Wednesday, 30 April 2014



The strength training and speed training bookending yesterday took its toll today. My thighs and upper back complained mightily on rising. Exercise was limited to a lengthy wait for the doctor's surgery to open so that I could request a repeat prescription of the oestrogen cream that has improved the quality of my life. At 51 I am experiencing the problems suffered by many running midlifers of the female variety, especially those who've had a few children via the front door. Thinning vaginal tissues make stess incontinence and discomfort worse, but sticking this cream where the sun don't shine has proved highly successful. I've been dry running ever since, Hooray.
So activites today were gentle. Walking in warm spring sunshine through Ladywell Fields with husband, chowing down on plenty of good fats and proteins (eggs, avocado, yogurt, peanut butter) and the usual carbloading, gardening and trying to organise upcoming race duties for my Club and Women's Running magazine, of which more in the coming days.
It's good being out of the office, but I need to find some money earning work before too long.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Super Tuesday

29.04.2014 AM

 Up to Hillyfields betimes to train with Erik and Hyacinth
It was circuits again: squats, crossbow (arms), ball slams, side to side running, balance, Scorpion....great moves all.
We note down our reps on our clipboards and take home our achievement slips. Added to this, we are supposed to log our measurements (round arms, round thighs, round waist and much more more), weight, height and calorie requirements. As someone who is middle aged, low weight, but rather thickening at the waist, all this is painful. I am even more stricken by the numerous exhortations to stop eating slices of toast and biscuits like they were going out of fashion and start on some protein. Hyacinth, a meat refusenik who eats fish, says she buys protein powder online and pays about £45 for a month's supply. That sort of expenditure I just could not justify. I had a protein shake this morning, on my return from Hillfields, in the hope I'd repair sufficiently for tonight's training

29.04.2014 PM Kent AC Interval training
This was very hard, on the jog to the track I felt my hams and hip flexors complaining, and I felt puffed and out of sorts on the warm up. All talk is of the Assembly League on Thur. Kent AC women
are currently in poll position, thanks to the gazelles Sarah, Amy, Cath and Ali. However us veterans can also make a difference...the C team is also out in front.
The session was one 1200, followd by 6x400 with 200m recovery between all, I did loosen up and ran fast on the first few 400s. It was good for me on the last lap to have Ellie and Siobhan suddenly decide to race each other and pull past me. I felt duty bound to try to stay with them, even though I felt totally wasted. I think I shall tell Erik that I'll miss Thur Core session, as I'm starting to worry about how bad I could be in Victoria Park, Hackney, if I do not rest and recover properly.
I have eaten a quantity of food today, but am going to say good night with yogurt, cereal and a little bit of Lindt bunny while I write my diary and angst about my poor form.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Cross training

My Pashley


Monday after the Sunday Long Slow Run is usually a rest or cross training day. When I'm working in a central London office as a jobbing sub-editor, as I have been for the past year, the cross training option is more or less foist upon me, as the easiest and cheapest way to cover the seven miles to The Strand is by bicycle. I am not an outstanding cyclist, but I do rather stand out if I ride my deputy bike, this Pashley. The dear old sit-up-and-beg bike was given to me on the birth of my first child in 1989. It is heavy and has a 3-gear system that precludes steep hills.
My other bike is a Giant, a mountain bike, which is none too nippy either, but it's much easier to get up Vicar's Hill en route to Brockley.  My daughter likes to ride it to school, though, and I am left with this old timer.
Whatever I am riding though, I am always dismayed by my lack of power in the pedal department. Commuting cyclists zip past me, evidently effortlessly. Women on small wheeled fold-up bikes, or tratting boneshakers with baskets on the front, women in Lycra and women in pencil skirts, pedalling delicately in stilettos, elderly women, elderly men. Everyone, it seems, is a faster cyclist than me. I try, I really do, but I am a rubbish cyclist. Needle thin blokes in tight shiny shorts overtake me on both sides. One tutted today as he reckoned I was going too steadily over Waterloo Bridge, where you're currently forced to weave your way through two lanes of stationary buses, because the Holborn underpass is closed.
So my 14-mile cycle round trip through a series of south London parks, followed by the hectic and  polluted Old Kent Road and Waterloo Road, probably doesn't do much for my fitness, but does it do more harm than good? Would some other form of cross training be more beneficial or should I just rest my tired old bones in preparation for Tuesday's speedwork?

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Greenwich Park Hills


That's me in the shadow, an autumn picture this one, as today's weather was a little less glorious. Greenwich Park provides me with the hills I so need to sprint up if I am to improve over the coming year. When I trained for the Snowdonia Marathon in 2010 (4hr 16min)  I took to exchanging riverside flatness on the long runs to several circuits of this park, with its steep climb up to the observatory. My plan is to start timing my ascent of the longest and steep incline, so that I can run up and jog down for intervals and improve the uphill bit. The trick is to try to keep your form: knees up, head up, small quick steps and pumping arms (socket to pocket). Hills, taken well and regularly, are as important as speed sessions for overall strength and stamina.
Today, a Sunday(LSR day)  I did another 10 miler, trying to stick at 8.30m/m, not really achieved, in truth.
What hurt? Hips, thighs, shoulders. I felt tired and underslept. I ate my usual Sunday packet porridge (a once weekly treat) before the run, and yogurt, chocolate milk and peanut butter on toast after.
I've refuelled pretty healthily today, and have taken in a large amount of calories, including raspberry ricotta cake. I have this multiple 10k circuit Conti Lightning Run coming up next weekend, and the 5k Assembly League in Hackney on Thursday, so must need prioritise sleep and good food (plus Easter chocolate).

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Raise a glass


Saturdays, since September 2012, have been Parkrun days. I don't like to miss my local Hillyfields 5k, it's how I measure my fitness (PB on the hilly Hillyfields course, 23.14, but aim to get a minute off that if I can). Today, however, was an enforced rest day, as my delightful niece and god daughter, Mary, was married this morning in Richmond. We processed, a motley crew of frieds and family, to Petersham Nurseries after the register office, to eat lovely food in perfect, rustic surroundings. I sat at the long table in the conservatory restaurant, looking at the little handmade nameplace Mary and her betrothed,  Robin had made for me, depicting a little thumbsmudge figure running with a sweatband on. When people meet me these days they always ask after my running progress. I feel happy to talk about it, but fear boring them. I lik to be known as a runner, however, particularly given my great age.
I ate salads of asparagus, spinach, parmesan, rocket, plys tomatoes and peppers and bulgar wheat, sourdough bread, good oil, cheeses, sorbets and chocolate tart. All good, go-faster food that will see me on my way for a good long run tomorrow. What will not boost my performance, however, is the quantity of white wine I washed the food down with, nor the large Scotch I downed last night while staying up too late creating wedding cards for Mary. Two late nights, too much chocolate, too much booze have rendered me sluggish, bleary eyed and bloated of stomach. Certainly, the thumbsmudge depiction, with its potato shaped body and stick arms and legs, is rather too much like art following life.
So tomorrow and Monday must be proper run, then recovery, days, and sleep must needs be prioritised.
It was a lovely day, though. If you can't feel fat after a good wedding, when can you?

Friday, 25 April 2014

Early doors


Up betimes and out for a run. It's a while since I've run straight from bed, and I'm still not feeling sufficiently recovered from my marathon in Mallorca to resume hill training in Greenwich at 6am on a Friday. Quite insane, it's true, particularly in the ice and cold and dark of winter. Hill sprints are hard work (that did not need typing) but they really help with speed. Today I did three miles in Ladywell Fields (pictured), with the third mile as fast as I could sustain. Sadly, that's none too fast these days. If I am to revisit my 5k PB I need to put in some work; 7-minute miling is essential. Today I could not improve on 7:40. On the upside, I felt better than I did this time last week, so I know the recovery is still in progress.
I cycled to and from work (14m total), so I've been busy and now I'm yawning over the laptop. I need to address all the issues about my poor strength, inconsistent sleep and high-carb diet that's turning me skinnyfat if training seriously is what I really want to do. Erik has told me what to do, and that does not include drinking Scotch and watching Alan Carr being Chatty.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Trussed and weighted


How's this for making a spectacle of oneself?
My third session with Erik at Shape-U involved this piece of equipment, whose name I forget. You stand on the board with your body attached to it by resistance bands, wearing weights round ankles and hips. You move against this unwonted resistance.
If you are me, you wobble and strain a bit, while finding out (depressingly) how weak you are and how little real movement and power you have in your glutes and hams. I hate the fact that I look like an old shapeless woman here, but  I suppose that is what I am. Or at least, middle aged and shapeless.
It is just as well that noone will ever read this blog, because after a hard day at work and lack of sleep gnawing away at my self discipline I feel bloated and guilt at having eaten chocolate unreservedly, and my default postion is a feeling of hopelessness that I shall ever build up core strength enough to improve my times. Erik has stressed the importance of replacing my carb and sugar habit with protein, although he'd prefer that to be meat and fish, rather than tofu and eggs. I am aware of the benefits of quality sleep when I feel this down on myself, so bed it is. Perhaps a Lindt chocolate bunny first.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014



That's what I laughingly call my 'home gym' .  I visit it every morning without fail. This morning, after last night's track session, my bottom hurt, so I used the white roller in the picture to try to massage out the kinks in my achey arse. This month's Women's Running has, as well as a fine piece by me about running in your lunch hour, a whole spread about using a foam roller to address all the little niggles that plague a runner. I try to start the day with a bit of yoga on the mat, a few stability ball poses and a goodly amount of rollering.Tomorrow, I fear, will take a lot more than the home gym to get me into a fit state for Erik's core session followed by a hard day's work copy editing. I've been out drinking with the Parkrun crew after a long day in the office; it's late and my head is buzzing. Roll on the weekend.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Up to speed

Is this day 9?
One of my favourite cover lines on a Runners World magazine is 'run like a happy dog'. I think of it while I try to up my speed round Hillyfields on Parkrun Saturdays. I thought of it again when I took this picture for my daily tweet this morning. This little black dog's turn of speed while dribbling the ball with his nose was impressive.
It wasn't a great day. I turned up to train with Erik, but he told me he'd tried to call to cancel, since it was pissing down and my fellow trainees had bailed. So I cycled through the rain to the office where I am sub-editing for a few days. I felt slow and dull, jealous of people with their proper jobs and the holiday pay and sick paythat comes with PAYE. My computer kept crashing and I could not think of the right words for anything. I had vague indigestion from the weekend's excesses. By the time 6pm came aorund the last thing I wanted to do was run round the track. However, I am a seasoned enough club runner to know that however mojo-less you feel on the warm up, you feel at least 100 times better by the warm down. So it was today. I chatted to my mates, everyone discussed the London Marathon,  new members were warmly welcomed, post marathon curry was planned, strides were completed, then a session of 2k, 1200m, 1000m, 800m then 400m followed by the warm down. It was hard work, but by trying to push the pace on track I forgot all my woes and insecurities and feelings of inferiority and the fact that I was 51 and my career is non existent. I forgot all of those things and ran like a happy dog. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

River Runs


Easter Bank Holiday Monday

Back to long running again after an extended reverse taper. My marathon was more than three weeks ago (29.03.14 -261 Women's Marathon, Mallorca). It has been a struggle to get my legs working properly again. I wore my Garmin this morning and ran from here via Hillyfields, to Deptford, then along the river for a little while, before looping back, toiling up Greenwich Park's steepest Hill, then running through Blackheath via Mountsfield to home. It's 11.5 miles all told. I need to be able to do this distance in about 1:20, but I felt a little slow today. My mood was buoyant, though, because my Parkrun yesterday was a huge improvement on last week's shaming time. True, I'm still a minute off where I'd like to be (I should be able to do 22.45, hills or no hills), but at least I can believe I'm on an improving curve. Perhaps Erik's instruction will help, perhaps I need the fuel provided by Good Friday's incredible hot cross bun intake. I am beginning to wonder if all the clean eating and veg loading that I do actually helps my running. Seems to me, when I eat a lot of cake, toast, chocolate, my energy and speed improves. I need to record it all. That's what this blog is for of course.
Today I ate nothing before I ran, as I'd eaten chocolate late into the night.
On my return I had hot chocolate and porridge.
For lunch, salad and cheese sandwiches, coffee, a few mini eggs
For snack while cooking dinner: rice cakes, peanut butter, a few more mini eggs
Dinner was Quorn and veg curry, basmati rice, rhubarb crmble and yogurt
Tonight I have eaten a handful of Lindor mini eggs and am about to indulge in a Lindt gold bunny (mini)
Early night, as that is part of my Training Seriously.
By June 11, I'd like to try to get near my 5K PB of 21mins

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter Feast


Easter Sunday. Easter bunny
Meet Horatio, one of my daughter's bunnies. We did a photoshoot on Good Friday for Easter greetings purposes. I accidentally hit the video button and caught Horatio eating on a loop. Relevant, for today my activities mostly invoved unwrapping foil from chocolate and filling my face with confectionery and other unwholesome delights. Here follows the list of shame:
Breakfast: chocolate croissant, crunch nut cornflakes, Alpen. Chocolate mini eggs (about 5)
Elevenses: cappuccino and toast with Marmite; mini eggs (about 4)
Lunch: potato salad, Greek salad, French bread, cheese, hard boiled egg, crisps, coleslaw, beer; lemon meringue pie (two bowls full). Mini eggs (about 6)
Throughout the afternoon: chocolate cakes and more mini eggs (oh lordy, many more), coffee
In the evening: bread and cheese, some salad, toast, yogurt, tea

My house is full of chocolate. Does it have any place in the serious runner's life? Of course. There's no need to be precious about diet, so long as there aren't too many days like today in the next 328 or so.
Off to eat a nice green leaf before calling it a day.

Saturday, 19 April 2014



It's Easter Saturday, and at my local Parkrun (Hillyfields Parkrun) one of the Race Directors has marked the chocolate season with some mini egg nests, while the other is handing round a tin of foil wrapped mini Creme Eggs, Caramel Eggs, Lindor eggs. I take an egg and put it in my pocket to enjoy as my traditional Easter Sunday pre-breakfast chocolate fix. A very special treat.
Later on I melt down chocolate to create a hand-made Easter Egg for my huband. I fill it with coconut and cocoa truffles and tie it with ribbon. It's made with love, yet all the time I'm being a chocolatier I'm tasting and dipping and snapping off pieces of chocolate to pop into my mouth. When I am preparing food I eat all the time. It seems I am hungry all the time. Has this lack of control become worse since I've become a serious runner? Am I comfort eating. Is my perimenopausal state to blame for this mindless eating? It's not just chocolate. Sometimes I stand at the counter spooning peanut butter or tahini into my maw from the jar.  It's not proper hunger, it's a nasty habit. I think I have to break it, because it makes me unhappy. I go to bed feeling ashamed by all the brainless snacking I've done during the day. All the extra fuel does not make me faster.
Normal people, including my running buddy who completes the Parkrun a minute or so ahead of me and whose running is improving month on month, eat a chocolate when they are offered it, instead of saving it for later when they think they've deserved it. I'm willing to bet they don't have the sneaky attitude to food that I have developed over the last few years, stealing it from  the cupboards when they are alone in the kitchen, then beating themselves up about it. Normal people eat well, they run well, they don't fret. It is time to address my diet to make sure it fuels good running and keeps me happy. Food, whether it's Cadbury's mini eggs or so-called superfood salads, is supposed to be relished, it should not engender guilt and self loathing. 

Friday, 18 April 2014

What a carb up


The Good Friday tradition round ours is to scoff as many hot cross buns as we can. My husband buys two dozen from the local baker and  they must all disappear within 24 hours. By teatime I've got the carb sweats. Luckily the Saturday morning is Parkrun. Only 5k though, which burns about one and a half buttered buns. I have eaten at least six today, as well as a vast platter of fried noodles following the Good Friday Faure Requiem at Southwark Cathedral (daughter's in the choir).
So today has been a carbload and no mistake. A marathon's worth. It'll be interesting to see if I run a faster Parkrun as a result of all this stored glycogen. Erik has warned that vegetarians risk overdoing the carbs and risk that nasty skinnyfat look. I fear that's me. I cannot just blame my great age for the spare tyre and skinny arms and legs, it's the excess carbs. Training seriously does not mean you can scoff buns until no more buns will go in. Diet wise, it's been a Bad Friday. Delicious, though.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Core blimey


This morning, despite a disturbed night, subsequent fatigue, a loss of mojo and incipient cold symptoms I committed to my promise of core training with Erik of The word 'commit' crops up quite a lot during the hour's training. Erik is a gentle, patient coach. He doesn't go in for the Boot camp bark. Instead he talks about 'committing' to a lunge, or a squat, 'feeling it, in a nice way'. The exercises we do, there's just me and a couple of other women, are deceptively unsweaty, but hard to execute with good form. I am impressed at the extent to which I ache after three rounds of crossbows, medecine ball squats, shuttles with lunges, balancing exercises and fast feet routines. Erik watches like a hawk and sometimes interjects with droll observations. His classic comment to me, I tweeted today:
"we have to identify your strengths and weaknesses. So far I have seen only weakness.'' Erik, [tweet I] tells it like it is.
I'm enjoying these core sessions in Hillyfields Park. Erik is thorough and knowledgeable. He doesn't think much of my being a vegetarian, and has advised protein shakes, but I am deeply sceptical about such food supplements. Nonetheless, he is 'committed' to improving my running, and I, pushed fr time and money as I am, am committed to that.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


 More than two weeks after giving blood, I am still feeling fatigued. I give a pint of my fabulously rare red stuff (B rh-)every four months or so because I'd like to match my old Dad's record of frequent donation. He was gold standard. I'm nearly on silver. I like to donate shortly after running a marathon, because I know I won't have any serious running to do in these recovery weeks and it' a handy way of checking that I'm not anaemic, even though I'm feeling like death warmed up and cannot walk down the stairs.
The marathon I ran a couple of Sundays ago was in Mallorca. It was an all-women race instigated by the inspirational Kathrine Switzer, who ran a marathon against the rules in 1967. In those days men who organised sporting events believed that if women ran further than 10 000m their wombs would fall out. Anyway, it was a superbly organised event, which I greatly enjoyed being a part of, but my time was disappointing. I'd imagined I would beat my PB and run 3:50, but I was four minutes slower than my PB, which is one of the reasons I've decided to train seriously, and record the effort thus.
Last night's track training was hard, because I cannot seem to recover from the blood letting and the 26.1 mile run 16 days ago. We did 1m warm up, strides, then 1600m, 1200m, 1000m, 800m and 400m intervals with 200m recovery between each, Then a mile warm down. I struggled to keep up with women I usually beat. Today I ache and feel feverish and coldy. This is not a great beginning to my Serious Year. I'll keep on keeping on.
Last night's training

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Kent Athletic Club

It's Tuesday. Track night. My main training session of the week. I am (obviously) one of the senior members in my club, which numbers among its gloriously fit females some sub-three hour marathoners. I watched a beaming Amy Clements run 2:58 at VLM two days ago. She is 20 years younger than me. There are so many benefits to being in a running club, but at 6pm on a track night I always feel apprehensive, overtired and anxious. How stupid do I look, at my age, toiling round, trying to improve my 400m times? Probably pretty stupid, but I love it anyway, and I love my training buddies. Your running friends encourage, support and buoy you. They are not bored by running talk.  My family are.
A typical track session may be 1mile warm up, 3x100m strides, then, say, 6x800m, and a milewarm down to finish. It's HIIT (high intensity interval training). You have to get knackered, sweaty, heart-hammeringly uncomfortable to improve. My serious training is dependent on this. The happy thing is that you feel extraordinarily full of bonhomie on your return. I'll be singing in the bath in a couple of hours. Tra la la.

The day after the vow before

Yesterday, all fired up, I took this photo at the Virgin London Marathon, which I will henceforth refer to as VLM for ease of daily posting.
My vow is to post something relevant for the next 365 days or so, to log my year's preparation to do this race justice.
I've run London twice. The race was enjoying its final year of Flora sponsorship when I ran it the first time, so my medal is margarine themed. I would love to have a Mars Marathon medal, but I didn't start running obsessively until I was 44 years old. The FLM 2009 was my first ever 26.1 mile run. I managed 4 hours and 13 minutes.
The following year (2010) when the run was Virgin Money-sponsored, I trotted round in 4.05.
Not great. It took Berlin in 2013 to net my my Good For Age rating. Also known as GFA. I ran it in 3:57.09 and I was 50years old. My great age earned me an accolade that I now cherish. Good For Age. I mutter it to myself when I'm toiling around the running track near my house. Fast Good For Age is what I want to be. Hence this blog. For the record.