Saturday, 31 March 2018

Bournemouth Quarter Marathon & Visiting The Mary Rose

I'm struggling to drum up much enthusiasm about this morning's race in order to describe it to you. It was a more or less out and back road race through fairly uninspiring suburbia, following the people in front along pavements on a cold, grey, windy day by the sea with no crowd support and silent marshals. 

My time was good: two minutes faster than the previous 10k, and I felt I ran technically well with negative splits and overtaking in the final couple of miles, but it really wasn't an inspiring or interesting race and one I doubt I'll return to. The organisation was good, the setting just wasn't my cup of tea. 

More interesting by far was our visit yesterday to the Mary Rose. Henry VIII's warship had seen 33 years of action and been substantially rebuilt in 1536 before she went under the waves during a battle with the French in 1545. She was brought back to the surface of the Solent in 1982 (I remember watching it on tv) and now lives in Portsmouth. When we last went, they were still spraying her so you couldn't see much. Now, she is on full view and Oh My Goodness is she amazing. I got goosebumps - M had to come back from the exhibits to find out where I'd got to, I just couldn't stop staring at her.

The whole thing has been done superbly, so the visitor experience is fantastic. All the items found on the ship make up the display which is on three floors and designed so you feel you are on the ship itself, with sections at the end describing life on board, the personal effects that were found and the story of the ship itself. 

I was struck by the longbows the last time we visited and they held me captive again yesterday, they just look brand new.

Number 8 is a fragment of string- all that's left from the bow string.
Longbows, looking shiny and new, not 500+ years old
The archer's skeleton tells a story of long hours of training from a young age- you can't decide to become a longbowman as a teenager or older, if you don't start training young, you don't build the necessary musculature needed to pull the string of the bow back. This archer has large depressions on his bones, especially the arm bones, which suggests his muscles were well-developed, he also has twists in his lower spine typical of longbowmen.

When we were leaving, we passed a sign quite some distance from the museum warning us we were in arrow-range of the Mary Rose. I couldn't believe how far it was. Really impressive.

It's definitely worth a visit to Portsmouth's Naval Dockyards Museum. You can buy tickets just for the Mary Rose, but Nelson's Victory is also there and having been on that before it's definitely worth a walk around, plus they have an early 20th Century warship painted in Dazzle Camouflage, black and white zigzag lines inspired by moths and mammals who use it to confuse predators, which is fascinating to see. The tickets are valid for a year too (I should be a tour guide).

Hope all are well? Happy Easter!

CT :o)

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Running 15 Miles With Poppy

The weather was a bit grotty here yesterday: dingy, misty, damp. It didn't awaken feelings of enthusiasm for the 15 mile run I had scheduled. I am disciplined about marathon training so, after dropping L off at the bus first thing and spending half an hour doing my strengthening and stretching routine which I try to do every morning (and sometimes fail to), Pop and I set off.

The furthest I've run before is 14 miles, and that was over a year ago when I'd only been running regularly for a few months. It was far too soon to jump up to that distance and it fundamentally exhausted me for quite a while after. I clocked up a good collection of quite gnarly hilly half marathons last year which have stood me in good stead and as a result I ended the year comfortable with the distance, but 15 still felt like a significant move up.

Fuelling becomes an issue for any run over about 13 miles. This is because your body can only store enough glycogen (a type of sugar (glucose) which is converted from carbohydrates and stored in the liver until it's needed) for 90 minutes of exercise. 
Running out of fuel is what runners call 'hitting the wall' or 'bonking.' I've heard about it lots of times, but only seen it once, when M forgot he'd changed the gels he was using on a marathon, thought they were his old ones that contained carbs but in fact had only salts. It wasn't nice to witness, he basically got slower and slower and collapsed at the end of the marathon dazed, unable to speak and not really aware of who I was. Shoving a banana down his throat worked wonders and within minutes he was properly conscious, but it took a while for his body to reset itself. It was scary and taught me a big lesson: take your fuelling seriously and always double check you've got what you think you've got.

Most marathon runners use gels, sachets of specially formulated carbs and electrolytes that replace glucose and salts. You gulp them down in one swallow without breaking your stride. This is great if speed is important, but I'm not keen on them for various reasons: they aren't always easy to digest and you don't want an upset stomach on a run, they're often made with synthetic flavours and sweeteners and I try to stay away from those kinds of products, and they just seem unnatural to me. M uses them to great effect, but I decided a while ago I would feel happier using real food as my long run fuel.

My ultra buddies who run over marathon distance fuel on real food. Anything that's a good source of readily available carbs and easy to digest, so we're talking pizza, white bread sandwiches, sausage rolls, that kind of thing.

On half marathons I take a back pack with a water bladder and a handful of jelly babies which I scoff around mile 10, depending on the weather. M had told me leaving refuelling that late on a longer run wouldn't work, because you've already depleted the stores too far. His advice for the marathon was to try having a small bite of a sandwich or similar at miles 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 and possibly 24. So more or less every half an hour.

Yesterday, I set off with my racing water pack on my back with half a ham sandwich, three mini sausage rolls and a handful of jelly babies stuffed into the various pockets. I also had my mobile and a 'run angel'- a personal safety device worn on the wrist which lets out a piercing alarm and sends your map co-ordinates  to 'guardians' (people listed on the app) as a message when you press the alarm. This is less from a fear of other people, and more because if I trip and fall in the middle of no-where and am unable to walk to get help, or worse semi-conscious, the run angel alerts my friends where I am with one simple push of a button. Maybe I should train Poppy to be able to press it too? :o)

It was always going to be trial and error using real food instead of gels, which have clear Instructions for consumption on the packets. We tucked 6 miles under our belts relatively easily and then stopped to share a ham sandwich. I chewed mine- Poppy gulped hers down in one go. It's not for nothing she's affectionately nicknamed Gannet at home. On we went, a small amount of indigestion in the form of a mild stitch appearing because I'm not used to eating and running, but it went quickly. 
I have trained myself to be able to run thirty minutes after eating a bowl of porridge, but running and eating at the same time is something else my body has got to get used to. Which is why you do all this in training. Even clothing you have to trial. I'd set off in compression capris which were so uncomfortable in every way after 5 minutes I looped back to the house and put shorts on instead. They were new, but they worked well, so I'll go for those on marathon day.

Seven miles in and it was still drizzling but the run was going well. We'd run out of the village, crossed the main road, gone over the cattle grid and into the New Forest. Forest ponies, cattle and donkeys all roam free through the forest and we ran past a donkey who was busily demolishing the cardboard boxes the householders had put out for recycling. I knew donks ate thistles, no idea they liked cardboard! 

We ran on along the road then tracked right over open forest past one of the area's famously dangerous but deceptively mild-looking lowland bogs (the unwary have been caught out there on more than one occasion), eventually finding our way along a muddy and puddle-decked gravel track beside one of the commons. Eventually, after getting caked in mud and then navigating a ford in full flood, we came out on a country lane which led to a cattle grid and a main road. Here we were at about ten miles, so we stopped for a couple of jelly babies before going on again. 

At 13 miles we were almost home. We shared the other ham sandwich and, with plenty of energy left, picked up the pace for the final two miles, arriving home in under 2.5 hours, which was a deal faster than I'd expected, but our route was far less hilly than my normal one.

I enjoyed it; my knee was fine, I wasn't especially tired and I felt I could have done another couple of miles quite happily, so that was all good. The fuelling was also great (I ate the sausage rolls for lunch), so ham sandwiches and jelly babies it is on race day, with some sausage rolls as back-up :o). Poppy was fine, although she was a little stiff when she woke up after her sleep in the afternoon, so I'm not sure she'll be doing the full marathon with me in May. She's fine today though, so we'll see.

I deliberately didn't stop when I got back from the run, apart from a long soak in a hot bath and a pause for lunch: I knew I would seize up and/ or fall asleep if I did, so I did loads of household chores, took Ted for a walk and then did the food shop in town. At the ham counter I asked whether I could buy one slice of ham on its own and, in response to the puzzled looks, explained why. The lass on the counter then told me all about her sister running last year's Southampton marathon with a stress fracture in her ankle! We ended the conversation with her thinking about coming along to the C25K course we're running in April. I love those kinds of conversations, the ones that feel like they start out randomly but end up making unexpected connections. What were the chances I'd end up talking to someone who wants to start running?

M had run 9 miles to work and 9 miles back yesterday, having done well over 100k last week, so by evening we were both ravenous. We stuffed ourselves with an enormous bowl of spaghetti and the leftover ham from the packet, with asparagus and courgettes in a cream and black pepper sauce, then had a salted caramel donut each and a starbar with a mug of hot tea while we watched the final episode of Shetland :o) After that we agreed we were finally full. I fell asleep just after ten and slept through till 8.30 this morning! Unheard of. I'm only slightly stiff today and although I feel a bit tired I'm better than I thought I would be.

Poppy crashed out on her bed by the fire last night as soon as I lit it and didn't move till bed time proper. She often sleeps with her head thrown back like that. I think it looks most uncomfortable, but then, I'm not a dog, so what do I know? Ted obviously felt the need to sleep close by and keep watch over her.

Next up, a quarter marathon this weekend before my next big run of 17 miles in two week's time. 26.2 is getting close....

Hope all are well?

CT :o)

Monday, 26 March 2018

Hundred Acres 5k- A New Racing Experience

I've not done a 5k (3 mile) race before, so yesterday's whizz through Hundred Acres Wood near Wickham was a new experience for me. The wood is part of Bere Forest, an ancient Saxon forest that once spread across the South. It was turned into a hunting forest by the Normans (the hamlet of Boarhunt, just down the road, hints at the area's past) and now is forestry commission managed, so there was a fair amount of pine which leant a wonderful, fresh scent to the air.

There was a 10k and a half marathon also running, but I'd booked the 5k when my knee was bad and it was too late to upgrade the distance, so I decided to stick with it and see what racing 5k felt like. I'd done the half mara at home on Tuesday, 5 miles with Pop on Friday, and 3 miles at parkrun on Saturday, so I wasn't anticipating running fast. Famous last words. It's very hard in a race not to race.

About a hundred or so competitors lined up at the start and soon we were off, running downhill along a gravel track, waved on by marshals and spectators. There were some dogs running with their people, too. I made a mental note not to tell Pop, who would've been furious had she known.

There was a small group of lead runners ahead of me, at least three of whom I reckoned had gone off way too fast and wouldn't sustain the pace, particularly as I knew the course had mud and hills still to come, so I decided I'd keep them in sight and wait and see what happened.

M (who was running the half) had asked a marshal at the start what conditions underfoot were like so he could decide which shoes to wear. My race being only 5k I knew trails would suffice, but he was considering fell shoes for the longer race. The marshal didn't really know and told us people were wearing road or trail shoes. He'd settled for trails, but as we came off the gravel path and swung left onto a very muddy track, I realised he'd need fell shoes to navigate those ground conditions successfully at speed. We thought the half marathon was starting half an hour after the 5k and I had a moment's panic when I realised I might not be back in time to tell him. So I ran faster :o)

The lady in front of me had road shoes on which have no grip and she was struggling to navigate the edges of the muddy puddles. It's never a good strategy: you're much better off getting wet and running through the middle of mud and puddles, so I overtook her by doing that, my more grippy trail shoes helping me stay upright.

We came off the mud and back onto gravel tracks. At the bottom the path swung left and up a hill where a young lad and an old guy were struggling, their pace slowing and their breathing heavy. I enjoyed chasing them down and overtook them both and then wondered how many more people were ahead.

The route doubled back on itself so I was soon able to answer that question by counting the number of people coming back past me. Not too many. I was running well, felt strong, was keeping up a good pace and knew I was in a reasonable position in the field. All good.

However, the lead runners soon pulled ahead out of view and I knew I wouldn't catch them, so I settled for keeping the race position I'd got and hoped the lady I'd seen as I doubled back who looked fit and strong and was a few runners behind me wouldn't catch up. That thought, (and the need to tell M to change his shoes), pushed me on. I was close to the limit of being comfortable pace-wise by now, but there was only 2k to go and I knew I could keep it up and keel over at the end if needs be :o)

I turned left into the final km and realised it was all uphill: a long, steep, hill with a gravel track winding up it that seemed to go on forever. I do a lot of hill training at home, there are 6 steep hills in my home half mara route. I'm not fast up them by any means, but I can at least keep running and I recover quickly at the top. Most people hate hills but M taught me long ago the psychological benefits of training yourself to love them. So I dug deep, lifted my breathing to in-out and concentrated on keeping going, knowing that where I was running, other people would be walking (whether this was true or not, I have no idea: it's the believing it that's the important bit).

It worked. I got up the hill still running (just) and crossed the line in time to tell M to put his fell shoes on :o). I did feel sick as expected at the finish (a build-up of too much lactic acid from working hard) but it went once I'd stopped running and my body had a chance to get rid of it. I was really pleased with my result, but to be honest it wasn't a strong field. Still, it was a lovely morning's run through a beautiful wood, and who wouldn't want a Winnie the Pooh and Tigger medal? :o) 

Hope you are all well.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Reconnected & Running News



Romsey Abbey in the snow

Wild daffodil

We've been without internet, house or mobile phones for the best part of a fortnight. This has affected me less than other members of the household, but even my patience was worn wafer thin by the terrible customer service we received. 

After a week of waiting for it to be fixed, I drove into Romsey to find sufficient signal to find out what was happening and spent fifteen minutes sitting in the car in a car park running through a seemingly never-ending loop of the game can you spell your postcode? followed by one of can you spell your email? Why do you need my email? I queried. So we can update you on progress. But I don't have any internet at home so that would be rather pointless. There was a short pause, then: well, I need it to fill out the form so I can ask someone to find out why you've got no internet. It went on like that for half an hour and I was none the wiser at the end, poorer by half an hour of my life and consumed by the desire to deprive the customer service representative of her phone line for a fortnight. It's back on now, although at a slower speed than before it got broken.

The snow that came last weekend put an end to our plans to drive to Devon on Sunday and run the Grizzly. Our running chums were here for supper on Saturday night. The meal was dominated by frequent glances outside to gauge when they needed to leave to be in with a fighting chance of making it home, and doubts that any of us would be going anywhere tomorrow. In the end, the only friends who ran the reduced course (bravo to the organisers for stoically marshalling in freezing blizzard conditions) were those who'd driven down before the snow came. I've seen the pictures- it looked epic. It was the first year all eight of us had got in so we're sad we couldn't be there as planned, but everyone gets priority entry for next years' race so I expect we'll all do it then instead.

M went out on Sunday with the intention of running 20 miles at home instead, and returned three and a half hours later having done 24, and with a frozen face that meant that, for five minutes at least, he was unable to make much sense. Once I'd ascertained it wasn't permanent and he wasn't in pain, I allowed myself a good ten minutes of being bent over in a fit of giggles at his fish-lips and failed attempts to force coherent sound out.

Pop and I did a more sensible 7 miles along snowy lanes and through snowy woodland with not another soul present. It was bliss, and very beautiful, on virgin snow.

On Tuesday, we did a half marathon (13.1 miles) together around the lanes at home. Poppy celebrated afterwards with some posh dog nosh and I celebrated with a starbar (which I think you'll find is an essential component of marathon-training kit).

Yes, that's right, I did say marathon. I've been steadily upping my miles over the past six weeks and after successfully navigating the half on Tuesday, can now let you all in on a secret: my marathon ambitions for 2018 have been reinstated. Barring complete disaster (and you never know with endurance running), in nine week's time Poppy and I shall be setting out on our first trail marathon together. M is cycling to strategic points where, if she isn't happy, he will collect Pop and cycle on to the next one with her. We are in discussions at the moment as to whether she goes in a basket on the bike or in a rucsac :o) 

Joking aside, I have taken advice from people who run marathons with their dogs and the organisers of the race and the general consensus is they are more than capable of doing 26.2 miles, as long as they've done the training and the weather is appropriate. So, if it's a boiling hot day, the fall-back plan is for her to join me on the last six miles only. She won't like that but her welfare is obviously my top priority. I have no qualms about her being fit enough to run the distance- she did a fast 19 mile run with M last year and after Tuesday's half, she slept for an hour and then was up annoying Ted chasing him round the house and garden all afternoon. You'd never know she'd been running at all.

I'll leave you with a text exchange L and I had this week while I was trying to find him after the bus had apparently returned to the bus stop without him....

Have a great weekend, all.

CT :o)

Monday, 12 March 2018

Proof That Badgers Don't Hibernate In Snow & That Woodcock Like Peanuts

I put the wildlife camera out during the recent snow and promptly forgot about it. Today I've been out to retrieve it. Quite pleased with the results. The woodcock is a first for me on any camera. I'd never have got the shot without a remote motion-activated one attached to a tree. The nearest I normally get to woodcock is when they explode at my feet, utterly hidden thanks to their cryptic camo until I nearly tread on them and they shoot up into the air. He is a bit gorgeous, don't you think?

The temperature reading on the camera for that pictures shows -5. There is an accompanying video which rather delightfully shows him probing through the snow for the peanuts in shells I'd put out for the badgers, which lie buried under about 4 inches of the white stuff. Just shows how hard it is for birds in those conditions.

The other two photos are of the bodgers. Also out in very low (minus) temperatures and ferreting about in the snow for the peanuts. If anyone insists on telling you that badgers hibernate through winter you can put them right (with photographic evidence) now :o)

BTW, ignore the date on the bottom pics, I'd put new batteries in the camera and forgot to reset it, and the time is also wrong for the same reason!

Hope you're all well,

CT :o)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Bees, Toads, Dogs & Cross-Country Racing

So, another busy week closes. Summer 'is a cumen in' (as the old song has it)- I had my first bumble bee rescue of the year on Thursday. On my way into town I discovered a large bumble snoozing on the car. I couldn't leave her there so I picked her up (ignoring the leg lifted in warning telling me how ferocious she was) and transplanted her onto the daphne, where she hung for ages feeding. Tired and hungry and a little chilly after a winter hibernating underground, no doubt. The last thing a bumble wants to do is sting you; they go through an elaborate warning routine to put you off picking them up which involves lifting a leg or two then showing you their sting, but as long as you're careful they are fine being gently picked up and placed somewhere more safe.

The toads have also come out of hibernation. A few nights ago I woke and heard a tawny owl calling softly outside the window. In the pauses between his 'whooos', the toads could be heard, also singing They make a soft, cooing noise a little like a bullfinch's call. It's a lovely, quiet song that I look forward to hearing every spring. I have lost count of the number of times I've been serenaded back to sleep by a toad.

On Friday the dogs had their hair cut. They smell nice and look neater. Ted is all ears though and Poppy all eyes. 

Yesterday, we were up early and off to Wiltshire for White Star Races' Larmer Tree Half with friend Sue. I wasn't running (too slippy hilly for the knee just yet) so contented myself with cheering instead. Apparently, it was a cracking course, a little over 14 miles with a couple of big hills and a thigh-high snow drift thrown in. M and Sue had a fab race and there were lots of people dressed as peacocks.

Last night we went into Winchester to see The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Theatre Royal. One of my favourite plays at one of my favourite venues. It was a treat from M and we had box seats where we had hot chocolate (me), and beer (M) and salted caramel ice cream (both). The play was excellent, very funny and perfectly performed. I didn't fidget once, which is very unlike me, and found myself laughing out loud (If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.” And: "To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution."). Algernon was particularly good.

This morning, we've been into the New Forest for a CC6 race with fellow club runners. 5 miles along forest tracks, through mud, up a few tidy hills. I really enjoyed it, ran a steady pace with my knee newly strapped using a fancy strapping technique done for me on Friday by Angela, and all was well. It was bloomin' freezing out on the plain though, a really cold, strong wind that had everyone shivering and reluctant to peel off the layers at the start. Once we got into the trees it warmed up and I rather regretted my layers. A cup of tea and some lovely homemade cake at the end were just the job and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. A good way to end the week. Now it's onwards to the Grizzly Cub. Happy Days :o)

Hope you are all well?

CT :o)