Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Dementia Revolution at the London marathon 2019

Where on earth do I begin my write-up about this?
For the 14 years I've been supporting ARUK I've dreamt about dementia being the chosen charity at the London marathon so when they joined forces with the Alzheimer's Society to fund the Dementia Research Institute it really was a dream come true and what a dream-team the Dementia Revolution has been!

Having completed VLM 10 times before I decided that 2019, my 11th running of it, would be my last as a charity runner as there are so many people wanting to run it now and share their stories about the horrors of dementia. So my 11th running of VLM was also my 167th marathon for dementia research and I had planned to go for a pb which would have been sub 4:30. However, having 3 months out of action due to injury at the start of the year and recurring issues with plantar fasciitis did not bode well and I'd already settled for just getting round comfortably and would have been quite happy with anything under 6 hours!

I'd treated myself to some new purple and grey shorts and a new purple cap to which I just attached my 100 Marathon Club badge. 

We had to make the painful decision for Mike not to come with me this time as Tilly the cat was quite unwell and we didn't want to leave her alone - if he'd come with me we'd both have been worried about her and if he stayed at home we knew he'd worry about me. I promised I'd be careful and so he stayed with her.

I arrived at Blackheath bright and early and promptly went to a cafe we've frequented on several occasions before heading off to Greenwich Park for a photo shoot with some fellow Dementia Revolution runners.

In this version I'm looking down whilst chatting with  the ladies on either side of me (2nd row next to the lady with bare arms) but you get to see more people!

Whilst all this was going on Scott Harvey Mitchell was busy doing a brilliant PR job as usual whilst celebrating his birthday before actually running the marathon with fellow celebrities from Eastenders!

I knew it was going to be a very emotional day for so many reasons but I really struggled to keep it together when I saw the amazing support teams. OMG they were absolutely AWESOME! That sea of pale blue on each side of the road with odd pockets of people supporting their family and friends was amazing. Then all the runners too. Oh, it was just perfect.

However, my journey certainly didn't go to plan as my right knee started to play up at mile 16 and I had to walk from mile 19 onwards. I've never walked in the London marathon before and it was the most amazing experience because the crowd just carried me to the end, shouting out my name and encouraging me. I had a great big smile on my face and the commentators kept spotting me and calling me the lady with the biggest smile. 

There were lots of people walking in the last few miles and as we were heading along the road towards Buckingham Palace I was walking next to a young girl who'd had problems with her ankle and declared it was her first and last marathon! I told her she needed to do a victory run/jog when we got to the Palace and for some unknown reason said I'd run with her to help keep her going (which was a rather silly thing to say as I was limping along at the time!).

So when we reached the 800m to go marker (photo taken by a friend before the race, hence no runners!) she said "let's run from here" my legs didn't really like that idea at all but obliged with a slow jog. As we progressed to about 200m to the finish line I told her we should do a victory sprint, 'cos I couldn't feel my legs by this stage anyway, so off I went but she didn't!

So although it ended up being my slowest ever road marathon (5:30:52) it was certainly one of the most enjoyable 
Now to get my knee sorted out before my next big challenge..........
I must just mention my young chum James who ran his 300th marathon at London in a fantastic time of  03:14:18, to get himself a Guinness World Record for the youngest person to complete 300 marathons. Fabulous and well deserved young man!

Another fab story you may have read about in the newspapers or seen on the news was Lukas Bates,  a fellow  runner for the Dementia Revolution, who was trying to get a Guinness World Record wearing a costume of a famous landmark - Big Ben. Unfortunately the costume was too tall to get under the finish line gantry and there are some very funny video clips of it if you take a look at the link. But that's not the best bit - he went for a drink in a pub afterwards and left his costume outside which was then stolen by some fellow runners, as a result of which his £1000 fund-raising target has been well and truly smashed as people have been making donations which have now reached £5000!

Also, apparently there were more people finishing the London marathon then ever before; 42,549 to be precise which was 2,000 more than in 2018!

Now for the sad news

5 years ago we visited the Blue Cross Rescue Centre and our beautiful girl wrapped her tail around our hearts and chose us as her forever family. She was 7 years old and had not had a happy life up until then and we vowed to keep her safe and told her she'd be well loved.

Today our beloved Tilly was fading so quickly we knew she needed us to make that dreaded phone call and we headed off to see the vet. Although she had to leave us far too soon, she will never be forgotten. 

We buried her in the orchard near Barney and Tinker.

Rest in peace beautiful girl.

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Six Pack Revolution (with a bit of Brighton & London thrown in for good measure)

I am way behind in my updates so many apologies but as always there has been so much going on what with Tilly being poorly, Brighton marathon, completing the Six Pack Revolution (I'll refer to this as SPR from now on as you're about to hear a lot about this!), getting myself marathon fit again after 3 months off and fund-raising for the Dementia Revolution at the London marathon (which is this weekend).

First of all Tilly is still with us and on a form of medication that seems to make her feel reasonably comfortable at the moment. She's eating OK and still takes short walks around the garden with me each morning but there is a lump growing apace on her back and I know that her days are most likely dwindling now, poor darling. Still, these moments we still have are precious and we're very grateful to the Vets for helping her live as well as she can. I hate talking about end of life care but it's so important to make the transition as comfortable as possible.

The Six Pack Revolution (SPR)

You know when you hear someone say something-or-other has changed their life and you roll your eyes and look askance? Well prepare to roll your eyes as this has been one heck of a 90 day journey and it's certainly given me a new perspective on my diet and exercise regime!

I'll have to try and condense everything into small bites as I'm sure I could write a dissertation on this wonderfully empowering experience.

I first wrote about the SPR here when my journey was about to begin. I knew there would be exercises to do and a strict diet to follow but at that stage I didn't know any of the finer details. All I knew was that it would help me get leaner and fitter which was my goal as at that time I still hoped my foot would get better in time for me to try for a Good For Age time at the London marathon. When the reality of letting that dream go finally hit home I felt much less upset about it than I thought I would and doing the SPR plan and watching other peoples journeys really helped put things into perspective. There will be other opportunities to realise that dream.

Here's a link to hear Scott Harrison, the founder of the SPR, explain a bit about it (I couldn't get it to load on here so please just scroll down the page in the link) and below is a photo showing one of his amazing before and after photos:

The nitty-gritty

It's really hard to know how to explain what an excellent plan this is but I'll do my best. There are 3 levels of plans (Signature - ie entry level, Intensive - the next stage & Extreme for those who really want the six-pack) and I chose the first one 'The Signature Challenge' which you can read about here.

If you scroll through you'll see these sections:

Focus on the Goal
For me this was easy, I wanted to get stronger and leaner with more muscle tone to help me be a better runner.

Nutrition Plans are Vital
There were brilliant recipes to suit all tastes - meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, a mix of food and supplements. But you had to stick with the same plan throughout so no picking and choosing from the other ones. I was delighted with the recipes in my vegetarian plan.

Fitness Plans are Key
The exercise regimes seemed daunting at the start but as soon as we started them they just became a way of life. There were things we had to do every day (eg Squats and Press-ups) with the number of reps being upped slowly each week, then there were exercises specific to your abdominal muscles (aka 'abs') which you had to do on alternate days, then there were extra 'challenges' you had to complete within a specific number of days. Each week you had to take 1 or 2 days of complete rest which is really important to let your body absorb and recover from all the hard work you'd put in.

Anytime. Anywhere. No excuses
This was very important. It didn't matter if you had to attend a wedding reception/works do/birthday party/were away in a hotel on business, you had to stick to the eating and exercise plan. Everyone found their own way of coping with this eg by preparing all their meals in advance and, if possible, removing themselves from the temptation to deviate from the plan.

Progress Photos
At the start, we had to provide a photo of ourselves in sports bra and pants which showed all our tummies and flabby bits. This seemed really daunting as the thought of others seeing the bits you normally conceal under clothing was quite scary! You had the option to allow them to be shown on social media or to opt out. Each Friday we had to take another photo so our Coach could check our progress (more on that later) and it was fascinating to look back and see how my shape had changed.

I opted in for my photo to be shared so people in our Team or any of the other groups could see them, but Mike doesn't want me to show my photos on here as lots of our neighbours in the village read my blog so you won't be seeing my wobbly bits but you will certainly notice a difference when you see my final fully-clothed photo or if you see me out running along the lanes!

We want you to SUCCEED
We were split into Teams and I was in Lean Team 4 with a wonderful Coach named Dawn. She was an absolute gem, motivating when needed and offering alternative exercises for anyone with an injury which you may remember included me with my naughty foot problems - more of that later too.

This is the lovely Dawn who was the brilliant Coach of our Team

It was amazing to realise that not only was she taking care of our Team, she is also a Personal Trainer to many other people at a gym. This meant she did loads more exercises than us!

Right, now for the really interesting stuff.

When we first gathered together all the information about meals/timings/portion size etc it all seemed rather daunting but it was so easy to plan ahead for each week by deciding which meals you'd have on each day, making sure all the ingredients were on you shopping list and batch cooking/freezing where possible. There were so many options to choose from that you were never bored and I really enjoyed my vegetarian options throughout.

I must stress that this was not one of those cranky diets designed to be overly restrictive or full of weird things, it was a very well-balanced and varied plan designed to nourish the body. I never once felt hungry, nor did I crave chocolate or sweet things.

No alcohol was allowed at all which suited me fine as I'd already decided to go dry until after the London marathon. I managed to survive 3 of the monthly wine club meetings in the village too. That did go out of the window though when I sneaked in the Brighton marathon (see below!) but I didn't have any until after the last day of SPR.

We were allowed 2 cups of caffeinated coffee each day which I thought would be difficult for me as I love my morning coffees (usually about 5 cups). However, once I'd set my mind to it I found it really easy and I shall continue restricting my intake of coffee from now on. In case you don't know, the caffeine in coffee stimulates the production of adrenaline which in turn increases the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) which encourages your body to store fat around your tummy and that's what I'd really like to get rid of!

About the Teams & Challenges

I cannot stress enough how important being in a Team was. Many people chose not to participate in the Facebook group but I think they really missed out by not contributing, although I understand why they might not want to join in (Mike said he wouldn't as he'd be too embarrassed).

We had to video ourselves doing the special 'Challenges' and then share them in our group. This proved that we'd actually done them and also allowed our Coach to check we were doing them in the correct manner. It was incredibly motivating to see people pushing themselves way outside their comfort zone and although I didn't like watching my own video, at least not until my fat quotient had diminished somewhat, it was really useful to see the changes that were happening.

You may remember that at the start of this I had Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot. This restricted some of the things I could do so if there was anything that involved even a short run of say 1 kilometre I couldn't do it which was very frustrating for me. But, I was not alone in this and several other people had different injuries or restrictions and our lovely Coach Dawn always provided us with an alternative.

I spent the first few weeks using the static bike for anything that involved heavy impact on my feet and it really did help stop me focusing on not running. Then I decided to have a go at one Challenge where you had to do some reps of Tricep Dips and run 1km inbetween reps. Oh my goodness the pain in my foot was excruciating. There were tears. There was self-doubt and I felt so demotivated that I couldn't even run for 1km. I took a screenshot of what I wrote on Facebook to remind myself how bad I'd felt.

Thankfully the lovely Dawn mopped up the tears and set me back on track!

Fast forward to nearing the end of my SPR journey and it was a whole different ballgame!

My time for the last rep

I really enjoyed a lot of the Challenges and discovered a real love of the Battleropes - my goodness they get your heart rate up and burn those calories! Mike has now started using them too. Here's a video of me doing 'Bicycle Whips' when I'd got the hang of them a bit better:

The ground was so wet that I didn't fancy using them outdoors so I decided to do as many of the exercises in the garage as possible so we set up the Battleropes so that the car would straddle them without us having to move stuff around. I kept my yoga mat in there too although it was rather cold sometimes. At the time we didn't have any Dumbells or Kettlebells (but we have now and have been playing with them over the weekend) so on the occasions where a weight was used I either used my palm weights (useful for getting a bit more out of the Jumping Jacks) or for something such as a Russian Twist I improvised by using a bag of cat litter which weighed 5.5 kg and had a useful handle - necessity is the mother of invention!

I was really impressed by the way others managed to get their Challenges done for example taking their Battleropes to a local shop and attaching them to the railings outside and doing them by streetlight or even using them in their Hallway at home. Some people were staying in hotels during business trips and so had to improvise however they could. It was wonderful to share everyones journeys and watch them blossoming.

That's the SPR spirit - where there's a will there's a way.

We were advised not to weigh ourselves during the 90 days and I did have a what-the-heck moment when I went for my annual Asthma Review where I get weighed as well as other checks. I asked the nurse not to tell me my weight so can you guess what she did? Yep, she looked at my weight last year and said "Oooh, you've put on 2lbs since last year". This was quite early on in the program and I was very upset as I'd been trying really hard and had stuck to the plan completely. I went back to my car and had a jolly good cry. Eventually I reasoned that it was probably muscle gain because muscle weighs more than fat which made me feel a bit better. Then I shared my woes in the FB group and Dawn went and looked at my weekly photos and told me I was doing really well and made me go and look at week 1 against week 4 (I think) and she was quite right as I could see a big difference even in such a short time. Phew!

As the weeks went by I remained completely focused on my goal and when I wore normal clothes rather than lycra I noticed that things were getting looser and looser but I still resisted the urge to weigh myself. I must do a whole new post about sizing in clothes as I have hoarded some things from the 1980s when we got married and you should see how much smaller sizes were then. That will have to wait until after the London marathon though.

As the last day of our SPR journey drew ever closer I felt rather strange. I realised I'd really enjoyed the whole experience despite the hard work and tears. Rather than taking our final photo on day 90, we were told to wait until the next morning and not to have anything to eat until afterward. So on Day 90 I weighed myself as soon as I got up before Mike took the final photo and I really couldn't believe my eyes - I'd lost 1st 2lbs. Not even in my wildest dreams had I expected that! I hadn't felt hungry at all during the plan, and I'd managed to complete 3 marathons during the plan and felt absolutely fantastic.

We all received our start and end photos and there were some amazing transformations. I keep looking at mine in disbelief. Mike doesn't want me to share the photos on here 'cos a lot of my lovely neighbours in the village follow my blog and it doesn't seem right to show photos of me in my scanties! I did point out that they're used to seeing me running around in lycra (which really doesn't leave much to the imagination!) but I respect his view so you'll just have to settle for the photo of me after the Brighton marathon and one from the London Marathon Expo the other day.

Thankfully 2 of my Lean Team buddies, who gave brilliant support to everyone throughout, have allowed me to show their amazing results. They were both incredibly supportive and it was lovely getting to know them and sharing their results.

First we have Lee who was doing SPR along with his wife but they were in different teams. What a transformation! Lee is about to start a new wave of SPR at the next level - Intensive. I'd have loved to do that too but having chatted with Scott he suggested I should join that level in September when I'll have got my 100 miler out of the way (eek, training for that starts in earnest after the London marathon). I loved watching Lees video clips as his little dog joined in the fun sometimes with Lee multi-tasking by throwing a ball for him inbetween his own reps!

How awesome is this transformation - that 6 pack will be yours very soon young man!

Next we have the lovely Grace who absolutely rocked the whole losing weight thing by dropping a whopping 3st11lbs. Oh my goodness, how awesome is that! I must apologise for my over-use of exclamation marks and the word "awesome" but aren't these amazing results.

Grace you look absolutely amazing! I can't wait to see what we look like after the September wave.

Last but certainly not least is Dawn, our Coach and mentor throughout, and whilst she looked fab beforehand she looks even more fab now.

I didn't get to see everyones photos on the final day as we headed off to Brighton at silly o'clock to collect my race number and the evening was spent preparing for the marathon the next day. You don't get to see my post-marathon photo until you scroll down to the end of the next post.

Just adding another link as Scott has launched SPR Juniors, a 39 week fitness plan designed for school PE session. Now I know that it will be absolutely brilliant and I really hope lots of schools get on board as it's so important for children to learn to enjoy exercising at a young age. Here's a photo of Scott with his beautiful daughter demonstrating a move:

I really can't wait to start the SPR Intensive plan in September!

Brighton marathon

I'd already resigned myself to just getting around London rather than smashing my pb as I'd planned because I'd had no time to do the speedwork necessary to achieve a decent time. So I entered the Brighton marathon at the very last minute because although I wasn't sure how my foot would cope I needed a confidence-booster ahead of London and Brighton seemed like a good place to do it.

As usual we had to go and collect my race number etc beforehand and it's traditional for us to have coffee and cake at our favourite little cafe before heading off to the Exhibition. As we'd arrived very early and it was such a beautiful day we wandered the streets first and this time my eye was drawn to the architecture and towers of many different sorts:

Aren't these hinges magnificent!

We finally wended our way to Cafe Soho and were faced with the most beautiful array of pastries and cakes with the smell of fresh coffee beckoning.

I always have a chocolate croissant or a chocolate Brownie here, so what did I choose? The healthy option! That's what doing the SPR for 90 days had done to me! Mike didn't believe me when I said I wanted the Chia cup but my goodness it was gorgeous.

Mike had banana and white chocolate cake

Now in the last couple of weeks of the SPR we weren't allowed any coffee and I was surprised how well I managed as I've always been a coffee monster. However, that first sip of my large black Americano never tasted so good!

Then we headed off to collect my race number passing the Pier en-route:

Looking back we had a good view of the i360 tower. It had an awful lot of teething troubles with people being stranded on the viewing platform for hours on end. Hopefully that's all been sorted out now.

There weren't many people there so we thought we'd get in quite quickly. However, what we didn't account for was a Security Guard who thought it opened at 10am rather than 9:30 so we all hung around getting cross until someone made him check the opening hours by which time it was 9:45! Yes, it was his mistake so we hurried up to the collection point and were in and out within minutes so all was forgiven.

As we headed back to the car there was a man playing an old piano so we had to stop and listen for a while.

On marathon day I was up at silly o'clock to head off to the car park at the Amex Stadium where I had to catch a bus to the start. It was really cold first thing and I decided to stay in my car for as long as possible and catch a later bus so I didn't have to hang around getting cold in the park. I'd prepared well and had a nice flask of coffee, an energy bar and a good book to keep me occupied.

I headed off to the Clock Tower to meet up with fellow 100 marathon club members but I was about 10 minutes too late and they'd all dispersed. I did however have random hugs from different people as I dropped my bag off at the collection wagon and made my way to the start pens. I'd booked into the 4:30-5 hour pen as I had no idea how I was going to fare - I usually do sub 5 hours for a road marathon but given the 3 month lay-off and lack of any training so my plan was to just run however felt good on the day. 

So that's exactly what I did.

After about an hour the sun decided to make an appearance and it got really hot so I took off my long-sleeved top and just wore my vest. I was running well and felt strong. Then I noticed that the 4:30 pacers who I'd started near were still not far ahead and on checking my watch I saw they were going far too fast (8 minute miling for goodness sake!) and I'd been carried along by them without realising which is not like me at all as I'm usually metronomic with my pacing and pay no attention to what anyone else is doing! 

I reached the halfway point in 2:05 which was a shock as the first half is not flat with several steepish inclines.

As I headed back along the seafront I could feel my breathing getting rather laboured and my chest felt gunky, stupid asthma. Oh bother, I thought (except it wasn't 'bother'!) and slowed right down. Once I'd accepted that I wasn't going to break any of my personal records I just started to enjoy my surroundings - I danced along with the steel bands and drummers, boogied with an elderly man who was playing an accordian, had a quick chat with a former weatherman from ITV (I'm amazed he recognised me in the crowd), high-fived all the sweet young children lining the roads and ate pieces of orange handed out by lovely people. There was lots of hugging too as ma of my running chums spotted me - there were lots of out and back sections in the 2nd half which I quite like as you get to see more people.

The second half took me 3:19 which really made me chuckle! I still managed a sprint finish and hung around for a while watching some of these amazing people finish:

That evening we opened a bottle of champagne to toast the end of my SPR Journey and it was the perfect end to the weekend.

So that was marathon 166 and only my 3rd marathon of the year. I say"only" because I had actually planned to run 9 by now but then Plantar Fasciitis struck and all plans went out of the window. I'm just grateful that the ministrations of Mary Massage Lady and lots of self-discipline have got me back running so soon.

Now let's see what the London marathon has in store for me this weekend........

London marathon Expo

Here we go again, another large city marathon, another Expo. I've never been to the Expo on the first day as I've usually been doing Press Day on the Friday with my chums at Guinness World Records  so this was a first for me.

I decided to run-bling myself and donned my special London Marathon tee with my runner number showing I was the 598598th runner to take part int he London marathon. I don't usually get caught up in the buy-a-teeshirt marketing but how could a numbers geek like me resist that?! I also decided to get myself into long-distance mode by wearing my beautiful 100 mile buckle from the Viking 100 ultra marathon last year.

Even I can see and feel the difference in my weight now:

Size 8 jeans thank you very much!

As always, I took photos of anything that caught my eye on the train journey and on our walk along the Thames. It still seems weird to walk along streets we used to know so well but look so different now.

The Expo seemed eerily quiet when we arrived but as we were leaving it was getting busier. I collected my number and looked out to see any of my running chums from the 100 marathon club who I knew were working there for the 4 days but sadly I didn't manage to spot any of them either at registration or manning the stalls.

This made us stop and look as a brave soul was taking on the challenge:

He jolly well did it too!

There were a few stands I wanted to visit and the first one was, of course, the Dementia Revolution stand:

With Kelly from ARUK

My next mission was to try on some new HOKAs recommended by the very helpful Keith from the ultramarthon store. They felt really good but I was shocked when they told me the price - £130, especially as Keith has them on special offer at the moment for £97 so guess where I bought them from?! Thanks Keith.

On the train home we were sitting going backwards which I don't usually like but it gave me a different perspective:

I was fascinated by the building with the triangle pointing at a seemingly strange angle so needed to find out what it is.....

.....found it! It's called The Scalpel, Lime Street, and is the European headquarters of US insurance company WR Berkley.

As a final note, congratulations to all at Alzheimer's Research UK for winning 'Best Large Charity' at the Running awards last night! I first started supporting ARUK after my mum died back in 2005 when it was the Alzheimer's Research Trust, a small charity with such big ideas. It has since been transformed into a major player. Well done everyone, just brilliant and so well deserved!