Knit yourself fit

I thought I should drop by and say hello, I realise I haven’t blogged for a few weeks now and imagine you think me quite rude. As is usual in our house right now, we have been variously under a layer of dust, covered in paint or admiring our new kitchen. Last Tuesday marked one year in our south London house, and we were able to look back and see just how much we have achieved in that time, not just all the DIY mayhem, but making new friends, getting to know our new area and Hector starting nursery. What a busy year!

I have been running, but just not finding time to share this. The weather has been lovely and I was determined to make the most of it at the weekend, and even did a short-sleeved run on Sunday morning – apparently this is one of the mildest Novembers for many years. I don’t know if it was the sunshine, the beautiful trees or the big bowl of steaming porridge I had for breakfast, but something gave me a spring in my step as I ran faster than I have in a long time. It wasn’t a long run – I’m not training for anything in particular right now, just ticking over – but it was very enjoyable.

Distance: 4.03 miles

Time: 37 minutes 20 seconds

Average Pace: 9.15

Best Pace: 1.06 (obviously a blip!)

Calories: 429 (I seem to have sorted out the odd calorie readings by resetting the watch to factory settings).

In other news, London has been successful in bidding for the 2017 World Athletics Championships, which will forge a stronger legacy for next year’s Olympic Games and, to celebrate, knitters around the world will be click-clicking at top speed to create little homages to their Olympic heroes. I’m not sure my knitting skills will cut it, but I know some of my running knitting friends have what it takes.


Ruddy Cheek(s)

Some more holiday running (I really did want to make use of my running kit on this trip!). Just a few miles from our camp-site is the beautiful Studland: miles of sandy beach with National Trust-owned dunes billowing around its edges as it curves gently round towards Poole Harbour and Bournemouth beyond. After a little play with the boys and an attempt to shield ourselves slightly from the wind, I decided to saunter back to the car park and put on my running gear.

I suppose I could have been all beach-babe and just run barefoot across the sand, but beach-babe I am not, so it was full kit, including my almost glow-in-the-dark Royal Parks Foundation Half-Marathon T-shirt – no chance of me going missing in that little number! It wasn’t as hard as I thought to run on the sand, but the wind was challenging and it wasn’t much fun rubbing my gritty eyes every few moments. It was rather special though, to weave my way between families digging holes, heads peeping out and wondering when they might be released from their sandy pit, young groups attempting to catch frisbees, hit beach-tennis balls and stop a volley ball hitting the soft ground. I looked on as small children willed their kites to hang in the air, and listened carefully to the gasps of shock and joy as the cool water hit the bobbing bodies scattered across the shallow water.

A little of the way into my run the landscape changed suddenly as the beach became quieter and the general noise eased to give way to just the sound of crashing waves. I carved my path through the deep tyre marks of a National Trust Landrover, enjoying the sensation as my feet flattened the grooves beneath. I was now noticing heads in the dunes – I thought you couldn’t go up there – and gradually began to notice that these heads were atop naked bodies: I had wandered into the naturist zone. On I went, head down. Occasionally a (male) body would appear from the water and jiggle its way back to the dunes, but I now found myself heading straight towards a rather saggy and bare bottom. ‘Ooh, please don’t bend over, please don’t…!’ eek! I am guessing my pace and heart rate peaked about now.

My run continued towards a turning point at the edge of Poole Harbour where I could see various boats coming and going, some looking as if the wind might carry them away. Here I turned around and took myself back through the wrinkly zone and into the welcome bustle of the kite-flyers and hole diggers.

Time: 30 minutes 17 seconds

Distance: 3.01 miles

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 4.05 (!!)

Calories: 49 (any ideas? This is so out)

Three go mad in Dorset

I have got a bit behind on my blog posts; I’m sorry. I have been having fun in Dorset, camping with the boys. Our days were spent doing things like this:

Enjoying the slower pace of life between Corfe Castle and Swanage:

And getting to know the locals on our evening walks:

I also took along my running kit, keeping in mind that I am supposed to be running a couple of half-marathons in the next month or so. I often lug my running kit around with me on holiday, then carefully put away the clean items on my return, unworn. This time I was determined to get a couple of runs in, so asked Edward to drop me off part way to Durdle Door. We bobbed up and down through the rolling countryside and, when I felt I was a nice distance away from the beach, I jumped out: ‘See you there!’ I called. Edward estimated we were about four miles from our destination. I had been slightly apprehensive about running along the roads there, seeing how narrow they are and just how fast the drivers take each tight corner, so I ran cautiously, stopping to let people pass and even leaping up onto high verges when I felt the need. What should have been a relaxing run in the fresh air turned out to be more stressful than running in London during the recent riots! I did pause at a few points to enjoy the stunning views and breathe in the air, noticing along the way the hedgerows that were bursting with fat blackberries and what I decided must be sloes.

This part of the country is simply beautiful, but is oddly populated by rusty old army tanks and dirt paths carved through the gorse, with large ugly signs around stating which roads are open and which are closed due to MoD activity. I enjoyed the surreal air of it all. Our holiday had been planned at the last minute and, in the week leading up to our camping trip, we looked at the pouring rain and hoped for at least a few dry days. We were lucky, every day was sunny and warm, and this one was proving to be a hot one as I eased my way between the four-by-fours and John Deeres on my way to Durdle Door.

I have been to this area before and had a sense of where I was in relation to my end point, and my heart sank slightly as I saw a sign saying: ‘Lulworth Cove 1 1/2 miles’. Edward had underestimated the distance and it was turning into a slightly longer run than I had anticipated. I took a right turn and was stopped in my tracks by the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen, it was as big as my finger and was making its way across the pavement to become possibly the biggest butterfly in the world – I was so amazed I stopped a man who was walking his dog to show him; I felt I needed a witness. By this point I was looking for reasons to stop – I had no water, no phone and a vague hope that I might see Edward driving along to find me (no such luck!). I was now faced with a big, hot hill so walked and enjoyed the view of the cows in the next field, slowly dipping their heads and lifting those delicious lashes to glance at me. I knew that I would see my magical destination once I reached the top of the hill, but even this couldn’t make me run. Once I did reach the summit I picked up the pace and hopped, skipped and jumped towards the beach, pausing briefly to gasp as the most sprightly deer leapt over a hedge alongside me.

Durdle Door, I had made it. It felt further than just under seven miles, and I was relieved to sit down and gulp some juice, taking in the sparkling water and looking on as an excited Edward tore off his clothes to swim through the Door, something he’s wanted to do for a long time.

(here is a link to my Garmin data, is there a way of showing it as an image here?)

A get-together, a long run and an unidentified celebrity runner

Yes, I know, I’m a bit slow with this one. On Saturday I was too busy getting-together, yesterday I was too busy running and today my internet connection was up the spout.

On Saturday, I ventured north of the river with the boys to meet this lot:

I think the correct term for a slightly anonymous group of running bloggers might be ‘a huddle’. So here they are, huddling. I had intending running, but it all seemed a bit of a mad rush in reality and we got there just as the runners headed off into the park, so we chatted, got to know new folk and waited for the fashionably late Cathy and Shaun. It was mild, and Hector was suitably entertained by Audiofuel Sean:

Once the running runners had returned and caught their collective breath, the now present Cathy awarded Gary with his prize for being the winner of Janathon 2011. This man ran 450 miles in one month. I thought we ought to donate our pizzas and pasta to him, he needed it more than us.

And what a pizza! I am not known for being a slow eater, it’s just not in my nature to take my time when there’s food in front of me, but I was well and truly defeated by this gargantuan feast. I tried, I really did. Maybe it was because I was still a bit moved by Cathy’s response to our thank you presents, I hadn’t expected real tears! The response to Travelling Hopefully’s call out for donations to a virtual yet real whip-round was tremendous, which just goes to show how much people enjoyed the experience and felt a sense of respect and gratefulness to a the lady who kept all the plates spinning.

I had imagined that a pizza of such enormity could keep me running for a week, but it wasn’t to be. My schedule said I should stretch my legs with a sixteen miler, so off I headed on Sunday morning with the intention of running to Greenwich, through the foot-tunnel and along the Thames on the Isle of Dogs. As I neared the foot-tunnel, I thought: ‘What if it’s shut?’ and, of course, it was. I just headed east and followed the river. Into the wind. I do feel a real thrill running along the Thames, and now it’s just a couple of miles away, but this run had its ups and downs, both in terms of my energy levels and the views on offer.

Quite quickly I was venturing out of tourist Greenwich and caught sight of my young student self through the window of the Cutty Sark Tavern, knocking back a few beers on a Friday night and eating a gigantic bag of chips on the night bus home. I was then quickly sent on a detour away from the river, due to yet more building work. Why build more apartments when nobody is living in the existing ones? Now the path took a rather grim turn, with high fences topped with barbed wire and gritty industrial scenes with rock-crushers and telescopic handlers (I so wish I could carry my camera on these runs, I know a small boy who would love to see this). I had decided to run with music, which is unusual on such a long run, but I wanted to see if it gave me a different/better experience. I did feel slightly vulnerable on these bleaker paths, but was lifted as the path opened up to the water and ‘Valerie’ came on: ‘Well Sometimes I Go Out, By Myself, And I Look Across The Water’ – just perfect! I was leaping along, yachts from the Greenwich Yacht Club sailing alongside me, and I smiled a huge smile.

I continued the meander northwards and around the Dome, passing lots of runners along the way, the majority of them smiling and saying hello – for a change – and passed one runner amongst a group that I recognised, but can’t place him. I think he is maybe an actor, or maybe an MP, or maybe an actor who plays an MP, I don’t know. And, to my left, was the biggest shopping trolley graveyard I have ever seen, all the more reason to carry my camera sometime. I soon realised that my run would take me along to the Thames Barrier, which excited me, it always looks so splendid in films and on TV, with a speed boat crashing across the water, with some dramatic chase taking place. Erm, I will say it was mildly exciting as I approached with my head ducked to avoid getting my eyes whipped by my hair and the heavy grey sky hanging above. I will return on a brighter day. Here, I turned for home.

Looking back on this run I can see what went wrong: I left the house without water because I couldn’t find anything suitable to put it in (I didn’t think Hector’s frog bottle with straw was a good idea at the time) and didn’t drink anything until I returned through Greenwich and stopped to buy some water at Boots, wasting five minutes waiting in a queue. I didn’t have any gels with me, and after this stop, I felt really, really tired. I knew already that I wouldn’t make it to the full sixteen miles, but decided this was ok and I should just learn from the experience for next weekend. I don’t think my legs have ever felt so heavy on a training run, but I simply couldn’t do a loop of the park to make it up, so hauled myself up and over the footbridge and landed on the doorstep in a little heap.

Time: 2 hours 37 minutes 54 seconds

Distance: 14.70 miles

Average Pace: 10.44

Best Pace: 6.34

Calories: 1701

Janathon Day 10: Running wild

There was some chatter on Twitter (should that be ‘chitter’?) earlier between Highway Kind, Jogblog, Travelling Hopefully and myself about furry animals. HK has been enticing us over to his blog with pictures of lovely cows and sheep and, today, some little doggies, and then talk moved on to donkeys. I was about to set off on my run, but didn’t imagine I would see any wildlife in the dark to share with you here, how wrong I was! I had to get my run done quickly so we could eat and Edward could go to his dental appointment (at 8pm?!), so I just did the three-mile evening route I have done recently, so no need to think too much. I felt good once I’d got out of the door, my breathing was deep and strong and I felt like I was going fast (it’s amazing the tricks your mind can play with you). I weaved in and out of commuters, trudging heavily towards home, and enjoyed having a good old nosey into the lit-up living rooms of the houses I passed, and there are some nice ones around here, very cosy and inviting and lots of pianos as far as I can tell. One thing that does amaze me though is the size of some people’s TVs. Why do they feel the need to fill a whole wall with a television screen? It’s crazy, and positioned so high up as well. I wonder if this has had an impact on doctor’s surgeries, with people rolling up with neck strain from looking up all the time, or rather from trying to retreat a bit further from the overwhelming image in front of them. We used to live opposite someone who had managed to fill the whole of their bay window with a TV. Classy.

So, back to the wildlife. I ducked down a side street and suddenly a fox ran right in front of me. I think we were as surprised as each other to meet in this way. He paused in the road and I paused, hoping he would move out of the way of the oncoming traffic (he did), then we both continued on our way. I did get in a bit of a kerfuffle and had to go back a bit to take the right road, but I think he knew where he was going. I love foxes, even though they leave their stench in our garden and have chewed their way through various things accidentally left outside. Living in London I have seen lots, and have had them in my garden for years, but in all the time I lived in Wales, where I grew up, I didn’t see a single fox that wasn’t lying at the side of the road. City life can be a funny thing.

Earlier in the day, Hector and I whizzed out to the park, he on his bike, me plodding along, trying to keep up. It was bitterly cold, and particularly windy up on the hill, but that didn’t stop him wanting to stay out for hours, exploring the sandpit. It quickly became an archeological dig, as we began to uncover interesting items:

First of all, we found a dinosaur, which we reburied, marking the spot with an ‘X’. We then uncovered this rather fetching baseball cap:

…which we left where it was, and then we found a purple plectrum. All interesting and varied items to find hiding in the sandpit, I think we might go again, with our picks and brushes and see just what else is buried there.

Janathon day 10:

Time: 32 minutes 47 seconds

Distance: 3.21 miles

Average Pace: 10.13

Best Pace: 7.48

Calories: 348

Janathon Day 5: Down and dirty

It seems I made Edward late for work yesterday by running before breakfast, so I was dissuaded this morning. Knowing I would find it a challenge to get out after 8pm, I decided to shoe-horn the running buggy from the under-stair cupboard and head out with my co-pilot. Thankfully, Hector was really excited: ‘I love going running with you!’. It was such a bright and beautiful morning too, a real treat to be out there together, enjoying the diggers and mud in our local park first of all. There is a river running through the park and the diggers are working hard creating new paths, platforms and bridges to allow easier access to the river, even to the point of offering a great paddling spot come the summer. In the meantime, we do have to do a bit of wading, but it will be worth it in the end:

It’s been a while since I have run with Hector in the buggy, what with the snow and ice and everything, so I really did feel it today, especially when I had to take a hilly detour to avoid some really big mud swamps, talk about huffing and puffing! Today was to be an exploration of the Waterlink Way, a walking/running/cycle route that follows the river from Deptford Creek right down to Beckenham, passing very close to our house. It turned out to be a lovely route, if you forgive the section cutting through Wickes car park in Catford Bridge. I did find some spots a little secluded, but you always seem to be fairly close to life, even passing by the biggest Sainsbury’s I’ve ever seen. When I look at the map, it seems to offer quite a long run but, in reality, it’s not that far (the full length would, of course, be a good run!), but you could always add bits and loop here and there to extend the distance.

We went as far as Lower Sydenham, then turned towards home, churning our way through the mud on the way. I’d also forgotten how chatty Hector is when we’re running, asking questions, pointing things out, asking more questions and turning around to see where my answer is. I had to tell him I couldn’t talk right now because I was out of breath – we  paused to ‘have a chat’, then everything was alright again.

Janathon day 5:

Time: 48 minutes 03 seconds

Distance: 4.44 miles

Average Pace: 10.49

Best Pace: 7.23

Calories: 530

Janathon Day 3: Put your back into it!

An early start, with Hector and me getting busy with the lovely little wooden thing I was given for my birthday by Edward’s brother Joe. It’s a tool for making pots out of newspaper, to plant seeds in, a real thing of beauty. We then enjoyed some breakfast and it was time for my run. I  gave the new shoes a rest as my heel is feeling slightly blistery and I don’t want to spoil my Janathon experience with the nastiness of blisters. I decided to go a different way today, exploring some other roads and a steep park. Off I headed towards Ladywell and Brockley cemeteries, wondering if it’s possible to run through them – I shall try on another day when I am feeling more cheeky. I passed by and up towards Crofton Park where I approached two people carrying something small, round and golden ceremoniously in their hands. As I got closer, I realised they were Scotch Eggs, with two neat bites taken out of them, an interesting morning snack.

Since we have moved house, I haven’t ventured over this way, but it was interesting to run along the roads where we had looked at houses, and contemplate our house and whether it’s the right one (it is). As I ran towards Honor Oak, I decided to head left and over to Blythe Hill Fields. It was a bright, clear morning and, as I puffed up to the top of the hill, I paused to put my hands on my hips and devour the incredible view of London, spreading out in front of me. Hills are worth the effort. Carrying on down towards Catford, I passed into the southern end of Ladywell Fields, through the mud and to home.

After a deliciously hot shower, I donned my warm gardening clothes and we all set to with some serious jobs. Yesterday we procured a pallet from the end of our road and Edward and Hector attempted to construct a compost bin:

I set about planting the hundreds of bulbs we were given for Christmas, and now have to keep the squirrels off them – any ideas?! We are also going to build some raised beds at the end of the garden, so we can grow our own veg, and had to start work on this area, which involved moving a very old lavender bush. The boys got lower and lower into the hole…

They did manage to get the roots out eventually, and I will keep my fingers crossed that it survives the move. Whilst accessing the roots, we found some concrete under the shingle, so the veg patch is going to require a bit more work before we can actually do any planting. My back aches! It was such a treat to get out into the garden after being indoors for so long, and the whole time I was out there, I had this little chap following my every move:

It’s back to normality tomorrow, so our hard work was rewarded with a pub lunch down the road with our friend Iain. What a fantastically sociable time we’ve had lately, things will seem very quiet tomorrow.

Janathon day 3:

Time: 36 minutes 50 seconds

Distance: 3.50 miles

Average Pace: 10.31

Best Pace: 7.32

Calories: 399