Sunday, 26 April 2015

Paula and me

Before - Lewisham Station - pre warm up walk to Greenwich
After. Happy, happy, happy
Day 376
Warming up jog and walk from home to Green Start, Greenwich Park, then 26.2 miles run at averaging 8:30mins (some 7.50, so others must've been well slow!) finishing in a time of 3:44.08. Warm down in the pub with Kent AC: beer, crisps and good craic, warm down walk from Lewisham

Paula Radcliffe ran her last ever London Marathon today. I ran my third London, and PBed so beautifully I feel it's only the beginning, at 52 years old. As I have said before, I know plenty of over 60s, who still run 3:30 or thereabouts, so there's inspiration to carry on.
What I am signing off from, though, is, of course, this blog, but not before I've bored on a bit about how it went, so that hopefully, when I run the race again next year (GFA place guaranteed!) I can have documented evidence about how to conduct myself. I presume the blog will remain available to me for reference, somewhere in interweb world. You never know, it might be useful for other feisty elderly runners in menopause and feeling a bit doleful. There is nothing like running endorphins to make a woman feel like an Amazon.
So, the last three days of just walking and lots of eating really paid off. By my calculations I ate about 3,000 calories a day. I put on at least 2kg in weight. However, that chunking up, both in muscle terms (thanks Erik, at Team6 ) and fat layer, helped me feel strong today.
I started out worrying that my friend Siggy, knocking out the 8:20 miles, was going too fast for me, but she told me to go ahead at mile 17, when I realised I was happy at this pace, and sometimes at around 8m/m
I ate four gels (yuck) and drank more than one bottle of nauseating Lucozade sport, and I ate two bananas. For breakfast I ate both porridge and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, then had toast and coffee at the start. I did not feel the need to shit myself.
My stress incontinence threatened, with the urge to wee at 6miles, but I managed to hold everything together and brace pelvic floor, core and everything. I followed my favourite mantra
'hips high and aligned, shoulders loose and low'
I stretched the back of my neck often and was hyper aware of posture. It made me feel strong and bouncy.
So, Paula and I, we were both happy, she with her 2:37 with insufficient preparation and me with my 3:44 after a Year of Training Seriously.
Happy, happy, happy.
Until my next blog
Ronnie x

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Sweet dreams

Gingerbread runner from Hillyfields Parkrun
Day 375
Rest day, with walking to Parkrun to voluncheer, some stretching and strength work on mat and repeating positive mantras

There is nothing more to be done, except check various websites to see if I should be drinking isotonic drinks now (always worry about that, because of sugar before bedtime), if I should add extra salt to my plain pasta, or to keep comparing short shorts, long shorts or full tights as running uniform of choice. It will of course be Kent AC vest on top, but my plans for the tight short shorts I wore for Mallorca (pelvic assistance ones) or the capris of the type I wore at Berlin are giving me mental grief. The short shorts aren't lucky (disappointing 4:01 Mallorca), the capris (3:57, Berlin) may not give me the extra support I need on the wee wee front, but they augur well. There's another reason for the capris, they're looser, so easier to roll down to make room for one's cardboard penis in the girls' urinals.

I cannot believe my head is so soupy with this indecision.

Then there's the weather. I've a whole throwaway outfit for the chilly hanging around hour before the 10.10am kick off. I have bought a cheap rain poncho from Tiger to use as a changing robe, and will pack a change of clothes, wet wipes and freshen up unguents in my marathon bag for the luggage lorry. I will most probably need to change (dreaded memories of Berlin distress), but I won't be able to get my lucky racer bra off under my poncho.

All the while I'm thinking about grub. I've tried to eat and drink well all day, but eschew fibre. I am going to have a little pasta, spinach, cheese and beetroot for my dinner. But not too much. In the morning, it's porridge and banana.

There is nothing more I can do. I prepared as thoroughly as I was able. I perhaps did not run an adequate number of tempo miles. I will reflect on the good times during these long weeks of training.
Look at the stats. If you can do 1:45 half marathon, you can do 3:48 full.
This will be a fun long run with 43 friends from Kent AC. And 37,000 others.

Friday, 24 April 2015

The psychosomatic disorder known as maranoia

Me and my girls: Buggyrunners Greenwich Park
The park prepares
Day 373
Up to Greenwich on bike to coach, walking to and from Brockley, thence to eat in Shoreditch with cool cats - hipsters of the feline variety.

Plenty food, a little more time spent on feet than I'd have liked, and an early night dosed up with cold remedy. That is how I am dealing with this worrying hint of a sore throat, muzzy head, achey legs and general shiveryness. I am hoping it is all in my head and caused by huge anxiety. The weather forecast looks unpromising, I am worried that my pacer Siggy will have to leave me trailing in her 8:20m/m wake. I am worried that my body will let me down. I am worried that the rest of my club will have to commiserate rather than congratulate, when the 44 of us debrief after the race in the pub Sunday lunchtime. There are so many worries. And one more day.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Expo sed

Day 373

Team6 training with Erik : stepovers, ball slams, blades, balance, in and out and more. Glutes work. Then to the marathon exp and loads of walking on various missions

To the Expo! Where runners pick up their numbers, worry about whether they have the right kit when faced with concessions and concessions of brightly coloured technical gear. It's at these times when acquisitive, kitloving runners are like kids in a sweetshop, spending £38 on a pair of compression socks (that was nearly me, until I pulled myself together) in te hope it'll help them run faster on the day. I succumbed to my favourite salted caramel gels and some beetroot juice. Oh, and some chia nut protein butter. I cannot get interested in bright new kit though. I feel a bit hefty and hopeless (as is often the case in taper) and have always been of the opinion that the more 'flattering' the women's running wear is supposed to be the more hideous I look in it. A rather  low mood caused by lack of sleep and a bout of self -loathing occasioned by inability to turn up to anything on time or get organised domestically, professionally or financially has been exacerbated by the  the hideous weather forecast for Sunday. The thought of standing around shivering in the rain at the start is giving me chills in today's glorious sunshine - reminding me of the Milton Keynes marathon nightmare of 2010.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


What a lovely local park for a buggyrunner of advanced years...
Day 372
Four miles easy, plus a cycle ride back from East Croydon

It was a privilege to be in Berlin these past two sunny days, and I was really looking forward to getting up and out to explore this gorgeous local park in the Gesundbrunnen area of Berlin (like Lewisham, this is on the up and becoming more hipster every day). In its centre is a little hugel with a helter skelter style path winding round it, which I jogged up today to see the views. As you can see from the unremitting grafitti and the many trees obscuring the views over the Mitte, the area does not pander to tourists. Indeed I heard very few English or American accents around the local streets. I harboured fantasies of starting up m on little Teutonic buggyrunning business here in Berlin, my newly adopted city. If I am to travel out to see my little grnadson Charlie Catford as often as I want to, I will need a remunerated reason to do so. While I run, I scheme. There must be something an educated, articulate running Oma can do to fund her Berlin habit.

Monday, 20 April 2015


Croydon dawn
Day 371
5am bike ride to East Croydon, walking round Berlin, I expect

Thinking about race-day fuelling again. Some people take it very seriously. I never used to use gels, and my marathon PB was achieved without them. However, some of my fellow Sunday runners reckon they may need four of the sickly sweet sachets of gunk to get them round. A rather more wholemeal woman, of about my years, says her husband will be at mile 10 with a 'date and banana smoothie'. I reckon to have a banana in my waistband. Husband will be en route to Norwich, at a dancing pace, wearing a minstrel outfit. But that is another story, which I will tell you another day.  It's 4.29am and I have a plane to catch.

Oat cuisine

Another cycling day

Day 370
20 mins easy running am, 14mile round trip on bike, dry run for tomorrow's journey

Advice I read on carbloading is difficult to follow. Often it's in American (what are animal crackers, and how much, exactly, is a cup of oatmeal, who the heck eats pretzels dipped in yoghurt?)
Leafing through a very old copy of Runner's World I read with dismay an interview with so brisky Lisa Dobriskey. She does not eat very much. Her mid morning snack is an apple (mine is a round of toast with peanut butter), her lunch a wrap with tuna and salad (mine is yet more toast, eggs, avocado, soup that I'm cooking for dinner and cake that daughter has left over from a birthday celebration). The cake in question, gorgeous and pouting on the kitchen counter is vast, about the diameter of a Cadillac's steering wheel. It's from a low-grade cash and carry and is laden with icing containing stuff like potassium ascorbate and glycerol. It tastes super sweet and delicious, but is not the sort of carbloading I should be doing. My jeans are straining against my gut. Still I do not stop loading. This had better work for my energy levels in 6 days time.
One carbloading staple that everyone seems to agree on, both back in 2009 and today, is oats. Porridge is the breakfast of champions. I have a large portion of it every orning. I have even started sprinkling chia seeds on it. How very affected. Brown sugar and yoghurt go on it too.
Tomorrow I will be leaving for Berlin at about 5am, so it's unlikely I'll have the time to write in here. It'll be a forced rest day (apart from the cycling) and I'll be sitting around eating again.
I'll carry sourdough toast with peanut butter, rice cakes, bananas, oranges, cereal bars and some crisps to snack on through the day to save money on restaurant and café bills, but I need to stop indulging my biscuit and cake habit and telling myself it's a legitimate pre-race fuelling strategy. Being greedy will not make me speedy.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gung ho

Run west, run east, but don't overcook the taper
Sunday long run happy
Day 369
12 slow (ish) miles at conversational pace. To the river. Short, leg loosening walk this afternoon

The schedule said run easy for 70mins, but my schedule said meet up with Sarah and Jacquie as usual and chat happily while churning out the miles. We were all slightly surprised when we found ourselves at mile 5 (6, in my case, having run a mile to meet them) and obliged to turn round.
I felt fresh and bouncy, but needed to be mindful of our marathon guru Ted's wise words about tapering and Going Off Too Fast And Blowing Up (every marathoner's nightmare, but we are all still tempted to do it).
When you're feeling fresh and full-tanked after your taper, it's easy to take the attitude on race day that fast miles logged early will allow for slowing down, if necessary, later. Trouble is, in those early miles, you have absolutely no conception of how wiped out you are going to feel after a first half marathon that has been run too close to half marathon pace. It is always better to trust the science and go out at the very slowest pace your PB dreams will allow. In my case, I think that should be 8.55 minute miling, even 9m/m, just to ensure the sub four hour. At half marathon stage I can dial back the odometer to 8.45m/m and aim to finish the last six at 8.30m/m. That would be the idea, but there is alway that worry that you'll never speed up...the cramp and fatigue will come anyway, and the chance for quick miles will be gone. But no, that way madness lies. Trust the experts. Our very own Ted talk.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

A PB's a PB, however small the margin

Blossoming. Hillyfields Parkrun
Day 368
Schedule says 30mins easy. I did Parkrun, and tried quite hard. I weighed self and was dismayed to see I'd put on at least 2kg
Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #141. Your time was 00:23:00. 
1m warm up beforehand, jog/walk home. Cycled to and from Dulwich

This was the first time Hillyfields Parkrun had pacers. Sarah, tapering sensibly, paced sub 25mins. I tried to hang on to a bloke pacing sub 22, and of course failed.
A Hillyfields Parkrun personal best for me, though, even if it is only by 4 seconds. I spoke to a fellow runner, the father of my son's friend, who is turning 50 in July. We challenged each other to a sub 23 PB by end of July. I will get there.
Irritatingly, I found I was not first V50 woman, as I usually am, as the woman who overtook me halfway through proved to be a lot more mature than she looked, and ran half a minute faster than me.
More buoyed up by the news that my mate Siggy, whom I beat regularly over both Hillyfields and, now, half-marathon distance, ran Paris in 3:48. I say, if she can do it, I can do it. I am registering with her on Thur, at the marathon expo, so will spend my time quizzing her about food, drink, rest, sleep and the rest. We have a lot in common, as I found when I ran Hackney Half Marathon with her last June. So it makes sense to model myself on her. It's a shame she is not vegetarian. I suspect that she hasn't chunked up as much as me, either
It's quite depressing looking at the Kenyans' vital statistics in the Marathon magazine. Most of the womn weigh well under 50kg, and I am now about 55. After the event I shll have to reduce the toast and peanut butter intake.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Setting my sights

Greenwich this morning. Butter wouldn't melt
Day 367
Rest day. Buggy Runners coaching, cycling, walking, eating

A bit of a blip this evening, a lovely but extremely garrulous house guest has kept me from my bed and the healthy routine I've promised myself for the next nine evenings. If it's only one out of 9, though, I'll be all right. It's important to think positive and set my thoughts on happy outcomes from now on. The shin splint of yesterday's feverish imaginings seems to have worn off. Mostly, these last self-indulgent days should be cherished. Permission is given to be a little more selfish, a little more greedy and 100% confident in my own abilities. I have run 3:57 – most importantly I have run 26 miles in 3:57 with the last few miles considerably faster than the 20-odd preceding them. I know what it is to feel strong and able, my half-marathon times suggest a 3:45 full one. It can be all good.
All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Support systems

Nicky in the distance post our impromptu morning tempo run
Team 6 training, more hard work
Day 366
Short warm up, then 2m tempo with Nicky, 1m warm down
Team 6: static bike, OMG (weighted ball shuttles as illustrated), shoulder press, crossbow, up and over, skater jump
Despite extreme fatigue, to exhaustion on waking (bad dreams, work worries) I stuck slavishly to my schedule, or at least I think I did, as an unresponsive Garmin left me no means of tempo measuring. So I was pleased to bump into Nicky, Kent AC fellow marathoner of A Certain Age, who suggested running tempo together. Her 'easy' is about 8m/m*, so it was a struggle to maintain animated conversation about favoured taper foods etc.
Was it this slightly underwarm state that sent my shin into spasm? Or the Erik session with Sarah and the AM Fitness crew after a hasty breakfast?
Whatever caused it, my left leg has rebelled and become inflamed in the shin area. It's hot and very painfull to the touch. I should be icing and elevating it, but I've rubbed ibuprofen gel in the offending area and put a tight bandage there. The compression feels good, but this setback and the prospect of an injury at this late stage has done little for my antsy mood.
There's an upside, though, which was this afternoon's Twitter feed of sympathy  and kind advice from all the Hillyfields 'chicks'. It quite warmed my cockles. It's the camaraderie of marathon training that I adore.
The hunger I abhor. I just practically Hoovered up the last of the flapacks while cooking dinner, which I also inhaled, followed by yet more Easter chocolate. I am finally satisfied, but find myself with a distended stomach rather too close to bedtime. I'll never get the Body, Mind, Spirit thing right, as far as eating and sleeping balance is concerned. And I feel very fat.
* Her first ever marathon, training by guesswork, was 3:47, she wants to break 3:30

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

365 Serious Days trained. A numbers game explained

I'm so excited!
Day 365
Core session at home, cycling to and from Central YMCA, 25min swim. 

During my cross training meditations I crunched numbers (and munched carrot cake, but that was my pre-cycle home fuelling, and it was free with My John Lewis card). The numbers had both domestic and marathon significance.
The reason I can taper so lovingly is become I am currently without work. The upshot of being without work is I cannot spend money. The roof needs further attention as a chunk of it came down in the night, with more bits looking as if they might follow. We need to earn money to pay for roof, but I'm enjoying being time rich and cash poor; for the taper, at least.
Today was entirely free. My membership to central YMCA is courtesy of Bournemouth YMCA, whom I'm running a half marathon for in October, although I have to do a little fundraising ... so I'm desperately thinking about finances, doing accounts, sending out invoices, chasing up little leads for work, but in a vaguely half cocked way, because I'm enjoying the bright warm sunshine as I pedal my running legs, stopping to leave Buggyrunner fliers all over Southwark, thrilling to see evidence of the city's preparation for the best marathon in the world, and crunching numbers of the minute/mile variety.
If I can stick to 8.45 for the whole 26.....should I start at 8.55 or even 9 to save juice? Or should I be bold. Round they whirl in my fevered brain.
And can I afford the £26 to enter the North Downs Run in June?

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Social media running bore

Team 6 training, thence to Peckham Rye
Day 364
With Erik this morning: ball slams, elbow strikes, underground, ladder, open up, shoulder press, up and over, Jack in the Box
Kent AC training this evening: 1m warm up, then 10x2-minutes at speed, with walk back and 1minute recover after each, 1m warm down

The next dozen blogs will all be written through the taper lens. Having entered this happy place of reduced mileage and self pamperage, I'm struggling to live in the moment. This is probably down to more generalised anxiety about my so-called career and hearing from other, fitter, fleeter women about the disappointing marathon times they have just recorded. Nonetheless, I am attempting to embrace the taper, and have even started a two-week daily Twitterfest with Sarah, using a hashtag #trackthetaper.
A bit naff, but for these dozen days I will be a social media running bore. Then I promise I will shut up.
Exercise wise, the  training I should focus on is the core variety. Erik reminded me today that 'working your abs' and doing core work are very different beasts, inasmuch as the first workout is mostly mythical and the second is good for runners.
Your core is not your abdominal muscles. The core takes in the tummy area, but it is the whole axis, from back of the head to your bottom. It's your trunk. It has to be strong to help you balance, So instead of pointless crunches and less pointless, but not really total core, PLANKS, there should be a whole lot more one legged balancing and stabilising. Running over unstable terrain is good for your core. Swiss balls are good for your core, pedalling a bike and going up the stairs....all good for core. So I am committed to my bike and my mat for the next week or so. Just as well I am unemployed.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Reflections of a running grand dame

Thinking tree, Mountsfield Park, 7am
Day 363

Sticking to schedule for the next 13 days, so today said easy run, 30mins. I did easy run, 33 mins

On this day, last year, I began a daily blog in an attempt to improve my running by training in a more focused way. In terms of focus, if not performance, the blog has been a success. I have not had any feedback, nor many people viewing my daily posts, but I have looked back on daily events, and their workouts, race results, elements of self loathing, runner's highs, post-event lows, workaday glum and age concerns with fascination (well, oneself is ones favourite subject, is it not Caitlin Moran?)
I am satisfied, that in terms of training at least, (the most anticipated outcome will not be revealed until two weeks' hence), this has been a worthwhile undertaking.
Joining up with Erik at Team 6 has improved my strength and endurance, perhaps even my speed. It was my first positive move toward a marathon PB. I coupled this body conditioning work with more focused running sessions, on track and trail, a little more swimming, and more core work. Since then, my times over all distances has improved. I'm a bit concerned that I haven't scored a Hillyfields Parkrun PB since 31 May last year, but perhaps once the high mileage weeks are over, that'll come. Half marathon times have improved, Assembly League last year and cross country this winter have been good. The only full marathon I've done since the vow has been the Stonehenge to Avebury, which doesn't really count, since it was off road and I got lost.
I'm a little heavier, put that down to marathon gorging and more weight training, my health has been ok (although I have an ominously wheezy chest today, now I've typed that), this is the most physically active  I've been in my life, so hunger levels have soared. My body shape is not much changed; more muscle definition in the posterior chain and, when I'm eating sensibly, a flatter stomach. I have entered the hushed antechamber of menopause world and don't seem to be beset by the hot flushes, bad temper, crying jags or fatigue, all of which are supposed to be symptoms of the change in hormones. I suppose my periodic issues with stress incontinence are still highly irritating (but that's three pregnancies and hard running for you) and, on the subject of periods,  I am concerned that menstruation is not done with me yet (6 months and counting).
I am fit, middle aged, happy and full of anticipation for the race in 12 days. I will make the most of this taper. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

More miles?

Sunshine and (steel) magnolias in Kelsey Park
Day 362
Last long run: 17.5miles, some at marathon pace, some slower. Some hills and a sprint with Sarah

My hips and ankles hurt. My ears are ringing with fatigue. Yet I fear that if I were to go to bed now I would not sleep. I've been looking back (again) at my 2013 diary to try to work out how much the ITB problems I had in the weeks before and during that taper for the Berlin marathon helped me to stop clocking up junk miles in a neurotic fashion.
I am feeling pretty neurotic about my fitness. By mile 10 today my hips and bottom were hurting and I was losing speed. Trying to keep to 8.45 felt like a massive struggle. My schedule, all schedules, say that the long slow run can be as much as a minute per mile slower than I'm planning for the Big Day, but this fatigued state feels so permanent. Only two years ago I felt refreshed and well fed at the marathon start line in the Tiergarten and my stored fuel reserves held out. It's clear I need to eat a great deal and sleep more, and it's the latter that will improve my mood.
It was beautiful today, though. The sky was a clear, washed blue, criss crossed with elegant plane trails, there was a sharp spring breeze but the sun was warm. Kelsey Park was full of blooms and exotic waterfowl, and at Beckenham we met up with Ted's group to run back to Ladywell together. In the afternoon I sat in the garden with my husband and ate sandwiches.
I baked flapjacks, I baked potatoes, I carbloaded like a champion.
So now I will take my swollen stomach to a bath filled with magnesium salts, and settle my stomach with a spearmint and camomile tea (and just a little Montezuma Easter egg).

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Nosey Parker

What's their secret? Third and first women
Day 361
Parkrun: Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #140. Your time was 00:23:18. 
1mile warm up, 1mile warm down

It was cool and blustery, but I thought I was running pretty strongly, and kept up with the two above (and Jo, who came in second woman) for the first lap, so half hoped for a Hillyfields PB, although it was not to be. Back to the drawing board.
It could be: I still have fatigue in my legs from the Assembly League
It could be: the wind was against me
It could be: the lack of sleep catching up with me
It could be: I'm carrying extra weight

It's clearly time to stop making excuses. I watch the four women ahead of me as they over take me (number four and I had a bit of a tussle - she overtook me uphill, I got her on the descents, but she took me on the last ascent and finished 5 seconds ahead) and can see they aren't going that fast, which means my towering efforts probably look ridiculous, given the modest amount of ground I cover  panting, puffing and practically having a seizure all the while.
I quiz the women who are faster than me about their diet and sleep habits. Most are of the same mind as me – regretting vast chocolate intake over Easter, suffering from lack of sleep, pleased that they are more or less off alcohol until after the marathon – none of them have particularly restrictive diets or mimic Rift Valley living. They're just faster. I can take some comfort that none of the women who beat me today were anywhere near my age, but the Dulwich Runners I referred to on Thursday have many over 50s in their ranks, with Power of 10 rankings sky high.
Look at Ros Tabor and her marathon PB of 3:09 at the age of 55 or so.
So, my nosing around other women's training habits doesn't yield any great insights, but it keeps me out of mischief. I should take comfort in the fact that 23.18 is only 14 seconds off my Hillyfields PB. I vow to have it down to 22:45 by the end of the year.
Postscript: Ros Tabor ran the exact same time as I did today, at the first ever Hillyfields Parkrun, in 2012.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The race against time

Sarah and I square up in Erik's playground
Day 360
An extra session with Erik, sparring with Sarah: ball slam, side to side, plank walk, 3D (as demonstrated), step overs, IYTW
Then on bike to coach Buggyrunners, in Greenwich Park.

It's easy to forget how old you are when you're absorbed in a good-natured competition with a favourite running buddy. I love Sarah's energy and can-do attitude. She has attacks life with relish. Of course, she has quite a charmed life and is four years younger than me.

I suppose I am reminded of my venerable status when I talk to the young mums I coach about my grandchild, or study the pictures, like the above, that Erik kindly sent us. One of them I could not possibly post here; I look so old and wattly of neck. The official photos from the Paddock Wood Half (as if I would spend money on images of myself gurning and wrinkled as I 'sprint' to the finish line) are very much portraits of a slightly portly 52 year old in an unbecoming club vest, so different to the image I have of myself.

It's as well that I have role models to aspire to. They were out in force last night, at the first Assembly League Race. There are three Dulwich Runners in particular: Clare Elms, a year younger than me, placed second after Kent AC's Amy Clements, Ros Tabor, who by my reckoning is about 66 and another Dulwich Runner called Clare whom I spoke to after my disappointing race last night, and discovered she was 63. More importantly, she ran her fastest marathon at the age of 55 (3:20) and her half marathon PB was 1:35, also achieved after the age of 50. So there is potential, and indeed time, to improve. I should not let little setbacks discourage me, and fretting about middle age spread and facial droop will just muddy the waters. In two weeks' time I need to feel fit, well fuelled, well rested and like a spring chicken. Looking good would be icing on the cake – muscle definition like that achieved by Ms Elms is a heady aspiration – but a PB would make me happier. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

AM Fitness, PM nerviness

The girls train hard
Day 359
Morning training with Erik and Team 6
This evening....soon, a 5km race for Kent AC

It is the first fixture of 2015's Assembly League in two hours time. I am very nervous. This is because last season I ran well and picked up the V50 gong.
Today, however, I am nursing aches and pains from marathon training and I'm still psyched out by a horrible dream I had about the Virgin London Marathon in 17 DAYS' time, in which the race seemed to take place mostly indoors and up flights of stairs, then in people's gardens. About half way throughI looked at my watch to see it tip over the 4hr mark.
When I awoke I was reminded of the horror of seeing 4:01 on the timings for the Mallorca Marathon last year, when I'd confidently expected 3:50.
And tonight, a fast 5k on tired legs. Followed by a few hours sleep before taking son number two to the coach station for a 4.30am departure. Antsy.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Mrs Muscle

Recovery run but no recovery
Day 358

Recovery, slow paced run for 6 miles over the Peckham Rye via One Tree Hill. Some cycling to Greenwich to review a show

Last night's sprinting has done my arse a mischief. My warm up mile this morning was more of  hobble. It's extraordinary to think that such short bursts of effort can have such an deep and meaningful effect on one's muscles. The pain and stiffness is so much worse than the after effects of last week's half marathon double. I am not sure whether this is a good sign in the long run; the faster you go the more you ache. Some of my running mates - fast marathoners compared to me - say they can scarcely move after the big one. Certainly I ached way more after Berlin (pb marathon) than after, say, Milton Keynes (slowest ever marathon, less said about it, the better).
More than the aching, though, I dread the flatness I will feel when 26 April has come and gone. Post-marathon blues are a recognised (and literal) downside of taking up the 26.2 mile challenge, it is too awful to think that I may have to contend with those blues and the feeling that I could have run faster. And if I lose my GFA status? Too, too awful. I suppose I am setting myself up for a fall here.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Tricky leaks

A beautiful spring day it may be, but the am fitness crew is knackered
Day 357
Hillyfields circuits with Erik and co. Battle rope, balance, high knees/ladder, elbow strike, resistance bands, up and over. Kent AC session: 1m warm up on track, then jog to Hillyfields for 1m at 5k pace, then 10x10second sprints

'Get your knees right up and SPRINT', Erik's instruction is loud and clear but I cannot act on it. High-knees running is excellent for your sprint form, but there are some times that I cannot attempt it. It just puts an added strain on the pelvic floor that those muscles aren't quite up to.
At Kent AC tonight, the situation was even worse. The mile-long threshold was enough to cover me in soggy embarrassment, but I continued and sprinted really well for an old woman (Chloe and I were 1t and 2nd females in the pack).
 I live in hope that the daily clenching exercises, often using my Pelvic Toner that I put myself through, will yield some improvement in this regard. I wonder if fatigue is a factor? Early nights until the marathon....
What is interesting, and highly frustrating, is the week by week changes in this particular malady. Some weeks, I am as dry as a bone, and can sprint, jump and run long distances on a full bladder. Then there are certain days within the month that are most trying. So it's clearly a matter of hormonal change, which I'm not sure having strong pelvic musculature could possibly address. Still, I make pelvic floor exercises a (nother) health priority and wonder if I'll ever pluck up enough courage to ask a postmenopausal runner whether she still suffers. I know many runners who do. Slowly but surely it is coming out into the open. I have written several pieces about it for Women's Running and continue to discuss it with fellow female runners. It's important to feel you're not the only one with a damp patch in her pants.....

Monday, 6 April 2015

Fun for all the family

Family fitness event, Greenwich Park
Day 356
Easy running: to Greenwich Park and back. Short runs and drills with children. About 4miles.

Bank Holiday Monday. I heard a news item on the radio the other day about how DIY, once the activity of choice on Spring bank holidays, has fallen out of favour, and younger couples are finding other things to do on a precious day off. However, I'd no idea that something like this - a chance to run around with one's anklebiters and paying for the privilege - would be so popular.   I'm glad it is though, as I earned a bit of pocket money as Coach Ronnie for the hour-long family fitness session, organised by my boss Ellie Brown of Greenwich Runners
Young mummies and daddies took part in the fun and games with their children: drills, challenges, dynamics, then they ran a specified route while I took their littleuns around a shorter circuit to meet up with them, then we all cooled down and stretched.
At the risk of sounding like Old Mother Time, new parenthood has come a long way since I was toting toddlers and babies in the 1980s and 90s. I can't imagine what my husband would have made of such an event. I'm half jealous of the younger women I met today, who are so confident in the knowledge that their men will not only tolerate this kind of thing, but actively enjoy it. It was like the parents' race at school sports day this morning: competitive dads trying to edge in front of one another while running a hilly circuit of Greenwich Park, cheerfully high-fiving their children as they ran to the mustering point at the bandstand. I had fun stirring up the rivalry, cheering on the dads on opposing teams and watching them trying to regain their nonchalence as they flung themselves sweatily onto the grass between efforts. Certainly beats a theme park. Or a trip to B&Q.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Taper tantrums

Happy Easter
Day 354
Rest day *2. On feet all day, cleaning, cooking, decorating, then on backside to eat and eat and's Easter, so Lindt chocolate bunnies on the menu

Last night's deadline and today's guests have made me tired right through to my bones. My overfull stomach straineth. If I had done proper mileage in March I would be in the blessed taper now, with 18m maximum long run this week, cooling right down to a 8m week before 26 April. That, sadly, cannot happen. This week, which looks somewhat work heavy, I must fit in a 20 miler, but I think I'll stick to the trail, since I have a piece to write about transitioning to the softer ground.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

How not to do it

Day 354
'Rest' day (no running). Stretching, cycling to New Cross and back. Work day

It's a Saturday, but no Parkrun, just endless toil. Two theatre shows seen with nephews that have to be written about by tomorrow morning. A houeguest, and the propset of a big Easter lunch to prepare for, with all the cleaning, tidying and preparation that that entails. On no sleep. It is funny how just two days of mindless eating, just to keep going, sitting on ones arse and fretting about the small stuff creates a profound sense of control lost, a hopeless case. Custard Cream? Yeah, why not, might as well have six, because it's all gone wrong. Reviews still not written. It's 1am and I have to be up at 6am. Give it up, loser, I'm pickled in self pity.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Peak mileage

Only one buggy runner in Greenwich

Rewards for high mileage: hot cross buns 
Day 353
Eight miles at an attempt at marathon pace, but tired legs. Cycling and buggy runner coaching

An active day, fuelled by refined flour. I ran my last eight of this monster week, to bring total mileage to just over 52 miles. I still need to find the time for a 21 miler. My legs are tired. I hae eaten well, but unwisely, with too many hot cross buns, doughballs and pizza. A big family do to celebrate daughter's birthday, big solo in Allegri's Miserere Mei and her cousin's fantastic try for the SA Stormers against the All Blacks - now there's several years of training seriously - in Pizza Hut, South Bank. This kicks of a weekend of Easter feasting with no opportunities to run, although I may get a chance on Monday. Funny how 7:50 miling felt comfortable at the beginning o this high mileage week, whereas today, I struggled to get to 8m/m, pooped.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

10 things you MUST do to.....

Is 'eat very chocolatey birthday cake' one of the 10?

Day 352
My watch conked out at mile 5, but a further three laps of the measured mile of Ladywell Fields, as well as a couple of miles incorporating Brockley Cemetery and to home, so more or less the ten. Easy paced. 

The plan to get to my peak weekly mileage of 55 in a week has rendered me weak and listless. A vague sense of internal upset sent me rushing to the interweb for diagnosis of overtraining: perhaps four days of running totalling 45miles is too much for an old bird like me. Possibly, but while comparing my symptoms to the typical ones, I could not help but notice all the hectoring at the bottom of the page: 10 ways to flatten your stomach, 10 reasons why your breakfast is making you FAT; 10 signs that your exercise regime ISN'T working. Nag, nag nag.

So, here are mine. 10 things you must do to stay sane, comfortable, cheerful
* Avoid sidebar of shame/Daily Mail. It makes you feel dirty
* Run because you love to run, not beause you think you should
* Eat food
* Sleep when you're tired
* Enjoy a nice cup of builder's tea and stop pretending you like green or rooibos
* Stop thinking gluten free will do anything revolutionary and be glad you don't have colitis or Crohn's
* Be outside as much as you can and for walks at dusk or daybreak to hear birds sing as they get up/go to roost
* Read books and poetry
* Always have something in your diary to enjoy planning for/daydreaming about
* Realise that clothes/make up/money/fitness regimes/special diets won't make you look younger. You are the age you are, be proud of it

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Packing them in

A mid week river run
Day 351
A 10-miler, semi tempo run - fluctuating between 8-9 m/m, some cycling

There's a note of desperation in my mileage quota this week. My hip flexors are not loving it. I'd planned to peak at 60m per week before the taper, but circumstances, and a busy Easter weekend on the horizon, suggest that will not be achieved. The after effects of today's ten-mile effort are making themselves known. My left hip and heel are agony and I am droppng with fatigue. Other, less broadcastable symptoms (think pelvic floor and go on from there) are also causing concern. If the legs and body could just make it through one more ten miler, plus about seven on Friday, I'llhjave managed a 52 mile week. I need to find the time for one easy and consistently paced 20 miler before taper time. This feels like a race to the finish line before the start line.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Sweet Hipster

My boy, the year of his birth is behind him
Day 350
Rest, really. Sleep deprived from travelling, inadequately fed (porridge, pretzel and cereal constiruted main meals today) but delighted with new grandson, walking, standing, travelling on trams, trains, plane, coach, bus...

Son John and I dipped into a hip candy shop near his home in Berlin, where I bought chocolate rabbits for daughter and an amusing bag of mixed nut chocs called 'Sweet Hipster' for niece, whose 32nd birthday is today. After this, we repaired to the  hospital, where I cuddled sweet tiny hipster Charlie Catford to my heart's content. It made me think of the bonding I want to do as Granny Ronnie (I want to be called Nanna or Nonna but nobody else wants me to). I have 26 days remaining to the end of this Yearblog (so want it to be a good outcome, marathon time wise, 3:50, like this post, would do....)
It would be good to have a year on year, day by day, record of observations for Charlie.
Perhaps the blog could be entitled Dear Charlie. No fitness records, just the life of a (nother) most surprising gran

Monday, 30 March 2015

Monster run

The Victorian dinosaurs around Crystal Palace pond
30.03.2015 Day 349

The other half of the long run covered...12 miles at not quite marathon pace (between 8.30m/m and 10m/m)

There were quite a number of distractions. I was on a mission to see my friend's window display in a bookshop window at Crystal Palace; I composed the verse for it, then down to Dulwich to have a quick look at the lie of the land, for Dulwich Buggy Runners, starting on 29 April. I managed some marathon paced miles though. Off to Berlin shortly, to see new grandson.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Banana split

We're all mighty grateful for a place to convene and wee before the off

Day 348
Paddock Wood Half Marathon. My time? 1:45.08. 

Not a PB but I was pleased by how strong I felt all the way round. I was a little delayed by crowds at the start (should have started at the front of 1:40-2hr pen, some were going far too slow), too much weaving meant my first two miles were over 8m/m pace. The next six or so were between 7:30 and 8m, then I was fatigued and blown by the strong winds on mile 11 (slowest yet, about 8.20). I think a more consistent 7.40 ish is achievable.
The weather conditions were poor, but not as crap as predicted.
This is the second longish run I have completed feeling strong with a banana down my trousers...oo missus etc (pleased to see you). Ok, tucked into the waistband as ready, vitamin rich natural fuel to help me through the last miles. I think it really helps. I stopped at all the water stations for a few hasty gulps, but did not bother with the last one, so ran the last three miles as if a parkrun (sadly a slow 5k time). I availed myself of all jelly babies proffered. And I think yesterday's mainly toast diet helped too.
All of the above is a strategy I will build on. Next stop, a 1:43 half.
I lie, very next stop is tomorrow's 13 miles at marathon pace. Will I manage? Watch this space.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Fragile Thread, Part 2

Neil (second from the left) the most celebrated voluncheer ever
Day 347
Day of rest, pre Paddock Wood Half. A walk/jog to Hillyfields to volunteer. 

A red letter day, both in Parkrun and personal terms. A celebrity in our midst, donning his hi-vis to give out tokens at the  finish funnel was Neil, the man who nearly died here on January 1 (see blogpost Fragile Thread). It was so miraculous to see him upright and healthy. He showed us a tiny red mark on his wrist, which is all the evidence that remains of the life-saving procedure he underwent to widen the heart valve, by inserting a stent, to ensure the narrowing that caused his heart attack on New Year's Day does not happen again. I've been looking it up and I believe what he underwent was coronary angioplasty
which also seems miraculous to me.
A day of wonder, then, because today I also became a grandmother. I've been studying the picture of my little grandson in the arms of my son's partner, a woman I barely know, all wired up and wanly smiling after gruelling labour (she was induced, laboured for hours, then she also underwent a life-saving, life-changing procedure, an emergency Caesarian). My son, 25 years old, and a father. My grandson, 8lb of miracle, over in Berlin. I will hold him in my arms in two days.
Quite a bit of running to do before then, though. This is a training blog, after all.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Pretty flamingos - or how standing on one leg is a work out

I love a bit of balancing
Greenwich Buggy runners go off to practise balancing
Day 346
Rest day. A cycle to Greenwich Park, where I took a Buggy Runner class. Hills with slats and drills

One of the many reasons I am grateful to Erik at Team 6 is because he has, for nearly a year now, been a fount of information about all things core. The exercise I'm demonstrating in the top photo is referred to in his traiing notes as, simply, 'balance', which is more a glute and upper back workout, but part of our drills today involved standing with one leg raised (circling, ankles, stretching hip flexors, whatever) and I was able to say how this skill should be practised (stand on one leg while brushing teeth, waiting for kettle etc etc) because it gets your core working. Pregnancy plays havoc with balance, however, so I see the lovely young women I train wobble and tremble while they gaze at this granny (my son's baby will be born in the next 12 hours, I am reliably informed) stand one legged like a veritable rock. It makes me feel able, just as running past them up the hill, to be at the summit to greet them and comment on their form, reassures me that I am a fit enough old bird and worthy of being their coach. Accelerating past my clients, with rucksack bumping on my back, puts me in mind of hardman Rob Blair, who used to train us Friday morning gazelles. The two men I have referenced in this blog could no be more different, but both are wise, in their way, and both have helped me gain strength and confidence. I hope that is how the women I coach see me.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Crisis in Holland & Barrett

Day 345
Too wet for Erik and Team 6 am Fitness girls, so the 20min easy run scheduled for half marathon race week is all I do

It's a mini taper because I am racing, not pacing, Sunday's half marathon and I am hoping to benefit from the long weeks of training. I shall try to be optimistic, which is, in a way, throwing down quite a gauntlet, given today's ill-favoured mood.
I could put my negativity down to the filthy weather, which kept me lingering over the breakfast table, when any other Thursday I'd be with Erik and the girls. Lingering over the breakfast table means ill-advised extra helpings of muesli. There's also the little matter of a still impending grandchild, which was promised to make an appearance on Tuesday, although no word from my son. I fidget and sigh.
Then, a total of four gloomy hours at my desk, trying to write, and checking emails, deleting the spam therein and wishing that some managing editor, any managing editor, or account manager, or any damn person with a budget would enquire about my availability for work.
After too much tussling and getting nowhere, I give in to distractions and cycle off in search of suitable birthday presents for daughter. In Holland &Barrett I see myself replicated in the frail looking woman buying glucosamine gel, in the grumpy woman fanning herself and asking about the prices of the sage, the black cohosh and the magnesium supplements she's stocking up on, in the slightly stout woman in running tights buying go-faster gels and isotonic drinks. All of a certain age, all manner of midlife crises in the flesh. There's no-one young or male,  except the people serving behind the counter. Are we all delusional, the aching, hot-flushing, desperately exercising faded women who populate these snake oil shops?
I buy some peppermint oil to ease my IBS symptoms (another middle aged woman's malady, which often makes us ponder ovarian cancer) and think of Angelina Jolie, tipped into menopause at 39, because she carries the marker for that silent killer.
I pull myself together.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

'Do not attempt to promote yourself...'

Up betimes to catch a view
Meanwhile, I'm wondering about colour coding
Day 344
A recovery run: 5m very easy, but up hills to One Tree Hill

Waking with the morning light and being lured out by the sparkly blue sky felt wholesome. I am too tired from yesterday to run fast, but enjoy the gradual warming up (it is very cold still), and the view from One Tree Hill, once I'd puffed up the steps, was, as always, delightful. Then down again, picking up speed to marathon pace for the run home. If only the rest of the day had been so satisfying. I dithered over the one £75 commission I have between me and total unemployment. It is still not written.
Distraction came in the form of my VLM registration letter and magazine. In four short weeks I'll be at the expo, gathering my number and inflating my expectations. Flipping through the magazine I feel a pang of dismay when I see my Green Start pen does not mention my hard-won Good For Age status. There is also a paragraph warning against delusional and fraudulent attempting to access the wrong pen for your speed. Fast Good For Age is reserved for a special place in the Red Start area. My running buddy assures me that we superannuated GFAs will all be together in Green, and that there's a top layer of GFA, withe the speedy prefix, who are 'fast fellas, mostly'. So that cover picture on this blog is somewhat misleading. However, compared to the huge majority of 52 year olds I am fast. Very fast. I will do this.  

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Frailty, thy name is woman

Back on the kinetic chain gang with Team 6
Day 342
Strength training with Erik, Joan, Hyacinth and Rebecca. Evening track workout with Kent AC: 1m warm up, 5x1000m, 1m warm down. Wet, dark, cold

'Oh, that this too solid flesh would melt...'
Sorry, Hamlet, to misuse your fine soliloquy to these baser ends, but I've been reading about sarcopenia (literally, melting flesh) and talking to Erik and the line just popped into my head.
For the past year, I have been acting on the shocking evidence that cardio, in essence, makes you flabby. That's why I have become such a a faithful student of Erik the Wise. When the mileage goes up, as it's timetabled to do for the next three weeks or so, before marathon da, I will wax hungrier and the belly and back fat will be maintained. Thats because my body, ever efficiently, would like to hang onto fat, thanks very much, because it needs the oestrogen fat imparts as menopause gathers pace. This is all fine and natural, but for a woman who is looking for lean, both to improve her running efficiency and the way she fills her clothes, it is not helpful.
As women age, they round. A layer of fat insulates their hips and midsection and, at the same time, the underused muscles on their arms and thighs deteriorate and, yes, melt away. Cue bingo wings and what my daughter calls the alcoholic-middle-aged-woman outline: the  skinny shanks and fleshy torso combo. Stand in a queue in Iceland, Aldi, or the 99p shop to spot it.
Strength training, pressing weights, using body weight for exercises like plank, side plank and blah-di-blah will help stop the melting. And less steady state running will be required, but after the marathon, if that's ok.

Monday, 23 March 2015


Clematis Armandii
Day 242
Rest day, a cycle to the local pool to swim, 30 lengths, inexpertly

In theory, these weeks should be all about focus. It's the last month of the serious training year and I could be luxuriating in the anticipation. From this angle, a marathon PB is not beyond the realms of possibility. I am not injured and I have the chance, in the absence of any meaningful or time-consuming work, to spend more time sleeping, preparing nutritious food from scratch, perfecting my tempo runs, satisfying myself that the training miles are being ticked off dutifully. It could be amusing, pretending to be elite, emulating the elite athlete's lifestyle.
In reality, the stress of not being able to command even a minimum wage from my writing, or indeed secure any kind of regular work to pay the bills, has thrown me off the righteous path, casting a shadow over all aspects of my life. After my swim (during which my goggles failed keep out water, my swimming cap kept working its way off my head and other people, even the geriatrics, all seemed to cut through the water like dolphins while I flailed about exhausting myself) I returned to sit at my desk to fret over a piece I have no inspiration for, occasionally wandering down to the kitchen to fill my face with toast and peanut butter, the comfort food I crave, even while chopping fennel and peppers and carrots for the Monday stir fry. It pains me to waste these strangely empty days, or indeed any sort of day, when I know that after 26 April I shall be floundering even more inelegantly, trying to justify the self-indulgence of the past year.
In Aldi I read a sign that bore a quote from a member of the supermarket's contented team, who said the work is so satisfying that  'the days pass really quickly'. Is that such a good thing, to have the days roll by unremarked, in accelerated worker bee mode? My day passed really quickly and here it is bedtime, but I do not feel like celebrating.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Pacing responsibly

Richmond Half Marathon
Day 341

A pacing day, Richmond Half Marathon for sub 2hrs, got them in around 1:58 (about 8.58 m/m),  then walked/jogged another 7 or so to make this a 20mile Slow Run day

You feel such a duty of care for the runners you're pacing. I must have looked at my watch about a dozen times a mile, trying to keep the pace steady. I fluctuated between 8:40 and 9:10 minute miles, but was all the time worrying about the efficacy of my Garmin. The very worst thing would be not to make the two hours, but  I am sure I erred on the faster side. The main problem was that I had no-one to check in with, since I was the sole pacer at this speed. The last few miles the people who were trying to keep me in their sights were puffing like trains. The last 400m I urged the runners to surge forward and sprint past me. I do hope that all the PB chasers were happy. I was certainly cheerful and encouraging, coaching as much as I could to keep them comfy. Perhaps they found that irritating? I'll never know, but I did receive plenty of thanks in the aftermath, so that made me feel good.
For myself, I had a few bladder issues that made me fret about comfort in a month's time. This morning my attempt to add more miles was compromised by the generous goody bag that I was carrying, but I jogged them, very slow, and considered this to be a Time On Your Feet run. Certainly was on my feet for 24 miles, as had to walk quite far to find a bus worth catching (nothing until Wandsworth). Ate most of goody bag goodies in the attempt.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The baby boost effect

Chloe's getting faster, the granny on the left is not
Day 340
Hillyfields Parkrun, with a couple of miles tacked on to boost the weekly total (44 this week, but need to peak at 55)
Hilly Fields parkrun results for event #137. Your time was 00:23:49. 

That's a Kent AC buddy, Chloe, whose second child is now two. She shot past me on the hill this morning and recorded a new Hillyfields Parkrun PB. Watching her lean, strong form pull away from my (admittedly hungover) puffing one, I pondered the oft-cited Baby Boost effect. It's often brought up in admiring pieces about Jo Pavey, whose gold medals and personal best records came post 40, post baby number two, amid much whooping for joy from athletic mothers across the land.
What is the Baby Boost? Briefly, it's the effect in the huge increase of red blood cells in the pregnant woman's body. Although the cell count goes back to normal after giving birth, the beneficial effects on strength and stamina seem to endure. There's also talk of better lung capacity after running around carrying about 26lb extra weight, a more relaxed mental attitude (nothing, not even winning, is more important than your children) and better organisation (you become a more focused, more efficient runner if you're on a strict deadline imposed by maternal duties).
Having never run, seriously, before I was a parent (although I alway remember being pretty good at enduring the cross country at school), I don't know whether giving birth three times and being a (very dutiful and energetic!) mother for  for the past 26 years has done much for my running, but if Chloe and another young track mum, Sheryl, are anything to go by, I'd say the baby boost does exist, among ordinary mortals as well as elite athletes. It's a question I shall put to my Buggy Runners in the coming months.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring into action

Media's out in force for an eclipse glimpse
Day 339

Rest/coaching day: cycle, walking and home-based strength training

The day waxed dark and cool as the moon apparently passed over the sun for the first time since 1999. Sadly, cloud cover put paid to many sharp intakes of breath, but the crowds gathered at the observatory, for to observe the gathering gloom. An American newsman spoke to camera about the excitement about nothing.
Meanwhile, I had eleven mamas and babies to put through their paces. I tried splitting them into two teams for resistance band biceps, alternated with lunges, with a sprint and high-five and stretch in the middle. I shall make them do it again next week, in the hope they become familiar with those sorts of intervals.
I also had the longrunners/short runners sprint and steps, which I'd worked out last week. That seemed quite good.
I have succumbed to media events and drinking this evening, which is bad, as I am supposed to be off the sauce until the marathon, and it's Parkrun tomorrow. I shall hate myself in the morning, but provided I make it to Hillyfields and run, there will be an endorphin-based reward.
Perhaps only one drink, tonight.