Friday, 31 October 2014

Fright night: suitably haggard for Hallowe'en

Day 200

Cycle to and from work. Pounding hangover makes morning downward dog a challenge.

It's scary, how a few drinks and a late night can throw you off pace, both physically and mentally. The cycle ride is a toil, but the weather is unseasonably warm and balmy, so there's sense in my dawdling through the parks, admiring the waterfowl and the sunlight bouncing off the Shard. The sandpaper-behind-the-eyes feeling persists through the working day, and it's all I can do to take a stroll in sunlit Embankment Gardens, where I ate avocado, lentils, rice and quinoa without much relish. A reviving afternoon, however, because my lovely workmates led by Designer David Vallade came to my desk with card, present, tea and chocolate cake. Touched, I was. Lovely to feel loved. 

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Nuts. lots of nuts, might help
Day 199

Sitting: in theatre, in office. Fretting: when will I feel stronger? Yoga: to try to calm, extend, elongate, focus

This week I've been thinking a great deal about protein. Erik, who likes to taunt me with 'you're vegetarian, ergo you're weak', (although he'd never say ergo, of course), recommended protein powders if I really couldn't eat a nice salmon steak. Some copywriting I did for a communications firm was about Cinnamon Soho's now infamous brain burgers (calves brains deep fried with spices), all spooked up for Hallowe'en, and now I am blessed with a new Twitter follower, name of That protein, which intrigues.
Until I earn a regular income, I can't be sending off for fancy packs of chia seed and pumpkin seeds, ground to a pulp, in the hope that they may become my font of eternal youth and speed. It's my 52nd birthday on Saturday. I've planned to celebrate it with a return to Parkrun with my fellow Hillyfields Parkrunner buddy, Siggy, whose birthday is on the same day. I've warned her I'll be in the slow lane. For the rest of the day I'll be celebrating in a low key way: lots of food, plenty of alcohol. Chocolate, cake, sugar, chips. I have found, in the past, that no-holds-barred feasting improves my stamina, so it's a cheering thought, to spend the birthday week that was to have been all about fun and friends, and now looks like being work-dominated, eating more junky stuff, devoid of animal flesh, of course.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

ABCs and 123s

Another wet ride coming up. It'll be dark, too
Day 198

Stretch, cross training, trying to address this plantar fasciitis, cycling to and from work

The pretty Russian doctor commiserated when I told her about my plantar fasciitis.
'I suffer from it too,' she smiled
'So I only run on a treadmill, and I can't wear very flat shoes for long periods of time.'

She said she'd be happy to refer me to a physiotherapist, but he'd only give me the exercises I know about already, and don 't do often enough. She recommended trying to use my toes to write the letters of the alphabet on the floor, (with heel up or heel down, I wonder?). She also said try stretching the toes back, massaging the sore area and trying a very hot foot spa. I'm trying to do the alphabet thing now. I don't have a foot spa. I get up from my desk every hour or so, toddle down the stairs to the big disabled lavatory and try stretches and reps of heel raises. All the research I do on plantar fasciitis informs me that it could take up to a year to clear. And keep on doing the exercises.  Mr Yamauchi said to wear a splint in bed. Passion killer. Anyway, I don't have a spare £30.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

'Collapse to the floor...'

Alana flips a tyre, Hyacinth goes underground, Erik checks the form
Day 197

A glorious day for circuits with Today it was all about the squats.

The two exercises my fellow trainees are demonstrating here require a perfect, deep squat. my thighs and hip flexors are feeling it now, a full 14 hours later. To get the power behind that heavy tyre, you need to utilise the explosive potential of the glutes. Erik says the squat exercises the core as well as the backside. You need to bring your bottom down lower than the knees - 'submit to the floor' is another colourful phrase Erik  employs to explain the movement. I managed 16 tyre flips within the minute, 56 underground dips, 26, 9kg medicine ball thrusts with squats, yet more squats with heels propped up and arm outstretched.
To do a good squat you need to have your arms out, your back straight, your hips below the parallel, your weight on your heels and your knees behind the toes.With all these things to think about, you're being more aware of your body, you can sense if something's misaligned. This is proprioception, which helps you avoid injury.
I vow to squat to pick up dropped things, rather than caving in to my natural habit of bending forward straight legs from the waist, which only contributes to my weak glutes and over stretchy hams. No wonder I lack explosive power on the hill sprints.
To be honest though, after an extremely long working day, my inclination to 'collapse to the floor' is nothing to do with squats and everything to do with complete exhaustion. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Call to action

The loveliest bit of the cycle commute: Burgess Park
Day 196

Booked in an office this week, so training has to be restricted to before/after work and lunch hours. My office on the seventh floor (120 steps) at least allows me to get in some practice for Vertical Rush in March. Cycling to and from The Strand is cross training.

Monday rest day. Sat on my arse day. Gazing at a screen day. It's exraordinary how the hours just slide past if you're not careful: 120 minutes of inaction. So I plan to stretch my legs every hour at least, for about 5 minutes. You only need a minute or two to run up and down 120 stairs. You may pass the odd co worker on the flights, but most people use the lift. No-one notices your odd behaviour, or your slightly breathless demeanour when you sit down and start tapping the keyboard again. It's all grist to the mill. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

There's no loneliness in our long distance runs

The Thames foreshore at Greenwich. Rich pickings on the  mudflats for the waterfowl

Time to stop for a group photo at the Thames Barrier

Day 195

Long slow Sunday run day. My foot wasn't happy with the eight-mile circuit from Greenwich Park, along the river, up through Charlton Park and down again. Still feeling breathless and depleted too. The companionship was lovely though.

We're a jolly bunch at Kent AC these days. Since Ted decided to 'give something back' and turn social secretary and assistant coach, our sociability has improved 100%. We don't just meet up on a Tuesday night now. We're sharing our marathon training schedules, and planning our Sunday runs - routes and meeting places - via Googlegroup every week. I love it. Today we were joined by members of Greewnich Runners for an eight miler that covered a well worn route to the Thames Barrier, then a new way to Charlton Park that I'd never run before. I felt bouncy and fit at first, and covered the first four miles at around 8:24m/m . The plantar fasciitis kicked in, however, then was joined by depressingly familiar sogginess of hormonal stress incontinence and jelly legs on the uphills...most likely the lingering fatigue of stressed, sleepless nights and recent blood donation. I want my fitness back. Lagging at the back for the last mile, I at least had a companion in knackerdom. One of the Greenwich Runners, a young man from New Zealand, was still suffering the after effects of a strength-zapping virus, so we jogged/walked together, fantasising about how good we'll feel when we're back to proper fitness. Empathy, camaraderie, mutual understanding; running in a pack can do wonders for your spirit.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mara Yamauchi: teeny, tiny, towering talent

Spot the elite runner
Day 194

No Hillyfields Parkrun as the fatigue and inflammation continues. Instead, a cycle to Waterloo, thence to St Mary's University, Strawberry Hill, for a marathon lecture delivered by Mara Yamauchi

Mara Yamauchi is team GB's second-best ever marathon runner (PB 2:23.12). Only Paula Radcliffe has run the 26.2 miles faster. Mara has retired now, but she vouchsafed that she ran the local Cabbage Patch 10 last Sunday (she was third woman). She's clearly a contender still. It's interesting that she retired at 39, having only discovered the joy of marathon running at 30. Jo Pavey, at 40, has her sights set on Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. I wonder if Mara may make a comeback. She seems to be in great shape. Talking about nutrition, she told us she was experimenting with the no/low carb, high fat diet. She says she feels fit, strong, fleet, clearheaded. Depressingly, a vegetarian finds it difficult to follow suit. It's difficult to live on nuts, avocados, olive oil and eggs with no bread to put them on. Still, who am I kidding. Even if I ate liver and steak at every meal and never touched a baked potato again, the improvements would be minimal. Mara is built for the marathon. It's got her name all over it.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Give it a rest

Burgess Park, where a recuperative cream tea is just £5.50
Day 193

No being a gazelle in Greenwich Park for me at the crack of sparrows. Cycling around town on my errands and a work meeting was the sum total of my training. An impromptu rest day.

As I'd promised my poor, battered body I would listen to its creaks and groans, there is no point in any guilt tripping about the amount of training I have missed this past fortnight. It still feels odd, though, not running. Last night, as I set my alarm clock for 5am at midnight, I had a dawning realisation that a dawn rise would not do me any favours at all. My body was weak with fatigue, I'd just fallen alseep in the cinema, for pity's sake. The body was telling me in every way it knew how: aching, throbbing, tinnitus, yawns, gnawing hunger, it was screaming at me to give it a rest. So I listened to my body, as all the good coaches advocate, and sent out a text to my early morning fellow Gazelle of Greenwich Park, telling her I'd not be joining her at 6am for hill sprints.
I woke at 5.30am, stroked the cat, then turned over and sept purringly for another two hours. And my body said thank you.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The creeping obesity 'epidemic' and the galloping deficit

The best value PT in townTeam shape u
Day 192

Circuits with Erik at Team Shape U: including NFL touch-down sprints, battle rope siders, bicep curls and presses, blades, T stretch and IYTW stretches £55 12 sessions
Buggy Runners: the outdoor gym
This evening: core session on the track

The amount obesity is costing our beleaguered NHS is all over the news today. There was a heartbreaking interview with a woman who had been 40 stone. The health problems this caused were numerous and ghastly. She said that she had to have carers to do every, single, intimate function for her. The chafing between hanging flaps of skin set up bleeds and infections. The NHS paid for gastric surgery and now she weighs 15 stone.
The trouble is, it costs so much. The Daily Mail flagged up that this woman and her family had cost the health care system more than £1m and she became the target of a hate campaign.
To help individuals before they reach such a desperate condition should be, and is, the duty of health public bodies. Using parks, local exercise initiatives like our Buggy Runners, subsidised as it is in Southwark Park, where I was coach today, and free equipment, such as that The Outdoor Gym Company provides for parks, playgrounds and public spaces will help. These opportunities will only be taken up, however, if they are properly marketed at those for whom social isolation so easily leads to comfort eating and weight gain. 
Exercising is as much about the socialising aspect of being outdoors and active together, as it is about trying to regain your waist. Some of the women I train with are hardly skinny whippets, but they're rosy and energetic and they enjoy their grub. Instead of thinking about the next snack they're going to unwrap, they're finding time to come up to the park for their 8am/10.15am or 7.15pm session. I attended them all today. Over exercising, rather than overeating. It's time to find a balance. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

And why, pray, shouldn't I be confident?

The joy of an early doors run
Day 191

It was sensible of me, last night, to text a keen running buddy and arrange a 7am hills session. Doesn't Hillyfields look lovely in its morning glory? The hills sprints were hard and I puffed, because of the depleted red blood corpuscles (from donating last Friday), but I was happy, for a while. 

When we recovered from each hill at a chatting jog we talked about a mutual acquaintance, of whom I am (ridiculously*) jealous. She's only 30, very pretty, lovely figure, can run a marathon in 2:56 and has a successful career as a lawyer. Has it all, right? She's reserved though, and seems less than friendly. I put that down to the fact that she doesn't really want to be friends with the likes of me, but my friend tells me that in her opinion, this young woman lacks confidence.
I bluster a repost. How on earth can that be, when she has so much? Then, on reflection, why on earth do I feel so confident, when I display no outward signs of success, sporting prowess or physical attractiveness? It's true, no one intimidates me, I make them talk to me and I believe I am worth talking to. I don't have a big shiny job, car, house, or a beautiful face. They don't help me feel confident. I just know, when I am running, I am happy. When I am happy I want to chat. People may seem reserved, or even move away quite quickly to talk to other people, but I never interpret their behaviour as an insult to me. I barge through life, I make friends. I meet existing friends outside or online. And I will keep trying. 
None of the jobs I applied for, or pitches I have made in recent weeks have elicited  a response. More fool them, they've missed a gem. 

* it is ridiculous to be jealous. I have been 30. It was fun. Now I am 51

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bum notes

Day 190

This was supposed to be back-on-track day. However, another Tuesday evening has come and gone without my attending Kent AC training. Not only that, circuits with Erik was cancelled owing to inclement weather. Today's Tuesday training was limited to a couple of cycle rides and a couple of walks. My heel and instep hurt. My backside hurts. I feel vaguely elderly.

My right foot is glad of the rest, perhaps. My red cells would like another day to recoup. Life just got in the way today. The tailwind of the latest hurricane (see yesterday's post) to fizzle out around our coastline caused great gusts of wind and squalls of rain, which were enough to put Erik off his stride. So my Tuesday circuits were truncated to mere yoga moves and planks on the mat. I had to cycle on an emergency toiletries mission to aunt's care home at upper Sydenham, further uphill from these lofty gardens at the Horniman Museum.
Strong winds made this more of an uphill struggle than usual. The Sound Garden (pictured) had to contend with the wind whistling through the trees. Brake failure on the descent necessitated a trip to the bike mechanic in Ladywell, then renewed foot pain, sore throat and family duties all conspired against my lacing up and jogging to the track. I feel like  a wuss. I feel the flab gathering as I procrastinate ever further into my training regime. Yes, another early night, ibuprofen and no intervals endorphins to disturb healing sleep may, in the long run, help build a stronger me. On the other hand, the longer I leave off the proper speed work, the more of a bogey it will become. Autumn leaves swirl and I feel a pricking in my thumbs. I must get this malaise sorted out by Hallowe'en. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Her indoors

While the weather's as unseasonably gorgeous as this, who wouldn't want to be outside?

Day 189

Recovery day, so a quick leg stretcher and plantar tester in the park. Difficult to stay at desk when the sun is so shiny.

There's a hurricane coming in from Mexico, so they say. The weather outside will be frightful by nightfall. Rain will be intense and continuous from dinner time until around lunch-time tomorrow. To heap on the misery, the mercury will drop to a more seasonal, distinctly chillier, temperature. The point of this impromptu forecast? That longer, wetter, colder nights and shorter, wetter, colder days will inevitably make getting out there to run more of a challenge.
Fairweather runners mark the clocks going forward with a determined sprint gymward. They complete their winter training on the treadmill and wait until balmier conditions to step outdoors again. Yet even the most faithful of treadmillers cannot gainsay the tedium of that infernal machine. Pounding the belt and going nowhere, with nothing to look at accept the LCD, adjusting the gradient to ring the changes and perhaps the odd swivel of the head to see how your neighbour's doing and wondering whether your stomach will ever look as flat as hers.
For these reluctant hamsters help is at hand, in the form of The Zone Dome. 
It's a treadmill, yes. It's in a gym, absolutely. But it takes you to places you'd like to see. It's Kevin Hewitt's idea. He calls it 'business class' treadmill running. The Zone Dome, which can be integrated with modern gym treadmills, plays HD films of beautiful countryside surrounding you as you get some serious mileage under your belt. So your five-mile run can take you through a whole landscape of your choice: mountain passes with snow-capped peaks on the horizon, grassland and savannah (is that the scent of wildebeest dung on the warm African wind?), tropical rainforest with exotic humming birds flitting to and fro. It certainly beats having Eastenders blasting its misery at you as you sweat through your 30-minute workout. 
I tried Zone Dome the other week, as a guest at the rather splendid Chelsea Health Club & Spa
I'm no fan of the treadmill, but having something beautiful to focus on helped me forget about the fact that I was running myself into a lather and going absolutely nowhere.
I can fully appreciate that gym bunnies will enjoy running business class. Me, I'll stick to the economy of my local park in the pouring rain. It's the cross country season, and nothing can beat a Saturday afternoon in my club vest and pants in some unknown part of Surrey, slaloming down a real, not virtual, 'brown run' (that's a very muddy hill) and landing on my arse in a puddle. There's no fool like an old-school fool.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Only women bleed

Chubby day
Day 188

Meet coach Ted, Nic, Sarah and Jacqui for Sunday Long Run. They're forewarned that I may drop out because of my hurty foot and blood depleted state. That was a reference to my blood donation on Friday, although an added complication is, er, lunar. You get me? Got the painters in.

The others are up for a briskish ten miler this balmy, blustery, bright day. After one mile at 8.20m/m, though, I'm sweaty and breathless. This is always the case after giving blood, and with the added complication of today's women's issues, I'm in danger of wussing out before I've begun. Nonetheless, I power on, sweatily, grunting slightly and letting the others talk, for five miles or so, before deciding to take the Forster Park route back from Beckenham. Jacquie joins me. She's recently had an eye operation and her special protective glasses are making her feel seasick.
I need to recoup those red blood cells. Drinking extra water, protein rich eggs and iron rich spinach included in my meals and a mental note to put my feet up. Self prescribing dark chocolate is a positive pleasure.That's all good. The fact that I ran at all, let alone clocked up seven miles, is to be celebrated. For all my weakness and vague nausea, I am convinced that running is the best thing you can do to combat period pain. Curling up with a hot water bottle in the manner of sulky teenage girls just makes you navel (womb) gaze. Go with the flow. It just might be a bit slow. You run faster and farther from Day 4 of the cycle apparently. I'll check that on Thursday. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Running like a child

Running up that hill....with no problem
Day 187

A brisk mile walking, to Hillyfields to be a marshall at Parkrun, walk back. A day gardening with heavy limbs and plantar pain. Or whatever it is. As I write I press my heel and instep on a hard golf ball, the pain travels all the way up to the glute. Feeling vaguely unwell, sleeps disturbances occasioned by fretting over continuing unemployment. Weak from the bloodletting. Feel hot at night. Presume that's menopause, but the weather is extremely balmy (is it me, or is it hot out there?)

A lovely day for Hillyfields Parkrun , blowy, blustery, sunny and very warm. I stood at the bottom of this hill and encouraged them up. Might it have helped the runners? It's always a worry, whether enthusiastic encouragement, and words along the lines of 'keep going!' (as if they're not going to) and 'Well done!' sound patronising. I tried many tacks this morning:
'Three times up this hill, save some energy for the third and final!'
'Use your arms to power you up the hill!'
'Fantastic! Don't walk!'
So I try to be useful, rather than merely irritating. Most people smile through the pain as I jump about and whoop, so I  think they like it.
With the children, it's easy. They like enthusiasm. They often have stitches and clasp dramatically at their sides. You can tell them to put their arms in the air and take deep breaths and they automatically do that. What I love about watching children run is their ease of movement. Their arms and legs are automatically loose and flowing in synch. The girls don't do bosomy lady running, with the arms pointlessly crossing over the trunk. The boys don't hunch, stoop and thump their heels like so many men. They're as poised and balanced as Premiership footballers. Why can't we adults do that?
And when you beam at a child and urge her to go faster, she responds. Those pure little lungs suck up more oxygen and the spurt is obvious. They look like they're fading then they spring up the hill that's destroying their parent.
Would I could run like a child, but given my current predicament a jog without foot pain would be good. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Giving blood and its effects on the runner

How long will it take me to be bright eyed and bushy tailed again?
Day 186

Confined to bike again, to try to save further pain from plantar fasciitis. My running buddy wanted to do eight miles at 8.30 m/m so I pedalled and chatted. Later I cycled to Docklands for my thrice-yearly blood donation

Giving blood does not hurt. It makes you feel good and you are given drinks, biscuits and crisps. People are very nice to you. It's social. It's an excuse to look after yourself, and for the injured runner, it is a way to stop fretting and fuming about training lost and PBs fading. For at least a week (in my case it's 2-3 weeks) your times are slow and you tire more easily, because your body is working hard ot make up the blood stock again. I can remember attempting a cross country race four days after giving a pint. I was so weak and my time was so slow I was close to tears.
So tomorrow my burning heel and I will walk briskly to Hillyfields parkrun and voluncheer.
We have to see these injury setbacks as a way of Giving Something Back.
If you are a runner, considering giving blood, eat and drink well on the day. Continue drinking plenty for 48 hours afterwards, don't abstain from running, but do understand why you're not running as fast or far as usual. Don't fret. You'll be back to normal in 14 days or so.
Do give blood.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Show and Tell

Day 185

To Hillyfields, for circuits with Alana, Hyacinth and Rebecca, overseen by Erik, Team Shape U
We had the six-pack training wheels again, despite DOMS from that particular beast on Tuesday, along with boxing, dangling from a chin-up bar, I,Y,T,W stretches, crossbow, and squats. Nice combinations, all good for abdominals and upper back.
Thence to Southwark Park on my bike, to take my first ever Buggy Runners session
Core session this evening. Ted showed Adele, Jan, John and me good methods for dynamic warm ups, sprints, speed play, warm down and stretch.

I paid careful mind to Erik’s wisdom today, trying to keep some golden nuggets for my women. Three turned up, with babies in buggies: Paula, then Anuja and Maya. I think I may have tried too hard to make them like me, and perhaps vouchsafed too much information about tricky things like pelvic floor, and embarrassing things such as stress incontinence. I regretted making vapid comments about back fat, which made them look a bit distressed. Whether I worked them hard enough, or provided enough variety, I cannot be sure. I fished for feedback, and duly received it. The fact is, will they come back, knowing it’s me again next week?
After Southwark Park, I had little opportunity or inclination to work at my desk. I was tired after the morning, and unready for a track session in the evening, albeit far less full on than the Tuesday ones. The atmosphere down there is lovely though: one coach leading lots of little kids with javelins, another making a groaning kid do fast feet, Pete with his elites, some lone runners powering round, and Ted's little group of Kent ACers with dreams of PBs. 
I enjoy the stretching and lengthening exercise but was still uncomfortable with the sprints, for both hormonal and plantar fasciitis reasons. I will have to make some sort of doctor's appointment to see what is going on. I felt a bit old, tubby and slow, if I'm honest, particularly when it came to 12x80m sprints with 15 seconds recovery. Almost broken by the end.  A hard day, and no mistake.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Heel thyself

The Bandstand, Southwark Park. In more clement  weather
Day 184

Swam this morning. 40 lengths (25m pool). My heel still hurts, and when I turn my foot on a cobble or somesuch the pain in the heel, just near the instep, is excruciating. Meanwhile I am not running, just walking, cycling and swimming. I realise it is about 10 day since I tried to run fast (the end of the Bournemouth Half). How long can I last on this self-imposed running ban? How much fitness will I lose?
I cycled to Southwark Park (my office tomorrow morning) and checked out the lie of the land.

The bandstand (that picture was taken on a far less gloomy day) at Southwark Park is where I will set up a few circuits for my buggy runners tomorrow. I identified round the pond for their warm-up/power walk, a useful low wall for tricep dips and sit ups, and a benign slope for shuttle running. I also 'negotiated' a 10% discount at the café for the women who turn up. I do hope some women turn up.

I realise I am at halfway point in this year. Have I trained seriously this past six months? I am satisfied that I have at least recorded my triumphs and failures, my falling off the wagon and my physical shortcomings. Perhaps this year will follow the negative split pattern, and the second six months will see me a lean, keen, running machine with working feet.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The day job

 Greenwich Park: Not a bad looking office
Day 183

Team Shape U in the morning. Soggy underfoot so Erik-Lee had Alana, Rebecca, Hyacinth and me testing our abdominals on the 6-pack wheelie rollout thing, which I should really have taken a photo of if I fail to be descriptive, plus super 21s (high knees sprints over six inch hurdles), squats with weights, balancing with a hoop, battle rope, and side step squats under a bar. Five sets. 
After this I set off for Greenwich Park, where I helped Ellie with one of her Buggy Runner classes, and envied her her day job. 

The Buggy Runners: up and at 'em!

Ellie Brown is the highly charismatic and energetic founder of Greenwich Pilates and the first person new mothers should turn to when they're trying to return to fitness, and find likeminded friends, post baby. Ellie has instigated a number of buggy running classes across south east London and I shall be leading the Southwark Park class every Thursday morning. So this morning I shadowed Ellie and chatted to the women and had a thoroughly good time. Despite accepting a copywriting booking for the end of the month, and applying to three editorial jobs this past week, I still harbour various Personal Trainer fantasies, in which the bosky south London parks become my office, and I can make money out of the thing I like best. I suppose I'm not doing too badly: I write for a running magazine after all, but the money I get from running-related labours isn't enough to pay my half of the mortgage. 
Yet I believe it's important that women of my age continue to fly the flag for fitness, fast work and all round fabulousness, which is why I was pleased to hear from Kathrine Switzer today, about the launch of her 261 Fearless campaign. Would I like to get involved? You bet!

Monday, 13 October 2014

A bit of a wobble

Day 182

Rest day. A rainy Monday, so even a walk was somewhat truncated. I did a little morning yoga and planking, and two ten minute stints on this wobble board

Want a trim waist? Go swivel. At least that's what former ballerina and current dance campaigner Darcey Bussell says she does. Her exhortation to 'swivel for ten minutes twice a day on a board' was all the encouragement I needed. I have this wobble board from Tiger, which daughter Jane and I bought a year or so ago, and which, up until now, has been gathering dust in my 'home gym' (a corner of my study, to be used when my husband's not looking, he's very disapproving of my vanity). Obsessed with that chilling NHS statistic about waists over 31 inches being a dead cert for Diabetes, and ever mindful of my Devonshire dumpling tendencies, I have been swivelling (wo)manfully.  With conviction. However, if I'm going to have double helpings of cheesecake after dinner, I can swivel till I'm blue in the face: the gluttony will still show in my waist measurement.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Other people's PBs

Slow pacing is a challenge
Day 181

Royal Parks Half
My second half marathon of the weekend. This one I thought would give me no trouble, since I was pacing a time 35 minutes slower than my PB. I could not have been more wrong. It was tiring and painful, and pretty stressful. I cycled there and back, about 16miles, which has no doubt contributed to the fatigue I feel now.

Keeping runners to a 2:20 pace necessitated running this, surely one of the most popular half marathons in the land at  10:30 minute miles, I calculated. A walk in the park. It's so hard though, playing the very devil with your head. An hour in, having chatted happily to people relying on me for a PB, I realised I had another 1 hour and 20 minutes on my feet, and my feet, one of them at least, were shrieking at me. I wondered at one point whether the middle toe pain, which came out of nowhere, would fell me. I checked my watch obsessively, but was jangled by my fellow 2:20 pace, who disappeared up ahead. Surely he was going too fast? Accelerating to keep up with him, I lost some of my faithful followers, including an asthmatic woman from Denmark, whom I didn't see again. That made me feel as bad as my foot. My pelvic floor was also playing up, so despite clenching, I was soggy. The finish was a welcome sight. Interestingly I was doing the same pace as my partner at the end, which was the pace, more or less, my Garmin kept me to most of the way round. In th event, I guess he could be said to have done a positive split - fast out, slower at end - and I did the oppostite.
One thing is for certain. I am resting now for a few days. The plantar fasciitis, and the pelvic floor,  has to be addressed.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Swimmer

Day 180
The Swimmer 
A relaxed half marathon starting with a privileged dip in Hampstead Men's Pond and finishing at Brockwell Lido, with brrrracing swims in Parliament Hill Lido and the Serpentine in between. Starting at 7am.

Ah, there was the rub. That 7am start. I thought the 6am train that took me to West Hampstead would do the job, but I didn't reckon on getting hopelessly lost (and ending up in the bowels of the O2 shopping centre on the Finchley Road, much to the consternation of the night staff and construction workers therein at this tender hour of the morning). I was eventually navigated out by a young Asian dad from Stratford, who commiserated with me about the fact that no-one in West Hampstead seemed to know of Hampstead, 'Hammersmith? Hannover?' or speak English. While we had a leisurely stroll to Finchley Road and Frognal, I regretted not taking the overground to Hampstead Heath Station. Even more so when I was informed I'd have to run a mile to find the Heath, then another mile over the Heath to find the men's pond.
Find it I did, eventually, after running a soggy mile with a heavy bag. The obliging and courteous organisers of The Swimmer kindly waited for me to take in dip in the murky water, because to swim in these famous ponds has been on my bucket list since I moved to London in 1984 (yes, I know, it can't have been that much of an ambition...) A very quick splash about was all I had time for. It was very deep, dark water. A little scary. I remembered the sunbaked, erotic scene from the gorgeous television adaptation ofThe Line of Beauty. The pond did not look so sexy today:
Kind Will waited for me and we jogged to Parliament Hill Lido for our second swim. This has 1990s memories of swimming with small children, or rather escaping small children to come here to swim on hot days with my trendy, north London, child-free friends. I did not take a picture of this vast pool. I swam two lengths of it, then again donned running gear over costume. I am hardcore. Other women had changes of swimsuit. One very attractive young woman, Katie, had four swimsuits in her bag. 
We ran up Primrose Hill, where, I'm informed, the 'fittest vicar in London, the reverend Graham Buckle' made the sun come out. Apparently it never rains on his fitness parades.
From up here it was a run to Hyde Park, and Serpentine Lido. Another first for me. The water felt silkier and warmer than the murkier, deeper Hampstead pond. Big warning not to swallow any of it, as we share our swimming bath with numerous waterfowl. I liked it in here; I could touch the ground. However I swam a very short distance, relieved that 50m lengths weren't beckoning.
On again with the running gear. It's pretty soggy by now. The running gear, that is. Pesky middle aged bladder, evidence of which is fortunately disguised by pool water. Jonathan has made lemon drizzle, (significantly) so we eat merrily and I find more people to chat with. They're friendly. They make nice cake.
As we run through the park we see the massive operation that is the setting up of the Royal Parks Half. I hope my new friends don't think I'm bragging when I tell them I'm pacing this tomorrow, but I can't resist. I am also worried about my plantar fasciitis, it's beginning to burn, despite the ibuprofen.
This is the longest run between swims. I set off fast and confident, in the front, chatting away to the lead man. Two miles in, though, he and another chap pulled away and I found I was struggling to keep up with Graham and three other chaps. I suppose I was about 20 seconds behind them for the last mile, but I did not give up. At least I was about seventh out of the 16. First woman (there are only three running!)
I'm hot and pink in the face and don't want to cool down before stepping into the freezing water. In January and February it is much, much colder than this, but it was as much as I could do to swim two lengths. When I came here in July, the day after Bewl Water 15, I found it intolerably cold. Seasoned women in the changing rooms tell me if you can stick it for three lengths, it feels better That will be my aim.

 These guys dive in. How can they bear that freezing water in their ears?

So that's it. The half marathon is run, the pools have been tested. The Brockwell Lido Café does great scrambled eggs. A breakfast of champions. I feel champion.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The sunshine vitamin

My daughter and I used to visit this tree when she was in hospital
Day 179
Rest Day. So many running schedules have Fridays and Mondays for cross training, and with the weekend I have up ahead, it seems wise not to buck the trend.

The air smells of wet leaves warmed up by golden October sun. Delicious. It makes you want to pre-book apple tours and pumpkin festivals, but then you remember you're suppose to be looking for work. The sunshine was so inviting I went out on the bike on some errands, tested out my various injuries and atrophies with a brisk walk, then turned my face up to the rays for a dose of the old Vit D. An hour a day is what you need, whether that sun shines or not. I am rather alarmed when my workaholic freelance writer husband sits all day at his desk, moving only to seek sustenance from the kitchen. Part of me is jealous of his focus, but the health blogger and runner in me casts a disapproving glance at his back everytime I get up from my desk (about once every 15 minutes, in truth).
It has been a fine rest day. I have eaten well (outdoors), downed a large amount of beetroot and am now considering a half hour of stretches and chores before making dinner, packing my running rucksack and hitting the hay before 10pm. For reasons I'd rather not dwell on (oh, how freezing will Hampstead Ponds be?)

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Cut to the core

Plank to upright plank to plank. As many as you can   
Erik gets the Vertimax out for the big guns

Day 178
Session with Erik Lee, Team Shape-U
Plantar fasciitis so painful I am considering taking all of November off running and sticking to swimming. That sentiment still stands. Am going to try a core session run by a fellow Kent AC coach this evening. If it involves much running, though, I'm stymied.

Erik-Lee gazes into the middle distance and sniggers
'Mickey Mouse!'
Hyacinth, Alana and I follow his gaze, to another personal trainer stationed a few conker trees along. He's encouraging a rather stout woman to swing her leg about. I see no ears or big white hands,
'Those sorts of exercises' declares Erik 'are glamorous exercises. She's not tiring out her muscles, so she can carry on all day long like thatand there'll be no noticeable difference to her body.'
That's a bit harsh, I think. I can see the woman is heavily built, so might need more gentle stuff to improve her range of movements. On days like today I worry that I look like her, anyway, however much I sweat and press and cough and hold the contraction. When I was doing those Bosu Planks, up and down, my shirt kept riding up to reveal that porridge udder like belly flab that obeys gravity and depresses the middle aged woman. How I would love to have the abs that give you the flat, sucked in undercarriage that gives the plank its name. Presumably, at 51, after three pregnancies, that is never going to happen, however good for My Age I tell myself I am. 
Footnote: Core session attended with Ted from Kent AC
This evening I ran through the rain to the floodlit track, full of woe caued by my injury, and dismay at the bladder sensitivity that comes back with such vengeance for a certain time every month.We did a few drills, effective stretches for full range of movement, practising pocket to socket' arm movements for that final 100m burst. It was good, and very useful, It may be an dea to attend these while my foot is stopping me from training. My sprints, heel kicks and high knees were compromised by my internal stress, however. So it is just as well I have made positive move toward addressing this worrying atrophy. It is very weird that just fourdays ago I ran my little socks off with nary a dribble, yet a jog to the track caused flood warnings today and yesterday.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

This Swimmer prepares

Not chilly at all
Day 177
Ran four miles or so, slow, swam 15 lengths of the 50m pool
Plantar fasciitis so painful I am considering taking all of November off running and sticking to swimming.

It was a little hot running in long tights, fleece and swimsuit to Charlton Lido to practise my running-to-swimming-to-running again. The swimsuit dried very quickly and I was not cold on my jog/walk home (my plantar fasciitis is hobbling me now). Of course, Charlton is heated and the ponds and lidos I shall be splashing and shivering in on Saturday are most definitely not. To make us all earn our cake and slap up breakfast, the organisers of this hilarious challenge, called The Swimmer, insist on no wetsuits. Given my poor circulation, I doubt I'll last longer than a minute in Hampstead Ponds, Parliament Hill Lido, The Serpentine and Brockwell Lido, the final freezing body of water being the location of the breakfast café.
I've just had a look at the Burt Lancaster film of the Cheever short story. He wears large trunks and never takes them off, or puts anything on over them, it seems. And his swimming odyssey necessitates sex with plenty of women. If you look a the website I link you to, you will see many grinning Londoners in anoraks, against a backdrop of winter trees over brown water. Don't think Burt and his harem could have hacked it. I do hope we won't be racing horses in our swimsuits. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hillyfields, Team Shape-U and sunshine make it better

Day 176
Team Shape-U with the lovely Erik and the lovely Tyre Slam (above), followed by a soul-restoring game with Izzy.

Weak as a kitten, I risk braining self with Erik's number 2 mallet this morning. I berate self for patheticness, but Erik stops me in my self-pitying tracks with one of his inimitable aphorisms
'you're the best thing since sliced've got to keep saying that to yourelf because exercising psychological strength is as powerful as the way you slam that tyre.'
Amen, Erik. So I go through the motions, with medicine balls battle rope, blades and balances, dumbbell swings. Luckily there're no sprinting or jumping to exacerbate my throbbing plantar fasciitis. Nonetheless, I am not firing. I'm a bit snivelly and feverish and though the sun shines brightly, the breeze is sharp through my fleece. Autumn is here. I hope my weak, softy self, all craving indulgences and nights in with hot drinks and chocolate, does not last as long. My jeans are already snug, and I do not believe the 2kg gain is all muscle.
I hope, too, the sore throat allows for my planned lido run tomorrow.

Monday, 6 October 2014


Meanderings around the park
Day 175
Walking recovery. Ineffectual stretching

This is the pits. My head hurts. My ears hurt. My eyes hurt. My hip hurts. My knee hurts. My heel hurts.
My heel especially hurts.
I have sat at my desk but could not make writing happen, nor words I read make sense.
I achieved nothing at all.
Should I stop training and try to set my life in order?
For the first time, I feel this is all making a worse person of me. It's because I do not feel good, so my confidence has fled.
The only answer is unconsciousness, in the hope that the symptoms abate when I stop brooding and fretting. Perhaps it is only fatigue.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Out of order (this is Day 173) In Poole

Down to the coast to celebrate
Day 173

A rest day, supposedly, but somewhat active and alcohol soaked. A deal of cake eating, which should help tomorrow's half-marathon fuelling

My brother in law turned 60 a week or so ago, so we had a big family do at his place in Poole. This was why I very keenly took up a fellow Kent AC-er's spare place for the Bournemouth Half Marathon. A coach journey meant plenty of feet-up preparation, and the aforementioned cake-fest dealt with the carbloading. It's a shame that the sensible behaviour didn't run to moderation in alcohol consumption and a more generous sleep allowance. My heel is really paining me. I must address this plantar pain. After next weekend there will be a break from long running. Soft 5ks only: Parkrun and club cross countries. Some less jarring muddiness would be good.

Fun on the pier

Scoring a PB puts you in Happy Land
I am no Caroline
Day 173

Today was the Bournemouth Half Marathon. I ran well, plantar fasciitis and extreme fatigue notwitstanding. I bathed my aching legs in the English Channel and tried to ease my burning sole. Then I walked four miles back to my sister's house.

Yesterday's carousing resulted in a truncated night's sleep and an upset stomach on my 5.45am waking. I had no illusions about my performance today, but the conditions boded well. The 8am start meant we all set off in sharp autumnal sunshine, under clear blue skies. An hour in, I was still enjoying myself, and was knocking out steady 7:52 miles. However, the last four or five miles were slow, most just over the 8 minutes, which was disappointing. My new trainers caused an unpleasant burning on the ball of my right foot. So I really needed this dip:

The last few miles saw us hurtling down the pie and back twice. The return sprint down the wooden floor above the sea made up the final 400m or so.
At the finish, a man from Enfield came up to me and said I had been his ideal pacer, and my mile splits had been 'perfect'. I was inordinately proud. This was the best half marathon I've run so far (I think I've done about eight in a running career that is now about seven years old). This was the  result. I was running in a friend's place. She is young and gorgeous and faster than me, so I hope she won't mind this slow time in her name:
Day 174
577[Ronnie Haydon masquerading] (10514)01:45:36Female  

Friday, 3 October 2014

Stair crazy

250 stairs available to climb in the Blue Fin Building 

Day 173

After only four hours sleep - desultory stretching/planking/Swiss Ball, tricep dipping duties, plus cycling commute. Hungover with the resultant voracious appetite, which I can excuse as carbloading, although Haruki never does. Lots of stair climbing. Chinese meal, beer and ice cream for dinner. It really is time to revert to Serious default.

This past week I have taken the stairs, two at a time, to my seventh floor office for subbing shifts, wondering where I'll find suitable flights that take my fancy over the winter. The reason for the stair obsession is this. I ran Vertical Rush for Women's Running magazine last March, and my editor would like the same again, but this time I'm running as part of a two-woman relay team with my super fast Editor At Large Fiona Bugler. It will be too shaming if I'm as slow as I was  six months ago, so there's another reason for Training very Seriously. Yet I seem to be going backwards in my resolve. I'm being lazy, eating huge amount of the wrong things and averting my eyes from my burgeoning pot belly.
The problem with working at home is that the staircase is a little paltry. Today I managed to climb about 440 all told, going up to the roof and down to the basement during my lunch hour, as well as the morning flights.
Perhaps I will find gainful employment in high office to give me more stair practice in the coming months. One thing's for certain, if I carry on in this soft centred way, I'll be on a stairlift before I know it.   

A good read

Blue sky thinking

Day 172
Cycling: 10 miles to and from work, with diversion to Streatham adding a few more
Planks and bridges and stuff before breakfast. In fact I always do those, and will elaborate on my daily stretch-and-yoga stuff to remind myself that it must be done. Every single day, until I die. This is supposed to be a training blog, after all. 

So there's a development, I will mark up my training stuff in a colourful box.

Cycling swiftly back from book club, with a bellyful of Prosecco and ratatouille, chocolate cheesecake and coffee, I pondered the drunken conversation I had with our coven. (we'd discussed Miss Garnet's Ghost, by Salley Vickers, but that is not relevant to my training blog).
What is relevant is the voice I want to put out here on the blogosphere. Not everyone can be Haruki Murakami but I am desperate not to sound like one of those ubiquitous 'I run to eat cake, I'm a running mummy, I love my life, I promote gels or anything else that'll get me noticed' bloggers. This little 365-day project is something I want to read back with pleasure when I am old and spavined. Writing stuff that keeps people reading is a lovely thing, and the style and voice that really bewitches a reader is such a gift. I think Ashleigh Young has it. But have I said this before? Probably. Still, it can be said again.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Old Crock

They got my age wrong and these new trainers hurt.
Day 171

Through the post comes the VLM confirmation of a Good For Age place and that exciting magazine that I remember from running London before - in 2009 and 2010.

A mix up on the day and month of my birth in 1962 has me down as being 53 when I run on 26.04.2015.

That small irritation is just one more in a series that have made this day one of those grindingly uphill ones that keep you on the edge of tears from wake up to bed down. The Asics Gel trainers I though would alleviate the plantar fasciitis make the ball of my foot throb. I do not know why. Work was horrible and the bicycle ride in to the office where no-one speaks to me except to give back my pages with amends all over them, was wet and rainy.
I ate too many biscuits to try to sweeten the fatigue and frustration, so now feel wired and fat.
The negativity, I am sure, is caused by chemical and hormonal events inside me, and the way to deal with it is to keep active and resist the urge to wallow and hang hopelessly round the peanut butter jar.
But lo! There are baby bunnies to make me smile. And they did, for a while.