Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas 2007 in Pembrokeshire, Wales

In an attempt to escape from the commercialised hectic modern Christmas we rented a cottage near the Druidstone Inn on the rugged Pembrokshire coast... and got a bit more of a historic experience than we anticipated. It was damp and cold and we only had a coal burning antique Rayburn stove for heat! So we arranged our days and nights around feeding the fire and learned strategies for using paper, kindling, soft "house" coal and hard anthracite coal to master the beast! Here's Billy, our fire Master, at work, next to the rack of wet running kit that never really dried out.

But we did enjoy ourselves - knitting, playing scrabble, hearts and valiantly running in the rain. Nick fit right in with the hearty locals, running in a t-shirt and shorts in sleeting rain, while Ali and I opted for full winter gear.

We had two dark but dry days, one when we walked around St David's point, along dramatic volcanic cliffs spotting seals and sea birds.

And on Christmas day, the skys cleared and Ali and I had a spectacular run around the Marloes penninsula meeting Nick and Billy taking photos at the beach. Ali held my ipod Nano while Nelly and I had a run...and dropped it in a tidepool!

One very dead Nano... oh well. But I'll never be able to log the 25 miles I ran on the PDIP Nike+ challenge!!!
It was a memorable trip and the shared adversity made us laugh together and find simpler ways to amuse ourselves without the telly and computers. And we did learn how to knit gloves!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Countdown 17 weeks to the marathon

I'm on track with the plan that I loaded on Listening to John Ellis' PDIP126 Base Running" today while I ran my 7 miles, I took it really slowly and vowed to dig out my Garmin from the bottom of the hall chest and start paying attention to my heart rate again.

I plotted up the remaining 17 week program on a calendar this weekend and discovered that there are a bunch of 20+ mi days scheduled ahead. I'm reading Hal Higdon's "Marathon" and his advice for newbys is keep the runs under 20 mi to reduce the risk of injury...... I think I'm going to follow that particular advice.

Nick and I are now signed up for the Watford Half Marathon on Feb 3rd 2008. Strange that I would have felt it was a pretty big deal to commit to a half marathon in only 7 weeks time, but now it is just part of the FLM training plan... no big deal. I think my mindest is already changing as I'm on my way to being a marathoner!

And the heel feels pretty good. I notice it, and have still been icing, but there is no pain.
We take off next Friday for Christmas week at the Druidstone Inn in Pembrokshire. I'm planning to do my running on the coastal trails but hope that the weather holds. Getting the miles in under sleeting horizontal rain would be pretty miserable! But I've got the gear, all I need is the motivation.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've a place in 2008 London Marathon!

After the disappointment on Saturday of receiving my copy of Marathon News (and second time failed ballot letter), yesterday brought a very welcome email from Guide Dogs who gave me one of their Gold Bond places. Yeah!!

So now I need to get really serious about following my Buckeye Outdoor Beginner training schedule... and start thinking about fundraising.

I struggle a bit asking friends and family to contibute, I mean, I'm the one that gets to do the fun part - be in the race. So, I should just come up with the £1500 pledge money? But guide dogs for the blind really is a good cause, and fundraising seems to be an acceptable thing to do. (And I don't have £1500!!) What do I do about business contacts? Is it fair game to put something about fundraising at the end of my email signature... or is that taboo (they don't care about my personal life?). I'm not sure I want to let them know about it anyway.... they might ask what my time was!!

So I've added a widget to my blog. I wonder if I can do the same with facebook. I wish I had paid better attention to the efforts of other runner bloggers. I'm way down on the learning curve.

But the great part is I'M GOING TO RUN MY FIRST MARATHON! I know I can do it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

BAM, I'm Tagged!

Thanks to Petra , I've been challenged to share some random facts according to the Tagging rules. So, here are the Rules:

• Link to your tagger, and post these rules on your blog.
• Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
• Tag 5 people at the end of your post by their names and links to their blogs.
• Let them know they are TAGGED by leaving a comment on their blog.

Hmm. 5 facts

1. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, and although I enjoyed "re-inventing" myself with each move, I never really bonded with a comfortable group of friends. I went to 3 high schools! Here's one of the few photos I have - I'm at the back right holding the school ID card, trying desperately to be cool in this poser group.
2. I had great aunts who were HUGE called Clover Blossom and Ruby Pearl, so I'm genetically related to giants (or cows?)

3. I made the cover of a Japanese Ski Magazine in 1972. Famous for 5 minutes and I could not even read the article! I did not pay much attention to a group of Japanese people at ski racing camp, had no idea that a photo of me in a starting gate was snapped, but by a random chance, a friend of the family spotted it in Japan. He just sent us the cover!
4. Both our kids go by their middle names, which challenges their form-filling, causes confusion at schools and generally befuddles bureaucracy.

5. I can't imagine how people work 5 days a week. I get up very early, but after spending time with my family, travelling, gardening, playing with toys (gadgets), running, making raku pots, dog training club, library volunteering, and very minimal cleaning chores.... there just is not enough time to work every day!
I have not found my 5 victims yet....

Friday, November 09, 2007

Radical new haircut reflects my new resolutions I'm feeling energised! (note before and after photos!)

After running break in October, I'm back and heel pain is pretty much gone. As long as I keep a slow and steady increase in mileage, I think the plantar fasciitis problem is behind me.

1) I need to keep to the training plan on Buckeye outdoors for 24-week London Marathon training (FLM cashed my check - does that mean I have a place? Or do I need to get a charity place from Guide Dogs still?)

2) And I'm following Petra's lead and joining the P.O.M's Holiday Weightsloss Challenge with a goal of dropping from 128 to 120 lbs by Feb 1st 2008.
  • Here are my rules (which I shamelessly canibalised from POM):
    1. Breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt/muesli or eggs (no toast!)
    2. Salad or veg for lunch, but cccasional whole grain bread if a sandwich is the only option.
    3. Protein and veg ONLY for dinner
    4. Wine - only once a week
    5. No white bread. Ever.
    6. No chocolate. No ice cream.
    7. Weigh self once a week only.
    8. Don't be psycho by talking about it all the time. Only blog about it. (I don' t think anyone reads this but me anyway!)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hadrian's wall 22-27 October 2007

Roman emperor Hadrian ordered this 73 mile long, 10 ft wide wall to built across northern Britain more than 18 centuries ago (122-130AD) at the decline of the Roman empire. In hilly places it is remarkably well preserved, with linking forts and milecastles along the wall. In the valleys, the stones have migrated into farm building foundations and the only trace is a grassy lump. We enjoyed a glorious autumn day exploring after a sleepless night in a farm courtyard (right next to the dog's kennel, we discovered, who barked at a badger on the prowl all night).

The early morning mist burned off slowly as we made our way along the wall, carrying far too many warm clothes!

The next night we moved north of the tourist trail into the Northumberland National Park to the north and found a lovely campsite with a wind turbine powered hot bath - and we were the only campers there! Working out a circular walk for the next day on the computer, we printed out a map in black and white as an aide memoire, anticipating that the trails would be as well-marked as they were near Hadrian's wall.
However, the trail dissapeared in "Black Bog" and was not to be found even as we located ourselves with GPS on the suposed trail numerous times - finally we just gave up and bush-whacked on a 60 degree compass heading for miles, through bog, spongy mossy woods and recently harvested (destroyed!) forests finally coming to intersect the Pennine Way regional trail. Hard work for not much mileage - and then we still had the 5 miles to walk back to camp. We slept late the next morning in the gloriously quiet site with soft rain on the roof.

As the weather was changing, we decided to head south toward the Yorkshire Dales, which we've not yet explored, and stopped at Fountains Abbey, which has recently been made a World Heritage site. The Georgian grounds with lakes, canals, temples and formal gardens are huge and there is a spectacular ruin of a 13-century Cistercian (Benedictine offshoot) abbey, which was raided for sandstone to build the Elizabethan Fountains Hall. During the Second World War, the Hall and other estate buildings were used to house evacuee children, but, after the war, fell estate into a state of serious dilapidation and has only recently been restored.

To our suprise, dogs were allowed! We cut back to the car park skirting the deer park and watched as two magnificent stags faced off in the meadow - making really loud threatening noises at each other. One finally backed up and made his way away from the rest of the deer, complaining loudly.

My heel injury is much better and I'm back running again. Hurrah! Nick is enjoying bragging about his 10 mile runs when I'm back to cautious 2 mile runs, but slow and steady I'll be back running 10 again... someday.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ali is back from her adventure in India, and I'm sleeping easier... I worried with her so far away! She was teaching English a Catholic university in Trichy, India called Holy Cross. She found the position through our friend from Bhimtal, Tagore, who's sister, Shanti, works there. Shanti proved to be a remarkable woman, surprisingly unconventional considering her professional success and inspiring in her commitment to her students and improving the lives of the orphans at Hope Home where she donates so much of her time and energy. Her frank and caring counsel was invaluable to Ali in making the cultural adjustments she needed to make to adapt to life in Trichy. (Restina, Shanti and Ali left to right). Ali helped Restina in the language lab. At first the girls were too shy to talk to her, but she lured them in with encouraging smiles and soon had a gaggle of girls who wanted to talk her all the time! The dress code was strict and Ali could not wear western clothes, (a likely excuse for an exotic new wardrobe!) so she learned how to wear a sari or traditional Indian trousers and a tunic. One of the highlights of her trip was an invitation to a wedding.

Ali stayed in a hostel with post-grad students from Holy Cross, and shared a room with a woman from Assam, Debbie, and one from Tibet, Namshey. Although the accommodation and food were very basic by western standards, Ali said it did not take long before she felt comfortable with the different way of life. The three became very close and Ali loved travelling with Debbie, the teachers and some of the younger students to Kerala. Debbie is an accomplished dancer and henna painted Ali's hands and feet.
Just before she returned home, Ali and Namshey travelled to visit a Tibetan settlement and monastery in Bylakuppee.

She really had an experience she will treasure, and I don't think this will be the last time she visits Trichy.

Sadly, heel pain has stopped me from training for the Mendip Muddle and Nick has to go on a field trip to Transylvania on Sunday, so we won't be racing the Phedippidation World Wide Half Marathon this weekend. But we're looking at races in November, hoping that my plantar fasciitis situation improves. I'm sad to miss the virtual race, though. Best of luck to everyone running!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Countdown 7 weeks to go for the WWH and Mendip Muddle. Gulp. I'm right on track with training, so I'm not that worried about 20K, but the 420m of climb has me pretty intimidated. I need to start adding more hill climbs into my training...and that means not WALKING them!

Trip to Snodonia was a bit of a wash-out. All the trees and boulders in the woods are covered with moss - a pretty good indication that it rains mostly all the time. Jep, it rained mostly all the time when we were there too, and I never did see Snowdon (the highest mountain in England and Wales) for the fog.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Italy, Switzerland and France -
6-24th July 2007

Arriving for a visit just weeks before Ali leaves for India, Arvind was brilliant at answering all our questions about Trichy, where Ali will be teaching this summer, and about Indian life and philosophy. He cooked a fantastic aubergine curry for us with homemade chipatis (with flour all over the kitchen!) and he and Nick stayed up late discussing academia, climate change and generally sharing stories. Billy and I only got to spend a day with Arvind before our channel tunnel departure to drive to the Italian Dolomites.
Why the socks? Well, Billy still has not let me drive the relatively new campervan... I'm a bit of a menace parking. So I had a good bit of free time on the French motorways, and finally finished these socks that I started with my Mom in Seattle three years ago! But they were cosy and appreciated at night before climbing up to into bed.
We made our way through France, first camping "wild" (not in a commercial campsite) beside this lighthouse at Cap Gris Nez and then at a campsite next to a lake, Lac de Marcenay, south of Troyes. I really enjoyed the run along the coastal path the first day and then an early jog around the lake on the second - but the shower afterwards was icy!

We took a detour to see stunning Lake Garda, but we were way too scruffy to fit in with the designer set. The first night in Italy, Billy was successful in broken French/Italian (with hand signals) to convince the hotel owner where we had dinner to let us stay the night in their car park after a walk up to a mountain lake.
The Italian Dolomites are spectacular, and we were able to take a gondola up 500m to start our first walk from Possa de Fasse ...cheating, I know, but breathtaking. After a long descent into the valley, we stopped at a tiny cafe and Billy made the mistake of having a nice cool huge beer, which he regretted in the 200m climb back up to the gondola.
After a day exploring the mountain passes, (with lunatics driving racing motorcycles!) we moved on to Campitello, and feeling a bit sheepish about taking the cable-car down on the previous walk, we decided to walk the whole way down. The descent along the mountain ridge was beautiful but clomping down the last of the 13 miles on a hot road in heavy boots was exhausting! Looking for more level terrain, the next day we started from the top of the Valparola pass and walked around the dramatic Settsas platform with 400m-thick Triassic carbonate sediments which were identified by Baron Von Richthofen as a reef in 1860, but I didn't find any coral or fossil evidence. And as we baked in the brutal heat of the day in this desert-like environment, I gave up looking. Nelly was miserable without any streams to drink from and I felt sorry for her carrying around a fur coat in the sweltering heat!
We hid in the shade in the heat of the day the next day, and Nelly even overheated when I took her for a run along the river at 8am. Later that afternoon Nick called to say that Ali's bag with her passport, money, mobile phone, and Billy's camera had been stolen in Serbia. We wired money to Nick to send her and tried to stay within mobile phone range so we could find out if she could get a replacement passport in time to make her flight home. Tired of the heat, we decided to head for Switzerland and higher elevations.
Driving through Liechtenstein we made a lucky back-roads detour around a nasty accident that could have meant a day in a traffic jam, and arrived late into a delightfully shady campsite in Lauterbrunnen where a awesome thunderstorm with hail cleared the air that night.
Walking down from Murren to the campsite the next day was beautiful, past swiss chalets with tidy gardens and woodpiles, waterfalls and cascades in the river- it was cool, green and peaceful.

Every town had fantastic watch shops so Billy shopped for watch to replace the one he lost (how lucky is that that?) and then we moved on to explore Grindlewald with a spectacular backdrop of the Eiger and other peaks. Expensive place - the cablecar up and the bus ride back 20k to town fom the end of our walk was 100 swiss francs (£20 or $40!). After more time in internet cafes talking to Nick and wiring more money home, we found a beautiful campsite overlooking the valley and perfect sauerbraten at the Hotel Aspen that night.
Making our way back to the English Channel was a bit of a chore - with a long drive and a busy municipal campsite in Chalons-en-Champagne, but it was fine compared with the horrible place we ended up in the next night in Rang du Fliers. The campsite we were assigned looked perfect on the little artist's rendition map they handed out at the office, but once we got inside we discovered how tight all the campsites were, and every one was full of what I can only describe as "white trash", with unsupervised kids and scary packs of teenagers prowling about. We tried to convince ourselves it would be OK for a night but when we discovered at 11pm that they had to keep two security guards on duty at the toilet block to break up fights and stop abuse we decided to make a run for it.... but they wouldn't open the gates! Finally Billy found a manager who would let us out. Sleeping in the car park of a nearby grocery store felt so much better!
We booked into a hotel in Wimereux the next night for the village fete des moules (Mussel festival and parade!) and enjoyed the fluffy towels and restaurant - a huge luxury after the nasty feeling of that campsite. After seeing the local vet for Nelly's pet passport, we explored the huge deserted beach at the Bay d'Authie and visited a WWII museum to wait out the rain. Scouting wild camping locations along the coast, we finally we found a perfect, isolated trailhead at Le Bois d'Harringzelles near Audingham and enjoyed a glorious walk on the beach the next day before heading home - and Ali had made it home, too! (Just in time to leave for India).

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mostly naked raku pots

We leave on Saturday for a three weeks holiday, driving through France in the camperan to the Italian Dolomites with Nelly to walk in the mountains. I'm taking my running shoes!

Last weekend Billy had set up a backdrop to do some macro photos and I convinced him to take photos of some of the pots I've made. I keep meaning to do it before I ship them out as gifts.

Some of the raku pots I won't give away, like the pumpkin pot (above) that won the craft show at work. They don't get many potters, so I was in the category with jam and dolls. How can they possibly judge a pot versus jam? But but to my suprise, I won the whole show and there were some really nice paintings and photos. Won a £10 book token and a rosette like a prize cow.

And here's the raku pot that Nick decorated - its pretty cool. I carved the geologic time scale in this stoneware bowl with cobalt slip for Nick.
I'm quite pleased with my very first teapot that I'm sending to Jewell for her birthday. The shape is perfect, I think, but it is pretty heavy stoneware, but it doesn't drip! And the little jar that Ali made (and I made a lid for) is the only thing she's ever thrown on the wheel.

These are both quite large t-material raku pots. The naked one one left has a lovely reddish stain from mahogany sawdust smoke.

These are little pencil jars out of porcelain that surived the thermal shock of raku.
I have to admit that I have not done much pottery since we got the campervan. I need to get back to it again this summer when it is warm to raku fire outside!