Thursday, December 28, 2017

Is it over yet?

..........2017 that is, because I really don't think I can cope with any more bad news this year!

Even in the face of adversity I am definitely a 'my glass is overflowing' sort of person but this year is really testing me right to the bitter end. In the last week I've had news from 2 dear friends that their respective husbands have left them for other women, another is devastated by the loss of her precious husband who has just died suddenly and unexpectedly, 2 notes came in Christmas cards from the spouses of old work colleagues to let me know that their wives are now living with dementia and on Christmas Day my sister-in-law's mother-in-law died.

Add to that Esther, our beautiful Haflinger pony, is now on intermittent box rest because on top of being old, arthritic and prone to laminitis she now has the curliest of coats I've ever seen, which in a pony her age is indicative of Equine Cushing's disease. The vet came out on Christmas Eve and took blood samples which have subsequently confirmed my fears so she now has some new tablets to take to see what dosage helps.

On a personal note we finally had great results about Mike's health issues and although he still has tummy problems to deal with we are feeling a great sense of relief, plus my eyesight problems are being monitored closely. However, the thing that's suddenly knocked me for six is arthritis which has been bubbling away in the background with just a bit of interference for the last 20 years. It's as if someone has flipped a switch so that all of a sudden I don't have just an irritating stiffness here and there with the occasional debilitating flare-up, I'm getting acute and agonising pain in my fingers, hands and wrists. It's been a bit of a shock I can tell you especially as I seem to have lost a lot of my strength and grip too. I already do lots of exercises to help keep myself flexible but I've added in extra dietary remedies people have mentioned (although nothing dietary has made a difference in the past). Who knew getting older was so hard!

With a few days still to go I'm rather apprehensive what else can happen. Now for a bit of a catch-up with several different themes.

First there was another ultra marathon down at Samphire Hoe but this was a special one as Neil was a celebrating his 100th marathon there and had asked me to make him my special vegan chocolate orange cake but as small buns. I told him that my presentation skills are not my best feature but he and his wife loved the flavour of my cakes so much that they didn't care. So in addition to baking my usual banana cake I had 60 small buns to create plus 2 evening meals to prepare in advance as it was a marathon double weekend.

It was like kitchenmaggedon by the time I'd finished.

After piping on the icing I sprinkled some dark chocolate on top and they were very well received and no-one believed there were vegan!

On the morning I headed off for the event at Samphire Hoe there had been a very heavy frost and the little lanes around home were treacherous so I allowed extra time for my journey. Most of the main roads had been gritted but here were 2 very icy stretches where you could tell that the gritting lorry had run out of grit and hadn't bothered to return to complete the job. By the time I reached the motorway I was relieved to find it was completely clear and traffic was moving as normal with no delays. I arrived in Dover to find the sun shining with no evidence of frost whatsoever.

I love this photo of the start with us all silhouetted against the beautiful sky. That's Traviss pointing the direction we should take.

I had a lovely day of running, chatting with lots of people, and found the weather perfect even though parts of the tracks became rather muddy towards the end. As I was heading towards the finish at 30.5 miles I bumped into Traviss who sent me back out to do the extra .6 of a mile to make it up to 50k. This was important because my next challenge for Alzheimer's Research UK is going to really test not only my physical stamina but also my mental stamina. More on that very soon.

31.1 miles in 6:20:31

On another note, I was excited to receive a parcel in the post although I did sigh a little as my knitting time is very restricted at the moment because it hurts too much (left thumb/right wrist in particular), especially with tiny needles.

It's my parcel for Kate Davies's latest KAL which starts in January

I love tweed yarns and the colours are glorious so I played with a couple of combinations against my poncho

Progress on my poncho has been restricted to short periods when my hands don't hurt too much. Never mind, I'll get it finished eventually.

Speaking of knitting, I wore my Secret Garden mittens the other day and was disappointed to feel a draft through one of them.

Looks like a moth attack to me. Little blighters! I put the mitts in the freezer, warmed them up, then repeated the process as apparently just freezing/defrosting them once doesn't kill the moth eggs, but they don't survive a second freezing/defrosting.

Just before Christmas we had a trip to Rye and as we walked along one of our usual routes, away from the High Street, I just had to stop and take some photos of the church and one of my favourite trees; this beautiful Paper-bark Maple which looks stunning all year round.

I know I've put photos of almost all the streets in Rye on my blog before but each time we visit I'm reminded how lovely it is and I can't resist taking some more.

After coffee and cake we headed off to the art gallery to view their latest exhibition and were delighted to find prints from Captain Pugwash on display. Such fun!

On our walk back to the car we saw some pretty Christmas decorations.

I love this old archway.

An interesting way to dress the front door.

Now for my last marathon of the year over in Dymchurch and it was just a marathon too without the option to add on more miles. This was at what's known as a 'marmite' route ie you either love it or hate it! I love it as I always enjoy running by the sea and we had the best weather conditions ever on that day. We've run it in winds of 40+mph with torrential rain on several occasions so it was a delight to have just a slight breeze in one direction for most of the time.

The tide was out when I arrived.

I wore my 52in52 weeks tee shirt to remind myself what I achieved in 2016. This year I've only managed to squeeze in 24 marathons but that was enough really as there was just too much other stuff happening at home.

Listening to the briefing at the start

As the weather conditions were so good at the start I decided to use it as an exercise in pacing. Traviss told us that the wind was forecast to get stronger later on and so I went out at 10 minute miling pace which I maintained for 9 miles, which was just over 1 lap. The next lap I slowed down a bit by which time the wind had started to get stronger so I pulled my buff (the blue cowl around my neck) over my mouth to warm the air a bit before it reached my lungs.

I also chatted with 2 people who wanted to know how I went about running the 52 marathons in 52 weeks. I explained that it's more to do with a positive mental attitude to just get out there and do it, as if it was just another training run, rather than getting bogged down in worrying about your time etc. Seriously, if I did it then I think anyone who has the will can do it!

The final lap was a bit harder so I just slowed down to a comfortable plodding pace and sneaked across the finish in 4:59:57. It was nice to end the year on a time beginning with a '4' (just!). 

Although there were still several other events I could have run before the year end I decided that I needed a mental break ahead of 2018 and am spending my time just running round our local villages with no pressure for a specific distance or time.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos of a very clever hen pheasant who worked out that if she flew up onto the slate platform, where I put food for the robins, she could reach out and get the fatty puddings. Clever girl!

I hope you all have a happy and healthy 2018 enjoying whatever gives you pleasure.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Seven Seas of Rye (and a couple more ultras)

With apologies to Queen as I know their version is 'Rhye' but my title refers to beautiful Rye Harbour again. We needed a walk to clear our heads and escape from any talk of hospitals/doctors etc. You know you need to escape when one nurse comes to see how your knitting is progressing and you bump into an eye specialist in the supermarket who says she likes your latest jumper!

I'll just help you get into the Christmas spirit with a couple of photos of my wreath for the front door. A couple of months ago I bought a cute little bunny ornament who was wearing ice skates and had a hat and scarf made of sparkly silver tinsel. Mike rolled his eyes at the concept but I ignored him as clearly an ice-skating bunny just had to come home with me.

I designed the whole wreath around him but guess what? As I was attaching the cord to hang the wreath the pin came out of his head and he crashed to the ground (stone tiles) and lost his face and 2 legs. Hey ho! Thankfully I had a sparkly silver butterfly to pin on instead but I do miss my bunny as he was dangling down inside the centre of the wreath and looked super-cute.

This is very different from my usual offerings which are very traditional using holly and berries with bright red ribbon.

Now it's time for the walk. We Brits always moan about the weather don't we and I was heartily fed up of rain and mud so when the sun peeped out last week we just had to go and make the most of it. I was so glad that we did as Rye Harbour was breathtakingly beautiful and I took loads of photos plus we spent some time in one of the hides watching the wildfowl whilst enjoying our flask of coffee with some homemade banana cake. I'll let the photos do the talking:

All along the access path there were empty mussel shells. The gulls pick them up from the water's edge and then drop them from a great height to smash open their shells so they can eat them.


The colour of the sky was reflected in the lagoons

Peeping out from the hide. Although it was bright and sunny there was a cold wind which was strong enough to whip up foam on the edge of the lagoon.

First to appear was a coot.

There was a group of Shelducks at the far end but I couldn't get a decent photo of them.

Then a pair of Tufted ducks came into view

The wind turbines were whizzing around.

After coffee we headed along the path towards Winchelsea but on the way back we went down onto the beach as the tide was far enough out.

The remains of Camber Castle

Can you make out the wooden posts sticking out of the gravel? We wondered what could have been there as they were nowhere near the breakwater. Were they perhaps part of an art installation?

Ditto my comments above.....

......and again here when my shadow became part of the picture.

As you can see, we were well wrapped up against the wind!

You can just make out the outline of Dungeness Power Station on the horizon

I love sand patterns made as the tide ebbs and flows and these reminded of of art nouveau trees

The shingle is really hard to walk up and gives your legs a good workout!

There were so many of these little birds scuttling along the shoreline (Possibly Sandpipers or Turnstones?)

I was fascinated by the line of pylons marching to Dungeness

That was a lovely morning out and certainly blew the cobwebs away.

Marathons (or rather ultra marathons) 131 & 132

These were the last 2 days in the 10in10 Challenges I wrote about in my last post. Both were at the same venue, Betteshanger Country Park where I celebrated my 100th marathon last year and I thought we'd be running the same trail route.

However, when Traviss and Rachel had arrived at the venue they found that part of our usual route had been cordoned off due to the ongoing reorganisation and so we weren't able to access one of the paths. 

This meant Traviss had to create a new route in a different area and with only a couple of hours in which to do it I think he did a grand job! When he announced the route, which had shorter laps, there was a collective groan but it was actually a very pleasing route and I managed a good time on it.

At the start there were the usual announcements but there was also a very special one as Sophie Goodwin became the youngest person ever to complete 100 marathons as she was 21 years and 156 (I think) days and earned herself a Guinness World Record. What an amazing achievement for one so young!

As we set off I felt really good, as the route was much quicker and had less hills, so good that I pushed extra hard reaching 16.5 miles in 3 hours, 1.5 miles more than the week before, went through marathon distance in 4:55 and finished 28.5 miles in 5:20. The next day we were back to most of the usual route with hills and mud but I still felt very strong and finished 31.1 miles in 6:28 which was very pleasing as it was very muddy with fog/heavy drizzle for the 2nd half.

I was very pleased with how my legs felt both days and had a lovely catch-up with my running chums with lots of chatter en-route which helped pass the miles. So that's marathons 131 & 132 in the bag. Onwards and upwards.