd event of the year. It was originally planned to be held at Jeskyns Community Woodland near Gravesend but a few days before the event the wardens made the difficult decision to cancel due to conditions underfoot. It's been so wet for the last few months that all the trails were very muddy and they were concerned about the impact of a 100 or so runners on them.

This of course gave Traviss a huge dilemma - to cancel or reschedule the event. Many Race Directors would just have cancelled the event and offered a transfer to whenever it was held again (which can sometimes mean never and thus you've lost your entrance fee) but Traviss is a different RD altogether!

As soon as he learned the news he put out a message to all entrants and then the next day he had offered an alternate route with several options for everyone:

i) Run the new route, which was on tarmac but in the vicinity of Jeskyns, based out of the Cyclopark.
ii) Defer to the rearranged date in June.
iii) Transfer to another of their events.
iv) Save it as a race credit to be used at another of their events in the future.

There truly aren't many, if any, other Race Directors who would do that and that is one of the many reasons why his events are so popular. I chose option i) and I'm really glad I did.

On the morning of race day I looked out of the window at 5:30am and saw a white curtain of snow falling. Worse still, it was sticking to the ground and there was already a 3" covering. As most of the little lanes I'd be using to get to the main road do not get gritted this was a worry and so I checked the BBC website for traffic updates and weather forecast. It looked as if it was fine elsewhere so I set off and within 5 miles there was hardly any snow at all, phew! In fact, my journey took less time than usual.

Of course, I got lots of teasing from Traviss about my snow worries!

As always it was a very sociable event so there was always someone to chat with en route and the support from fellow runners is wonderful. I was feeling strong and had already decided to go beyond marathon distance depending upon the time (the event had to start later than planned which meant the 6 hour time limit took it to 4pm finish and I didn't want to get home too late).

Many of the Usual Suspects gather at the registration tent

Greg, on the left, was in charge of car parking and the man on his right was a Marshall who stood around in the bitter cold for hours

On the face of it the route was not glamorous; running on a gravel track alongside a busy motorway, over a couple of bridges, across a railway line, along a road, but I really enjoyed it. I've grown accustomed to going round in circles or out-and-back and although my heart is in the hills/trails I am happy to do this sort of route.

This route plan showing the route elevations someone uploaded from their GPS device made me chuckle!

I made the decision again not to take loads of photos unless there was something I just couldn't resist so the next 3 photos came courtesy of Gary Groutage who was snapping away as he supported us:

I couldn't believe how much I look like my late sister in this photo

Kirsty had a brilliant skirt teamed with her fluorescent socks

Phoebe managed to sleep through a large part of the run. How Rik managed over some of the trail terrain I really don't know!

I'd decided from the start that I was going to go over marathon distance again, by at least one extra lap, and I'd also decided that I would adopt a run-as-I-feel plan rather than trying to do a negative split (that means that you run the second half faster than the first half) which never seems to work for me. So I just set off at pace that felt right on the day and was delighted that I felt really strong. In fact, people kept commenting that I was running well and I hoped that it wasn't going to be a case of pride before a fall!

There was lots of chatter en-route and I was delighted to share a few more miles with James with whom I ran last weekend. He was intending to do 10 laps so we parted company after a while. This young man has some amazing things planned and the good thing is that I know he will achieve them.

For marathon distance you had to complete 7 laps and 8 laps or more would get an ultra so I was aiming for 8. When I got to my 8th lap I knew I had could easily do another lap but decided against it because the later start (10am rather than 9am due to the Cyclopark's opening hours) meant that I'd be getting home a lot later than planned. Plus, the thought of a nice warm car and Mike waiting for me was rather appealing.

The next 2 photos were taken on my last lap and I couldn't resist because even though I'd run over this bridge 8 times I hadn't noticed the bunnies:

Aren't they cute. I've no idea what the story of them is as I can't find any mention of them but they certainly made me smile.

My finish time was 5:45:04 for 30 miles which is much faster than last weekend so I was both surprised and pleased in equal measures.

The medal was really lovely, I got an ultra badge too, and the goody bag was so full of goodies that Mike said I should give some things away next time or we'll both get too fat from all the chocolate!

I'll leave with a photo of one of our beautiful Amaryllis which is blooming now. It's rather different from the usual ones and is Amaryllis Cybister Rose. I love it's fine petals.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Just a quickie

Before I forget I thought I'd better just do a quick update with a few bits and bobs.

As always, I save the fronts of a few Christmas cards for inspiration. It's either the pattern or graphic design that excites me. The 2 robins remind me of the wonderful Charley Harper whose work has always appealed to me - have a look at his designs here. What I love most is how he gets to the very essence of the creatures he draws. The one on the far left reminds me of spirograph patterns which gave me hours of pleasure as a child and would also translate into crochet mandalas. I love the whimsical folky nature of the 2 snow scenes and the stylised graphics of the houses in the remaining 2 cards.

These will now be saved in my 'Inspiration' folder

We found a lovely new centrepiece for our dining table recently. It's French and is made of some sort of fruit wood with carvings of fruit and leaves on each end. I'm going to fill it with a collection of handmade and found objects on a base of florists' moss. The old display, made in an old wicker bread basket, was looking rather tired so it will make a nice change.

I was rummaging around for something to put underneath it as a temporary cover whilst I make a new runner and came across this old mat I made many, many years ago:

The centre is linen with scalloped edges filled with crochet motifs. When I saw it I remembered why I haven't used it for ages - it's a real pain in the neck to iron/pin out those pesky motifs! I want to have something brighter eventually but it will do for now.

I finished off a sweater for myself just after Christmas and it's one of my cobbled-together-using bits-of-various-patterns sweaters. It started when we were shopping several months ago and I saw a gorgeous sweater in a shop window. It was made of some sort of luxury yarn and felt absolutely wonderful. Then I saw the price tag of £197 - I think not! So I made a mental note of the shape and stitch pattern and set forth on working out my own version using some dark grey yarn I've had in my stash for ages and never known what to do with until that moment. It's a merino, alpaca. acrylic mix and is very soft and squishy.

Now I am not as confident at designing my own knitwear as I am at crochet and so it took lots of fumbling and frogging until I got it just right. The original had set-in sleeves but I liked the idea of raglan ones so I used a basic sweater pattern and swatched using a similar stitch, honeycomb stitch, which I found on this hat pattern

I can't get a photo of me wearing it at the moment as Mike's not around but will get one taken asap. It was this neckline that inspired my knitted beads idea and the colours I've chosen look gorgeous against the dark grey of the jumper.

Neckline details showing the rolled edge - nothing fancy, just plain old stocking stitch which rolls quite naturally without any help!

It reminded me of another escapade from many years ago (sometime in the late 1980s in fact) when a lack of funds saw me do something very similar with a jumper I'd seen in a trendy boutique. I've still got it and wear it around the house but you can tell the decade from which it came 'cos of its boxy shape. I used to wear it with cream ski pants and dark brown ankle boots and it was one of my favourite outfits for ages.

It's made of cotton using the intarsia technique and I chuckle when I see my poor finishing on the inside - I've knotted some of the ends rather than weaving them in, which is a cardinal sin according to some people. Well, it's been chucked in the washing machine without a care for many a year now and the ends haven't come undone so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it!

My next marathon/ultra is this weekend and it promises to be rather cold so I shall be wearing lots of layers in an attempt to keep warm.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Number 1

Yesterday was my first marathon of the year, or rather ultra-marathon (this is a term used for long distance runs longer than the standard 26.2 miles). It was another Saxon, Vikings and Normans event and was held at Fowlmead country park which I've visited many times now.

The weather had been vile all week with strong winds and lots of rain causing flooding all over the place so I was prepared to get rather wet!

Ironically, the day before had been reasonably fine for those running on Saturday with only a bit of rain towards mid afternoon. However, the rain continued throughout the night and when I got up at silly o'clock on Sunday I knew I should leave extra time for my journey so I gave myself an extra hour for travelling and thank goodness I did as here's what I encountered - a fallen tree blocking one of the small lanes which resulted in a 3 mile detour, torrential rain and some flooding on the M20 but thankfully not too much traffic around (I'd already altered my route as I knew that some of the lanes I usually use had been closed due to flooding), a diversion due to flooding which sent me into an area I didn't know very well which resulted in me encountering the aftermath of an accident and being sent even further off route.

By this stage I was somewhat unsure how to get back to where I needed to be so tried phoning Traviss (the Race Director) for assistance but his phone went to voicemail so I phoned home to hear a friendly voice!  Mike soothed my nerves successfully and after studying my map I soon found the best route and arrived just as Traviss was doing the pre-race briefing. My usual journey of 1.5 hours had taken 2.5 hours.

Then of course I had to register and collect my race number and get my kit together. I hate being late for anything and I got into a bit of a panic trying, and failing, to get my contact lenses in so had to give myself a talking to! Once I'd realised there was no rush as it's a 'challenge' event (run any distance you like within a set time limit) I calmed down and just set off on my own with no runners in sight. I soon felt better when I caught up with some of the back-of-pack runners and then it was just a case of getting on with the job in hand.

I've never had a number 1 before! Perfect 'cos it was my first ultra marathon of the year and my 61st marathon

I can't go any further without mentioning the weather; it was VILE to begin with. There was a strong wind, everywhere was sodden, the gravel path had huge puddles in places and the grass had turned to mud where people had gone around the edges of the puddles and turned it into a quagmire. At first it didn't rain for a while, then it did, then the wind abated (which was a relief), then the rain stopped for a while, then the wind came back even colder than before, then it rained. I think that's quite an accurate summary of the day!

As a result I just concentrated on getting round and didn't stop to take any photos so I'll have to address that on my next visit in a few weeks.

The trail was pretty claggy and as we were running through puddles it was inevitable that water and some of the gravel got into my shoes. At one stage I stopped to take my right shoe and sock off as I could feel something digging into my foot. I banged my shoe on the ground and some bits came out but it wasn't until I'd finished that I found one piece had embedded itself into the inner sole and had dug a groove into my poor foot.

There were lots of people I knew there so there was plenty of chatter and hugs on the way round. I'd decided I was going to do 1 more lap after the marathon distance to take me to 30.5 miles and I was lucky to have the company of James for the last 2 laps which really helped the miles pass quickly. We finished in 6:35:10 and I felt fine.

Another medal for my collection - note the 'ultra' badge

I was also presented with this lovely wall plaque for having completed 500 miles at SVN events. Traviss and Rachel really know how to look after us!

The sky had started to turn black as I got back to my car and I just managed to clean myself up a bit (thank goodness for wet wipes!) before the heavens opened and the rain came down. I had the foresight to pack a change of clothing and it was lovely to peel off my wet kit and snuggle into nice dry clothes.

My journey home was not as long but the conditions were vile and I was very glad to arrive home safely to be greeted by Mike. He had been an absolute star and had fed the horses and Tilly so I didn't have to worry about them. It was wonderful to soak in a lovely warm bath and scrub the rest of the muck off my feet:

This was as clean as I could get them using wet wipes!

The state of my poor shoes before cleaning - as the park is on the site of an old coalmine there is lots of coaldust in the mud, hence the black mud!

So that's marathon number 61 done and dusted. The next one is this coming weekend and promises to be a bit of a mudfest!

Friday, January 8, 2016


Happy New Year everyone. I wish you good health and happiness.

The weather has been vile for weeks now and our fields are really muddy and horrid. The poor horses are squelching around and taking refuge in the shelters when the torrential rain and gale-force winds have been battering us. We can't complain though as we are lucky compared to many poor people in the North of the UK whose homes have been flooded, some more than once, and have had to spend Christmas elsewhere.

Esther said she doesn't care about all this new year nonsense and please could I feed her!
Esther's coat is really thick and warm so she only needs a rug when it's very cold whereas Kizzy's coat is much thinner so she needs a nice thick blanket with a neck cover

I'm at the planning stage of the year. Planning projects, planning marathons, trying to define some tangible, achievable goals. I love doing it. Mike always says I like nothing better than a list with 'to do' things on it and he's quite right, I do.

My running year is looking pretty challenging, which was the idea so I'm not complaining, and I'm looking forward to testing myself. Pushing boundaries is always good because you never know what you can achieve until you step out of your comfort zone. Speaking of which, I ran 20 marathons last year and my annual mileage was 1759 which was 150 miles less than the previous year. This was a conscious decision on my part to reduce my training miles in order to accommodate an increase in marathon miles. If you'd told me at the start of last year that I would add another 7 marathons onto the 13 I'd planned I would have laughed at you!

These are all my marathon medals from 2015 - they're jolly heavy!

I found this little corner shelf in a junk shop and after a bit of tlc it looks fine so Mike put it up in my office to hold some of my trophies etc. As there will be a few more medals added to my collection (fingers crossed), he's also making me a new medal hanger to accommodate them.

Medal corner!

I've taken a couple of weeks off knitting and crochet and have been enjoying playing around with some embroidery ideas for a table runner. I love researching a project and have been leafing through piles of books and making notes and skeetching out ideas.

Mike's mittens took a back seat whilst I was charity knitting/crocheting during October, November and December so they've been restarted. There didn't really seem any urgency in completing them as it's been so unseasonably mild. I've also pledged to finish a couple of UFOs (UnFinishedObjects) - one a cardigan knitting project I abandoned a year or so ago and the other an embroidery project. The other thing on the knitting front is to design my own Fair Isle chart inspired by the many photos I take every day. I've been meaning to have a go at this for some time and have just ordered the Knitsonik stranded-colourwork-sourcebook to help get me started - I'm very excited by that idea!

I'll be starting a new crochet blanket project soon - either for our bed or for the lounge. That will take several months to complete so it will be nice to dip in and out of it.

Last year I did a Craftsy course on knitted beads with Betsy Hershberg which I really enjoyed so am going to make a necklace combining junk shop bead finds and some with knitted ones.

I was especially pleased to find the brown/turquoise beads as I love that colour combination

My first marathon of the year is this weekend and the weather forecast is not looking at all inviting - RAIN. As the event is taking place at Fowlmead country park I know that it will involve lots of splashing through puddles! Even better, I have to add at least 1 extra lap onto the marathon distance as I'm training for an ultra marathon of 50 miles in April so need to increase my mileage.

I'll end this quick update with a glamorous photo of myself out on one of my recent training runs and some photos of Bodiam looking rather damp. It was so windy and cold that I put my hood up over my cap which forced my ponytail forwards so it looked as if I'd grown a beard. Shortly after I took that the rain started and I looked like a drowned rat by the time I'd got home. To make matters worse a passing motorist didn't slow down as he passed me and drenched me as he sped through a massive puddle!

Rocking the beardy look

It isn't just the fields that are waterlogged. Even the gravel garden is struggling to drain away the excess of water we've had.

When I set out I couldn't tell if the river had overflowed but when I went down into the valley it became clear that it had although it wasn't quite as bad as in previous years!

The River Rother had in fact burst its banks and looked about 1 foot off breaching the wall between its banks and the National Trust car park

When I ran round the other side I noticed it had actually come over.

The view the other side of the road - the water level hadn't quite reached the top of the piles protecting the cricket pavilion.

Fancy a picnic?

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't rain over the weekend even though the weather forecasters tell me otherwise. Wet feet here I come!