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Monday
Mar042013

Bath Half

What a fabulous 3-day weekend! Friends, food, and a spot of running. What more could you ask for?

Bath is about 4 hours away, which is slightly further away than I'd normally go for a half marathon but we have friends in Bath (hi Jo and Pip!) so it seemed like a good excuse to go and visit. I've been training hard for it, feeling pretty confident, and then about a week and a half ago Clarkie got sick. Very sick. Positively flu-like sick, and I don't say that lightly. I didn't feel entirely hot either. This was not ideal, frankly. My last attempt at a half was derailed by sinuses and high temperatures (my sinuses, weather temperature), and I really didn't want this one to be. My taper was slightly more dramatic than I meant it to be!

Fortunately it all eased up around Thursday, and I managed a short, easy 3 miler that actually turned out to be around the top end of my pace range without actually trying too hard. So I was still on.

The trip to Bath was uneventful, and Pip and Jo's house is gorgeous. As were the chelsea buns. And the bolognaise. And the wine. Barney the puppy was lovely and Hattie the somewhat older dog didn't seem to notice us too much, so all was well. Sunday dawned, and frankly I got very nervous indeed. I had a slightly surreal moment where I could hear myself talking to Pip about hiring people and so on, but really was almost entirely taken up with trying not to panic. The pre-race panic is very strange, and actually seems to be getting significantly more severe as I get happier with my training and pace. I think it's a weird kind of performance anxiety - it's weird because no-one else really cares what your time is, and there's almost always another run to be done if it goes wrong, but there it is. 

Eventually I got to head down to the "athletes' village" (the thought of me being an athlete still makes me giggle), and the scent of deep heat that was filling the air kind of started to calm me down. It's a bit like exams - there's nothing more you can do once you're there. I've always quite liked exams (getting results is worse),so I settled in. 

It was a two lap race, and it took me about 10 minutes to get across the start line. I got lapped by the front runner at around 4.5 miles, which sounds depressing but really wasn't. The crowd was a little quiet in places, and I spent the first lap acting the loon and waving at people and trying to get them to wave back. It's pretty good fun and makes them laugh. Next lap I didn't quite have enough energy to spare! So I just tried to keep plodding.  

I had three goals going into the race:

  1. Beat my PB.
  2. Run the whole 13.1 miles (confession time: I've finished 2 marathons and never run more than about 8 miles continuously). 
  3. Run sub-10 minute mile pace.

I got them all. I finished in 2 hours 6 minutes 48 seconds. That is around 17:30 faster than my PB, which I set back in 2005. When I ran Cambridge last year I finished in 2 hours 39, so this is over half an hour faster. Why? Well, a combination of poor preparation (the halves I've been doing have always been a bit of an afterthought for one reason and another) and illness. My pace really kicked up when I got my asthma a bit more sorted last year (steroids rule, yo), and not-entirely-coincidently I have been more consistent with my training since. So there's a lesson!

The run was quite crowded, and so there are no pictures. My poor support crew froze, and still can't quite believe she managed to miss me 3 times, even when warned that I was on my way. I can totally believe it, it just never seemed to open up the way that I'm used to. That might be the pace. I was totally emotional crossing the finish line, I couldn't quite believe what I'd done. I did manage not to actually cry this time though. 

I went and got clean and then we had a slap up feed before eventually (sorry Jo and Pip if you thought we were leaving earlier!) wending our way from Bath to Bristol to catch up with my Uncle Dickie and Ali (who doesn't like it if I call her Auntie). They fed us curry. We nearly burst. All in all, a bloody lovely weekend!

Sunday
Feb242013

Fabric scarves

I worked from home last Wednesday, and whilst my code was compiling I came up with more plans for crafty projects than I think I could achieve in a year. Fortunately most of them will disappear back into the ether, and I won't miss them. I did carry through on two of them yesterday though. 

Last year we did a kind of mini quilting bee in my knitting group. We nearly made it all the way through before the motivation failed, although I still owe Kate her square (it's made, just never been delivered) and Annie hers (I never quite found the right material - lame). I did get four squares for my turn though, and I never quite decided what to do with them. 

The four squares

Well, I decided. As a further experiment in slightly smarter dressing, I thought I could experiment with some scarves. I found a site that gives me many options on how to tie them (the Knot Library), and I reckon it's worth a go. I joined the four squares with the blue, spotty fabric you can see above, and backed them with a bit of an old white duvet cover. I think it came out pretty well.

Half 1Half 2

Knotted

That's a fake knot, right there. Thanks to the quilt bee participants!

The other scarf I made was with fabric that Emma gave me for my birthday, and a left over butterfly print. I wanted something long enough to tie around my waist, to brighten up my black and white dress maybe, or possibly around the top of my new shorts. I worked it out, and went with a pretty basic square pattern. 

Square piecework scarf

That there is 60 6cm x 6cm white squares, with 30 of each of the other two fabrics. Oh yes. I spent a large part of yesterday playing with my other birthday presents, like so: 

Happy

One of my very favourite types of days. Pottering around making stuff. I love being able to take three pieces of almost square fabric and recombining them into a long, thin piece instead. Very handy, and kinda fun. 

Tuesday
Feb122013

It had to happen

I missed the bus.

Not A bus, THE bus. There is one-and-only-one bus per day from the universities to Woodingdean. THE bus takes 20 minutes, if I miss it I have to take two buses that combined take an hour.

And I watched it pull away from the stop, when I was too far away. Then I watched it pull away from the next stop too. And I cursed, for THE bus is never on time when it's raining and cold and I've got there early. Never.

Fortunately there is a quirk in the route at Brighton University that has two stops opposite each other before a loop. I caught the next bus (number unimportant, all buses go that way), and managed to catch THE bus on the way back out. Just. Combined with trying to stop by the doctor's this morning, that has made it a 5 bus day (all different numbers).

It's a 7 mile round trip.

This is what I get for being too lazy to run into town like I was supposed to and get any of the frequent, bountiful buses from there.

I think I'll work from home tomorrow!

Monday
Jan282013

Running in Rain - a cautionary tale

So last week we had snow. I took photos. It was pretty. Clarkie and I spent about two hours out in it on Sunday, and it snowed pretty much the entire time we were out. I guess the temperature was around -1C, -2C ish, not much colder than it had been all week. We got home, we were both warm, sweaty and a bit tired but otherwise dry and happy to have been out.

Tuesday rolls around, and that's when I do my long runs. This week I meant to go straight after lunch because I forgot my glasses and working at the computer starts to really hurt when that happens. But I didn't go. I faffed around. And then it started to rain. Hard. I was supposed to do 9-10 miles. And then that turned to snow. "Aha!" Thought I. "That's better than rain!" Then it started to settle in spite of the rain, so I decided to get on with it.

It was nearly 4pm by this stage, starting to get dark too. I figure I'll stay around town rather than run home, because I thought it would be better underfoot. It never crossed my mind that the buses get a bit dubious out our way when it snows. I had my down coat in my bag, I had waterproof trousers to put on. These had always been enough in the past, and I was wearing full length merino long johns and top and a rain jacket. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, I ran through snow for around 2 miles. Then it turned to sleet, and the snow and ice I'd been running on became puddles. At first I thought that was good - no more slipping. Then my feet got soaked, and I started to notice the chill. But I carried on and my feet warmed up. The sleet turned to rain and I started getting wet, but again, I was ok while I was running. I thought about stopping at 4 miles to get the bus, but figured I'd got that far and there was no real problem, I really should carry on and get my miles done. So I ran up and down the seafront, then turned back for the final couple of miles. That was where the problems started - I turned back into the wind. It was now completely dark, and I'd been in the rain for over an hour. I was soaked. My running jacket had wetted out, my buff was so wet I couldn't pull it up over my face and still breathe. The wind was blowing straight through my long johns.

Still, I thought I was ok. I stopped just shy of 9 miles, when I couldn't feel my legs too well and I could feel my form going. I stopped in a shelter on the sea front, out of the wind and rain, and stripped down to my (sodden) merino layer before putting the down jacket and waterproof trousers over the top. Normally this is instant warmth, and I did feel better. Then I checked my phone, because Clarkie works in town and I thought we could head home together.

She'd sent me a text, letting me know that the buses back to Woodingdean had been cancelled. Shit. Still, at least we could meet up. I called her, we agreed a meeting point, and I left the shelter. Back out in the rain and wind, I started to realise I had a few problems. My soaked gloves were not helping, and down coats are designed for cold, dry conditions, not rain. By the time I'd walked far enough back along the seafront to meet Clarkie, I was already pretty cold. She made me stop in the foyer of the Travelodge and put her gloves on, and we decided to get a taxi.

Sadly the queue for the taxis was (unsurprisingly with buses cancelled) long. When we got to the front, the first two drivers refused to go out to Woodingdean. The third fortunately agreed to try and get us close, and set off up the hill. Halfway up the hill he encountered some pretty unpleasant slush, and saw the queue from Woodingdean all the way back into Brighton. He turned around, and agreed to try the seafront route. At least in the taxi I was warm. The coast road was also queuing, but not as badly, so he managed to get us back into Woodingdean before the slush got too bad again. He dropped us 5 minutes from home, which was a major relief, but by the time I'd walked those 5 minutes I was full-body shivering and apparently my lips had gone blue. Quite the adventure.

So. Lessons learnt?

  • Running in +1C and rain is much, much worse than running in -1C and snow.
  • If the conditions are cold and wet, try to stop running as close to your front door as possible.
  • If that's not possible, carry a dry top and socks as well as the outer layer. Find somewhere to change - buy a hot drink in a pub and use their loos if necessary!
  • Carry a spare bag for either the wet stuff, or to put the stuff that must stay dry in while the rest of the bag is wet.

None of this is rocket science, but I thought at least if I could learn something the horrendous experience would be useful. I'm looking at more wet weather this week I think, but it's warmer now so the buses should be ok. I think I might still try to end up close to home though! 

Sunday
Jan202013

Snow run

Warning, this is going to be quite a picture-heavy post. Not me running this time. Clarkie's turn to be putting in some long miles. I'm not due for mine until Tuesday! 

Running in the snow

This was Rottingdean on the way out. She was supposed to do 10 miles. Normally speaking, we'd do 6 miles out (2 miles downhill through Rottingdean to the sea front, 4 miles of flat along the front) then 4 miles back and get the bus back up the hill. Sadly, the bus wasn't running today. I'm honestly not sure why, the road was clear of snow and it was no worse than a rainy day. However, this meant we just went out for nearly 5 miles along the undercliff walk (which wasn't snowy at all), then turned around and came back along the top once we got past the marina (9.5 miles in total). Clarkie used our set of Yaktrax walkers to get through the worst of the snowy stuff, although she's not sure they were completely comfy for that length of time they were pretty good. 

IMG_0333

Brighton is looking kind of pretty. This was just past the turn around.

Roedean

Roedean, the girls' boarding school.

Kipling Gardens

Rottingdean church

Kipling gardens and the church back in Rottingdean again.

I accompanied by bike (I have to cycle back whether the buses are running or not!). I love my bike and how well it just copes.

IMG_0345 

I did have gloves on, I'd taken one off to fish the camera out of my pocket. I was extremely warm in that lot, too warm getting back up the hill!

So maybe snow isn't so bad after all. Maybe I'll have to try and remember that in future, and just enjoy the extra light. Maybe...

Snowman