Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Race Report - The Terminator

A sufficient number of days have passed since Sunday’s race that I now feel up to the task of writing about it.  Plus the organisers have posted their results so further procrastination is clearly not an option.

First challenge of the day was deciding what to wear; suffice to say it was cold, bitterly so in fact.  I heard tell of the fact that there was river crossings and to expect high levels of shin-deep mud.  I was torn between full length running tights and capri style but opted for the full length in the end (and was glad I did as up on the ridges the wind seemed to find itself getting into all sorts of places it shouldn’t have).  Top half was a long-sleeved running top under my club’s vest.  This was the first time I had worn my club’s strip and it was actually really nice; the club had a good turnout at the event with 7 of us in all and it was great to feel part of a group.  It was also great hearing the marshals shouting encouragement aimed specifically at me as in ‘Come on Calne, you’re doing well’ and ‘Keep it up Calne, not much further to go’ and other cheery comments along much the same lines.   The fact that the ‘not much further to go’ was clearly a white lie did not detract from the fact that she had managed to single me out from the crowd.
I got to the venue bright and early (over an hour before the start) to be confronted by several hundred runners already there.  Varying levels of nervousness amongst the contestants presented themselves (some of the portaloos were already a ‘no go’ zone) although much bonhomie and back slapping was also evident.  Most of my club colleagues were there and debating what to wear; clearly the hot-topic of the day.  Much incredulity ensued  that I was not intending to wear a thermal top, buff, hat or gloves but honestly, we were about to tackle 12 miles of energy sapping off-road course with four steep climbs thrown in for good measure, I didn’t feel that wrapping up like Nanook Of The North was a viable option.  In fairness I was bloody freezing waiting for the off but I felt my long term strategy was sound and I have to say it proved so.  Apart from after the third hill where my hands started to freeze ever so slightly, the rest of me was toasty warm for the vast majority of the course.
The start was its usual confusion of where to stand in comparison to other runners and as there was no pacers it made it even more of an ordeal but I plumped for what appeared to be the middle of the pack.  And then we were off.  The first part of the course was along quiet roads which led on to the canal which in turn led onto fields.  The fact that it was so bitterly cold meant that the ground temperature hadn’t risen above zero degrees so the expected levels of mud did not materialise; having said that, some of the fields (especially the gateways) with two hundred or so runners going through before me were pretty churned up by the time I got to them.  In fact I nearly crashed into a lady in front of me who carried on running when her trainer didn’t, stuck in the mud as it was.  She came to a sudden halt, not fully appreciating the fact that she had two hundred or so runners behind her.  I do wonder what happened to her; we were less than three miles into the race by this point so I don’t know whether she bravely put her shoe back on over her rather muddy sock or gave up.  I like to believe it was the former however I have a feeling the latter option was more likely as she looked distinctly fed up (not to mention rather shocked and with a very muddy foot). 

My game plan, such as it was, was to track my club colleague as we have a very similar pace and I was hoping she would tow me along in her wake.  It turned out to be a good plan as it gave me a focus and meant that I wasn’t tempted to slow down on the trickier, muddier sections.  In turn, she knew I was right behind her (my heavy breathing and sniffing gave the game away) so she felt pressurised into keeping up a good pace.  It’s hard deciding an appropriate pace in a race you have not done before; flat races are much easier but knowing that I faced several hills I was reluctant to set off too fast and burn out.  My only ambition was to beat her if possible and my plan was to stick with her and then overtake at some point towards the latter half of the course.
The first few miles were actually quite pleasant, slightly more up than down but nothing to write home about.  We managed to keep up a reasonable pace (especially along the canal) although the going underfoot across the fields was somewhat challenging; the semi-frozen status of the ground along with the deep ruts and tractor tyre-marks meant risking twisted ankles so concentration was the order of the day.  Around mile five the first test presented itself; an uphill climb along a narrow gully with tree roots and loose rocks thrown in for good measure.  Due to the narrowness of the gully overtaking was not an option so I was glad that I was already in front of my friend although she was hot on my heels.  It was a relentless climb and my brain was making ‘please walk’ suggestions but I managed to ignore it and make it to the top; to be confronted with having to climb up the side of the bank that formed the gully and into a field.  This climb was so steep that the organisers had provided ropes in order to assist with the hauling up thereof!  Hauling completed, we were then faced with the first hill.  Short and sharp it was nonetheless a real energy sapper and a sign of worse things yet to come.  The only compensation with the uphill was the following downhill and I was determined to make the most of them.  Usually I am not great at down hills, I find myself putting on the brakes but before the race I had stern words with myself that I should attempt to run down any hills as fast as possible to make up for time lost.  It was the right plan as I managed to overtake several people who didn’t overtake me back.  First hill over and done with and the second hill loomed large which was equally as high as the first.  It was somewhat daunting standing at the bottom of it and looking up at all the other runners in front of me snaking their way up.  The issue with the hills, in addition to their length and height, was the going.  It was not a straightforward grassy field, but in some areas ridges had been cut into the hillside so it was akin to climbing a very steep set of stairs.  The other, more annoying, aspect was that the track was really only one person wide so if the person in front was not going as fast as you would like, you didn’t really have any overtaking options, unless you were happy to forge your own route which was extremely hard going and didn't really gain you that much.  Needless to say nobody was actually running up the hill, it was too steep for that, but I was determined to power walk them as much as possible and it turns out I’m pretty good at it.  I found that my preferred method was to take the biggest stride possible even if it meant a slight pause before  taking the next step; this I found was still quicker than the baby steps option I saw others using.  Second hill dispensed with and then a nice downhill although going very rutted so care had to be taken.  Third hill was another long, steep climb tackled with my new found power walking skill but the down hill for this one was extremely annoying.  We spent a bit of time running along a ridge with a very steep slope to the right hand side; again the track was only one person wide with no hope of overtaking (unless you were prepared to risk life and limb).  Thankfully the people in front of me were keeping up a good pace so this was not a problem.  However, as we started to descend, it became irritating.  People in front were slowing down and going far slower than I would have liked (I knew that my friend was behind me but likely to be catching up and I was determined not to let this happen).  By now there was a bit of overtaking room but this involved running through very deep, rutted grass with all the associated hazards that brings.  I did manage to get past a few people but the energy expended was almost not worth it; it did piss me off the looks I got when overtaking but really, have the courtesy to move over people.  Finally made it to the bottom, checked behind me and was horrified to see that my friend was now no more than 50 feet behind.  This definitely spurred me on. The track now sloped ever so slightly up hill and the effort I expended on overtaking people was just starting to show, I even had to do a few strides of power walking just to get my breath back.  However, with friend hot on my heels I willed myself onwards and started running again until I got to a bottle neck caused by runners waiting to take turns climbing over a stile.  It's amazing just how long I had to wait and I only had five runners in front of me.  Several times I felt the urge to shout out 'For crying out loud, just climb over the effing thing' until finally it was my turn to get over it.  I nearly slipped.  I then felt ever so slightly embarrassed when I seemed to take ages getting from one side to the other. Guess that's Karma for you; it's a bitch alright.  Not long after the stile crossing we were faced with the final challenge; another brutal hill.  This was not as tall as the other three but still exceptionally steep and at one point I almost fell as gravity and tiredness wanted to defy the direction I was trying to take.  Almost as bad as the uphill on this one was the downhill; so steep was it that you were forced to crab down sideways, running was not even an option.  I'm not sure if the photo conveys just how steep it was but the route was from where the hay bales are, up the left side of the horse, across the top of his back and down again past his tail.  Was I ever glad that this was the final effort and now only another two miles to go.  I checked with the runner behind me (one thing I have found on races is that other runners always seem a bit surprised when you speak to them) that the going was flat to the end and upon confirmation that it was I did my very best to speed up.  I had seen my friend still attempting the up as I was coming down so I had managed to build up a lead on her thank god but certainly not enough to be able to kick back and relax.  The final twist in the tail was the route being diverted through a ford so rather than going over the bridge, you were forced to wade through knee-deep fast flowing water.  As you can imagine this was rather bracing but, in a slightly masochistic way, surprisingly enjoyable.  With only half a mile to go my energy was draining fast and it was only with firmly gritted teeth that I was able to run all the way to the finish line.  So knackered was I that a few people did manage to overtake me on the long run in which was disappointing however I did manage to finish in front of my friend; I was very happy about that.  My stats:
Time: 2:01:41
Position = 279 out of 573 (32nd female out of 142)
Category Position: 15th out of 63
I am actually pretty chuffed by my results.  I was hoping to squeeze in under two hours and if I hadn't been held up on a couple of the climbs I may just have done it but I'm happy to walk away with 2 hours 1 minute for my first attempt.
Again not sure if this conveys the steepness, but you can see how the first five miles lull you into a false sense of security and then how thick and fast the elevations come after that:

 

Monday, 25 February 2013

Run 2013 in 2013 .... Update Two

Well I survived yesterday's Terminator, safe to say it was Beautiful but Brutal.  I'm not feeling up to writing a race report today and the race organisers haven't updated their results page as yet so that's a good enough excuse for me to put it off for another day or two.

However, in what seems to be the blink of an eye another four weeks of the year have passed so it's now time for another update on my plan to run 2013 miles in 2013.  Okay, without further ado:

Target 2 (1st Jan - 25th Feb): 309.69

Actual Mileage: 311.12

Balance: +1.43
 
Woohoo, I'm still ever so slightly up on what I should be but the gap is narrowing.  Guess it's time to pull my socks up and get going.  Trouble is I am likely to have a low mileage week as this weekend, which would normally be my two longest runs of the week, I will be in Weymouth on Saturday (recovering from Friday night's Super Supper Club) and I have a 10k race planned for Sunday.  I will however hopefully be making up for my lack of mileage by the fact that I have a 30-mile night run planned with the running club next week.  Eek. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Weekly Catch Up

Sorry for the radio silence this week, things have been a bit hectic at home but not much has actually happened that is worth updating you on.  Tuesday I did a 8.5 mile run in the morning which is longer than I would normally do before work but was in preparation for the fact that on Wednesday I was setting off to Derby at 05:30 hours to attend a two-day workshop and I wasn't sure when I would get the chance to run again.  Wednesday found me cossetted in a rather gorgeous hire car; a Volvo XC60 (look at the vision of loveliness above).  It was less than 6 months old and definitely top of the range as it had all the electric bells and whistles you could possibly ever dream of not to mention a lovely leather interior.  It was worth going all the way to Derby just for the pleasure of driving it.  The ying to the yang however was that, unlike some of the other attendees who were staying in a rather posh hotel, I had to make do with the local Travelodge.  So luxurious was the car in comparison to the hotel room that I almost opted to sleep in that!  It was a sad moment when I had to hand the keys back on the Friday.
 
I did take my running gear with me and was very pleased that I got the chance to run on both days.  The Travelodge was on the banks of a river and a pleasant mile run towards town along the footpath deposited me in a small park with a path around the edge.  The path was just over half a mile long so 8 laps and a run back to the hotel meant I was able to complete 10k without having to run along unfamiliar roads in the dark.  Despite having got up at 04:30 hours and completed an intense workshop all day my run was surprisingly effective and I was less than two minutes from a PB.  It's such a long time since I have run in road trainers and indeed on a tarmac path that I had forgotten how much easier it is in comparison with running off-road.  Thursday's workshop started at 09:30 hours so I took advantage of a small lie-in and then re-ran the previous evening's course.  Clearly eating a curry at 21:30 hours the night before is not great preparation for a morning run and I was 3 1/2 minutes slower over exactly the same route!  
 
Friday was a rest day and this morning I ran a very leisurely 7.5 miles as tomorrow it's The Terminator.  I see that they are forecasting freezing weather for tomorrow so the river crossing(s) are going to be a right laugh, not.  Anyone have a welding kit handy, I think the brass monkeys are going to need it.
 
Race report tomorrow or as soon as I get a chance to thaw out.     

Saturday, 16 February 2013

The Best Laid Plans and All That (Take 2)

So the idea for today's post was to try and photograph my run ..... again.  The day dawned bright and clear, albeit with a very slight ground mist so I was hopeful that all would go according to plan.  Here we go:

Half a mile from home and crossing the green
 
On to the canal
 
Past the marina
 
The best thing about running this time of the morning: witnessing
the beautiful sunrises


About to leave the canal via the swing-bridge
up ahead


To be confronted by mud once again and heading for the
hills in the distance


Hills getting closer
 
And another muddy track leading to the top of the hill
 
About to leave the track and head on to the Wansdyke
(it's hard to tell but it's the darker green line going across from
the right about halfway down photo)


On the Wansdyke - you can see the ridge more clearly
now and the steep slope each side


Look!  There in the distance, it's our old friends the Twin
Towers ... all roads may lead to Rome but around here seemingly
all tracks lead to the Twin Towers.  And that is where we are heading
today too .... notice the rather ominous cloud gathering


The Twin Towers are now on my right and this track leads
back towards Devizes.  I would have taken more scenic shots
but as you can probably tell, I am now in the thick cloud that was
gathering at the top of the hill
 
A few miles further on and we have left the rather attractive
grass track and are now on a hardcore track with just a few
puddles to try and avoid


Making our way to the copse at the top of the hill.  Can't see it?
Yep, neither could I; I'm glad this was not the first time I had
attempted this part of the run


The entrance to the copse. At this point I was on the top of Roundway
Hill and the fog / low cloud (or whatever it was) was unbelievably thick.
It's amazing how quickly it descended, I can now appreciate how people
can become disoriented especially when not familiar with an area.
If my plans had gone according to plan then having gone through the copse I
was going to take a lovely photo of a bird's eye view across Devizes.
Clearly that didn't happen.


Two miles or so later and back on the canal for the final
stretch home
 
And so ended today's run.  It was definitely a run of two halves and I am sorry that I wasn't able to share more scenic photos with you.  So 12 miles in total today, tomorrow it's hill sessions.  Oh goody.    

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A Day of Mixed Tidings

Well today's trip to the kitchen shop was an utter disappointment.  It's a great shop, full of lovely (and mostly highly expensive) things but nothing that caught my eye.  However, a quick trawl on eBay this evening and I have this gorgeous pair of items winging their way to me:

  
 
So now that just leaves a utensil pot, a kitchen towel holder and a soap dispenser in bright colours to find ....... which is actually a lot harder to do than it sounds.  I shall resume my quest tomorrow.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Whilst the decorating has been completed in the dining room and kitchen, there is still all the finishing touches that need doing.  One of these is deciding what is going to go up on our lovely, newly painted walls.  I have deliberately kept everything very neutral paint-wise, the woodwork is white and the walls are Dulux White Cotton which, in fairness, is pretty much white.  The furniture in the dining room is oak, the kitchen units are beech (or something along those lines) and the floor coverings are brown carpet in dining room and terracotta tile effect lino in the kitchen.  My idea is to inject colour into the rooms by using accessories; all very Homes & Garden. 

Dining Room
So far in the dining room I have three Poole pottery vases displayed on the cabinet and purple curtains up at the window and french doors.  One wall (the one above the computer desk) has been reserved for displaying my running trophies (well, certificates and medals!)  This leaves one long wall spare and I am torn as to what to display on it.  I have decided to go with a multi-part canvas in shades of purple (this is going to be my 'accent' colour for this room) but I am torn between these two:



The colour of the curtains is reflected better in the picture of the poppy however I prefer the vibrancy of the orchid.  I am usually a very decisive person (although don't always make the best decisions) but I am really at a loss which one to plump for.  At this rate I may just be going with the 'Heads, Tails' option and tossing a coin.

Kitchen
As mentioned, the kitchen units are a beech colour, the worktop a mottled grey / brown and the walls are tiled with those mini tiles that come on sheets (tesserae?) in a brownish / greyish pattern.  Again, everything very neutral and although I don't like storing items on the worktops, the few items that we do have on there are just blending into the background.  Well, that is until I bought these lovely babies at the weekend:


I absolutely adore them, they just look so damned gorgeous and really stand out against the rather drab background; oh, they are pretty darned good at cutting too!  So I am now on a quest to replace the few items I do have on display with some funky colours.  Tomorrow I am off to visit a rather splendid kitchen shop in my home town where I hope to be bringing back armfuls of loveliness to display.  Credit card, get ready to flex.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

That Was The Weekend That Was

Well yesterday's run was a muddy, wet 12 miles.  All relatively flat (6 of the miles along the canal path) but the going was horrid especially on the canal.  I really don't understand why it gets so churned up as the further I run along it the less boats I come across and in all the times I have run it I have only ever come across one or two people.  Needless to say with the weather yesterday I didn't come across anybody! 

Today I ran with Calne Running Club as I usually do on one of my weekend days.  The plan was to run 20 miles but the going and the weather was so horrendous that the majority of us bailed out just after the halfway point and ended up covering 17 miles.  Despite the weather and the going underfoot I felt surprisingly strong today and spent most of the time up in front so that was a nice boost.  However, one of our gang was very slow and so we kept having to stop to allow him to catch up.  This is normally never a problem and is one of the conventions of running in a group in that everyone waits for everyone else or, alternatively, runs on ahead and then runs back to the group if they are wanting to do a tougher run.  Most of the time it's nice to have a quick pit stop, especially on a longer run however today it was just a miserable experience.  The route was very exposed and so there was never a good place to rest and wait; I honestly don't think I have ever been as cold running as I got today.  I couldn't face any more towards the end so I said my goodbyes and ran on ahead to get back to my car and home as quickly as possible.  Even falling over and sliding on my bum for about 10 feet because I was running too fast downhill did not tempt me to slow down.  By the time I got back to my car I was shivering uncontrollably and I wasn't able to put my nice dry coat on as I had to sit on it due to the volume of mud on my derriere!  I don't know how I drove the 8 miles home as I couldn't feel my hands or feet by this point.  A long hot shower and several cups of coffee later, I just about felt human again.

Wet and bedraggled and with another 7 miles to go!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hello? [Knock, Knock] Anybody Still There?

Sorry for the radio silence but I have been busy visiting the parents on Sunday (spent longer driving there than I did on the actual visit but that's a whole other story).  The rest of the week has been spent tidying up the house following the decorating taking place at the weekend.  It's quite hard to fathom how dust just gets every-bloody-where no matter how hard you try to prevent it.  The kitchen looked like a builder's skip so a deep clean was called for.  This included emptying out all the cupboards of course, what a bloody job.  I have to say though after a whole night spent on it it fair gleamed.  Last night was the dining room's turn to get a good clean, new curtains hung, etc etc and now that looks lovely too.  Tonight I was meant to be cleaning the conservatory (my God, you would not believe how far the dust travelled) but quite honestly I really can't be arsed.  So night off tonight and tomorrow and will tackle the conservatory on Friday when OH is at work.

On other fronts I have been running this week, 8.5 miles yesterday and 7.2 miles today.  I am getting a bit tired of running in the dark (and the wind); Spring where the bloody hell are you?  I have noticed the nights starting to get a lot lighter which, whilst nice, is no bloody good to me when I run at 6am.  Bah humbug.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Best Laid Plans and All That

Today I had planned a 15 mile run which I intended to take nice and steady: the ideal opportunity to take some photos I thought to myself.  Now, I haven't run this particular route as a route before, however I have run all the different elements of it on other runs so I thought I would put them all together.  Go me.  Or not as the case may be.  It all started off innocently enough, left home around 6.30am and headed straight to the canal:


This was meant to be a scenic photo of the
canal (to my right).  Maybe 6.40am was a tad early
to be taking scenic photographs.
 
So down the side of the canal, across a boggy field and then up the hill towards Roundway.  Still too dark to take photos by this point however I had a cunning plan; more cunning than a cunning fox who holds a degree in cunningness.  My route up Roundway is not very far from the route down which I intended to take on my way back so I thought I would photograph this part of the route later on.  You wouldn't have known it was taken out of sequence.  See, I told you it was a cunning plan.  So, up Roundway, across the top and then up a bit more to be confronted with this track:
 

Lovely bit of mud that, classic consistency.  Oh, and Rommel
trying to get in on the act.
 
So having picked my way round that lot (no easy feat let me tell you) I then set off across the ridge towards the twin towers:
 

There they are, look in the distance, can you see them?  The two
radio masts just to the left of the clump of trees on the hill? (You may want
to click on the photo to enlarge).
 
Of course it's not a straight route to get to them, oh no that would be far too easy, so they are about 4 miles away from where I am now.  Plodding on, through a barn full of cows (well, not through the barn itself of course, that would be silly, however I wish I had gone through the barn, reckon my shoes would have come out cleaner than trying to skirt around it through the heady mixture of muck, mud and silage that was the track at this point).  Part of the route goes down the side of a golf course:
 

The golf course.  What do you mean it looks just like a field?  There,
can't you see the little red flag to the left of the photo?  This footpath
skirts the edge of the course but there is one that goes right
through the middle of it.  I always feel like I'm taking my life
in my hands running that one so I try to avoid it.
 
A bit further on, across the road and heading up towards the twin towers.  This track also leads (eventually) to Cherhill Monument:
 

A view towards Calne.  To the right of the photo you can just
make out Cherhill Monument on the top of the hill (again, you may
wish to enlarge for clarity).  I have run this route many times, bloody hell
it looks a long way.  Probably because it is.
 
So everything is still going swimmingly at this point and I'm heading up towards the twin towers which, by the calculations I made on my map last night, mark my halfway point:

Made it!
 
Past the towers and I am on a track known as Wansdyke.  Everything is still going according to plan, I am confident of my route (although, in fairness, it's hard to go wrong when you are following an earthworks) but, unbeknown to me, my run is soon to turn to worms.  All too soon in fact.  Leaving the Wansdyke, it is at this point that it all goes horribly wrong.  I come to a track and, without a moment's hesitation I branch to the left and carry on.  And on.  And on.  And on.  Now, bearing in mind that I mentioned earlier about having run all the elements of the route before, you think after the first mile or so that I would be questioning why I didn't recognise the route I was on.  Yes, you'd think that wouldn't you?  But no, like a bloody fool I just kept going and going.  And going.  I eventually came to a road and it was only at this point that I questioned myself about where I was as I was definitely not where I was expecting to be.  I was completely disorientated and, more to the point, my Garmin had just clocked up 10 miles.  I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you Dear Reader that I was not lost; I know I was not lost because when I looked behind me I could still see the twin towers.  Three miles or so away, but I could still see them.  And it was a this point that realisation sank in.  The route I should have taken, the one that would have led me back towards the golf club, skirted the clump of trees that were not far from the twin towers.  The clump of trees that I could see now, three miles or so away from where I was.  With sinking heart I took the only sensible option open to me and turned round and headed back towards the twin towers.  I have now learnt, to my cost, that there is nothing more soul destroying than having to retrace your steps on a run; made even more soul destroying when retracing your steps also means running back up the hill that you have just run down.  I was also on a tight time schedule as I promised Other Half I would be back by 9.30am as he wanted to make a start on the kitchen today so I had to be there to look after Boys One and Two.  Well, it was now 8.40am and with another 9 miles or so to run I took the only other course open to me; I rang Other Half and asked him to come and pick me up.  We agreed to meet at the golf course (I was confident I could make my way back there!) and that is what we did.  I clocked up exactly 13 miles running past the club house and there ended my run.  Ignominiously. 

Friday, 1 February 2013

Weekend Plans

The plan for the weekend is to get the kitchen decorated; I knew decorating the dining room was a big mistake!  The trouble is once you decorate one room, it makes the rest of them look even shabbier than they did before (and believe me, some of our rooms are very shabby).  So on Sunday I’m taking me and the boys off down to my Mum’s in Devon whilst Other Half tackles the nightmare walls in the kitchen.  The kitchen is built into an extension of the house that used to be a store room or something along those lines.  Our current dining room was actually a kitchen / diner but the previous owner decided to move the kitchen into the extension which was a great idea and has made a huge difference to the house.  BUT, you think that having gone to all the trouble of moving the plumbing and gas, fitting new kitchen cupboards, installing a range, replacing the existing flat corrugated roof with a sloping tiled roof and putting down a new floor that perhaps, just perhaps, he would have hired a professional plasterer to skim the walls?  Clearly not.  Maybe he had run out of money by this point but the walls look as though they have been plastered by a hung-over monkey using the back of a teaspoon.  So Sunday will mostly be Other Half filling and sanding the walls which is why the rest of us are taking off for the day as the volume of dust this creates is unbelievable.  Unfortunately there is no door between the kitchen and dining room, the plan is to hang a curtain in the gap to try and reduce the volume of mess but dust seems to find its way around the house regardless of what steps you take.  Hopefully the kitchen will be finished by next weekend and the plan is to move on to the front room by the end of February and then, with the exception of the hallway, the whole ground floor will be decorated.  Hurrah, that means I will have achieved one of my aims for 2013 by March with any luck.     

But, where there is an upside there is a downside (karma and all that) and my plan to lose a stone is going nowhere fast.  I am really struggling to get focused and get motivated; it’s only a bloody stone for God’s sake.  So, January was ‘no alcohol’ month (successfully completed) and I am going to make February ‘no/ low carb’ month as I know that by cutting carbs out as much as possible I should lose the weight pretty easily.  To help keep me focused, I am going to go to Slimming World on Monday 25 February and I hope to be back to my target weight by then; otherwise I will have to hand over £5 for the privilege of being told I’m getting fat once more.  Once I am back to my target weight I am going to start going to Slimming World more regularly (at least monthly) as I am convinced that one of the reasons for falling off the wagon is not having to face the shame of the weekly weigh-in.  So I have an action plan in place, just have to stick to it now.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Race Report - Stonehenge Stomp

Well I completed the event and, more to the point, survived!  I also have a lovely certificate and embroidered badge to show for all my effort.  Really didn't know what to expect from the day so I went with an open mind and with the sole aim of finishing.  It did not start well.  Other Half was on a work's night out, came home rather drunk at 1.30am and then proceeded to snore his head off for the rest of the night.  Ended up sleeping in the spare room but that didn't help matters much as I could still hear him!  I remember looking at my watch, it was 3.30am which was not good when I was getting up at 7am.  However, despite the major lack of sleep I felt surprisingly chipper.  A nice bowl of mini shredded wheat and two cups of coffee and I felt I was ready to face my biggest challenge yet.  Off I set at 8.15am and eventually found Amesbury leisure centre where I caught up with the rest of the gang.  The weather was being quite kind, no rain thankfully but there was a rather strong wind.  Why is it when it's windy no matter in which direction I run the wind is always blowing at me?  Anyway, into the main hall to register to find out that the 40k route had been altered slightly due to a bad flood in one of the fields; this meant the run would be just short of 25 miles which was somewhat disappointing.  Back outside, rounded up the gang and, in my naivety, asked where the start was.  Now, I was expecting some sort of official start line, even just a bit of tape across the road or something but apparently nothing - you literally could start running from anywhere within the car park.  In fact, you didn't even need to run as the event was organised by the Long Distance Walker's Association and therefore runners were actually in the minority.  So off we set and, much to my surprise, the first 3 miles were run through a large housing estate, all on tarmac - not at all what I was expecting.  Mile 3 saw us come to the first check point stocked with juice, gummy bears and biscuits (this was to be repeated for the other 5 check points).  At this point I took the opportunity to remove my coat and buff as I was starting to get a bit warm.  What I didn't realise was that I accidentally turned off my GPS so that it stopped recording my run beyond this point for the next half mile or so which was a real bummer and it has come back to bite me on the bum as I shall tell you about later.  After mile 3 we headed off onto a farm track which was much more pleasant than tarmac but an awful lot harder going.  The majority of the run (I would say 75%) was either on farm tracks or fields.  The going was pretty horrible; basically two types of mud a) thick, gloopy and sticky so that it clung to every part of my shoe and made them unbelievably heavy or b) ankle deep soup that was as slippery as an ice rink.  With the going underfoot, the head wind and the undulating profile it made for one tough first event.  However, I really enjoyed myself and I am proud that I managed to finish with the majority of the distance actually run.

Lessons learned:

1.  I need to do more hill training as they really do sap your energy so I must practice in order to get fitter and stronger on them

2.  I need to look up and look at where I am going rather than down at my feet (see photo above for proof, my friend is staring firmly ahead whereas I seem to be looking for the meaning of life in my shoe laces or something).  The only niggle I had following the run was the back of my neck and shoulders being a bit sore and I'm sure that was caused by looking down all the time

3.  I can drink from a cup as long as I am standing still and not planning on bounding along any time soon after.  On all my previous races if I have tried drinking while running I have a) ended up wearing quite a lot of the liquid and b) felt really sick for at least the following mile

4  Whilst I normally wouldn't entertain eating a shop's own biscuit (McVities all the way for this classy bird) they taste bloody fantastic when it's all you are offered during a 25 mile run

5.  I need to run my own race.  It's great running in a group for the moral support however, because I am new to all this and they are far more experienced / faster than me, they end up going just that bit too fast for my personal comfort zone

6.  If I am going to run my own race then I need to become far more observant (see point 2 above).  Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to mark a route using one strip of coloured electrical tape around a given object (lamp post, fence post etc).  Who knew?

7.  I need to double check that I haven't accidentally turned off my GPS when taking my coat off.  I have made this error several times now so you think it was a lesson I had already learned however it is clearly taking some time to sink in.  My friend's GPS showed the run as 24.1 miles (so shy of the 25.4 miles we were expecting because of the detour) however mine was on 23.45.  My longest run I have previously recorded was 23.8 (a night run to recce part of another ultra race) so that means that although the Stonehenge Stomp was a longer run, it doesn't count due to the GPS not recording for half a mile or so.  'Tis a right bummer I tell you

8.  I remembered to take a change of clothes for driving home in (although I got away with only changing shoes / socks) however I didn't prepare anything to eat and I forgot to take any money with me so I couldn't treat myself to a bacon butty.  I could cheerfully have stabbed someone for a bacon butty after four and half hours of running

All in all though it was a really great experience and one I am pleased I completed.  It certainly hasn't put me off ultra marathons so I now have a few months to gear up for my first proper 'ultra marathon' of 35 miles in April.

Next race is The Terminator which, at only 12 miles, should be a walk in the park but apparently they like to shock and surprise their competitors (I have heard tell of knee-high bogs, wading chest deep in water and having to climb hills on hands and knees they are so steep).  

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Run 2013 in 2013 .... Update One

Well today's post was going to be a race report about Stonehenge Stomp.  However, I started writing the post in my lunch break but then forgot to forward it to my home email so I now can't access it.  Doh.  Therefore, slight change of plan, tomorrow's post will be about Stonehenge Stomp and tonight I thought I would update on how I am getting on with my plan to run 2013 miles in 2013.
I am going to monitor my progress every four weeks rather than monthly so I have worked it out as follows:
 
2013 miles divided by 52 weeks times 4 weeks which, rounded to two decimal points as that is what my Garmin calculates to, means I have to run 154.85 miles every four weeks to meet my target.
 
Right, let's see how I am doing:
 
Target 1 (1st Jan - 28th Jan): 154.85
Actual Mileage: 158.91
Balance: +4.06
 
Woohoo, I am four miles up, how happy am I?!  Right, just got to keep it up for another 48 weeks and I'll be laughing all the way to 2014.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rain, Rain Go Away .... And Don't Bother Coming Back. Ever.

So it's my 25 mile Stonehenge Stomp tomorrow and it's hissing it down outside as I type.  Great.  I did a 10k power-walk this morning to get my legs limbered up.  Went on the canal towpath, the ice is still grimly hanging on in places so I am glad I haven't attempted to run it at any point this week.  Anyway, did a lovely walk down and then back up the Caen Hill Locks, 6.22 miles at an average speed of 4.4 mph so I'm pretty pleased with that.  Wish me luck for tomorrow please, I will write up my experience as soon as I am physically able!

Friday, 25 January 2013

What Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

I have recently lost my way with my eating habits and, as a consequence and despite running around 40 miles per week, I have put weight on. I am disappointed in myself that I have let things slip after all my hard work of losing it in the first place. I don’t know how much I have put on – I don’t own a pair of scales – but I would say probably around a stone. My clothes still fit however the fit is a bit tighter than it was.
So what has caused the weight gain? It is definitely my two big weaknesses: portion control and bread. My portions have grown from the more controlled size during the weight loss phase and, as before, whilst we always eat freshly prepared food (the bonus of having a stay-at-home partner) too much of a good thing is still too much. 
 
And what of bread? This is my single biggest weakness by far. I can thumb my nose at chocolate, blow a raspberry at crisps, cock a snook at sweets but show me a freshly baked loaf and I start to slaver like a rabid dog. To me there is nothing nicer than a fresh roll, the more ‘exotic’ the better (okay, exotic is overstating a bit when my bread comes from Morrisons but you know what I mean).  Show me an onion & herb, sundried tomato or honey & pumpkin seed ciabatta and I am one very happy bunny. Of course buying bread from Morrisons is not helped by the fact that it’s 35p per roll or any four for £1; I am right in thinking it would be rude not to buy four rolls am I not? After all, I need to sample as many of the different flavours they produce (just for comparison purposes you understand).  So an average working day can have me eating four large rolls throughout the day and then either a baguette or several slices of bread with dinner.  What the hell is going on?  I have absolutely no idea why I crave bread so much.  I do love spreading it thickly with lovely, lovely Lurpak but I'm also more than happy eating it dry.  I just have this compulsion to eat bread.  I suppose it could be worse, I could be stuffing my face with crisps, chocolate and biscuits but eating four rolls and x amount of bread a day whilst maintaining my weight is not sustainable and my tighter trousers prove it.

So, back to basics and today is the first day of my 'regain the waist' plan.  I was intending on having no bread at all but lack of lunch products meant that I had to take a sandwich however my intake has reduced to two slices of granary bread for today and I am planning on having no bread over the weekend.  In fact, I am going to reduce my overall carbohydrate consumption over the next couple of weeks as I find that I definitely have more energy when I concentrate on proteins.

The plan is to go to a Slimming World weigh-in at the end of February where I hope to be back to my target weight.  Wish me luck.            

Thursday, 24 January 2013

It's Snow Joke

Managed to do a road run this morning which was really rather nice although a bit on the cold side; I did think about doing a short off-roader but the towpath still looked frozen so decided not to risk it.  Did a very leisurely 4.5 miles just to stretch the legs before Sunday.  It was my last run of the week, normally I would run on a Saturday too but this week I am just going to go for a brisk walk.  I think the weather is meant to be nice on Saturday so I shall take my camera and see if I can get some half decent photos for you of one of my running routes.  Rommel came out with me this morning, not sure he really appreciated having to run on the lead but he hasn't been out for a run since Saturday so he was just about to start climbing the walls bless him.

I now just need to remain injury free until Sunday (and on Sunday too I guess).  Wish the weather forecast was a bit kinder as at the minute they are forecasting rain and gale force winds but I guess it is what it is ... I shall prevail (with any luck).

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bugger'it

Another dreadmill run this morning, the pavements and roads are getting better but there is still the odd patch of ice around and I don't see the point of risking injury when I have access to the gym.

My plan today was to better my time from yesterday for the 10k.  I set off much quicker, keeping a higher average pace and increasing the speed more regularly than yesterday.  Time checks showed:

4k = 22:28
8k = 43:43

And then at 9.6k when running at 12.2 kph disaster struck; I accidently knocked the emergency stop button and the treadmill, understandably, ground to a halt.  My heart sank, what an extraordinarily stupid thing to do.  If I'm honest, I'm surprised it's not happened before, I do have a naughty habit of running too close to the front of the machine and I often brush against the stop button with my right hand but I have been lucky so far that I've not activated it.  Unfortunately my luck run out today.  I am really gutted, as I was definitely on for a better time than yesterday and my plan was to increase by .1 of a kilometre for every .10 of a kilometre that I had left so was aiming to finish at 12.5 kph.  At least I have my two time checks and on that basis I am going to estimate that I would have completed in 54:43.  It is a hollow feeling though and means that in the next couple of weeks I am going to have to try again so that I get a proper time check. 

Tomorrow I will be doing a slow run and then taking Friday and Saturday off ready for my 25 miler on Sunday. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Treadmill of Dread

Due to the going underfoot, today I decided to do my run on the dreaded treadmill (or dreadmill for short).  I am fortunate that I have access to a free gym at work, it's no David Lloyd Leisure Centre but it does have a pretty good selection of cardio machines, weight machines and free weights.  So, six o'clock this morning found me scraping fresh snow off the car and heading off to work smug in the knowledge that I had raised two fingers to the elements.  The plan was to run 10k; after the first 2k I remembered why I hated treadmill running.  I know treadmills are all some people train on, never going out and dirtying their trainers on the public paths but honestly, is there anything more soul destroying than running on the spot for hours minutes on end?  The gym is pretty basic, there is no bank of television screens to take your mind off the unrelenting boredom and I had forgotten to charge my ipod so basically I ran on my own, in silence, for 58 minutes.  The only distraction was the cleaner coming in to the hoover the carpet.  My plan was to run at a speed of between 10.5 and 11.5 kph so I cranked it up to 10.5 kph to begin with and soon had to notch it down to 10.2 as it just seemed too fast.  I did put a 1% incline on as I have read that this helps to better replicate running outside and it also minimises stress on the knees.  After about 3k I started to get into the swing of it and around 5k I started adding a bit of speed getting it back up to 10.5 kph.  Thinking back I was actually running quite easily by this point so I wish I had pushed myself a bit harder.  Around 8k I increased it to 11 kph and then, throwing all caution to the wind, for the last half kilometre I cranked it up to 12 kph.  Again, looking back, from about 7k onwards (hard to tell when precisely as I had the screen covered up) I started to feel really strong and I should have pushed myself a bit more.  Anyway, I ended up doing 10k in 58:08 so not dreadful but could definitely have done better.

I shall probably do another gym session tomorrow as the snow doesn't look to be clearing up any time soon and I resolve to work a bit harder and finish in around 55 minutes or less.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Things I Have Learnt This Weekend

1. Running on ice is not a good idea:  Determined to run despite the weather conditions, I set off at 7.15am Saturday morning for a planned 12 miles.  It took me 16 minutes to run (and I use that term very loosely) the first mile but figured that once I had got on to the canal towpath that the going would be better; indeed it was.  So why, after less than half a mile, did I decide to leave the towpath?  Mmmm, why indeed?  Actually my reasoning was sound; because I knew it would be a slow run, I thought I would throw a few hills into the bargain to increase the effort.  A great idea I thought but I didn't take into account the terrain.  The first off-road section was sheet ice.  I just had time to think to myself "Bugger, it must be slippery, Rommel has just gone arse over elbow" before I followed him by flying backwards, legs straight up in the air and cracking the back of my head on the track.  Now, any sensible person by this point would have called it a day but I decided to plough on as I felt sure the going would start to get better the further into the countryside I got.  What I didn't fully take into account was that I was running on a byway and clearly lots of 4x4s had decided to make use of their right to drive the tracks which had compacted the snow and turned into ice.  The track did not get any better; I got to just under three miles and decided to call it a day.  Unfortunately, I was now just under three miles away from home.  I retraced my steps and I swear to God the route was getting worse by the minute as it seemed so much harder to go back.  After one more fall on the pavement, I got home having covered the grand total of 5.5 miles in 1 hour 34!

2. One man's rubbish is another man's gold:  Or words to that effect.  We have discovered that rather than struggling to the tip with items we no longer require, if we leave them outside the front of our property we can pretty much guarantee that they will be gone within a matter of hours.  Although we have left a myriad of items out there since moving in, we have yet to see who actually takes the items away.  For all I know it could be magical pixies; whoever it is though, it's bloody handy.  Just this week alone we have got rid of a set of drawers, a matching filing cabinet, two light fittings and a partridge in a pair tree (I may have made one of those up).

3. When decorating with children and animals in the house, no matter how careful you are and how many threats of dire consequences you make, it is only a matter of time before wet paint transfers itself from the wall onto said children / dog.

4. A £30 vacuum cleaner, no matter what rave reviews it has been given, is never going match a Dyson.  Our 7 year old Dyson decided to quit last week.  We have another new Dyson lined up which we need to go and collect but it's currently over 100 miles away so we decided to buy a cheapy cleaner to tide us over for now.  Well, it's not quite worse than useless but it's a pretty much the next best thing.  I ended up hoovering on my hands and knees and then finishing off with a dustpan and brush.

5. Do not assume:  As they say, it makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.  Well, as you know, the plan was to replace the carpet in the dining room with lino and to then replace the current lino in the kitchen and hallway so that it all matches and makes the ground floor of the house look more harmonious.  Now, you would think the fact that the floor in the dining room is about one inch higher than in the kitchen and hallway would perhaps have provided some clue that all may not go according to plan?  Yes, you would think that wouldn’t you?  Well, no, not a clue did it provide until Sunday night when I thought that maybe I ought to check what the flooring was like underneath the carpet.  The reason for the raised floor soon became apparent – the previous owners have laid the carpet over an existing tiled floor!  Unfortunately though, what they have done is created a half inch channel around the door thresholds so that they could tuck the carpet under the said thresholds to hold it in place.  This means that because the tiles do not go from wall to wall, it rules out laying a lino unless we a) remove all the tiles or b) backfill the channels and grouted areas to create a flat floor.  Quite honestly neither option actually appeals so we have decided to put down a new carpet instead (yes, yes, we know it’s the cheat’s way out).  The plan is to still minimise the number of floor coverings so we will replace the dining room and front room carpets and put down new lino in the kitchen and hallway.  For now we have left the carpet as is until we get round to sorting the front room out.

And so endeth today's lesson(s).

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Is There Anybody There?

Apologies for the radio silence, but  we have been busy decorating the dining room all weekend and consequently the computer has been unplugged.  However, normal service has just about resumed, I have learnt much from this weekend and tomorrow I would like to share my learning with you all.  TTFN.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Days Off Are Dangerous On The Wallet

In keeping with one of my aims for 2013, namely decorate the downstairs of the house, yesterday we decided that the next room we are going to tackle is the dining room. I have been umming and ahhing between that room and the kitchen but as the dining room links to the only downstairs room that we have done so far - the conservatory - the dining room won.  Typically though, it's actually the more complicated (and consequently more expensive) of the two rooms.  The kitchen basically needs a new back door as the existing UPVC door is actually a front door (complete with post box) and a handle that won't open the door from the inside without turning the key as the lock is buggered.  But, apart from that, it only really needs decorating as the units, stove (8-range burner) and fridge / freezer are in really good condition.

The dining room however needs decorating, new curtains, new lighting and new flooring (not to mention new furniture).  The last owner, before he retired, was a carpet / lino fitter.  This means that the house does have some nice flooring but I'm guessing he must have got it all as end of lines as not one room downstairs actually matches.  The hallway is red and off-white chequered tiles, the front room a greenish carpet, the dining room a horrible, industrial brown monstrosity of a carpet, the kitchen a terracotta tile effect lino and a laminate floor in the conservatory.  It's a right bloody mish mash of colours and styles and consequently I think it makes the rooms look smaller.  So, out is going to go the brown carpet to be replaced with a hard-wearing lino.  However, this means I then need to replace the linos in the kitchen and the hallway so that they all match.  We are on a bit of a budget so it's trying to work out the best time to do it all.  I am worried that if I change the flooring in the dining room now, will whoever I get the flooring from still have the same style in stock potentially 10 months or so down the line when we come to redecorate the kitchen and hallway?  Actually, with the way things are going (RIP Jessops and HMV) are they likely to still be trading at the end of the year?!  But if I change it all now then it's going to eat into our limited funds by a huge amount as the rooms are a pretty good size (the dining room alone is over 20 square metres so it's not going to be cheap).  Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, let me explain why days off are dangerous on the wallet.  In the dining room at present we have a beech table (6 seater but seats up to 10 when extended), a small folding dining table that we had in our old house and a homemade computer desk / filing cabinet arrangement (left by the previous owner).  The dining table is the only thing that is staying; the small table will be replaced by a solid oak cabinet and the computer desk by a matching solid oak desk.  Yesterday (a day off from work) we went shopping for aforementioned desk and cabinet.  We visited a clearance furniture warehouse that sells customer returns. They primarily sell oak furniture and, although some items may have some damage or been repaired, most of the stock is in first class condition.  I have been there before when we were contemplating an oak dining table and their furniture is lovely.  We were not disappointed yesterday either, we have managed to pick up a great desk for £320 and the cabinet for £180 which I think is pretty reasonable for solid oak furniture.  Yesterday we reserved the items so I could double check sizes at home so Other Half didn't actually go and pay for them until this morning and the items were delivered this evening!  Very excited but also rather alarmed as we have yet to do ANYTHING in the dining room by way of decorating.  Thankfully we can store both items in another room until the dining room is ready.  Guess what we (well, Other Half, he is the painter & decorator after all) will be doing this weekend?