Tuesday, 15 August 2017
I had a letter yesterday from my dear friend Shauna who is close to finishing the couch to 5k programme. She got me thinking about running in all its shapes and forms. I know from experience what a massive achievement it is to complete your first 5k, and how good it feels to finish something you've worked so hard towards.
Meanwhile, I've had a tough week training-wise, probably still feeling the effects of the half marathon. I was feeling frustrated by it, then I looked back at my diary and realised I've run a fast Parkrun on Sat, did 6 miles on Sunday and 5 miles including fast intervals last night. A few months ago I would not have been able to do that without collapsing, so I think it's probably a matter of perspective. Once you start to clock up longer distances or faster times you get, if anything, more self critical and less satisfied with your own performance. I have a sneaky feeling that's why I've entered a marathon for next year and it's also why I choose more technically difficult races over the flat, fast road ones. I need to challenge myself.
I spent a little time yesterday working out a marathon training programme. It's quite an overwhelming topic to research when it's your first one and you have no experience to fall back on. I've ended up doing what I usually do, which is downloading a few examples, and then working my own one out based on those I've seen and how I've previously trained to up my distances. I'm relatively confident in the result but am still going to email it out to a few friends (thank you in advance, Kate and others!) to get their thoughts.
When M got home I gave him my version and one I'd found on the Edinburgh marathon site to compare. He went through both with me and thought I'd got enough miles in with enough rest days between to get me there. I can honestly say it starts to look a bit scary when you see the miles you need to run in order to be fit enough to do a marathon mapped out in calendar form stretching over, in my case, five months of training. We're talking, once the first month is done, of an average weekly mileage of around 30 miles, split into various distances with one big run increasing from 14-20 miles every other week and four days of training back-to-back. It's nothing like training for a half. I can quite see why running club buddy Dan told me he's decided to stick with half marathons because they are easier to achieve and don't require months and hours of training, yet they are still a very respectable endurance distance.
I've also been advised by more experienced runners to get a few hefty competitive runs in in the weeks prior to the marathon. This means distance and tough terrain for stamina, and also choosing at least one race that has a large field so I have some experience of running with 10,000 other competitors before I hit Edinburgh and it's 40,000. It's all good advice, but trying to work these in to the training programme so you get the right miles in at the right time takes some juggling. There is a coastal trail series of runs organised by Endurance Life which tackle some really beautiful but tough landscapes all round the British coastline. They offer four distances from 10k up to ultra marathon. The half marathon options often take in 1000 metres of climb, and can be more like 16 mile runs, so they aren't for the faint hearted, but they would be a good training for Edinburgh so that's one solution.
I lay in bed this morning thinking about routes, because mapping the runs out in a calendar is only half the story, you've got to work out where you're going to cover the miles. I found myself thinking about Ed Whitlock, the Canadian octogenarian who blasts marathon world records whenever he runs. His training is around his local cemetary. The obvious solution for me is to work mine around my existing runs, which in reality probably means running laps. As the land I run through is so beautiful I don't think this will be a big problem but it's still something to consider. Laps can be soul-destroying but I'm hoping they'll work for me.
Friend Peat advised me to allow enough time to factor in four or five 20 mile runs prior to the race, when you add this to a 3 week trailing off phase and factor in enough time to get up to being able to run 20 miles, and then put in a week or two between these long runs you start to see why it takes four or five months to be ready.
M, being that much more experienced, kicks his marathon training off about two months prior to a race. His autumn marathon is the start of October and he's already banging out two sets of 9 mile runs in a day and will be heading off for his 20-miler next weekend. I obviously have to approach it differently, giving myself plenty of time to see how it all works out and how I respond to the challenge that learning how to run a marathon presents.
Friend and ultra-runner Brenda summed it all up perfectly when she emailed me last week: you're going to get a lot of advice. Listen to it all, decide which bits work for you, and then it's probably best to disregard 90% of the rest.
It's a learning curve.
Hope you're all well?
I'll leave you with a photo of the latest members of the family: my sister's retriever Toffee gave birth to nine little pups yesterday morning. Here they are, only a couple of hours old. Altogether now: ahhhhhh!
Sunday, 13 August 2017
Everything went off fine. No emergencies beforehand; the dogs didn't roll in anything unspeakable; no one fell into a badger latrine or down a ditch; everyone got to the house safely. Even the weather played ball by being warm enough until after dusk for everyone to mooch about on the patio drinking and chatting and admiring the flowers.
The food went down a storm and there isn't too much left over. The advantage of inviting runners to your home is that they are never on a diet, are always hungry and come back for thirds. What there is leftover will do for supper tonight with the remainder going into the freezer.
We watched Mo's race :o( and then we watched Bolt's relay, which turned out to be a mixture of :o( and then :o) when I realised we'd won! M is very excited at the thought of Mo concentrating on marathons from now on (hoping to race against him at some point). I think the results showed both men were right to be retiring.
L kept his head down, foxing all attempts by Auntie Jo and Auntie Saz to find him. He's known them since he was two and they haven't seen him for a year so were keen to discover how tall he'd got. They duly set off, tottering on high heels with glasses of prosecco in hand, to dig him out of the study where he can usually reliably be found plugged into the computer, but he'd squirrelled himself away in the attic for the duration and only reappeared once most people had gone home, figuring no doubt that by then it was safe to come out to forage in the kitchen.
We were in bed by midnight, having done all the tidying and cleaning, and woke this morning feeling ready for a nice six mile run which we duly did round the lanes in the sun. I was a little low on running energy, not, I think, from the party, but because I did a fairly speedy Parkrun yesterday, back to within a minute of my PB, which I'm chasing again, I think.
Hope you're all well and have had peaceful weekends?
Thursday, 10 August 2017
We have a whole bunch of Significant Birthdays this year. On Saturday, a crowd of our Very Best Friends (apart from the far flung ones and those who are thoughtlessly away on holiday) are descending on the house to help us celebrate M's 50th. Are you having caterers? I hear you cry. No. Are you sensibly buying everything in from Cook or somewhere similar then? I hear you ask next. No.
No. In my wisdom, I have decided to make everything from scratch. So that's copious numbers of tuna and tomato quiches with marjoram and balsamic vinegar, vast vats of potato salad with apple, celery and shallots in a mustard mayo dressing (thank you, Mary Berry), a selection of cold meats and pate (OK, I haven't made these from scratch but I've still had to agonise over them- which ones to get, when to get them, how much should I get of each type, will that be enough for a bunch of (mainly) people with enormous runner's appetites), four loaves of warmed french bread (ditto not making but time-consuming in the thinking and planning bit) and bowls of watercress and sliced cucumber (we have grown the cucumbers- does that count as putting in the extra effort?). Pudding-wise it's trifle (easy to make and can be done the day before and shoved in the frigde), white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake (Mrs Berry again), two treacle tarts (Nigel), a raspberry meringue cake (got the recipe ages ago on one of those waitrose foodie cards and it's very good, ever-so-simple to make but looks satisfyingly impressive so shh, we won't tell any of the guests that). My worry is though, is that too many raspberries? Should I change it to strawberry meringue cake instead- thoughts please?. I'm also doing a fluttering of meringues to use up the whites from the trifle custard (see, everything made from scratch), and two big tins of chocolate brownies.
I've bought the booze and the soft drinks and M is in charge of the beer, which will be his own homebrew (needless to say it's lethal) and some other stuff. Modestly, I am not currently drinking so I expect to be the only sober one present. The photographs will be good.
I've been planning all this for days (while M has been busy wafting about in the heat with J in Italy looking for digs for her for this September). On Monday, not being able to walk far thanks to post half-marathon-Quadruceps-From-Hell (which saw me walking backwards down the stairs on both Monday and Tuesday, much to the bemusement of the dogs - Poppy sat on the second-from-top stair watching me with her head on one side and a curious look on her face), I sat down at the kitchen table with paper and pen and worked all the logistics out.
The whole of this week has been mapped with jobs to do on certain days. I'm halfway through the cooking. I went shopping after my run this morning and got most of the rest of the stuff that I didn't get on Monday because it was too early for things like cream to last. I also counted up the cutlery and annoyingly realised we were four knives short so I had to go and get those today too. How does that happen? How can a kitchen keep hold of its full compliment of forks while losing four knives mysteriously on the way?
I'm making chocolate brownies this afternoon (resisting the temptation to eat any when they're all warm and gooey and squidgy and tempting) because they'll sit happily in a tin till Saturday, before driving to the train station to collect sun-burnt returning husband and thoroughly over-excited daughter, then tomorrow I've got to make the cheesecake and trifle (the fruit goes on on Sat to avoid pre-party bleeding - sounds awful!) and meringues. Saturday (after Parkrun, of course), I'll do the meringue cake, the potato salad, clean the house, sort the music playlist, move the furniture around because we're in the kitchen half of the house to keep the Gods Of New Carpets In The Sitting Room (mainly me) happy, dig out napkins, wash the cutlery and plates, collect the on-loan glasses from Waitrose, buy the fruit to decorate the various puddings, remember to defrost the quiches and bread, pick fresh raspberries from our canes to make a coulis (get me), wash the dogs (because you can guarantee both will have rolled in something unspeakable that morning. I always allow extra time for unseen-emergencies pre-parties. This has been learnt through bitter experience. When I was two my parents were hosting a dinner party and ten minutes before the guests arrived I did a poo under the table. Another time, my mother was busy making a chocolate chip cheesecake for a supper they were hosting for some important work colleagues when one of the cats jumped on the surface and spilt cat biscuits all over the place. They looked just like the chocolate chips and got mixed in with them.....you've guessed what happened (luckily, people commented on how lovely and crunchy the chocolate chips were. I had to leave the room), and a third time Poppy was sick on one of the chair cushions half an hour before M's boss, who'd come to supper, was due to sit on it - so you'll see why I always factor in an allowance for worst-case-scenarios), hoover the floor and try and make myself look vaguely presentable. I have no idea what I'm going to wear. Most unlike me. I've had no time to think about it. Of course, a large proportion of the guests are runners and it's Mo Farah's 5000m final slap bang in the middle of everything so I envisage a brief 15-minite recess to decamp into aforementioned freshly-carpetted sitting room to watch him race. Let's hope the carpet survives. With two dogs, three teenagers and a husband with a tendency to wander in with his gardening shoes on I'm fighting a losing battle with it, I know. It's only a matter of time before somebody drops something disgusting and permanent on it. Last time we had a new carpet fitted (after dithering about doing so for ten years so the kids could get older before we treated ourselves to one) Poppy weed on it within half an hour of the fitter leaving.
I haven't organised the parking yet. Our drive, while reasonably roomy, won't fit everyone in, so we've signs to make to direct guests elsewhere. Living on a country lane means there's no lighting and that puddles/ mud/ ditches/ crumbly edges of tarmac are more or less permanent hazards that exist specifically to catch out rural virgins, these are of course in addition to the badger latrine on the verge just down from the house which I noticed the other day is back in use, one might go so far as to say comprehensively so, as well as the occasional toad waddling underfoot trying to get from the ditch on one side to the lake on the other, and owls who like to sit in the trees above our gate and hoot loudly and without warning. Even I jump at them sometimes and I know this is a favourite game of theirs. There is also a very good chance that our local Vixen will be out too, screaming like a murder victim being strangled in the background. I think most of the guests are familiar enough with the way we live by now to know to bring shoes to change in to and torches to dispel any nightmarish nighttime myths and apparitions, but some of them haven't been here before.....
The last time we threw a big bash here it was fancy dress (you may remember we had everything from a haggis to several fairies and an elf turn up). A group of our chums shared a taxi from Romsey. The driver collected them, drove them here, dropped them off, picked them up at 1am and drove them back home without saying a single word about what they were all wearing, but when we had another do (not fancy dress this time) a few months later a different driver from the same firm remarked on the tameness of the dress code. Lord knows what they have written down next to our address :o)
By Sunday I shall either be a) exhausted or b) champing to get out for a nice, long, cleansing run.
Hope all are well?
Sunday, 6 August 2017
We were up at 6.30 this morning to drive down to the Bridport Jurassic Coast Half Marathon with friend B. This is the race which next year attains Fell status because of the ginormous hill half way round (which the half marathon runners do twice. Yikes!). You can see some of the hills in the photo above.
Sarah, whom many of you will know from her wonderful blog Down By The Sea lives in the area and we were hoping we'd be able to meet up at the start of the race, which we duly did, with Tavi, her Westie, present as an identifying feature :o)
This is the first blog friend I've met in real life and it was a lovely way to start the race off. Sarah is as lovely in real life as you'd expect and Tavi is gorgeous too :o)
The race kicked off at 10:30 and we set off along the seafront at West Bay, which is where Broadchurch is filmed. The weather was glorious- bright sunshine, a bit of wind, not too hot, not too cold. I went very slowly for the first six miles, mindful of the knees, but realised after a while that this course is either uphill or downhill, and if I continued walking all the downhills and most of the uphills (which were cliffs so I have some excuse) I would hardly run at all and I'd also be out on the course for hours, so at the halfway point I picked up the pace and cracked on. Before I'd reached that there were these to contend with.
Hill Number One:
And hill Number Two:
The second is the hill that gives the race it's Fell status. My Lord, it was Hard Work. Absolutely no one was running up it, we were all heaving away with our hands on our thighs wishing it would end soon. I seem to recall describing a hill on the Ridgeway Half a few weeks ago as a monster, well I take it all back, that was a pimple in comparison. And the worse bit was that the half marathon runners had to do these hills twice, the second time after running about nine miles over other cliffs. I put the thought away and decided not to worry about it until I had to.
The view from the top was stunning....some consolation for the climb :o)
But there was little time to stop and admire it, because this lay ahead.....More hills.
By now I was seriously down time-wise because I was walking down each hill and starting to fret that a single loop (6 miles) would be all I could do. I realised I was either going to have to stop at the halfway point, or pick up the pace and see what happened. Stubbornness kicked it and I started to run down the hills. I caught up with and overtook five people which felt good, and realised I was feeling strong and that the knees were coping fine, so I decided to run the rest of the race as I normally would, stop worrying about the knees and just get on with it.
I reached the halfway point in 1:17 hours feeling relatively confident that I'd get my 2:30 hours time because I knew I would be running the second half faster. At that point I saw Sarah waving at me and that lifted my spirits again.
The huge hill second time around was hard work, I won't lie: it was tough. I don't think I've ever stuffed so many jelly babies into my mouth in a race before, praying to the sea gods that they'd give me the energy to get up the hill and do the four miles that lay beyond to get back to the finish. This time I knew what was ahead too, a mix of hills and more hills. I grabbed a water bottle at the top, drank half of it then tipped the remaining half over my head as the sun was warm by then.
The course turned inland away from the sea and through fields, and still I was gaining on people and overtaking them, feeling strong with a decent amount of energy left in heart, lungs and legs....
As a result of the field being relatively small (200 runners across the two disciplines of 10k and half marathon), I ran the majority of this race on my own, something that I would have really struggled with only a few weeks ago. At The Ridgeway I relied on the ultra runner I met at mile 3 to get me to mile 7, then Sally to get me between miles 8-10. At Adderbury, I had help from another runner when we ran miles 8-10 together, and from Pop when I imagined her running with me during a hot and empty stretch between 5-7 miles. Today, I used the thought of Pop running with me to get up a hill in the later stages of the run, but otherwise I was fine: running alone wasn't a problem. These hilly, off road races don't attract crowds out on the course so there was no spectator support either. This is something that many runners depend on- they use the crowd and one another to get them through energy slumps and to help lift them when they are tired and drive them on to the finish. For large stretches of the race today I saw not another soul and I actually rather enjoyed it. That was my learning from today: that I can run an endurance distance alone over pretty tough terrain and cope fine. It felt good.
The final stretch of the race takes you back out towards the cliffs along the seafront away from the finish. Mentally it was tough- you're off the lovely springy turf and back onto remorseless concrete going in the wrong direction apparently forever. I dug deep and kept going, feeling huge relief when the course turned and took us back in the direction of the finish. Here there were crowds clapping and cheering and then I saw B waving and cheering me on, and a moment later M wearing a medal and a huge grin. He ran along beside me to the finish which was lovely, and then I left him as I sprinted the final 100 metres to cross the line somewhere around 2:30 hours (my GPS kept stopping and starting so it's a rough estimate), having climbed a total elevation of 583 metres. It was undoubtedly the toughest run I've done yet and we all agreed it was hard but brilliant.
When I got back it was to hear that B had run a superb time in her 10k (she's not a natural trail runner preferring roads where she regularly runs marathons and the odd ultra - and I'm sure she won't mind me telling you that is retired too, so that is one tough lady), and that M had done brilliantly too, beating my 2:30 hours by about 45 mins. We had all really enjoyed the race and the course and had a fantastic day.
Thursday, 3 August 2017
Rain. All day. Heavy and prolonged. It was the Itchen Valley RR10 at 7:15pm and I kept looking hopefully out of the window while I cut and ironed forty fabric squares for F's going away to uni quilt, Every time I glanced out of the window it was raining and the trees were waving with increasing hysteria. The dogs agreed they didn’t want a walk so we remained inside. Despite all of this, I couldn’t wait for the race.
As so often seems to happen, we left the house in rain, arrived in rain, stood around at the start in rain and set off in rain. This time, because we were with the running club, there was a boisterous camaraderie present as we huddled beneath Ray’s enormous golfing umbrella seeing how many of us could squeeze under it and taking selfies to record the result. It was a healthy acknowledgement of the sometimes ridiculousness of our collective devotion to our sport. There were various impromptu versions of rain-related songs: Derek’s It’s raining men was particularly well-received and earnt a few whoops and a small round of applause at the end, and Karen’s (Club Boss) rendition of If you’re happy and you know it as we waited in our racing vests and shorts shivering in the rain at the start line, was supplemented by the rest of us supplying the claps. As a result, we were all grinning by the time we started running.
I think Itchen Valley is my favourite RR10 to date. It’s off road and goes across fields, through woods and over a short track section. I was running very steadily as I have a final pre-half marathon physio session with Steve tomorrow and getting the all-clear to run on Sunday is dependent on the RR10 going well. Because I was going steadily I loved every minute of it. I was well within my comfort zone (judged largely by how my thank you, marshals! to the hardy souls huddled in dripping fluorescent jackets at strategic places around the course didn’t come out a desperate wheezy gasp), not taxed in my breathing and only mildly sore in the knee department. I would have liked to have run a tiny bit faster, but that will come as the knee heals up and the lateral muscles strengthen. In any event, I did run up the one significant hill on the course which you do twice and, given that everyone around me was walking up it, felt good about it.
The course twists and turns, with the result that at various stages the runners further back in the field can see those at the front. Twice I clocked a Romsey shirt in the lead and recognised Dr Matt. Lynne (with whom I was running at that point) and I cheered him on madly. A little later I saw Becca running very strongly and doing the Romsey ladies proud. We waved at each other across the field. Being part of a team in a team event which also allows for individual performance is part of the fun of being in a running club, especially a friendly one like ours which welcomes everyone- of all abilities- and celebrates each equally.
I finished the 4.3 mile race just as the rain eased up, resisting M’s exhortations to sprint! Go on! You can take her! (referring to Karen, who was ahead of me), and trotted sedately to the finish in a little over 43 minutes which I was more than happy with, given that the knees survived the experience and that’s the furthest I’ve run in three weeks. Hopefully it will be enough to convince Steve that I’m fit to run the HM.
Hope you're all well.
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
King John's Garden is one of Romsey's hidden gems. I walk through it on my way into town whenever I can. It's one of those precious places that's special whatever the weather or season. I go there for peace, for solace, for inspiration, to breathe and sometimes to sit and think. When I read this week that my friend Mel had been experiencing tough times, it was King John's I knew I needed to take a photo of to send to her to cheer her.
The garden is part of an ancient complex of buildings on one of Romsey's oldest thoroughfares. The oldest building dates from the 13th Century, with later Tudor and Victorian additions. The 13th Century property was owned by the Abbey until the reformation in 1539. The garden itself is managed by a group of volunteers who do a fantastic job of caring for it. There are several sections to the garden: the plants in the first section were all in cultivation before 1700; there is a medieval herber style section and a victorian flower garden, there are old roses and clematis, passion flowers like the one above and a number of fruit trees, also myrtle and medlar, and a wildflower area. The garden is bordered along one side by a stream. It attracts a wealth of insects- I saw a hornet hoverfly, a pied hoverfly and various butterfly species as well as bees all busy nectaring on the wildflowers in the space of half an hour as I happily wandered through the garden. There is also a delicious tea room where we take Uncle Charles. He has chocolate cake and M and I have scones. Yum!
In other news, F awaits his A Level results on Aug 17th and it occurred to me this morning that I need to get on and make his 'going away to uni' quilt. It hardly seems any time since I was doing one for J, when in fact it was two years ago. In another two years it will be L I'm making one for. I find I don't want to think too much about that! Anyhoo, I had a lovely time choosing the fabrics (and working out the maths last night with L- how many 25cm squares can you get out of a metre's worth of fabric and how many metres will I need for 40 squares, plus the border and what does that all add up to so I know how much wadding and backing fabric to buy. It was quite a challenge but we got there in the end!). Here's what I've chosen. The first pic is the material for the squares on the front of the quilt (if we got our maths right, there should be enough for 8 squares from each fabric pattern). In the second photo, the green stars are the border, the stripes the backing fabric and the red stars will be a bag to carry the quilt in. I hope he likes it! J has had hers on her bed the whole two years she's been away - she sometimes sends me pictures to prove that she's still using it :o)
Finally, I'm back running again (hooray!). Still only in 3 mile goes and slowly, but I've been off road and the knees seem to be holding up well. If tomorrow's 4 mile run goes OK then Physio Steve has promised me I can do the HM (walking down the hills and not going fast and stopping if they start hurting). Bless the man, he's even staying back at work an extra session in the evening this week so he can fit me in for a final treatment before the race.
Hope you're all well? Ted wants me to let you all know that he and Poppy are fine and he's planning a blog post before long as he says he's owed one! In the mean time, he's Very Busy woofing at postmen and the pigeons who are nesting in the trees by the patio.