Tuesday, 30 September 2014


September ends as brightly as it began
Day 170

Cycle commute, about 10 miles round trip
Kent AC training, warm ups, then lampost hill, with downhill sprints

Cycling from work to athletics track for club training is always a challenge. Your body tells you it's tired, but the fatigue is only really in the mind. Your body is perfectly capable of warming up round the track, then working on downhill sprints in the local park. And so is mine. I scorched down that hill and for a few seconds felt like I was flying.
We are a big group now, being coached by our lovely boss, Adrian, After the downhill sprints we were arranged into pair for relay races round the Ladywell Fields circuit. It was an absolute killer, but you ran your hardest so as not to let your relay partner down. Afterwards, the endorphins whiz about the blood stream and we're all half in love with each other. There is no feeling like the post session camaraderie in a running club. We had a couple of beers afterward, by way of saying farewell to a member who's moving to West London.
It has been an eventful training September, and October, the first half at least, has plenty to recommend it, running wise. Caroline gave me my number for the Bournemouth Half on Sunday. My next challenge. 10514.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ill prepared

The prospect is bleak: pull self together
Day 170
Moaning Minnie

Weary lassitude hung about me, even before I'd extracted bike from shed and ridden the five or so miles to this week's workplace. Paid work is something to be grateful for, but all I can feel is exasperation with the writers responsible for the cliche-heavy text I have to sub. How many times do I see the words 'iconic' 'hip' 'featuring' in a day's march. The other thing, of course, is the lack of march in the day. Hip flexors ache from the endless sitting, boredom equals biscuits, sick building fatigue convinces me I'm too tired to do any strength training.
So today was two bike rides either end of seven hours' screen gawping. To make matters worse, I receive an email from one of the star runners in my club, who's crying off a drinks social tomorrow, as she is doing everything she can to taper and rest with care so that she can have every chance of scoring her first sub-three-hour marathon. She is the apotheosis of discipline and determination, but her message makes me feel even worse. My lack of preparation and foresight means I make a mockery of precious training time. I will have no-one to blame but myself.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Clarity of vision can break your foolish heart

Seeing clearly now

Alarmed by the pain in the right food I eschewed the customary Sunday long run for 20 lengths of the local 50m lido. A weightless exercise, but not without its trials and tribulations. A jerky, panicky swimmer with a ragged breathing technique, I'm sure I waste untold energy in the pool. I'm still trying to book a few one-to-one lessons with a coach, but we keep missing each other. The one positive and rather costly step I've made to improve my swimming - investing in Speedo  swimgoggles - has been a mixed blessing. Being underwater weaing them is lovely: my eyes don't sting and I can admire everyone else's masterstrokes. somehow I feel more confident and dolpinesque with my head under, so I wish I could learn to save a bigger lungful of air to keep me going. Alas, my goggles are not an unqualified success.They've left me with unsightly puffiness under both eyes, banded by deep red furrows. I look like someone has punched me on the nose. Scouring an online chat thread on the subject, I realise it's a well known phenomenon, particularly among the middle aged. Some swimmers have become ex-swimmers because of it.
It seems you really do sacrifice the face when you embark too vigorously on a fitness regime to combat middle aged spread. Face droop, sun damage and now puffy eyebags ensure I look every one of my nearly 52 years. Being fit merely means I don't feel as old as I look.
I just have to convince myself that it's what I feel that matters. Good friend Ruth sent me an email the other day from Costa Rica. She says she has lost 20lb, wears the same clothes every day, rubs a bit of sunscreen and Nivea onto her sunburned face when she remembers and has never felt better or stronger. She doesn't know what she looks like, because she rarely looks in the mirror. That is probably the way forward, but less achievable in London, where you move among friends and colleagues who are apt to say 'you look tired' when you can't be arsed to do the whole make up thing. What they will make of these furrows and pouches under my eyes is too painful to consider.
It is more than my body I need to toughen up, that much is clear to me, with or without goggles

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Supporting role

Support all the way to the finish and (below) not the most flattering of selfies
Day 168

Today was the final race in the Women's Running 10k Series. I was originally down to be the 55minute pacer for the race, but the editor double booked the slot, so I fetched up with no role to play, until the sub70m pacer had to pull out through injury.
Running to a very specific pace, albeit a slow one (we're talking 11-minute miles here, when I usually try to keep within 7:30m/m) is a good discipline and requires a reliable Garmin. It was odd but refreshing to run so slowly, and I particularly enjoyed chatting with the women I paced. It was hilarious to leap about doing a 'fly, my beauties' type exhortation about 200m from the finish, with the idea that my little group of followers would enjoy making it through the finish ahead of their target time. It reminded me, too, of how much I miss coaching. I do hope the women I advised found it useful, rather than patronising.
Plantar fasciitis causing so much grief, I've weakened in my resolve to run lighter, and ordered some cushiony gel shoes from Asics.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Gazelles gambol across the Greenwich plains

Post session camaraderie

The last hill is a killer

26 September
Day 167
The alarm was set for 5.15am to join the gang, the self-styled We are Gazelles. It started as a hill running, bootcamp sort of affair under the auspices of hardman Rob Blair, who now runs The Commando Temple down the road. We used to pay to be broken on his particular wheel, now we push ourselves. Matty, the fastest and fittest suggests the session, which usually involves sprints and hill reps. Today we ran from bench to bin and back again, all the way up the central carriageway of Greenwich Park, then up and down the steps leading to the summit of One Tree Hill, then circuits of a trail loop. It's an hour's worth of running intervals, plenty of steep stuff. You warm up as the sun rises, but today was the first morning since winter that we started in darkness.
Training this early, you feel you're shrugging off gloom and torpor. You turn off your alarm and have an inward argument with the devil on your shoulder, pleading fatigue and anxiety as excuses to pull the covers over your face. As you punch the devil off you put on running shorts with conviction, drink water, take vitamins, feed cats, brush teeth. Jogging through the park and chatting with fellow nutters you begin to feel smug, sweating and striding while the world sleeps. The first few hill reps make the blood sing, you banter happily and try to outpace each other on the bends. By the end, nauseated and sweating, your legs all jelly, but you're in a happy place. Who cares about work, domestic duties, unpaid bills. You're a gazelle, feeling groovy.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Spa quality

Dolphin man
Day 166
To the Chelsea Health Club & Spa for a swimming masterclass with Adam Walker. As the only woman in the group, and the only person aged over 45, I felt a bit conspiciuous. Most of the young men managed to master the technique and swim the 25m length without taking a breath. I tried, and kicked, but still came up spluttering after a paltry half length.
Adam's an extraordinary swimmer. He powered across the channel in 2008, and since then has swum Spain to Morocco and back, Molokai to Oahu in Hawaii, Catalina Channel in LA, the Tugaru Channel in Japan,  The Cook Strait, NZ and Ireland to Scotland.
He'd been told he'd never swim again after rupturing his bicep tendon, so developed a new stroke that took the pressure off the shoulder. That's what we were learning today.
Before this, I'd tried out a number of innovative and exhausting gym contraptions, including something called the Zone Dome, essentially a treadmill with HD lndscape imagery.
All of this activity in the newly refurbished, posh spa in the Chelsea Football stadium in Stamford Bridge, which I cycled to and from. And now, I'm feeling my age. In so many ways.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Life can be messy, but don't lose sleep over that
Day 166
This morning, in the pool's slow lane (did 32 lengths/25m pool), all my fellow swimmers were happy. At least, they all smiled and exchanged cheerful greetings with me, and each other, whenever we stopped for a breather. Two of them were pensioners, one was a fit, young family man whose impressive six pack belied the fact that he was the father of a 19-year old, another a middle aged woman recovering from major operations on her arthritic knees.
I'd cycled there feeling inadequate and anxious. A review I'd written last night to meet a 9am deadline seemed banal and a bit of a copout, family life and financial life were continuing to give cause for concern, and my decision to go for a swim felt like selfish procrastination.
When I talk to strangers about their lives, however, I'm instantly filled with curiosity. I ask many questions. The elderly couple told me they walked a mile to the pool every morning, then swam as many lengths as they could manage in an hour. The arthritic woman told me about her teacher daughter who'd moved in for reasons of childcare and saving for a mortgage. She also regaled me with tales of her big house in Carcassonne, which she's been slowly making habitable for five years. She also told me that Limoux is so much nicer than Champagne. I like it that we had this conversation while stark naked. smiling, laughing, battlescarred grandparents (soon to be, in my case). We had a belly laugh and our bellies wobbled. I felt so much better for my hour at the pool.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The gift of a strong, healthy body

Erik-Lee makes it look easy, while I count my blessings
Day 165
My late mother was born this day in 1919. She died in September 1990, having been diagnosed with ovarian cancer six months before. The chemotherapy saw her weight go down to about 70 pounds. I can remember her lying on her bed a couple of weeks before she died, marvelling at the sun on the late roses outside the window, glorying in the half hour without pain she could enjoy when the super strong pain killers were allowed to do their job without her throwing them up. She was allergic to morphine, which may have given her a few more such rare euphoric moments, when she smiled broadly and said
‘Do you know, lying here right now I feel like a normal, well person…I half believe I could get up right now and go for a walk around the garden…that would be the biggest treat. I can’t imagine I wasted all that time worrying about stupid things when being alive, not ill, is such a blessing.’
And the relevance of this to training seriously? When you’re cussing at the trainer (sorry, Erik) because you can’t get the speed ball coordination right (see above), when you’re angsty because your 5km times are ever slower and you can feel your middle jiggle when you jump, when your family are tsk-ing because you’re away another weekend to run a half marathon along a beach because you love it, and you can…that’s when you should remember how lucky you are that your heart beats strongly and your arms and legs work.
And that strong healthy brain, too. This morning I went to visit my godmother in a care home. She has dementia and has been sitting in a wheelchair, cushioned by incontinence pads and stifling central heating, since 2010. She plaintively asks for home, mummy and daddy and to go ‘upstairs’. Sometimes she adjust these requests, in more lucid moments, to ‘oh god, I just want to die!’ I wish I could help, instead, selfishly, I count the minutes until I can dive outside to my bike, breathe sweet London air (!) and freewheel down the hill. Visit over for another month.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Running the accounts

I took my thoughts to Greenwich Park. And my coffee in a thermos.
Day 164

Training seriously requires a person to be selfish. You need the sleep, the food, the time for the warm ups pre run, the run itself, the stretching post run, the endless showering, the crosstraining, the circuits, the club nights, the club races, Parkrun....Some of this stuff can be put down as work, the features I'm researching for Women's Running magazine and other media employers. Mostly, though, it's a hobby that's gotten out of hand.
What it does give me, however, is a certain simplicity of purpose. I don't spend much money on this out-of-control hobby. Most of my kit comes through running for the magazine, or it's hard won. I don't go out for drinks, or meals that much. I spend no money on commuting, because I cycle everywhere (there's your crosstraining). In fact, this training seriously has become my social life. I catch up with many friends through going out for a run, or walk with them. I'm not interested in fashion, or home furnishings, or getting my hair coloured. Cheap date. A fit one, though.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The restorative power of yoga

The location was a bonus
Day 163

Yoga, like dedicated and thorough stretching, is one of the recovery steps a runner knows she should take, but never seems to find the time for. To do both properly, you need an instructor to guide you. If that instructor is conscientious enough to actually manipulate your knackered limbs into the right angles, and check your wonky hips are in alignment, all to the good. Today, at the South Bank Centre, there was a yoga class as part of a week-long Indian Festival. As a member, I had priority booking. So glad I made it my priority. Our young instructor was from YogaBliss. The routine we did with her was just what the physio ordered - bliss. Best of all, while we were in some sort of corpse pose, she came round to massage our head and neck with gorgeously scented relaxing oil. I was in heaven. Paradise would be a session like that, every night, before bed.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Middle-aged men who run

Siggy awards Adele the walnut whips of triumph
Day 162

The skies were iron grey over Hillyfields, but the air was humid. Every finisher in the Hillyfields Parkrun was bathed in sweat.
It was hard. My first race after the Stonehenge  accidental ultra, so I made excuses for myself. The plantar fasciitis seems to have wormed its insidious way from heel to collarbone, so I feel crocked. Yet first woman, Caroline, ran a proper ultra two weeks ago. She scored a PB today. My result, below, demonstrates I am running backwards into trouble.Yet I cannot stop running. I've already agreed to do the Bournemouth Half marathon on 5 October, because I know I'll be in Bournemouth that weekend and I may as well take up a free place. I am an idiot.
Meanwhile, at the finish line, two middle aged male buddies, one who is nearer 60 than 50, celebrate PBs and talk about going sub 21 minutes. They say Tuesday night training at the track, which they have just started and I have been doing nigh on 5 years, has revolutionised their running.
Why has it not done the same for me? Why is a middle aged woman so very much slower than her male partners? The older man is known to fellow parkrunners as Ronnie's 'running husband'. At this rate he'll be asking for a divorce.

Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #109. Your time was 00:23:27. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Secret affair

Beckenham Golf Course on a humid September morning
Day 161
8 mile run and chat

Runners' World magazine once ran a piece on how marathon training takes up as much time, effort, planning and energy as having an extra marital affair.  It's an equally sweaty workout too. This struck a chord with me, since my husband has professed exasperation, envy, even hurt, over the devotion I show to the sport, my club, Parkrun etc. 
One of the many friends I've made through running tends to text me to ask me out for a run, because she just 'needs to get out'. She has a demanding job, and family, and a husband who rather despises her love of running. He, like my man, becomes antsy when she goes out running with male members of the running club (she is rather gorgeous). His relief at learning that Ronnie was a female of advanced years, and not a fit man, was palpable, she says. She of course did not mention the advanced years.
We take it in turns to chat on, and when one of us feels puffed, we listen to the other. A sympathetic ear while the eyes are fixed firmly on the road ahead. Somehow the exertion precludes embarrassment. Maybe it's because she's a psychiatrist, but I've been a little indiscreet while talking to her, moaning about domestic strife, dizzy daughters, harrumphing husbands...but when we came to a rest this morning, sweating and giggling after a sprint down my road, we both felt lighter.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

All ages

Erik educates a new recruit
Potential recruits slumber while their mummies get running
Day 160
It was cradle to the grave stuff today. Circuit training with Erik, followed by a bit of helping out with the Buggy Running class in Southwark Park, run by my mate Jannet for The Greenwich Runners. The new mothers taking part are getting back into running via a power walk/intervals in the park with a push-chair and everyone's happy: the babies, parked peacefully in the shade of a horse chestnut tree, the mothers, slowly getting reunited with their cores, and Jannet and I, happily making use of our Leader in Running Fitness and Level 2 Coaching qualifications, gained via Run England.
The evening was spent catching up with a whole roomful of appropriately gorgeous looking Fitness Writers, all gathered together to talk about new initiatives to encourage activity among children. One such was launched by Les Mills of New Zealand, in a bid to get everyone active
The hours in between, attending an immensely moving, heartfelt and harmonious funeral for the inspirational music teacher and force of nature John Skinner MBE, who died aged 61 and is mourned by a huge number of pupil and colleagues, reminded me that life is short, and should be as sweet, full and irreproachably wholesome as this day has been.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Kathrine Switzer: Marathon Woman

Born in 1946, still running
17 September 2014
Day 159

Swim day (32 lengths in a 25m pool, still struggling to do more than half a length in front crawl)
Inspired by all-women Marathon she instigated last April, I bought Kathrine Switzer’s memoir. Aptly enough, reading it has followed my own marathon running pattern. I started a little too fast, forgiving the sometimes clunky narrative in my enthusiasm. Reading along in leaps and bounds, so fascinated by this woman’s transformation from a jogger with a point to prove into sixth best female marathon runner in the world, I hit the wall when her career blossomed from pioneering athlete to sharp-elbowed promoter of international women’s sports.  
Switzer’s detailing of the freezing cold, dark, rainy runs she endured in the lead up to the famous 1967 Boston Breakthrough however, is perfect inspiration for an obsessive like me, who records her obsession on a blog like this. I love that she registered as KW Switzer and barged into the men-only race, finishing way ahead of her self-important boyfriend and started a revolution in her pyjama like tracksuit, wearing gardening gloves against the cold. Despite the punch up at the beginning, and her fear about what would happen at the end, she ran the race in 4:20 and was asked as she finished ‘are you a suffragette?’
The race proved a springboard for a career spent proving that women could run further than 10km without their wombs falling out. Her running, as a young woman, improved to give her a Boston Marathon pb of 2:52 in 1975.
Quite rightly, she dismisses that first 4:30 run as ‘a jogger’s time’, so I read on, with a sinking heart, to discover that the eight years to the PB were spent following a punishing running programme, often going over 100m per week. Also, she was 29.
It seems as if she stopped competing and donned a business suit thereafter, because the book morphs from a story of a determined runner into one about successful career in racing PR for womankind. Naturally, it’s this bigger picture that we should all be grateful for, but I’m ashamed to admit, that’s when I started skim reading. I suppose what I really want to know is how hard she trained when she was 51, and whether she ran the distance then, and whether she thinks I can work hard enough to turn my 3:57 PB into a 3:45, for London 2015, after my Year of Training Seriously.
So it would have been better if she’d written a book aimed specifically at delusional middle-aged women with too many demands on their time.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Glamorous is a waste of time

Only strong can produce those loops for a full minute

Day 158

So says Erik-Lee. He differentiates between looking the part when you’re doing your circuits and really breaking a sweat. He watches our medicine ball slams:
‘Slam it down with bad intention,’ he calls.
‘That’s why it’s called ball SLAM you know
‘Just letting it fall down is doing nothing for your strength.'
The battle rope is a station where the glamorous exercisers really look pathetic. If that long, heavy rope isn’t throwing a few Loch Ness Monster loops across the grass, your upper body and core is just not doing its job. Wiggling  it in a non-committal way is wasting everyone’s time. A minute on the battle rope should leave you gasping, sweating and hammering in the heart department. That’s not glamorous, but the effects will show in that décolleté dress. As if I will ever wear one of those. Here’s a nice graffiti of one, though. Seen on the side of a house in Nunhead.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Guilt trip

When does resting your weary bones tip over into out and out laziness?
Day 157

At some point awarding oneself plenty of rest and recovery turns into procrastination and general indolence. Yesterday's road running inflamed the plantar fasciitis, and the aftermath of three late nights with alcohol has been vague fever, sore throat, increased fatigue and lack of motivation.
The training seriously to do list prescribes much stretching, sleeping, a back-to-normal healty diet and a return to peak fitness. Everything on the list remains unaddressed. Guilt trips me up.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The hangover run

Trying to keep the pace

Day 156
9 miles, to the burbs and back (Beckenham Place Park from Hillyfields), with Sarah, Jacqui and Ted

Last night's unexpected turn of events meant this morning's planned easy run was clouded by a Champagne hangover and heavy legs. In the week after a marathon, however, any run that you do is bound to bear the imprint of the 26.1 (let alone the 29) mile slog for a week or so. The ache in the hips came on within an hour, and an overhelming desire to rest and recoup was only to be expected. It was important to try to run 10k in a decent time (in fact 8 minutes over my PB) to check that I could. I'm pacing for the Women's Running magazine 10K race on 27 September, so it's important to know that running and talkin ad carrying a banner is all possible. Given that my 10k PB is aroun 46minutes, 55min pacing should be  doddle, but you can never be too prepared. A piece of advice my son should have heeded (TBC).

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Run to the cakes

The Hillyfields Parkrun Family Feast
Day 155

My beloved Parkrun, at Hillyfields, was two years old today. When I first ran it, I struggled to get under 25 minutes on this undulating course. Now I'm looking to shave off 4 seconds to go under 23. Two minutes of improvement in two years: not so bad, I guess. When I watched fellow Kent women Dee O'Brian and Teresa Murphy nail it in under 20 today I felt energised by their strength. Both, of course, are under 40, but I feel sure that despite my age, I can get a minute off these 5k runs that I love so much. The hungover, fatigued and dispirited feeling that has been swirling aorund my head since the early hours prevented full-blown socialising in the role as voluncheer this morning, and I eschewed the cake, haunted by my fat navel gazing of yesterday, but I still have it in me to plot and plan the fit, sinewy old bird I want to become.

Girls in their gladrags

Country nuptials
with all the trimmings

Day 154

A bride to be regailed me with the many aspects of modern marital mores that turns women into bridezillas. One stuck in my consciousness: a sign in a bridal frock shop that warned women that if they lose too much weight in the run-up to the Big Day, they will not be able to demand dress adjustments for their sleeker fit. It is expected that not only the main woman of the moment, but her mother, her groom's mother, and all the other significant females, will be dieting to fit their gladrags. My mother did when I married; she was 69. I, the bride, did not. I was 26, four months pregnant and looked quite bonny.
It is not assumed that men will need to do the same to fit their suits.
Yesterday I was the auntie of the groom. My sister, the proud MOG, had spent a small fortune on a close fitting dress and jacket for the event, and looked gorgeous. I heard her telling someone she'd had to watch her eating habits to fit the frock, but now was going to enjoy the feast.
I hate dressing up. I have one dark green dress, but was dismayed by the way I looked yesterday. The 50 something fat around the middle produces lumps and bumps that protrude outward under the soft cotton of the reasonably close-fitting  simple long sleeved shift. My athletic fitness and admittedly lowish body weight and BMI do not a sinuous contour create. There are women in my running age group that have escaped these middleaged fat rolls, over the bra, the pants, around any undergarments that claim to flatter your outline. It's dispiriting, but, I suppose, in the general scheme of things, not something that should really keep one awake at night. Unless manic dieting and subsequent lack of nutrients to the brain have rendered you Bridezilla.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Dulling of the senses

Dizzying shuttle runs, or, as Erik-Lee puts it, Torture Block

Day 153

It's irritating, when the weather forecasters keep talking about high pressure and dry fine conditions, but omit the fact that the sky will be uniformly grey. Not just grey, that it'll feel like it's pressing down on your head and make your ageing eyes go all misty and squinty. The coming autumn makes you feel wistful about light and encroaching early evenings, short days, when it's even more important to live like your ploughman ancestors. Early to bed and early to rise. It really doesn't sit with the metropolitan, media lifestyle, even if that lifestyle is being lived by an impoverished, unsuccessful, middle aged woman.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Take a tech break

Too many expert opinions, and I'm losing sleep
Day 152

All day I've been speaking to experts about recovery. Two, a rehabilitation therapist and a sports nutritionist, contradicted each other (about that 30-minute window for refuelling post run). I took copious notes and found it hard to marry quotes to the brief I rather belatedly double checked.
My favourite chats have been with Nick Littlehales about sleep cycles and daylight and today, with Professor Ian Maynard of Sheffield Hallam University. He explained the ways in which your head can get in the way of your body as a runner, and how elites and leisure runners need to pre-empt the post-race blues by planning for the dreary aftermath. I have filled my social schedule to such an extent that I've left little time for work and sleep. Glaring at a screen for much of the day, as well as talking on the phone have left my head buzzing. The R&R plan, so infinitely sensible and childlike in its simplicity, seems impossible to practise. The misuse of our precious bodies that comes from moving from childhood and its easy movement and reparatory sleep, to contaminated, toxic adulthood, so neatly described by Littlehales, seems all the more evident to me, today.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


'Beat yourself up...in a nice way'
Day 151

How fortunate to be writing and researching a piece on Recovery for Women's Running magazine
Today I've had one of my calming chats with Mr Erik-Lee (above), having dragged my heavy, recovering body to his playground, where my fellow trainees Hyacinth and Rebecca were being put through their paces. My pace was slow, my fatigue still hanging about me like a damp autumn mist. Later I spoke to a sleep recovery expert Nick Littlehales and the ever sensible Ellie Brown about stretching and rollering. I know the theory, I'll write it all up, but I must practise what I preach. The sleep thing is especially inspiring. I shall try it, and record it here, one fine day.

Monday, 8 September 2014

No achey, no breaky, just bit shaky

Default postition
Day 151

How lovely to have the option to 'work from home', or 'be unemployed', 'resting', or however you want to put it to make yourself feel better.
I am suspiciously not suffering any DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) following Saturday's marathon-and-a-bit. Certainly I did not try as hard as I did at Berlin, when I had the worst aching ever, but then neither did I sleep on the overnight train from Paris, with too little food to eat immediately after the marathon. Mostly the lack of ache is, I reckon, attributable to the trail. Not running hard and as fast as possible on tarmac has reduced the inflammation and helped my poor old joints. That said, I have stretched assiduously, slept long and late, eaten almost constantly, so looking after number one has been more of a priority in the days immediately after this, my ninth marathon. As always, after a greatly anticipated race, my mood is fragile. So for the mid September sunshine, the absent snoring husband, the prospect of a few big dinners with my son, who's come to stay from his home in Berlin for a week, I am duly grateful.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Isolated incident

Day 150
Bone weary and eating mindlessly

Ultra running has never appealed to me, which is why yesterday's 29-mile debacle doesn't make me feel particularly proud, just extra knackered and a little bit cross with  myself.

It started well. I realised very soon after the running race started, with just 16 contestants, that I was not going to be able to stay with the Welsh fell-running woman I had set off with, at 8.15 minute miles. I left her to it and stayed with Jake, a young man whose fitness had developed from playing football and who had, he said run a 1:35 half marathon.

At mile 9 or so Jake said he'd be walking the hills, so I ran alone up them, keeping an eye on the orange waymarkers:
or so I thought. Shortly after climbing over a stile and refusing refreshments from a marshal's post, I followed an orange arrow into a ploughed field, circuited it, then went round the field after that, but saw no more waymarkers. Panicked, I made my way to the nearest farm to ask directions, tried to ring Alzheimers, but to no avail.

Reaching a lane, I flagged down a car, whose driver knew about the race, and directed me to where she thought there'd be a refreshment post, in the shadow of this white horse:
The upshot was, I went three miles out of my way, had a major sense of humour failure, almost dehydrated (suffered that ear-ring precursor to total blackout that I've had before), so had to walk a way, before I begged some water off a man standing by his Landrover.
In fact I completed the 26.1 miles in 4:22, so that's a good time for a trail marathon, at least faster than I did the Farnham Pilgrim, back in 2011.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Ultra tiring

Those legs are trembling with fatigue, tingling with nettle stings
Day 149

Stonehenge to Avebury Marathon. This was the first year it was run as a run. It is usually a hike. Walkers lined up with poles and rucksacks and big old boots behind us runners. Sixteen of us. I thought it possible to come in first place, until I got lost. Twent nine gruelling miles later, I ran through the mysterious Avebury stones, in seventh place. I checked my watch at 26 miles and saw it was 4:22, so that is a trail run PB.
So knackered now. There'llbe a race report tomorrow.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Preparation and reparation

No bad jokes about remembering my own name
Day 148

Preparing for a 26-mile trail run that starts tomorrow at 7am, I am inclined to regret the rather physically demanding week I've enjoyed thus far. Yesterday was a blast, but the resultant aches, despite expensive magnesum mineral bath last night, do not inspire confidence in my rested, repaired state. Perhaps a deal of public-transport sitting, reading, relaxing and toast eating wll do the trick.
Rest and food and sleep rest and food and sleep. Repeat.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

podiuming and medalling: grammarians look away now

Top team
Day 146

A red letter day for this old bird. It was the last Assembly League of the season. We fielded a large, strong team for Kent AC to secure our trophy. Kent Athletic Club will finally replace Dulwich Runners on the coveted shield. I ran reasonably strong, despite having had a knackering day, and secured my medal as first W50. I was inordinately proud. Most childishly, it was incredibly satisfying to claim first place medal ahead of Clare Elms. That does't mean that I can run anything like as quick as this elite athlete. She did not run as many times as me over the season, so I collected more points with my 6 pedestrian 22m and 23m for  5km (she can do them in 18m or so). I have always been obsessed with Ms Elms, who is the tanned, sinewy apotheosis of mature athleticism, quite the opposite of freckly, flabby me, but the medalling has made me happy, and the conviction that I can improve has been underlined by the extraordinarily youthful V60 woman Ros Tabor, and indeed V70 and even V75 men coming up to collect their medals. Inspiring.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tiny tri

London Fields Lido
Day 144

You've got to love London Fields Lido. It's big (50m), it's warm (25 degreesC today), it's clean and much cheaper than my local, Charlton. Today was a nostalgia trip, for LFL was where I used to convene with best London buddy Ruth Jarvis. We'd do our 20 lengths, bemoan the fact that we're such crap swimmers, then repair to her house across the park to eat expensive artisan bread and butter scrambled egg.  She's far, far away, with bike and boyfriend, while I test my run-to-swim-to-run technique for The Swimmer, wearing my zip-up costume under my running gear and eschewing towel dry for run dry. There was even a bit of cycling involved today. A teeny, tiny triathlon, if you will. I shall never do a proper one, though, as open water swimming is too scary to contemplate. Hampstead Ponds, lovely lidos and a little bit of seaside is the most open water I'll ever contemplate.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Hands up if you can

Note the shirt
Day 143

Normal service was resumed this morning. Circuits overseen by Erik 
His bons mots always cheer. Today I had him snap this rather fetching image of me performing shoulder presses with a 9kg medicine ball. Alzheimer's Society shirt will be the one I wear for the big race this weekend. Always best to make sure a new garment doesn't chafe or anything. The gear is especially relevant since I am always banging on about the completely unnecessary seizing up of the arms and legs as you get old. I've gone on about it in this blog, I know. At what stage do older people stop trying to reach items on high shelves? At what stage does this render them incapable of raising an arm straight into the air? I have resolved to reach for sky, with or without medecine ball, daily. And stand on one leg. And do over 100 tricep dips and perform the crab every day until...I die?
So there's that. And then there's Kent AC track training in a couple of hours. Better to be busy.
This morning: 5x cicuits involving shoulder presses, weight raises, weighted lunges, battle rope, in and out, underground, tyre slam and I think that's it.  Unround those shoulders.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Working backwards

counting sheep
1 September 2014
Day 142

Wise friend Carrie said to me, when I was angsting about rest and recovery, particularly in view of the coming Stonehenge to Avebury test, that I should learn to treat the bedtime deadline with as much respect as the going to work one in the morning. When you have to be at work for 9.30am, you set your alarm accordingly, to make sure that there's time to fit in all the faffing before you get on your bike. Yet we, or should I say I, let panic about undone chores push bedtime later and later, with the result that there's no reading, no calming yoga practice, no pleasureable bathtime and annointing of runner's body with arnica oil and lavender balm. Just a shut down of lap top and a topple into bed, where husband lies snoring. No wonder I lie awake fretting. The plan wa today to work backwards from the ideal 10pm shut down, and eave myself enough time to achieve it. Not done today, sadly.