Monday, 31 October 2016

Knock-On Benefits Of Running & A Question Of Makeup

Am I alone in not wearing much makeup? When I was a teenager I did, because there was this sense that if you didn't, you somehow weren't taking proper care of yourself. I suspect that idea came straight out of the horrible fifties and I sincerely hope it isn't being shoved on to young women today in the way it was thirty years ago. Since I hit my forties I just can't be bothered. Perhaps with Age comes Confidence.

I am constantly appalled by the huge multi-billion pound industry that exists to promote lotions and potions and instruct women that what they really need is toners, sun protection cream, cleansers and moisturisers before they've put on foundation, blusher, mascara, eyeliner, lip liner, lip gloss etc etc etc every single day. The function of skin is to breath and expel toxins. It can't do that if it's clogged up with products.
Years ago I was asked by a lady what products I used because my skin was clear and healthy-looking. I told her I drank copious quantities of water, ate a good diet and steered clear of any skincare products that contained parabens, sodium laureth sulphate, parfum and colours. I'm not sure she believed me, so much has our faith in a simple approach to things been eroded.

I am very dubious about the ethics and politics of the skincare and makeup industries and the impact it all has on women's lives. Have we really reached a point where we're so used to seeing female faces painted that we don't think they are beautiful without it? Would we not be better off empowering women to feel beautiful without artificial decoration so the pressure is off for those who'd rather not? I personally feel Feminism will have done it's job when women can make informed choices without being sneered at either way.

It's now ten weeks since I started focusing seriously on my running. During that time, an interesting side-effect has taken place: we've drastically reduced the amount of meat we eat and have moved to fish, vegetables and rice, and we eat earlier in the evening. The result is my digestion is working properly for the first time in ages; I feel lighter, cleaner and more energised as a result, as well as properly hungry the following morning.

The knock-on benefits are interesting, too. When we took Uncle Charles out for Afternoon Tea on Saturday, I found I didn't want the cakes. I gobbled down the sandwiches because we'd not long been back from Parkrun, and then found I was looking round in vain for some fresh green stuff to go with it. Don't get me wrong, I still make cakes and eat them, and a packet of crisps in the evening is a treat, I just don't reach for these things in the same way I did. The heavy after-taste of sugar has become too overwhelming and I'd rather have raw fruit and veg. I've also stopped drinking which has been easier than anticipated, especially when the headaches that have been there the majority of the time for many months now have disappeared as a result, taking with them matching sore and cramped neck, shoulder and back muscles. I know it may all sound rather boring, but I feel so well on this new regime there's no way I'd go back.

Training-wise last week I ran a little over 24 miles which breaks down as: 1.79 miles on Monday; 8.74 miles Tuesday; rest Wednesday; 3.3 miles Thursday; rest Friday; 3 miles Sat and 7.5 miles Sunday (please note the Rest Days and that I am being Sensible).

At Parkrun I shaved off another 40 seconds and am now coming in in under 24 minutes. I'm very chuffed about this, although I was completely out of breath by the time I crossed the finishing line and doubtless unbecomingly beaded in sweat and glowing purple too, but who cares about that, eh? Especially when everyone else is beetroot-coloured too and we're all smiling and cheerfully clapping one another on the back :o)
My focus is now on reaching under 23 minutes, something I really didn't think was remotely realistic a few weeks ago. It just shows what practice, focus, perseverance and determination can do for you. 

Yesterday's 7 mile run was fun. I managed the first 5 miles without walking, then we did interval training over the remaining 2 which included a few hills, and got back to the car in 1.08 hours. It wasn't as hard as the off-road run we did on Tuesday, but I did find the relentless tarmac a bit boring, so on balance I think a mix of off-road and lanes is probably a good compromise. We're planning to head back out to the Giant Mousse Hill Run next weekend because I want to know if I can run it faster second time round. I have a feeling my improved Parkrun time is due to the extra miles and the speed work I've put in recently.

That's pretty much it from here for now. Ted has tried out his new bra harness and although he likes it, has decided road running isn't for him anymore (too sore on his paws I suspect, either that or there aren't enough squirrels about to tempt him) so he's going to stick to cross country running instead from now on. Oh, and I've just heard that #2 son passed his driving test this morning, first time. Go, F!

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dad's Ten Minute Walks.....

Baby Goldfinch (note the lack of red face)

We have a saying in our house: 'It's A Dad Ten Minute Walk.' This refers to a memorable Scottish holiday years ago when a short walk was proposed by Paterfamilias to aid digestion after supper. The kids eyed the Gathering Dark doubtfully but agreed, and an hour a half later we stumbled back down off the mountain in the pitch black.

It's been part of the family lexicon ever since. Mind you, with two of them holding certificates in Advanced Teenager and one being 21 and All Sophisticated, they've long since forgotten what it means to use your legs to walk in the company of your parents, let alone in the countryside.

I mentioned over the weekend that I wanted to do a longer run of 8 miles on Monday, bearing in mind the potential half-marathon target next year. I've got a couple of 6 milers and a few 5 mile runs under my belt in the past fortnight and not found the upped distance too hard. M eagerly agreed (which should have been my first cause for alarm) then said he'd work out a nice off-road route (which should have been my second).

We got up promptly yesterday and set off across the fields. It dawned on me after we'd been going for ten minutes or so that it was mainly up hill and I was struggling to run. I had put in a fair few miles the previous week and it was taking its toll. Mindful of advice from more experienced runners, I decided not to worry about the time and concentrate on the distance instead, walking the bits where I needed to catch my breath.

On we went (still up hill) until we reached the brow of a beautiful open field with views across the country. I was starting to relax when, bridging the brow revealed the biggest hill you've ever seen, fully cloaked in mud and chalk, stretching up for miles in front of us. It looked like the farmer had spread chocolate mousse dotted with flecks of cream all over it, smoothing the surface with a spatula. 
M trotted up it with the dogs as if it were a mere molehill. I managed to run about half of it before succumbing to an undignified breath-heaving walk. M, in the mean time, had reached the top, turned round, trotted back down, and then trotted back up again beside me, chatting all the way while I gasped for breath and just about managed to make barely-audible half-grunts in reply. Hmmm.

After about 6k it dawned on me that the entire run to that point had been more or less of an inclining upwards nature and I was knackered. My 4.5 - 5.4 minutes per km times had long since gone out the window and the GPS was beeping 6 and then 7 minute kilometres. My legs felt alternately like jelly and lead, although interestingly my lungs were fine. This is where being stubborn determined helps. There was no way I was stopping and abandoning my target no matter how hard it was.

At 6.7k we breached the top of the Down and at long last began to run downhill. Something strange has been happening to me since I upped my distances. I am finding the first 5k of any run hard, mentally and physically, but when I reach 6k suddenly all the hard work feelings vanish and my body starts to work in a smooth, steady rhythm. Ted has a labour-saving jog he does and I liken it to that. The annoying voice in my head that has spent the past 20 mins nagging away saying: oh, I'm tired, this is hard work, or: let's walk for a bit, or: even better, stop and go home and try again tomorrow completely disappears and my km times start to improve.

So it was with Monday's run. Once we were over the Giant Mousse Hill, I overtook M and found myself flying along the edge of another Chalk field beside a belt of ancient woodland, buzzards mewing overhead, Poppy zooming in front of me and Teddy running along behind his Dad. I couldn't quite believe I was the same woman who, barely ten minutes before, was really struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

I ran the next km in 5.15 then had a small sit down on a stile while Pop, who had disappeared into the wood and could be heard merrily and systematically putting up pheasants as she quartered her way through the trees, was relocated. The next km flashed by in a steady 5.05 and the one after that as well. Then came a nasty hill pretending to be a gentle slope but with such soft ground it was worse than running along a pebbly beach (I walked up it with my hands on my knees while M trotted to the top and came back for me, talking merrily all the way. Grrr), then it was downhill through a farmyard, uphill across a corn field, along a field with Curious Cows, through a wood, past a pheasant cover strip, through a pathway full of nettles and thistles, and out onto a lane which we followed until we got back to the car.

As we got close to the car the GPS said we'd run 12km, which is about 7.5 miles (and short of my target of 8) in 1.22 hours which is the furthest I've yet run (and the slowest!).

Despite feeling the distance in my legs there was no way I was going to stop before I'd done 8 miles, so I ran on, while M put the dogs in the car (much to their bemusement) and caught up with me further down the lane. I waved him on because although the GPS now said 12.8km (which is about 8 miles), I still had energy left and wanted to see how far I could get. I turned left onto the main road and ran steadily up the footpath to the crossroads where M was waiting for me. At that point the GPS told me I'd run 14.07 km, or 8.74 miles. I felt I'd done enough to stop and my legs and lungs were all saying they'd more or less had enough too.

Well done, said my grinning husband, as I crawled into the car, that was not an easy run. In fact, he added cheerfully, it probably equates to more like over ten miles on a flat road.

It was definitely the running equivalent of a Dad Ten Minute Walk. The lesson here is if you want an easy introduction to upping your distances, don't put your speedy-marathon-running-hill-conquering husband in charge of the route. On the plus side, having had such a hard introduction to a 14k run, it can only get easier from now on!

We got home, stretched out in the garden and did ten mins of yoga (which is not easy when you've a Jack Russell determined to lick the salty sweat off your face/ hands/ arms as you do Downward Dog and Pigeon) and I lasted the rest of the day without collapsing or struggling to walk. I even ran up the stairs to give L his night-time hot water bottle. Even better, my GPS told me I'd burned off 900 calories so I felt justified in a homemade peanut butter and white chocolate brownie :o).

This week's targets- to survive yoga on Thursday without being an aching bundle of muscles for three days afterwards, to improve my Parkrun PB of 24.38 on Saturday and to run 7 miles along the lanes with M. On the flat with not a mousse-laden hill in sight.

Hope you are all well?

CT :o)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Ted's Diary

Hello Friends!

How are you all? I am Very Well and so is Poppy (although she is still naughty- of course).

We have had an Eventful Week. Mum and Dad abandoned us. I knew it was coming because I watched The Bags being brought downstairs and got that sinking feeling that every dog and cat knows when their people are about to abandon them. I have told mine lots of times that I don't like it when they go away. I really thought I had made the point sufficiently well last time for them to understand (I cried all night long and kept my Boy awake) and that they wouldn't do it again. Clearly, I was WRONG.

Poppy and I went to stay with Grannie and our Westie cousins (Dylan and Dougal) and my Boy came with us. Before Mum and Dad left, I made certain to lie right in the middle of doorways looking disconsolate staring at the wall. It didn't work. Dad just said oh dear Teddy and ruffled my head before stepping over me and Mum told me to man up! Can you believe it?!

I spent the first night crying in Grannie's kitchen (until she came downstairs and asked me to stop). On the second night I only cried a little bit, but on the third I trod on a dying wasp and it stung my paw and boy did it hurt! I sat on Grannie's lap (on the sofa- don't tell Dad) with a blown up paw and cried and cried and shook and shivered. I was so beside myself I couldn't even eat supper and said no thank you very politely to Grannie in a small, sad voice when she brought me my biscuits.

My boy texted Mum in Ireland to tell her about the sting and the Supper Refusal but it was still another day before they came home!

When they got back I decided the best way to show how cross I was about them going was to continue my hunger strike. Dad didn't notice at all so that would have been hopeless except luckily Mum was there, because, as we all know, Mums notice absolutely everything. This can sometimes be annoying, like when you've accidentally caught a pigeon and don't know what to do with it and there are tell-tale feathers in your beard, or when there is Something Interesting dead in the verge but you aren't allowed to stop and sniff it.because Mum knows you'll also try and roll in it. 
She asked Dad to sit with me and give me a reassuring cuddle while she carried on making their supper. Dad said will that work? in a sceptical sort-of voice but Mum just smiled and said yes in a knowing sort-of voice that made me determined that it wouldn't.

I was enjoying the attention and worse still my tummy was starting to rumble terribly and I really thought I was going to give in and start eating. I had just strengthened my resolve to hold out at least till morning when Poppy, who had gulped her food down in one go (because she never worries about anything), appeared and started nosing about my bowl making I'm going to eat this if you don't type noises. Well I wasn't prepared to carry the point into ridiculous territory was I? So I made a small growl, licked Dad's noise and quickly ate my supper. I was quite hungry by then.

I have now fully recovered from being abandoned and am back to shouting at the postman, and anyone else who comes within barking range and eating whatever's put in front of me straight away. I'm confident that this time, I have made my point clearly and there will be no further abandonings.

After all that was out the way, we went out running with Mum, who did her second 10k this week after a couple of runs without us in Ireland. Dad was competing in the Skibbereen Adventure Race in Western Cork- it took him nearly FIVE HOURS to run, cycle and canoe the course and Mum was convinced he'd splatted himself on the roads, which are very lumpy bumpy and full of hills. Mum was marshalling so she enjoyed watching and encouraging the athletes and as a result, wasn't too exhausted to enjoy her Murphys in the pub that night :o) Dad is half Irish and his family come from Western Cork which Mum says is the most beautiful place on Earth. She fell in love with Dad's cousin's puppy while she was there. She said it looked just like Pop and that she was tempted to bring it home. I am glad she didn't because I think we'll all agree that one Poppy is enough, frankly.

Pop has a special harness everyone calls her Bra for when we go running. This is to protect her neck because she is Eager and likes to rush about in front. Mum suddenly announced on her return from Ireland that she's brought me a harness too, because I get distracted on runs and like to stop for a wee or a poo or to sniff interesting smells and she's worried about my neck getting wrenched. I am in two minds about this. On the one paw, I always try to put my head through Poppy's bra (harness) before she can, and have wanted one of my own for ages. On the other, I am very much afraid that everyone will call my harness a Bra too. Can you imagine the mortification? Imagine if we're going running with friends and Mum calls out Ted! It's time to put your Bra on. I am in a slight sweat of dread about the whole thing. Can I ask you, my dearest Bloggy Pals, to encourage her not to tease me about it, please, and just to call it a harness and not Ted's Bra?

Anyway, that's about all the news from here. The badgers have dug up a bee or wasps nest by the side of the lane. It's miles underground so how on earth they knew it was there Lord only knows. Poppy has just got into trouble for trying to eat a bee and Mum says can I tell you all that she did her first proper Yoga class yesterday and as a result can not lift her arms up today :o) We hope you are all well.

Lots of Love,

Teddy x

Thursday, 13 October 2016

To Rest Or Not To Rest? And Running 10K


I've had a virus in my ear for the past fortnight. Usually, I'd let time do its thing, but we're flying to Ireland in a few days and having flown with ear infections before I didn't fancy it much, so I went to see a healer friend who did his thing and then turned to me with an evil grin and said you won't like what I'm going to say.
Rest? I hazarded.
Yup. And athletes are always THE WORST people to treat because they WON'T STOP. If you run with a virus it'll just take longer to get better.

Needless to say I ran the Parkrun two days later (putting in my best time yet, incidentally) but I have tried to heed his advice and be good this week and slow down a bit. By this morning though I was Utterly Fed Up With Being Good (and feeling tired as a result) so I threw caution to the wind, hooked the dogs up to their running leads, put on my running shoes and set off down the lane.

It is a beautiful day here: bright sunshine, sharp, cool, clear, although it was a bit murky first thing. I am training for a 10k  (6 miles) at the end of December and have given myself 13 weeks to move up from regular 5ks to that distance. However, last week I was feeling good and did an 8k which went well, so this morning I decided I'd run slowly and see if I could push the distance a bit more and do the 10k.

The long and short of it is I did, and I wasn't tired when I finished and I'm not aching now. I'm really chuffed. The sense of achievement and of proving to yourself you can do something is second to none. The natural high has been somewhat enhanced by the knowledge I've burnt off the glass of red, chocolate bar and piece of cake I ate last night too  :o)

All this got me thinking about my friend's exasperation over athletes' reluctance to rest for prolonged periods. M knows someone who does triathlons at World level for his age (in his 60s). He was at the World Championships a few years ago defending his title and afterwards when M caught up with him to ask how it had gone, the friend said Oh, I had a stomach bug that morning. M assumed he hadn't raced, and then the friend added So I only came in third.

I have noted with friends who are ultra-endurance runners that the thing that gets them round a 50 or 100 mile run isn't so much the fitness (although of course that counts) as their mental strength and the ability to focus with undistracted 100% attention on completing the race and accomplishing their goal. The reason I took another 10 seconds off my Parkrun PB last weekend was largely because M told me beforehand he thought I'd only be able to do it in 2-3 second increments from now on. Well I wasn't having that! I don't think any of us should let someone else define our limits for us. There's a lot to be said for telling yourself you can do something, not messing about and just getting on and doing it (or trying, because if you try and don't manage it that's still better than not trying at all).

Where I got to with it was this: athletes have a mindset of determination to carry on regardless, and it is this, essentially, which marks the difference between achieving your goals and not. Some might call it stubbornness, and my friend certainly thinks its foolhardy, but the reality is, if I had heeded his advice completely, I would not have shaved a few more seconds off my PB at last weekend's Parkrun, and I would not have achieved my goal of running 6 miles this morning, ten weeks ahead of schedule. Both these things gave me such a buzz and a very real sense of achievement that I suspect the mental benefits have had as much of a positive effect on my immunity and bug-fighting ability as rest would have done. Food for thought.

Ted would like me to tell you all that he and Poppy ran the 6 miles with me and they don't know what all the fuss is about. He'd also like to say that he narrowly escaped having to do a celebratory dance in the kitchen to Seal's Crazy, which is on my Ipod running playlist, unlike Poppy who made the mistake of not escaping into the garden when the opportunity offered as the first bar started, and was scooped up and bopped about with until she felt dizzy.
They are both snoozing now in a patch of sunlight on the carpet.

Hope all are well? I'm off to catch up on your excellent blogs :o)


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Ted's Diary: October So Far

A Mixed Bag is how I'd describe October so far. This is because it's so far mainly contained a weekend, and weekends can be hit-and-miss in terms of how much Poppy and I get out and about.
You'd think having all the family home would mean more walks not fewer, but alas it doesn't translate that way. Mum and Dad are up and out early running and the teens are fast asleep in bed until they get home, and then they spend the afternoon doing dull things like shopping for furniture in places Poppy and I aren't allowed to go, or pottering in the garden where we've already spent the entire morning anyway.

This past weekend is a case in point. Saturday, despite the terrible weather, they left the house soon after eight so that mum could run a Parkrun and dad could be a marshal. Mum says I have to tell you all that she did her best time yet, under 25 minutes, despite the pouring rain. She was listening to music so she didn't have to hear all the heavy rasping breathing from 700 other runners :o). The last runner came in at about 55 minutes and everybody cheered him on like mad.

Then on Sunday it was the Clarendon Marathon which goes between Salisbury and Winchester. This meant they left the house early again and weren't home till mid afternoon. Dad was running that one and he did very well, finishing it in a little over three hours. Mum ran the last bit with him and shouted at him a lot, apparently, but it worked because he said he thought someone else was about to overtake him so he ran faster to make sure they didn't. At the end he had his photo taken with the Lord Mayor. He thinks he probably made her pristine white gloves a bit sticky because an energy gel exploded over his hand half way round and he couldn't wipe it off. Poppy laughed at this, because she is naughty.

So basically, they took care of their own exercise needs all weekend long and ignored mine and Poppy's completely. All we got was a two mile run on Sunday afternoon with mum while dad was easing tired muscles in the bath. I think you'll agree that for a pair of peak-of-fitness type hounds such as myself and Poppy, two miles is nothing. We could run that with our paws tied behind our backs for heaven's sake (figuratively speaking).

We made sure they realised we were fed up by rampaging around the house all Sunday evening, throwing shoes around and biting each other and growling and dragging the beds about while they were trying to watch The Walking Dead. In the end, mum got out the dreaded clothes spray water bottle and squirted me with it. Oh, the indignity! Poppy sniggered because she avoided getting sprayed, but I happen to know she's got a hair cut and shampoo coming up with Mrs D next week and I haven't, so the snigger will be on the other paw then, heh?

Today, things have improved significantly. Poppy and I were berserk with excitement at the thought of a proper walk. Last week we went out for a run with a new friend called Alfie who is quite slow because he has arthritis. It made me feel quite sleek and fit, being able to bound casually ahead of someone. Because usually on our runs, Poppy is way out in front and even mum can out run me towards the end. But then I am 7 and a half and that is Quite Considerable. I wondered hopefully whether Alfie might be coming again today, but as it turned out we went out for a longer run than usual (over 5 miles) as part of mum's training for her 10k so it was just us three.

We started off going down the lane where the badgers have been digging holes in the verge and putting their poos in them, we ran past the place where the cat sits and spits at us (no manners, although we enjoy rushing at it and making it fear for its life), past the gate that has a Mystery Jack Russell living behind it (I know this because it always barks at us and it sounds just like Poppy. Two of them on the lane, heaven help us) and along Chaffinch Alley where they all fly around squeaking. Then we went up the long hill where two tractors and three lorries drove past, and two people on bicycles that Pop growled at. Then we ran down a steep hill Very Fast where I stopped for a quick poo, and on through the fields at the bottom where Poppy said she saw a squirrel jumping into the hedge. We looked but couldn't find it and then had to run like mad to catch mum up. We went past the pigs, who rushed off  looking ridiculous and shouting at the tops of their voices with their funny squiggly tails held over their chubby bottoms, round the corner along the muddy track, down the nettly path between the hedges (mum and I both got stung), along the track where two badger holes and one rabbit front door are, and back out onto the lane then round another loop up the hill and down the hill before we got home.

We're both a wee bit tired now but it's good to get the tickle out of your paws after a slightly lazy weekend, isn't it?

Hope you're all keeping well? There was a dead squirrel on the road today but I couldn't stop to sniff it because I wasn't allowed to.

All the best,

Ted :o)