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.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

All that is not solid melts into air

Erik and Peeping Tom
from my tempo run riverward
Day 338
Erik session: ball slams, blades, up and over, balance, touch down and peeping Tom; followed by 8 mile tempo run, 8.15-8.45 m/m

The blog I had already written for today has melted into thin air, so now I am hacked off. It was not solid enough. I'm amused by the names Erik gives to his various exercises. Peeping Tom is a running backward and forward, with lunge, as if peeping over someone's sill and running away when they catch sight of you, but backwards, for the glutes. Mine certainly ache, but I don't think it was Peeping Tom that caused it, more like the somewhat gruelling run afterwards. I have tried to eat a lot more protein today, to feed the muscles, because I feel those, too are melting into air, and leaving my tired unelastic flesh, falling away from the bone, as it inevitably will do, with time.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015


Rufus weight traning
Day 337
A recovery run of two miles, to and from the pool, (28 lengths). Cycled up to Forest Hill to godmother's care home.

For weeks I've been vowing to swim weekly; I am indeed a weakly swimmer, but I enjoy the trance like state it puts me in, the weight off my feet, and the challenge every minute of trying to perfect my two strokes (every other length is a mixture: starting boldly in front crawl, elegant while I can keep my head underwater, but once lifting my face to breathe, losing the rhythm and lapsing into awkward breast stroke).
I try not to do 'lady' breast stroke, as if I am worried about my hairdo, instead dunking whole head under every second or third stroke.
All this is achieved at a pace that's faster than the slow lane swimmer, but my style is too inept to be anywhere but the slow lane.
Coming to the shallow end at around length 15, I noticed the person who'd been powering up and down the fast lane when I first arrived. She was a very large woman; obese, in fact. Her shoulders and upper arms were like hams, her bosom and stomach hung and bulged under her capacious swimsuit, she had an apron of stomach that reached to mid thigh.
In the water she had been arrow straight and graceful, non splashy. If I were her, I'd be so proud of my water baby ability. It was sad to see her haul herself up the steps and roll towards the showers, ungainly again. She would not be able to run home, but she is at home in the pool.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Being a strong old bird

Distracted by daffodils
Erik works the chain
Day 336

An our working the kinetic chain with Erik. Cycling to Greenwich for a Buggy Runner debrief with Ellie. Kent AC this evening: session – 1m warm up, 4m round Ladywell Fields, 1m warm down. Pollution is bad today - feel it in the chest.

Having barely noticed the 30 miles I ran over the weekend while admiring Scottish views and digesting unwonted treats, I'm back on the bread-and-vegetables Rift Valley diet, in Lewisham,  but, sadly, unable to do that mileage. Elle and I discussed the Kenyan manner of running. They have perfect upward and outward leg action, with the heel flicks we can only achieve when we're consciously drilling them, and slowly at that. Their leanness and iron musculature has been both honed by train, eat, sleep, repeat but it's also present from childhood, before that, it's in their genetic code. We can admire, and attempt to mimic, but to attempt that mileage would be nuts.
So I train with Erik, who tells me I need to work my kinetic chain. He has me stepping back onto my heel to stretch my calf, then shows how my back leg invariably moves outward to one side.
Later, Ellie explains how hormonal upheavals (pregnancy, breastfeeding, and, later, the menopause) makes us gather fat under our arms, around our hips and stomachs. The fat is there to be used. As we age, the fat dissipates but the skin dangles. It is, though, possible still to build muscle post menopause. Getting outside, doing those reps, both Erik style circuits and reps of the running track, can still help us grannies look better in their clothes. I wish I could look better in photos. I am not too troubled by my body when it's naked, it seems ok, in that there's not too much of it. Once clothes are on though, lumps appear I wish weren't there. And why does a menopausal woman's face look big? It's probably the jowelly droop.
No need to obsess, though, about the skin deep, it's the skeleton and muscle mass that should concern me, and the fact that I could train it to move faster. Big face or no big face.

Monday, 16 March 2015

A temporary lull

My thinking tree
Day 335
Stiff from trying to sleep in sitting position until 6.30am, then sitting at desk all day. A short walk to stretch legs and think a bit

Melancholy return to cold, wet London, and a day spent writing up the piece about My Highland Fling.
When the cortisol/ghrelin/glum overload has been dissipated by a proper sleep and a pulling of self together, the Training Seriously will resume in earnest. I am already looking forward to following that Two Half Marathons in Two Days at Marathon Pace advice, offered by Fraser Clyne
Onward and upward.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

All good things...

Heading off into the wide blue yonder
Bye, bye, beautiful
Aren't we lovely?
Day 334

A 10k recovery run. Slow paced. Another icy dip in the River Dee

Sad to say goodbye this bright blue sparkling day. I have met so many inspiring people.
Full report on the way....1500 word to write for Women's Runnng
We've been so lucky this weekend. Not a drop of rain, and yesterday's 18 miler made me feel invincible - so different from the sorry tale of last week's long run.
Today's run was all about recovery, and it was funny that the guide, Ben, who kept telling us to slow down to 10 minute miling (which I find so difficult to stick to) was a veteran runner with a marathon PB of 2:30. He knows what he's talking about.
We have eaten well on this trip (a little too well. My normally capacious jeans feel tight) . Tongiht's sleep, however, will not be of champions, given it will be spent on a train, as Friday.
One more big blowout before we face the ten hour train ride home. Beers and (vegetarian) burgers and chips in Giraffe, near Aberdeen station.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Eat like a champion. Sleep like a champion. Train like a champion

Views. Not all of them beautiful
Day 333
An 18 miler with some serious hills to contend with. It was run with great pleasure.

What makes champions? asked Doctor Andrew Murray this morning  in a well timed lecture before the main run of the weekend. Quite apart from showing us tempting pictures of the Kenyan altitude training centre, which at a mere 20 dollars per day is excitingly accessible to us lesser mortals, Doc Murray delivered some eminently sensible and doable training tips, which I will act on. Running buddies Sarah and Jannet agree that running Kenya would be a fine progression from running the Highlands in terms of self indulgent and delusional activity holidays. I have definitely developed a taste for them this weekend.
The likes of Doc Andrew Murray (a young 'un) and Fraser Clyne (nearer my age but a 'proper' athlete) have served to re-invigorate my quest for a decent GFA time on 26 April. More valuable than inspirational speakers, though,  has been the fact that the run today has restored my confidence. After the weakly, wobbly aborted 20 miler last Saturday, today's long run in the sharp sweet air of Scotland, where the stunning views were as sustaining as the half-time banana and icy stream water I drank with our new running friends, demonstrated that the marathon time I crave is tantalisingly within my grasp, so long as I run, recover, refuel, repeat sensibly for the next few weeks. It'll be an adventure that continues when I return to the Smoke, and I can dream about African adventures that may (or may not) happen in the future.
Endorphins rule. This has been a good day, and today's run has been the bes tof my life, so far. 

Friday, 13 March 2015

Peak fitness

Day 332
Precious little sleep – train/road travel to Balmoral – meet and greet and six mile run on trail, with hills

The run up to Queen Victoria's pyramid high in the Cairngorms was a mere assessment of our running fitness. We're in four groups, arranged according to 10K pbs, so a couple of blokes who are 40min merchants are on their own a little ahead of us. The softly spoken and reassuring Neil Stewart, who organises these running weekends, assures us that we'd be wise to run conservatively today, to refrain from rushing off to try to prove our speed, only to be defeated by the hills we encounter on this trail. Our group is led by two fit middle aged women, one of whom is a hardy little fell runner. Despite Neil's advice I am most concerned not to be the last runner in our particular group, to suffer potential ignominy of being bumped down to the slower team. Fortunately, I acquit myself well, and stay with the first four, so have earned my stripes.
As if to compound the folly of setting out too fast, as if there's something to prove, we're treated to a talk on best endurance practice after the run and tea-and-cakes break with the extremely able Fraser Clyne (2:11 marathoner), whose advice I heed with interest. He suggests it's not miles on your feet, or even time on your feet, but it's the ability to endure on tired feet. Progression is a buzz word that chimes with me. Fraser says if you train for miles and miles and become so fatigued that there's no prgression, only steadily accumulating tiredness, your PB hopes are scuppered before you even begin.
The advice (from Fraser) I am going to act on next weekend is to replace that tedious Sunday Long Slow Run with two consecutive days of running 13 miles at marathon pace, all the way (which of course adds up to a marathon), and works on testing those tired legs, and subtly progressing their potential for endurance.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Change of view

Swapping this for real Highlands tonight
Day 331

Planks/bridge series, walking and cycling, rushing about

It's a short thought today. I've been desperately trying to tie up loose ends. In an hour or so I'll be on my way to te Scottish Highlands, where I'll be talking running, fuelling for running, resting for running, running up mountains and generally doing all the things that serious training demands. I can't wait. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Step away from the granola

On reflection....
Day 330

No running, just the morning 15-minute strength series (planks, crunches, bridges etc) and a lot of dog walking

It was daft to buy a large pack of sweet, nutty 'granola style cereal' from Aldi, empty it into a large jar, then try to partake of it sensibly. I eat too much of it at breakfast time. One bowl is never enough. To compound the problem, I stand at the counter and dip my hand into that great big jar of crunchy pleasure to try to satiate the great gnawing hunger that's been distracting me all day. I know there are nasty things in this granola: most probably glouose/fructose syrup alongside the sugar. Too much grain and carbs, again.
I recently signed up to an environmental newletter, name of Treehugger, because that's how I describe myself. Big animal lover, car refuser, plant eater. I love what Michael Pollan has to say, but why can't I reflect on this when I'm mindlessly stuffing cereal and peanut butter down my maw, between meals?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

(Wo) man shall not live by bread alone

Punch a way into the day
Climb some hills, like a happy dog

Day 329
Bad sleep. Dragged body through plank & bridge series as per. Cycled to Hillyfields for Erik session, cycled to Greenwich for dogwalking. Evening at track: 1m warm up; strides; 5x1000m with 200m active jogging recoveries: 1m warmdown. Bad IBS and fatigue.

Would that I could. Live on bread I mean. The only food that I really look forward to is grain based. Breakfast of muesli or porridge, toast and peanut butter could be repeated a further three times per day and I would not tire of it. I force myself to eat other things – my fruit and veg, cheese, eggs – but I'd happily love on toast and peanut butter. According to the health media I may as well have a crack habit. My bread/cereal addiction is responsible for the shape I'm in, the gut disorders I suffer, the sleep I miss out on, the glow I lack, the stomach that protrudes, the fatigue I carry around with me.

Apart from refusing to eat dead creatures (although I'm fully aware that the dairy industry oversees the killing of millions of calves annually to keep me in (organic) yogurt),  I have little patience with exclusion diets, but I know that I must curb my enthusiasm for carbs, stop attempting to live on toast alone and make with the protein. It would perhaps see the end to my writing these blogs of an evening while doubled up with griping pains and ominous rumblings within.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Little things mean a lot

A newt strolling across our path
Day 328
A Monday run: about seven miles in the Beckenham direction with Jacquie...a recovery run, easy paced, to allow for jet lag (her) and virus (me). Coughing, weak pelvic floor (me). Walking the dog (about six miles in total)

This was unusual: running on a Monday, followed by dogwalking and cycling. My hips and right knee protest too much. These next seven weeks...the run up to the big run, I am planning to avoid as much real work as I can, the better to prioritise the training, the stretching, the fuelling, the recovery and the mileage. The wider picture (the freelance journalist needing work, the self employed person and landlady needing to get her lands in order before the end of the tax year, the mother and soon-to-be grandmother caring for her family, the writer looking for a subject, the wife feeling a bit guilty) of my life can be eclipsed for 35 days or so while I focus on the matter in hand. It would be a shame to get to the start line feeling ill prepared and stressed.
It's amusing to reflect on the surge of joy I felt on our discovery of this little out-of-place amphibian (I am a total geek about pond life; it started with a project I completed aged 9, entitled 'Pond Life'. I can still visualize the crayoned and felt tipped title page). Another high point (literally) of the day was striding across the hills of Greenwich Park with little borrowed dog Colby. I suppose you could say that I am giving myself a bit of a break to train seriously. I am sure it will not cost me too dear, although the overdraft is a worry.  

Sunday, 8 March 2015

I wish I had what she has

Would that I could run like her
Day 327

A rest day. A wee bit of cycling and walking, standing and watching. Energetic wishing

Today was Kent AC's flagship 10 mile run, The Sidcup 10, which incorporates the British Masters Athletics Federation (BMAF). Club members are politely requested to help run it, not run it: ergo, make cakes, don hi-vis and marshal, give out medals, rather than try to net a PB on this fast, flat course.
I marshalled with a couple of other women, coughing my guts up and feeling the after effect sof yesterday' exertions in my right knee, worryingly, although the sunshone was warm and the mood generally perky.
I passed the time looking at other runners' styles and analysing the effortless running of women I am familiar with, who pick up all the prizes in the races I enter, and seem so lean and light. It is especially hard to watch when you feel under the weather and panicky about how your speed and stamina seems to abandoned you. The woman pictured above is local legend Clare Elms. She's a machine built runner, really good looking too, and only a year younger than me. I am a flabby, wheezing Couch-to-5K beginner compared to her. Watching her sail past, her perfect running form: heels back and up to the powerful backside, sturdy, lean, unwobbling core, posture perfect –  makes me painfully aware of my lack of discipline in training, my intimate relationship with cakes and ice cream, my jowls, my spare tyre, my weak glutes and pelvic floor.
The anwer is, of course, not to sit here and compare, but to make the decision to shake off this self-indulgent lassitude and get to work on my fitness.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Man up

It was fine to Victoria Park
Where we drank, stretched and selfied

Day 326 Long Slow Run transferred to Saturday. It was scheduled to be 20 miles at 9 m/m pace. I crashed and burned at 15, staggered another 2 after that, so 17 in toatal. Felt wretched for the rest of the day.

We set off from Greenwich at 11am. Warm sunshine. Dosed up with porridge, toast and coffee, alongside cold cure tablets, containing paracetamol and caffeine, which I hoped would see me through, I stayed with the blokes all the way to Hackney. Our return to south of the river  saw me fade and lose sight of them. What made this failure all the harder for me was that Ted, our leader (marathon race pace predicted 7.30m/m for a 3:16 marathon) has had the same lurgy as me this week, and he's 3 years older than me, but managed to sustain the 20.
So I make no apologies for the sexist title of this blog. I do need to train as concentratedly as a man if I am to meet my predicted race time.
Its international Women's Day tomorrow, a fab date for the second 261 Women's Marathon
It's fortunate I did not sign up, given my broken state.
For IWD Radio 4' Woman' Hour was broadcasting from the South Bank's Woen of the World Festival. A young poet wrote a piece for it, in which she deplored expressions such as 'man up', because it attributed the idea of strength to blokes. However, today our unisex long run saw the two men accelerating further and further ahead of the women, until this strong woman was left all alone, walking pitifully up the final Greenwich Park hill, nauseated, coughing and aching fit to collapse. Depressing.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Peak fitness in 40 days

Greenwich Park Buggy Running day
Day 325

Yoga/pilates matwork. Walk to Greenwich, then session with The Greenwich Buggy Runners: warmup jogs, drills and stretches

My year-long countdown tells me that I have 40 days (and 40 nights) to become Brilliant for Age. There's room, I suppose for for at least four really long runs ('all about time on the feet'), up to 10 hard speed/tempo sessions, and, provided the body can withstand the assault, some 'miles in the bank'.
Last night's attempt at tempo wasn't encouraging. If I can't run just six miles comfortably at 8.30m/m by now, it's a little too optimistic to set that as a constant for the full 26. Virally bludgeoned, and as a result lacking in self belief, I look askance at fellow runners and feel health envy.

It was a tonic, this morning, however, to sacrifice a morning's lucrative subediting work to coach a Buggy Runner session. I had 11 clients today – a pleasing number, and the son shone most benignly on our efforts. Being out in the open air, striding up and down those hills, rather than three hours' glaring at a screen, must help dispel the viral load in my body. If I can arrange to spend the next 40 days mostly outside, fuelling well and moving well, there's a chance I can regroup and replenish energy levels, without panicking myself into attempting silly mileage to play catch up. This means that if the long slow run scheduled for tomorrow does not go to plan, I'll have the sense to curtail it before injury strikes.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sneaking out to run

Would have been wonderful to run this spring morning, but it was under cover of darkness today
Day 323

Slow cycle commute, the usual 14m there and back, then, in the evening, Ted's Kent AC tempo run training: warm up, drills and 5-6 miles at marathon race pace

As my body take its time to recover from this lurgy, there's no chance i can tempo run like I tempo ran four weeks ago: the last Thursday I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to run without anyone else in the household knowing. With exasperated partner and unwittingly demanding daughter safely out at a concert, I could indulge myself with the Thursday marathon training session, the clock watching, not speedy, but sustained effort medium length run. However, the eight days I've had away from running have left me soft and short of breath. I wasn't able to speak to my training partner when I hit the 8m/m mark, which I should by now be able to keep up for 6-10miles. Even 8.30 m/m felt like a big effort.
Still, I've broken my running fast; it did not feel too bad, and I've eaten well to recover. The best thing is that I was back, had eaten dinner and bathed before the others returned. For all they know I've had a quiet night in. Glad I haven't.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

My lungs

Watery expanses and green between: parks like Burgess provide relief
Day 322
Cycling: from home to Waterloo Bridge, and back again in the evening, very slowly, about 14miles round trip (that's the first time I've recorded the distance - looked it up)

The persistant, barking cought that disturbed my (and Rick's) sleep last night and left me weak and wheezy this morning was exacerbated by the cycling commute. The cold air hitting my congested lungs is enough to create irritation, but the congestion on the roads is as bad as it is in my bronchiole and avleoli, so I dread to think how many particulates and chemicals I'm sucking into these organs, whose proud pinkness I often imagine when out running – typical reformed smoker am I.
It is with my breathing apparatus in mind that I sign up on behalf of this London Pollution Campaign
When my children were tiddlers – the two sons, especially suffered from upper respiratory congestion throughout their infancy in the 1990s – I was distressed by the thought that my insistance on urban living was destroying their health. All three assure me, though, that they're proud to be Londoners, as indeed am I. I just wish that the air was breathable. My eldest son, soon to be a father, lives in Berlin. I hope the lungs of his kleine Sohn oder Tochter remain pink and bouncy, despite the BMW fumes. I just assume Berlin has cleaner air, because it has this overall healthy image. That's probably quatsch.
Just checked, it's not quatsch, as I have just read about Soot Pollution League, Berlin in 2012 was rated as having the cleanest air in Europe.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Only my cough is productive, or running as self indulgence

Peckham Rye daffodils on my cycle ride to work
Day 322

Cycle commute: home to Waterloo Bridge. And back. A brisk walk at lunch-time. Some stretching/yoga

Slowly getting back to normal. The morning cycle ride had the congested lungs heaving themselves about in my chest like water balloons. The diesel-laden air, and the cold, served as an expectorant, so as I pedalled, I coughed. Productively. The reddened nose joined in with the production. The four layers worn to protect me from the elements caused a patchy overheating – only on the torso – my legs being rather chilly. To cap it all, literally, my warm Orkney woolly hat kept being tipped off my head by my hair and the buff round my neck. Altogether my bike and I made rather shambolic and juicy progress to work.

It is better to cycle commute, though, and not just because it saves me about a fiver in train fares. It provides an outdoorsy start to a day at a desk being not very busy or important. Funny how it goes. In my diary this day was to have been spent in perpetual motion. My fitness threshold could have been properly tested if I'd started at 8am with Erik and the others, cycled on to the office to put in a couple of hours, then cycled to Tower 42 to race up 932 stairs, then cycled back to the office to continue editing Easter recipes, beforte cycling over to Ladywell for the evening track session.

I do not think I would have been able to do all of the above, even if I'd been in the prime of health, it would probably not have been wise, either. There's a fine line between extreme fitness and lunacy, or rather doing too much in the name of fitness – none of it very well – for the sake of....what? Who am I trying to impress?
My sister sent me a get well message, which read:
'take a little care of yourself, there's no shame in taking things easy!'
No shame! How lovely. It is such a different attitude to the one my husband tends to favour, which is (in a nutshell) that all this fitness training is a self-indulgence. Both have a point. I train, I enter races, I write this blog to prove how great I am, which is no doubt an annoyance to people who think that working hard for one's family is every human's number one duty.
On the other hand, because running makes me a happier person, isn't that good for the family at large? To have a rosy, happy mother, sister, auntie and grandmother around, who doesn't (ahem) complain about her health (present week excepted)?
At 52, the energy and speed you can muster feels so extraordinary. When you consistently record better times than women and men half your age, you feel suddenly special. It makes you wonder  how much more extraordinary you could be if you slept, ate, trained like an athlete. I have not managed even a week of living like a proper athlete, yet, and in about eight weeks this blog will reach its finale. Whatever time I record on 26 April, this blog will be a useful reference point in the days of reckoning thereafter.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Brisk walks

Lincoln's Inn Fields
Day 321
A day in the office. Walking/public transport commute. An hour's walking, or more. 

So I peeled myself off my tumbled bed after a torrid night of fever and catsick (!), still over full from last night's indulgence. Heroically, I made my way to the office, where I'm booked to do a week's worth of Easter receipe cards. Nice, undemanding work, and well paid. Sitting on my arse and eating lots of food – it's what a doctor would've ordered.
I am getting better, but there is no way I could have taken part in Vertical Rush tomorrw, so I sent out the email to my editor and team to cry off. I feel guilty, but I know enough about the event to avoid punishing my lungs further. After seven minutes or so of stair running you're spent, but most affected are your lungs. Everyone is coughing like a 20-a-day smoker at the end, and the pulmonary damage seems to last a good few hours. You drink bottles and bottles of water but the drying effect is pernicious. I really believe I'd have done myself a mischief.
So tomorrow, which looked like being a heavy training day, now has nothing planned.
Today has been a walking day. Commuting to stations and walking in lunch hour to Lincolns Inn. My journey to the station (I choose te Zone 2 Lewisham over my local Zone 3 to save a little money) takes about 20 minutes. I would like to shave off some minutes and am intrigued by those who are able to walk faster than me (there aren't many, I hasten to add). Today's competition was a youngish man with a big rucksack, who appeared to be sauntering while I felt temped to jog to keep up. He wasn't striding at all. Perhaps my chest infection has affected my walking speed. I certainly need to practise.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

FOMO, and here's Monster Month starting

Oh, boohoo
Day 320
Walk slowly to station to review a show. Otherwise it's all about the rest cure

It's a blue breezy day in March. I totter out to the garden to photograph daffodils for my daily Tweet and every step jars hips, head, neck. Ears are ringing, nose is running, breathing is wheezing. Once my tweet @500mornings is posted I run a bath and soak. My training is now about a fortnight behind the plan. Everyone doing the London marathon ran 20 miles today. It's all over Twitter of course. Others are running half marathons in these bright conditions, which I can see out of my window. I feel bereft. How long is it going to take to recover?
And when I do recover, will I have the time to ramp up the miles?