Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mud glorious mud!

I don't know how else to describe last weekend other than to say that the mud on Saturday was joined by snow on the Sunday.

We were back at the beautiful Ranscombe Nature Reserve which is very pretty in Spring-Autumn but I've always avoided it in the Winter months until now and even then I didn't really want to go because I knew how ghastly conditions would get underfoot. Heavy rain on top of chalk and clay over loose flints is a really bad combination for someone who has a tendency to trip over her own shadow!

At the race briefing on Saturday Traviss asked me how far I was going and I stoically replied "ultra" and he announced that I would earn a purple hoody (my favourite colour) for  completing 2000 miles at their events. Ha, that changed as the day wore on.

Did I fall over? Yes, twice on lap 5 on Day 1 at which point I made the sensible decision to drop down to marathon distance so I walked the last lap in the amiable company of Kat whose dad is in the latter stages of dementia so we had a good old chin-wag as we slipped around in the mud like Bambi on ice. On Day 2 there was snow/rain and even deeper mud and no, I didn't go over marathon distance.

I'll let the photos, courtesy of a valiant fellow runner, do the talking as they give a reasonable idea of conditions underfoot.  It was a struggle from start to finish.

Base station

This puddle was useful for cleaning my trail shoes after I'd finished

This is the section where I fell - my legs literally went from under me and I landed on my right hip and shoulder. Ouch but no blood!

Ooooh look, another puddle to wade through!

The Darnley Mausoleum

The slope at the top of this photo was the most treacherous bit to negotiate. I found it very scary going down  it.

This quagmire was approached from the bottom of the photo and what you can't see is how steep the descent was - oh my goodness that was slippery!

A nice flurry of snow joins the mud on Day 2

Walking poles were even more important on day 2 when the snow came!

Please remind me never to enter a Winter event at Ranscombe again!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

All Change

It had to happen, I knew that, but when Esther went off her soaked hay I hoped it would pass and anyway I was trying to keep her weight down and we were still experimenting with the drugs to ease her Cushings disease. But when my normally happy and easy-going 30 year old lady refused her feed bucket the other morning I just knew where this was heading.

Esther loved to get a feed bucket because it was a special treat and of course it served to get her medicine into her system.

I phoned the vet for advice even though she and I knew what the outcome would be. She came as soon as she could and she examined Esther. I stroked Esther's nose to reassure her and Mike stood by just watching. I knew what she was going to say as she spoke, "perhaps we could try....but.....concerns about.....no sounds in her stomach", then the words I was expecting "perhaps it's time...." and I felt the tears I'd been suppressing well up in my eyes as I turned towards her and replied that it was OK, I'd been expecting that option and yes I did believe it was 'time'.

Arrangements were made with the same man who'd visited us just 4 short months ago when Kizzy had to leave us and at the appointed hour I started to lead Esther across her field and into the next one which she'd never been in before. Mike followed on together with the vet and her assistant. We were worried that the ground would be too soft to get the vehicle onto the field but the man said it would be OK and not worry and so we took her near to the gate and stopped.

She stood quietly as I stroked her nose and the vet shaved through her lovely thick coat to find a vein. I spoke to her softly about things shared only between us and I looked deep into her beautiful brown eyes as the vet administered the drugs to make her drowsy. As the drugs began to do their work Mike asked me if I wanted him to hold her for the final injection but I needed to be there to reassure her, to say goodbye and to say thank you. I was aware there was blood pumping out of the artery as the lethal injection was administered but I just carried on looking deep into her soul and watched her drifting quietly away. 

Then she was gone.

I cried and Mike hugged me then I walked back to the house with the vet whilst Mike stayed with the man who was taking her away. When the vet had gone I went to sit by the pond and I sobbed, great big fat uncontrollable tears. This was truly the end of an era. I've had horses in my life for so long.

When I'd cried enough I started to walk back to the house and saw Mike coming back across the field. He'd been trying to phone me but of course I was outside. The driver had got his vehicle stuck in the field and needed a colleague to bring a winch to help him get out. Oh for goodness sake! By this time it was dark and so Mike headed back out with flashlights to help. Apparently the field has been churned up but I haven't felt able to go and look, not just yet.

So that's it, our 2 lovely ladies have gone to pastures new and we enter another era.

One of my friends sent me these beautiful words:

If it should be that I grow weak and pain should keep me from my sleep, then you must do what must be done, for this last battle can't be won. You will be sad I understand, but don't let grief then stay your hand. For this day more than all the rest, your love for me must stand the test. We've had so many happy years, what is to come can hold no tears. You don't want me to suffer, so, the time has come, please let me go. Take me where my fears they will tend, but please stay with me till the end, to hold me and to speak to me until my eyes no longer see. I know in time you will agree, it was a kindness done for me, from pain and suffering I am saved. Please do not grieve that it was you who had this painful thing to do. We've been so close we two these years, don't let your heart hold any tears.

Well that brought the tears back I can tell you! Thanks Sheila xxx

Monday, January 15, 2018

Pootling along

I've just been pootling along with things for the last few days. A bit of knitting, a bit of walking, a bit of cross-training and rather a lot of running.

I'll start with the knitting as a friend emailed me to ask how she could check if a jumper she was knitting top-down would fit. She's just started knitting again after a long break and has joined a knitting group to give her confidence but they aren't very beginner-friendly and she was too embarrassed to ask. Please find yourself another group!

In the meantime here are some photos to help guide you:

Find a nice blunt needle with a large eye

Select a long length of yarn of either the same or slightly thinner weight and thread the needle.  Remember that when you try the garment on your knitting will be stretched so be sure to allow for this (you could leave it attached to the ball if you like but make sure the cats are nowhere around when you try it on or chaos will ensue!). Using a contrast colour  is a good idea 'cos you won't get confused when you come to put the stitches back on the needle.

Insert the needle into the first stitch. You can slide each stitch off individually.....

.....or wait until they are all safely on the spare thread.  Try the garment on and when you've finished put the stitches back onto the needles and pull out the contrast thread. You'll soon get back into knitting and get your confidence back xxx

Whilst we're in the knit zone I'll just show what I started on Saturday night when my marathon brain needed something easy-peasy. It's Carbeth by Kate Davies and as soon as I saw it I knew I'd have to make it as I knitted a sweater in the same shape about 25 years ago and I loved it. My original was a pattern from Vogue International magazine. The sleeves were slightly different but it hung in the same 1960s way and looked fab on when I was nice and slim. I gave it to a charity shop when I put on weight as that sort of boxy style does not look good on a larger frame. I'm hoping it will look OK on my current shape!

This year I am definitely not going to buy any more yarn and am sorting through my stash with the intention of donating some to a Charity Shop or to a group who knit for charity. So I rummaged around and found some lovely aran-weight yarn by Artesano. Sadly the company ceased trading in 2016 which is a great shame as it's a lovely soft alpaca/wool yarn.

The true colour looks nothing like this!

I swatched using an aubergine colour then decided I'd knit using the cream as it's more versatile and wearable.

It has good stitch definition too.

Let's take a short walk

To make sure I'm in the best shape possible for my next my charity challenge, I'm doing lots of strengthening exercises along with Bootcamp nearby and weekly yoga sessions. On Bootcamp day I run the 2 miles there and back and last week there was a mist hanging in the valley so I took some photos on the way there.

My route takes me along a 'holloway' which is a sunken track lower than the land on either side. This particular one was once a bridle path, or so I'm told.

As I headed downwards the mist swirled upwards to meet me.

The colours seemed to be intensified by the strange light

The orchard of bare cider-apple trees looked rather eerie!

A blanket of mist had settled in the valley

As I passed the sheep I met a man and his dog, a lovely friendly black German Shepherd cross. We exchanged pleasantries and went our separate ways. About .25 mile later the dog appeared beside me and wouldn't go back no matter how much I tried to send him home. I looked back for his owner but there was no sign of him so I assumed he must be just out of sight around the bend. Then I started to wonder if something had happened to his owner and he needed help so I turned to head back and just as I did the man drove along the track in his car. He apologised and said the dog had never done that before. Perhaps I'm turning into a dog-whisperer!

Bootcamp was tough, as you'd expect and I really felt some of the exercises in my legs and bum and did wonder if it was wise to do that sort of workout the day before 2 hard ultra marathons. After a short warm-up we did 'circuits' of various exercises for 1 minute on each mat before moving around to the next mat for some different torture eg squats (ouch), press-ups, walking lunges (ouch), sit-ups, planks, bicep curls, plus several more things which I seem to have blanked from my memory! Then we got a 2 minute break before we repeated the whole process. Then the others did burpees which I can't do 'cos of the arthritis in my wrists so I had to do some jump squats in which you do squats with a weight (ouch and double ouch!). We finished with some gentle stretches and then I trotted off home. No, that's a lie, I walked!

The ultra marathons (the Cakeathon & Chocathon Challenges)

My weekend can be described as eat, sleep, run, repeat! I'd prepared our meals in advance, baked the cakes for the first event which was another Cakeathon and made sure Mike was OK with Esther's evening meal 'cos I knew I wouldn't be back in daylight. Both events were held over at Betteshanger country park, same as on NYD, but this time we were running on the trails which is always a bit tougher especially after rain. However, the weather was kind to us on both days and the trails had dried off completely by Sunday.

As we set off on Saturday my whole body said 'OUCH' but after about 20 minutes of gentle running the niggles disappeared and I settled into a nice comfortable pace. There were several of the 'usual suspects' there but also lots of new people which was nice. It's wonderful to see people achieving things they never thought possible.

I was trying out a different fuelling strategy and had filled my bottles with Tailwind which is used by lots of marathon runners. Did it make a difference? I'm not sure but I'll keep trying it for a few more to see.

I didn't stop at the aid station at all and just had my card punched after each lap and headed straight back out again. It was 8 laps for a marathon o 9+ laps for an ultra marathon. After I'd completed my 9th lap I still had enough time to go out for 1 more complete lap but instead opted for doing half a lap to make it up to 50k, which is 31.1 miles, as I didn't push myself too hard given that I had to do the same again the next day.

On Sunday morning everything hurt and I was not hopeful of a good time. However, once I'd started running and the niggles had eased out a bit I settled into a decent enough pace and was delighted to finish just 9 minutes slower than the day before. I even managed a sprint finish for the last .5 mile as I didn't want that pesky Nick, see below from a different race) to catch up with me. Go leggies!

I really must write about Nick as he's been doing the most amazing things since he last made an appearance on my blog.

All in all that was a very satisfactory weekend of running and it's given me some confidence for the task ahead.

I got a trophy for both my cakes - my usual banana loaf and 2nd prize for my vegan banana cake which I've perfected at last.

The ladies got sparkly cake medals whilst the men got a more manly version.

Sparkly cakes!

My finish times were 6:20:17 for day 1 and 6:29:24 for day 2 so only 9 minutes slower which was very pleasing indeed for 50k. 

Next weekend will be the same sort of thing only on a course which is not my favourite as I've fallen over there several times and it's hillier too. I shall be taking my walking poles with me just in case.

Happy News

Several years ago the charity I support re-branded itself from Alzheimer's Research Trust to Alzheimer's Research UK. This left me with a large quantity of tee shirts in various sizes that I couldn't donate to charity as they had the logo on and I had no idea what to do with them as it didn't seem right for them just to be recycled.

Then I met a fellow runner who collected tee shirts and took them to a Christian charity in Kiyindi, Uganda so I gave them to her. The other day she sent me this lovely photo and I was delighted to see them put to good use.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

So It Begins (with thanks to Tolkien & King Théoden for the quote)

A Happy New Year to everyone with apologies for my last gloomy post. Normal bounciness has now been resumed and positivity abounds.

2018 is well and truly on the go with marathon 135 done and dusted in torrential rain on 1st January. This was a head-down-and-grind-it-out sort of marathon as the rain started 15 minutes after we set off and didn't abate at all. We were lucky to be running on the tarmac cycle track over at Betteshanger again and you would think that it wouldn't get puddles - wrong! Great big puddles which got bigger and bigger throughout the day and you just had to splosh through them in true trail-running style.

I wore my snazzy new technical running jacket with all sorts of fancy features. Did you click on the link and nearly faint at the price? Well I bought mine for less than a third of the price, brand new, on eBay and I thought that was a bit pricey! This jacket is what's known as 'Mandatory Kit' for many Ultra running events and offers all sorts of protective features so I needed to feel comfortable running in it long before my next fund-raising Challenge event which I'll be announcing very soon. Did it keep me warm and dry - it certainly kept the bits it covered nice and dry but my legs and feet were soaked through for the whole run! Now I'm going to investigate over-trousers............

The other thing I was trying out was my nutrition strategy (sounds serious doesn't it!). You see I always run my marathons/shortish ultras in a 'fasted' state ie I don't eat before or during the race (the only exception being the London marathon as a big breakfast is part of our routine there really early in the morning, sorry I digress). So I nibbled a little something every 6 miles to see if anything upset my tummy. I was fine.

My goal was to get below 5 hours again to get 2018 off to a good start and I was delighted to finish in 4:53:18 especially as I hadn't held off the goodies throughout Christmas!

The next 67 (I think that's right) days are going to be very focused on both nutrition and training. After a little celebratory glass or 2 of red wine at NY I am now going alcohol-free until after my event and I'm going to be tweaking my diet slightly to get myself in the best shape I can. On that note, I'm now taking part in a 30 Day Squat Challenge (ouch, they hurt!) with some chums and I'll be heading out to Bootcamp nearby when it starts up again next week together with my usual weekly yoga sessions.

In other news it's nearly time for the West Highland Way Knitalong to start and I'm really looking forward to playing around with some interesting colourwork.