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!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Will you still need me, will you still feed me…...

…..when I'm 64? Not my age in this case, just marathon 64; or rather, another Ultra.

Yesterday was the Chocathon Challenge over at the lovely Betteshanger Country Park which has changed its name from Fowlmead Country Park when I ran it the first time back in 2014. This was my 2nd visit this month but this time the conditions underfoot were not as bad thank goodness - although it was wet and a bit slippery in places this time we didn't have to wade through massive puddles. It was dull and drizzly for the most part with a strong wind whipping up in the last couple of hours.

The day before had been spent mostly preparing home-alone-husband fare:

Don't worry, he didn't eat them all in one day!!! The cake was actually for the race but didn't make it to the event but it didn't matter as there was plenty of cake leftover from the previous day's Cakeathon.

The weather forecast didn't look as bad as the last time I visited and although it was drizzly for most of the time, with the wind whipping up for the last couple of hours, conditions underfoot were much better. Last time there were massive puddles to wade through or go around but this time they were much smaller although some parts of the path became quiet slippery after we'd run over them a few times.

It was difficult to gauge how many layers to wear and so I put 2 on with a view to removing one if I got too hot, which of course I did after just one lap!

…and they're off.

Although a few of the usual suspects were taking part, there were lots of people I didn't recognise who were attracted by the fun nature of the event. Out of the 136 people taking part, 4 of us did an Ultra, 43 did marathon distance, 14 did between between 1/2 & marathon distance, 35 did 1/2 marathon distance, 20 did 2 laps & 20 did one 1 lap so there was a real mix. Some people were building up to marathon distance and others just starting running in a safe and supportive environment. 

The only downside to this was that the field really shrank as people finished and at one point it felt as if there was only Gary and me out on the course - we ran past eachother at different points on the loop without having seen anyone else inbetween even though I knew there were others still out there!

I had a plan on how I was going to run this event - start strong and run at a good pace for as long as it felt OK, slow down to recover and take photos then speed up for the last lap. Why speed up on the last lap? To train myself to run hard on tired legs. Once your legs start to tire it's all too easy to settle into the 'shuffle' but as I'm training for the 50 miler with a tough cut-off I need to be able to dig deep and put on a bit of a spurt if need-be. I've also altered my mind-set so that 13.1 miles is no longer my halfway point and 26.2 miles is not the end. This is really important as your mind can play all sorts of tricks on you during an ultra.

Each lap was 4.37 miles so my target was 45 minutes for as many as I could muster. That all went out of the window when I hooked up with speedy Ellan on the first lap. She was doing 4 laps on the day as she needed to get home early. Our chatter completely took my mind off the fact that I was going a tad too fast and when we reached the start/finish area we'd done it in just under 40 minutes - oops! I stopped to take off a layer and have a drink/eat chocolate/cake before heading off again.

As always, there was plenty of banter with fellow runners on each lap which is one of the beauties of an out and back loop. Everyone is so friendly and it's wonderful to see people achieving their own goals.

For the marathon it was 6 loops and I wanted to do 7 loops for an ultra. At the end of each loop I stopped briefly for some water and cake (Jackie, your mum's gluten-free orange cake was my favourite!) or chocolate and I managed 4 laps in bang on 45 minutes apiece and took 3 hours to get over halfway which really pleased me. The next 2 laps I slowed down a bit and took a few photos for my Fair Isle project (see below) then on the final lap I upped my pace and ran it much harder. I was delighted that my legs responded well and I crossed the line in 6:09:01 which is 26:09 minutes faster than 2 weeks ago!

Happy to finish

Mike couldn't believe it when I phoned him much earlier than expected and I had a big grin on my face all the way home.

Yay, a PB! (thanks to Philip and Dee for the photos)
Now this being the Chocathon and a Traviss event, it was no surprise that the goody bag was exceptional. Just look at all these goodies:

Mike soon polished off the chocolate stout.

I got another piece of fabulous bling complete with special badges for doing an ultra and getting a PB!

My next event is in 12 days time so I'll be putting in some quality training runs in the meantime. Now for some photos, mostly focused on my Fair Isle project.

This beautiful lake always catches my eye as the water is this amazing turquoise colour. On this occasion I loved the turquoise set against the beige of the reeds, the darkness of the evergreen trees and the silver/grey of the Birches standing in front. The ripples on the water also made a pleasing pattern.

More Silver Birches but showing the twiggy branches which are a rusty/pink colour. The bright green grass in the foreground really zings and I like the moody sky behind the upper branches.

There was an abundance of  Buddleias which self-seed like mad and my eye was drawn to the dark brown seedheads:

A rather moody image of the dark brown stems against the grey sky

Look how the rusty brown stands out against the green of the grass and moss whilst the leaves don't show up very well…..

…..whereas this little beauty had silvery-blue leaves and shone!

Moss and lichen were in abundance and their yellowy greens really zinged:

Coppery leaves on the ground here

The grey-black of the old slag heaps  seemed to intensify the colours and would make a good background for colourwork knitting.

On the craft front I'm still doing Mike's mittens when my fingers work properly, working on a Bargello sampler and preparing for the start of my crazy quilt.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Cheeky 3 (number 63)

I wasn't supposed to have a marathon this weekend but the sea and concrete of Dymchurch were calling to me and as Traviss had a spare place I was powerless to resist. John Masefield's words came to mind:

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied; 
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Well we certainly had a grey dawn didn't we and it was a bit windy although nowhere near as bad as the 40+mph winds we had back in November. Those brave souls who pounded the concrete the day before as well said that Saturday was a perfect day so it must have been me that brought the bad weather for Sunday- sorry about that!

It was quite foggy when I left home which was unfortunate as one of the lanes I use was closed off and I got sent into the network of single-track lanes I wouldn't choose to use when the fog is so dense it bounces back at your headlights when on full beam. Thankfully I encountered neither deer nor other vehicles so I arrived at Dymchurch bright and early. I headed off to collect my number, took a few photos and then went back to the car for a nice warm coffee.

The tide was out early on but the sand soon disappeared beneath a murky sea

Shades of grey and browns interested me

The railings made me think of corrugated rib (see below)

The ribbing I used for the Oregon cardigan is very like those railings and relates to my new Fair Isle project (details later)

Why did I take this photo of a rather uninspiring Martello Tower? Because the colours of the concrete interested me (stop calling me "saddo"!!!)

Before we set off Traviss made the usual announcements but there was a very special presentation for Tiago Dionso who has completed 400 marathons and got a special trophy as he has completed 100 marathons in 2 countries (UK and Portugal) + 100 road marathons, 100 trail marathons and 100 ultras. Wow, that's some tally!

It was my first Dymchurch that got me into HOKAs and I really can't imagine wearing anything else on  such an unforgiving surface. I had decided that I would use this as an endurance test - not in distance but in speed and would run at a pace that was comfortable for as long as I could and then slow down and see how I felt. Traviss had amended the route slightly to get rid of a silly little bit we had to run followed by laps and it was much better with just 5 x 5.25 mile laps.

I settled into what felt like a comfortable pace which was sub 10 minute miling on the outward stretch and sub 10.5 minute miling on the return as we were running into the wind, although it was nowhere near as bad as the 40+mph winds we had to negotiate back in November. People kept commenting that I was looking strong and flying along. I even managed to keep pace with speedy boys Philip and Clive until they got fed-up of an old biddy slip streaming them and trotted past as if they were just out for a nice jog in the park whilst I was running 'eyeballs-out'!!!

My first lap was bang on 50 minutes, as was my 2nd and then my third and having passed the halfway mark in 2:12 I decided to ease off and see if it had slowed down me down significantly for the remaining 2 laps.

I ran my penultimate lap feeling comfortable at 11 minute miling and then ran/walked the last lap with James again although we did have to put on a bit of a spurt for the last .75 mile to get in under 5 hours - 4:55:55 to be precise which happens to be a course pb by 25 minutes. Hoorah!

Another beautiful Dymchurch medal for my collection. I love the concrete-grey colour of this one.

So why the pacing? It's all part of my build-up to the 50 mile ultra I'm doing in April. There is a 12 hour cut-off as opposed to the very generous 15 hour cut-off at my only other 50 miler in 2007 which I completed in 13:26. Admittedly I didn't push myself in that and had a leisurely lunchbreak and a complete change of kit due to the torrential rain and thunderstorm plus I'm quite a different runner nowadays. But can you imagine not making the cut-off after all that effort? Even though you'd still get a medal it wouldn't be the extra special medal Traviss has designed. That's why I'm going beyond marathon distance whenever possible, to get my body used to not stopping at 26.2 miles and to get my mind focused.

Now for the knitting. Runners might want to skip this unless you want to learn about Fair Isle knitting!

I'd been procrastinating about purchasing Felicity's book since it was last reprinted and finally purchased my copy. I love the way she translates everyday images into knitting patterns. Anyone who knows me knows that I take loads of photos when I'm out on my training runs, and during marathons, and not just of pretty views. I love pattern and I love colour so it seemed logical that I should interpret them and have a go at my own patterns.

As I flicked through the pages I knew exactly what I want to create - a knitted cowl in wintery colours and with that in mind I've started saving photos into a separate album ready to start swatching when I feel I've got enough images. 

Here's a small selection of things I love and why they inspire me:

The stark outline of the branches of these poplars with the different colours of the sky seen through them

Log-pile with frost

The shapes on this wrought iron gate

Frost highlighting the grain on this gatepost

A wonderful amber glow after sunrise seen through the bare tree

Pampas plumes

A magnificent sunset over our fields

The patterns and colour of this brickwork in Lewes

The row of bright bricks stands out amidst the flints in this section of wall

These bunnies running along behind the zig-zag (from Jeskyns last week!)

That yellow line along the edge of the lower seawall really stands out against the browns around it. (Dymchurch last November!)

I think that'll do for now but there are loads more. This next weekend I shall be back at Betteshanger Country Park for another event where I hope to increase my ultra distance (depending on how the weather behaves of course!).

Monday, January 18, 2016

Number 2

Yesterday was my 2nd event of the year. It was originally planned to be held at Jeskyns Community Woodland near Gravesend but a few days before the event the wardens made the difficult decision to cancel due to conditions underfoot. It's been so wet for the last few months that all the trails were very muddy and they were concerned about the impact of a 100 or so runners on them.

This of course gave Traviss a huge dilemma - to cancel or reschedule the event. Many Race Directors would just have cancelled the event and offered a transfer to whenever it was held again (which can sometimes mean never and thus you've lost your entrance fee) but Traviss is a different RD altogether!

As soon as he learned the news he put out a message to all entrants and then the next day he had offered an alternate route with several options for everyone:

i) Run the new route, which was on tarmac but in the vicinity of Jeskyns, based out of the Cyclopark.
ii) Defer to the rearranged date in June.
iii) Transfer to another of their events.
iv) Save it as a race credit to be used at another of their events in the future.

There truly aren't many, if any, other Race Directors who would do that and that is one of the many reasons why his events are so popular. I chose option i) and I'm really glad I did.

On the morning of race day I looked out of the window at 5:30am and saw a white curtain of snow falling. Worse still, it was sticking to the ground and there was already a 3" covering. As most of the little lanes I'd be using to get to the main road do not get gritted this was a worry and so I checked the BBC website for traffic updates and weather forecast. It looked as if it was fine elsewhere so I set off and within 5 miles there was hardly any snow at all, phew! In fact, my journey took less time than usual.

Of course, I got lots of teasing from Traviss about my snow worries!

As always it was a very sociable event so there was always someone to chat with en route and the support from fellow runners is wonderful. I was feeling strong and had already decided to go beyond marathon distance depending upon the time (the event had to start later than planned which meant the 6 hour time limit took it to 4pm finish and I didn't want to get home too late).

Many of the Usual Suspects gather at the registration tent

Greg, on the left, was in charge of car parking and the man on his right was a Marshall who stood around in the bitter cold for hours

On the face of it the route was not glamorous; running on a gravel track alongside a busy motorway, over a couple of bridges, across a railway line, along a road, but I really enjoyed it. I've grown accustomed to going round in circles or out-and-back and although my heart is in the hills/trails I am happy to do this sort of route.

This route plan showing the route elevations someone uploaded from their GPS device made me chuckle!

I made the decision again not to take loads of photos unless there was something I just couldn't resist so the next 3 photos came courtesy of Gary Groutage who was snapping away as he supported us:

I couldn't believe how much I look like my late sister in this photo

Kirsty had a brilliant skirt teamed with her fluorescent socks

Phoebe managed to sleep through a large part of the run. How Rik managed over some of the trail terrain I really don't know!

I'd decided from the start that I was going to go over marathon distance again, by at least one extra lap, and I'd also decided that I would adopt a run-as-I-feel plan rather than trying to do a negative split (that means that you run the second half faster than the first half) which never seems to work for me. So I just set off at pace that felt right on the day and was delighted that I felt really strong. In fact, people kept commenting that I was running well and I hoped that it wasn't going to be a case of pride before a fall!

There was lots of chatter en-route and I was delighted to share a few more miles with James with whom I ran last weekend. He was intending to do 10 laps so we parted company after a while. This young man has some amazing things planned and the good thing is that I know he will achieve them.

For marathon distance you had to complete 7 laps and 8 laps or more would get an ultra so I was aiming for 8. When I got to my 8th lap I knew I had could easily do another lap but decided against it because the later start (10am rather than 9am due to the Cyclopark's opening hours) meant that I'd be getting home a lot later than planned. Plus, the thought of a nice warm car and Mike waiting for me was rather appealing.

The next 2 photos were taken on my last lap and I couldn't resist because even though I'd run over this bridge 8 times I hadn't noticed the bunnies:

Aren't they cute. I've no idea what the story of them is as I can't find any mention of them but they certainly made me smile.

My finish time was 5:45:04 for 30 miles which is much faster than last weekend so I was both surprised and pleased in equal measures.

The medal was really lovely, I got an ultra badge too, and the goody bag was so full of goodies that Mike said I should give some things away next time or we'll both get too fat from all the chocolate!

I'll leave with a photo of one of our beautiful Amaryllis which is blooming now. It's rather different from the usual ones and is Amaryllis Cybister Rose. I love it's fine petals.