Monday, 30 June 2014

Playtime in Pompey

Shell seeking and shingle shifting

Rest day with a little cross training: core work on the mat, a cycle  to Waterloo and back

Monday is rest day; as the sun was shining, and in the absence of pressing deadlines, I took myself off to Southsea for the day, to send a little time with my dear sisterand her small grandchildren. As always on the day after a long run I felt ravenous and in need of many biscuits between meals. We ate our lunch in the Tennis Club Cafe near the beach, a handsome 1930s building with mismatched vintage furniture (where doesn't have mismatched vintage furniture these days?) Quiche and salad not quite enough for an old ostrich like me (running bird) on days like these. The ghrelin is at work, too, as I had a very disturbed night and awoke at 5 this morning. I see from another runner on Twitter that  the Good for Age places are being announced, but no one from Virgin London Marathon has contacted me, yet. I am so worried that the authorities will find some blip in my Berlin Marathon time to stop me claiming my place. That would render this whole blog and dogged daily training posts invalid too. Don't go there.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Running and putting the world to rights

Tidal Thames, on our way to the Barrier

With a couple of months to go until my trail marathon challenge, Stonehenge to Avebury (more details here ) it's time to start cranking up the long slow runs. Expert coaches like Karen Weir stress the importance of keeping these slow, which I tend not to do. I run at my marathon pace, these days, mostly because my running buddy, Sarah can run her 26-mile races in 3.30 or thereabouts, and I struggle to get under 3.57. This discrepancy means that slow running for her is about 8.45minute miles, and mine should be over 9. I'm comfortable enough running at the faster pace, though, but know the training miles done like this may culminate in fatigue before the taper. Today we were joined by another friend, who prefers half marathons, and is coming back to running after a long lay off, so is more comfortable running slower. However we ran, aand as we ran with chattered on about work, husbands, teenagers, money worries, living in Lewisham, and the pace seemed to suit. We all had our niggles (quite apart from husbands and teens) - Sarah's leg was still giving her gyp on the hills, my hormonal stress incontinence was threatening a soggy gusset scenario, Jacqui was feeling puffed and defeated by hill climbs, so sometimes one or other of us fell behind, and called the band to stop for stretching, water breaks, admiring the view. Best of all, we enjoyed the run, and the company, and for me, the feelgood mood lasted all the livelong day, even when the rain set in this afternoon.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


Plenty of flapjacks if I feel like comfort eating

Surprises at Parkrun this morning included Sarah Young finishing behind me (a qualified surprise really, since she had to stop and stretch her bad leg on the second lap) and an unknown old bird stealing my best in age category. I've been No1 in the V50-55 category ever since I turned 50, and I thought I'd be safe in my middle-aged kingdom, but it was not to be. As usual I shot off at the outset, determined to keep cadence quick and arms and leg moving fluidly, but after one hard lap the legs jellied, the arms flopped, the posture wilted and  I wheezed my way through the other two laps, trying, and failing, to sprint 10 second bursts, ever mindful that I want to shave 30 seconds off the PB before the summer's out. How did I do? Not well enough. 23:18. Back to the drawingboard, as per.
Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #97. Your time was 00:23:18.
Congratulations on completing your 62nd parkrun and your 59th at Hilly Fields parkrun today. You finished in 37th place and were the 4th female out of a field of 134 parkrunners and you came 2nd in your age category VW50-54. Take a look at this week's full set of results on our website. Your PB at Hilly Fields parkrun remains 00:23:04. Your best time this year remains 00:23:04.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Runners should swim

Early morning emptiness of local pool

An absence of aches and pains, or any real fatigue this morning confirms my suspicions that I could have pushed myself more yesterday evening. Although my breath was ragged, my legs weren't working to their full capacity, so no sub 22 minute 5 k for me. Given that our first woman can do 17.36 minutes, with three others at sub 20mins, my effort seems a little lack lustre. The Battersea Park run is fast and flat, so more training is needed.
I chose a swim for recovery today, because I want to race again tomorrow (Parkrun) and keep on plugging away for speed at this distance. On the other hand, the weekly mileage should be on the up from now for the Sept 6 marathon. Having done a half marathon last Sun, this weekend should see a 15mile long run.
More swimming is also on the agenda. I did a modest 20lengths this morning, and still promise myself some front crawl lessons to improve speed in the water. It felt good to be in Lewisham's lovely Glassmill pool with the dedicated pre 7.30am swimmers. I hate a crowded pool, and this one's a grand blue expanse in the early morning.
To celebrate my new infatuation with lidos and pools this week, I've ordered a sleek looking high-necked Zoggs Cabarita costume from Wiggle.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A bit gutted

Put it down on paper: the truth about poor fuelling and rest

The received wisdom about tiredness and exercise is that you should forget your tiredness and get out there. You'll feel better for it. Certainly, on Tuesday night at the running track, I've felt like kissing the coach once the session's over, feeling energised and useful again. This morning though, after a terrible night of insomnia caused by digestive disturbances (overdid the salad?) and  having husband installed in bed again (I am one of many millions of middle aged women who would dearly love their own bed/room/house), I could not appreciate the wisdom.
I felt chewed up and spat out. Erik had set out the punchbag, 7kg medicine ball for slamming, step up stack, a lungeing/balance exercise and the line, for backwards running and more lunges. I only succeeded in getting grumpier, slightly nauseated and now I have a weird pain in my left hip and calf.
I'm also tense and nervouse about tonight's assembly league, about which I will report once I've done it.

Assembly league number 4 at Battersea Park
Wear your club vest with pride, but lose the gut it strains over
 Another 5k race in this park, but I ran it slower than the Race for Life a couple of weeks ago. The reason is probably lack of sleep and slightly low mood, couple with the digestive disorder. It is perfectly possible for me to run these in 21 minutes, so it's back to the drawing board. More core work, more cross training more sleep and more protein. My next 5k test is Saturday's parkrun, so I must behave myself on Friday. It will be interesting to see how I fared in my age group. I should bear in mind the World Champion V50 athlete, Clare Elms (she ran tonight) when I head for the biscuit tin. She looks like a biscuit never passes her lips.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Baked goods

Topping up a muffin top? Or providing vitamins and minerals?

There's a whole lot of baking going on in this house these days. Under employment, combined with a summer redcurrant glut and an inspiring feature on the benefits of sourdough have all conspired to bring on a bout of kitchen love. Trouble is, what I cook, I eat with gusto, and the sourdough loaf, in particular, has me hooked. The abovepictured redcurrant muffins was super easy to make and they're perfect little fruity sweet energy bombs. I used a little less sugar than the recipe advised, and replaced it with mashed banana. The fat used is olive oil. I ate a couple alongside pre-training organo coffee yesterday evening and ran pretty well, considering I'd done a half marathon two days before. We did 1mile warm up, then strides, then 1200m, 4x400m, 4x200m, with 200m recoveries, then a 1mile warm down in the park. A nice, sharp sesion, because there's an assembly league race tomorrow.

Shape wise, though, in the sense of 'contouring', I still feel too solid in the trunk department. I should so like to have a waist. Midlife adds to your midsection.  Mother Nature, in her wisdom, demands that a woman lays down fat to make up for the loss of oestrogen that comes with reaching the end of reproductive (and in the eyes of the world, productive) life. The unfairness of this hormonal re-apportioning of fat, and the devastating effect it has on a woman's self esteem shoould not be understated. Almost every woman of my age that I know has moaned about the sudden disappearance of a waist and the sense of being all stomach, from bra line to knicker line. As I type this, reclining on the sofa in the study, I'm looking at the dome of my stomach, swelling a few centimetres away from the keyboard. My yoga mat and Swiss ball are out, ready, for a bit of core stability work, but I'm more inclined to fetch myself a cup of tea and a redcurrant muffin. Baked goods in the house may provide energy for running, but they're a sore temptation.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Yoga with a relaxing

That was the view this morning, from our exclusive, temporary yoga studio


Members of the South Bank Centre were given privileged access to early morning yoga on the sixth floor of the Royal Festival Hall this morning. Our teacher was a smiley French woman called Aude. We did a lot of controlled breathing  and hip flexor stretching, downward dog but with toe joints and knees flexed and a long, long standing warrior. It was an opportunity to consider posture, which is all to the good in a runner. For me, it was a far cry from the usual Tuesday circuits devised by Erik, which I think I prefer because it's so much easier to avoid navel gazing when you're desperately trying to fit in as many tyre slams/squats/vicious punches as you can . The lassitude of these sultry June days, when I should be proactivel seeking work, but just lick my wounds in the garden, by the pool, on the yoga mat is resulting in a severe bout of world-wearyself pity. I think it is deep, bone tiredness, and the thought of going off to the track to train now is not filling me with joy.
Go I will.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Charlton Lido

Lido love: perfect for cross training


Swimming outdoors, such a pleasure, especially on a hot summer day. My local lido is a short cycle ride away, and in the absence of any pressing work that'll net me any dosh, I spent a fiver on a few 50m lengths of the now very smart Charlton Lido. It never used to be smart. I remember a rather gritty suburban chill zone (it's heated now) and Pot Noodles and Monster Munch in the Caff. It's all about Lifestyle now, though, and there's a shiny new gym attached. It's run by the same outfit that launched the London Fields Lido, which has been a huge success. Fortunately, Charlton is not so fashionable, so the pool is delightfull empty. Only managed 12 lengths, but the pool is 50m. That's long. And I'm tired, this is active recovery on a rest day.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Half baked

Hot, pink and happy

The Hackney Vitality Half Marathon, the first of its kind in our lovely city, was a triumph. Not exactly for me, although I think I may have shaved a few paltry seconds off my half-marathon PB, but for the borough. I have a soft spot for Hackney: I lived there in the late 1980s, before I went off to Sudan for a year. My best buddie Ruth lives there, just opposite London Fields Lido. She's currently in Ecuador, though, on a physical challenge of her own.
It was very hot. The route took us - about 12000 runners all told - around the streets of Homerton and Hackney Marshes, past Victoria Park, London Fields and out to the Olympic Park, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, in punishing heat. I carried one salted caramel gel, by GU, which is just lovely and swallowed with pleasure at mile 7 or so, and picked out nifty little water pouches at the refreshment stations. I thought I was sticking to 8 minute miles quite nicely, but clearly I wasn't, or my finish time wouldn't have been a slightly disappointing 1:47.12 (dammit, 13 seconds faster and that would have looked better), but I was 8th in age group (out of 100). Siggy, whom I should have set off with, was 6th.
Still, this was another significant test on my year of training seriously. If I can get it down by 5 minutes or so, I shall be on course for April's big blog culmination.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Sore feet before the half marathon? Not great

My view while marshalling the first ever Peckham Rye Parkrun


The longest day, hot sunshine from start to finish. Perfect for a rest day before a half marathon. Yet my rest was rather active. First a cycle over to Peckham Rye to marshal the first Parkrun there. A great success: 201 runners. Upbeat mood. After this I repaired to the café to talk Parkrun and other matters with Hillyfields buddies. Two of them are running the Hackney Vitality Half tomorrow, as am I. I have many reservations, from this angle, about my predicted performance. They are:
1. Menstrual period. Ho hum.
2. Tired legs, because I had to walk quite a long way to pick up my number from the Hackney Half Marathon runners' village. A long, hot, but pretty walk through the Queen Elizabeth Park (Olympic Park), plus all the shenanigans trying to find the right platforms for the DLR journey
3. Sore feet, because I stupidly wore pumps for this walk, and sustained a blister on my big toe joint. Ho hum
4. The heat. 26 degrees C is forecast.
5. The pressure, I'd quite like to snag a PB. That would mean 1:47
6. The embarrassment. The press (that's me, because I'm writing about it for Women's Running magazine) line up behind the elites.
7. The embarrassement #2 Running with my period inevitably incurs a lapse into stress incontinence. EVB shorts, please don't let me down.

Here are my sore feet. Am I having cold feet?

Friday, 20 June 2014


Our local mini Stonehenge at Hillyfields. The odd druid runs up here at 5am on midsummer mornings

Of course, if I am to rise at 5am on midsummer's morn, I need to sleep well through dusk and darkness. Currently worries about work (or lack of it), money, mortality, children etc pound away at the inside of my head as I try to sleep. Next door, they party, in my other ear, husband snores lustily, sometimes doing that choky sleep apnoeia thing. Can't spell that word.
The result, I awake at 1am, 3am, 4am and listen to the radio from 5. My buddy Jannet invited me to run Greenwich Hills with the rest of the group, but my legs were still tired from yesterday' Parkrun dry run on Peckham Rye. I did 22.38, which I'm not too displeased with, as I'm hormonally challenged, in a lunar way (got the painters in, as they say).
Horribly tired and hungry today though, it's the ghrelins at work.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Be nice to yourself

A nice looking, candy coloured roller. Erik likes colour

Erik says 'be nice to yourself'
Erik also says 'beat yourself up, in a good way'

Both commands (said in an awfully nice way) are essential, although the second might seem somewhat contradictory.
Contradiction is at the heart of this undertaking, in any case. It takes the form of an ongoing squabble inside my head. The combatants are Mrs Real World and Mrs I Am Amazing. Mrs RW's record goes like this: 'I am a 51 year old woman, FFS, I must look ridiculous to the younger, shapelier clients that sometimes come along to train. What is the point of driving that ageing carcass into a sweaty aching place?'
Mrs IAA beams and points to Age-related gradings on The Power of 10. I'll bang on about that sometime, if I haven't already (memory's going too)
Look at you, say the honeyed tones of Mrs IAA
'you're so GOOD for your age. You run fast 5ks, faster than 77% of runners in your age group. Well done, you'
I don't really like Mrs IAA. Is she being patronising? And when I'm sweatily trying to nail 60 Crossbow moves before my minute is up, is Erik laughing at me?
That is not beating yourself up in a good way, though, that is savaging yourself. That is self harm.
You do this because you love it, don't let what onlookers may or may not be thinking contaminate your happy place. Stay the running Pollyanna.  Be nice.

Today at team Shape U Erik made me do the circuits with 'explosive speed' but urged me to take a rest as soon as my movements became slower. That was hard, because the battleaxe inside me wants to go till she drops:
Tyre slams, medicine ball slams, crossbow, planks with arm reaches, underground, side to side. It was hard. I was sweaty, aching, and now I have to go and run a Parkrun (unofficial, but I'll have to keep up)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


A little bit of local honey soothes the soul

On the programme today was a deadline for the piece I'm writing about running long and not losing weight, so no time for morning training.In any case I'm still feeling the after effects of yesterday morning's circuits with Erik and yesterday evening's track session with the club.
I do like the way my upper back feels after a session with boxing in it. I can pretend my bra strap over hang has been quite melted away, the ache and burn around the scapulas can almost convince me of that. Until I look in the mirror. Muscle definition is a hard earned thing. The women (of my age, it must be added) that have fat-free, muscle ridged upper backs and arms confess to working them hard. I started doing that with great gusto on the yoga mat this morning, but have done little this afternoon and evening, beyond wondering how best to use the extra training time I have, given the fallow period at work.
Here's a session I could easily fit in at home
3 x 1 minute plank
3 x 1 minute side planks
3 x bridges, alternating legs
3 x 10 press ups

There's a similar session oft tweeted by the Running Bug. Must make a note.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Is midlife middle jiggle inevitable?

Giving it some welly while to lose the belly

'Bless you!' says Erik as I complain about feeling my gut wobble as I hammer away at the punchbag. I can't very well ask this middle aged family man why middle aged women always end up spherical. I'm discouraged. I train hard with Team Shape-U, and, still aching from the morning session, I fetch up at the track for taining, and Cach Adrian (another middle aged man) sets us running 2k, then 1K, then 800m then 400m then 4x200m as quick as we can, with warm up, warm down and strides. That's all hard work. I feel hungry, achey, tired and less than ready for the race on Sunday. My stomach is popping out and my waist is non existent.
The feature I've written for the mag is playing on my mind, because it's about endless running and gaining weight. I'll stick it on this blog once it's published. I wonder if I'm a hamster on a wheel though, and becoming the same shape and with much the same appetite for nuts, in the form of endless peanut butter and toast. So, what should I do? The kettlebell training that Suzie advocates?
Answers on a postcard.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Sedentary my arse

That's me in the kitchen
16 June 2014

A rest day, but these should have activity built into them. It was grey outside, though, and chilly. My hips and arse ached, as if I'd done a proper long run yesterday. I do not hold out much hope for this half marathon on Sunday.
I spent much of the day researching and transcribing a couple of quickie interviews with Personal Trainers for a piece I'm writing for Women's Running mag. It's about reducing mileage, but sill getting stronger, leaner and faster, which is a good thing, especially for the skinny fat runner like me. What I should do, though, is more Erik Shape U stuff and other weight lifting stuff like kettle bells. I should not have spent the majority of my waking hours sat on my arse, even if my seat of choice is a Swiss ball. I managed 20 minutes yoga and core (planks, bridges) on the mat this morning, a couple of local errands on the bike and a couple of brisk walks.  Better than a poke in the eye, but still rather feeble.
My cross training habits leave much to be desired.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Dog envy

My running buddy's new running buddy

It's Sunday, so must be long run day. Distractions abounded, in the shape of work deadlines, a forgotten Father's Day (I know my husband is not my father but I felt I should have remembered, so a a cake was hastily baked this afternoon) and the above, Sarah's new family addition, collected from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home yesterday. She was showing him off in the park today, and I envied her going for a long walk with him, since when I set off to continue the 10 miles or so I'd set myself in preparation for next week's half marathon, I felt quite disinclined to run. my Garmin refused to work. My hips and ankles ached, and my pre-menstrual/perimenopausal hormal stress incontinence was threatening to make a soggy gusset of the whole experience.

Just by Morden Wharf, on the Thames Path, I met Ellie, loping easily along with her collie, Gravy. More envy. Ellie is a pilates teacher, so I could bet that her gusset is never soggy, even though she' of a similar age, and has had three children, too.

At five miles I decided to turn back and run hills in Greenwich Park, once I'd visited the lavatories up there. As I passed Ballast Quay I notice the splendid, slightly mystical garden there was open for Open Gardens Sunday. Had to look in. Once of my favourite memorials is there. Te person who created the garden is called Hilary Peters, and she's quite famous in Greenwich Circles. They had cake and sculpture for visitors' delecation, but I knew today would be a big cake eating day (it was, and plenty of chocolate too) so I forced my weary carcass on to finish the run. About 9 miles covered, slowly and wetly. Look at the goat of Ballast Quay:
A memorial to the animals culled in 2001 Foot and Mouth disaster

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Parkrun hangover cure

It was Nick's first time. Adele (centre) got a PB and Sarah (right) got her mojo back
Parkrun always makes you feel better, even if you woke up with your head in a vice and your bowels all broiling after the night before. On a day that we learned that Parkrun founder Paul Sinton Hewitt has earned an OBE (or was it an MBE?) some sort of honour anyway, for services to sport, we are eternally grateful for this extraordinary institution. Anyone who scored a PB today will be fizzing with pleasure all week.  For the likes of me, who seems to be going backwards again, it's just what's needed to get the life back into a weary body and the determination back into a fuzzy head. I need to run the three miles 15 seconds per mile faster. Today I set off fast and was 1st woman for about half a mile. Build on that. Sleep and less food is the answer. Core strength work and cross training. Make time for the pool.

Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #96. Your time was 00:23:43.
Congratulations on completing your 61st parkrun and your 58th at Hilly Fields parkrun today. You finished in 33rd place and were the 5th female out of a field of 125 parkrunners and you came 1st in your age category VW50-54. Take a look at this week's full set of results on our website. Your PB at Hilly Fields parkrun remains 00:23:04. Your best time this year remains 00:23:04.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Tsk, carb addiction

Feeling fat, but not as content, as Roxanne here


Funny how after a feverish, foreshortened sleep (I was writing a review until 1am, then buzzing through the night until wake-up time: 6am. Weather was hot, eyes felt like the lids were made of sandpaper) your appetite for breakfast cereal is insatiable.
I eat porridge with yogurt and cinnammon. It does not suffice. Three bowls of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes later I waddle from the table. If I had the energy for training, the high sugar overload would not be a problem, but I'm too weary to do anything, but cycle the mile or so to the care home where my godmother is incarcerated. She has dementia and keeps asking where her mummy and daddy are (she's 87), and whether the people 'in here' are going to kill her. She's stuck in a wheelchair and the connection problems in her brain have affected her eyes. She cannot see anything, but the actual eyeballs are fine. Her brain tells her she cannot see. Even after 4 years the carers have not get their head round this. When I arrive she's waiting for her breakfast. I feed her sugary porridge. She takes ages to eat one small bowl. Her appetite for everything is gone. However, when I take her out to the sunlit garden in wheelchair she smiles and chuckles at the sound of birdsong. I am chagrined. I have been worrying that my huge appetites will make my middle aged tummy big. How shallow. 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Ghrelin gremlins

Feeling like a fat cat

Typical, really. You spend the day talking to Personal Trainers for a piece you're writing about how junk miling, and the subsequent over compensatory carbloading, will not help you lose weight. You listen sagely while they tell you to avoid sugar and keep other carbs to a minimum, then you come home, fail to write a review until 1am, and keep eating biscuits and chocolate to stay awake to meet the deadline. So another night with only three hours sleep, crcuits session this morning on a hangover, much toast, cereal, coffee, sandwiches eaten. The upshot is, raised levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and no messages getting through to your pigheaded brain to step away from the biscuit tin. So, you may have run your 5k PB yesterday, but today you've mostly fed your face and undone all the good.
The PTs I spoke to today were Suzi Lubuska and Karen Weir. I will write about them. I'm still not happy about about always peppering this blog with 'I" and 'Me'.
Do you think 'you' is better?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Race for Life - a hymn of praise

In the pink

Two worlds collided here at Battersea Park this evening, when I ran this extra special 5k for Women's Running magazine, as one of its stalwart and always-up-for-it contributors, but also felt myelf to be a member of the Tesco crew, as I often freelance for that company's magazine and related media concerns.
This professional multi tasking was further complicated by my stupid pride, as I so wanted to be seen as a proper runner by both organisations. Thankfully, I fulfilled my self-imposed remit of coming home ahead of all of my colleagues, although probably came across as a bit sad, competitive and desperate in the process.
Like so many women, my first experience of proper distance running was completeing a Race for Life, for me it was back in 2006. It was at Blackheath on a very hot day. I remember feeling chagrined that the effort made me, as a mother of three, wet myself (that seldom admitted stress incontinence issue that so many running mummies suffer, and so few admit to)., but mostly delighted that I completed the run in something like 27 mins and felt extraordinarily good about myself.
Today I witnessed that feeling manifest itself in my Tesco colleagues and felt happy for them. I felt pleased with myself, too, as 12th woman in a time of 21.56 or so. My internal crow was silenced however, by a woman called Julia talking so eloquently about her six year old son, Rufus an his leukemia.He endured a year of hell, but is still with us, smiling sweetly as she spoke. That's what Race for Life is all about. Thank you, Cancer Research UK, and thank you Tesco, for raising the millions of pounds for research that saves the lives of little boys like Rufus,  their running mummies, sister, aunts and cousins and everyone (the whole wide world?) whose life has been clouded by cancer.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rose-tinted spectacle

The rose garden by the Ranger's House, Greenwich Park

A five mile easy run, to Greenwich Park

Beautiful weather to be a freelancer, so I rose early to miss the heat of the day, and spent much of the rest of it at my lap top in the garden. No running club tonight, because I'm racing tomorrow and track sessions alway turn competitive, lung busting and arse aching. I took time to admire the roses  and talk to the park gardener, Gary.
In fact the run became less than easy, since I'm still preoccupied with the 7:50 minute mile I want to sustain for ten miles. So the last two I did were pretty quick. Now I need to protein up to repair the damage, get some sleep to dissipate the aching from yesterday's upper body stuff and measure out th various foodstuffs with purported rocket-fuel qualities to eat tomorrow. I will mostly be consuming beetroot, and juice of same, home-made energy bars, oatmeal, gram flour bread, sour cherry juice and avocado. And a nice cup of Organo ganoderma coffee before I leave for Battersea. I hope I don't poop myself on the course. I expect most people hope that.
Have I mentioned my daily tweet on this blog yet? I think I need to start explaing myself. All this first person stuff is making me feel a little guilty.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Look at back fat in anger

Punch with bad intention

First, an apology: petty, shallow preoccupations stalk this blog. Idiotic fascinations with body flab and sag will appear in many of the 365 posts I am committed to write until The Virgin London Marathon on 26 April 2015.
It is quite shaming, I know, but despite my mature age I am still vain. I want, most of all, to run fast and try to get a UKA age grading of 80% (the best I've done so far is 77%).
I am pretty sure that to do this my body has to be in great shape, so the muscle tone needs to be the best it can be, given the natural and inevitable deterioration of age.
I also want to look good in my clothes, and I determined not to sink into round-shouldered, flab backed slump of midlife. So I am keen to hammer that punchbag the hardest and fastest that I can. I sweat and pant and punish my body into 40+ crossbow moves (Erik tells me the swimmers can do 70+) . He tells me to slam down that ball 'with bad intention' raising my arms straight and high above my head.
That movement strikes a chord. When I visit my elderly godmother in her care home, I am struck by how many old ladies and gents cannot raise their arms straight above their heads. Such a simple move, but the slump and stillness of the ageing body creeps up on you. I am returning to a favourite theme, I know. Before you know it the flesh is falling away from the bones - nothing to hold it up. So I squat, lunge, punch, stretch, reach and repeat, repeat, repeat. I seek muscle definition in my back view. Bra strap overhang horrifies me. My mind can be on higher things, and care about all this, too.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Summer Running Part 2

River run via Greenwich. The dome is the entrance to the foot tunnel much too sunny to go down there today


Maybe it was last night's whiskey and chocolate post theatre.  Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was next door whooping it up, or my husband's snoring. I did not sleep well, anyway, and finally gave up trying at around 6am.
So it was up, and out for the long run before the sun had a chance to burn.
I don't like to carry water, and am rather snootily hard core when I see women carrying bottles (especially for shorter distances). I know, though, that if I'm going to run for longer than 90 minutes in these conditions, I'll be doing my system some damage if I don't drink. So my goal was to try to squeeze in as many miles as I could in that 90 minutes. I managed about 11.5, but then needed to run longer to get home and drain the water filter.  
This run took in two hills (Vicar's Hill to the Brockley standing stones circle, which I think I may have featured on this blog before, Greenwich Park), but other than those, few challenges and plenty of flat riverside. I should have kept to 8.30m/m. Of course some were slower than that.
I should try fitting a tempo run into the weekly schedule. I have a half marathon (flat, thankfully) in two weeks or so. It would be good if I could sustain some 7.50m/miles at the end of a run like this, but today that was an impossible dream. Heavy legged and sweaty, I plodded. The Garmin showed me the damage.
Musing, mathematics, visualisation. If 10 miles can be covered comfortably in 90 minutes, double it, then do 6 miles in 50mins, that's my marathon goal. Do the maths. Get the rest.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Dealing with a disappointing run

Could not stay the distance today


My disappointing result today is pasted below. What went wrong? This time is 1 min and 9 seconds slower than last Saturday's. It was humid, though, and the women ahead of me (a shaming 4 in all) all reported struggling with the heat. I reckon the exertions of Thursday evening, combined with heat and over eating yesterday night might have had a bearing on this execrable time.
I vow to sleep more, stretch more, try harder.

Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #95. Your time was 00:24:13.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Cookery corner

Friday rest day after last night's Assembly League Exertions. Recovering legs and over fatigue had me wide awake at 3.30am, stressing about work, money, domestics blah blah.
So no exercise, I wasn't going into the office, and my mate Ruth, currently cycling in Ecuador (blog: Contours of a Country), had posted about energy bars and why commercial ones are so ghastly. We've hatched a plan to start creating our own - all organic and chemical free. I reckon my raw brownies would fit the bill, so today I made a batch:

All you need is:
250g Walnuts
250g Dates and assorted mixed dried fruit
A couple of tablespoons really good cocoa powder
A little splash of flaxseed oil
A little bit of runny honey or agave nectar
I added a bit of peanut butter, you can replace some walnuts with desiccated coconut if you want.

Process your walnuts:
Then your fruit
Then add the other things

Then press it all into a china baking dish
Then refrigerate a few hours, before chopping into squares.

All I have to do is work out their wrapping and how long they might last.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Healthy Competition

The fast Kent AC runners chill with a pint


Activities today: Training with Hyacinth and Erik at Team Shape-U, Hillyfields
This evening, at 7.30pm, Assembly League at Beckenham, running with my team, Kent AC

Still a little achey following my exertions (halo lunges, blades, pulling a 22kg weight at a run, frog, squats, balance, 4-square step ups .... I am making these names up, Erik has proper terms for them, anyway, I'll photograph an exercise sheet one day) at Hillyfields on a beautiful sunny day, see below
I did a day's editing in town, before cycling over to Beckenham for our team's 3rd assembly league of the summer series.
Kent AC's women are top team, thanks to the phenomenal Amy, who was first woman again, I presume in about 18 mins.
My performance? I was pleased to be quicker than 22.30 (this I surmise, having checked the watch of someone who was behind me. I do not wear  my Garmin for these races, because it's too depressing). However it was at Beckenham Assembly League about 4 years ago, that I nailed my 5k PB, about 21 mins, if I recall. Today my competitive spirit was as active as ever. Never mind I cannot get near 20 minuter Kate, who is 50 in November. You find your own level in these events, and my closest rival is Siggy, who was safely behind today. The woman I try to catch every week at Parkrun, speedy Sarah Young, is still recuperating from a nasty virus, so did not run well today. Nonetheles, overtaking her in the first mile, and staying ahead, felt sweet. I will record my time, when I have ascertained it.
A wonderful running day. Heavy legs now.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Guilt: a running sore

This photo isn't really relevant, but I'm doing what I like, which is of course selfish


One of the less attractive aspects of two people bringing up the next generation of similar looking people is the way they like to shovel the guilt on top of one another. When the children are mere anklebiters, escaping them for a while is bliss. Yet for a mother to admit this means another shedload of guilt on her shoulders. Even when that mother is granny-aged, like me, and her youngest is 16 years old and more than able to look after herself, the guilt still keeps coming.
What on earth has this to do with training seriously? The fact that running, being a major source of happiness, fulfilment, friendship, social life, is resented by those who would rather see the runner at the centre of home and hearth. My husband once said to me, in the middle of a row about why I was so seldom home,
'you love running more than me.'
I agreed that I did. I know that missing a planned run leaves me tetchy. Feeling well and not being able to run because of pressure of work or domestics is a nightmare. And nothing gives me the singing inside feeling more than an early morning run in sunshine.
I don't love running more than my children. I want their happiness more than my own. They think my devotion to running is hilarious, but they know how important it is to me, and they're proud of my achievements. Yet they are still, at the grand old ages of 24, 21 and 16, held aloft (metaphorically) by their father as reasons why a mother should not spend so much time and energy on a fitness regime.
When the last one has left home, will the guilt shovelling finally stop?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Glamorous exercise

Erik and Hyacinth contemplate the 9kg medicine ball

Erik Lee of Team Shape-U is my current font of all wisdom. I am becoming convinced that his pleasantly eccentric training regime is having beneficial effects on my running.
Today, the playground was set out with the battle rope, medicine balls, the balancing/ spongy ring ting, side-to-side hurdles and pole and an exercise called 'blades'. There was a great deal of squatting, tempered by vigorous lifts and upper back exercises to get the shoulder blades forced back.  Erik often talks about 'beating yourself up, in a nice way', by which he means you have to get to a place of exhaustion within the minute, then recover a little, before coming back to the exercise as strong a before. So you hurt, then rest, recoup and explode into it all again. You're nice to yourself but also a little nasty.

The flip side of this is 'glamorous' exercise (interestingly I see this demonstrated daily in the park by quite glamorous looking people). Glamorous exercise is that which doesn't make you sweat, puff or reach a peak of near exhaustion. Glamorous exercisers keep on going with their not very committed movements, be it endless ploddy jogging for miles and miles, or crunches x150 recurring. Such exercises only help keep you steady, fitness wise, but not strong and fleet,  Erik says.

This evening at running club we did 6x600m in the park. It was a slightly easy session as we have a 5k Assembly Race on Thursday. However the intervals had to be run fast. I ran as fast as I could, with Erik's comments about glamorous exercise ringing in my ears. Puce, sweating, hair afrizz and mascara streaming, I did not look or feel glamorous. I felt quite powerful, though.

Monday, 2 June 2014

My 51 year old runner's body

My 51 year old runner's face looks better in monochrome

A Monday after a not-exactly-high-mileage weekend and I'm aching like a geriatric, which has me returning to the oft-read advice about ageing runners needing to stretch, rest, sleep and pace themselves. I suppose I ask a great deal of my ageing body. I pushed it hard round Hillyfields on Saturday, and ran home in a hurry yesterday, then worked in the garden. And did I stretch? Just a hasty pigeon and downward dog before showering.
That is possibly not what should be going on when a woman is Training Seriously.
Today was a rest day, my activities reduced to just walking in the park close to home. The weariness I feel is perhaps not merely down to running, not stretching. I slept poorly last night - husband's snoring kept waking me up - so that might be a reason. To bed then.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Flaming June

My husband plays the lute, while a woman declaims
1.06.2014 Long Sunday run 8.5m incl warm up/down

Rough winds did shake the darling buds of May, but June so far is flaming. Today the long slow Sunday run was deferred until after I had done my bit for an event at the South Bank entitled The People's Sonnets. I'd volunteered to read out my favourite here, near the Festival Hall. Husband Rick Jones offered to accompany on the lute (he played right through until sonnet 50. I read sonnets 45 and 47). It was a lovely experience, but I did not stay to hear all 154 read/recited. After I'd said my pieces, I repaired to the Festival Hall to don shorts and T shirt and ran the 7 or so miles home. I stuck to 8-8.45 minute miles and felt comfortable, if a little sweaty in the heat of midday. I've always been rather disparaging of people who use the South Bank for running, but on a Sunday, before 10am, the walkways are still pretty empty, so runners passing by as The Peoples Sonnets event unfolded were able to move with ease, their only obstacle being a lutenist in Sunday shorts and a number of die-hard fans of Shakespeare's love poetry. If they only knew that one of these romantics that took to the wooden box to recite her chosen 13-liner had her sports bra supporting her poetic breast.