Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Pudding Dash

Today I ran the inaugural Christmas Pudding 5 mile Dash at Ashburnham. What fun! I wore my Ms Santa outfit which was tacky, sparkly and excellent fun. It got loads of admiring comments and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole race. Mike, my hubby, came too and was an excellent supporter, popping up all over the place to take photos. Here's one of me with Pete, aka Mr Finknottle, from the Runner's World forum. Doesn't he look fab in his red leggings and green shorts!

I met several other forumites in the car park afterwards so we had to have a photo shoot! From left to right: Nitnum (in her lovely pink santa outfit!), Redhead (that's me in case you hadn't realised), Nitnum's brother, Pantman and his son Timmy (who ran a stonking time of around 32 minutes. I actually managed a pb of 43:47 so was very pleased with myself.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Knitting Magazine Photos

Today I received a cd of photos from Anthony, the photographer from Knitting magazine. Here are a couple. As I wanted to show off my Alzheimer's Research Trust tee shirt I couldn't wear my waistcoat with the pockets in to stash my wool - I had to stuff it down the back of my leggings instead. It gives a whole new meaning to the question "does my bum look big in this?"!!!!!

I think I may need to work on my technique somewhat as I appear to have let go of one of the needles. At least I wasn't looking down at my hands. I had a very helpful idea from Susan, the Editor of knitonthenet who suggested I try knitting in the dark to make me stop looking at what I'm doing. What I've tried instead is to take my glasses off - without them or my contact lenses there's little point looking down at my knitting as I can't see it! It seems to be working as I'm not looking down as much now. I actually managed a 4 mile run whilst doing it earlier in the week. I did get some very strange looks though as you can imagine!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

That's more like it!

Well, after my disastrous run last weekend I was not looking forward to this one. I did a good 10 mile session on Saturday, half of which was in the pouring rain and felt quite positive about my planned 20 miler for Sunday. When I got up this morning I knew it was going to be OK as I felt strong and determined. Phew, what a relief! I set out just as the sun was rising and all the fields were covered in a dusting of frost. It was so beautiful and I felt privileged to be running in such a lovely place. As the fields are all really water-logged I decided to run all of it on the lanes. This meant that I had to encounter all of my demon hills as I was running loops around the village and our house. It's always funny to watch people's faces as they see me for the 3rd time.

Anyway, I managed it in 4 hours 10 minutes and was pleased with that as it was a tough route. My right quad felt a bit tight so I decided to have an ice bath to help ease it. I sat in the water wearing my hat and a fleece whilst slurping a mug of hot coffee. Heaven! My legs feel a bit stiff now but nothing too bad.

This week's mileage was 51.5. Next week will be a step-back week to recuperate. If the weather's fine I shall attempt a 5 mile run whilst knitting. That should get some strange looks!!!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Knit one, plod one

Yesterday saw me in a much more positive mood so I decided to do a hill session. The hill I chose was covered in mud and debris, the former from the heavy rains, the latter because the farmer had been hedge cutting with a flail cutter. I decided to find another hill to use as it was too difficult underfoot. I did a pleasant 2 mile warm up, did some stretches then started. The hill was about 400m and I ran up it and jogged back down 10 times then headed for home. I felt a bit puffed but it was a good feeling. As my legs were feeling OK I decided to up the pace a bit on the last mile. Phew, I was very relieved to have a good session after my last run. Total mileage was just under 6.

This morning, Anthony Bailey, the photographer from Knitting magazine, came to take some photos of me running whilst knitting. I couldn't resist asking if he was any relation to David Bailey! We had a nice chat beforehand and it turns out that his wife is herself a very keen knitter. From the sound of it she is a complete addict, knitting at every available opportunity and producing lots of items! We both agreed that this renewed interest in knitting is fantastic.

We went out onto the lane to take the photos and Anthony did some trial shots. Apparently I was moving so quickly that I was blurred (or maybe it was that he just needed to adjust the settings on his camera!!!). A tripod was erected and we tried a few more times. There were some nice shots and I managed not to drop any stitches. I'm experimenting with straight pins again as I found the chunky circular needles really difficult for some reason. It's quite hard to practice at the moment as it's been so windy. I don't know which issue the article will appear in but Anthony thought it would probably be the February issue. I'm very excited.

Oh yes, I nearly forgot that I did 10 miles on the treadmill today.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bad runs can be good for you

My run on Sunday was a toughie - I really didn't want to do it! I woke up at 5am as usual but then kept turning off the alarm until I really had to get up at 6am. I dilly-dallied feeding the animals. I had my brekkie (porridge, honey and banana) then found all sorts of other things I just had to do before I went out. All of a sudden it was 7:30am and Mike was getting up and wondering why I was still there! Normally I'd be long gone and would have left him a note telling him my route for the day.

This was not good. My body was willing but the brain was weak. I hate days like that.

Eventually I managed to drag myself out of the door and I thought I'd be fine once I got going as it was a lovely bright day. Well, it didn't get any easier! I felt like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Gollum kept telling me that I was old and fat and that I looked ridiculous and shouldn't even bother running. Then Smeagel would tell me that I can run, even though I'm not a bean-pole and to just get on with it. Someone once told me that distance running is 60% physical and 40% cerebral. How very true! My body felt fine but my head was just not in the zone.

It's this sort of run that builds mental stamina which is so important during a marathon.

The route I chose was mostly off-road and was quite tough as the ground was very wet and difficult. I had intended to run 20 miles on the road but cut it down to 15 as cross-country in muddy conditions is much harder than road running.

Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A few miles and some flooding!

The weather has been so vile all week that I was quite relieved to wake up on Saturday and find it was neither raining nor blowing a gale. I decided to head down to Bodiam for a 10 mile circuit mostly off-road by the castle. This is a view of the castle - it really looked beautiful with the sun shining on it as it's a true fairy-tale castle.

The River Rother had burst its banks and flooded the surrounding fields so I couldn't run along it and had to run along the top of the ridge instead. I had such a great time that I ended up doing 12 miles instead.

Sunday morning was frosty and all the roads were very slippy because the water pouring off the fields had frozen. As it was lovely and sunny again I decided to head out across the fields and then come back along the roads when the sun had melted the ice. I'd planned to do 20 miles but as 90% of it was off-road across rough, sodden fields, I cut it short and did 15 miles instead.

Total mileage for the week was 48 and felt good.

Knitting magazine

Very excited now! Had an email last week from the Editor of Knitting magazine to confirm that they are going to publish details of what I'm going to do and the photographer phoned me to see when he could come and take some photos of me running and knitting. We arranged to meet up on Monday but he phoned me over the weekend to say that the weather forecast is for torrential rain again so we have postponed it until Wednesday.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Wild, Woolly Weather & some Laughing Hens

Wednesday was quite exciting as I had planned a visit to meet all of the lovely ladies at Laughing Hens who are based a short drive away in the Sussex countryside. Thankfully the weather was fine with the sun managing an appearance so I enjoyed a pleasant 10 miler before getting ready for my trip. I'm on the look-out for a jumper pattern so in true form I came away with a totally different project - a rather pretty Fair Isle pattern hat for which I chose lovely muted colours!

It was great to meet them all and I came away with some 'addi' circular needles to practice with. They are feather-light and I shall experiment with them during one of my short runs next week. Here's a photo of the famous laughing hens (who keep escaping onto the lane at the moment!) and one of the ladies themselves (from left to right) Zara, Kim and Nicki.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Too wet and windy for wool!

OK, so my running training is on track so far but the knitting part of it is falling behind because of the dreadful weather - 60 mph gales and driving rain! I did manage about 30 minutes running and using the circular knitting needles the other day. I thought it was going to be easier than straight pins but it was actually much harder because I kept having to push the knitting round. Back to the drawing board - maybe larger, straight pins is the answer after all.

I emailed Rachel John, who does amazing extreme knitting projects using giant knitting needles and loads of yarn. She recently knitted using 1000 strands of yarn! (see the pictures). She confirmed what I've already found out, that circular needles present as many problems as ordinary needles. She suggested sewing straight needles to my clothes and learning to reverse knit. It's all getting a bit too complicated and I wonder if I'd be better just persevering with plain old knitting. Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

These legs were made for running, these hands were made to knit

This last week I did some serious training with a total of 47 miles for the week (with a 10 miler on Saturday and 17 miles on Sunday). The weather was so vile that I didn't get an opportunity to experiment with the circular knitting needles but am going to try tomorrow.

Fund-raising is slow at the moment as I'm still in the planning stages but there have been some fantastic developments - Knitting magazine will be putting my details on their news page, with a photo of me running and knitting. Susan from has offered to put training progress updates on her noticeboard and will do a full blown article when the magazine is published again in February. Fantastic stuff.

I've just finished one of the fingerless gloves I'm making for my husband. I haven't got a digital camera so can't put a photo of it on here yet. Hopefully Father Christmas will rectify this problem!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Knitters are simply the best!

Last night a new on-line knitting magazine launched. You can find it at knitonthenet There's a lovely pattern for a short-sleeved cardigan which was designed by 'Just call me Ruby' and uses Anny Blatt angora (which is lovely to work with) teamed with Jo Sharp dk wool. As I browsed the site it suddenly dawned on me that maybe they could give me some ideas about my running/knitting challenge so I emailed the editor of knitonthenet. Then I went and checked out Ruby's blog which is really interesting and she is obviously a lady who loves all things to do with craft (just like me!) so I emailed her too. I didn't really expect to get a reply from either of them.

How wrong could I be! I had a lovely supportive email back from Susan Crawford, the editor of knitonthenet and Ruby replied and gave me some brilliant ideas to try out. She reminded me that Shetland knitters use a circular needle so they don't need to worry about which row they're on. They also attach their needle to some kind of belt so that they can let go of them. Fantastic! I shall experiment with these suggestions on one of my shorter runs next week. I've put a link to Ruby's blog in my list. If you go and look, do click on the previous post called 'butterflies'. It shows a close-up of some embroidery she's done on a dress - a really simple idea but so effective.

Anyway, back to my training. On Thursday I did another 5.5 miles of hills, Saturday was 8 miles on the roads then 4 miles across the fields (which was very squelchy as it's been raining a lot this week). Today was 15 miles, mostly along the lanes but with a bit of a detour across the fields towards Great Dixter. It was such a lovely day for a run as it's cool but sunny and the views from up at Dixter were fabulous.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The long and winding road

Today I was scheduled to run 8 miles at a steady pace so I chose a route through the village, towards Mill Corner, round Northiam and then back again. The first 3 miles are undulating with a nasty hill at the 2 mile mark. I set off 11 minute miling and decided to attack the uphills on the way out which I managed quite well. On the way back I was feeling a bit tired so I practised my downhill running using the technique Jan had shown me at Beachy Head. It's quite scary to just let yourself go on a downhill as you can feel your speed increasing but if you're going too fast you just put a skip into it and it slows you right down. Apparently it's a fell-running tip and it works really well. I feel quite tired now so I'm enjoying a nice cup of Earl Grey tea to revive myself.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Knitting whilst running

OK, as I've now committed to running the London marathon whilst knitting a scarf (well, it seemed like a good idea at the time!) I thought I'd better try it out.

Perhaps this morning wasn't ideal as it was very windy and I soon gave up and stashed my needles and yarn in our letterbox at the end of the drive. Hmmmm. A couple of things occured to me straight away - I will need something to carry the wool in (maybe a pouch behind) and once the scarf starts to grow it will become heavy so will need to be supported at the front. Could I have some sort of sling hung around my neck? I'm used to wearing a belt to carry a drink, car keys etc so I'm not really worried about having something across my back. I really need to start working at this.

Anyway, today is the official start of my training for the first race; the Draycote 35 mile ultra marathon. You can read about the race here Draycote 35

I'm using a Hal Higdon intermediate marathon schedule but increasing one of the final long runs to 23 miles instead of 20 miles. I found this a very good schedule when I did the Beachy Head marathon as it gave me loads of stamina. My run today was just a nice slow plod along the country lanes, up and down the hills for 5.5 miles. Im keeping my pace really slow to try and avoid injury.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Beachy Head marathon

I completed the Beachy head marathon on 28th October and it was my first off-road marathon. It was jolly tough because of the 7 Sisters ( a group of hills that come right towards the end, just when you're getting tired!). I was really fortunate to meet up with Jan around the 1/2 way mark as we kept eachother going and it was great to have some company.

Near the end of the Eridge 10 mile trail race

This is what I look like before a race!

Mum's Story

In 1997 my mother, then aged 81, had a series of minor strokes.  Shortly after that we started to notice behavioural changes notably memory loss and confusion over everyday items.  We thought it was just old age finally catching up with her.  Then she started wandering and had violent mood swings.  Although she already lived with us it became obvious that she couldn't be left alone for long and so I left my job to care for her. 

The next few years saw a gradual decline into the blackness that is 'vascular dementia'.  My normally placid mum became violent and aggressive.  She had psychotic incidents where she would see imaginary people (children hiding in her wardrobe, Russians sitting on the stairs, women stealing her clothes) and she would shout at them and sometimes throw things too.  She was so convincing that we used to go and check that there wasn't anyone there!  When my sister died mum did not know who Judy was or that she was her daughter. 

There came a point when I suddenly realised she no longer knew that I was her daughter and this was a terrible time for me.  In the last 2 years that she lived with us, life for us all became almost unbearable as she needed 24 hour care - she couldn't be left alone at all because she would either wander off or hurt herself, she never slept for more than 30 minutes at a time during the night, she became incontinent and incapable of doing anything for herself.  Finally my husband and I realised that we could no longer provide her with the care that she needed and she went to live in Castlemaine where Harry and his team did a splendid job caring for her.  There she lived a zombified existence unaware of who she was, what she was or where she was.  It was heartbreaking.  She died in March 2005, the day after her 89th birthday.

I ran my first London marathon a few weeks later.

What's it all about?

In June 2007 I will be celebrating my 50th birthday. Such a momentous occasion has to be marked in a special way so what else is a girl to do but run some marathons plus an ultra marathon of 52.4 miles! The events I'm planning to run are the Draycote 35 mile race in February, the Steyning Stinger marathon in March, the London marathon in April, the SIS South Downs marathon on my birthday in June and then the biggy, the Kent 50 mile challenge in July which is actually 52.4 miles.

As I’ve run the London marathon twice already I’ve decided to make it a bit more of a challenge this time. With the help of the lovely people at who have provided me with needles and yarn, I shall be ‘extreme knitting’ my way round - running for a bit and then stopping to have  a knit and natter with spectators. I plan to finish knitting a scarf en-route which will then be auctioned at a later date.

Mad woman! I hear you cry. That's as maybe, but having watched my poor dear mother taken away by vascular dementia I cannot rest until I have raised more money for research into this dreadful disease so I am supporting the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

Please read mum's story and you'll see why I feel compelled to do this.