Monday, February 22, 2016

Marathon 67 and when being wrong is alright by me!

Good news alert - contrary to the prognosis of her surgeon, Denny has pulled through the really awful time she had last week, when we really did think we might lose her, and has now been removed from the 'critical list'. Although she still has a long way to go, and her time in hospital can only be measured in weeks/months rather than days, this is excellent news and I have breathed a huge sigh of relief. Thank you so much to everyone who sent her positive thoughts and prayers.

Now it's time for another race report for my 67th marathon. This was The Good, the Bad & The Ugly marathon celebrating 50 years since the release of the film of the same name and with a suitably themed medal (which you'll see later). Traviss had encouraged people to wear a cowboy hat and/or poncho but it was too windy for the hat and so I stuck with my usual cap and I even had to hold on to it several times as I felt the wind lift it up!

A splendid hat which was quickly replaced with a woolly cap once we got outside!

Greg rocked the Clint look…...

…whilst his lovely bride-to-be Janet came dressed as a saloon girl

It was Gary's 100th marathon so we all signed his race number

Gary was too busy pretending to do Tommy Cooper tricks to notice what I was doing!

I missed his 100 club presentation but caught up with him the car park where he struck a pose.

Well done Gary!

Traviss gave us a briefing outside the cafe then we headed up to the start.

Maryanne and Scotty were out all day supporting us - I took some photos of them inside but they didn't come out very well. Thanks for all the hugs Maryanne (I loved seeing Scotty taking the doggies for a walk too and Katie is really sweet). 

The park is being redeveloped to include a new Visitor Centre

The route was quite different from the trails we've used there before as it was being held on the cycle track which Traviss had hired for the day.  The reason I wanted to run this marathon was that I shall be running a 50 mile ultra there in April so I wanted to get a feel for the route and the surface. Also I wanted to experience the loops, which were very short at only 2 miles each, and the elevation of the site. I'd prefer longer loops for an ultra so this was as much a test of my mind as of my body/pace.

Traviss and Rachel were using a band system to count the laps we'd done and when we collected our race number we were given a carabiner (a clip) with 12 bands on. Each time we completed a lap we had to throw a band into a box and when they were all gone we had to pick up a flag and carry that for our last lap. I did struggle to get my bands off the clip each time which caused much hilarity for the marshalls as I was concentrating so hard trying to get each band off that I zigzagged all over the place!

As always, I'll start with the weather. It was WINDY and the forecast was for gusts up to 50mph. Deep joy, at least it wasn't raining this time I visited Betteshanger Country Park. The temperature was OK but the strong wind made me keep my lightweight jacket on for over 1/2 the marathon.

I'd heard that the track was fast and people who'd run another marathon there the day before had recorded good times so my plan was to go out as fast as felt comfortable (within reason of course!) until the halfway point and then do the remainder at my ultra pace.

I was running really strongly for several laps and then was joined by James who was taking things easier because he'd won the marathon the day before. Chatting always helps pass the miles. As usual there was lots of banter and fun with fellow runners and plenty of hugging too. Paul, aka Mr Ambassador, was busy walking around and high-fiving us and waving a flag.

The wind was really gusting on a couple of the exposed sections of each loop; sometimes from the side and sometimes we were running into it which really sapped your strength. I spent a lot of time with my buff (the purple thing round my neck which you can see in the photo above) pulled over my nose and mouth as the wind really affects my asthma and my breathing can become very laboured.

I reached the halfway point in 2:08 but did I slow down then? No, of course I didn't, I decided to push on a bit longer for a couple more laps and when I found I was in potential PB territory at 20 miles (3:25) I had another dilemma - slow down and be sensible or push on regardless bearing in mind I do not want to pick up an injury as I have 2 marathons next weekend!

Well, common sense prevailed and I tried out my ultra pace for the last 3 laps to finish in 4:56:12 (I did actually have a few minutes break at the aid station where Dee had saved me some of her amazing brownies with cream eggs in - oh my, it was wonderful. It was so wonderful that I knew I had to save half of it for Mike so I wrapped it up and kept it safe in my pocket for him (believe me, that took an awful lot of willpower and love!!!).

Another massive chunk of a medal for my collection!

After I'd finished Rachel asked me what I thought of the course as she knows my aim is the ultra there and I said I thought it was good and it's given me confidence for the task ahead so I'm really glad I did it.

I've jotted down my thoughts to help me focus:

- I think the surface is good as the tarmac has a degree of springiness to it so it's not too hard on your feet.

- It's a safe environment, there's no navigation and there's a super aid station every 2 miles manned by wonderful supportive people who will gladly hug sweaty runners when needed and administer cake/chocolate/biscuits/drinks as required.

- The laps are short. This is either good or bad depending on how you view it. Ideally I'd choose longer laps as starting with 25 bands (?) might make it seem rather daunting. Having said that, it's just the same as the Kent Roadrunner marathon where you get 20 bands just for a marathon and I haven't had any problems with that!

- The long drag of an incline, which seemed like a slight undulation after 26 miles, will probably feel like a HILL after 40 miles.

- The weather will play a part for sure. It could be windy as the site is exposed or it could be baking hot, either of which could have a bearing on my time (there is a 12 hour cut-off).

- I've been there so many times now that there isn't much left to see. Oh quit whingeing Susie, you always find something to interest you whether it's flora, fauna, patterns or people!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Marathons 65 & 66

What a weekend that was; bitterly cold on Saturday with intermittent rain and a biting wind but then dry and much warmer, with a bit of sunshine for a while, on Sunday!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Before I start my race reports I must mention that Denny, one of my oldest and dearest friends, collapsed in a meeting at work the week before last and was rushed to hospital for brain surgery after which she was transferred to a specialist Neurological hospital. She'd been doing really well for 5 days when her condition suddenly started to deteriorate on Friday and she was taken back into the Intensive Care Unit.

I'd been in constant contact with her lovely partner Russell who had been putting updates on Facebook so her friends and colleagues knew what was happening. But then I noticed that what he had written on FB was not what he'd said to me and I began to realise that things were worse than I thought and I was even more worried than before. Then it dawned on me that Denny was in serious trouble and that someone who I think of as my younger sister was fighting for her life.

All I could do was send her positive thoughts and prayers and I also dedicated my first marathon to her and wrote a message for her on my running number:

Thank you to everyone who read my message and offered supportive thoughts for her. Much appreciated.

Now I'm a very private person and come from a family of the stiff-upper-lip tradition and so I had to get my mind completely focused on the task ahead and in the words of Charlie Chaplin, "smile though your heart is aching".

Day 1 was held on the same route we ran a few weeks ago for the Jeskyn's Challenge and what I'd forgotten was the oil seed rape, some of which was blooming ridiculously early, which affected my asthma even though there was only a bit of the horrid stuff in flower. Thankfully, the rain seemed to have damped the pollen and it didn't trouble me as much on Saturday.

There was the usual banter with fellow runners and there was even a bunny taking photographs:

But who was inside?

Aha, it's Paul (last seen running dressed as an Oompa-Loompa running at the Chocathon)! The bunny only did 2 laps 'cos he had a sore back.

The other thing was the weather which was really unkind to us with a biting wind and some rain for almost the whole time. I was running really well for the first 5 laps but even though I'd worn extra layers the cold got to me and I slowed right down for the last 2 laps which were shared with the lovely James again and our chatter helped pass the miles and take our minds off the cold. I'd already decided not to go beyond marathon distance that day as I had another one the next day which was more than enough for one weekend.

The ladies did a grand job at the aid station and Andrew stood marshalling out in the cold for the whole day, bless him. He said I should have knitted him an all-in-one whilst I was running - I said something rude in reply! There was lots of hugging between us runners, as usual, and Andy declared that the next day should be 'hug-a-marshall' day and I don't think he was disappointed although he might not have enjoyed the sweatier hugs he received after the sun came out!

On lap 6 we thought we'd get a sub 5 hour finish but we just couldn't find it within our legs and we walked a large past of lap 7, the last lap, to finish in 5:13:39. Not too shabby considering how cold we were and it was worth it for the magnificent medal:

Isn't it wonderful!

As I headed off to my car Paul, aka Mr Ambassador of the 100 marathon club, took this photo of us together:

See, he's not always a miserable ******, he's quite a softy really!

The weather forecast for the next day, Valentine's Day, was much better so I wore my pink/red outfit and took some extra layers with me just in case. The race didn't start too early and so Mike was up and about to take a photo of me before I left:

I spent ages deciding between red or pink tights - as if it mattered!!!

It was nice not to have to leave at silly o'clock as it only took just over an hour to get there.

Rachel was busy handing out race number and registering runners whilst Traviss chatted

Not many puddles and a slightly brighter sky

Lots of people had gone for the red/pink theme and this was my favourite (with Brian in the background)

Amanda & Paul in the foreground

Before we set off there were the usual announcements plus a couple of prizes for the best fancy dress but the thing I wanted to share was the presentation to Martin who was about to complete his 800th marathon. Oh my goodness that is an impressive tally. I managed to catch this photo of him on lap 2.

But it was Anna who staged the best photo. Seen here on an impromptu podium we have Brian (1135 marathons) Martin (800) & Anna (156):

I really wasn't sure how my legs would behave the next day and when I got up out of bed there seemed to be a lot of creaking and groaning emanating from my right leg - tight hamstring, twangy ITB, sore inside knee. After I'd been out and about tending the horses etc it felt a bit better but when we set off I wasn't quite as sure! After about 10 minutes of niggling my legs just settled into it and got on with the job in hand and I have to say that they felt fantastic by the time I'd finished.

As this was hug-a-marshal day, Andrew was indeed hugged by all and sundry so I hope he enjoyed it! It's jolly hard work being a marshal, standing around all day and I'm looking forward to celebrating his 100th marathon in late May.

The route was different from the previous day and I much preferred it as it included an off-road section with some undulations but many people hated that section. Given a choice between tarmac and trail I'd chose trail every time as it's much easier on your legs. The loops were slightly longer as well, which I prefer, and for marathon distance we had to complete 6 laps.

I shared some miles with an assortment of people and had banter with many others and I just love the camaraderie of Traviss's events. There were 2 couples running together and it was wonderful to hear that Trisha completed her first ever marathon hand in hand with her hubby Karl despite having had a nasty fall at 14 miles in which she cut her arm and hands and bruised her ribs. What a lovely way to spend Valentine's Day and don't you just love their outfits!

I'd seem James at the start and he said he was still tired but he shot off like a whippet right from the start (oh the joys of 24 year old legs and boundless energy!). I saw him from afar on a few laps and thought he'd finished but as I was coming to the end of my 5th lap he was standing chatting with Andrew (who I gave another hug) and he said he was waiting for me as he'd already done 6 laps and fancied going ultra. That was nice as the last lap went really quickly and I completed marathon distance faster than the day before and he had completed an extra lap quicker than we'd done marathon distance the day before.

But it didn't end there for James as we'd already established that as he was feeling OK he needed to get another lap in the bank (he has ambitious plans which require a Herculean effort) so after a hug I sent him on his way to complete another lap whilst I headed for home! When I checked his results I saw that he even went on to complete another lap after that ending on 39.30 miles and running the furthest on the day. Excellent work James.

I was especially pleased with my finish time of 5:08:11 which was 5 minutes faster than the day before and just look at this super medal:

See the tank? That's Traviss asserting his masculine side!

When I got home Mike was so proud and we opened a nice bottle of wine to celebrate. This was my first alcohol of the year and it went down a treat with the curry I'd made to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Sadly the evening ended on a sad and very worrying note as when I spoke to Russell to see how Denny was she had been rushed into surgery again as her condition had deteriorated so badly and he had been told that the prognosis was not good. When Russell spoke to the surgeon afterwards he was told that her survival chances are poor but Russell told him that he doesn't know Den. I am hoping with every bit of me that Russell is right and Denny can find the strength to fight this. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Play time!

I managed to have a mid-week crafting day yesterday to make up for the weekend I didn't get. I love it when a dreary wet day arrives and I don't need to be somewhere/do things away from home.

I've got an unexpected additional marathon this weekend on Valentine's Day which I hadn't intended on doing but Mike's busy on something, a place became available and that was it - I entered.

Day 1 is called The Unusual Suspects Challenge and we're invited to wear the most vile coloured running vest we have. I'm not sure I can find one that's too ghastly but I do have some nice stripey tights, a tutu and some clashing colours to wear.

Day 2 is The Valentine's Day Challenge where the theme is pink and red so I set about making some decorations for my running cap.

I started with a large crochet heart for the front using Bunny Mummy's sweet pattern which was the perfect size using 4 ply yarn.

Then I made  a teeny-weeny heart for the back, just making it up as I went along.

Cut out some different sized hearts in felt:

Added a bead to the centre of the tiniest hearts and then joined them to each side of my cap using running stitch (how appropriate!).


But there really were not enough hearts for my liking (I love hearts!) and so when I nipped out for the horse feed I popped into a Charity shop (OK, I did make a rather unnecessary detour to get there) and look what I found for £1.99:

Maybe not quite traditional running gear but what the heck, it's just a bit of fun to brighten up the day.

To complete my outfit I shall be wearing either fluoro-pink or red tights and my lovely heart socks - pure class!!!

In full-on perfectionist mode I decided I wanted to change Mike's mitten yet again so undid it all and started again. Yes, this is my 3rd attempt but I'm so glad I did as now I've got something that we both really like.

The pattern has a cuff which is turned over and I wondered if Mike would always wear them like that or if he'd prefer just a longer length going up his arm. After bouncing around ideas we decided that he'd like the option to wear them either way. So I came up with an idea which excited us - a striped section.

Although the yarn is a lovely tweedy mix of many colours with specks of mustard, turquoise and red, the overall impression just seemed too dreary even for Mike who likes things relatively subdued. I decided to pick out one of the colours and insert some stripes. But which one?

Sorry it's out of focus!

More playing with some leftover yarn from this Fair Isle project helped us to choose red and further experimentation with swatches lead to a combination of 2 beautiful reds held together - one bright and one muted.

The 2 reds we chose are 187 Sunrise and  587 Madder in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift which I used in my 'Autumn Rose' pullover

This is where I've got to on the cuff and Mike loves it. It's flying off the needles now!

I also had time left for a bit of a darning session as there are far too many holey socks languishing around at the moment:

5 pairs of mine and 2 of Mike's

Out came my darning box where I keep my mending mushrooms and spare bits of yarn for each project.

I started with a pair of Mike's where the cast-on edge had been torn and a stitch had run leaving a ladder  that was easy to fix with a crochet hook and finished with a stitch

The heel wasn't quite as simple. The other sock had hardly any wear on the heel so he must have caught this one on something and what a mess it was!

I thought about knitting a new patch for it but decided a darn would work OK if done thoroughly

I started by doing a running stitch all the way round the hole and then out came my mushroom and the darning commenced. I quite enjoy darning and it's amazing what can actually be repaired with just a bit of time and effort.

In fine fettle once again

I've just checked the weather forecast for the weekend and it looks as if we're going to get soaked on Saturday and frozen on Sunday. Hey ho, I'll just have to get the job done whatever the weather!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Catching up!

I didn't have a marathon last weekend so Mike suggested I have a weekend of 'crafting'. Of course, by the time I'd caught up with everyday chores the time available shrank considerably but I still managed some odds and ends.

I crocheted these grannies last week using oddments of DK wool and wanted to see how well they would felt in the washing machine. Not as well as I expected actually so I might give them another go in a hotter wash. I'm looking for a firmer fabric to make into a cover for my sewing machine as the existing one is looking a bit tatty.

Mike's mittens have been causing me consternation as the small needles I was using made the stitches really difficult. It's a pattern using twisted, or Bavarian stitches, which is basically cables without using a needle and it's quite absorbing but hard on my fingers with the small needles so I decided to rip back and start again using slightly larger needles. Hey ho!

This is the most accurate colour

These mittens have turned into a Sisyphian task!

I managed to do a bit more of my Craftsy class on Crazy Patchwork and my mind is full of ideas. I like to listen to the whole course before doing anything so I've got a couple more modules and then I shall start on the coursework. In the meantime I've been rummaging around in my fabric collection which was great fun.

I also rooted out some old crochet doilies and linens which could be incorporated into the final design. I have loads of buttons, beads and trimmings I could add quite apart from the embroidery possibilities. I do love planning a project! I love the idea of re-purposing things rather than just discarding them - we live in a throw-away society which hoarders like me find very strange.

Old doilies and mats to be cut up and used as decoration

These are old mats I had on my dressing table when I was a child. I don't know how old I was when I embroidered them - the blanket stitch on the edges looks a bit wonky in places!

There have of course been plenty of training runs during the last week and on the days when it wasn't raining, which were few and far between, I've been taking photos for my Fair Isle cowl project. I won't be starting this until late Spring but I'll soon have enough images to make a start at the sketching/plotting stage.

The twigginess of this un-trimmed hedge interested me, as did the carpet of rusty-coloured leaves

These tractor tyre tracks made a nice pattern

It was the reflection that caught my eye here as I've been looking for something for the mid-point on the cowl and I like the idea of a transition using an upside-down image such as this.

I'll end with a photo of another of my Amaryllis flowers. This one is 'Charisma' and is very pretty:

Starting this weekend, the next few weeks are going to be rather testing on the running front as I've got lots of marathons and ultras building towards my 50 miler in April. Wish me luck!