Monday, February 26, 2018

Marathon 143 Mods v Rockers

I wasn't going to do this, honest guv, but I was in the grip of taper fever and Mike suggested it to calm me down. Well I've done it and it hasn't calmed me down but at least I got a nice shiny medal in the process!

This was another of Traviss and Rachel's fab events over at Betteshanger but this time on the tarmac cycle track rather than trail. When you registered you had to choose to be a Mod or a Rocker and given that I grew up riding on the back of a motorbike it was an easy decision:

Aged armchair Rocker (don't worry, I did swap my fluffy slippers for running shoes)!

Before the start Traviss tossed a coin to decide which way we ran round the track and whether we were inside or outside the lane. We Rockers ran anticlockwise inside the lane whilst the Mods ran clockwise on the outside track. It was nice 'cos you got to wave and chat with people as they went past twice on each lap. From a distance some people thought I was just wearing a bra on top - perhaps a bit cold for that thank you very much.

The weather wasn't very nice though, although at least we didn't have the torrential rain we had on New Year's Day. It was very cold with a biting wind which we ran into for 2/3 of each lap and for the remaining 1/3 it swiped us from the side. Brrrrrrrr!

It was so cold I had a balaclava and a buff under my cap both to keep me warm and to keep it in place but even then it nearly blew off a few times

It was Kirsty's 200th marathon and as she was a Mod I got to wave at her lots which was nice. There was cake too, yum.

A lot of people struggled for some reason but I felt reasonably OK. I paced myself a bit faster for the first half and then slowed right down to my ultra pace interspersed with walk breaks for the second half. One thing I noticed was that my legs felt very heavy and were a bit crampy which I put down to breaking in a new pair of shoes which I don't like as much as the previous model; I do wish they wouldn't tinker around with the design quite as often as they do.

I finished in 5:23:23 and was glad to get back to the car to warm up a bit.

A Carbeth Cardigan

In other news, Kate has released a cardigan version of Carbeth so I spent a happy evening winding some skeins of beautiful purple Artesano alpaca aran into balls and cast on straight away.

This was my progress on Friday evening but I've been otherwise occupied over the weekend so will get back to it tonight:

I took this against my jeans as I can't quite capture the sumptuous purple colour, it just looks like a Royal Blue when seen in isolation.

In other news

This morning I finally agreed the Press Release with Alzheimer's Research UK which has been on the back-burner as they are very busy at the moment. It should go out in plenty of time and I'll talk about it as soon as possible.

I've been trying to get photos of this amazing plant which has been delighting us with it's unusual flowers for several weeks. It's Billbergia Nutans, a Bromeliad from South America and it's remarkably resilient and easy to grow. It's common name is the 'Friendship Plant' because it's very easy to divide and share.

It's brought a welcome splash of colour to the Utility Room.

We have some new sheepy friends to stay which is such a relief because the sight of our empty, horse-less fields was making me really sad. Unfortunately though we had a dog incident the other day when a woman let her dog off the lead in the woods behind our fields. The dog wouldn't come back when called and eventually found its way into the field with the sheep whereupon it terrified them by herding them round and round until they ended up entangled in a patch of brambles.

I was completely oblivious to what was happening as it was in the furthest field and the first I knew was when Melissa, their owner, arrived with the dog in tow wondering if I knew whose dog it was. It had a collar on but no name tag but I was pretty sure I knew who it belongs to so Melissa headed of and en-route saw a woman walking along with a lead and looking distracted so she stopped to see if it belonged to her. It did.

The moral of this story is please don't let your dog off the lead anywhere near livestock if you are not able to control it properly - it's not the fault of the dog (which is just doing what comes naturally), it's yours for not being a responsible owner!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

In the dark

Not as in being kept in the dark but actually running in the dark!

This was an event to get a feel for running in total darkness for several hours, wearing a headtorch and carrying a small hand-held torch. I was also using it to test my night-time pacing.

The event, which used the same route we will be running for my latest Challenge, started at 3pm and had an 8 hour time limit. This meant we only had 2 laps in daylight before we needed to carry torches etc. I was slightly nervous, no very nervous, about the dark section as the route has many potential trip hazards in the form of slippery slopes, tree roots, loose stones and uneven surfaces so I knew I needed to be extra careful.

It was a beautiful but chilly day and I'd taken extra layers to add for when the sun went down. I'm very glad I did as when I finished the car was frosted over.

I didn't take my camera with me so the following photos come courtesy of fellow runner Sharon (thanks for sharing).

The route was on farmland and basecamp was in a giant barn

Each lap was 6.25 miles so that meant 4 laps plus a short loop for marathon distance or 5+ laps for an ultra. When we set out I hadn't decided which to go for so kept my options open.

The route was a mixture of muddy trail with concrete tracks

Kirsty demonstrating her water-jumping skills!

I wasn't sure whether to go out faster for the daylight laps and then adopt my slower night-time pace or to start slower right from the start. I chose the second option and settled into my chosen pace quite easily with added walk breaks for the really muddy/slippery sections.

It was lovely watching the sun go down and it was fascinating feeling the sudden drop in temperature. 

After lap 2 I exchanged my usual baseball cap for a warmer option without a peak but with earflaps, added a neck buff, another outer layer, thicker gloves, headtorch and handheld torch. This was the scary bit for me as my eyesight is challenging in dim conditions. However, what I found was that I coped better with a lower light setting on both torches than with them on a really bright setting. No idea why but it seemed to work.

I also wanted to see how I felt running on my own in the dark even though in my final event I will be buddying up with someone for the night section. Amazingly I felt OK and actually enjoyed letting my mind wander and spotting night creatures peeping out from the undergrowth. I spotted the sweetest little mouse in a verge and a beautiful Barn Owl out hunting along the ditches (I thought it was a bit cold but he must have been hungry).

At the end of lap 4 my time was 5:45 and Rachel asked me if I was going out for an extra lap or stopping at marathon distance. After a few moments thought I decided to stick with a marathon as I'd achieved what I wanted and so I trotted out for a short 1.75 loop to make up the distance, coming in at 6:01. This also meant that I could head for home before the pubs closed and there would be more  traffic so the roads were quite quiet and I made good time getting home.

Marathon 142 done and dusted.

Next weekend I have another marathon as a training run and then I'll be counting down to the main event. The Press Release from ARUK should go out at the end of next week and then I'll be announcing it officially on here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wednesday Woes

My ultra marathon yesterday, the Gothic Challenge, was wet, windy and a rather tough challenge both mentally and physically. It was the same location and route as the previous 2 but the weather forecast was even worse than before with rain and wind throughout.

I donned my waterproof jacket right at the start but that didn't stop the blimming wind taking my breath away. This time we were running uphill into the wind - nice! However, the weather gods must haven taken pity on us as the rain didn't come until later and we were treated to 2 hours of rain-free running before it did its worst and soaked us.

This time I was practising my fuelling strategy (get me sounding all knowledgeable, as if!) and I tried out some Tailwind combined with solid food (a piece of my banana cake & some salty crisps) which didn't cause any tummy problems. For many years I've trained in what's known as a 'fasted' state which just means I don't eat before I run which helps train your body to burn fat as a fuel rather than relying on taking in lots of carbohydrates. With what I have planned in a few weeks (details to follow very soon) I will have to take on much more fuel than I'm accustomed to so hence the trial. Apparently using Tailwind helps aid recovery too.

There's not much to say about the run itself as it was just a case of putting your head down and grinding out the miles. We were certainly a strange looking bunch all hidden behind cowls/hats with our heads bowed against the wind.

I opted for the 'short-ultra' of 29 miles and was delighted to finish in 6:00:36 which included a trip to the toilet and nipping back to my car to get some nice dry gloves (oh how wonderful it felt to exchange my soaking wet gloves for some nice warm and dry ones).

Next I have the Moonlight Challenge which starts on Saturday afternoon and goes into the night. A nice dry day would be very welcome!

Marathon 141

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wow for Wonderful Wendy

Somebody I Used to Know

I can't believe I forgot to write about this, so sorry Wendy! The Wendy to whom I am referring is the lovely Wendy Mitchell who blogs at which me am I today? and her book 'Somebody I Used to Know' has just been published.

If you look on the right side of my blog you'll see her having a chat with me before the launch of Join Dementia Research (JDR). She is a truly lovely lady and a shining beacon of hope for people in a similar situation as her with early-onset Alzheimer's. She was 58 at the time of diagnosis in 2014 and she was determined to carry on with as near normal a life as possible whilst acknowledging the restrictions her conditions imposed upon her. In her words "I want to do something now - I don't want to just sit here and wait for this disease to make its march on my mind".

The book has received excellent reviews in the newspapers but when the Alzheimer's Society posted details on Facebook I noticed there were some negative comments, such as 'there's no good side to having dementia", ironically because she is so optimistic. I see both sides.

Having spoken with a lot of people with early-onset Alzheimer's they all say that they have to stay positive otherwise they'd just give up and I fully understand that. It was speaking with Wendy that made me very aware of the words I use when talking about dementia. People told me that they hated the expression "suffering from dementia", which I used to say when talking about my mum, because they don't want to feel like victims. I respect that and now say that she "lived with dementia" which at least makes people feel that they still have some control over their condition.

Wendy says "Dementia can be a lonely world to live in" and notes "people assume you can't participate". I think she serves as a shining example of how you can still have a good quality of life whilst dealing with the restrictions the condition imposes upon her. Well done lovely lady.

A Brace of Ultras

I'm really short of time at the moment so I'll just leave this photo here with a few words:

On Saturday it was cold, it rained and I got wet whilst running 31.5 miles but got that massive silver medal. On Sunday it was bitterly cold, there was a biting wind and there was a bit of 'snail' (that's my description of a combination of sleet and hail which pounded onto my head!) and I ran 29 miles and got the Music Legends medal on the left.

When I booked these events I could have run today too but chose to take a day of rest and to run tomorrow instead. Today, whilst cold and a bit blowy, is lovely and bright but the forecast for tomorrow is RAIN. Deep joy!

They were marathons 139 & 140.

A Quick Show of Carbeth

It took a few days to dry

I used Mel's clever idea of inserting a plate in the collar to keep it a good shape

Mike was busy when I needed photos so I improvised with the easy but not very attractive bathroom mirror technique coupled with Photo-booth on my computer!

I made this specifically to be worn over this dress which is a favourite I wear for speaking opportunities for Alzheimer's Research UK when worn with a jacket but I wanted something less formal as an alternative.

I have about 4" of positive ease and it sits nicely above my waist.

It does sit away from my back like Kate's model does but I couldn't show it because when I lifted my arms out of the way it moved towards my waist!

I love the whole thing and am really pleased with how the neckline sits. I may have to make another in purple........

Right, that's it for now as I need to prepare for another ultra tomorrow.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Eat, Sleep, Run, Repeat

That's what it's felt like for the start of this year and all of a sudden my big event is getting closer. I'm still not ready to announce it to everyone but I know the Press Release will have to go out soon. Oh my!

In the meantime I've been doing plenty of long runs and lots of cross-training to try and be in the best possible shape. I did a virtual 30 Day challenge last month with some chums on Facebook where we had to do a certain number of squats each day for a month. This month we've added more squats, tricep dips & more core work. Plus I'm still going to Bootcamp at The Hub in Bodiam on Fridays with the lovely Sarah and although it's tough I'm enjoying it very much.

Sarah, our instructor. She makes us work hard but adapts an exercise if you struggle with - I can't do Burpees 'cos they hurt my wrists so when others are doing them I do squats instead.

A welcome rest break!

Today we did circuits of 1 minute at each station followed by ever-increasing numbers of burpees (or in my case, squats) then moving straight onto the next mat for another 1 minute activity. After we'd completed one round we had a 2 minute break before doing the whole thing again. I'll try to remember all the activities; all were 1 minute each: I started with the 5kg ball (which you can see on the right of the photo) which you had to hold with both arms above your head and walk forward and return, then it was squats, the plank (centre bottom in the photo), skipping, press-ups, walking lunges, out and back jogging, tricep dips and finally 2 jumps forward/1 jump back.

That's me with the skipping rope looking very PINK. I found skipping quite difficult but got into the rhythm eventually.

It's much nicer doing a workout outside rather than in the gym and the added bonus is that I can run there and back.

Last weekend I didn't have any formal events so I had to do back-to-back long runs on Saturday & Sunday. I deliberately didn't take my camera with me but really wished I had as I saw some amazing views. I chose 2 equally hilly but different routes of just over 20 miles each to test my legs and I was delighted that I managed both days in almost exactly the same time. There was a point on Sunday when my heart sank as I was going downhill for a couple of miles and it suddenly dawned on me that it was an out-and-back route and that I would have to go back up the afore-mentioned hill! Still, it was a great test of mental and physical stamina.

During the week I did a few 10 milers, one of which was in heavy rain and I saw this little fellow floating around at the side of the road but I didn't have my camera again so went back the next day to snap him (although the rain had drained away by then):

Having had some dreary and very wet/windy days it was a joy to run around the lanes as everywhere looked beautiful.

The cowls on the Oast house stood out against the blue sky

I loved the bright yellow ochre of the twigs on this willow set against the coppery leaves of the Beech hedge

The climbing ivy formed wonderful patterns and reminded me of Pre-Raphaelite paintings

The Woodmans log pile is maturing nicely and yielded some wonderfully frilly fungi:

I shall be doing the same again this weekend, on different routes though, and will definitely take my camera with me even though it means I'll take longer.

In other news I got a lovely card from Lily the vet who attended Esther. She wanted to reassure me that I'd done the right thing in having her put to sleep. She also sent me some Forget Me Not seeds which I'll sew into the planters by the garage. What a lovely and thoughtful thing to do.

Knitting-wise I was up to the collar when my game of yarn-chicken came to an abrupt end as my last ball ran out. Bother! As Artesano cased trading in 2016 I thought it would be easy to find an extra ball but it took and awful lot of of searching before I found one. Phew! It will now be finished in an evening.

Soon as the Seville oranges appeared in the shops I bought enough to make marmalade with some extras for a special cake I make each year. Their bitterness makes the most divine marmalade. Plus, the juice makes a fabulous marinade for pork chops which Mike enjoys (not that I've ever tasted them as I'm vegetarian).