Go Faster Stripes

>checks sides of body for signs of go-faster stripes< Well, I smashed my Hilly Fields Parkrun PB on Saturday! The previous week we had made the decision to change the course slightly, to avoid sending runners along a dangerously slippery stretch of grass mud. This meant a more speed-inducing stretch of concrete path, but we did have to increase the time spent on our most challenging hill (which is met three times around the 5k route). That week I had marshalled, directing people down to the bottom of the hill and watching them grimace as they had to grit their teeth and get themselves to the top. The feedback was good: regulars enjoyed the change and there was buzz in the air at the finish line. On Saturday I thought I’d give it a go too. It’s amazing the difference a little extra hill can make, oh it was tough! But somehow this pushed me on (I do seem to have something in me that allows me to overtake on hills and I find I can gain ground here…hmmmm) and I found myself half-way up the last hill, looking at a possible PB on my watch. This is where I started to feel sick, like really sick, like ‘Oh no, I really am going to chuck!’. A quick pep-talk with myself about not showing myself up and not getting a PB soon got me breathing hard and pushing to the finish: 26.21, just under a minute faster than my previous PB! Yesssss!

One of my favourite/most used running routes has taken an interesting turn recently. The Waterlink Way, along the section between Lower Sydenham and Catford, has been brought to life by Close and Remote. Starting at the southern end of the walk, you can listen on your phone as you hear a drama unfolding alongside the ambient sounds of the river and nearby railway line (I would recommend headphones as I lost some of the words to a passing train). As you reach the bridge where the River Pool and the River Ravensbourne meet, you can scan some QR codes and enjoy the results of various workshops that took place over the summer – you might spot the little paper boats that Hector and I made, floating along the river. It’s interesting when somewhere familiar, somewhere you feel a sense of ownership over is given a new role, when the things you pass all the time take on new meaning and are given a new depth that will come back to you every time you pass by.

QR codes at the rivers' meet

QR codes at the rivers’ meet

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Race the Cake

There’s Race the Train, Race the Horse and now Race the Cake. I knew I wanted to get out and run this morning while Edward and Hector headed off for a swim. Edward was mixing up a marble cake as I left and asked if I would be in to take it out of the oven…er, no! ‘It takes an hour’ he said ‘Ok, I’ll be back in an hour’ I replied.

I legged it off down the Waterlink Way. I wanted to go slightly further than my other runs this week, so had 10k in mind – just within the cake removal time-slot. The sun shone, the earth was frosty and I saw runners at every turn. First of all I was greeted by friendly ‘Hello’s from running club friends, then I stopped for a chat with a group of Parkrun friends who were having a sociable run together. After a brief ‘how should we keep our shoes clean after a muddy Hilly Fields run?’ pause, I went on my way. Yesterday I ran Hilly Fields for a change. It was tough. It was muddy (see new image at the top of this page). I pushed myself hard, I skidded around, trying not to fall, I struggled up the steep hill, my feet failing to get a grip, and I pushed myself and others on to the finish. According to my watch I had a (Hilly Fields) PB, but my official time shows a second slower 😦 I might just run again next week and see if I can crack it.

Even with this heavy run in my legs I still managed to fly this morning, I hadn’t expected much, just a slow run, but I felt good, strong and flew along the path with ease. It feels great when a run gives you that buzz. As I reached home, I expected to be greeted by the smell of baking, but found a note saying: ‘I didn’t want to leave the oven on, can you put the cake in?’ One of the many reasons I have to run:

Marble

Marble

So, this was my fifth run this week – one more than I ‘pledged’ to complete on the Jantastic website. I also managed two swims, but no ride. I think I need to get out and go, see how far I get, see if my legs like the sensation of spin, spin, spin…

Distance: 6.23 miles
Time: 56.18 minutes
Average Pace: 9.02 minute miles
Calories: 626

Snowy four

I’m so glad I got out and ran this morning. School was – amazingly – open and I pulled Hector on his sledge to the gates, the best way to travel right now. On my return I knew I had to get that snowy run in before it all disappears, so wrapped up warm and headed out along the Waterlink Way. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Golden glow

Golden glow

I ran along the river, hoping to spot the kingfisher, and was delighted to not only catch a glimpse of the blue flash, but to be treated to a perching/swooping show as he darted under the bridge I stood on then briefly settled on a branch until he decided to dart again. I crunched happily through the snow and spoke to pretty much everyone I saw along the way; it just felt right.

When I got back I didn’t want to stop, so decided to go to the gym as well.

Untouched

Untouched

I commented to the lad on the desk that it looked beautiful on the track, and he said people keep coming in and asking to build snowmen there, but they’re ‘not allowed’. Imagine a series of snowmen going around the track! I found myself stepping up and down in an attempt to warm back up and started to chatting to the man on the treadmill next to me. He was proudly telling me how he is running the London Marathon, his first marathon, at the age of sixty. I told him I have done three and said he could ask if he needs any guidance. We chatted happily about marathons and running in general for about half an hour, the stepper a mere distraction.

Yesterday I put on my running gear then weighed up my options (slightly in the wrong order). I made the decision that I can run any day, but it’s not often I get to go sledging and play in the snow with Hector, so off we went up the hill again. I’m glad I chose option number two, it’s such excellent fun whizzing down hill on a bit of plastic, screaming!

Off they go!

Off they go!

On our return home, we didn’t want to go inside, so spent some time building another snowman, well, snow alien (I think). The orange thing is ‘his eye popping out’.

Garden alien

Garden alien

Getting involved

The past week has been all about the Paralympic Games. On Wednesday I got on my mountain bike and Hector got on his Isla Bike and off we headed to Deptford to track down the Paralympic Torch Relay. This journey is a new thing, Hector has usually ridden in the child seat on the back of Edward’s bike, but is now confident enough to cycle the four or so miles there and back, what a joy! Though my old mountain bike has been dependable, I do now yearn for something a bit more lady-like, something I can cruise around town on in a skirt and not have to get changed into hot jeans whenever I want to pop to the shops, something like this would do the trick. Thanks. So, we arrived in Deptford for a pre-torch swim, and while we were in the pool it started to rain, boo. Lunch was eaten at the wonderful ‘Train Cafe’, otherwise known as The Deptford Project, and we did our usual read-every-book-in-the-childrens’-section at the library. Gradually the library got busier and busier and the rain came down heavier and heavier and news came in that the torch was running two hours late. Oh my. Thank goodness for the numerous friends and neighbours we bumped into, who kept us entertained and gave us the energy to stick it out until the sun came out and around the bend came the Paralympic Torch.

The torch team arrives

Deptford Lounge looking golden and lovely

It was a challenge convincing Hector he should get on his – now wet – bike and cycle home when it was soon-to-be dinner time and the rain was coming down, but he did it. True grit.

And over to the incredible Olympic Park for some  more true grit on Friday. We were lucky enough to see both the Olympic Beach Volleyball and the Modern Pentathlon due to generous friends with spare tickets, but our family day out to the Olympic Stadium for the Paralympic athletics had been booked long ago. I don’t think I have smiled this  much in a very long time. The atmosphere was fantastic all the way there, with even the guard on the DLR taking our photo as we sat up front, Hector ‘being the driver’. Crowds poured out of Stratford Station with Gamesmakers high-fiving all the way and little glimpses of the stadia prompting ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ all round.

We’re in!

It was a truly inspiring day, with a combination of track and field events and the general buzz of the stadium to entertain us. My highlight at this point was seeing Shelly Woods in action, especially after I had the opportunity to meet and run with her a few months ago, but we certainly weren’t the only ones backing Shelly – she even commented in an interview that the crowd was amazing, the best support she had ever received. In addition to this, I think one of Hector’s highlights was seeing Mandeville close up, the real Mandeville.

The Real Mandeville

It’s been great having the Olympic/Paralympic buzz back in London, and the excitement at the number of medals and amazing performances our Team GB athletes have been putting in is at an all time high, something I noticed on Friday was that you get more records and PBs for your money, every race or event seemed to offer up a Paralympic Record or World Record, so it’s not surprising that the crowd were jumping for joy.

In the stadium

On Sunday I think we will head out to see the wheelchair marathon and then enjoy the closing ceremony. Then it’s back to school 😦 ‘Inspire a generation, inspire a generation…’ I must keep this in my mind when the ticker tape flutters away.

Achievement

I’m sitting here looking at the pouring rain and thinking I’m rather glad I got my run out of the way earlier! I am finding that my running has been slightly neglected lately, not in terms of frequency, I am still getting out at least four days a week, but in terms of distance. When I go to the gym, I tend to rush my run so I can get there and get stuck in, so I have been running around three miles at the most. Today I decided to give the gym a miss and run a bit further, just to make sure I still can! A quick run to school with speedy bike boy and up the hill I went, turning for a moment at the summit of Blythe Hill and admiring the gorgeous view (I must take my camera some time) then carrying on along the Waterlink Way, taking a breath at the far reaches, while a passing walking lady said: ‘You’re not running back?!’ then reaching home at the five-mile point.

I found it interesting that this walker was surprised that I was turning and ‘running back’, since she had no clue as to how far I had already run. Maybe she was taking her clues from my panting and my dripping brow, but to her this appeared to be an achievement in itself that she felt she should comment on. I have recently been talking to a fellow school-gate mum who also runs, the difference is though that she has three children, one of whom is just ten weeks old! She has far more in her life to juggle in an attempt to fit a run in, so I wasn’t surprised to see her passing our house this morning as we ate our breakfast. Last week I saw her in the park and we ran part of the way together. She was telling me how she had measured herself and found that her waist was now 27 1/2 inches, I dream of such neat girthage! So, she sees me and admires the fact that I run a little further than she is managing right now, I see her and admire the fact that she is a master juggler who is back in her skinny jeans just weeks after giving birth and other parents at the gate admire us both for getting out at all!

Soon we will be enjoying the spectacle of the Olympic Games, admiring those who are achieving international greatness in their chosen field then, further into the summer, we will admire those athletes who have overcome disability to compete in the Paralympic Games. I’m beginning to tire of the negativity being shown towards the Olympic Games, when I see many positive outcomes such as celebrations at school where the children are given the opportunity to try new activities, enthusiastic sports days at the running track (I heard loud cheers this morning, even though the rain clouds were coming in) and a little group of pre-school children in the park earlier with Olympic flames made out of tin foil and cardboard. If the presence of the games in London increases participation in sports at all levels and encourages otherwise inactive people to get out and try something new, it has to be a good thing.

Distance: 5.07 miles

Time: 50 minutes 51 seconds

Average Pace: 10.02

Best Pace: 5.23

Calories: 267

Blurry running

Will it ever stop? I legged it behind Hector on his bike ride to school and couldn’t see a thing by the time we got there: a combination of letterbox glasses, sweat, rain and condensation. Nice. So this was the pattern of my run: head down, run a bit, look up, realise I can’t see, pause, wipe glasses, put them back on, realise they’re all smeary, wipe them again, carry on and so on. I headed into Ladywell and Brockley Cemeteries, always an interesting detour but not one I am familiar enough with not to get lost amongst the headstones and undergrowth. I must have looked a funny sight going up paths, realising I couldn’t get out, coming back, pausing to do the glasses thing, changing direction…When I eventually made my way out at the other side, I went up towards Hilly Fields, wanting to do a mini-recce ahead of tomorrow’s Parkrun meeting there. I must say, I am feeling a whole lot better today, far less achy and more energised than I have felt all week, even the nasty hill didn’t defeat me.

After my run I popped home to collect a drink/towel etc and headed over to the gym. Some time was spent stepping up an imaginary hill, lifting weights and suppressing that lip-curling thing that happens when you try and do something taxing to your body. I took my camera to capture just what the rain is doing to our river right now.

River Ravensbourne rushing by

We normally do stone-throwing from in front of this platform!

Distance: 3.29 miles

Time: 36 minutes 22 seconds

Average Pace: 11.03

Best Pace: 5.43

Calories: 399

20 minutes on the stepper and about an hour of weights.

Musical Monday

Oh, how tired I was this morning. I went to bed early last night, with aching limbs and feet from all the rushing about and standing around in the rain yesterday and I didn’t feel much better this  morning. It was a hard three miles. Every time I came to a bridge over the river I had to pause and stare at the water rushing by, then I’d wake up and carry on. After a refreshing shower and a bit of lunch, we decided to walk away from the mess that has taken over our house in the past couple of days – we had a steady stream of wet children traipsing through the hall yesterday to use our loo – and head up to the Horniman Museum to check out the newly re-opened gardens and listen to some music performed in the refurbished bandstand.

Hector enjoys the outdoor instruments

The Crystal Palace Band played a selection of music from the past sixty years (of course) and my favourite bit was ‘Life on Mars’.

The band in action

Hector was particularly interested in the drummer, since he’s expressed a desire to have ‘drum-kitting’ lessons. We’re seriously considering a drum kit for his birthday and I have found some great-sounding lessons nearby. On our way home we stopped off in Ladywell Fields for a quick play and run around. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep:

Playing the ‘cafe game’ – we were treated to many delicious ‘dishes’

Distance run: 3.04 miles

Time: 30 minutes 25 seconds

Average Pace: 10.01

Best Pace: 7.29

Calories: 373