Monday, October 27, 2008

Bye-bye Bluebelle

Sometimes a life is far shorter than one would have liked and so it was with Bluebelle, our beautiful Blue Rex bunny. We thought she had many years of hopping ahead of her but it was not to be.

She passed away sometime during the night and we buried her this morning in a special place, sheltered by trees.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I must go down to the seas again.........(with apologies to John Masefield!)

Firstly I have to say that I have trained my socks off for the Beachy Head marathon this year as I was determined to finish in less than 6 hours so I would appear in the Results (they don't record finishing times of over 6 hours and in my previous attempts I have done 6:10 and 6:04). To this end I applied a self-imposed ban on taking photos as I ran the course as I always waste loads of time stopping to take photos. There are plenty of photos on my blog of the event last year here to get a feel for the beautiful scenery.

I was up at 5am and out feeding the horses and bunnies by torchlight and the stars were twinkling beautifully. It was cold and frosty and perfect conditions really as the forecast was for sun later but with South Westerly winds. You expect strong winds up on the South Downs anyway so that wasn't a worry. It's always tough working out what to wear though and eventually I settled on shorts and a lightweight long-sleeved top with a gilet on top to carry my paraphanalia.

Although the race doesn't start until 9am I made sure I arrived in Eastbourne well before 8am so I could nab one of the free parking spaces about 1/2 mile from the start (I like to be a short walk away so that I stretch out my legs a bit after I finish running).

As I was walking towards to Start area I passed a man who I thought I recognised and he said "Is that our Redhead?" to which I had to respond by asking who he was - I knew his nickname but you can hardly walk up to someone and ask if they are Captain Wonderpants now can you?!

We had a chat for a while. He's much further down the hill to madness than me and he was going to a do 12 hour track event in Crawley the next day too!
There was the usual jazz band playing at the start. It was still quite nippy so they were well wrapped up. I had a chat with several people from the Runner's World forum (Fat Buddha, Petal, One Blue Leg, Patsy) and then it was time for the off.

This is the first hill we scramble up and the photo doesn't really capture just how steep it is. There are some steps but they are worn and slippery so I scrambled up the grass, which was also slippery! The people in the photo out on the course already are walkers. They can start earlier than the runners/joggers so that they have a chance of finishing in daylight.

When you get to the top of the hill the course climbs on to the right and as it starts to level out there is always this highland piper (yes, OK, I did stop to take his photo again this year and to give him a clap as a thank you).

Then it was just a case of getting my head down and getting on with it. Up hills, down hills, chalk paths, rutted paths, muddy puddles (more than in previous years), slippery grass slopes up and down. I was running well and feeling strong. The sun came out fully and it was warm although I was glad of my long-sleeves when I was up on the high bits as the wind was biting. I passed the Seven Sisters with loads of time to spare and was well on course for sub 6 hours.

I chatted with lots of people en-route and was entertained by a couple of men and their black labrador who were running it for the first time. The dog was having a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed himself - he even got his own medal at the end but I didn't manage to get a photo of him as I was carrying my stuff back to the car as they passed me.

Well, the marathon is unforgiving and anything can happen at any stage. I'd been dreading slipping in the mud, tripping over tree roots or twisting my ankle on the loose flints but I hadn't counted on getting cramp in my right hamstring (related to the problem I had a couple of months ago and obviously aggravated by the conditions under foot). So it was that when I reached Birling Gap with only 4 miles to go, I had to resign myself to run/walking the last bit.

The last mile is all downhill so I managed to run/limp all of that but the final bit is down the hill we climbed at the start and it's very steep so I had to do a sideways limp down that then sprinted across the finish line in 6:15. That's where my quote comes in:

"I must go down to the seas again............" to get a sub 6 hour time for the Beachy Head marathon! Ho hum, the best laid plans etc etc.

At least I got another medal to add to my pile. You can tell how windy it was from my race number as it's all torn and battered (it's made of plastic rather than the usual paper ones for that very reason).

Anyway, I've got 6 weeks to sort out this hamstring problem before my last marathon of the year in Hastings in December so I've booked myself some deep tissue massage with Mary Massage Lady to try and get to the bottom of the problem. Although the Hastings marathon will be hilly in parts it is run on the roads so is a totally different animal. I wonder what time I'll do there...............

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Top that

Not the best photos ever but they sort of give the idea.

Rather than make a pom-pom, I crocheted lots of curlecues in the colours from the main body then attached them at the crown, weaving one end on the inside.

This left me with the same amount of ends to play with on the right side so I just plaited them and finished the ends with a barrel knot, leaving them dangling for extra texture.

I rather enjoyed doing that and it's made me want to start a crochet project as I've been neglecting it in favour of knitting of late. I must have a rummage through my books and magazines for inspiration.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Short row shaping but no pom-pom (yet!)

The hat was quite an interesting experiment. I enjoyed the stranded garter stitch and it's made a lovely fabric with a sort of woven look about it. I just cast on 60 stitches and then worked back and forth from crown to brim doing short rows at the crown with an occasional partial short row (without the wrapping) at the brim end so that the brim would have a bit of grip when turned back.

Of course I'd sewn the seam before I thought it might have been interesting to show the fabric beforehand as it was quite a strange shape. Never mind. It fits perfectly and is really warm.

Now all I've got to do it stick a pom-pom or curlicues or some other ornamentation on the crown as it looks a bit bare at the moment. I shall play around with my crochet hook this evening.

Tinker very generously offered to model the hat for me so that I could show the short-row shaping I did at the crown!

My hands are a bit sore at the moment as I've been digging the garden for the past week. We have heavy clay and it's jolly hard work. Poor old Mike has hurt his back so has been excused digging duties (only for the moment though!). I won't be doing much running this week as I'm tapering (reducing my mileage) ahead of the Beachy Head marathon this Saturday. I'm really looking forward to it even though it is one of the toughest marathons in the UK.

It will be my 4th marathon this year and my 15th in total, 11 of which have been done in the last 2 years. Also, it's exactly 4 years since I ran my first marathon and if anyone had told me where it would lead I would have laughed out loud!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's not my fault!

See, I've finished clue 3 of the KAL and Kirsten won't be releasing clue 4 until next wednesday. Well, I can't just sit here and do nothing can I?!

Yes, I know there are sewing projects I can still get on with but I do like to have something from each discipline on the go so I've been swatching for a quick-knit hat.

I've settled on these 2 yarns. The multi coloured one is full of blues, greys, plums and cream and is a Noro yarn leftover from a pullover. The beige is leftover from the last time I did an arran sweater which must be about 3 years ago.

The stitch is stranded garter stitch where one stitch is knit in yarn A then the next in yarn B etc etc. It gives an interesting loopy effect where the yarn is carried. I'm just going to make it up as I go along so we'll see where I end up!

After the KAL I really must start on the Oregon cardigan as I seem to have been sidetracking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Grow your own!

No not fruit and veg, wool!

These little beauties have come to stay with us for a while.

It's a nice arrangement with a local farmer - we provide the grazing, he gives us hay for the horses in return. Suits us all as the horses don't need all the land and also it keeps the worm count down in them as the sheep graze the grass lower and eat the worm eggs which aren't harmful to them.

Mike went for a walk around the land yesterday morning and I asked him to take photos of anything of interest so he chose the sheep. They are very nosey, even though they won't always come right up to you, so it was no surprise that they followed Mike on his walk.

It's like a scene from the Pied Piper of Hamlyn!

In knitting news, Kirsten has just released clue 3 for the mystery sock KAL so I should get both of those done soon. As I was getting bored waiting for the clue I started to experiment with stranded garter stitch with a view to perhaps making a hat to keep me going inbetween clues. I'm not allowed to start a big project as I made a promise to myself last year that I would stick to one item at a time so that things didn't get abandoned through lack of interest - I am the worlds worst for unfinished items! It's worked well so far so I'm trying to stick to that rule.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Clue 2 completed, taper time & Best magazine

Here's one of the socks for the KAL. It's a very simple stitch and grows quickly. If I was knitting it for myself I would have chosen the cable version as that looks lovely - scroll down the page to see Kirsten's cabled version but Mike is quite happy with this as they are for bedsocks.

I did my last long run before the Beachy Head marathon and it was a rather strange one. It was so foggy that visibility was down to about 50ft in places so I stuck to the quiet lanes. As I was out really early I didn't meet any vehicles until I was nearly home so that was OK. I ended up very wet though and I had little water droplets on my eyelashes which felt most peculiar.

The other thing of note is that I did another interview for a magazine the other evening. The magazine is a weekly publication called Best and I always thought it was just celebrity gossip type stuff. Anyway, the journalist is doing an article about the loss of a loved one and how it felt the first Christmas after their death. She has interviewed someone who lost her husband, a lady who lost her child and me who lost my mum. She was interested in my fund-raising acticities too so I'm hoping that it will get more coverage for the Alzheimer's Research Trust. I'm not sure when it will be published yet but I've sent some photos over and she said their own photographer will be along to snap me at some stage.

Now I'm trying to work out my fund-raising strategy for next year. The marathons will all be for the Alzheimer's Research Trust but I'm thinking of trying to get a team of ladies from our village interested in running the Race for Life in aid of Cancer Research UK with me. It's a cause I always support as that was why I started running in the first place in 2002 and it quite literally saved my life by setting in motion a series of events that lead to me visiting a Specialist. I won't publish the details here but suffice to say that if I hadn't seen someone when I did then I most likely wouldn't be here now, so I feel I owe the race a debt of honour and do it each year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A humbling experience

These 2 little coins may not mean much on their own. They total 15p which translates as perhaps a few cents. But they were given to me by a dear old lady who I often see out walking along the lanes whilst I'm out running.

I was wearing my Alzheimer's Research Trust vest as always and today she stopped me for a brief chat. I know from previous conversations that her mother suffered from Alzheimer's and I suspect that she might be in the early stages of dementia herself. Anyway, she reached into her cardigan pocket and pulled out these coins, apologising that they were all she had with her. Her clothes are shabby and worn and she often looks unkempt and these 2 small coins are probably worth a lot to her.

She brought a tear to my eye. I am so often touched by the generosity of people.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mystery sock KAL

I've decided to take part in the TTL Socktoberfest Mystery Sock KAL hosted by Kirsten of Through the Loops

It's rather exciting knitting away at something and not knowing what it will look like. As the socks are unisex, I decided to make them for Mike so he chose the colour, burgundy, of Cherry Tree Hill yarn. I was very impressed as I ordered the yarn on Friday lunchtime from The Woolly Workshop and it arrived first thing the next day.

I was too busy playing around with the hat over the weekend and didn't start the socks until Tuesday evening. The first one I did was interesting because we discovered that Mike has very petite ankles and although the cuff went over the widest part of his foot with ease, it was quite baggy around the leg. So I've gone down 4 stitches and I think this will be much better. Anyway, I managed to complete one and found I'd got a second set of 2.5mm dpns so I've done a few rounds on that as well.

This is the cuff of the first one and the first few rows of the second. I think today's the day that Kirsten issues the next set of intructions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Arm Warmers and Thorpe

At long last Mike has the arm-warmers I started some time last year! I'd completed one and then got bored with the other so abandoned it. I changed the colour sequence within the diamond for a bit of variety. The pattern is from Rowan Magazine 40 and is knit in Rowan Kid Classic which is really soft and warm. I finished them on Friday evening and he hasn't taken them off since!
I had loads of wool left, as is always the case with this sort of project, so I decided to whip up a Thorpe by Kirsten. It's a really easy pattern to follow and grows so quickly. I started it on Saturday and I finished it today. The only modifications I made were to add stripes (using the jogless method) and to extend the decreases on the ear flaps so that they end in a point. I then crocheted the edge using 2 yarns held together and made the plaits out of the same 2 colours.

Needless to say, Mike is delighted with it (even though he refused to model wearing it!) and I know it will become a firm favourite.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

But at least I made it into the Rejects' Magazine!

Whilst feeling sorry for myself, I decided to flick through the magazine they send and there was a 2 page spread about all the Guinness World Records from the marathon earlier this year.

It made me smile and brought back happy memories.

Rejected and a bit Dejected

Boo hoo. No sooner do I write about the London Marathon than my rejection pack arrives.

I know it's not the end of the world and I have run it 4 years on the trot but I really wanted to make it 5. Now the only way of running it is to go for another Gold Bond place and with the economic situation the way it is I just don't know how feasible that would be as I've already hounded everyone I know for sponsorship for the last 4 years!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The London Marathon waiting game

It's that time of year when anyone who has sent in an entry for the London marathon starts biting their nails and wondering if they are going to get a place (me included!). For non-elite runners in the UK there are basically 4 ways of getting into the London marathon - via the ballot (where 90,000 plus people are vying for about 25,000 places!), by getting a 'good for age' place (whereby you can prove that you can run a marathon in a certain time - way too fast for most people), via a place from a running club (running clubs are allocated a set number of places which they often raffle for their members) and finally a Gold Bond place from your chosen charity (basically this is a place that the charity has to buy from the organisers for about £250 and they then allocate them to people who promise to raise a certain amount). I have been rejected in the ballot 5 times and accepted once so the 3 others times I have run it I had to take a gold bond place.

A couple of days ago I had an email from Debbie, a fellow runner who I met briefly at the Three Forts marathon earlier this year, who's the editor of a new website how2fundraise giving people advice on how to go about raising money for charity. Apparently she has had a lot of emails from people who are scared of making the commitment to raise the £1500 that most charities require one to raise for a 'gold bond' place (some charities require a minimum of £2500). As she knew I'd done a lot of fund-raising she wondered if I'd share some tips on their website.

Naturally I was only too happy to help. First of all she asked me to complete
this questionnaire about what I've done. Then she asked me some other questions about the London Marathon in particular so that she could include the details in a special article she's putting together about the London Marathon. She'll send me a copy when it's finished.

Tinker update

Tinker's results came through today and it could have been better news - the lump was a fibrosarcoma which is a cancerous growth that can be quite aggressive. This was not want we wanted to hear. The vet said that he took away a lot of tissue around the edge of the tumour and that he hopes that will do the trick. However, he said that we have to keep inspecting the site for any regrowth over the coming months. Tinker is very happy within himself so I am glad we had it done but the uncertainly is going to be a worry over the next few months.

Poor little fellow, he's such a good natured cat and I really don't want him to suffer at all.