Saturday, June 30, 2007

A 'strawberry tea' on a rather wet day

The weather has been vile for the past few days, with parts of the country on flood alert. In June, how ridiculous is that?! The local fund-raisers had been working hard to raise money for our beautiful village church and had organised a 'strawberry tea' and a visit to a local garden. When I was out for my morning run I saw Jo, one of the chief organisers, who had made the wise decision to move the event indoors to the church itself - very sensible.

Mike and I dressed for the occasion as we wanted to have a look round the garden. As we were a bit early, we had a go on the swings beforehand. Check out my multicoloured poncho! It made everybody smile on what was a very wet and grey day and it kept me dry to boot.

Not many people braved the garden visit so we more or less had it to ourselves. Then we headed off to the church to claim our scones, strawberries and cup of tea. Yummy. We chatted with lots of villagers we knew, including Gordon our vicar. This is me with Micky, one of our lovely neighbours.

In the foreground are Don and Grace, our elderly neighbours who we visited the day before my birthday. It was lovely to see that they'd managed to make the journey to be part of the event.

We were entertained by a jazz trio who were very good and their music was not overpowering and suited the situation well. The stained glass windows in the church are beautiful. I tried to photograph some of the others but they didn't turn out well.

What really made me chuckle was when one of my neighbours came bounding over to see me. Carol and her husband Peter live in Kenya during the winter months and then come back to England for the summer. Back in April, she turned on the television to watch the London Marathon and the first thing she saw was my interview with Jonathan Edwards. She couldn't believe her eyes!

One very exciting thing that happened this morning was that a Turtle Dove landed on our patio. I've heard it's beautiful purring song in one of the fields but I've never seen it before. It's on the RSPB's Red Alert register which means that it's numbers have declined dramatically in recent years so we felt privileged to have seen one.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

One down one to go

At long last I've finished my first ever glove knitted in the Fair Isle style of stranded work (I hope that's the correct way to describe it as I know that Fair Isle is just one technique of stranded colourwork).

I found it incredibly absorbing, very frustrating at times (when I couldn't work out how to do the fingers) but most of all enjoyable and I am looking forward to starting the next one. I love the colours and they will go really well with my winter coat. As we have already passed the longest day the nights are already drawing in!

I'm starting to feel much better about the 50 mile challenge now as Alison's stretches are starting to make a difference to how my hips/legs/back and groin feel. In fact, this morning was the first time for several weeks that I've got out of bed and haven't winced at the pain in my groin. I did 5.5 miles of hills on Tuesday and 3 miles cross country yesterday and felt OK so I'm taking a rest day today. I've got an appointment to see Mary Massage Lady on Monday next week and I know she'll help loosen up the residual stiffness in my lower back. In the meantime I've been using the Stick to massage my ITBs and piriformis and although I was quite sceptical about it's efficacy to begin with, I have to say it really has hit the spot. I was due to run the Bewl 15 this weekend but I decided against it as I don't want to cause any more damage. I emailed the Race director and told him my predicament and he replied by saying that he'd transfer my entry to next year. How very kind!

I couldn't resist snapping the two boys dozing. Barney's saying "he's my brother and I love him"

Awww, how sweet!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm trying to load this sweet little "knitting kitty" logo onto my side bar and I just can't get it to work at the moment. Hopefully Michelle will be able to sort me out!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

At last - 2 fingers!

Well, as I didn't have to go out for my usual 4 hour Sunday training run I found myself with some time on my hands. It's been chucking it down with rain since I woke up and I couldn't go and play out in the garden so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to take another look at the FairIsle gloves (which have been loitering in my knitting bag because I was fed up with getting the fingers wrong!).

I am a slow knitter and this has taken me forever but I've finally finished the little finger I had so much trouble with. Encouraged, I managed to do another one too and it didn't seem half as difficult. I found the first one really fiddly to do but this one was easier because I was more confident and adjusted the shaping to suit my chubby fingers.

Now I'm gaining in confidence with the process I suspect that the second glove will be executed much neater than this one. It's been a very useful learning exercise for FairIsle technique, tension and making gloves.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What a pain, yet again!


That's the only way to describe it really. The pain in my groin hasn't gone away and I've noticed that my hips seem slightly out of kilter so I had to bite the bullet and face Aunty Alison, my trusted Physio. Now I haven't actually had cause to go and visit her since August last year which is quite amazing bearing in mind the gruelling schedule I've given myself. So I knew that when I told her what I've been up to there would be a lot of eye rolling and tutting and I wasn't wrong! She was, however, amazed at what I've managed to achieve without getting injured and she loved the running and knitting stuff. It was great to catch up with her.

Anyway, my self-diagnosis told me that my hips/pelvis were twisted (an old riding injury that keeps coming back to haunt me) which was causing my Iliotibial Bands, hamstrings and piriformis to tighten leading to a degree of sciatica when I sit for any length of time plus I've got a dull ache in my lumber spine. I wasn't sure about the origin of the groin pain.

She confirmed that my hips/pelvis were tilted again and straightened them out for me but was more concerned about the groin pain. She poked around, twisted me into strange positions and then told me that it was the psoas muscle that was causing both the back pain and the groin pain. This is most difficult to treat as it is so deep inside the body. Poo!

She's given me some really tough stretches to do 4 times a day to stretch out my ITBs and they are really painful. I have to hold them for 2 minutes each time and they really make my eyes water. Needless to say, I will not be running this weekend and I will have to withdraw from the Bewl 15 which I'd planned to run next weekend.

I'm trying to remain positive about the 50 mile challenge as it's still 3 weeks away and I am officially tapering down anyway (that means reducing my mileage to allow my body to recover).

Friday, June 22, 2007

50 things I've never done before

At the start of this year I decided that it should be full of new experiences so it would be an extra special year to remember. But, I didn't write anything down so I'm just going to jot some of the things down on here as I do them otherwise I'll forget what I've done! In no particular order:

1. Do more than 2 marathons in a year (6 so far!)
2. Run an ultra marathon (over 26.2 miles) - done 2!
3. Knit a pair of gloves
4. Try FairIsle knitting
5. Knit my way round the London marathon
6. Get a Guinness World Record
7. Appear on national/local television
8. Do a live TV interview
9. Attract interest from the national newspapers (not just the local ones) for the work of the Alzheimers Research Trust
10. Make Elderflower cordial
11. Go to a performance by Michael Collins (clarinettist)
12. Knit in a public place
13. Start a blog - oh yes to that one!
14. See Peter Katin (pianist) play live
15. Run a marathon with a balloon attached to me!
16. Try willow weaving
17. Try enamelling (albeit briefly)
18. Visit the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill-on-Sea
19. Collect shells on the beach at Glyne Gap
20. Visit the Science Centre at Herstmonceux
21. Go to England's Medieval Festival at Herstmonceux Castle
22. Try my hand at 'horse whispering'
23. Win a competition (see here at Peruvian Connection)
24. Stay up and watch the Swift-Tuttle meteor shower
25 Ride a Haflinger pony (and buy one into the bargain!)

Wish List:
Knit some socks
Knit a lace shawl
Auction something on eBay
Walk or run our Parish boundary (or as near as I can using the footpaths)
Race a 5k (although I've run several, they've always been for charity and I've never actually raced to see how fast I can do it)
Make a clay pot and smoke fire it in a pit or maybe a dustbin outside
Make Rosehip syrup
Visit All Saints Church, Tudeley to see the Chagall stained glass windows
Organise a local team for the Cancer Research UK 'Race for Life'
That's as far as I've got with it but I'll come back and add things as I think of or do them. It's quite hard to think of interesting things! As I'm now officially in my 50s I shall try to complete these things before I turn 51. It will be interesting to see which, if any, fall by the wayside.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The day before, the day itself and the day after

15th June - The Day Before

When Mrs Duck lays her eggs you never know how many, if any ducklings will make it. Her first nest by the garage contained 16 eggs, all of which were devoured by something (fox/badger/rat/magpie) after 12 days of her sitting on them. Undeterred she set off to make a new nest but we didn't know where so we were very pleased when she came to show off her brood this morning before taking them to the pond for their first dip.

We counted 9 ducklings and hope that they all make it through.

Here they are sampling some grain with the big boys outside the barn.

In the evening we went to a party at our neighbour's home. Don is 93 and Grace is 91 and they still manage to care for themselves at home (with a little bit of help from others). Mike took the last photo of me in my 40s!

16th June - The Day Itself

I'd worked out that it would take me about 2 hours to drive to the South Downs marathon and as I had to get there by 8am to park at the finish and catch the bus to the start, I had to be up bright and early - 4:15am to be precise! Inevitably I woke Mike up too. I fed the animals, had my brekkie and prepared all my things (making sure I had some dry clothes for the finish as the weather forecast was not good). Their wasn't much traffic about and my journey was pleasant, but the weather was very changeable - sun one minute then torrential rain the next. Guess what it was doing when I parked the car up and made my way to the coach? - yes, that's right, it was pouring with rain and I got soaked to the skin!!!

By the time the coach dropped us off at the start the sun had come out again and there were lots of people milling around. I headed off to the portaloos (I always have to visit the toilet several times before a marathon, "just in case"!) then I headed off to the snack bar to get a cup of coffee. The first person I met was 'Birdypie' from the Runner's World forum I'm sure she's lost weight as I didn't recognise her at first! She had intended to take part in the marathon relay by running one of the sections but had pulled a calf muscle the day' before so had to drop out. Then I met Carol (aka 'OneBlueLeg') and her friend who I'd last seen at the Steyning Stinger in March. They have done 31 marathons so far and are trying to get to 100 so they can join the 100 marathon club

Coffee in hand, I set off to see if there was anyone else I knew to chat to. That's when I came across Ruth (aka Plodding Hippo who is well on her way to joining the 100 marathon club with over 60 marathons under her belt) and Jo (aka Limper because she's got a sore leg) who were clutching a balloon saying '50th birthday' for me. How very sweet of them! I was really touched that they'd gone to the trouble of bringing it for me. I attached it to my belt and it blew around in the wind. People stared but I didn't mind as it made me feel nice. More of that later. Here I am with Ruth and my balloon.

Then we were off. A short circuit around the woods at start area then out towards the South Downs Way We started near Arundel and were crossing the hills to Petersfield and it was a very scenic route so I took lots of photos so that Mike could get a feel for what it was like. Here's a link to the course route

First we passed along a single-file track alongside a field of barley.

Then it widened out into a track of flint and chalk.

The black clouds were gathering but it was dry and warm so far. The first real climb came around the 4 mile mark at Bignor HIll and we started to get some good far-reaching views. I was amazed at the variety of crops that were growing on such difficult land.

Here's a photo I took further on showing just how inhospitable the soil is - it's just a mass of flint boulders! Some sections of the route were difficult underfoot because of the loose flints, chalk and tree roots all of which conspired to trip you up.

A view from the top.

A stone memorial to a dog named Toby who must have accompanied his master on many a walk across the Downs.

More dark clouds looming and obscuring some of the views which were amazing when it cleared. What was really nice was that every time I passed runners, walkers or mountain bikers they all called out "Happy Birthday' to me when they saw the balloon so I was very grateful to Ruth and Jo as it really helped to make my day special.

And so it continued........

Up hill and down hill...........

Up hill and down hill.............and the weather got hotter and hotter. The wind across the high points was most welcome to help cool us down.

We passed an area of woodland where the trees had been felled and I just had to take this photo of the beautiful foxgloves that had sprung up as soon as the light had reached them. I wondered how many years their seeds had lain dormant - rather like Sleeping Beauty!

At the top of the next hill I paused to take this photo showing the path snaking up the next hill. It was really hot now and I was wishing that I had put my sun cream on and worn my sunglasses (both of which I'd stashed in the boot of the car as the weatherman said it was going to be very wet). What do the weathermen know, I thought to myself!

On the next descent, the cows decided to run alongside us and I tried to take this photo whilst running.

At the bottom of the hill I was passed by a young American couple. They wished me many happy returns (thanks to the balloon) and the girl said she couldn't believe I was 50 and it must be the running keeping me young, which made me feel nice. I had to hold onto that thought as just then the black clouds descended and the rain came down and the wind whipped up. It was really heavy and it was hard enough walking in it let alone running.

Then the rain eased off and the cloud lifted a bit. Phew. Here I'm looking back to where I've just been. You can see the last of the black clouds and you can just make out the path we followed.

Some of the paths were quite slippy now though and I had to be a bit careful on the descents as I'd worn my road shoes (the soles fell of my trail shoes after the Steyning Stinger and I haven't replaced them yet).

I saw lots of cows and sheep en-route and I always stopped to have a little chat with them. These heifers were particularly friendly and kept licking me! Then all of a sudden we were a couple of miles from the finish and leaving the Downs behind and entering the Country Park. The tracks were through woodland and were a bit muddy plus you had to watch out for tree roots which can trip you up when your legs are tired and you aren't lifting your feet as high as usual. Amazingly I didn't fall over.

Then I was running back through the car park towards the finish line and Carol and her friend were there singing Happy Birthday to me as I went past. As I crossed the finish line the MC noticed my balloon and asked if my birthday was today. When I signalled that it was, everyone gave me a cheer and a big round of applause. It was a lovely welcome.

One of my fellow forumites from Runner's World measured the ascents and descents using his Garmin GPS device and found there were 4583 feet of climb and 4608 feet of descent. Crikey!

I got a nice tee shirt and a lovely medal, both of which I wore all the way home and throughout the evening. I phoned Mike straightaway to let him know I'd finished in one piece. He'd been phoning me at 2 hourly intervals to check on my progress and was very pleased that I'd finished in around 5hours 50 minutes 34 seconds. Then I got changed and headed home, which took a bit longer than in the morning. No worries though as Mike had been busy all day cooking me a special vegetarian meal (chick pea and coriander soup, followed by non-meat meat loaf with Rosemary potatoes and broad beans then a lemon chiffon pie that I'd made the day before). It was scrummy!

We opened a bottle of champagne and drank it whilst I opened my cards and presents. I'd asked people to make donations to my charity rather than buy me a gift but Mike wanted me to have something special just for me. After much thought, we decided it should be something I've always wanted to do but have never had the opportunity and 2 things sprang to mind - welding/metalwork and willow weaving (I've always wanted to try my hand at sculpure). I contacted West Dean College and they had 2 Summer Schools in these subjects. Fate took a hand in the proceedings as the metalwork course was full but there was a place left on the Willow workshop. So, in about 6 weeks time I shall be heading off for a self-indulgent week of crafting whilst Mike takes care of himself and the animals. Now that is one heck of a present and I feel like the luckiest birthday girl in the world!

17th June - The Day After

The day after I felt fine (well, maybe just a teeny-weeny hangover!) so in the afternoon we decided to go for a walk up to Great Dixter and round the gardens which was 6.5 miles. We walked through our village then followed the footpath through the apple orchards and then through a field of linseed. I took this photo because there was a beautiful pale blue haze from the linseed flowers and a pinky/purple haze from the long grass in the next field.

Mike strode ahead through a field of oats. You could barely see the footpath because the crop was so tall.

In parts, it came up as high as my chest!

There are some fantastic views from the top of Dixter Hill - looking across to Bodiam....................

.......and looking over towards Sandhurst. You can just make out the white windmill which was restored a few years ago.

The first thing we did when we reached Great Dixter was head off to the cafe for a tub of ice-cream and a drink of water. We were joined by a very friendly old cat who enjoyed both my lavender ice-cream and some of Mike's toffee flavoured ice-cream too.

Great Dixter was the home of the late Christopher Lloyd, an innovative plantsman for whom I had a great respect. He famously ripped out the rose garden and replanted it with tender exotic plants which caused a furore at the time but was enormously influential in garden design and planting.

There are always lots of pots dotted around containing interesting and unusual plants.

The house from behind showing one of the many wildflower meadows pioneered by Christopher Lloyd's mother.

Part of a mosaic in the 'Sunken Garden' showing one of Christopher Lloyd's beloved dachshunds.

After we'd had a good look round we headed for home, tired but happy. I found that the walking seemed to have loosened my groin and it wasn't anything like as uncomfy as it had been.

In the evening, Barney enjoyed the box that had contained a bottle of champagne from my sis-in-law and her family and he and Mike had great fun chasing around with the balloon!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A frog he would a-ripping go......

...."Hey Ho", said Susie!

This will be my 3rd attempt at getting the little finger right. The first time I didn't like the way pattern worked out, so I ripped it. This time I'm happy with the pattern but it's too tight around the base of my finger, uncomfortably so.

Anyway, I thought I'd at least take a photo to show my progress on the body. This time I'll get it just right! (fingers crossed).

To make myself feel better I did some needlepoint instead. This is designed to stop me losing my scissors, which is a regular occurence!

I managed to get to Mary Massage lady yesterday and she worked her magic on my sore groin. She confirmed what I'd thought, that it was emanating from my pelvis and she did lots of painful work on my adductors, hip flexors and groin. The thing about Sports Massage is that it hurts like crazy whilst it's being done, but afterwards it feels wonderful (well, not always!). This morning I trotted out for 5 hilly miles and although a bit stiff and sore still I felt much more comfortable. I just hope it can hold up to the marathon on Saturday.

Only 4 days left in my 40s!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Blue Sunday

I've been very good and rested my injury much longer than I would usually. However, I had to get out and run this morning.........but I was soon back home in tears after 5.5 painful miles. The flat bits and downhills were OK but the uphills were so painful. It hurt most when my hip flexor was engaged so it seems as if my old riding injuries are coming back to haunt me again. My groin was very sore indeed and I was quite upset. Thankfully Mike was around to give me a big hug and say all the right things to make me feel better.

Barney wasn't impressed and pulled his tongue out at my sore groin!

I left a message for Mary Massage Lady in the vain hope that she might be able to fit me in before her holiday and she has just phoned to say she's had a cancellation for tomorrow morning. Phew! She will no doubt inflict great pain but I'm hopeful that she'll get to the bottom of the problem.

We spent most of the afternoon in the garden and there were loads of insects buzzing around including a male Banded Demoiselle (Damselfly). It's body was the most amazing irridescent turquoise. (picture from

World Knit in Public Day

I had hoped to go into London to join the mass Knit Out in Trafalger Square, but we had managed to get tickets to a marvellous concert at a local school and we couldn't get into London and get back in time. So, I had to improvise! Instead, Mike and I went into Tunbridge Wells shopping and I took my knitting with me. Here I am knitting outside a coffee shop (you can't see the cafe latte and the yummy lemon and poppy-seed muffin that we shared) - nobody paid any attention whatsoever! The poncho I'm wearing was a really quick knit using enormous needles and a yarn called 'Magic' that I got from together with a free pattern. It's great to just throw on over a tee shirt and makes jeans look a bit more special.

The concert we went to was an ensemble founded by Michael Collins, an amazing clarinettist (my favourite recording is 'Gnarly Buttons' by John Adams) and included the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, which I knew, and the Schubert Octet in F minor, which I didn't. Their playing was world class and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole concert, especially the Schubert which was a brilliant piece. The players gelled really well and obviously enjoyed the piece too. A great evening.